Tag Archives: Feminism

Study Reveals Women Still Not Recognized as Capable Leaders

A recent meta-analysis (integration of a large number of studies on the same subject) by Northwestern University reveals that most people still use gendered stereotypes when thinking about leadership. The consequence of this is that “Women are viewed as less qualified or natural in most leadership roles…and secondly, when women adopt culturally masculine behaviors often required by these roles, they may be viewed as inappropriate or presumptuous.” These biases against women are most likely contributing to the ever-present leadership gap in the U.S.—women still only hold 17% of seats in Congress and in 2008 only 15.7% of corporate officers in Fortune 500 companies were women.

Previous research found that women are perceived as inherently having more “communal” qualities such as being compassionate. Men, on the other hand, were perceived by participants in the studies as inherently having more “agentic” qualities such as being assertive. Research found that it is agentic qualities that are perceived as being an important element of leadership. The Times of India sums up, “Because men fit the cultural stereotype of leadership better than women, they have better access to leadership roles and face fewer challenges in becoming successful in them.” Both female and male participants in the studies that made up the meta-analysis saw men as being inherently better leaders than women.

It is incredibly disheartening that, as Laura Hibbard commented, in an era where “women hold some of the most powerful positions in the United States (see: Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State, Nancy Pelosi, [Former] Speaker of the House, etc.) we still haven’t really changed the way we think about leadership roles and women.” However, the study did show some encouraging trends. The meta-analysis collected data since 1973 so could see if attitudes towards women in leadership are changing over time. Most people still view leadership roles as inherently male but Alice Eagly, professor of psychology and a co-author of the study told Hibbard, “women should be encouraged that leadership is culturally not as extremely masculine as it was in the past…That’s progress because it makes leadership roles more accessible to women and easier to negotiate when in such a role.”

To learn more about the effort to see more women in leadership positions and to find out how you can help in that effort, visit The White House Project’s website.

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Filed under Employment, Gender Discrimination, Sex Discrimination, Women Leaders

Spread the Message: Love Your Body

In the United States, 10 million women and girls suffer from anorexia and/or bulimia, 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat, and young women who have anorexia are 12 times more likely to die than other women their age.

Often advertisers objectify women for the sake of selling alcohol, furniture, luggage, or just about anything. In Jean Kilbourne’s book “Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising,” she claims that “advertising is our environment.” Although many people claim to not be influenced by advertisements, the average American views more than 3000 ads in one day.

In addition to objectifying women, the NOW Foundation blames the cosmetic and advertising industries for promoting images of airbrushed “perfect” women which in turn affects the self-esteem of women and girls. Education Vice President Erin Matson says that the unrealistic portrayal of a woman’s body is only naturally possessed by less than five percent of women.

“Let’s Talk About It,” a project of NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body Campaign, has received thousands of posters for the Love Your Body contest every year. You can send the posters as e-cards to anyone in your life who needs to hear the message that their body is beautiful just the way it is.

This year, coinciding with National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, NOW has upped the ante by featuring videos in addition to posters. Currently you can submit your own video or watch others like Matson talk about their failures and successes while learning to love their body.

Matson encourages people to submit their videos:

Your voice might be the one that reaches a girl or woman who is struggling with her self-image. And together, the more videos we create, the more we become part of the solution.

Learning to love your body and encourage others to do the same is part of the puzzle. Commend yourself and those around you on their personality, humor, and achievements. After all, as a winning poster from Love Your Body suggests, you can’t buy self-esteem.

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Filed under Education, Girls, Women's health

Spotlight on Conservative Women in Politics

The Women’s Law Project is a nonpartisan organization and does not endorse candidates nor affiliate with any political party. However, we are interested in the media coverage of women in politics and the variety of opinions currently being expressed about conservative candidates and what their candidacy means for women. As a resource for readers, we have provided a list of stories we have read recently on this topic with links to more information.

  1. Reason.com argues that the feminist critique of conservative female politicians is unfair
  2. The LA Times reports that the GOP is purposefully promoting more female candidates to discourage association between their party and the traditional political insider
  3. Jessica Valenti says “so-called conservative feminists don’t support women’s rights.”
  4. Newsweek states that the left’s “native mistrust of religion, of conservative believers in particular, left the gap that Palin now fills.”
  5. Amanda Woytus responds to the above article, stating, “Palin is not a feminist. She’s merely using the word to rally religious women and unite them under the same issue they’ve been united under for years — anti-abortion rights.”
  6. Despite the fact that the GOP boasts an increasing number of working mother candidates, Betsy Reed says the “Republican Party’s stance on the issues that matter to working mothers is as regressive as it has ever been”
  7. Mary Kate Cary states that we have entered into an era of “post-feminist politics” and that female conservative candidates “are agents of change not only in the electorate but inside the women’s movement.”

What do you think about the increasing number of conservative female candidates? Does it represent a step forward or back for women’s rights? Let us know your thoughts in comments.


Filed under 2010 Election, Democracy, Equality, Government, Politics

Notes from the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Young Feminist Leadership Conference

The weekend of March 20-22, 2010 was the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.  The conference targeted young feminists of high school and college age who were interested in learning more about the feminist movement, how to become active in their communities and on their campuses, and becoming more informed about various women’s rights issues. Young women and men were educated on subjects such as birth control access, abortion, human trafficking, women in the media, women’s health, fake pregnancy clinics, Title IX, queer feminist issues, sexual assault, women and the economy, and funding feminist policies.

The conference included outstanding speakers such as Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation; Alexandra Arriaga, senior advisor, task force on CEDAW; Gail Cohen, Chief Economist, Joint Economic Committee for the U.S. Congress; Alison Friedman, Senior Advisor, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons; Jehmu Greene, President, Women’s Media Center; Daphne Jayasinghe, Women’s Human Rights Advocacy Director, Amnesty International, and many other powerful women in all areas of feminist issues and research. The weekend ended with a day of Congressional lobbying on Capitol Hill, as well as a trip to the Sewall-Belmont House, the historic home of Equal Rights Amendment author Alice Paul and home of the National Women’s Party.

Two undergraduate interns from the Women’s Law Project’s western Pennsylvania office attended the conference, and thoroughly enjoyed both the conference and the city itself. They found the conference to be both inspiring and informative and especially enjoyed the day on Capitol Hill. After the conference they contacted many of the speakers to gather more information on their areas of expertise. The event was especially informative for high school women and men interested in the feminist movement and eager to get more involved in their communities and on their campuses.

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Filed under Equality

The New Phyllis Schlafly: Janice Shaw Crouse

Don’t get us wrong: Phyllis Schlafly is still making the rounds claiming that marital rape is a myth and calling feminism “the most dangerous, destructive force in our society today.” But there’s another woman to watch out for: Public Eye recently profiled Janice Shaw Crouse, head of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, a think tank created by Concerned Women for America (CWA), and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.

The profile details her denigration of Dr. George Tiller’s “barbaric slaughter” in a column she wrote two months before his death and her scorn for feminist leader Betty Friedan. But unlike other independent conservative women such as Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin, Crouse associates with established right-wing organizations to both publicize and strategize an anti-feminist agenda.

Crouse’s power, by contrast, comes from her association with movement organizations in a conservative White Christian world – whether as a staff person with the [Institute for Religion and Democracy] in the 1990s, or at the Beverly LaHaye Institute today. In that, she is similar to other female Christian Right spokespeople, including her boss Wendy Wright, the president of CWA, and her daughter Charmaine Yoest, President of Americans United for Life, whose voices are heard because of the organizations which back them.

As an organizational player, Crouse is focused not just on wordsmithing but on strategizing and devising tactics to enhance her group’s power, and diminish that of liberals and the Left, much like a leading spokeswoman of earlier years, Phyllis Schlafly. Unlike Schlafly, Crouse is not a player within the Republican Party and certainly hasn’t achieved her prominence.  Yet working through the sphere of a women’s organization, she pushes the boundaries of power for a conservative Christian woman thinker.

The article notes her belief that feminism is “an unnecessary crutch for an ambitious woman who is capable of succeeding on her own individual merits,” but also mentions that she has several issues in common with the feminist movement, such as elimination of domestic violence and sex trafficking. She rails against most of the feminist movement’s goals, however.

Unsurprisingly, Crouse opposes comprehensive sex education. On a PBS news program, when asked about a Bush-created requirement that international organizations pledge their opposition to prostitution and sex trafficking and the effect it might have on the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS, she replied:

Crouse: Well, it definitely does get in the way of condom distribution. But the thing that I think is really important for the American public to understand is that condoms are not a solution to the problem….I’m against condoms as a solution to the problem of sexually transmitted diseases. I’m against condoms as a solution to the AIDS epidemic. I hear so many people blithely say, okay, let’s distribute condoms and we’ll cut down on the disease. We’ll make it much safer for a girl to be a prostitute. And she can choose this as an appropriate career option.

Brancaccio [PBS]: You really see people, officials, promoting prostitution as some sort of legitimate career path?

Crouse: There’s no question. And there are people who passionately believe that it’s a matter of women’s rights, and this is a way to make a living, particularly for people in very poor countries where there are not a lot of options for women.

The whole article is worth a read. Particularly interesting are the parts about Crouse’s history of increasing the political activism of conservative, religious women, her views on President Obama, and her work to prevent ratification of the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Janice Shaw Crouse is a modern woman very much in the mold of Phyllis Schlafly, and has already been detrimental to feminist goals.


Filed under Uncategorized

Women’s Rights in the Spotlight

This week the New York Times Magazine focuses on “Saving the World’s Women.” An essay by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, titled “The Women’s Crusade,” is at the center of an issue that explores women’s causes around the world.

Kristof and WuDunn make a strong case for the need to focus international efforts on helping women:

Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos.

Reinforcing this message, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have co-authored an article for the Huffington Post, “Taking Women’s Rights Seriously.” Both leaders put forth concrete goals and promises, including Brown’s renewed commitment to addressing women’s issues through the United Nations:

The UN has a leading role, yet its response has been too fragmented and has lacked coherence. In 2006 a High Level Panel recommended a new, powerful agency that could empower women throughout the world.

…It must be urgently established with strong, high-level leadership to support national efforts and strengthen co-ordination of the UN’s collective resolve to improve the lives of girls and women.

As evidence of Britain’s commitment we will at least double the UK’s core funding for the UN’s work on women’s equality through this new body, once established. We will also work tirelessly over the next three weeks to help make the agency a reality by the end of this current session of the General Assembly.

Both the New York Times Magazine and the article by Brown and Sirleaf reference an upcoming book by Kristof and WuDunn, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.”

We may be about to see a dramatic change in the level of attention paid to vital women’s issues around the world. As girls and women around the world struggle to get the medical care, education, political rights, protection, and respect that they deserve, let us hope that we do see this change. It would not come a moment too soon.

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Filed under Education, Equality, Girls, Government, The New York Times, Women's health

In Iraq, Female Soldiers Prove Old Assumptions Wrong

The New York Times series “Women at Arms” explores the expanding role of women in the military and the extent to which, especially in Iraq, women have become indispensible in all types of operations, showing along the way that they are up to all the same challenges as men.

The article “GI Jane Quietly Breaks the Combat Barrier” introduced the series. Through interviews and review of statistics, the article tells the story of female soldiers in Iraq who have taken on increasingly dangerous jobs because they were needed there. The women have excelled in those jobs. As the article explains:

Women are barred from joining combat branches like the infantry, armor, Special Forces and most field artillery units and from doing support jobs while living with those smaller units. Women can lead some male troops into combat as officers, but they cannot serve with them in battle.

Yet, over and over, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Army commanders have resorted to bureaucratic trickery when they needed more soldiers for crucial jobs, like bomb disposal and intelligence. On paper, for instance, women have been “attached” to a combat unit rather than “assigned.”

Even some staunch feminists have long been inclined to accept military restrictions on female soldiers’ careers. Whether this is because of the widely held, deeply ingrained beliefs that women are simply not suited for war the way men are, or because their pacifism informs their opposition to any sort of combat, the New York Times articles make it clear that women can and do excel at any army job.

Another article, “Living and Fighting Amongst Men, and Fitting In,” addresses – and allays – the other concern about women in the military, namely that their presence would be too much of a disruption for the fighting men. The article quotes Brigadier General Heidi V. Brown, who says, “There was a lot of debate over where women should be. Here we are six years later, and you don’t hear about it. You shouldn’t hear about it.”

Both articles are fascinating and worth reading in full, and we eagerly await the next installment. Their message is strong and unmistakable: there is no reason to restrict the role of women in the military.


Filed under Equality, Government, Military