In the aftermath of the horrific LA Fitness shootings in Collier Township, Allegheny County, at the beginning of the month, several media outlets have begun to try and answer the question on everyone’s minds: Why?
Some look to lax gun control laws and others to psychological disorders in attempts to understand just how such a tragedy unfolded, the misogynistic agenda of Sodini’s violence is undeniable. While there were certainly other factors at work, Sodini’s deeply rooted hatred for women really must be examined as the most relevant motivation for the crime. It is easy to simply write off Sodini as a crazed, sexist, social anomaly. In reality, as New York Times columnist Bob Herbert writes, it is imperative that we reflect on the shootings in a much broader social context:
We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.
We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.
When we reduce Sodini’s shootings to the actions of one sick man who just didn’t get the help he needed, we risk normalizing the blatant misogyny pervasive in our culture which motivated the crime in the first place. Violence specifically targeted against women and girls happens every single day across the world. As we begin to move forward in the wake of the violence at LA Fitness, we cannot afford to ignore the institutionalized sexism behind this and many other acts of violence in recent memory.
Title IX has been in effect since 1972, the Williams sisters are at least as famous as their male counterparts, and suburban girls play almost as many sports as boys. But as an article in the Sunday New York Times reports, the war for gender equity in athletics is not yet won.
The article focuses on the Cougars, a girls’ basketball team from Middle School 61 in Brooklyn, New York, and also cites a 2007 study of children’s participation in sports conducted by Don Sabo, a college professor. As the article points out, many struggling school districts simply cannot afford to fund sports, meaning that socioeconomic class is arguably the greater issue at hand. However, gender stereotypes certainly exacerbate the problem:
Although boys in the city also have fewer opportunities in sports [than boys in suburban communities], other factors work in their favor. Lean athletic budgets leave a gap that is filled by a blend of volunteers and private groups that have traditionally served more boys than girls.
“The needs of boys just have always been, and to a large extent remain, the unspoken, often unrecognized priority,” Mr. Sabo said.
The Cougars are a perfect example: they face not only a lack of funding, but opposition from players’ parents, who often want the girls, but not their brothers or male cousins, to stay home and babysit or clean the house.
Government cannot control how a family views the role of a girl at home and in sports. However, there are surely some steps our society can take: federal funding to make athletic programs more accessible for city girls; nonprofits focused more on encouraging female athletic participation; better day care services for working mothers. Girls should not need to be born in a suburb to be able to live out the promise of Title IX.
Following up on our earlier post about Rep. Berman’s proposed legislation to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of officers in the U.S. Foreign Service, we learn that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is on the same track. The New York Times reports that Secretary Clinton recently sent a memo to an association of gay and lesbian Foreign Service officers to inform them that their partners will be offered the same benefits and protections as spouses of heterosexual officers.
“Like all families, our Foreign Service families come in different configurations; all are part of the common fabric of our post communities abroad,” Mrs. Clinton said in the memorandum….
“At bottom,” she said, “the department will provide these benefits for both opposite-sex and same-sex partners because it is the right thing to do.”
Among the benefits are diplomatic passports, use of medical facilities at overseas posts, medical and other emergency evacuation, transportation between posts, and training in security and languages.
And according to the Washington Post, the benefits will be extended to all unmarried couples, same-sex and opposite-sex alike. We are happy to see that the Obama Administration, and Secretary Clinton in particular, recognize that there are many different ways a family can be made.
Civil rights activists are hopeful as New York Governor David Paterson introduced a piece of legislation last week to legalize same-sex marriage in New York. Former Governor Eliot Spitzer introduced the same legislation in 2007, which passed in the state House but died in the state Senate. Widespread support throughout the state makes supporters hopeful.
According to the New York Times, in introducing the legislation, Gov. Paterson “invoked the abolitionist movement of the 1800s, the writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision to argue that New York had neglected civil rights for gays and lesbians for too long. “I’m putting a stop to it,” he said. “We have a duty to make sure equality exists for everyone.”"
Prominent state lawmakers are backing Governor Patterson in support, such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and state Senator Thomas Duane. The legislation does face some opposition, however, particularly from the Roman Catholic Church.
The law would grant same-sex couples the 1300 to 1400 rights that don’t exist unless a couple is married. If the legislation passes, New York will become the fifth state in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage, with Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa. We are encouraged by the support this bill has received throughout New York and hope that it moves through the state legislature quickly.
Filed under Equality, LGBT
The New York Times recently reported on the flare-up of the abortion debate in Brazil after a nine-year-old girl obtained an abortion after being raped by her stepfather. Immediately after the abortion hit the news,
A Brazilian archbishop summarily excommunicated everyone involved – the doctors for performing the abortion and the girl’s mother for allowing it – except for the stepfather, who stands accused of raping the girl over a number of years.
“The law of God is above any human law,” said José Cardoso Sobrinho, the archbishop, who argued that while rape was bad, abortion was even worse.
Brazil is an intensely Catholic country; according to the Feminist Center for Studies and Advisory Services, a group that supports the loosening of the country’s strict abortion laws, 40 of the 50 abortion-related initiatives in Brazil’s Congress seek to further criminalize the procedure. According to the Times article, “One would require home pregnancy tests to carry labels with warnings like ‘The penalty for abortion is one to three years in prison.’”
And although Brazilian law allows for abortion in cases of rape or when the woman’s life is in danger, access to clinics is a huge problem for women and girls:
Most state-financed clinics are in capitals that can be as far as an 11-hour boat ride away, and they are concentrated in the wealthier southeast region. … The 9-year-old girl from Alagoinha sought medical treatment after complaining of pain. But with no legal abortion center near her home, she had to be driven about 140 miles to a state clinic in Recife.
Consequently, illegal abortions are common in the country:
The number of legal abortions of girls ages 10 to 14 more than doubled last year to 49, up from 22 in 2007, the Ministry of Health reported. That was out of 3,050 legal abortions performed last year in a country of more than 190 million. But the vast majority of Brazil’s abortions are not legal. The Ministry of Health estimates about one million unsafe or clandestine abortions every year.
The New York Times printed a telling graphic on Sunday that helps us visualize the wage gap between men and women. The graph shows how much less women make per occupation, and also overall. Economists claim that discrimination against women in the workplace and personal choices made by women in their careers constitute the two main reasons the gap exists. This graph expresses information that is a major concern of women’s rights activists and we have blogged about this issue previously here and here.
Last weekend, the New York Times published an op-ed piece by William Saletan on bridging the divide between liberals and conservatives on the issue of unplanned pregnancy, contraception and abortion. He argues that conservatives oppose contraception and legal abortion because of their moral concerns. Meanwhile, he says liberals support contraception and legal abortion because they see them as practical ways to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.
In the piece, Mr. Saletan cites a 2001 study from the Guttmacher Institute that found that almost half of the women who had abortions in the study were not using contraception in the month they became pregnant. They gave the following reasons for not using contraception:
28 percent said they had thought they wouldn’t get pregnant, 26 percent said they hadn’t expected to have sex and 23 percent said they had never thought about using birth control, had never gotten around to it or had stopped using it. Ten percent said their partners had objected to it. Three percent said they had thought it would make sex less fun.
Mr. Saletan interprets this data to suggest that the abortion rate in the United States isn’t high because of lack of education about or access to contraceptives, it’s because there is a dearth of personal responsibility or recognition that sex without contraception can often lead to pregnancy. He suggests that liberals and conservatives need to stop pitting morality against practicality: conservatives need to accept that contraception is a moral, responsible way to prevent unplanned pregnancies, and liberals need to make the abortion rate an indicator of public health that the president should report during the State of the Union address, in order to make a stronger case for the need for people to take responsibility for their actions and use contraception to avoid unplanned pregnancies.
According to the Associated Press, Hawaii is the closest it has ever been to legalizing civil unions. Just over 10 years ago, Hawaii was the first state to adopt the nation’s first “defense of marriage” constitutional amendment, which granted the state legislature the power to reserve marriage for opposite-sex couples. This amendment, however, leaves open the possibility of civil unions for gay couples. Earlier this month, the state House of Representatives passed the civil union bill, which now awaits approval by the state Senate and possible veto by Republican Governor Linda Lingle. If passed, Hawaii will be the fifth state to legalize civil unions, and the only state in the western United States to do so.
This situation in Hawaii is exemplary of a conversation on civil unions that is being held across America. The issue is reaching a breaking point for many, which speaks to the need for some kind of short-term compromise to avoid long-term disaster. This weekend, the New York Times published an op-ed piece written by two men who have very different views on same-sex marriage but are in agreement on a possible solution. They propose that Congress grant federal civil unions, which would give same-sex couples all or most of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. In compromise, however, the government would recognize the civil unions only in states which provide religious-conscience exceptions, allowing religious organizations the right to not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The compromise might not be ideal for all, but it at least speaks to the possibility of compromise and provides us with some ideas for the future of same-sex marriage in the United States.
You might have noticed that new TV ads for the birth control pill Yaz
are mentioning that the FDA wants them to correct a few points they made in previous ads. The FDA criticized Bayer for overstating the drug’s ability to improve women’s moods and clear up acne, while understating the risks involved.
The FDA (and the attorneys general in 27 states) are requiring Bayer to run the new ads correcting the errors, a marketing campaign that is costing Bayer $20 million.
Yaz is currently the best selling oral hormonal contraception pill in
the United States, which makes the issue of setting the record straight all the more important. To read more about the controversy surrounding the Yaz advertising campaign, check out this New York Times article.
The New York Times published an op-ed piece Sunday that provided a powerful argument for lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the U.S. military. The policy, which developed out of a compromise in 1993, attempted to create a middle ground between Clinton’s civil rights bid for lesbian and gay service members and the conservative argument that homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence of homosexuality, conservatives feared, would affect combat readiness.
This article compels us to consider that “don’t ask, don’t tell” actually goes against the grain of combat readiness. The military has long prided itself on its troops’ diversity, and history has shown us that integrated troops produce the best force. Last year, the two main designers for “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Gen. Colin Powell and Sen. Sam Nunn, publicly acknowledged that the policy should be “reviewed.”
After six years of war, it is important for the United States to be defended by the most talented troops possible. With 80% of Americans in favor of homosexuals serving openly in the military, it appears that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is outdated and indeed in serious need of revision.