October 27th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
The language we use can say a lot, sometimes without us even recognizing it. Language euphemisms are the “disguised” stories we sometimes use to describe our actions. For example, unethical and potentially fraudulent bookeeping may be called “creative accounting practices.” We have “collateral damage” in military actions, not civilian deaths. Language euphemisms themselves may not be dangerous. In fact, they can help simplify some of the complexities of our world. But I sometimes worry about the attitudes underlying some of the euphemisms.
For example, what if we say it isn’t “rape,” it’s “entitlement?” Or, that forcing sex on a woman is just “entertainment?”
A study on the prevalence of rape published this month in The Lancet Global Health Journal surveyed more than 10,000 men between the ages of 18 and 49 from six Asian countries (Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka). The study found that when the word “rape” was not used in the survey, more men admitted to forcing sex on a woman who was not their partner. When they were asked why they forced themselves on women, 73% said it was because of “entitlement.” And 59% said they raped for “entertainment.”
Sadly, I don’t believe for a minute that using such euphemisms as a justification for rape is limited to men from the six countries studied. Until we can all name it for what it is, not only are the attitudes dangerous, but also the words.
September 27th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
Groups in Montana are calling for the removal of a judge who issued a particularly lenient sentence last month to a high school teacher for raping his 14-year-old student. Stacey Rambold was convicted of the rape and sentenced to 15 years in prison by District Judge G. Todd Baugh, who then completely suspended all but 30 days of the sentence. Adding insult to injury, the judge justified the light sentence by stating that the victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist. The victim, Cherice Morales, committed suicide before the case went to trial.
The last time I checked, when the law defines rape as sex with a minor, it doesn’t matter if she was more mature than her chronological age. And in a classroom setting, teachers have the power, not the students. It’s hard to believe that the victim was truly in control of the situation. Judge Baugh’s ruling is indicative of the misogynistic attitude that if a woman (or girl) is raped, it’s because she was “asking for it.”
Fortunately, the Montana National Organization for Women, MoveOn.org, and other women’s advocacy organizations have submitted petitions with more than 140,000 signatures calling for Baugh’s removal to the State commission regulating judges. Let’s hope the commission isn’t as off base as Judge Baugh clearly is.
August 28th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
I turned on the MTV Video Music Awards the other night because I wanted to see Lady Gaga perform. And I was not disappointed. But then there came Miley Cyrus. After watching her performance, which shocked, saddened and appalled me, I turned the TV off.
John S. Dickerson’s opinion piece in USA Today this morning gets it right. We own some responsibility (and blame and shame) for encouraging such inappropriate public behavior by young women. We encourage it through our viewing and purchasing habits, which tell young girls like Miley Cyrus that they will be loved, valued, popular, if they “get as naked as possible and behave the way sex slaves are forced to in countries where women are chained to beds and beaten.”
My biggest fear is that the post VMA chat about Cyrus will encourage her to behave this way even more. And that other young girls will be encouraged to follow in her footsteps. When we choose to watch programs that value girls and young women for something other than their bodies, only then will the kind of public display we witnessed stop being valued by our society.
August 24th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
For years, professional business women like me learned (sometimes the hard way), that in order to succeed we had to behave more like “the guys.” Look at business fashion for women over the last 20 to 30 years, and you’ll see what I mean. Remember those button-down blouses with the bow neckties (that were always coming undone)? Remember the boxy pantsuits? Today’s business fashion for women has changed, and fortunately, so has some of the conventional wisdom on what it takes to be a successful leader. The corporate world is beginning to recognize (albeit slowly) that some characteristics commonly demonstrated by women are actually good for business.
But there’s just one little problem.
A recent article by Dana Theus in SmartBlog on Leadership warns us that current day messages about what it takes to be an effective leader may be dangerous for us women. Why? Because some of them are intended “to help men overcompensate for some testosterone-induced bad habits. These bad boss habits include lack of empathy, rigidity and egotism.”
Unfortunately, those particular characteristics are typically not problem areas for women. Discover three leadership “truths” women should ignore and why we should be “filtering out the stuff the guys need”, but we don’t.
July 13th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
On her 16th birthday, Malala Yousafzai addressed the U.N. Youth Assembly, continuing her advocacy efforts to ensure that girls around the world have access to education. Her speech is riveting, inspiring, and a call to action for all of us. It is traditional to give gifts to someone on their birthday. Today, Malala gives us a gift of inspiration instead.
June 7th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
I’ve written about equal pay so much lately (or more accurately, bemoaning the lack of it), that I was invited to write a guest blog posting about it on the singlemom.com website. Needless to say, I’m humbled to have been asked. Singlemom.com is a website that provides advice, resources and other information to help single moms succeed. They’ve featured Soroptimist in the past, including our Women’s Opportunity Award Program.
Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. Check out my guest blog posting here, and find out why advocating for equal pay for equal work remains so important today.
May 27th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
As we celebrate Memorial Day with its picnics and family gatherings, it is common for us to remember and express gratitude for those who have served our country, protecting our rights and freedoms.
But I was saddened today to read that America’s fastest growing homeless population are women veterans. The armed forces continues to be a male dominated environment–as are the institutions serving veterans. With more and more women serving in the armed forces, not only do we need to do something about the rise in military sexual assault, we also need to do something to ensure they have access to gender-specific services when they return home.
Note: In case the hyperlink above doesn’t work, here’s the URL of the article in Salon.com about homeless women veterans.
April 29th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
The April issue of Harvard Business Review includes several articles of interest for those concerned about women’s economic empowerment (or what appears to be getting in the way of it). One of the most interesting pieces is this month’s “Vision Statement,” a visual representation of the status of women by country created by Booz and Company using data from the World Bank. You might want to look at it from two perspectives: (1) how your own country is doing, and (2) the relationship between policies guaranteeing women and girls access to education and employment and their economic success.
Some of the countries where women are experiencing better economic success may surprise you (China)–while others, sadly, will be no surprise at all.
April 7th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
Tuesday, April 9 marks the day on which women will finally have earned what men earned in 2012. Studies continue to document that full-time working women, on average, earn about 77 cents for every dollar a man earns for comparable work. This wage gap is even wider for women of color, and affects both women without children and those who are mothers. The National Women’s Law Center has compiled a number of useful fact sheets and other resources to help explain the short- and long-term impacts of the wage gap on women and their families. And for those of us in the United States, they’ve got an interactive state-by-state breakdown of the issue.
I dream of a year when Equal Pay Day occurs in January, February or March, because we’ve been able to narrow the wage gap. Or even better, a year when equal pay for equal work is celebrated because it has become a reality, and is no longer just an economic empowerment dream for women and girls.
March 29th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
In my last post I highlighted that the number of women in CEO positions globally has increased from 9 to 14%, with much of the growth in China. CBS Moneywatch reports that a multi-year study of leadership characteristics found that women “outscore men on leadership effectiveness.” So why aren’t there more women running corporations? One reason appears to be that corporate boards of directors don’t realize the qualities essential to successfully navigating the challenges of modern-day leadership are more likely to be found in women than men. They also don’t see that many women serving as CEO’s. And if you don’t see it, it’s harder to believe that a woman can be it.