The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

On January 29th, President Obama signed his first bill into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This reverses a 2007 Supreme Court decision which said that a pay discrimination claim must be filed within 180 days of the first offense. The bill is named after a woman who didn’t find out until she had worked at Goodyear for 19 years that she was making less than all the other supervisors even though she had more experience. A jury ruled in her favor but the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, reversed the ruling, despite decades of legal precedent which supported Ledbetter’s case.

Foes of the bill (mainly Republicans and business leaders–surprise!) maintain that it will cause more lawsuits, make businesses hesitant to hire women and exacerbate the recession. What they are really saying is that businesses should be allowed to pay women less money for the same job their male counterparts are doing. And that their business models depend on it. That’s it, pure and simple.

If a business refuses to hire women because it doesn’t want to have to pay them the same as men, is that not out-and-out discrimination? And in case anyone thinks I’m just another whining feminist, this new law, which updates the 1964 Civil Rights Act, covers discrimination not only by gender but also by race, national origin, religion, age and disabilities.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has long contended that each new instance of discrimination (i.e., each new paycheck that has the lower pay on it) triggers a new 180-day statute of limitations. Obama has incorporated this standard into the new law. This only makes sense, because it could take years before a person discovers the pay others are receiving. It’s not like that information is easy to come by. In our culture, it’s considered bad form to ask people what they make, and many businesses caution their employees to not share this information or they will be fired.

The Supreme Court’s ruling was wrong on two counts: it ignored legal precedent and it upheld discrimination. Let’s hope that it will soon get the message that the new administration holds it to higher standards than did the Bush administration (which has become infamous for undermining the rights of its citizens).

See here and here for more information about this act and its possible consequences.
See here for a pdf copy of the actual act.

Obama’s Courage: His Repeal of the Global Gag Rule

He may have done it quietly, but Obama did it: he reversed the “global gag rule,” otherwise known as the Mexico City policy (for the city in which it was first introduced in 1984, making it Reagan’s baby–no pun intended). Clinton repealed the gag rule in 1993, right after his inauguration, and Bush reinstated it right after his inauguration in 2001.

In the eight years since then, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) worldwide have been severely hampered in their attempts to educate people about family planning and to disseminate birth control. This is even if they never actually performed abortions, but only educated people about them. And even if they used their own funds, not federal funds from the U.S.; if they so much as uttered the word “abortion,” the U.S. withdrew its funding from them. Those organizations that continued to receive U.S. funds did so only by curtailing their services.

This has been going on for the past eight years! In that time, thousands of women and/or their babies have died in childbirth, and HIV has been on the rise (even the dissemination of condoms has been affected). The number of unwanted children world-wide has escalated. Apparently, it’s okay to bring misery into countless lives in order to prevent abortions and abortion counseling from being made widely available.

What gets me is that Reagan had the gall to announce the Mexico City policy at the United Nations International Conference on Population! As if to say: we need more people in this world, more infant and maternal mortality and more sexually transmitted diseases. Somehow I don’t think that was the conference’s intention. The United States’ position was a slap in the face for the United Nations, saying, in effect, we refuse to cooperate with the rest of the world in controlling world population growth, death and disease. The wealthiest nation in the world (for now anyway), stingily withdrew its support if the rest of the world didn’t measure up to its moral standards. And what really gets me is that those standards are not even held by the majority of the people in the U.S.! (See “Abortion in the United States” on Wikipedia.)

Obama may have done it on the Q.T., but at least he did it. Of course, I realize that this gives pro-lifers all kinds of grist for their mill. But it had to be done, if only to demonstrate the good will that the U.S. holds for the world and for the health and better quality of life of the people in it. The point that the pro-life movement doesn’t seem to get is that withholding assistance to programs that perform and counsel about abortion does not mean that there will be a vast reduction in the number of abortions. Abortions will still be performed, just as they were before Roe v.Wade in this country, but they will not be safe and, indeed, will often lead to the death or sterility of the women undergoing them.

Obama’s action is a first step in his program to make abortion less of an issue, not by sweeping it under the rug as so many liberals seem to do, but by confronting it head-on. If it is clear that the federal government holds abortion to be an inviolable right, then the pro-lifers will have to spend their energies elsewhere. They might even start caring for the women who have to make this decision and for the children who are brought into this world. Imagine that.

Inauguration Revisited

In case you weren’t able to be there, go to MSNBC.com’s web page about the Inauguration. It covers every conceivable topic and event having to do with Barack Obama becoming our 44th President. It even shows you how to use its transcripts and videos to make your own video experience.

Here is the video of his oath and Inaugural Address:

Do Men Like Women?

I wrote in an earlier post that I don’t think my first husband even liked me. He may have thought that he loved me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he liked me. (That’s not even getting into the question of whether or not you can really love someone if you don’t like him or her.)

I often thought that my ex doesn’t even like women, period. I wrote that I don’t mean that in a gay way, but just that he doesn’t value or feel comfortable around women. What I’ve always wondered is whether he is unusual. It does seem that women are not valued as highly as men in this world. (And I do mean, world; not just this society. See this Slate.com article about the likelihood of divorce when the couple only has daughters.)

There is a lot of speculation about why this should be so. On one hand it’s not so hard to understand: men and women can be very different, making it hard for them to identify with one another. But the truth is, the sexes have more in common with each other than they have differences; we are, after all, human beings.

Some argue that the feminist movement has made relationships between men and women more hostile. However, at least one study has found that feminism has made for stronger relationships between men and women. And as far as stereotypes about feminists go, this same study found that feminist women were more likely to be in a heterosexual romantic relationship than non-feminist women.

Could this mean –gasp!–that feminism, sexual satisfaction and more harmonious relationships go hand in hand? Of course we’re generalizing here: not all men are comfortable with women (and vice versa). The reasons for this are myriad and beyond the scope of this post. Certainly the feminist movement has created some animosity on both sides of the sexual divide. But it has also brought the opportunity for more honesty and intimacy in sexual relationships. Men and women are encouraged to be whole persons instead of half-persons performing a role. By sharing each other’s traditional responsibilities, they come to understand each other better. They also relieve the weight of those responsibilities on each other. The working mother helps to support the family financially; the more-involved father helps to support it emotionally.

Feminism’s emphasis on personal growth makes some men fear that it will cause their wives and girlfriends to grow away from them. What they don’t realize is that when a person is allowed her (or his) personal space, she (or he) is less likely to want to break away from the relationship. A feminist outlook creates a win-win situation for men and women.

Are Sex Roles Good or Bad?

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who are comfortable with sex roles the way they are, and those who aren’t. A woman may chafe at the idea that she has to have children. A man may feel trapped by the assumed imperative that he have the better job and be able to provide for an entire family. (It could be argued that those who like the traditional roles are either just used to them or made to feel that they should want them.)

The different ways that men and women are perceived to be successful in their roles probably go back to our beginnings as human beings. The stronger humans went out and fought and hunted. They protected and they provided. The weaker humans tended to the home and the children (who they were tied to anyway, by childbirth and breastfeeding). But do these evolutionary developments still have cachet in the modern world? And can we break away from our biological leanings anyway?

Radical feminism says that the differences are moot and that there’s no reason why the roles can’t be reversed, or done away with altogether. Other feminists will concede that there are biological differences, but that they needn’t limit a person’s growth as a human being. I happen to believe that most of our differences are socialized into us. I also believe that this socialization hurts men as well as women. If women are able to break out of their society-given (not God-given) roles, then men can as well.

Feminists believe that all persons, male and female, have trouble fitting smoothly into traditional sex roles. They may be happy with them for the most part, but privately wonder why they can’t do things that the other sex does. The father wonders why his wife won’t let him take as active of a parenting role. The wife wants to have control over her own money. The man who doesn’t get custody of his children. The woman who can’t make a living wage. And I’m not even talking about the abuses inherent in sex roles: the father who uses his position to cow his wife and children into submission, the mother who passive-aggressively uses guilt to control her family. Domestic violence. Incest and rape. All these perversions are real problems that come out of forcing people to act just one way, when they might actually prefer to be something entirely different.

Sex roles have their place, but not when they feel like strait-jackets. All people should have the right to pick and choose what they want to be like. If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom (and can afford it), then she should be one. If a man wants to be a stay-at home dad (and can afford to be), he should go for it. Society needs to be supportive not constrictive. It needs to make the most of each person’s talents and abilities and not be in the business of stuffing people into roles that don’t fit them.

Echidne’s Rationale For Feminism

Going through the Finally, Feminism 101 blog, I found this link to the the award-winning Echidne of the Snakes blog and Echidne’s six-part series of why feminism is needed. Pretty interesting stuff. Here are the links to her six (so far) points:

1. The Right to Go Out


2. Planet of the Guys


3. Our Father Who Art in Heaven


4. The Invisible Women


5. The Female Body as Property


6. The Longest Revolution