Tag Archives: War on women

Social Justice and Presidential Medal of Freedom Honorees

12 Aug

2013PresMedFreedomSocJusThis year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Presidential Medal of Freedom  Awards, established by President John F. Kennedy.   For me, this year is particularly impressive because it is also the 50th anniversary of the Freedom March, which was organized by one of my personal heroes, Bayard Rustin, who has been celebrated several times on this blog.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.  While I am not going to address all 16 recipients, I would like to take some time to recognize a handful that I consider Heroes of the World.

Bayard Rustin: I am sad this is a posthumous award, but he so deserves to be celebrated and acknowledged.  Not enough people know that it was Bayard Rustin, close confidante to Dr. King, who worked with King on techniques for nonviolent resistance.  Rustin was an openly gay black man working tirelessly for civil rights.  I cannot fully articulate my admiration for this man.  Of course at the time he was working with Dr. King, it was illegal just to be homosexual.  Some believe that Rustin’s effectiveness was compromised because he was openly gay.  Unfortunately, Rustin started to worry that his integral part in the civil rights movement would undermine the efficacy of the movement and thus offered to step aside.  King supported Rustin’s move to step aside.  As much as I respect and honor Dr. King, I wish he would have shown more support for Rustin.  Let us not forget that it was Rustin that organized the March on Washington.

Sally Ride: Sadly this is also a posthumous award. The world lost a shining light last year when Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died from pancreatic cancer. She was only 61. She received a bachelor’s degree in English and physics from Stanford and went on to get a PhD in physics, studying astrophysics and free electron laser physics. She responded to a newspaper ad recruiting for the space program and became one of the first women in the program in 1978.

She became an integral part of the space shuttle program and in 1983 became America’s first woman and, at 32, the youngest American in space. Over her NASA career she logged over 340 hours in space. She was the recipient of numerous awards including the National Space Society’s von Braun award. She retired from NASA in 1987 but remained active in education and science. She taught physics at UC San Diego and was director of the California Space Institute. Ride’s most powerful legacy is Sally Ride Science, the program she launched in 2001. The mission of the organization is to

make a difference in girls’ lives, and in society’s perceptions of their roles in technical fields. Our school programs, classroom materials, and teacher trainings bring science to life to show kids that science is creative, collaborative, fascinating, and fun.

Sally Ride also wrote a number of science education books.  I am exceedingly grateful that I had the opportunity to have met Sally Ride.

Gloria Steinem: I have to say that Gloria Steinem is one of the reasons why I wanted to become a social worker.  Steinem is an icon of social justice for women, the LGBT community,  the disenfranchised and all marginalized and targeted populations. Steinem has dedicated her life to creating a level playing field for women, while at the same time embracing and working on issues for all marginalized peoples. In my humble opinion, Seinem’s voice is one of the most important in the 20th and 21st Centuries. My first reading of Revolution From Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, spoke to me as a gay man and how institutionalized oppression can take its toll and how we must unite to speak our own truth. As most of you know, Steinem co-founded Ms. Magazine and helped a culture learn about the power of words: Miss, Mrs. and Ms. I have heard Ms. Steinem speak three times and each time I left in awe and inspired. I don’t understand any of her detractors, for she speaks with such love and compassion. Listening to Steinem, one realized how fully she understands deep rooted patriarchy, misogyny, and oppression. I dare say, her detractors have never heard her speak, nor have ever read anything she has written. Yes, she supports a woman’s right to govern her own body–a controversy that would not exist if there were legislation trying to control what men could do with their bodies. I applaud Gloria Steinem for her courage and for her contributions to social justice, she encourages and inspires us all to understand more about the intersections of oppression.

Besides these personal heroes, three other honorees are particularly notable for their roles in social justice.
  • Oprah Winfrey has used her power and wealth to work hard for women’s rights and education; she is also a champion of the LGBT community. The fact that one of the most powerful, wealthy and recognizable people in the world is a woman of color is of great value in itself.  She is still creating an amazing legacy!
  • Sen. Daniel Inouye also receives a posthumous medal. He served nearly 50 years in Congress, elected when Hawaii became a state; he was the first Japanese American to serve in either chamber. During his long service he was a tireless champion of human rights, supporting civil rights for all including the LGBT community.
  • Patricia Wald is a well-respected appellate judge and a pioneer. She was one of the first women to graduate from Yale Law School. She was also the first woman appointed to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, where she later served as Chief Judge.  She also served on the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague and currently works for the Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

It is truly wonderful to see such champions of social justice receive this great honor.

Hero of the Week Award: July 12, Judge William Conley

12 Jul
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

This week it is a pleasure to celebrate another judge standing up to the unconstitutional overreach of institutionalized misogyny.

Frustrated by the continued existence of women’s rights to make their own health and reproductive choices, Republican-controlled legislatures around the country are trying their best to create de facto abortion-free zones of their states. Invasive ultrasounds and needless waiting periods aren’t enough. The latest trick is creating cumbersome requirements for doctors at clinics that provide abortions as part of their services.

Wisconsin is the latest, with a new law — signed by charm-free Gov. Scott Walker — that requires hospital admitting privileges, something no other clinics require. Planned Parenthood challenged the law, and U.S. District Judge William Conley sided with them.  Let us remind our selves that Planned Parenthood provides greatly needed health care for women that could not other wise afford simple things like pap smears that test for cancer.

Noting that “there is a troubling lack of justification for the hospital admitting privileges requirement,” Conley placed a stay on the law until he can hold further hearings. Citing Roe v Wade, the judge added “Moreover, the record to date strongly supports a finding that no medical purpose is served by this requirement.”

Judge Conley will no doubt be accused by the so-called  family values crowd of “judicial activism” for actually doing his job. Insisting that access to care must be equitable is the right thing to do. Thank you, Judge Conley, for standing up against the War on Women in Wisconsin–not an easy battle when going up against the racist, homophobic, classist, neo-fascist, Scott Walker.  Mr. Walker, have you no decency?

Bigot of the Week Award: July 12, Cleveland Right to Life

12 Jul
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

Wow! This week’s BWA goes to Cleveland Right to Life, who have shown appalling dedication to HATE.  In a move that shows how intertwined misogyny and homophobia are, these Clevelanders have extended their mission from working against women’s health to include opposing marriage equality.  This is what I would call a BIG BALL OF HATE.  Those of you in the greater Cleveland area may need to take cover.  I suspect this type of intense hate is enough to catch the Cuyahoga River on fire again.

Shall we also talk about how this move translates into not only homophobia, misogyny, and classism, but it also ties directly into racism?  These Cleveland Right to Lifers are targeting the most vulnerable and marginalized populations and the impact is far more severe if you are a woman of color or a gay person of color.

The announcement of this expansion of bigotry came as the group responded to Sen. Rob Portman’s (R – OH) announcement that he supported marriage equality because his son is gay. explaining their need to hate more people, Cleveland Right to Life officials observed that marriage equality, euthanasia, and abortion are all

contrary to the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God … every human life is created by the sexual union of male and female.

God forbid a parent should carefully consider policy that impacts his child and then make an informed, compassionate decision. NO! Jesus said no abortions and hate the gays and hate women! Well, they’re sure he meant to, anyway…

Reflections of the 4th of July Holiday

3 Jul

DeclarationOn July 4, 1776 thirteen colonies, which would become the United States, declared their independence from England through the Declaration of Independence. I thought it would be interesting to look at this holiday and the document which sparked the American Revolution and examine where we are now through a social justice lens.

I must confess that I weep a little every time I read the Declaration of Independence, for it really is a beautiful living document.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

Allowing for the sexist language in its context, this is some powerful stuff here. Now —  237 years later — how are we living up to this declaration?  Several points come to mind when I read this and I worry we are still failing.  When I look at the current environment of how we try to control women and the disgraceful misogyny displayed today (Rick Perry and Wendy Davis), I am saddened. When I think about how we continue to target and marginalize the LGBT community, I am saddened.  When I think about the multigenerational impact of the intentional marginalization of people of color, I am saddened. When I think about the Occupy Movement and the devastating disparity in income in the United States, I am truly saddened.

What are we to do? How do we right these wrongs? How do we “throw off such a Government” that seems to be working for only 24% of Americans? How do we end endless wars? How do we take better care of our veterans? How do we ensure ALL people have health care?

It seems to me we have the answer in the Declaration of Independence.  The document charges us all with the task of: “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

A true democracy — of the people, for the people, by the people — is a glorious thing. But a Congress frozen in partisan bickering and held hostage by a slender fringe minority, a high court that capriciously abuses its power to place corporations over people, an executive that practices terror to fight terror, these are not democratic ways.

There must be some type of resistance, or non-violent way to have a revolution that ensures: “that all men (people) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Let us all join together, demanding the full celebration of our rights, and help transform this country to best represent its lofty, and laudable, intentions.

Bigot of the Week Award: June 28, The Supreme Corruption

28 Jun
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

The Supreme Court wrapped up its judicial year this week with a number of major decisions. On the four that got the most press — and had the largest impact — they managed one disaster (Voting Rights), one victory (DOMA), and two adequate indecisions (affirmative action and Prop 8). As those rulings were rolled out, however, the aggressive activists on the right of the bench bared their ugly souls once again.

The most vile decision was Shelby County v Holder, in which the Four Injustices of the Apocalypse were joined by two-faced Kennedy in gutting the Voting Rights Act. Despite the fact that the VRA was renewed unanimously by the Senate and by an overwhelming majority in the House after extensive research, the Court ruled that Congress acted capriciously and violated States’ rights. That rationale fails to disguise the clear desire to allow states to practice voter suppression, disproportionately impacting marginalized populations which coincidentally vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.  Talk about intentional disenfranchisement!

Chief Racist Roberts penned the poison decision, helping secure his horrible legacy. He also wrote an ugly dissent in Windsor v United States, the case that overturned DOMA.

Speaking of ugly legacies, Justice Scalia managed to spew his usual bile with flair and volume. He continues to argue that calling a bigoted law bigoted is biased against bigots. That’s some weird reasoning. He also displayed his split personality in the Shelby and Windsor rulings. To support racism, he trumpets States’ rights and blames Congressional overreach. To support homophobia, he says that Congress should have the final say, and the will of the states that support LGBT rights be damned. In a curious bit of double-speak, his Windsor dissent includes:

It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’s Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere “primary” in its role.

That is one huge spleen that Scalia has!  Justice Alito-Mussolini, joined in the discrimination chorus. He also demonstrated his ongoing behavior as a petulant brat. During Justice Ginsburg’s scathing Shelby dissent, he rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders. He displayed similar disrespect to opinions offered by Justices Kagan and Sotomayor on other matters. Racist, homophobe, misogynist — score three for Alito, but of course “he does make the trains run on time.”

Justice Thomas remained inert, participating only far enough to support a version of the Constitution that must have been written in 1276, content to continue suppressing the rights of others now that he’s got his lifetime gig.

What a horrible example of judicial activism and abuse of power!

There’s plenty of dishonorable mention to spread around, as well, so let’s just highlight two magnificent examples.

  1. Texas Governor Rick Perry, whose efforts to crush Planned Parenthood and severely restrict reproductive choice in his state were thwarted by true democracy in action, chose to demonize state Sen. Wendy Davis. He argued that she’s lucky she wasn’t aborted by her unmarried mother and should take a lesson from that. My he is Klassy!
  2. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R – What’s the Matter with Kansas) followed the DOMA decision by introducing a new bill to ban same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution. I guess the House didn’t waste enough taxpayer time and money defending the indefensible.

Many of the usual homophobes spewed their bigotry in despair after the Windsor ruling as well. Rather than bother with names and quotes, let’s take a lesson from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose flawless response to their angry bloviating was a calm, “Who cares?”

Bigot of the Week Award: April 26, Steve Kush

26 Apr
Bigot of the Week

Bigot of the Week

I get many nominations for Bigot of the Week and have grown accustomed to the ugliness that is included in the stories I read. This week’s winner — courtesy of my friend Jennifer Carey — was so odious, however, that I had to stop reading until I could contain my rage.

Steve Kush executive director of the Bernalillo County Republican Party in New Mexico showed his true colors after a public hearing on raising the minimum wage in the county. When a 19-year-old woman representing Working America testified in favor of the higher wage, Kush tweeted

Nice hat Working America chick but damn you are a radical bitch.

Really?! Where do I even start to unpack all the hate, misogyny (a very big word for our Steve), classism, and ageism? Simply stating her concern for those barely earning a living wage at a public hearing makes her a radical? Using the word “chick” (not to mention his other language)?  Are we back in the 1950s?  Clearly, Kush attended the Clarence Thomas School Charm School, or would that be Charm Free School? As of April 26, Kush has offered no apology and remains isolated in his white, heterosexist, male, privilege — further pulling the GOP down into an abysmal time machine of shame.

Dishonorable mention this week goes to the Boy Scouts of America for adding “clueless” to “homophobic” on their list of Demerit Badges.

no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.

This plan would retain the ban on gay adults serving in any capacity. That means gay youth are being told they’ll be tolerated as long as it’s just a phase. If they don’t grow out of it, out the door they go. The word “alone” at the end of this tepid mini-reversal is also troubling. It would clearly allow individual troops to punish out scouts for “being disruptive” simply for being who they are. In an attempt to look accepting (are they using the GOP’s rebranding experts?), the BSA has crafted a meaningless compromise that makes Don’t Ask Don’t Tell look like civil rights genius. I do wonder when all of these straight scouts, both adult and youth, made the decision to be straight?

Bigot of the Week Award: April 5, Susan Patton

5 Apr

PattonBigotAs a social worker, social justice blogger, advocate for the marginalized, and regular participant in discussions about the world around us, I should be used to things like this. Nevertheless, when I heard about Susan A. Patton’s editorial Advice for the young women of Princeton on NPR, I had to pull off the road to control my rage and disbelief — is this 1952?

Patton graduated from Princeton in 1977, one of the first women to do so. Three-and-a-half decades later she wrote a letter to the Daily Princetonian telling women at the university that they damn well better snag themselves a man right now or they’ll be miserable for life. WHAT?!? Really? There are so many things wrong with her premise that I’m not sure how to dissect it.

Let’s focus on what seems to be the core section.

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Is she real? Is she a Phyllis Schlafly puppet? An Ann Coulter clone? That one sentence has so much homophobia, classism, misogyny, and downright ignorance embedded in it that it seems like a Stephen Colbert piece rather than serious advice from the mother of two sons at Princeton.

Patton’s piece has sparked outrage from many corners, which is reassuring. She continues to defend the advice as “retrograde” but “heartfelt” and says that if she had daughters this is exactly what she would tell them. We should be glad she doesn’t; it is bad enough her sons are hearing this crap from her. What message is she sending to all young people here?  Susan, may you find the time capsule you came here from and return to 1952, where you will feel safe in your all white, all heterosexual, oblivious world and where you can trap yourself a man and be chained to the kitchen.

Dishonorable mention this week goes to Rep. Louie Gohmert (R – TX), who is trying to win the Texas Elected Official Scary Stupidity Award. Despite stiff competition from Ted Cruz and Rick Perry, he made major strides this week by opposing gun control because marriage equality will make bestiality legal. Yes, you read that right. Here’s the quote:

And I pointed out, well, once you make [the gun cartridge limit ]ten, then why would you draw the line at ten? What’s wrong with nine? Or eleven? And the problem is once you draw that limit ; it’s kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman any more, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal? There is no clear place to draw the line once you eliminate the traditional marriage and it’s the same once you start putting limits on what guns can be used, then it’s just really easy to have laws that make them all illegal.

Apparently Gohmert is the horrific offspring of Wayne LaPierre and Rick Santorum. How do these people get elected?  Do we need to worry that Gohmert seems to be obsessed with gay sex and bestiality?  I suspect there are no safe sheep near Gohmert’s home.

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