Tag Archives: women’s rights

The Seneca Falls Convention

19 Jul

seneca2Today marks the 166th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were the architects of this historical event to address women’s rights and the disparities and barriers women faced during the 19th Century.  Stanton, Mott, Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt created the plans for the two day convention, July 19 and 20th, 1848. All but Stanton identified as Quakers and all were known for their dedication to the abolitionist movement.

Some of you may remember that Stanton  instructed the minister to eliminate the promise to obey from her wedding vows, later observing, “I obstinately refused to obey one with whom I supposed I was entering into an equal relation.” She also assumed the name Elizabeth Cady Stanton, refusing to be subsumed as Mrs. Henry B. Stanton.

While all of these women worked hard to create a convention (attended by over 300 women — including 40 men, including Frederick Douglass), it was Stanton that drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, which she based on The Declaration of Independence. Stanton stated that:

all men and women had been created equal [and went on to list eighteen] injuries and usurpation -the same number of charges leveled against the King of England-on the part of man toward woman.

Within the Declaration of Sentiments, Stanton included eleven resolutions, making the argument that women had a natural right to equality in all spheres.

Sadly, writing this piece 166 years later, I have to reflect on how much work has yet to be done around gender parity.  While women now have the right to vote and own land, we as a nation still have a long way to go towards full gender parity.  It was quite embarrassing that the Republican controlled House voted against the equal pay bill, and I was mortified by the Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court, which has a huge impact on women’s health.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention how all of these disparities have an even larger impact on other targeted populations, such as women of color, undocumented women, and transgender women.

Call to action: I implore all of us that are dedicated to issues of social justice to stand in solidarity with all women as we work towards a more equitable world.

 

The ERA and Oregon

6 May

ERAToday I would like to address the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and Oregon.  My dear friend and social justice advocate, Nancy Campbell Mead, was kind enough to visit with me and talk about how the ERA benefits all Oregonians. I have known Nancy for five years and I am consistently amazed and grateful for her voice and dedication for social justice. Nancy stands in solidarity with those who face oppression. I was elated to learn that she has now taken up the torch for the ERA.  The message of equality for women is especially timely and poignant given that the House of Representatives just voted against equal pay for women.

Nancy, what will the ERA do for Oregon?

 The language of the proposed ERA is simple:

(1) Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on a count of sex.

(2) The Legislative Assembly shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this section.

(3)  Nothing in this section shall diminish a right otherwise available to persons under section 20 of this Article or any other provision of this Constitution.

Equality for women is not currently expressly guaranteed in the Oregon Constitution.  Nor is it guaranteed in the federal constitution (The federal ERA, though passed in both houses of Congress, was only ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states; there is currently a renewed effort to get it ratified).  By passing the ERA we can make certain that Oregon women and girls have their equality written into the state’s constitution.  Twenty-two (22) states have ERA’s; Oregon does not.  Oregon women do have substantial protections through legislation and caselaw, but neither provide the security that the Constitution provides.  Both legislation and caselaw are much more “fluid” than is the Constitution; legislation and caselaw are constantly changing, but it takes a vote of the people to modify the Constitution.  Explicit constitutional guarantees of  sex equality provide legislators and judges a mandate to treat sex-based discrimination as highly suspect and provide the framework under which laws are written and court cases are decided.

How can we get this on the ballot for November of 2014?

 In order to qualify for the ballot we need 116,284 valid signatures by July 3, 2014.

We need everyone’s help NOW in making sure we have enough valid signatures to qualify.  With our statewide polling at over 82% support from Oregonians we know the ERA will pass if we get it on the ballot!

Here is how you can help us achieve this goal so all Oregonians have equality expressed in the constitution:

Volunteer:

Collect signatures, host house parties, speak to your organizations…  For more on how you can volunteer, email: Info@VoteERA.org

Donate:https://secure.c-esystems.com/voteera/donation.aspx

Nancy, what else would you like to share with people regarding the ERA? How is this a social justice issue?

Having an ERA in Oregon’s Constitution is important.  How important?  Just read these quotes from three of our nation’s leaders:

Former President Jimmy Carter:  He calls the treatment of women and girls “worse than any war we’ve had in history.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:  “If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment… I think we have achieved that [equality] through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered.  So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion – that women and men are persons of equal stature – I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”   Nancy added that:  Bader Ginsburg was referring to the U.S. Constitution, but certainly the same argument can be made in favor of an ERA in the Oregon Constitution.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:   “Some people say, ‘It’s [the ERA] only symbolic,’” Clinton said. “Well, yes, but symbolism is important,  and it can also be a great message and even lead to actions that further equality, so I think if you can have that kind of debate here in this state [Oregon], you might be starting something beyond your borders.”  Nancy added that:  While I do not for a minute think the ERA is “only symbolic” I do agree with Clinton that “symbolism is important”.  Because it has been many years since any state has approved an ERA, Oregon passing a state ERA will hopefully serve as an impetus to get the federal ERA “rolling” again.  As Clinton said, we “might be starting something beyond your[our] borders.”

Having the Equal Rights Amendment in Oregon’s Constitution is important because it will mean future generations of women and girls can read our constitution and know that the people of Oregon believed that their rights were important enough to secure them in the constitution which can only be changed by a vote of the people.  The legislation and caselaw we currently have are generally good, but they are subject to being changed by the legislature or a judicial decision.  Expressly stated constitutional protections are much more secure.

I want to thank my friend Nancy for taking the time to visit with me and talk about the ERA.

Call to Action: Please click on the links above to get involved and stand in solidarity.

Bigot of the Week Award, January 24: Sarah Palin

24 Jan

sarah-palin-finger-485x322Wow! I’m not quite sure where to even start here but I over heard a member of the KKK saying to one of his fellow Klan members: “Palin is really racist.” On MLK Day, a day one hopes people are doing some reflection about equality, equity, and new ways to eradicate racism and hate, Sarah Palin decided to exert her white power and privilege, showing just how racist she really is.

Palin addressed President Obama on her Facebook page with:

Happy MLK, Jr. Day!

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card.

Not only does Palin manage to desecrate Dr. King’s sentiments, but she tells President Obama and all black people in the United States that racism must be over, so “quit saying you have experienced racism.” I can’t even imagine a more encompassing way to dishonor people’s history and narratives — to be completely ignorant of both history and current events. If possible, Palin has sunk further into the mire of the rancid tea leaves.  Her obliviousness speaks to overwhelming power and privilege.  Even just writing about her, I feel as though I will need a Silkwood Shower afterward. I will recommend that Palin do some reading about racism in the United States.

I need to thank my dear friend, Jennifer Carey for this week’s Dishonorable Mention.  Republican congressional candidate Susanne Atanus continues to prove how very charm free she really is. Atanus, who is running for Representative in Illinois’ 9th congressional district covering Chicago’s Far North Side and the North Shore suburbs, is working hard to corner the market on hate and fear mongering. Atanus feels quite comfortable speaking for God, as she wants everyone to know God controls the weather, and that autism and dementia are his punishments for the gay rights movement and abortions. Well that seems completely logical to me.

Atanus stated:

God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she added, blaming natural disasters like tornadoes and diseases including autism and dementia on recent advances in the LGBT movement. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.

I left rather speechless here. All I can say is that it might be a good idea for Atanus and Palin to get married, for they make quite the couple.

Texas: Where the Men Are Men and the Women are Property

10 Jan

G0524WARONWOMEN7I need to thank my friend Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this story. The state of Texas isn’t known as a safe place for women or a bastion of reproductive rights. A new case arising in a Texas hospital takes things to a new low, however.

Marlise Munoz suffered what appeared to be a blood clot and collapsed in her kitchen. She was rushed to the hospital but doctors were unable to revive her. They informed the family that she was brain dead. Her husband and parents sadly prepared to honor her explicit wishes and disconnect her from life support.

The hiccup? Ms. Munoz was 14 weeks pregnant. Under Texas law, care cannot be removed from a pregnant woman. Although medical ethics experts argue that the law applies to vegetative and comatose patients, John Peter Smith Hospital opted for a broad interpretation rather than risk legal action, and applied it to Marlise Munoz. As her father bluntly observes:

All she is is a host for a fetus. I get angry with the state. What business did they have delving into these areas? Why are they practicing medicine up in Austin?

He is absolutely right. The law itself is horrific and violates personal and family choice. That these doctors would take it to such an extreme clearly illustrates how every chip made in the bedrock of reproductive rights can be opened into a chasm.

The hypocrisy is palpable. The hypothetical rights of a non-viable fetus have been elevated above the clear wishes of a woman and her family — and it’s all done in the name of protecting life. Of course, if that kid manages to be born and grows up to break the law, (s)he has a better chance of being executed in Texas than anywhere else in the country.

But that’s all right. After all, Marlise Munoz was just a woman. Sadly, women have more restrictions over the governance of their bodies since 1972.  I worry about the message this sends to both women and men. It has now become the norm for our government to police women’s bodies in ways that would never be acceptable to police men’s bodies.  For more information regarding the backwards trend for women’s reproductive rights, click here.

Update:

According to the New York Times there is some good news for this family: Judge R.H. Wallace Jr. of State District Court in Texas ordered the John Peter Smith Hospital to pronounce Marlise Munoz dead and to remover her from life support. Sadly, the hospital now has the chance to appeal that ruling, which would dishonor the wishes of Munoz’ family.

Happy Birthday, Abigail Scott Duniway

22 Oct

AbigailToday Abigail Scott Duniway would have been 179 years old. Duniway is best known for her work as a suffragist and for founding the newspaper The New Northwest in Portland, Oregon. The paper was dedicated to women’s rights, including suffrage.  Sadly, Duniway did not live to see the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920.

While Duniway may not have lived to witness the passage of the 19th amendment, she did see and was responsible for the passage of women’s suffrage in Oregon in 1912.  Duniway was the first woman to register to vote in Multnomah County.  Despite great resistance from her brother Harvey W. Scott, who was the editor of The Oregonian, Duniway was asked by then Governor Oswald West to draft the suffrage proclamation.

Duniway wrote several books, but may be best known for her last non-fiction,  Path Breaking: An Autobiographical History of the Equal Suffrage Movement in Pacific Coast States which was published the year before she died in 1914.  How nice to see that Oregon was ahead of the curve and on the right side of history as we celebrate Abigail Scott Duniway and her work for women’s rights.

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.

Obama’s Inspirational Inaugural

24 Jan
We the People

We the People

The inaugural speeches of U.S. Presidents are seldom very interesting. As part of a larger ceremony — admittedly a significant one in the operation of our government — they tend to be bland “what a great country” orations.  I must confess that I don’t usually pay much attention. This year, however, the presence of Myrlie Evers got me watching, and I’m truly glad that I did.

President Obama can be an inspiring speaker. This Monday he delivered what may be the finest speech of his career. The handful of great inaugurals — Lincoln’s call for healing in 1865, FDR’s “nothing to fear but fear itself” in 1933, JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you” in 1961 — have taken place at pivotal moments in our country’s history. It can be hard to spot such moments when you are living in them, but our President did just that and I don’t know that I have ever been prouder to identify as an American.

The divide between Americans — by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so much more — have been cast in such sharp relief by the politics and behavior of the past decade that too many of us wonder where we fit in. Obama’s theme, We the People, called out this problem and sought everyone’s participation in its solutions.

I was stunned and thrilled to hear him use the world “marginalized” in the speech. That barely prepared me for the next sentence.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.

Having the leader of the nation clearly show the path from the first feminists to the struggle for racial equality to the struggles for LGBT rights was stunning. The participation of gay poet Richard Blanco in the inaugural events was a welcome touch. The very real words of the President, calling for that march of justice to keep moving, was overwhelming. My husband and I were both in tears, caught off guard and astounded by his direct call for justice; this is probably the most hopeful I have felt in years.

The entire speech, only 15 minutes but packed with power, is worth reading. As a social worker, I found his very specific challenge to those who write the laws as well as those who rally for social justice particularly resonant.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

For the first time, a President actually explicitly used the word “gay” in an inaugural. I have seldom felt so accepted as a citizen of this nation.

It’s no wonder that days later pundits and journalists and Americans of all types are still marvelling at this speech. It wasn’t just a pale summoning of an America that might be. It was an invocation of what we say we are and a challenge to all of us to live up to that promise — not just for ourselves but generations to come. Let us celebrate this President, his words, and his intentions. Let us work together to help his vision come true.

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