Saturday Morning Reads: Our Future. Our Selves.Posted: October 8, 2011
I admit to a growing fascination with Leymah Gbowee since hearing several interviews with her after the announcement that she is one of three women sharing the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. She is just one of those take charge and get it done women if there ever was one! I am now itching to see “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”. This is a documentary by filmmaker Abigail Disney. Here is a link to a 2009 report from Bill Moyers Journal on the 2008 film. Yes, Abigail Disney comes from THAT family but the movie is a long ways away from animated princesses and singing animals. You can watch the Moyers piece here to get a feel for Gbowee’s commitment to social justice in Liberia.
Women’s News Network updated their recent interview with Gbowee on her work to secure reproductive and sexual rights of African women as well as her efforts to assure peace in Liberia. She also addresses the needs of American women in the interview. Yes. We can learn many things from the struggles of women in developing nations for basic rights as we see the daily erosion of our own. Did you ever believe you would live a country where the whims of a druggist can dictate your access to prescribed medicine?
In Gbowee’s estimation, American women also have challenges that need to be addressed. This topic came up in response to our conversation about CEDAW, and the inability for the agreement to get national traction. She referenced the disadvantages that come from not signing the international treaty. Totally frank in her assessment questioning America’s ability to provide cogent leadership on women’s issues, Gbowee pointed to matters that leaders “don’t want to tackle.”
She said, “If a President or Secretary of State is standing up and making statements about the rapes in Congo, and that same country has not signed a document that is so important to the lives of their women —what other name do you give it but hypocrisy?”
Part of our exchange included how important it was for those working to help women under siege, to truly engage in an equal dialogue. “There is a need to speak to the women of these countries,” Gbowee said. She told me a story about a trip she had taken to Congo where she had spoken with women on the ground, and learned that for them “rape was at the bottom of the list.”
At the top — was “political participation.” For those women, “rape is a symptom of an actual issue.” She continued, “We want to help. But we need to step out of our donor driven issues and step into what it is that these communities actually want.”
Yes. Gbowee’s got me thinking on how United States women are losing ground daily. She is right. Our country has not signed on to CEDAW. What does this say about a President that MS magazine labelled a feminist? This link takes you to the Text of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Why is our country not a signatory? Why are our rights not a priority?
The Convention defines discrimination against women as “…any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”
By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms, including:
- to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women;
- to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and
- to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.
The Convention provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life — including the right to vote and to stand for election — as well as education, health and employment. States parties agree to take all appropriate measures, including legislation and temporary special measures, so that women can enjoy all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It seems that a country as advanced as ours would consider the rights of half of its citizens to be extremely important, wouldn’t it? However, that doesn’t appear to be the priority of many folks in government outside of the US State Department. Here is a youtube of SOS Clinton saying that the treaty is a priority of the Obama administration. Why haven’t we signed it?
American women are experiencing an incredible set back in rights. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at an abortion rights fundraiser on Wednesday where she issued a strong warning against moves by Republicans to roll back women’s health gains by 50 years. Women are being sent back to chattel status in state after state.
“We’ve come a long way in women’s health over the last few decades, but we are in a war,” Sebelius said at a NARAL Pro-Choice America luncheon attended by about 300 people, who gave some of their loudest applause at her mention of the Obama administration’s support for requiring insurance plans to cover birth control without copays.
Sebelius said women have suffered discrimination by insurance companies that considered “Viagra an essential medication and birth control a lifestyle choice.”
Her message resonated with some at the event who acknowledged doubts about Obama’s leadership on a variety of liberal issues.
“I’m a little disappointed with his force, his forcefulness, pretty much across the board,” Chicagoan Bamboo Solzman said of Obama. Sebelius’ remarks at Wednesday’s event solidified Solzman’s support of Obama’s re-election, she said. “He was forward enough to choose her, so that does help,” Solzman said.
We are clearly losing ground. While women in the administration are being sent out to do heartfelt speeches, nothing is being done to protect our rights. Speeches do not protect women and children from the brutalities of fundamentalist religions and the economic realities of sex-based discrimination. Neoconfederate Ron Paul is just one among many Republican presidential contenders that wants to eliminate access to something as simple as basic birth control. The fight is not just for our right to abortion. It is for our right to birth control and self determination.
“I am deeply troubled by the flippancy with which President Obama recently discussed regulations that are alarming and troublesome for many Americans,” Paul said. “Not all Americans are comfortable with the Obama administration’s decision to mandate coverage of birth control and morning-after pills, and the considerations of these people, many of them Christian conservatives, are worthy of careful consideration – not mockery.”
“Many, like me, view this rigid regulatory overstep from which there is inadequate opportunity to self-exempt as payback to Planned Parenthood and big pharmaceutical companies for their support of Obamacare,” Paul added. “Many others oppose it out of strict moral conviction and their voices should be heard at least to the extent that an authentic opportunity to exempt be provided. That is, until Obamacare is repealed in its entirety.”
“As this mandate violates the conscience of millions of pro-life Americans, I have introduced in Congress H.R. 1099, the Taxpayer Freedom of Conscience Act, which removes all federal funding for domestic and international family planning,” Paul continued. “As President, I plan to defund Obamacare and all federal programs that use tax money taken from the American people to promote abortion and provide abortion services domestically and globally. I pledge also to veto any bill with funding for Planned Parenthood or any other international family planning regimes.”
Any of us can have deeply felt beliefs against the death penalty, against invasions of nations, and against assassination without due process of American citizens, yet none of our concerns are met with similar angst and pearl clutching. Only the fetus fetishists get to object to using their puny tax dollars for every one. If they don’t want abortions or birth control, they just shouldn’t get them. That should have nothing to do with our access Their views preclude the findings of modern science and medicine and they are ruling the day.
Most Republican presidential wannabes spent their week pandering to so called “values voters” at a summit cum hatefest. Clearly, this political movement is out to define every one’s personal choices to meet their maxims. They have declared an open war on women’s rights. Rick Perry’s Endorser called Mitt Romney’s faith a “cult” and referred to Planned Parenthood as “a slaughterhouse for the unborn”. This is nothing more than hate speech dressed up in a pastor’s robe.
It was no ordinary opener from the prominent Southern Baptist Convention leader, Pastor Robert Jeffress, who endorsed Perry on Friday. Jeffress praised Perry for defunding Planned Parenthood in Texas, calling the provider of women’s health and abortion services, “that slaughterhouse for the unborn.”
He also lauded Perry’s “strong commitment to biblical values.”
“Do we want a candidate who is skilled in rhetoric or one who is skilled in leadership? Do we want a candidate who is a conservative out of convenience or one who is a conservative out of deep conviction?” Jeffress said. “Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person — or one who is a born-again follower of the lord Jesus Christ?”
Jeffress called Perry a “genuine follower of Jesus Christ.” The pastor did not mention Perry’s rival Mitt Romney by name, but he told reporters after his remarks on Friday that Mormonism was a “cult.”
Jeffress’ comments and his endorsement of Perry threatened to inject some tension into what has been a relatively quiet year for religion on the campaign trail and the Perry campaign sought to quiet the uproar.
The campaign’s official comment on Jeffress evolved quickly on Friday afternoon. When initially asked by ABC News whether Gov. Perry agreed that Mormonism is a cult, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said: “The governor doesn’t judge what is in the heart and soul of others. He leaves that to God.”
My horrible governor Bobby Jindal joked about pedophilia at this same hub of hatred. What an inappropriate topic for jokes! Since so many folks were herded out of New Orleans and Southern Louisiana after Katrina, we can no longer even find a decent field of candidates to run against a man that’s trying to bring back the plantation system of government and economics. He has spent tremendous amounts of money courting chicken evisceration plants to our state for a few horrible paying jobs while decimating our already fragile public health and education systems.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) knows just how to crack up the audience at the Values Voter Summit: just make a joke about former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) being a pedophile.
After a long winded speech about all his accomplishments protecting children from sex offenders, Jindal brought it home.
“What I can do as governor is this: I can make Louisiana the last place that anyone who wants to in any way harm a child by exposing children to inappropriate material,” Jindal said. “I can make Louisiana a dangerous place for Congressman Weiner to relocate to.”
Louisiana is a dangerous place for teachers, nurses, and public employees right now because of this man and that clearly makes it a dangerous place for children. After all, this is the same governor that foisted a creationist law on them. He clearly doesn’t value children enough to educate them in science, protect their health, and provide them decent teachers and classrooms. Our children need protection from our Governor.
The scientific community has long advocated that allowing anything but science in the teaching of evolution will be intellectually harmful. In an e-mail sent to the Associated Press, Harold Kroto, a Nobel Prize winner for chemistry in 1996, said voting against the repeal creates a situation that “should be likened to requiring Louisiana school texts to include the claim that the Sun goes round the Earth.”
While evolutionary biology is based in the work of Charles Darwin, which shows how humans evolved through natural selection, creationism is rooted in a fundamental reading of Biblical texts that say mankind is the product of a divine maker.
With the law intact, Louisiana is the state that has gone the furthest in approving legislation that opens the door to allowing alternatives to science taught in its schools.
American women are also not making much headway to influence corporate culture and business decisions through board appointments. America’s top business women attended Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, California. Board positions are key to efforts to break the glass ceiling because boards approve CEO pay and appointments. One of the questions raised at the meeting was dealing with requests to become a board’s token woman. The topic was raised by Anne Mulcahy–former Xerox CEO and board member–who questioned if it was worth the effort to become the lone female on what has been an all boy board.
At the same time, female representation on boards is still a major issue. The percentage of female directors, which hovers around 20 percent, has been at a standstill over the past decade—Spencer Stuart finds that there has been no increase in that ratio since 2000. The research firm Catalyst reports an even lower number, 16 percent, putting the United States behind Finland, Sweden and Norway, which actually has a law requiring 40 percent of all board members at Norwegian companies to be women. Those low percentages persist despite the fact that study after study has shown that more diverse boards are associated with greater company performance.
I get what Mulcahy is saying. Why should women in positions of power join a club, as she puts it, that they may not want to be a part of? At that level, most women have multiple commitments, and joining a board where they’re treated like tokens rather than assets may not be the best use of their time. In addition, they may be able to have more of an impact on a board that is already forward thinking and receptive to diversity.
So, at a time when we are celebrating the progress made by women who have reached presidencies in countries in South America, Africa, Australia, and the East, we are seeing tremendous setbacks in women’s rights here in the United States. Who are the Leymah Gbowee’s of North America? Let us do more than just pray a few of our own devils back to hell. Let’s be in their faces and all in their business just like Ms. Gbowee! (See youtube below.) Let’s be an entire population of women that won’t shut up!!!