Focus on Women

Amnesty’s Misguided Resolution

August 17th, 2015 . by Cathy Standiford

On August 11 Amnesty International’s (AI) governing body adopted a resolution supporting the legalization of “consensual” sex work.    You can read the press release regarding this decision here.  Frankly, I’ve been a bit angry about it.  I haven’t been a supporter of AI for many years, primarily because I decided to focus my charitable giving on organizations that work to help women and girls (like Soroptimist).  But this action will certainly prevent me from ever donating to AI again.

The organization has received sufficient backlash on the proposed (now adopted vote) to create Frequently Asked Questions about it.  I’ve read it, and it sure seems like AI is talking out of both sides of their mouth.  On the one hand, they state they oppose human trafficking in all forms.  Yet they have adopted a policy that decriminalizes prostitution–the most common destination for women being trafficked.  They have chosen to ignore the Nordic model (Sweden, Denmark) that criminalizes the purchase of sex because “operational aspects – like purchasing sex and renting premises to sell sex in – are still criminalized. This compromises sex workers safety and leaves them vulnerable to abuse.”  And yet Sweden and other countries that have criminalized the purchase of sex have seen significant declines in the incidence of human trafficking by as much as 70%.

The problem with AI’s resolution is that it assumes the “consensual” sale of sex is the norm.  The average age girls enter prostitution in the United States is 12 to 14 years of age–and it is rarely consensual.  (Actually, under federal law, it’s automatically considered to be trafficking if the victim is younger than 18.)  Is AI really advocating to legalize child rape?

In 2010 Soroptimist adopted a resolution on “Prostituted Women and Girls”.  Here’s what it says:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that Soroptimist clubs condemn prostitution as violence against women and undertake the following activities in order to end the prostitution of women and girls and decrease trafficking:

  1. Support laws and programs that assist the victims of prostitution and do not treat them like criminals
  2. Advocate for laws that criminalize the buying of sex
  3. Encourage education (including workshops with former prostitutes) for purchasers of sex
  4. Promote school programs that teach young people about healthy intimate relationships
  5. Fight efforts to legalize prostitution
  6. Work to change the attitudes about prostitution from the “world’s oldest profession” to the “world’s oldest oppression”
  7. Have frank and open discussions about prostitution with the men and boys in our lives and the effect it has on women, girls and relationships
  8. Oppose efforts to treat prostitution as a legitimate occupation (Emphasis added)

If you’ve been wanting to flex your advocacy muscles, this would be a good cause.  We need to let AI know that we oppose their resolution due to the harm it will cause to women and girls.

 

The Good, Bad and Ugly about FIFA Women’s World Cup

July 6th, 2015 . by Cathy Standiford

It was so exciting to see the U.S. Women’s National Team win the Women’s World Cup yesterday.  I watched many Women’s World Cup (WWC) matches over the last few weeks (i.e., not just those involving the US) and noticed some interesting differences between World Cup Soccer as played by women and men.

  • WWC had far fewer yellow cards–and no red cards for flagrant and dangerous fouls
  • No biting (then again, no Luis Suarez playing)
  • WWC had fewer flagrant dives (acrobatic efforts to elicit a foul from the referees, even though no foul was committed)

There were just as many low-scoring games, just as much drama, and just as much excitement as men’s World Cup.  The France-Germany game was particularly spectacular, ending in penalty kicks.

And yet there is a significant, ugly difference between the men’s and women’s World Cup.  FIFA paid the US Women’s National Team $2 million for winning it all–but last year they paid men’s world cup soccer teams $8 million, even if they lost in the first round.  What makes it worse is that FIFA doesn’t see anything wrong with the pay inequity.

Now I get it that the WWC may not attract as many advertisers or as much international interest, despite big gains in viewers this year (highest ratings for women’s world cup matches–ever).  So some could argue that women deserve less money because they bring in less revenue to FIFA.  But given the allegations of rampant corruption in the FIFA organization, even that argument seems weak.  And when FIFA’s General Secretary says paying women the same is “nonsense,” and that it will take 23 more World Cups for them to achieve pay equity (that’s another 92 years), well that’s just wrong.

If you think women soccer teams should get paid the same as men, sign a petition to make a stink about the current pay inequity. Find it here.

 

 

 

Focus on Pay Equity, Not Work-Life Balance

June 26th, 2015 . by Cathy Standiford

Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times highlights another pay equity lawsuit–this one filed by women lawyers who had been working for Farmers Insurance.  The lawsuit claims not only were they paid less than men (some of whom had less experience), they also experienced retaliation just for requesting equal pay.  I’ve read too many media reports that suggest women earn less because they don’t ask for more.  This lawsuit indicates a different reality — asking for fair and equal compensation can have negative, career-detrimental consequences.

Rather than talk about how to achieve work-life balance, perhaps we need to have a different conversation:  how to ensure pay equity for all women in all professions.   And we need to follow Meryl Streep’s lead and advocate for the return of the Equal Rights Amendment on Capitol Hill.

 

The Statue of Liberty and Women’s Suffrage

June 17th, 2015 . by Cathy Standiford

Today marks the 130th anniversary of the delivery of the Statue of Liberty to the United States.  Elizabeth Mitchell wrote about the Statue of Liberty and its creator, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi in her book, Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty.  In an article in American Profile’s Community Table, Mitchell shared 10 interesting things we probably don’t know about this American icon.  My favorite one?  Women suffragettes waged a protest at the unveiling!

“When it was unveiled in October 1866, women’s rights groups lamented that an enormous female figure would stand in New Your harbor representing liberty, when most American women had no liberty to vote….Suffragettes chartered a boat to circle the island during the unveiling. They blasted protest speeches, but those could not be heard over the din of steam whistles and cannon blasts in the harbor. “

The Statue of Liberty remains a symbol of American freedom, and most women in this country have more freedom than they did in 1866.  But when it comes to issues like domestic violence, college sexual assault, the absence of veteran’s services for women, pay inequality, media bias, and other issues that affect today’s women and girls, I can’t help but feel a bit like those suffragettes.  Even when we make a lot of noise, are we really being heard?

Is Your Profession Guilty of “Double-Barreled Bias”?

June 7th, 2015 . by Cathy Standiford

If you’re like me, you have chuckled at Charlotte Whitton’s quote: “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”  But even though we may laugh at it, the reality is that gender bias at work is not funny.  It remains pervasive in most professions today, along with pay inequity, by the way.  In a recent letter to the editor of the New York Times, Mary Hedley of Piedmont, California responded to an article about the experiences of female American soldiers.  In it she asserted she had experienced the same “double-barreled bias” as a lawyer, as had many of her friends in other professions.  Is your profession guilty of double-barreled gender bias?  It might be if you find the following statement to be true.

Male (insert your profession here) tend to be presumed competent until they prove otherwise, while female (insert your profession again ) are often presumed incompetent until they prove themselves to be capable. 

True gender equality means that women are presumed to be as capable as men, instead of having to prove it by working twice as hard.  Are you as tired as I am about waiting for the presumptions to change?

Dilbert’s Take on Wage Equity

March 4th, 2015 . by Cathy Standiford

The March 3 Dilbert comic would have been more funny if it weren’t so darn true.

See for yourself…..

Darfur, Rape and George Clooney

February 26th, 2015 . by Cathy Standiford

There’s a green hoodie sweatshirt hanging in my closet that says “Save Darfur.”  I bought it a decade ago to draw attention to the genocide there.  This was before South Sudan became an independent state–even before the United States named the atrocities being committed as a genocide.  I remember gathering with people on the beach in Corona del Mar to spell out the word “Enough” with our bodies so it could be photographed for an advocacy postcard.  I remember coordinating presentations and play readings about the genocide, and in particular, sharing the stories of women being raped when they tried to leave the refugee camps to collect firewood.  I remember people being horrified that genocide continued on our watch.  But many years have passed since then–and my attention, and that of the world, has largely shifted away from Darfur to other countries with other atrocities.  I hate to admit that it took George Clooney’s persistent advocacy to grab my attention again.

An op-ed piece in the New York Times by Clooney, John Prendergast and Akshaya Kumar focuses attention back on Sudan, where Human Rights Watch recently documented the rape of more than 200 women and girls in Darfur by the Sudanese army.  It contains tangible, practical actions that can be taken by the U.S. government and other members of the international community to both hold the Sudanese government accountable and put an end to the violence continuing to plague the country.

Ten years ago we said “enough” to the genocide and “enough” to the violence being perpetrated on women and girls.  It’s time to say “enough” again–this time with more than mere words.

Get Ready for January 11th with Blue Campaign Resources

December 27th, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford

The Blue Campaign is an initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to raise awareness about human trafficking, how to identify potential victims, and what to do if you see the red flags of modern-day slavery.  January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S.  Start getting prepared by taking the Blue Campaign Human Trafficking Awareness Course.  It’s completely on line, takes about 30 minutes, and I guarantee you will learn something.  I’ve been studying this issue for more than 10 years, and even I learned some new things.

For more information on the Blue Campaign and other human trafficking resources, click here.

Dream It * Build It — New Soroptimist Program for Girls Launched!

July 25th, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford

This morning Soroptimist launched DREAM IT * BE IT: Career Support for Girls, a new program to provide secondary school girls with education and role models to help empower them to pursue their career goals and reach their full potential.  Soroptimist clubs will be conducting  community assessments to identify challenges girls face and ways to help girls overcome those challenges.  They will be forming partnerships with girls in their communities to ensure DREAM IT * BUILD IT reflects their unique needs and  interests.    We have a wonderful opportunity to be role models and advisors to help girls get an education and live their dreams.   I can’t wait to work with my club to get started!!!

Risks to Women’s Workplace Rights Extend Beyond the Issue of Contraception

July 5th, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford

While the debate continues over whether working women should have the right to employer-funded contraception in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s “Hobby Lobby” decision, let us not forget that there are other, perhaps more significant risks to working women’s rights.  A recent article by Richard Eskow points out “five signs that much more needs to be done to ensure equal workplace rights for women in the United States.”   They include the fact that women continue to do most of work at home, despite working outside the home more, and the fact that the wage gap between men and women has not improved.  The loss of public sector jobs and education cuts are also significant indicators that have disproportionately affected women, particularly teachers.

I am tired of women being the primary target for blame when they get pregnant (even though they don’t get that way all by themselves) and of misogynistic policies that support employer funding for Viagra in the name of “reproductive health,” but not contraceptives.  But the gender inequalities many working women face every day and what we can be doing about them are just as worthy of passionate discourse–even if it’s not as sexy or inflammatory to talk about them.

I can’t help but wonder how different things might be today if the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence had stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

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