Monday, March 20, 2017
Over the course of the past few weeks, women's organizations have reviewed Judge Gorsuch's record in an attempt to determine his understanding of the myriad legal issues women face. Judge Gorsuch by and large has not appreciated the difficulties of women's lives and how laws and policies can have a disparate impact on them.
The National Association of Women Lawyers found Judge Gorsuch to be "not qualified" on women's issues. The organization's Supreme Court Committee members, of which the author is one, review candidates' opinions and other writings and conduct interviews with a wide number of people who have interacted with the candidate in various capacities. While the committee found that Judge Gorsuch generally treated litigants and lawyers with respect, and that he has the intellectual capacity for the position, his record on issues important to women displays a lack of understanding. In a press release containing the committee's findings, the committee noted concerns around the Judge's giving religious freedom rights deference over women's reproductive rights. Likewise, the committee noted "Judge Gorsuch's writing also exhibits a reluctance to recognize precedent that applies substantive due process to protect the rights of women." The committee further noted concern in other areas, including his failure to recognize transgender women as women thus denying them rights that are afforded to other women.
The National Women's Law Center also issued their report on Judge Gorsuch. Concerned with Judge Gorsuch's lack of support for regulatory authorities, the Center's press release stated: "Judge Gorsuch has explicitly praised Justice Scalia's approach to the law. While he has not opined on Roe v. Wade, he voted to override a woman's coverage of contraception if her boss objected. Justice Scalia was highly skeptical that courts should defer to the interpretations of laws by expert government agencies - and Judge Gorsuch would go even further, making it harder for agencies to implement the laws that have literally opened doors of opportunity for women and girls."
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Over the past few decades, I wondered what it would take for women to mobilize. Increasingly, we have been disrespected. "Bitch" has come into conversational use. Music is often disrespectful toward us and we continue to bear the brunt of familial care-giving and then penalized for it in the workplace. Why were women being so passive? We failed to pro-actively and collectively use our power.
Donald Trump's election as president mobilized women in a way unseen in the history of this country, if not all of the world? Did the election of a sexual predator clarify women's vision of the future for us and our planet? We were able to mobilize to protect the next and future generations of daughters and sons. Because the next generation is in danger of living in a regressive and more repressive culture, women rose.
Solidarity among sisters world wide informs us of the power of women. Women are out of the closet in a way unseen in America. Never before has the international sisterhood organized so effectively.
Trump is not the only one threatening our rights. Government supports institutional oppression while the media mostly portrays women in ways that diminish their autonomy and existence, whether you are a presidential candidate or a single mom trying to make it through the day.
Our obligation to future generations and to the planet is to keep our power in play for good. The out of sync patriarchal world has resulted in violence, corruption and spiritual decline. The time is now for women to restore the world to balance, not eliminate the masculine, but bring the masculine and feminine into balance.
None of this would have happened but for the actions of Mr. Trump.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Russia has taken the first step to de-criminalize much of domestic violence. The pending bill would de-criminalize acts of abuse that do not result in "serious injury" and would apply not only to intimate partners but to children. Such matters will be treated administratively for first offenses.
The bill was introduced by attorney and member of parliament Yelena Mizulina who in the past has
sponsored anti-gay legislation and other legislation preserving "traditional" family norms. Traditional, of course, should be interpreted as anti-human rights.
While there is no central data base in Russia tracking domestic violence, one source estimates that domestic violence happens in 40% of Russian households with 36,000 women beaten daily by intimate partners. 12,000 Russian women die from domestic violence each year.
Women in the US are experiencing more than a backlash. Women report dramatically increased sexual harassment and sexual assaults post election. This is not a climate where women can expect legal protections to be either maintained or enforced. The incoming U.S. government has expressed admiration for Russia. Will this include promoting and mimicking the pending Russian anti-female legislation? You know how friends can influence friends.
Monday, November 28, 2016
Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Dubravka Simonovic, spoke about global concerns of increased risks to women as fundamentalism and "populism" rise around the globe. A group of UN human rights experts including Simonovic, Alda Facio, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; and Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, issued a joint statement expressing the concerns of many women around the globe.
“In the face of rising populism and fundamentalisms and deplorable setbacks on the women's human rights agenda, we need more than ever to unite our forces to preserve the democratic space in which women human rights defenders represent an essential counter-power and a colossal force of action.”
"The experts highlighted a host of specific challenges faced by women rights defenders – including misogynistic attitudes, threats of sexual assault, travel bans, lack of protection and access to justice, imprisonment, killings, laws which violate their rights, gender-based defamation questioning their “femininity” or sexuality, and gender stereotyping which questions their engagement in public life instead of sticking to their caretaker role in the family."
US women recognize the fragility of their advances in the post-Trump climate.
What supports the concerns of US women is the fact that there has been no general outcry from men denouncing the wave of misogyny that has let lose since the Trump campaign began. If men are not willing to risk the ridicule of other men by taking a public stand against misogyny, how can women be safe? Particularly silent are the men of Congress. Are all too busy worrying about how to get along with the incoming president? Or they are concerned with how to retain their seats and have Trump's support. This is no time for cowards to represent us. But bravery has not been a hallmark of many of our male representatives for some time. The few vocal male congressional supporters are insufficient to create change. There was some hope when Republican leadership publicly stated they could not support Trump because of his videotaped remarks. But that assessment seems to have diminished in the race to preserve their status. Respecting and accepting the process is very different from silence in the face of bias.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Women's human rights have been under siege as long as I can remember. But certainly since Roe v. Wade, eliminating women's autonomy in all aspects of their lives, and particularly in health care decisions, has been the focus of (mostly) white men and particularly those in Congress.
The convergence of sexual assault protests and concerns over abortion restrictions bring autonomy concerns into clearer focus. Both issues highlight many men's belief that they have the right to control female bodies no matter how personal the decision or how criminal the act that a man is perpetrating. Other issues that may seem disconnected from the issue stem from men's attempts to control women's bodies. Restrictions on public breastfeeding is one. Forcing working women who choose not to abort to return to work prematurely is another. Before their bodies are fully healed from childbirth, mothers are back on the job because maternity leave of sufficient duration is often lacking, even in the rare instances where leave is paid. Employment harassment is difficult to prove, and often dismissed on summary judgment, even when there is proof of lewd comments or other actions directed toward the woman and her body.
The Trump election has prompted women to public advocacy. Women's advocacy in the form of public demonstrations has been largely dormant for the past two decades. That is changing.
On January 21, 2017 women will march on the capitol. The Women's March on Washington, formerly called the Million Women's March, will take place on the Washington Mall and women and allies are invited. The demonstration is in response to women's concerns that they will lose rights because of Mr. Trump's election and promises to be the largest protest to date. Taking place the day after the inauguration, women will voice concerns over the enhanced violence against women, including rape culture, pay equity and the return of women to property status, among other issues.
More information on the march may be found on Facebook. Since the march is being organized state by state, many states have already set up Facebook pages.
One significant flaw in US women's movements has been the exclusivity of white leadership. Indeed, the early violence against women movement barely acknowledged women of color as significant, despite their increased vulnerability to gender based violence. Last week, women of color held a post-election demonstration in NYC. Linda Sasour of MyMuslimVote told the demonstrators “We don’t want to be the generation that says ‘never again,’ and then things happen on our watch. Let us be different.”
If you visit the March on Washington facebook page, why not suggest that leadership be turned over to women of color. Otherwise we perpetuate an unnecessary and disrespectful divide within our gender.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
I am neither surprised nor outraged at the latest disclosed remarks on Trumps physical assaults on women. I never expected anything other than Mr. Trump's hatred for and abuse of women. I am sad that as a nation America disrespects women.
The signs were all there. A history of calling women pigs, dogs and slobs; two lawsuits against him that allege either rape or attempted rape; assigning wives to traditional roles; disparaging one reporter's disability and another's menstruation, and more. Combine that with other behavior and comments offending almost every group that is not white, rich and Christian and we have all the indicia of misogyny and racism.
Why wasn't the previously exposed behavior sufficient to cause the outrage we are now observing? Because Americans minimize the impact of disrespectful behavior. I thank the Washington Post for the latest disclosures. Apparently hateful behavior will be challenged only if extreme. If Trump is elected president, we could be a long way toward fascism before the populace even considers taking action. To say nothing of women being exponentially more unsafe from physical assault than they are today. (For a humorous response to this failure to respond to Trumps earlier disrespectful comments see John Oliver's comments.)
This climate of tolerance and refusal to demand consequences for disrespectful behavior is fertile ground for the elimination of access to basic human rights. We have traveled a good way down the disrespect road already. I am not convinced that we will avoid human rights horrors in our future.
Responses to the latest revelations have been universally condemning. This may give us a reprieve from total devolution, but until the country is willing to protect each of us from the indignities of misogyny and dismissiveness, I fear that our travel toward the hateful nation may have slowed, but not stopped.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
I do not recall a presidential campaign where news coverage of the candidates was so lopsided. Donald Trump would be trailing Hillary Clinton by quite a bit except for the publicity he has been provided at the expense of a campaign that actually focuses on issues. Thanks to reality tv and exploitative, rather than balanced, journalism, the "soundbite" method of reporting has been an advantage to Mr. Trump. Bullies are ready producers of soundbites. More respectful folks are not. The nation now believes that Mr. Trump has just about an equal chance of being elected president, largely a media creation. The media kept Donald Trump in the spotlight for years with his false "birther" claims. The media knew these claims were ridiculous but supported the offensive and racist theory by providing coverage any time that Mr. Trump yelled "birther". If anyone else had made such a claim, it is doubtful the Times would have printed the story. But because a rich bully said it, media printed the defamatory allegations over and over, thus providing another distraction from President's Obama's number one task of governing.
The lopsided coverage continues.
Take for example, today's poll as reported by the NYT. The reporting soundbites give more credibility to the Trump campaign than is deserved. The lead reads "Our poll shows a nearly even split among voters nationally, with Donald Trump seen as riskier but more potentially transformative and Hillary Clinton seen as safer and more temperamentally suited for the job." The transformation question was designed in a way that gives Mr. Trump a more positive bounce than he otherwise would have. No information was given to the type of transformation we could expect from a Trump presidency. Media can not stand behind faux neutrality to defend coverage that pretends Mr. Trump's brand of transformation is anything but dangerous to millions of voters and others living within our borders.
Misogyny is substituting for the racism of the last two elections. The press would do well to acknowledge the undercurrent of hatred that drives Mr. Trump's campaign. Recently Mr. Trump suggested that his opponent's government provided protection should stand down so that we could "see what happens to her." Earlier Mr. Trump encouraged supporters to rebel against Mrs. Clinton should she be elected. Perhaps the headlines should have read that Mr. Trump is planting the seeds of violence and treason, whose growth will be seen post election. Mr. Trump provided the perfect opening for an article on the dangers portended by his rise. Reporting on the dangers Mr. Trump creates might have been a better service to readers than providing shocking but dangerous soundbites originating with the Republican nominee. For anyone who doubts the role of misogyny in this campaign, watch this disturbing interview with the Trump supporter whose t-shirt reads "Trump that Bitch".
More credible reporting would characterize Mr. Trumps remarks as what they are: divisive and dangerous. Our mainstream media has fallen for the bully's tactics through its coverage. You cannot stop bullies from speaking the outrageous. But you can encourage their escalation through reporting the sensational soundbite slogans while avoiding discussion of the consequences.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
By now the notorious actions of armed French police officers demanding that a Muslim woman remove a shirt she wore as part of her swimwear are well known. The action was humiliating and not isolated. The officers also appear to be writing a ticket. The woman was considered in violation of a local (Nice) regulation banning swimwear designed to accommodate the dress needs of Muslim women. In the offensive reference of the outfits as "Burkinis", the absurd justification for the swimwear ban is that the dress "overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks."
Other French resorts and towns have implemented similar bans. A French tribunal recently overturned Nice's ban and presumably other bans will fall. Like the angry rhetoric of Donald Trump, however, the bans have done their damage by igniting bigots into discriminatory and hateful action. One woman bather was fined after being subjected to taunts of "Go Back Home" from other bathers as the woman's young daughter cried.
Some defend France's bans on clothing worn by Muslim women as protecting women from religious beliefs that oppress them. But the tickets issued fine the bathers for not "wearing an outfit that respects good morals and secularism". To date no nuns in traditional garb have been fined.
Controlling women's swimwear has a history. In 1957 an Italian woman was fined for wearing an "immodest" bikini.
The bans and the seeming entitlement to control women's clothing is nothing less than denying women's autonomy. The US does the same in more subtle ways. Women's voices are minimized when all women, including a presidential candidate, is subjected to critiques by individuals, journalists and pundits. U.S methods are less direct, but are part of an ongoing global effort to control women by removing their autonomy over personal choices, even those as fundamental as religious ones.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
Elie Wiesel was our conscience and our memory of the Holocaust. He was voice for millions of the murdered because of the hatred and madness of one leader and his supporters. But also the Jewish citizens died due to the overwhelming silence of others. It is both easy and difficult to understand the fear of speaking out when neighbors are disappearing. Consequences of disagreeing with Hitler, as with other dictators, were and are severe and usually fatal. But that begs the question on how dictators ascend to national control in the first instance.
Anyone who read Night was no doubt haunted by the inhumanity. But one of the lessons Mr. Wiesel taught us was not to wait in confronting hateful conditions as they are developing. Politics rooted in hate can be powerful and, if not curbed, lead to the sort of unimaginable suffering that Mr. Wiesel endured. Not confronting hatred when it first appears permits inhumanity to grow. Failure to confront hatred opens the door for demagogues.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Yesterday the White House Summit, the United State of Women, was held in Washington, DC. The event was outstanding for many reasons. Bringing together five thousand (mostly female) advocates for women in one space was amazing. The line up of speakers was equally amazing. The list is too long to recreate here but here are some of the names of presenters you might recognize: Valerie Jarett, President Obama, Vice President Biden, Billie Jean King, Amy Poehler, Patricia Arquette, Sarah Jones, Warren Buffet and so many others whose names you may or may not recognize. To me, the highlight was listening to Oprah Winfrey interview the First Lady. As one colleague remarked, the experience felt like eavesdropping.
Many presenters began by highlighting the horrific events in Orlando with unexpected guest Attorney General Loretta Lynch addressing the events expansively in her talk. Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of TransLatin@Coalition, made the Orlando slaughter both real and personal.
As participants moved to and from breakout sessions, they were accompanied by female musicians who played in drumming and mariachi bands, both of which historically have been closed to women. The drumming did provide a humorous moment. To the laughter and eye rolls of the women, a line of five men, presumably convention center employees, unabashedly walked between the drummers and those women watching the performers, unwittingly becoming a reminder of why we were gathered.
Significantly, participants commented on their freedom to unapologetically focus on women. Straight, lesbian, trans, queer, women of color, younger and older - all were freed. Any need to appease male supremacists with gender neutral language was unnecessary and would have been inappropriate, as it often is. In other words, minimization and denial of the special problems endured by women was absent from the room.
To the White House planners, thank you.
Editors' note: The event was recorded and may be watched on line at the Summit website.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
by Jeremiah Ho
According to sources at the Human Rights Campaign, there are currently more than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills filed in 29 state legislatures across the country. But the one bill that has gained the most notoriety in the national spotlight is North Carolina’s bill—HB 2—banning transgender individuals from using the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. In the shadow of last year’s marriage equality victory, the controversy of the HB 2 has sparked conversation about transgender rights—a group within the LGBTQ umbrella that previously received the least amount of attention and the group that did not benefit from the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Given that one of iconic instances of discrimination that prompted the Civil Rights Movement was the segregation of public restrooms between white and other races, it feels as if the return to the restroom as the stage for discrimination symbolizes a regression from progressive politics. The issue, however, is so much more complex than that. As with racially-segregated public restrooms, the supporters tout a negative essentialist rhetoric that is firmly grounded in the politics of disrespect. For instance, during the Civil Rights Movement, a common reason that pro-segregationists used to resist integration of public restrooms between white and other races was the protection of white women from the venereal diseases carried by African-American women. In comparison, in the contemporary debate, we have supporters of bathroom bills—who also largely denounce expansion of anti-transgender rights—use the protection of young children from child predators as one of the primary reasons for these bathroom bills. Just like venereal disease, here is now another peril that has been brought into the debate without any evidentiary basis—alas pedophilia! But even despite the lack of statistics, the possibility of child predators is enough to gather support from family groups to prevent restroom integration at the expense of the restroom rights of a particular group. Along the way, the ones left out of the stall—i.e. transgender individuals—now have either an inappropriate connotation of pedophilia attached to their image or way of life that facilitates an argument favoring their third-class citizenry. Beyond the segregation, the pro-bathroom bill rhetoric is a cleverly designed campaign that uses anti-transgender essentialism—in the form bodily functions and biological sex—to discredit the pro-transgender constructivist aspects of gender identity. All of this rhetoric and debate reveals the tension and hatred that the supporters of bathroom bills hold for transgender people.
Although in the context of schools, these bathroom bills have been legally challenged on the basis of Title IX violations, much of this debate makes me think of another legal solution to use against bills such as HB 2—that is, animus and rational basis "with bite" in Romer v. Evans. The anti-trans rhetoric here reminds me of the disrespect politics that the supporters of Colorado Amendment 2 in the early-to-mid 1990s employed to get the state voters to pass an ordinance that denied non-discriminatory protections for LGBTQ individuals. That campaign used the AIDS crisis and inaccurate statistics about gay sex to tarnish the image of sexual minorities, leaving them without any dignity in the eyes of other fellow Colorado citizens. Eventually Amendment 2 was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1996 in Romer because the Court found that Amendment 2 was promulgated by an animus against sexual minorities that rendered the law empty of rational basis.
So if we were able to resolve Colorado’s discriminatory Amendment 2 in 1996, why are we not quicker in 2016 to note the hatred and animus that ought to render HB 2 and similar laws that discriminate against transgender individuals irrational as well?
Monday, February 1, 2016
A recent report from the social sciences field explores the trend of higher gay and lesbian presence in certain fields of labor and careers than others. The title of the report is Concealable Stigma and Occupational Segregation: Toward a Theory of Gay and Lesbian Occupations. It was published by Administrative Science Quarterly, but has been featured separately on the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Business Review Blog and Paul Caron’s TaxProfBlog in the last few weeks.
So why are gay and lesbians overrepresented in certain fields such as psychology, social work, law, and higher ed teaching? Are there truthful correlations in age-old stereotypes regarding the type of careers that gays and lesbians take on in the workplace (e.g., gay hairdressers and lesbian truck drivers)?
In assessing, what the title of the report calls, “concealable stigma” and its link to occupational segregation of sexual minorities into certain jobs, the authors of the report, András Tilcsik (University of Toronto), Michael Anteby (Boston University), and Carly R. Knight (Harvard), have observed that sexual minorities tend to hold occupations that allow them to rely on their experiences of discrimination and social stigma. Gay men and lesbians tend to be drawn to occupations that require task independence—the ability to perform tasks without large dependence on coworkers—because it allows concealment of sexual orientation and reduces negative consequences of being “out.” They also tend to hold occupations that require high social perceptiveness—of being able to accurately read, anticipate and gauge others’ reactions. A table of empirical data regarding the types of occupations with high numbers of gay and lesbian workers from the report with observations regarding whether such occupations require task independence and/or social perceptiveness is reproduced here:
Occupations with the Highest Joint Proportion of Gay and Lesbian Workers
1. Psychologists (S*, T**)
2. Training and development specialists and managers (S)
3. Social and community service managers (S, T)
4. Technical writers (T)
5. Occupational therapists (S, T)
6. Massage therapists (S, T)
7. Urban and regional planners (S, T)
8. Producers and directors (S, T)
9. Postsecondary teachers (S, T)
10. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists (S, T)
11. Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors (S)
12. Physical therapists and exercise physiologists (S, T)
13. Computer and information systems managers (S, T)
14. Lawyers, and judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers (S, T)
15. Web developers (T)
*S = Occupation requires above-average social perceptiveness
**T = Above-average task independence is associated with the occupation
The authors theorize that eventually such occupational trends might change as sexual minorities become more visible and accepted due to the visibility of same-sex relationships. Gay and lesbians might lose their social perceptiveness. But for now, the authors believe that there will continue to be strong correlation between social stigma and discrimination and the career paths that gays and lesbians pick.
What’s interesting for this writer of the HRAH blog is how social stigma of sexual minorities is characterized by this report as a strong but invisible influence for career choices and how it contributes to segregation and hierarchy in the workplace. Occupational choices are complicated for the livelihoods of gays and lesbian just as they are for everyone else. But as the report seems to suggest, the choice of career paths for gays and lesbians consists of influences and skills obtained from their history of societal marginalization and segregation. Whether the truth is as emphatic as the authors present here, their ideas are fascinating considering the substantial amount of time that we all spend in our lifetimes at work.
Monday, January 18, 2016
U.N. "Peacekeepers" stationed in the Central African Republic have been exposed for paying for sex with girls. The prices paid ranged from 50 cents to $3.00. Not surprisingly, the girls are part of a prostitution ring organized by boys and young men pimps, in this instance from M'poko, a camp for the internally displaced. The offending soldiers were from Gabon, Morocco, Burundi and France.
The Washington post reported the most recent news, but the UN learned of the behavior last summer. While the headlines typically read that U.N. Peacekeepers paid young, underage girls for sex, perhaps a better headline would be that UN Peacekeepers supported a local prostitution ring in the sexual abuse of young girls. I don't think that anyone will argue that the thirteen year old girls voluntarily participated as sex workers as a lifestyle choice. Their circumstances of being displaced, in addition to their sex and age, made them particularly vulnerable. Also last summer, Amnesty International reported the rape of a 12 year old girl by a U.N. Peacekeeper. After initially denying reports of sexual exploitation, the UN is now investigating.
The story of the Peacekeeper exploitation was reported by Human Rights Watch in August. As Sarah Taylor reported, the UN at last may be shifting the way it views sexual abuse and exploitation, which has been reported in many countries in addition to CAR. Rather than consider these actions as conduct offenses, the UN, according to a report issued by the Secretary General, is encouraged to view this abuse as conflict-related sexual violence. In September, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced several initiatives including banning anyone with a history of sexual violence from serving with the UN.
The UN and other military authorities avoid, however, the central issue of why sexual abuse and exploitation is not the first issue addressed whenever troops are deployed. Crimes of sexual abuse against women and children is a documented reality around the world, but particularly for areas of conflict. Before the UN, or any individual country, sends troops to protect elections or assist refugees, the first mission might be to safeguard the residents from abuse, particularly sexual violence. Other missions are secondary.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
by Jeremiah Ho
It has been evident that within the last century, dignity has become a leveraging point for advancing challenges to human rights violations and restrictions within the law. Its post-Enlightenment, fundamental universality replaced previous versions of humanity and has been regarded as a normative individual entitlement. In addition, the broadness of its meaning and application allows different social movements to carve out particular nuances between the status quo and desired norms. Thus, dignity is a normative.
Even before Obergefell v. Hodges, the anti-gay rhetoric that stole dignity away from sexual minorities for decades was a way in which the denial of their civil rights was justifiable under the law. As others such as Martha Nussbaum have recounted (see Nussbaum, From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation & Constitutional Law 2010), challenges fought in court and state legislatures over gay rights in the past were lost by gay litigants and gay rights advocates partly because the dominant rhetoric against sexual minorities was couched within the politics of disrespect—that, for instance, gays were living in a lifestyle premised on a morally-blameworthy choice or they were susceptible to illnesses or that they practiced sexually-deviant, perverse acts.
To some waning degree, that rhetoric of disrespect still remains and are still being used by opponents of gay rights and marriage equality. But for the most part, we’ve moved toward recognizing that dignity exists in sexual preferences and away from a politics of disrespect. But a good question to ask in the recent shadow of Obergefell is whether the dignity recognized by the Court specifically accorded sexual minorities the respect that they should be entitled to for being who they are or whether the dignity rhetoric in Obergefell stopped short of this view and settled for addressing the respectability of choices of same-sex couples for wanting to participate in marriage. The nuance seems slight but in the age where we recognize micro-aggressions and find assimilationist politics confining, the use of dignity to leverage rights by characterizing it between respectability of choices that a sub-group engages in to fit into the dominant culture (e.g. same-sex couples trying to obtain marriages) is a significant distinction from using dignity to accord the respect that a sub-group deserves based on identity alone.
As we begin 2016 and progress (hopefully) toward nondiscrimination for sexual minorities, respect certainly seems like the winning route to take when it comes to using dignity to speak about elevating the status of sexual minorities to a protected class—whether judicially or legislatively. Respectability, in comparison, has the potential to elongate a conversation where LGBTQ individuals are considered as “the other.” Dignity as respect reframes the discussion away from choices and existence in a way that deprives the dominant culture opportunities to comment, and instead, places the subgroup in a light where such type of judgment is not allowed.
Monday, January 4, 2016
Three Ohio legislators plan on filing a bill that would require women who miscarry or abort to cremate or bury the fetus. Significantly, the drafters made no attempt to appear gender neutral. They have placed the burden for cremation or burial exclusively on mothers. Misogyny undisguised. The legislators gave no thought to the trauma that women can experience when miscarriage occurs. Whether an abortion is spontaneous or planned, many women struggle with the often difficult decisions and emotions that surround both. Disregard toward women is exposed in this bill, as is the assumption that women alone are responsible for their pregnancies.
In what appears to be an unintended offense, the bill ignores the reality for many men, as well. Men often participate with their partners in decision making on whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. Men also suffer when unwanted miscarriage occurs.
The legislators are not original, however, because Arkansas and Indiana have already passed similar laws. The legislators took up the cause once Attorney General Mike DeWine was proven wrong on his claims around Planned Parenthood's fetal donation program. Searching for a way to keep fetus disposal alive as a political issue, these legislators took up the cause in promoting the cremation or burial scheme. DeWine moved on to claims that Planned Parenthood is disposing of fetus in landfills. Planned Parenthood has had enough. The organization obtained an injunction against DeWine from taking any action to block its fetus disposal.
Perhaps these men are unable to see themselves as part of a global anti-female culture. The New York Times reported on the sexual and other violence against Syrian women refugees as they attempt to make a new life in another country. Women are victims of war in ways that men are not, notably because of the sexual violence they experience. Whether the abuse is sexual, physical or legislative, the ultimate impact, if not one goal, is to remove women's control over their bodies and their lives. It is all one.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Following up on Cindy Soohoo's post earlier this week, this post examines the ongoing denial of autonomy to women. The denial is promoted by the federal and state governments.
In yesterday's post, Prof. Soohoo mentioned a particularly brave abortion provider in Alabama. This past week, representatives of the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women in Law and Practice visited Birmingham. As reported by Amy Yurkanin, Committee members made the stop to explore abortion restriction, criminalization of drug use during pregnancy and restrictions on contraception.
The committee noted that women are denied access to reproductive choice not by directly outlawing abortion, but by making access so restrictive as to create virtual abortion bans. Yurkanin quoted Frances Raday of Israel saying "America looks as though it is joining the regional plague. They are doing it by making abortion not accessible instead of illegal." This term, the Supreme Court will address restrictions that lead to abortion clinic closures in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Cole.
As Yurkanin further reported, "Lucia Hermo of the ACLU of Alabama described the laws that have been passed to restrict abortion, including one that would assign lawyers to the fetuses of pregnant teens seeking abortion without parental consent. That law is under review by a federal judge." While Alabama seems eager to appoint counsel for a fetus an underage teen seeks to have an abortion, should that child be born, the state will not provide counsel for either the child or the child's mother when protection from an abusive father is sought or when the child is in the middle of custody dispute.
The widely accepted substitution of the medically correct term "fetus" for "unborn child" has created the climate where state prosecutors manipulate laws designed to protect living children into tools of female prosecution. Both Tennessee and Alabama are enforcing their chemical endangerment of a child statutes by arresting and prosecuting women who use drugs during pregnancy. In Wisconsin, a similar law has been in effect since 1998, and is used in cases where pregnant women with a history of drug use are arrested and confined against their will. In a phrase that rejects treating all with dignity, those women are referred to as "cocaine moms." The enforcement against pregnant women discourages them from disclosing past drug use and seeking help for current addictions.
We have sanitized the discussion. Many hold sincere religious beliefs that are the source of their moral opposition to abortion. But those beliefs do not justify laws that result in disparate gender impact and does not excuse legislators who lack the courage to oppose legislation based in the promotion and imposition of those beliefs. Likewise, community religious beliefs do not eliminate the obligation of lawyers and judges to begin any analysis with the gender discriminatory impact of laws that purport to promote health. Reproductive rights restrictions and other legislation targeted toward women, and in particular mothers, are not gender neutral and must be redefined in the broader framework of the ongoing oppression of women. Any other rationale is a disguise.