5 Things You Can Do Today for Equal Pay

This was in my Twitter feed today to remind me it’s Equal Pay Day:

I don’t know about you, but I’m sooo tired of hearing that same statistic over and over in the annual communal outcry about the lack of equal pay.

So being a practical activist, I put together these five things you and I can do today to bring about equal pay.

Continue reading “5 Things You Can Do Today for Equal Pay”

Equal Pay Day 2011: Are Republicans in Congress Trying to Make Women “Barefoot and Pregnant” Again?

Check out the fair pay flash mob on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:

Arkansas State Senator Paul Van Dalsem got a roaring laugh in 1963 at the then all-male Optimist Club when he railed at women from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) who were lobbying to improve educational opportunities. He said his home county’s solution would be to get an uppity woman an extra milk cow. “And if that’s not enough, we get her pregnant and keep her barefoot.”

Sounds quaint, doesn’t it? Not so much, though.

Fast forward please to April 11, 2011—the day designated as Equal Pay Day by the National committee on Pay Equity to call attention to the pay gap between men and women. Women currently make about 20% less than men even when the numbers are controlled for education and experience. In other words, the pay disparity does not stem from childbearing as is often assumed, but rather from deeper systemic biases that are reflected in women’s own lack of skills and confidence in negotiating for their pay and promotions. Continue reading “Equal Pay Day 2011: Are Republicans in Congress Trying to Make Women “Barefoot and Pregnant” Again?”

Goldilocks SOTU: Not Too Big, Not Too Small, Just Right

“I am feeling so disempowered,” the woman prefaced her question to me at a “Passion to Action” conference in Grass Vally, CA, sponsored by the See Jane Do organization. But her face telegraphed very powerful emotions: anger, frustration, fear. It was a look we’ve seen on the faces of teabaggers as they shouted wild allegations and disrupted town halls across the nation.

This woman was no teabagger. She was a progressive Democratic woman, a key member of Obama’s base. The impassioned ones who swept him into office on a frothy wave of belief in the change he promised; the ones now feeling somewhere between skeptical and cynical.

“I want real health reform. What happened to that and what can I do about it?” The questioner lobbed this at me after my speech encouraging women to use our power as activists. If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then it would be very important to listen to what women like her had to say about Obama’s State of the Union address.

So I went to the discussion boards, the White House Facebook page, Twitter, and posted a query on my own Facebook page to see what my friends were saying about his speech.  The focus on jobs and the economy was clearly the top priority for most people and rightly so. Capping government spending, being transparent about who’s getting the pork, becoming a global leader in solar energy, and a tax break for small businesses all got shout outs for being ideas that people appreciated. He apologized elegantly without showing weakness. He said bipartisan twice, enough to keep the centrists and pundits singing his praises, but he also challenged the Republicans to go beyond “no” and help him govern. These were not new initiatives, but we needed to hear them again to know he has not lost his way through the forest of governing.

It was remarkable how, in the absence of bold new goals, even small steps were glommed onto as being big enough. This tells me Obama continues to hold onto a reservoir of goodwill from Americans who truly want their president to be successful.

The folks over at RHRealityCheck were holding a liveblog that included a virtual drinking party. You were supposed to have a drink when certain predictable words or words they wanted to hear were mentioned. Amanda Marcotte said that if abortion were mentioned, she’d guzzle. No worries about Amanda overimbibing tonight.

One woman noted via e-mail that he had used the female gendered pronoun when talking about the need to stimulate small businesses and increase job creation and she appreciated that. I’d noticed it too but it was too small a gesture for me to celebrate.

Another woman posted in response to my Facebook question that his commitment to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was big to her, and it is—but didn’t he promise the same thing last year? And still there isn’t a concrete plan or timetable.

In the missed opportunity column, Obama might have seconded the initiative of Senator Chris Dodd (D-Ct) earlier in the day that he will soon schedule a hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a top priority for many women’s groups such as the American Association of University Women.

In fact, Obama mentioned equal pay only in a rhetorical flourish, saying, “We are going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws—so that women get equal pay for an equal day’s work.” His other mention of women’s rights was a pledge to support women who march in the streets in Iran and girls trying to go to school in Afghanistan. No concrete promise, such as the U.S. joining the 180 other nations that have ratified CEDAW, and he seems to have completely forgotten his campaign pledge to place the Freedom of Choice Act to codify reproductive rights for women high on his agenda.

Like Goldilocks, he’s not interested in things too big or too small, but perhaps that’s just right for most of the country right now.

The president needed to achieve two things with this speech. First to reclaim his leadership mantle with the general public of voters.  The polls show he did that at least for the short term, with 83 percent of those questioned saying they approved of the speech. Seventy percent said after the speech they have the same priorities as the president compared to 57 percent before it. Second, while broadening his message sufficiently for independents, he needed to offer at least one big idea to elevate the spirits of the many people in his base who feel “disempowered” now.  That could have come with his focus on jobs. But it didn’t rise to Papa Bear size, not because it isn’t critically important but because details of the initiative were so sketchy.

Obama is still that same inscrutable man for all seasons, a blank tablet upon which many of us see our own stories written. He said he still wants a health care bill to be passed, and if anyone can tell him a good idea about how to solve the nation’s health care crisis, he wants to hear it.  This answer was significantly better than abandoning the issue—a real concern by many going into the speech—but I don’t think it’s going to assuage my activist questioner, and others like her.

Obama would have better served his own agenda by staking out at least one clear line in the sand. But overall, his pitch was just right to allow his presidency to live to fight another day and the porridge of hope continues to nourish the American dream.

Palin Speech: Sneers Like Cheney–but if You Go Moose Hunting with Her, Hope She’s a Better Shot

John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, delivered an engaging speech last night at the Republican National Convention. Her roaring crowd voraciously devoured every morsel of the copious red meat she served up with a fierceness that illustrates how she earned the nickname “Sarah Barracuda” in high school sports competition.

Jill Miller Zimon at Writes Like She Talks put together a wide compendium of opinion about McCain’s veep pick and concluded it will turn out to be a miscalculation on his part. Seems to me that Palin’s speech last night suggests otherwise.

It Takes Which Woman?

Early on I urged that both McCain and Obama should choose female running mates. Obama, leading in the polls, chose the safe route with Senator Joe Biden. McCain, who had both more to gain and more to lose, took the risk of choosing the clearly underqualified but attractive and ambitious Palin.

She’s one tough cookie and good for her. It makes my feminist heart sing to know that even the right-wing Republicans know women are going to decide the outcome of this election.

But in a twist of fate both cruel and predictable, Palin is to women’s rights what Clarence Thomas and Ward Connerly are to civil rights: the antithesis of the quest for social justice and equality.

Sarah Palin: Mother of Contradictions

She’s a mother of contradictons, a faux feminist who claims her right to run for the second highest office in the land while aligning with the masters of women’s subjugation. She demands her family’s privacy and that her pregnant 17-year-old daughter Bristol’s “choice” to continue her pregnancy be respected yet wants to take away all other women’s privacy and their right to make their own childbearing choices without government intervention.

I could write on, but Gloria Steinem summed it up eloquently in this Los Angeles Times op ed:

Palin’s value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women’s wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves “abstinence-only” programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers’ millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn’t spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger


Over at Blogher, there has been much back-and-forth, multipartisan banter about Palin’s speech, but one comment really caught my eye:

I am offended that while Palin’s family is supposed to be off limit to criticism, and I agree that they should, she gets to parade them before the public and score Mommy points and, by inference, anti-abortion candidate points as a mom with a special needs infant and a pregnant, unwed 17 year old daughter standing there with the Baby Daddy at her side. You don’t get to have it both ways Palin. I’m not saying Palin has to hide her family. Absolutely not. But there was something surreal about watching a Party whose strong conservative base believes that a woman can’t/shouldn’t pastor a church and that a wife should submit to her husband trot out a woman with a young brood of five as a candidate to run the country. Take off the gloves, ladies.

Did You Catch the Sneer?

By and large CNN’s pundits give Palin’s speech an “A” grade with caveats about what that means and whether it might or might not turn into votes in November. Stacy Beam at CafePolitico says Palin benefitted from low expectations going into the speech.

But did you notice how she curled her mouth into a Cheney-esque sneer while hurling epithets at the mild-mannered Sen Harry Reid and while sarcastically disparaging Barack Obama’s community organizing work? Never mind that we’d never have had an American Revolution were it not for community organizing. I predict that one  will come back to haunt her.

But Palin doesn’t just sneer like Cheney ); her environmental policy is like his too–drill, drill, drill.  In fact, she threw out all the buzz words her audience wanted to hear, as this wordle.net graphic shows:

Many times during the speech I had that “down-is-up and up-is-down” feeling I’ve experienced so many times during George W. Bush’s presidency, and for good reason: every economic, national security, war, and tax policy she mentioned predict four more years, or heaven help us, eight just like the same failed administration America is reeling from now. Yet she managed to spin it as though all these failures have been the fault of either the Democrats or the media.

Joe Biden’s tepid response today on the morning shows didn’t give me any sense of security that the Obama campaign has figured out how to deal with the bundle of contradictions that make up Sarah Palin. How will the terminally loose-lipped, grey haired Biden play in a debate against the spunky, charismatic Palin? How will these two men counter the energy she has brought to the evangelical Republican base?

Since we’re all agreed women are going to determine the outcome of this election, it’s clear Obama/Biden need the help of all the women who agree a McCain presidency would be a disaster. As the Blogher commenter advised, “Take off the gloves ladies.”


cross posted at Blogher