Category Archives: Women’s Issues

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?

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!

On Gloria Steinem and Women’s Rights

gloria steinemBack in March, when Gloria Steinem turned 80 (I know, I can’t believe it, either), I found myself pondering our country’s most notable feminist leader and what her work – and the work of so many other women before, during, and since her rise to notoriety – has meant for women both here in the United States and throughout the world.

Because of Steinem’s work and her willingness to speak out on the inequalities that she witnessed toward women in society, the workplace, and academia, my contemporaries and I have enjoyed a wider range of opportunities than our female predecessors did.  Today’s women find themselves more affluent, more powerful, and more respected, perks that enable them to further create even greater opportunities for other girls and women throughout the world. Oprah, Madonna, and Angelina Jolie all build schools for girls; Meryl Streep donates her resources to support the National Women’s History Museum; Christy Turlington-Burns supports maternal health care in developing nations; Salma Hayek raises awareness and aid for battered women; and Charlize Theron works to help decrease the number of young people in Africa who are affected by HIV/Aids.  Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court (followed by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan). while Geraldine Ferraro became the first woman to run on a presidential ticket (followed by Sarah Palin), and Madeleine Albright became the first female Secretary of State (followed by Condoleeza Rice and Hilary Clinton). Today both political junkies and casual observers of current events wait with bated breath for the moment when Hilary Clinton officially announces her intention to break that last glass ceiling in our country: the presidency.

As they say, we’ve come a long way, baby.

And yet, today, as I sit here, over two hundred girls – victims of kidnappings by the terrorist group, Boko Haram – remain missing after more than three weeks.

The world is outraged by this unconscionable crime against innocent girls, and understandably so. To deny girls an education is an offense many of us find inexcusable not just from an equality standpoint, but from an economic one, as well.  But, to remove girls from their school against their wishes and sell them into “marriage”? Unfathomable.

In 2014, almost a century after women in the United States finally won the right to vote (in a country whose founding principles state, “All men are created equal”), women and girls still experience persecution and abuse here and in other parts of the world.

But, things are getting better.  The Nigerian government finally requested outside help in locating the kidnapping victims (although, let’s face it, it’s probably too late for many of those girls) and acknowledged that they need to address the terrorism issues that have plagued the country for several years. Women of influence, such as former First Lady Laura Bush, continue to promote equality in education and economic opportunities (otherwise known as feminism) for women in the Middle East and Africa. Schools throughout the world encourage girls to pursue traditionally male-dominated fields of study such as math and science. And, more and more frequently we see women move into positions of leadership in all aspects of life from business to politics to the arts.

Every week this blog will endeavor to highlight the achievements of women both locally and globally. It will also look at programs in education that seek to provide opportunities for girls to pursue their academic and extra- curricular interests, no matter how conventional – or unconventional – they may be. Additionally, this blog will offer a space to discuss those issues of concern that require attention and will offer suggestions on ways we can continue to combat the inequities our sisters face that prohibit them from reaching their fullest potential spiritually, intellectually, and economically.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey to promote the continuing efforts of those who work to make the world a better place for everyone, regardless of gender.

After all, there is more to women than just lipstick and petticoats….