Saturday, April 30, 2011

Say ahhhhhh

"Sundays, quiet islands on the tossing seas of life." — Rev. Samuel W. Duffield

AT LAST a day to sleep in and take it easy. Ahhhhhh. Paul and I are doing one of our favorite things — enjoying brunch at home while we listen to Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me. We had potatoes, onions, carrots and grilled chicken cooked in the wok in lemon olive oil — a little tip we learned eating at Greek restaurants in Chicago a couple of weeks ago — a fresh fruit plate of sliced apples, peaches and watermelon and fresh-squeezed orange juice to drink.


I've got Shye curled up on my lap with Shiva and Boy Boy perched on the sofa cushions behind our heads


Here's the Shye girl curled up on my lap this very moment.

It's been a hectic couple of weeks. Paul has been playing so often, and we've been busy at work — both good things, but it does wear a body out. 


Domestic bliss reigns.

Sunday Paul had rehearsal with a brass quintet for an Easter performance, followed by rehearsal later that night with the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra for an upcoming concertMonday night he had Big Band at Adventureland Inn. (http://desmoinesbigband.com)

Tuesday he was at Drake where he teaches jazz trombone improvisation. Wednesday Paul drove to Oskaloosa for a client meeting. Thursday night he played the Turner Center concert.


Saturday Synergy Jazz Foundation (Paul helped found it) had an all-day jazz jam at Java Joe'sPaul played for as long as he could before driving to Mason City to rehearse for yet another concert this coming Monday night. Sunday he played Easter service at St. Paul's Cathedral in Des Moines.


Monday night was Big Band again. Tuesday he was back teaching at Drake. Wednesday Paul began giving lessons to a new trombone student. Thursday I attended a funeral visitation for Tom Hamilton — a most valued and beloved Rotary member who passed away — and later we both attended a Polk County Democratic Central Committee meeting, came back to the office and worked until 2:00 AM finishing a presentation I gave Friday morning to the midwest chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction


Afterwards I had to get come copy written for a client, but then I was able to go home and crash. Paul unfortunately had to stick it out to the last minute because quarterly taxes were due, and something had gone wrong with the accounting system causing all the bank deposit entries to disappear. Paul had to go back deposit slip by deposit slip and reenter them. He got it done in time, but I don't know how he managed. Of course all of this is in and around normal work at the office. He's a stud muffin — what can I say.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Who cares

"Every one of these women is somebody’s child." — Patricia Barone, mother of murder victim, Gina Barone

AN ARTICLE ran in The New York Times April 7, 2011 about victims of the latest Long Island serial killer. There've been three LI serial killers in the last 22 years who've murdered a total of 30 women, all of whom were sex workers.

The topic of serial murders is in itself horrific, but there were two things about this particular story that have been haunting me. The first was what Gary Ridgway, known as the Green River Killer, said in his 2003 statement of guilt to prosecutors in which he admitted murdering 48 women in the Seattle area. He picked prostitutes because, "I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught." NYT

The other thing I haven't been able to shake is what two mothers of victims had to say. Mari Gilbert said that her daughter, Shannan, had been missing since May 2010, and the police, press and public didn't care about her disappearance until the last month or so when it became part of the Long Island investigation. She believes her daughter didn't matter because she was a prostitute. "I think they look at them like they're throwaway."

An earlier victim's mother said that after her daughter, Gina, went missing in late 1996, she tried to get news media outlets to cover the story, but most didn't. Gina's body was discovered almost two years later a block from Vassar College. Her mother Patricia Barone said, "If a Vassar College girl was missing, we would have had cops all over the place. Every one of these women is somebody’s child, and people don’t kind of get that. Your children are your children no matter what they do out there."


The thing I really hope you to read is an op ed piece written by Nicholas Kristof that appeared in the NYT on April 24. I found it heartbreaking. 


He writes about how American girls become prostitutes. A common scenario is: she lived in a troubled family situation that included addiction, violence, poverty or all three. To escape the situation, she ran away from home with no resources and as a result became easy prey for dangerous people — pimps, drug dealers and abusers who got her hooked on drugs and forced her into prostitution — or living on the streets with no one to turn to she reached a point where the only thing she could sell to live was herself.

Fortunately, that didn't happen to me, but something occurred when I was barely 19 that's an example of how easily a vulnerable, young woman could be captured and end up as a statistic.

I was raised by grandparents who were born in 1888 and 1889, and so as one might suppose, it was a very, very quiet life.


One of my grandparents' favorite activities during nice weather was to sit on the front porch of an evening counting the cars going by or naming whether they were Fords, Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Buicks or the rare Cadillac.


Something besides the makes and models of automobiles occupied my thoughts on those front porch nights. Besides naming and counting, I wondered intently where all those people were going. I lwanted to be one of them as they drove down the highway on what I imagined was an exciting trip somewhere. I longed to see the world and find out about all those places everyone else seemed to be going.


I turned 19 in May of my first year at Iowa State University. My cousin Debbie was graduating from high school in Narragansett, Rhode Island later that month, and I wanted to fly there to be part of the celebration. I already had a summer job, and I had earned enough money for a ticket.


My travel arrangements were that I would fly to New York City and then take the bus to Providence where my uncle and aunt would pick me up. I suspect a plane ticket to NYC was much less expensive than one all the way to Rhode Island, and the plane/bus combo was what I could afford.


I'd never been on a plane, and I had only taken one trip by myself, and it consisted of being put on a Greyhound in Ankeny, Iowa by my grandparents and being met by my cousin in Vinton, Iowa, less than two hours away. I spent the whole entire bus trip worrying about whether or not they'd give me back my little suitcase.


Besides that, I had driven myself round trip from Ankeny to Ames and Ankeny to Merle Hay Mall several times, half hour drives each way. My experience in the world was very limited.


This was to be my big, big, grown-up adventure. I was nervous, but also so excited. I still remember clearly the dress I wore for the trip — lime green paisley, with an empire waist, and long, wide sleeves — quite modern and fashionable, and I fancied that looked oh so sophisticated. At 95 pounds with hands and feet the size of an average 12-year-old, in reality I'm sure I looked to be 16 at most.


The flight was noisy and long, but all went well until I reached the Port Authority Bus Station in New York. It was crowded place with people bustling every which way. Suddenly a large, stocky man was walking in stride with me. He asked me something like whether or not I needed a cab, and in the blink of an eye that I hesitated to answer, he had grabbed me by the arm, and gripping me tightly, pulled me up against him side to side and forced my hand down on his very hard penis, dragging me along as he walked.


Apparently noticing the stricken look on my face, an older couple walked up to "us", and pointedly asked me if I wanted to wait for the bus with them. I managed to get out "Yes" and the predator peeled off.


These events are still hard for me to think about, let alone write about. Until now I've only ever told Paul about it, and even yet the remembrance brings tears of shame, sadness and outrage. We were close to an exit, the place was busy and crowded; it doesn't take much to imagine that it could have easily turned out tragically.


I wasn't yet out of danger, however. I got to the bus depot in Providence and phoned my aunt and uncle who told me to wait at the bus stop. At least that's what I understood them to have said. I was at the bus depot, but I thought they were making a particular point to say that I should be waiting outside at the bus stop. I inquired where the nearest one was and walked there. It was about a block and a half away. So there I was in Providence, Rhode Island waiting at a bus stop at 11:00 o'clock at night. My heart was pounding.


A 30-ish, crazed-looking man walked in, sat down on the other end of the bench and began speaking incoherently to me. Scared out of my mind, I started walking back to the bus station as quickly but, I hoped, as nonchalantly as I could so as not to attract his attention. 


He followed me; I broke into a dead run; so did he. He chased me not just to the station but into the station. I ran up to the ticket counter and said, "This man is chasing me, and I am not leaving this ticket counter," and the drugged out, schizophrenic or whatever-he-was guy left. If it sounds like a scene from a murder movie, that's exactly what it felt like.


My aunt and uncle arrived wondering where I had been. They hadn't meant for me to go to the bus stop, but just wait at the station doors. I could so easily have not have been there at all, but at least I would have been sought.


There's a triangle — the pimp, the john and the prostitute. Or maybe it's a pentagon — the pimp, the john, the prostitute, the police and public opinion. If a man who frequents sex workers, let's say Elliot Spitzer, were to disappear, there would be serious, in-depth police, possibly even FBI, investigations because he's famous. He even has a job as television commentator now. No worries that he's a man who made a practice of buying sex from young women and in so doing fueled the demand that keeps the pimps and victimizers in business. He can be part of acceptable society, but the girl, yeah, she's disgusting.


Never mind that she's been victimized three times over. First she's a victim at home. In an attempt to escape, she becomes a victim of drug dealers or pimps, and then if she disappears, she's once again victimized by the public and the police who don't care. If she has a tainted past, we exclude them from our compassion — even our vision.


All women matter, though, not just all-American girls.


And wouldn't most of these bought and sold young women have been as all-American as any Vassar College (or Iowa State student) if they hadn't been handicapped from the beginning. The least we can do is not participate in condemning young women in whose shoes we have not walked. 


What About American Girls Sold on the Streets?


By Nicholas Kristof

April 23, 2011

When we hear about human trafficking in India or Cambodia, our hearts melt. The victim has sometimes been kidnapped and imprisoned, even caged, in a way that conjures our images of slavery.


But in the United States we see girls all the time who have been trafficked — and our hearts harden. The problem is that these girls aren’t locked in cages. Rather, they’re often runaways out on the street wearing short skirts or busting out of low-cut tops, and many Americans perceive them not as trafficking victims but as miscreants who have chosen their way of life. So even when they’re 14 years old, we often arrest and prosecute them — even as the trafficker goes free.


In fact, human trafficking is more similar in America and Cambodia than we would like to admit. Teenage girls on American streets may appear to be selling sex voluntarily, but they’re often utterly controlled by violent pimps who take every penny they earn.


From johns to judges, Americans often suffer from a profound misunderstanding of how teenage prostitution actually works — and fail to appreciate that it’s one of our country’s biggest human rights problems. Fortunately, a terrific new book called “Girls Like Us,” by Rachel Lloyd, herself a trafficking survivor, illuminates the complexities of the sex industry.


Lloyd is British and the product of a troubled home. As a teenager, she dropped out of school and ended up working as a stripper and prostitute, controlled by a pimp whom she loved in a very complicated way — even though he beat her.


One of the most vexing questions people have is why teenage girls don’t run away more often from pimps who assault them and extract all the money they earn. Lloyd struggles to answer that question about her own past and about the girls she works with today. The answers have to do with lack of self-esteem and lack of alternatives, as well as terror of the pimp and a misplaced love for him.


Jocular references to pimps in popular songs or movies are baffling. They aren’t business partners of teenage girls; they are modern slave drivers. And pimping attracts criminals because it is lucrative and not particularly risky as criminal behavior goes: police arrest the girls, but don’t often go after the pimps. (In fairness, pimping is a tough crime to prove, partly because the star witness is often a girl with a string of prostitution arrests who leaves a poor impression on a jury.)


Eventually, Lloyd did escape her pimp after he nearly killed her, but starting over was tough, and she had trouble fitting in. When she showed up at church in a skirt she liked, four women separately came over to her pew with clothing to cover her legs.


“Apparently skirts need to be longer than your jacket,” she recalls. “Who knew?”


Then Lloyd came to the United States to begin working with troubled teenage girls — and found her calling. In 1998, at the age of 23, she founded GEMS, short for Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, a program for trafficked girls that has won human rights awards and helped pass a landmark anti-trafficking law in New York State. On the side, Lloyd earned a college degree and then a master’s, graduating summa cum laude.


Lloyd’s story is extraordinarily inspiring, as is the work she is doing. One of the girls she rescued from a pimp later graduated from high school as valedictorian. But Lloyd’s memoir is also important for the window it offers into trafficking in this country.


Americans often think that “trafficking” is about Mexican or Korean or Russian women smuggled into brothels in the United States. That happens. But in my years and years of reporting, I’ve found that the biggest trafficking problem involves homegrown American runaways.


Typically, she’s a 13-year-old girl of color from a troubled home who is on bad terms with her mother. Then her mom’s boyfriend hits on her, and she runs away to the bus station, where the only person on the lookout for girls like her is a pimp. He buys her dinner, gives her a place to stay and next thing she knows she’s earning him $1,500 a day.


Lloyd guides us through this world in an unsentimental way that rings pitch perfect with my own reporting. Above all, Lloyd always underscores that these girls aren’t criminals but victims, and she alternately oozes compassion and outrage. One girl she worked with was Nicolette, a 12-year-old in New York City who had a broken rib and burns from a hot iron, presumably from her pimp. Yet Nicolette was convicted of prostitution and sent to a juvenile detention center for a year to learn “moral principles.”


Our system has failed girls like her. The police and prosecutors should focus less on punishing 12-year-old girls and more on their pimps — and, yes, their johns. I hope that Lloyd’s important and compelling book will be a reminder that homegrown American girls are also trafficked, and they deserve sympathy and social services — not handcuffs and juvenile detention.



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Friday, April 22, 2011

77 cents

"When we talk about equal pay for equal work, women in the workplace are beginning to catch up. If we keep going at this current rate, we will achieve full equality in about 475 years. I don't know about you, but I can't wait that long." — Lya Sorano, founder of Atlanta Women in Business

WHEN I WROTE that for every dollar a man earns, a woman doing the same job earns 80 cents, apparently I was being overly optimistic. According to an April 20 op ed piece in the New York Times, data compiled by the US Census Bureau indicates it's more like 77 cents on the dollar. A bill called the Paycheck Fairness Act to address the gender wage gap was killed by Senate Republicans in December. Equal work, equal pay. Come on! How hard a concept is that to grasp?! But of course, it's not the concept; it's always all about money. There's still some small hope. 






77 Cents on the Dollar Isn’t Fair

By the New York Times Editorial Board

April 20, 2011

In a disappointing defeat for women, Senate Republicans worked overtime in December to ensure that a measure addressing gender-based wage discrimination never reached the Senate floor where it likely would have passed by a sizable majority. Fortunately, supporters of the Paycheck Fairness Act have not given up.

Last week, Senators Harry Reid, the majority leader from Nevada, and Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, reintroduced the bill. Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat of Connecticut, has reintroduced the legislation in the House.


Women now make up almost half of the American work force, but, according to data compiled by the Census Bureau, full-time female employees still make, on average, only 77 cents for every $1 earned by men.


The bill, a much-needed updating and strengthening of the nation’s half-century-old Equal Pay Act, would enhance remedies for victims of gender-based wage discrimination, shield employees from retaliation for sharing salary information with co-workers and require employers to show that wage differences are job-related rather than sex-based, and justified by business necessity.


President Obama has pledged to “keep up the fight” to pass the bill. In a recent radio address, he explained that he takes the issue personally, “as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve.”


With Republicans now in charge of the House and the Senate’s Democratic majority whittled down, securing the needed votes will be tough.


Women around the country — from both parties — need to speak up. Lawmakers might think twice about refusing to act if they knew that female voters were taking down the names of those who would rather please corporate interests than stand up for a woman’s right to earn equal pay for equal work.



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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Invocation

"Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road." Walt WhitmanSong of the Open Road from Leaves of Grass

IT'S MY TURN tomorrow to give the invocation at Rotary. Since our guest speaker is Donald Davidson, the official historian of the Indianapolis 500, I thought I would make travel my theme even though the cars at Indy never actually go anywhere other than round and round and round — granted, at a very high rate of speed — but still round and round and round.

I was grateful for last week's invocation. It was a few lines of poetry from Walt Whitman. Even though Paul and I own a copy of Leaves of Grass, I've read very little of it; I became inspired to consider it afresh. My invocation for tomorrow will also comes from Walt Whitman's Song of the Open Road.

Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road . . . 

From this hour, freedom!
From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yikes

"Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then." — John Wooden 

YESTERDAY WAS a day best forgotten. Recently Paul was listening to an interview with some famous, fancy chef, and when asked what advice he had for anyone opening a new restaurant he said, "Don't do it." Today, I offer the same advice about starting a small business — don't.

By the end of the day, I was in dire need of mothering. I appreciate that Mark and Ann and Ronda let me borrow Virginia. It's a safe place. She made me this amazing little treat that I have to share with you because it's hard to believe it could even work, let alone be so good! The recipe came from someone Ronda works with.

Buy a box mix of angel food cake and a box of regular cake mix. Mix both DRY cake mixes together in some kind of container with a lid because you're going to want to store it. Now here's the magic: anytime you'd like some nice hot cake, measure 1/2 cup of this mix into an oversize coffee cup or similar sized dish, add three tablespoons of water and stir it up until there's no dry powder left. Put it in the microwave for 50 seconds, and voila — you have hot delicious cake. That's it! I'm seriously not making this up. The angle food cake mix provides the rise, so you always have to use that, but you can choose any flavor of regular cake mix. Virginia and I had chocolate with ice cream on top. You won't believe how easy and delicious it is!!! You're welcome.

Both Virginia and the magic cake were "such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness" — a favorite line of Paul's and mine from Winnie the Pooh. http://www.just-pooh.com/story1.html 



The other cheering thing was that Paul got a standing ovation for a solo he played on Thad Jones' Groove Merchant at Big Band last night. YAY PAUL!!
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

The rest of the trip

"It's wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago." — Dan Quayle 

PRETEND WE'RE BACK in ChicagoThursday, April 7, we went to the Wait Wait Don't Tell Me taping. We shopped the next day, hitting two Filene's Basements with no result, but I struck it lucky at a Nordstroms outlet. I got a $350 trench coat for $59.99 and a $60 hat for $19.99. Not bad. 


There are two Nordstrom Racks  downtown, one at 24 N. State Street and one at 101 East Chicago Avenue. They're well worth checking out.

Friday night we had a late dinner at Shaw's Crab House on E. Hubbard. It's one of our favorite restaurants. It reminds us of the Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington DC. There's also a Shaw's in Schaumburg, but don't go there. The food may be the same (we've eaten there as well), but it's nothing like the downtown location for ambience, warmth and color. Definitely make a reservation if you're going on a weekend. We reserved, but only that morning, and by that time the choices were 5:15 or 9:15.

I'm just a little bit of a crab snob. How that came to be is another funny story, but the upshot of it is that any restaurant that has "crab" on the menu, but doesn't specify what kind of crab, isn't worth bothering with. Snow crab is the bottom of the barrel. Next up from there is Alaskan King crab, but the best are blue, Dungenness and peekytoe crab. I once had the pleasure of having Dungeness crab in Dungeness, Washington.

We opted for the 9:15 slot at Shaw's, and afterwards went next door to Andy's Jazz ClubAndy's features various artists all year. We heard the Von Freeman Quintet. I wasn't that impressed with Von, but Paul said that the bass player and the drummer were great.

On Saturday we had lunch at a different Greek restaurant. This time we ate at the Greek Islands (if only we were in the actual Greek Islands — sigh) which is only about a block away from Pegasus, the restaurant where we lunched on Thursday. We shared a lovely lettuce and cucumber salad, Paul had pork gyros, and I had chicken roasted in tomato sauce and a lemon infused potato that was just like the potatoes served with our meal the day before. It must be a Greek specialty, and it's so good prepared that way! We're guessing here, but we thought it was partially boiled, then baked with lemon juice. http://www.food.com/recipe/ellinikos-lemoni-patatas-greek-lemon-potatoes-90822

We split a dessert called ambrosia, and boy was it!! It's shredded filo crust and ice cream with a honey-caramel sauce covered in roasted pecan pieces. It's sort of like baklava with ice cream, except fancier and with a creamier sauce. Here you can split a salad, entree (there's a huge menu to choose from), and dessert and be more than full. 


Paul and me at the Greek Islands restaurant.
I'm wearing my new Nordstrom Rack hat and coat.

We took the MegaBus home, leaving at 5:00 PM. Our trip going back was definitely not as pleasant, owing to the driver. He announced at the outset that he . . . 

sdwwwwwwwwdddddddddddqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq`xwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwssssssssswwww
(The above is a little editorial comment from Shye, who as we all know, loves her some computer.)


My computer, mine, mine, mine.


. . . WOULD be playing music on the trip. He put in a CD which none of us would have minded so very much except that it was incredibly L-O-U-D. Each pair of seats on both sides of the aisle from front to back of the bus has a speaker overhead, but the driver's didn't work, so he cranked it. Imagine how loud 50 speakers blasting on a bus would be! First one person asked him to turn it down, but it was still so bombastic that with earbuds in and the volume way up on my iPhone, I still couldn't separate the podcast I was trying to listen to from the VERY LOUD MUSIC. Paul asked him to lower the volume, and he turned it off in a huff.

At the first rest stop break he showed us an ear piece/phone/music player on which, he proudly bragged, he could hear music (so why did he have to blast CDs?), make and receive phone calls and listen to his email translated from written text to spoken word and reply in the same way. He subsequently spent the entire rest of the trip doing just that. At one point near Grinnell, Paul and I both happened to look out of the window at the same time, and to our alarm discovered he was driving down the interstate straddling two lanes.

He kept joking that he hoped he could remember how to find Des Moines, and of course we thought he was kidding. Not really. He got off on highway 65 that will take you to Indianola quite nicely, but not to downtown Des Moines. Paul had to get him to turn around, and I had to keep saying, "No, no, not this exit!" I guess it was good we were sitting in the front of the bus. We were amazed because you don't even have to know how to get to Des Moines to get to Des Moines. Just follow the very large signs with arrows and DES MOINES printed in VERY LARGE letters. The WiFi never did work on either bus going or coming from Chicago.

Just a word about Chicago hotels. We've stayed in so many in the Windy City that I doubt we could name them all. They blur together, but the Drake, the Conrad Chicago and the Palmer House are memorable. The Drake is one of those conservative, quiet, almost British club hotels, where you feel like you can tuck yourself away and not be bothered. The Conrad Chicago is a Michelin-recommended, grand old hotel. We've probably stayed the most at the Palmer HouseI love it. It's a short walk from the Art Institute of Chicago and Symphony Hall, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Everyone should stay there at least once. You won't forget the Rococo ceiling. But even if you're not a guest, you can make yourself comfortable in the oversize chairs and love seats in the lobby, have a cocktail or tea and scones, read the paper and watch people coming and going. Worth it for sure.


The fabulous Palmer House lobby.


This was our first stay at the Crown Plaza Metro. We chose it because it was close to Union Station and very reasonably priced. It was perfectly fine, and we'd stay there again. 
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cute kitty pictures

"A home without a cat — and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat—may be a perfect home, but how can it prove title?" — Mark TwainPudd'nhead Wilson, 1894

I'M PRETTY SURE your blood sugar must be dropping precipitously low after having gone such a long time without any cute kitty pictures. Happily for me, I need only open my eyes here at home to find abundant opportunities.


Shye and Boy Boy


It's pretty obvious who wears the pants in the family,
and it isn't either one of us! Shiva is definitely in charge.

Boy Boy is is a great big lover-boy.

The elegant and demure Miss Shye.




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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Myths about feminists

"A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men." Gloria Steinem

I ADMIT THAT I get annoyed when I hear a woman say, "I'm not one of those feminists or anything." 


I get it if you've been immersed in a repressive religious sect or shackled by some other circumstance of forced submission, but anyone else, it pretty well smokes me to hear such a statement come out of a women's mouth . . . most especially from one currently benefiting from rights other women (and men) have worked for literally hundreds of years to secure. 


And let's be honest; if you're a woman in this country, you're currently enjoying, and probably taking for granted, rights those much maligned feminists fought and even died for you to have.  


I don't think I can more accurately or succinctly define who a feminist is than Gloria Steinem did in the opening quote, but nonetheless I'm taking a shot at debunking a few of the most laughably ridiculous myths 
about feminism.


1) They're all women. A feminist is simply anyone male or female who believes that women should be treated equally under the law, so of course many men are feminists. Real men are outraged at the idea of women:

  • being forced to marry and have children against their will
  • not being allowed to get an education
  • not being able to vote
  • not being able to have a bank account or own property in their own names
  • not being paid for performing work that men are paid to do
All those obvious injustices were true in "the land of the free" not all that long ago! 

Under the doctrine of coverture, a woman in America was legally considered the chattel of her husband — his possession — until the mid 19th century. Any property she might have held before her marriage became her husband's on her wedding day, and she had no legal right to appear in court, sign contracts or conduct business. This was the law of the land until the 1840's when states began to gradually overturn coverture because land speculators wanted more flexibility in assigning ownership. (Yup, it's almost always about profitability; rarely about what's right.)


Women in the United States have only been able to have a say in how their lives are governed by exercising the right to vote since 1920, and women today still only make from 77 to 80 cents for every dollar a man earns for the same work. 


I'm old enough to remember the days when a woman could not be listed in the phone book under her name unless she were unmarried. A married woman's name was never listed because only her husband's mattered.


2) Feminists are lesbians. That's so funny! I want everyone to be a feminist, so I hope lesbians are feminists, but it's an inductive, logical fallacy to think all feminists are lesbians.


3) Feminists don't like men. LOL! I like my husband a lot — better than I like anyone — and I'm a fan of any man whose head and heart work similarly.


4) Feminists think all women should work outside the home. Wrong again. If I had my druthers, I'd have a 50/50 or 60/40 split between work and home. I like nesting. Granted, I wouldn't want to do it all day every day, but if we had children, I'd be a stay-at-home mom for at least eight or ten years or arrange a split schedule with Paul so that he wouldn't miss out. 
Feminists just think that women should be able to choose where and how to work — or not work — depending on their individual circumstances and desires, and when they do, they should be paid the same wage as a man performing the same tasks.


There are lots of other myths, but that's a start, brought to the forefront in my thinking by an article (below) from The New York Times about the fall in population of baby girls in IndiaIt's getting worse, not better.


At last month's Smart Talk, journalist Ann Compton told us that in an interview with Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady revealed that one of the most memorable moments of her life occurred when she took Chelsea with her on an extended visit to India and Pakistan not long after her husband was elected President. The village women there often asked Hillary if she had other children and were amazed when she told then that she and the president did not, and not only that, but they, the Clintons, were thrilled with the child they had and happily provided her with as much care, attention, education and opportunities as they would had she been a boy.


If you don't want your life or your daughter's or granddaughter's or sister's or nieces to go back to what it used to be like all that many years ago — and still is for millions of women in the world, remember where we came from.





A Campaign Against Girls in India


By Nilanjana S. Roy

April 12, 2011

NEW DELHI — The figures tell an old and cruel story: the systematic elimination of girls in India. In the 2001 census, the sex ratio — the number of girls to every 1,000 boys — was 927 in the 0-6 age group. Preliminary data from the 2011 census show that the imbalance has worsened, to 914 girls for every 1,000 boys.


Women’s groups have been documenting this particular brand of gender violence for years. The demographer Ashish Bose and the economist Amartya Sen drew attention to India’s missing women more than a decade ago. The abortion of female fetuses has increased as medical technology has made it easier to detect the sex of an unborn child. If it is a girl, families often pressure the pregnant woman to abort. Sex determination tests are illegal in India, but ultrasound and in vitro fertilization centers often bypass the law, and medical terminations of pregnancy are easily obtained.


Some women, like 30-year-old Lakshmi Rani from Bhiwani district in Uttar Pradesh, have been pressured into multiple abortions. Ms. Rani’s first three pregnancies were terminated.


“My mother-in-law took me to the clinic herself,” she said, her voice matter-of-fact but barely audible. “It wasn’t my decision, but I didn’t have a choice. They didn’t want girls.”


Now her husband’s family is pushing her to get pregnant again, and she is hoping for a boy. Despite government campaigns against aborting female fetuses, she does not believe she will be allowed a choice.


Ms. Rani’s story is echoed across Uttar Pradesh, a state that has among the most skewed sex ratios in India. Census figures show the female-male ratio in the 0-6 year group slipping from 916 in 2001 to 899 in 2011.


In a 2007 Unicef report, Alka Gupta explained part of the problem: Discrimination against women, already entrenched in Indian society, has been bolstered by technological developments that now allow mobile sex selection clinics to drive into almost any village or neighborhood unchecked.


The 1994 Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act was amended in 2003 to deal with the medical profession — the “supply side” of the practice of sex selection. However, the act has been poorly enforced.


The reasons behind the aborting of female fetuses are complex, according to the Center for Social Research, a research organization in New Delhi. Ranjana Kumari points out that the practice happens in some of India’s most prosperous states — Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh — indicating that economic growth does not guarantee a shift in social attitudes. She pinpoints several factors that account for the preference for boys in many parts of India, especially the conservative north: sons are the source of the family income, daughters marry into another family and are not available to look after their parents, dowries make a daughter a liability and, in agricultural areas, there is the fear that any woman who inherits land might take that property to her husband’s family.


Another form of violence against women — dowry deaths — is equally well-documented, and just as ugly, though Indians are so used to these that they have become almost invisible. The names of Sunita Devi, Seetal Gupta, Shabreen Tajm and Salma Sadiq will not resonate strongly for most Indians, though they were all in the news last week for similar reasons. Sunita Devi was strangled in Gopiganj, Uttar Pradesh, the pregnant Seetal Gupta was found unconscious and died in a Delhi hospital, Shabreen Tajm was burned to death in Tarikere, Karnataka, and Salma Sadiq suffered a miscarriage after being beaten by her husband in Bangalore.


Demands for larger dowries by the husband’s family were behind all of these acts of violence, so commonplace that they receive no more than a brief mention in the newspapers. National Crime Bureau figures indicate that reported dowry deaths have risen, with 8,172 in 2008, up from an estimated 5,800 a decade earlier.


Monobina Gupta, who has researched domestic violence for Jagori, a nongovernmental organization, draws a direct link between these killings and the abortion of female fetuses: “The dowry is part of the continuum of gender-based discrimination and violence, beginning with female feticide. Following the arrival of” economic “liberalization in 1992, the dowry list of demands has become longer. The opening up of the markets and expansion of the middle classes fueled consumerism and the demand for modern goods. For instance, studies show that color television sets or home video players have replaced black-and-white television sets, luxury cars the earlier Maruti 800, sophisticated gadgets basic food processors.


“It is similar to what is happening with female feticide,” she said. “As the middle class comes into more money, it is accessing more sophisticated medical technology either to ensure the birth of a boy or get rid of the unborn girl.”


What is the cost to the Indian family of having a girl, or to the boy’s family of forgoing a dowry? The economist T.C.A. Srinivasaraghavan puts the average dowry around 10,000 rupees, or $225. That average figure masks the exorbitant dowry demands that are often made by the family of the groom.


In response to the early findings from the 2011 census, the central government has set up an office to monitor the misuse of sex-selection techniques and the abortion of female fetuses. But real progress may come about only as social and cultural attitudes toward women change. In the meanwhile, women may have to seek their own solutions.


In one of Delhi’s upscale office areas, Kiran Verma, 28, surveyed her tiny shop, a photocopying center. Ms. Verma’s father left the family years ago, and her mother, a domestic worker, worries about covering the cost of her daughter’s wedding. But like many other urban women today, Ms. Verma has her own plans. “In another year I’ll have earned my dowry,” she said with confidence. “That way, I’ll have some choice over the family I marry into.”


Young women earning their own dowries is not the radical solution — the total eradication of the dowry and discrimination against women — that a generation of feminists have dreamed about. But in their efforts to redefine themselves as generators of wealth, rather than as liabilities to their families, Ms. Verma and her generation of Indian women may be striking a few blows of their own against the prejudices that contribute to gender-based abortion.

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