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      David Cay Johnston really lets the Obama administration have it for refusing to prosecute bankers: With a track record like that, you might think Black would have been the first person President Barack Obama called when he took office five years ago as the economy was being gutted because of reckless and rapacious banking practices […]
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The Chicken or the Ovary

Take a look at this startling graphic from a recent article at the NYTimes on the brick wall that equality for women has hit in the US.  This graphic represents official policies around the world for paid maternity leave:

I can’t believe this is accurate.  In my mind, there is absolutely no way in Hell we could lag behind Afghanistan.  It makes me want to move to Canada.

But even if Afghanistan is not as progressive as this graphic purports, it is absolutely true that we lag behind the most developed countries of the world and those which have the highest standard of living.  There have been other studies that show that the greater the number of female elected representatives in a country, the higher standard of living.

What Stephanie Coontz, the author of the article, does not explain is how things got to be so bad here in the US.  Why did the progress towards gender equality stall here in the US as this graphic shows?  What factors caused it to hit a brick wall in the US but not in Britain or France or Canada?  If I reach back into my memory banks to when progress stalled, I think the problem started right around the time I was in college in the 1980s.  Those were the Reagan years.  That’s when Anita Bryant was touting the virtues of orange juice and the vices of homosexuality and Phyllis Schlafly hit her stride.  It was also a period of intensification of the Cold War and the rise of the religious right.

I think there is something else going on here that has allowed the forces of reactionary conservatism dig its talons into American society to the point of imperiling it permanently.  I think it is the mythology that we grew up with that we’re number one.  That attitude that we’re free and have liberty in greater degree than other countries might just be an artifact of the case that we have enough power in our nuclear arsenal to blow the rest of the world to smithereens.  We’re “free” because no one dares mess with us.  Of course, that is only one possible interpretation of the word “freedom”.

But if our concept of freedom derives from our military strength, then is it any surprise that the genders are unequal in this society?  And now that women are allowed in combat, will gender equality improve?  After all, up until this year, women were precluded from being equal participants *officially* in activities that have been highly prized in our country since the cold war.  If we are a military society, is full participation the only route to equality in the US until it is achieved?

And what about the role of international billionaires, the James Bond villains that have now taken over the world? Do they see gender inequality as a means to breaking labor protections and bringing workers to their knees?  Will we see an uptick in gender related issues in places like Spain, Ireland and Greece or were the seeds of their current economic problems already present because of endemic gender inequality compared to their neighbors?

Just curious.  Other perspectives welcome.

One other thing that this graphic says to me is that as far as the US workforce is concerned, we are already at the bottom of the pile when it comes to labor protections.  There really isn’t any barrier to employers ripping the economic floor out from under us and they’ve done just that in the past decade or so.  That’s because women now make up a good proportion of the workforce and our wages are lower, our employment protections are there in theory but not in practice and paid maternity leave is just an illusion.  If you’ve got it from your employer, know that it’s a gift to you, not your right.  It’s probably calculated based on how much vacation and sick time you have, if you get any at all.  You come back to work exhausted and impoverished from spending your money on daycare.  And in this employment climate, you may not come back to a job at all.  What were you thinking by getting pregnant when there is so much to do and a zillion people waiting for your job?  If you can afford a kid, you can afford to stay home and give some other breadwinner your job.  Right?

The only solace there is to this workplace environment is the knowledge that it can’t last.  The MBAs and business majors are evolving the workplace so rapidly to optimize as much efficiency out of each worker that it’s getting to be impossible to get any work done at all.  We see this in the banking industry and the pharma industry most significantly.  Change for change sake is not necessarily a good way to do business.  There are limits and we are reaching ours.

The 30 Percent Solution: Why Democratic Women Are Voting for McCain/Palin

You Said It, Sister!
You Said It, Sister!

When I read Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s book, “Rumors of Our Progress Have Been Greatly Exaggerated,” I felt as if I had been sleep-walking through the past twenty years of my life. (I hope that soon I will have the long-promised interview with the Congresswoman for your reading pleasure, but she is obviously quite busy on her book tour!) Through a devastating, methodical collection of facts and figures, the Congresswoman builds an airtight case for her premise: American women have NOT come a long way, baby.

Sexual harrassment suits are still routinely filed at places that are designated by female-led organizations as woman-friendly. Women still make 77% less money than men for doing the same job. Although many other countries, including the not-so-forward-thinking Pakistan and India, have had female heads of state, we Americans are still not quite able to bring ourselves to elect a female president, although many qualified women have tried and failed. Our business community has little to no support for women who want to participate in the workforce; no places for breastfeeding, no help for those who need daycare, and maternity leave for most is a thing of the past, having been replaced by “disability pay” – as if having a child were a disability! And as for a woman’s right to control her own body, although 6 years of Republican control over Congress, the Executive Branch and the Supreme Court has not led to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, certain factions within the Republican Party never seem to stop trying to chip away at reproductive choice. Just recently, HHS Secretary Leavitt put forth a proposal erroneously declaring some forms of birth control as abortifacients, thus opening the door to more “conscientious refusals” by anti-choice health professionals to prescribe them. Finally, the ERA has been dead in the water since it failed to pass in the 1970′s, the last time that a demonstrated, concentrated push for womens’ rights occurred.

Maloney’s excellent book offers practical, real-world solutions for many of these problems; among them, lobbying for specific legislation and networking with women in business to get more females into the top slots in Fortune 500 companies. But when all is said and done, the overwhelming thing we all must do is to elect more women to local, state and federal government. Why? Because of the 30% Solution.

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