End The Equal Pay Day “Celebration” – Pass The Paycheck Fairness Act

April 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yet another guest post by the wonderful Katherine A. Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia.

April 12 –- Equal Pay Day –- marks the point in 2011 when women will finally have earned as much as men earned in 2010 alone. This year, Senator Barbara Mikulski and Representative Rosa DeLauro are commemorating this day by reintroducing the Paycheck Fairness Act, a much-needed, first-ever update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Equal Pay Day, however, is not a celebration.

Some may think that legislation like this is not necessary because wage inequity no longer exists. These opponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act point to statistics showing the progress that women have made in the workforce. Indeed, women have made enormous strides when it comes to employment. According to a recent White House report, women’s labor force participation is at the highest rate ever, and their earnings make up a growing share of household incomes. However, the same report also tells us that this progress has not translated into pay equity.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women who work full time still earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar men earn. For African American women and Latinas, the numbers are even worse. In fact, this continuing disparity is the reason that “celebrating” Equal Pay Day is still necessary. At the current rate of “progress,” it could take decades before women reach equal pay and achieve the end of Equal Pay Day, if nothing is done.

In this economic climate working families cannot afford to wait. The entire family feels the pain of wage discrimination. This is more profoundly so as more women are working and supporting families than ever before.

So, how big is the financial punch of the wage gap on a pocketbook?

Economist Evelyn Murphy has estimated that chronic wage discrimination will deprive a woman of between $700,000 and $2 million over a career. This figure grows when the loss of pension and social security benefits is included. The effects of wage discrimination follow its victims for a lifetime.

Unfortunately, over time, loopholes and weak remedies have made one of the laws intended to stop this problem, Equal Pay Act of 1963, less effective in combating wage discrimination. The Paycheck Fairness Act would provide much needed updates to the 48-year-old Equal Pay Act and tackle the most stubborn barriers to fair pay, while balancing the needs of both employees and employers.

The bill requires that employers demonstrate that wage differences between men and women holding the same position and doing the same work stem from criteria unrelated to their gender. Of course, factors such as merit and seniority, for example, remain acceptable reasons for differences in pay. But the bill clarifies that those pay differences must truly be based on reasons other than the sex of their employees.

Often, company policies prohibit employees from telling colleagues about their salary and can even fire them if they do so. To address this problem, the bill prohibits retaliation against workers who ask about a company’s wage practices or tells another employee their wage. However, to balance business’ need for confidentiality in some instances, employees with access to colleagues’ wage information in the course of their work, such as human resources employees, may still be prohibited from sharing that information.

The Paycheck Fairness bill also strengthens penalties for equal pay violations. The bill’s measured approach levels the playing field by ensuring that women can obtain the same remedies as those subject to discrimination on the basis of race or national origin.

At the same time, this legislation provides new tools for employers. It would require the U.S. Department of Labor to provide technical assistance to employers, recognize the achievements of businesses that address the wage gap, and collect wage-related data to better examine the wage gap. In addition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff would receive additional training to better identify and handle wage disputes.

Pay equity is critical not only to families’ economic security, but also to the nation’s economic recovery. It is time for Congress to make pay equity a priority and to end the necessity to “celebrate” Equal Pay Day each year.

Ask Your Members of Congress to Co-Sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act Today!

Intersectionality Snowday: A Feminist Teacher Revolution!

February 10, 2010 § 2 Comments

Two years ago when Miranda and I started a feminism club at our liberal high school in Chelsea, we had chosen a faculty advisor, our global history teacher who openly incorporated feminism into the curriculum. Then, we walked into our English class and our teacher came up and asked us if she could be our advisor too! We celebrated the beauty of two awesome feminists, one who teaches of a patriarchal world with a critical eye and the other who teaches loquacious poetry written by unheard women. It is true that both teachers were in the humanities and it would be awesome to find some feminist science teachers to round out our school, but the point is that we had educators vying to teach feminism and we know that’s a rarity.

Too often, academic feminism is restricted to the college classroom. In Girldrive, Nona Willis Aronowitz articulates her well-deserved skepticism,

We realize its power, but we’ve also noticed how academic feminism alienates young women from concepts they would otherwise be down with…. All we want is conversation and if academic feminism really has become so removed from personal experience that it’s caused emotional paralysis, then we are determined to change that.

Here’s the thing: academic feminism can get so wrapped up in theories and generalizations that it gets disconnected from reality. That reality is that women and men experience sexism conditionally, based on all the intersections of their lives – their personal lives. The academic must be personal in order get young women and young men down with concepts they can relate to. And for the academic to be personal, intersectionality must be acknowledged, celebrated, and taught in the mainstream. And that’s especially hard when there’s such a clear socioeconomic gap between women’s studies curricula at various universities.

Next year, I plan to attend super-liberal and well-to-do Wesleyan University. Currently, Wesleyan offers 19 women’s studies courses and offers a major in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. And they better offer this many courses, seeing as Wesleyan costs $54,000 a year. I was also considering SUNY Geneseo, a public small liberal arts college with roughly the same number of students as Wesleyan, though it costs $48,000 less. SUNY Geneseo currently offers only three women’s studies courses. Unfortunately, there is a direct correlation between the escalating tuition of higher education and the number of women’s studies classes offered.

This is a problem. A dramatic disparity between the number of women’s studies courses offered at private versus public institutions means that only a certain part of the population is being educated on feminism. And let’s face it – those who go Wesleyan are already pretty knowledgeable on feminism whereas those who attend public universities come from a much wider range of backgrounds and need this education the most. Sure, it’s easy to celebrate intersectionality at a university that is known for being politically correct, but what about in a university that actually has a ton of students from backgrounds that provide the means for intersectional discussions? Shouldn’t that university offer courses devoted to such conversation?

I propose a solution. Academic feminism, as confined to the campus bubble, is nice and safe. It’s hard to pinpoint patriarchy as it affects us on a personal level when we sit in a classroom with around twenty women and one man in a college that is made up of mostly women in a town so crummy that quads have become the most immediate society we interact with. Of course Nona’s critique of the removal of academic feminism from personal experience occurs. There is little personal experience to draw from in such a setting. That is why feminism must be taught before the university bubble is blown, way before it is to be popped a few years down the road, academic feminism potentially leaving its students defenseless in the real world of personal experience.

Feminism must be taught in K-12 classrooms. And not just in yuppie high schools in Chelsea. Feminism must be taught in inner-city schools where students have personal experiences with domestic violence and rape. Feminism must be taught in Catholic schools where girls are taught to be chaste and purity rings are celebrated. Feminism must be taught in Jewish Day Schools where the religious classes are taught almost exclusively in a male lexicon. Feminism must be taught in all schools where, to quote the blog Equality 101, “history courses continue to obliterate women who have made marks on society and culture.”

To teach feminism in the classroom not only gets more students to identify as feminists, but it broadens the spectrum of whom a feminist is. When a feminist can be a kindergarten student who is genuinely pissed off that her arithmetic talents aren’t being as valued as that of her male peers, we are making progress. In the K-12 classroom, the academic is inherently personal. Us high school students deal with sexism daily – at home, work, school, extra-curriculars, the books we read, with friends…just fill in the blank. We need a feminist teacher revolution to incorporate equality into the curriculum. Why is this basic concept, one that promotes inclusion of personal experience, so revolutionary when it comes to the classroom, the youth that represent our future?

Grinnell Fun Facts

August 23, 2009 § 2 Comments

Since I haven’t been doing anything remotely intellectual for orientation, this is going to be a baby post. Here are some funny facts I learned about Grinnell campus:

  1. Formerly the section of campus where only women lived, South campus has some pretty hysterical architectural differences from all of the other sections. For example, the loggias (covered walkways) are not open air like the all the others on campus. They have beautiful glass windows. Know why? Because women should never have to walk in the cold Iowa winters. Haha, guess what. No one should have to do that. Ever.
  2. All of the kitchens on South campus come equipped with ironing boards. For us womenfolk to do the ironing.
  3. Just learned this one, it may be my favorite so far: the Loose dorm (holla!) was notoriously the hall for “loose women” because the window locks are the easiest to break for late night collegiate trysts.

I found those details pretty amusing when I first heard them, I really hope you enjoyed!

History of Infant Feeding in the US

July 31, 2009 § Leave a comment

Hi AGAIN! I’m on a roll.

This is a paper I wrote last semester for my US Women’s History class. It’s a little stiff (because I was dying to graduate) but I find the subject matter extremely interesting. Also, I cite my mommy, lactation consultant Bev Solow!

Enjoy!

Quotes That Are Deeply Disturbing: Nixon on Abortion

June 24, 2009 § 1 Comment

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape.

– President Richard M. Nixon on January 23, 1973

Students Speak: Letters From Kartini

May 27, 2009 § 3 Comments

Letters From Kartini – by Nia, a high school junior.

Schools were named after her, books were written about her, songs were composed in her name, even a national holiday was dedicated to her; Kartini was the Indonesian symbol of women empowerment and self-determination.

I remember when I was still in elementary school, we had annual celebration of Hari Kartini (Kartini Day) where the students had to dress up in traditional clothing from different provinces and walk down a runaway. We sang her songs and went around trying to guess which province our clothing came from. Although the students seemed oblivious of the tradition’s relevance to the celebration of Kartini and saw it just as another free day, I thought it was intended to remind the students of the diversity we have in our country, which Kartini truly embraced.

Raden Ajeng Kartini was born in 1879 into an aristocrat Javanese family, in time when Java was still part of the Dutch colony. During this time, women and girls received little or no education; only some and those with the status were allowed to go a Dutch school. Kartini’s father, Raden Mas Sosroningrat, who was the mayor of Jepara, allowed her to go to a Dutch elementary school with her brothers. Here she met her Dutch friends and learned Dutch, which was highly unusual for Indonesian women. Kartini continued her education until she was twelve when her father prohibited her from continuing her studies. According to Javanese tradition, daughters must be kept at home after finishing elementary education. A noble girl was not allowed to have a higher education; she had to be secluded at home. This was a common practice among Javanese nobility, to prepare young girls for their marriage. The girls were not allowed to go out at all until they were married, when authority over them was transferred to their husbands.

Kartini was kept home for four years, she poured out her despair through letters to her friends in Holland. In her letter to her friend Stella Zeehanderlaar, she explained how she was not proud of her privileged status. A “modern girl,” in Kartini’s definition, is proud, independent, self-reliant, enthusiastic and warm. Most importantly, one who works for her own happiness and the greater good of humanity. The majority of her letters protest the tendency of Javanese culture to impose obstacles for the development of women. She wanted women to have the freedom to learn and study.

On 8 November 1903, Kartini was married to Raden Adipati Djojoadiningrat. With his permission, she opened the first women elementary school near their home. The school taught women and girls to read and make handicrafts. Kartini’s school was a breakthrough in Indonesian education field. It was the first school open to Indonesians regardless of their status and gender. The school put moral education above the mind’s education.

Sadly, Kartini passed away a year later after giving birth to her first child. Inspired by Kartini, the Van Deventer family, friends of Kartini, established the Kartini Foundation which built schools for women, Sekolah Kartini (Kartini’s School) were established in Semarang in 1912, followed by other women’s schools in Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Malang, Madiun, Cirebon and other areas.

Although now Kartini is merely remembered as the Indonesian feminist who struggled for women equality, I remember her as the brave and intelligent woman who struggled in a society with a tremendously strong intellectual tradition, where women had no voice, even in family affairs. Kartini’s “fight” may not be comparable to the long, hard struggle that American women had to go through to attain their right to vote during the same period of time, but I find it intriguing how Kartini was able to promote women equality and empowerment for all Indonesian women simply through letters. I have not found a single speech that Kartini publicly delivered, but found dozens of letters, even documented in a book, that inspired her friends, young and elder women all over the country to fight for their freedom, starting from getting educated.

Because of Kartini and other heroines who fought for Indonesian independence, like Cut Nyak Dien, Indonesia was able to grow as a country that already had women equality and democracy engrained in her principles. The reason that my grandmother, my mother, and I were able to freely attend school without gender discrimination was because of the courage and confidence that Kartini had for Indonesian women, that we have the power to make a change. Although Indonesia is still considered a “developing” country, I am still proud that the girls in Indonesia have equal amount of rights to receive the same level of education as any other boys. Moreover, even with some traditional norms and economic struggles still fighting against education for girls, it is still relieving to acknowledge that our core foundation as a nation believes that women have the power and voice to make change.

Previously in Students Speak: Beware The Virtual Babes, by Luke; Spice Up YOUR Relationship, by Jennifer

The Stoning of Soraya M.

May 5, 2009 § 4 Comments

The description of the movie says:

The women, stripped of all rights and without recourse, nobly confront the overwhelming desires of corrupt men who use and abuse their authority to condemn Soraya, an innocent but inconvenient wife, to an unjust and torturous death. A shocking and true drama, it exposes the dark power of mob rule, uncivil law, and the utter lack of human rights for women.

My interest was piqued when I saw this trailer so I decided to look up the case of Soraya M. I didn’t find much, but it I did find that she was an Iranian woman in an arranged marriage with an abusive husband who no longer wanted to be married to her, so he accused her of adultery and because of this lie, she was eventually stoned by a group of men. (Please correct me if my facts are off.)

I want to see this so badly, yet have been unable to find the release date anywhere near me. I’ve read October 2008, February 2009, and July 2009 and yet, up until just now, I haven’t heard anything about it. I think this film is important and has the potential to be eye opening (especially since the civil rights of women are violated particularly in the Middle East very often, even currently), but the cynical part of me doubts that many people will see it — after all, where’s the appeal in a movie released this summer that’s not about robots?

Spread the word!

Homework Help

April 13, 2009 § 2 Comments

So, I have to write a 15 page research paper for my U.S. Women’s History class due at the end of May. Our research proposal is due next week, and I am kind of at a loss. There are so many things I want to write about, and I definitely want to write about something feministy.

Some ideas I’ve had so far are tokenism and feminism, (a post on this topic is in the works), the portrayal of Latinas in the media (based on the recent Dora the Explorer image controversy), or maybe researching the history of sexual assault.

I would love any suggestions for an interesting research topic.

Perspective

March 9, 2009 § 2 Comments

Via Merda D’Artista, a nice visual representation of something important to keep in mind as we celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th and Women’s History Month all March long.

That once-a-year reminder

March 8, 2009 § Leave a comment

Happy International Women’s Day!

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