The Paycheck Fairness Act is DOA

While I was celebrating Eid Al-Adha on Tuesday, the Senate was voting on whether or not to proceed to a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act. This is called voting on a motion to invoke cloture and is used to end a filibuster. Because cloture requires a two-thirds majority to push it through, it only takes 41 Senators to revoke it. And on Tuesday, that’s exactly what happened.

Since there are only 57 Democrats and two Independents in the Senate now, it would have taken one Republican breaking the ranks to achieve cloture (assuming that the Independents voted with the Democrats). Not only did that not happen, but Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson from Nebraska sided with the Republicans. (Sen. Lisa Murkowski, newly-elected Senator from Alaska did not vote, but since she’s a Republican, it’s assumed that she would have voted along party lines, which would have given the Republicans 42 votes. But even if she would have broken ranks and voted with the Democrats, cloture would still have been rejected 59-41.)

In Great Britain it only takes a simple majority to invoke cloture, but that has been rejected in the U.S. because it’s thought that a simple majority doesn’t do enough to protect the rights of the minority. Silly me: I’ve always been under the impression that in a democracy a simple majority rules. Apparently that’s not the case when it comes to ending filibusters, which is one reason why they’re so hard to end.

Sorry for the civics lesson, but if you’re like me, you find this whole process confusing.

So why would anyone vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act? Because it would put too much of a burden on businesses. In other words, businesses should be allowed not only to pay their female employees less but also to hide the fact that they’re doing so! And people say that there is no more gender inequality in this country.

Another objection to the bill is that it was unnecessary since legislation already exists that makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender (although it has yet to be determined if this means that transgendered people are also protected). (Read Nancy Pelosi’s comments on the issue of wage discrimination.) However, the Paycheck Fairness Act includes many provisions that would make it easier to enforce laws that already exist, provide for research and training, and give women the right to sue over discriminatory practices. (At present, they are only able to collect back pay, or double that amount for willful violation.)

Of course, another objection is that the bill would increase litigation against businesses. Again, if businesses don’t want to be sued, then they should pay women and men the same pay for equal work. It’s as simple as that. Maybe it will take a few lawsuits before businesses finally decide that it’s not in their best interests to shortchange their female employees.

Read more here (Huffington Post)and here (Wall Street Journal). Also, see these statistics about the wage gap. You’ll be astonished.

Tuesday Tidbits

Whoops! Turns out Proposition 8 is going to be in effect for a little while longer. For more information, go to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog. For more thoughts on the prospects for Proposition 8, or its ban, go here.

  • Teen sex doesn’t mean bad grades, says new study. Not all teens are just “hooking up.” Some are in committed relationships and that makes all the difference.
  • Open letter from a mama grizzly to Sarah Palin. Palin’s use of the term “mama grizzly” is like her use of the word “feminist.” She appropriates both as if all mamas and fems think like her. Not!
  • On August 2nd, HBO Documentaries aired a new film about abortion called 12th and Delaware. (See trailer here.)  So far no word on when it will be shown again, but I advise you to watch out for it. It sounds fascinating.

[The] documentary seeks to offer “a fly-on-the-wall view of the ideological trench warfare” that happen on the intersection of Delaware Avenue and 12th Street, Fort Pierce, Florida, where Woman’s World Health Clinic, a privately owned abortion clinic, and an anti-abortion Pregnancy Care Center are situated across the road from each other.

Why Do We Put Up With This??

It’s not that O’Reilly is a conservative—it’s that he’s a nasty conservative. I was appalled by his behavior in this video. Is that the kind of role model we want for our children?  One woman wrote in and asked him that very question because of the way that he says “Shut up” so often. His answer: “I’ve only said it once.”

I’m surprised that conservatives, most of whom I’m sure are caring people with traditional values (like the importance of being courteous), will put up with this. Why is he still on the air?

Rape As a Rite of Passage

All too often, actions against women are brushed aside as cultural rites of passage. In some cultures it’s normal to stone a woman to death if she has besmirched the honor of her family, or to subject her to genital mutilation (so that she can’t dishonor her family), or to rape women as one of the spoils (and retaliations) of war. It’s even common in some cultures to “dispose of” female infants, because females are seen as burdens on already burdened families.

Here in Western society, we gasp in horror at these actions. Of course we would never do anything like them. But what about women who aren’t protected against domestic violence and are routinely beaten and even murdered by their husbands and boyfriends? Often their only recourse is a restraining order which is next to useless. We’ve all read about women whose ex defied the order for the express purpose of hurting her badly. By the time the police come, it’s too late. And she’s in no shape to press charges: she’s dead.

We gasp in horror at these incidents, too. (But not as much as we do at honor killings.) We tend to think that they can’t be prevented, that there’s no way to predict when a man is going to go off the deep edge in this way. But the truth is, we look the other way. It’s just something that happens to women sometimes.

We feel much the same way about date rape.  One reason why there is so much sympathy for Roman Polanski right now is because we don’t see date rape as “real” rape. And even though his victim was only 13 years old, what they were involved in is seen as a “date.” Her mother knew her daughter was with Polanksi, he plied his “date” with alcohol and drugs, and then they had sex (which may or may not have been consensual–although I thought sex with a minor was automatically branded as non-consensual). If anything, people see what happened as a seduction. If the girl hadn’t wanted to have sex, why was she there in the first place? (This is called “blame the victim.”)

I’m sorry, but most people who are participating in this debate are missing the point. Girls are “seduced” every day, by men–or boys–whom they trust. And that’s the problem: they trust their partners to not push the limits of what is acceptable behavior for the girls. They don’t stop and think that it’s acceptable behavior for males to have sex with any female they can. It’s as if the guy and the girl are each assuming that the other will protect their best interests: the girl to make sure that she doesn’t get pregnant and the guy to protect her honor.

It just doesn’t work this way. All too often, a girl is persuaded by different means to participate in sexual activity she isn’t all that sure about. She may not say no, but she’s not saying yes either. She’s unsure of what she wants. She’s curious about sex, she really likes this boy and doesn’t want to “lose” him, and/or her inhibitions have been loosened by drugs, alcohol or false assurances of undying love.

This is the feminine rite of passage. The masculine rite of passage is to have sex, to “do it” to a woman. Young girls rarely have sex, they have it done to them. The boy may think that they’re willing, but what they really are is confused. They don’t know what they’re getting into. They’re trusting the guy to do what’s right. And all too often he doesn’t, at least not what’s right for her.

I’m not saying that all girls are unwilling when they have sex. What I am saying is that girls have bought into the societal template that “men know best.” They’ve been told all their lives that men are bigger and better. They have absorbed the message that the male is the protector. So they enter into relationships with their guard down. After all, he wouldn’t do anything to hurt her, would he?

You bet he would! Again, I’m not saying that all boys–or men–will take advantage of a female sexually. Some are just as confused as the girls are. But I’m not writing about actions, I’m writing about the beliefs behind those actions. The girls are often compliant because they’ve been told to be–not necessarily sexually, but in every other way. And the boys, who often can’t believe their good fortune, will push the limits as far as they can. The result: a sexual encounter that probably isn’t in the best interests of either party.

Why do we make such a big deal about rape? The problem is, we don’t make as big a deal about it as we should. Rape is not always an act of violence. We have to expand our definition of rape to include something like a breach of contract: the contract that men and women enter into when they have sex. Both partners will take measures against pregnancy or STDs. Neither partner will take advantage of the other.

Right. When Roman Polanski had sex with that 13-year-old, she wasn’t capable of entering into such a contract with a powerful, 40-year-old man. He could have easily made her pregnant or given her an STD. He most certainly wasn’t looking after her best interests. (Nor his, for that matter).

The debate over Polanski shouldn’t be about whether or not he deserves punishment. It ought to be about why people (men in particular) think they have the right to sex even when it’s not appropriate. We ought to be expanding our definition of rape. At the very least, we ought to be addressing why being “seduced” is a kind of rape, even if it isn’t violent.

More food for thought:

An open letter by Becky Sharper to Peg Yorkin of the Feminist Majority Foundation who thinks Roman Polanski should be left alone. (Poor guy!)

Other reactions to Roman Polanski’s plight, including Chris Rock’s rant shown on Jezebel. (Don’t miss it.)

Heath Care Reform: The Public Option

I don’t pretend to understand the health care debate, but I know what concerns me the most: the fact that so many people are intent on protecting private insurers. I don’t think they have done anything to earn that loyalty. Even the best of them have repeatedly raised premiums, copays and deductibles, often by astounding percentages and at a dizzying rate.

What too few people consider is that unless this is remedied, health insurance and care will eventually be too expensive for all but the wealthy. The rest of us, when we do receive health care, will be left with crippling medical debts, relegating us even further to the “have-nots” in this country.

In a country that loves its capitalism, it amazes me that we are not willing to let health insurance companies battle it out in the free market. One criticism of adding a public option is that it would drive private insurers out of business. I say if the public option is better than the private option, more power to it. And if it’s not better, then the private insurers should be able to compete by providing better care at a reasonable cost.

Everyone is being required to tighten their belts economically these days. If private insurers were forced to cut costs in order to be affordable, they would find ways to do it. Perhaps one way would be to pay less to shareholders. Why should the shareholders be treated better than the premium payers? I know, all public businesses rely on shareholders to fund their companies. But the average business knows that it can’t afford to alienate its shareholders by out-of-control spending and runaway costs.

The last I heard, the President is backing off somewhat from the public option. I say that’s a shame. The way I see it, the two biggest objections to the public option are: how to pay for it and the fear of big government. The thing is, if private insurers are forced to compete with the public option, costs will go down for everyone.

The public option is not called an “option” for nothing. No one will be required to choose it. If you’re satisfied with your private insurance, you can keep it. But you’re more likely to be happy with your private insurance if it has had to compete with the public option.

One aspect of the public option that I hear too little about is that the main reason it has been proposed is because so many people don’t have insurance,  either because they can’t afford it or because the companies they work for don’t provide it.  I understand why businesses would rather not have to provide health insurance: it’s usually even more expensive for them than it is for their employees. A public option would take that burden from their shoulders.  So why aren’t they behind this aspect of health care reform?

Certainly the money to pay for the public option would have to come from somewhere. The most likely solution is through raised taxes. Of course no one wants to hear that. But what people don’t realize is that they will pay for public health care anyway, through higher medical bills from their providers, bills which are jacked up as a way to compensate for those who don’t have health insurance.

Lately there has been a lot of rhetoric being thrown around about Obama’s vision for health care reform being socialistic. I worry more about a future where medical providers will flat-out refuse to treat the uninsured. Wait, what am I talking about? That future is already here in some situations. But I’m talking about a total shut-out from the system. What are we going to do, just let people die?

It is imperative that everyone in this society has access to health care. The question is, how expensive is it going to be, both for the insured and for the uninsured?  It seems to me that the time when we need “big” government is when all the “little” governments disagree. When health care coverage varies so much from state to state and insurer to insurer, we are hardly living in a society where we are all equal.

Friday Videos: The Generation Gap in Feminism

A little outdated, since the election is over, but this interview with Letty Cottin Pogrebin and her daughter, Abigail Pogrebin, illustrates some of the differences between Second Wave and Third Wave feminists.

A bonus: a short video on why Hilary Clinton doesn’t fit the “New Feminism.”