Category Archives: sexism

On the Supreme Court, Hobby Lobby, and Women’s Rights

Supreme Court JusticesThere is a lot of buzz around the Internet today as individuals and media outlets weigh in with their personal thoughts and opinions regarding the Supreme Court’s narrow support in favor of Hobby Lobby’s assertion that providing insurance coverage that pays for certain  birth control methods for employees violates their religious freedom. While I feel it is a dangerous position to start protesting Supreme Court decisions (they, after all, DO possess a much greater understanding about the constitution than I), I can’t help but wonder what on earth they were thinking in this instance.

As I often do when I feel inundated with editorials and public verdicts regarding controversial subjects, I turned to the Brookings Institution for guidance and clearer understanding. Fortunately, I found the following piece that offers educated insight on the recent SCOTUS ruling:

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/fixgov/posts/2014/06/30-hobby-lobby-religious-freedom-rauch

I encourage all of you to head over and read this post, as it explains some nuances that most of the general public won’t understand (although, it also points out the dangers of allowing corporations to disregard government regulations on the basis of religious freedom). Most importantly, the article explains the difference in a constitutional ruling versus an interpretation of a statute.

Unfortunately, though, this ruling does have implications regarding the public’s regard and treatment of women, which are very succinctly outlined in my daughter’s Facebook post today:

“I cannot say this better than my UChicago classmate, so I’m copy/pasting her statement:

‘Upon learning that I’ve spent time in India and care deeply about engaging with the region’s culture, people often point to stories in Western media regarding the status of women in Indian society (mainly focusing on stories of rape), posing in many ways questions that essentially ask, “How can you reconcile with the way women are treated over there? How can you handle it?”
Many of these people – my friends, family, classmates – seem to lose sight of the fact that they, too, live in a society that marginalizes women and limits opportunities for more than half the population every day.
Of course, there are varying degrees of aggression. I don’t mean to equate atrocities such as the – now infamous – rape in Delhi on a public bus in December 2012 with this less (overtly; physically) violent court decision, but I feel it incredibly important to think critically and be aware of the systemic and institutionalized nature of gender inequality that acts similarly and is perpetuated in each case.
This post could be about many things – neo-colonialism, capitalism, media sensationalism and how we consider our own learned cultural norms. But it all boils down to this: next time you think about the way that women are treated “over there,” check your American exceptionalism (however subconcious it may be), and take a second to consider how your mothers, sisters, daughters, friends – how YOU – are treated as lesser and other within the ostensible structure of freedom on which we pride ourselves so greatly. How can you handle it?'”

So, I suppose the question for the Supreme Court now is this, “What, if any, implications do you see developing as a result of this ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby? Does this ruling then open up a new case for the constitutionality of such denials by corporations? And how will such a ruling affect similar medical procedures for men – most specifically, medications and procedures associated with erectile dysfunction or vasectomy?”

Any thoughts?

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On Education and Girls

School girl in Sri Lanka

School girl in Sri Lanka

All my life my mother encouraged me to attend college, obtain a degree, and procure a job before I married. Her reasoning for pushing me toward an education and a career rested on the fact that for many women in her generation college – and its resulting career path – was not a viable option available to them. In 1965 Congress passed the Higher Education Act (HEA), which created Federal funding opportunities for students from low-income families. In 1972 the HEA was further enhanced by the passage of Title IX, as well as various amendments through the late 1970’s, thus making college a realistic option for low- and middle-income students, especially women. By the time I graduated from high school, in 1984, government grants and various scholarships created options for higher education for anyone who chose to continue his or her education beyond the secondary level, not just the very wealthy.

These changes – especially Title IX – instituted a shift in the population demographic at colleges and universities across the U.S. At my alma mater, the University of Florida, which did not admit women until 1947, the number of women enrollees has exceeded men since 1998. This trend mirrors the rest of the country, where women have steadily outnumbered men at both public and private colleges and universities since the 1970’s, bringing the ratio of male to female students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions to 40-60.

So, what does all this mean for women and Society in general?

It means greater opportunity for our girls. It means greater opportunity for our economy. It means better, more fulfilling adulthood, marriages, and families for our children – both our boys and our girls.

It means that our country thrives when ALL members have equal opportunity for education and employment.

Knowing how education of all children benefits our society here in the U.S., imagine how global poverty might be impacted if girls around the world are provided the same educational opportunities as boys. The effects of educating girls and reducing global illiteracy rates can be seen through the efforts of such groups as Save the Children and the United Nations. When women are educated, they are “more likely to send their children (especially girls) to school, become more economically self-reliant, and more actively engaged in their country’s social, political, and cultural life.” (Global Female Illiteracy by Nadiya Omar)

While major obstacles exist in areas such as rural Pakistan (where the literacy rate among women is a mere 8%) and Guinea (where the literacy rate for men is 50% compared to 26% for women), both government and non-government organizations are making some headway in demonstrating the positive impact and economic importance of educating girls. Infant mortality rates, juvenile deaths, maternal childbirth fatalities, credit services, and economic prosperity are all linked to literacy. Unfortunately, many extremely rural areas are dominated by religious culture that prohibits educating girls – a gross misinterpretation of Islam – and thus leaders of these communities are most resistant to instituting change in their educational practices. (Omar) Fortunately, the United Nations, through the work of its various branches such as UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) and UNGEI (United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative) has led the way in combating global illiteracy by launching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are part of the Global Partnership for Development. In 2000, world leaders adopted eight goals, set to be achieved by 2015, that are both global and local. The main purpose of the MDGs is to ensure that human development will reach everyone, everywhere, cutting world poverty in half, thereby saving tens of millions of lives.

Educating girls clearly sits at the top of this list of goals.

Organizations such as The Borgen Project, CARE, Camfed, Central Asia Institute, Developments in Literacy, and The Girl Effect all work toward improving educational opportunities for girls throughout the world.  Through the power of technology you, too, can get involved in educating the world’s girls. Simply click on any of the above links, or head over to Educating Girl Matters, and select the organization that appeals to you and your concerns. All of these organizations provide information about the global crisis of illiteracy among girls as well as ways individuals can get involved in helping overcome the crisis.

So, go, click, learn, and help. But don’t go without telling us about your own educational experiences in the comments section below! Did your family promote education for girls? Were you aware of the crisis of illiteracy among women? Do you currently support these or any other organizations that work to educate girls?

On Golf Digest and Paulina Gretzky

spring iphone 2012 076My boys love the game of golf. They love the lingo: “Hey, Mom, have you seen my balls?” “Dad, I need a stiffer shaft.” (Get your minds out of the gutter – that is legitimate golfing terminology. The boys use these terms when discussing their equipment. Their golf equipment. Geesh.) They love the Golf Channel and Holly Sonders. They love the 19th hole. And, of course, they love playing round after round with the other fine gentlemen who frequent our local golf course.

Like the good mom I am, I, too, have grown to appreciate the finer points of golf – such as enjoying a glass of wine along with appetizers while seated on the golf course veranda watching the boys practice nearby and offering up a silent prayer of gratitude over the fact that I never have to discuss their wardrobe choices whenever they head out to the course in their club-approved attire of golf slacks and polos.

I even attended a practice round at the 2012 Ryder Cup in Chicago.

My knowledge of all things golf increases daily. For instance, I have learned that one son’s favorite golfer is Tiger while the other son has had his tweets re-tweeted by golf pro Dustin Johnson.

Which leads me to today’s topic.

What the heck was Golf Digest thinking when they put Paulina Gretzky – Dustin Johnson’s fiancé – on this month’s cover?

Yes, she’s gorgeous and her dad is hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Also, I’m sure she’s a great girl. But, people, she’s not a golfer. At least former college golf standout Holly Sonders actually works in the industry (the popular Golf Channel personality appeared on the cover of Golf Digest in May 2013). To make things worse, Golf Digest decided to use pictures of Gretzky in capri leggings and a sports bra for its May issue. Because every golf course accepts sports bras and capris as appropriate golfing attire.

No, actually, the bra top is there because sex sells, and Golf Digest – the country’s leading golf publication – has stooped to selling sex instead of information about the game of golf.

So, why all the controversy?

Because there are plenty of women golfers who actually play golf for a living and are much more deserving of gracing the cover of a magazine whose main objective is to disseminate information about the sport than some guy’s pretty girlfriend with cleavage in a halter top.

Over 450 women belong to the LPGA – the longest continuing women’s professional sports organization in the United States – and, to date, LPGA players have only appeared solo on the cover of Golf Digest eleven times since 1969. The most recent cover featuring an LPGA player was with Lorena Ochoa back in August 2008.

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See, here we are on Broadway.

I realize that the magazine wants to sell issues. I also know that magazines – Golf Digest included – often use models and celebrities to attract readers. But to feature a scantily clad woman whose only connection to the sport is the fact that she is engaged to a professional golfer is like putting me on the cover of Broadway magazine just because I saw Wicked last March. (Although, I WOULD make a great Elsa in Disney’s upcoming Broadway production of Frozen. I can really belt out those high notes in “Let it Go”. Watch out, Idina Menzel.)

Yes, featuring Paulina Gretzky on the cover of Golf Digest will bring recognition to the magazine. And I’m sure my boys will spend plenty of time examining Gretzky’s cleavage grip when their issue arrives in the mail. But that’s not what results in gaining subscribers for the long run. Because, the truth is, if men just want a magazine that shows women in bikinis there are plenty of others to choose from. Putting Gretzky on the cover and attempting to justify the decision as anything other than a gratuitous sales ploy is insulting to our intelligence. For the most part, Golf Digest subscribers actually want to read about golf. The boys who pick up the Gretzky issue at the newsstand will be “one and done” – not dedicated golf enthusiasts eager to learn how to fix their slice or break 80 on their next round out on the links.

And as for women golfers? Well, I doubt the magazine will enjoy an increase in female subscribers for quite some time after this blatant display of sexism. Which is really too bad because one of the great things about golf is that it is a game that both men and women, young and old, can play and compete in together.

So, I’ve had my rant. Now it’s your turn. What do you think? Have you heard about the Paulina Gretzky cover? Do you find Golf Digest’s decision to put her on its cover offensive? What do you think about the magazine industry’s penchant for employing underhanded techniques in an effort to sell more issues at the newsstand? Is there a problem – and, if so, is there a solution? Keep the discussion going in the comments section below!