Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers

Off the Sidelines: My Take

Up until this article, I had never even heard of Kristen Gillibrand. This may have to do with the fact that she is a senator from New York. But when I heard about her campaign (Off the Sidelines) to get more women involved in politics, it really piqued my interest.

Because I agree – there should be more women in politics. While researching this I learned that the number of women in Congress dropped (ever so slightly) in 2010. And there are less women in state governments than there were 10 years ago. And Ms. Gillibrand does make a good point – there are laws being made about women by a Congress that is largely male.

But I have a problem with Gillibrand’s campaign. Why? Because it seems like she only wants to get women involved in Democratic politics – not Republican or any independent politics. And I would be fine with that. If she wants to support Democratic women in politics, that’s her prerogative. What bothers me is that she’s not presenting this like it’s for Democrat women, but for all women. I’ll take the about page for example.

Kirsten knows that women who make an impact on our country all start by simply believing they can.

Getting off the sidelines is a state of mind. More women need to embrace the fact that their voice matters and that they can make a difference, with their vote, with their advocacy, with their candidacy.

More women must get off the sidelines and make a difference in their community. Whether it’s in the classroom, the boardroom, Congress or at home, it’s crucial that more women adopt this philosophy to affect change in ways both big and small. Because if they don’t, decisions will be made without them that they won’t like the outcome of.

Women have the power to shape the future, it’s just a matter of getting off the sidelines and getting involved.

That’s why Kirsten has launched OffTheSidelines, to make more women aware of the need to be involved in the decisions that affect their lives every day. Kirsten wants to let women know that their voice matters, to give them the resources to start to get more involved and tell the inspiring stories of women who already are.

That doesn’t sound partisan right? There’s not one mention of Democrats in that statement. In fact, it’s a lot of ideals I agree with. But when you look around at her website, to me, it becomes pretty clear that this is for Democrat women. On the website under get involved, it lists several things. If you click on the link “How You Can Get Off the Sidelines” it has several more links and suggestions. Some are innocent enough and not attached to anything (vote for example) but under categories such as Volunteer for a Campaign it only lists Emily’s List (a group for electing pro-choice Democrats who are women). Under Run for Office and Win! it has three non-partisan resource and then two that are strictly Democratic: The Elenaor Roosevelt Legacy (whose mission is to train pro-choice Democratic women) and Emerge America (for Democratic women). You could say to me, but Melissa, she has the non-partisan resources, to which I would say, she also listed to very partisan resources from one side without listing ANY from the other. Under Give or Raise money it has one link, to “Find candidates that share your value on ActBlue.” Upon going to ActBlue, you see their tagline says, “Want Blue states?” The majority of the resources she provides for women to get off the sidelines are aimed towards partisan, Democratic links. The women that I have found her getting behind in this Off the Sidelines effort are Kathy Hochul (D), Sarah Anker (D), and Terri Sewell (D). This campaign is largely supported by Democrats like Debbie Wasserman. She’s promoted her campaign on Emily’s List and they’ve said about her ““And she shares the mission of Emily’s List — getting more Democratic women into office.” She’s been promoted (and guest posted for) blogs like Momocrats (“Raising the Next Generation of Blue).

Do you want further proof that her “Off the Sidelines” campaign is meant to encourage more Democratic women in politics than overall women in politics? She’s gotten involved in my home state of Wisconsin and is supporting five Democratic women who are running against the incumbents in the recall election. On the surface, this might look like she is just supporting women candidates. Except when you look at the fact that two of the Republican candidates who are already in office are women. The call she puts out clearly states that she wants only these women to be elected, regardless of the fact that two of the positions are already filled by women.

Sandy Pasch, a member of the Wisconsin state Assembly since 2008, is running against Alberta Darling in WI-SD-08.

Shelly Moore, a former high school teacher who was elected to the National Education Association (NEA) Board of Directors in 2005, is running against Sheila Harsdorf in WI-SD-10.

If it was really about getting all women involved in politics, wouldn’t these Republican women (Alberta Darling and Shelia Harsdorf) be good enough? But yet she is throwing her support (and invoking the name of Off the Sidelines) in with the Democratic candidates, further cementing for me the fact that this is about Democratic women being more involved and not all women being more involved.

And that’s not the only issue with it. If you go to her website, you will see a button on your homepage asking you to contribute to her re-election campaign. There is another link to contribute to her re-election campaign under the Get Involved Page. When you click on the contribute button, you’re brought to another page where it says your donations will go to her re-election campaign. Not a single link dedicated to giving money  to get more women in office, but three links to keeping one woman in office. She’s even on record saying, “This is very much part of my election campaign.” And I’m not the only one who has noticed this. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have written about it and so has BuffaloNews.com.

And this is not good for getting women involved in politics as a whole. If we really want women to be involved in politics, it needs to come from all parties.Because women are 50 percent of the population and if we want true representation of women in government, it will come from them being in both parties – not just in one party. If we only promote to women that they can belong to and be a part of this one party is that really empowering women? I don’t think it is. If we really want more women involved in government, we need to encourage them across the board, not just in one party or in one area of government.

So in light of this, I am going to make a pledge – for women who want to get involved in politics and for men who want to support women involved in politics. If you comment on the pledges, I will add your name to the list of people who have publicly said they support more women in government – in all the parties.

To see and sign the pledge for women, click here.

To see and sign the pledge for men, click here.

Sources Not Already Linked To:

P.S. I just hit 1,000 views on my blog and I am so, so appreciative. Thank you to everyone who reads.
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“We are not half human beings, we are human beings.”

In America, women still have a way to go. For example, abortion is still legal (something that harms women), women don’t get paid as much, and women still do not represent a large part of the government.

But it’s nothing like it could be.

Let’s look at Saudi Arabia. What it’s like there. And how they’re trying to change that.

Women in Saudi Arabia can not

  • vote.
  • drive (the only country in the world where they can’t, by the way).
  • ride bicycles.
  • be elected to a political office.
  • socialize with non-related men (If they do, they can be charged with prostitution).
  • expose anything but their hands and their eyes. (Though this varies by region of Saudi Arabia.)

They also face harsh male guardianship laws and customs, which means that women can not do certain things without permission from a male relative. Even where laws have been repealed in these areas, the customs and institutions haven’t always followed suite.  These laws require them to have a male guardian, no matter what age the women are. The male relative can be a husband, father, brother or even her son if there is no other male. Imagine that. How humiliating to be a grown woman and needing permission from your son to do some of the following things:

  • work
  • travel
  • study (this is a key area to fight for many women, since education, even when attainable, is considered largely unequal)
  • marry
  • divorce (imagine an awful situation like needing your abusive husband’s permission to divorce)
  • access health care (like have a surgery)
  • rent an apartment
  • open a bank account

Some of the stories would surprise you – at least I hope they would surprise you. One woman reports how after giving birth to her daughter, she wasn’t even allowed to sign the papers to take her daughter home. They don’t even really have much control over their name for their male relatives will get angry if they are allowed to sign something without permission. One woman who wanted to marry outside her tribe was even mentally institutionalized by him. The women fighting these laws insist it’s treating them like children.

It is also a society where killing women for honor is not an unheard of thing. One woman, for example, was killed by her father for simply chatting with a man on Facebook.

Along with that, when women are raped or sexually assaulted, it is often seen as their fault for being alone with an unrelated male. But what we know, is that rape is never your fault, and punishing someone who has gone through such a traumatic event is way out of line and probably causes a lot of women never to report their rapes.

There is also heavy sex segregation. This segregation between men and women is similar to the kind of segregation seen in the United States when blacks were not fully integrated. Segregation occurs in

  • many institutions, such as banks and universities.
  • companies and business (If a woman can even find a job; they are hard to find even in places like lingerie shops).
  • public places like ice rinks and beaches.
  • public transportation.
  • restaurants.
  • some private houses.

And of course, that is not to say that these are all segregated, but that is the large majority.

Many people would cite Islam as a reason for these restrictive laws. But not so, many women would insist. “If all women were given the rights the Qur’an guarantees us, and not be supplanted by tribal customs, then the issue of whether Saudi women have equal rights would be reduced.” That’s the statement of journalist Sabria Jawhar. And indeed, they might be able to point to other Islamic countries where women fare better than in Saudi Arabia (like I said above, it is the only country in the world where women can not drive, but they are not the only Islamic country). Some even feel that with such restrictive laws, like laws against driving, that the image of Islam is being hurt.

And to be clear, things have been a lot worse in the past. The first male and female university was opened, for example, and laws were passed against domestic violence. But still, it’s not enough for the freedom that Saudi women want.

They’re fighting back by organizing the Saudi Women Revolution. They’ve taken to Twitter and Facebook – key tools in today’s revolutions, as is quickly becoming apparent. There is both a Saudi Women Revolution page and a page for Women2Drive. There’s the hashtag #women2drive.They post videos on Youtube. They keep at it, despite the fact that their pages are sometimes taken down, their accounts deactivated, or their videos just disappeared. They’ve protested in ways that almost seem mundane, because it’s very hard for me to imagine never having these rights. But these are not mundane things. In a society that has always put women’s rights less, even trying these small things is a huge pushback to their society. Things like, showing up at an election and asking for the right to vote. They also sometimes take to the streets and drive. They’ve collected petitions saying women should drive as well. They have to be very careful to skirt laws against organized protest, a fear of the government as they have watched other middle eastern countries’ governments topple. But it seems to me, the stories I have read about, that the married women have the support of their husbands – another crucial key to empowering women in Saudi Arabia.

It is important to note that they don’t want all the rights women have in the West either. Journalist Maha Akeel  explains, “Look, we are not asking for … women’s rights according to Western values or lifestyles … We want things according to what Islam says. Look at our history, our role models.” For another example, they don’t really want to change the way women have to dress. It’s sort of the least of their worries. And many women like to wear the veil, something many in the West seen as an oppressive thing (and which I’ve blogged about in the past).

(People) lose sight of the bigger issues like jobs and education. That’s the issue of women’s rights, not the meaningless things like passing legislation in France or Quebec to ban the burqa … Non-Saudis presume to know what’s best for Saudis, like Saudis should modernize and join the 21st century or that Saudi women need to be free of the veil and abaya … And by freeing Saudi women, the West really means they want us to be just like them, running around in short skirts, nightclubbing and abandoning our religion and culture. – Sabria Jawhar

In response to these simple actions, even though many women don’t want to be like the West completely, people attack their character. Saying they are anti-religion and immodest and being called harlots, for example. After one protest involving driving, pamphlets with whore and pimps were written next to their names, they lost their passports, and they lost their jobs. They have even been arrested for driving or posting videos of themselves driving. Female drivers have even been called female terrorists by some religious leaders. These women know the risks though and yet are still willing to take them. Those in the public sphere, like journalism, seek to always find a balance between speaking out and being labeled as anti-Islamic, something that will get them basically blacklisted. But it doesn’t stop them from speaking out.

There have even been other women pushing back against them, with campaigns such as “My Guardian Knows What’s Best For Me.” Polls have found that the majority of Saudi women don’t think they should be able to drive , work with men, or hold public office. The opinion is that things like driving and voting are Western values opposed to Islamic values and that by holding out on making these things legal for women, they are not giving into the West’s ways. Others feel that they already have a lot of independence. Some women feel the guardianship customs and laws are done out of love and caring, for their protection, not to oppress them. There have even been articles to this effect in the press, talking about how good it is that women can’t drive and what a privilege it is. On the extreme end of the spectrum, there have been Facebook pages, calling upon men to beat women who drive. Beat them! For driving!

But in the end, I don’t think these women are going away. Especially not with support of much of the Western community. Many have spoken up on behalf of allowing women to drive. 

“We are not half human beings, we are human beings.” – Khuloud al Fahad, member of the Saudi Women Revolution

“Women in Saudi Arabia see other women in the Middle East making revolutions, women in Yemen and Egypt at the forefront of revolutions, being so bold, toppling entire governments. The women of Saudi Arabia looked at themselves and they realized, ‘Wow! We can’t even drive!’ ” – Waleed Abu Alkhair

“Saudi Arabian women are going to have to fight for our rights, men are not going to just hand them over to us.” – Amira Kashgary

“This is the threshold; this is the point where we have to cross in order to ask for anything else. I can’t say I want to go into government buildings like male citizens or I want women to be recognized as a lawyer when I can’t even drive my own car.” – Al Nafjan

“The ban is much more about women’s identity and independence. Saudi women aren’t asking for the moon here: they’re simply asking for the right to drive to the market or to see their friends, or perhaps to pick up their children at school. They’re asking the all-male monarchy for a small helping of personal power.” – Farzaneh Milani

“Saudi Arabia is the biggest women’s prison in the world.” – Anonymous

Sources/Articles of Note:

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Women in History: Jeannette Rankin

Let me introduce you to another woman. Jeannette Rankin. It’s a name I had never heard before a few days ago.

She

  • lived from 1880 – 1973.
  • graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology.
  • was the first woman to speak in front of Montana’s legislature.
  • was the first woman in U.S. Congress.
  • was the first woman elected in a Western democracy to a national government body.
  • was a Republican
  • represented Montana – twice (once from 1917-1919, then again from 1941-1943).
  • lobbied Congress in between her two terms.
  • ran as an independent once in between to prove that she wasn’t being bribed to step down, even though she knew she would lose.
  • is the only woman to have ever represented Montana in Congress.
  • was a pacifist.
  • voted against entering both World War I, living out her pacifist beliefs.
  • was hated by the press for these votes and it lost her some support.
  • still supported the war effort anyway through Liberty Bonds.
  • was the only Congress member voting against entering World War II.
  • needed a police escort after that vote.
  • killed her own political career by standing so firm to her pacifist beliefs, but she stood her ground.
  • opposed the Korean War.
  • opposed the Vietnam War and let a march of the Jeannette Rankin Brigade on Washington to this effect.
  • almost ran again to work against the Vietnam War, but died before she had the chance.
  • introduced a bill to give women their own citizenship, apart from their husbands.
  • helped to get a Committee on Woman Suffrage started in Congress and was then made a part of it.
  • worked as a school teacher for a little while.
  • entered social work after she saw how people lived in the slums of Boston.
  • argued that by not allowing women to vote that they were being taxed without representation (sound familiar?).
  • wrote a weekly newspaper column.
  • worked, at one point, for the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
  • was involved in the passage of women’s suffrage in Montana.
  • was elected before the 19th amendment passed.
  • attempted to get funding for health clinics, midwife education (awesome!), and visiting nurse programs.
  • wanted to reduce infant mortality, reduce maternal mortality, see prohibition enacted, and end child labor.
  • campaigned for and helped to get the following bills passed the Child Labour Amendment, Independent Citizenship, and the Maternity and Infancy Protection Act.
  • was the first person who introduced the GI Bill.
  • was a founding member of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
  • was accused of being a communist.
  • founded the Georgia Peace Society.
  • travelled to India seven times.
  • subscribed to Ghandi’s philosophy of non-violence.
  • was awarded the The World’s Outstanding Living Feminist.
  • formed the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, a non-profit that gives scholarships to low-income women to further their education, with the money from her property after her death.
  • has a statue in the United State’s Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

Others’ remarks

She said

I knew that we were asked to vote for a commercial war, that none of the idealistic hopes would be carried out, and I was aware of the falseness of much of the propaganda. It was easy to stand against the pressure of the militarists, but very difficult to go against the friends and dear ones who felt that I was making a needless sacrifice by voting against the war, since my vote would not be a decisive one…. I said I would listen to those who wanted war and would not vote until the last opportunity and if I could see any reason for going to war I would change it. (Gale – Free Resources – Women’s History – Biographies – Jeannette Rankin)

The peace problem is a woman’s problem. Disarmament will not be won without their aid. So long as they shirk…something will be radically wanting in the peace activities of the public and the state…I am aware that men are disposed to look down on the temperamental pacifism of women (which in spite of all the exceptions is a psychological fact) as something that the manly man would scorn to imitate. However, there is no other way that I can see in which peace can be realized except through forbearance from fighting on the part of men as well as women…Therefore peace is a woman’s job. (Peace is a Woman’s Job: Who Was Jeanette Rankin, History and Bio)

American mothers’ sons have died on foreign battlefields to support profiteers in their luxury living. All the businesses that engage in war profiteering should be made to pay each employee, owner, director, trustee or what have you, the minimum soldier’s wage. And everyone should be given a tin cup and a bread card and subsist on the same food the soldier does. The same goes for the President and all the representatives in Congress, and they should also be given the honor of carrying the flag in battle so they can feel they’re doing their bit. (Jeannette Rankin, Suffragist and Pacifist: She Speaks for Me by Jeanmarie Simpson)

You can learn more about the Jeannette Rankin Foundation and the scholarships they offer at this website.

If you believe in peace and want to continue to work, the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center was founded in her honor and memory.

The United States Institute for Peace also has a Jeannette Rankin Library Program.

I think what she did is very important because without her, it’s likely that many of the elected women we see today would not be in office. As it is, Congress doesn’t have enough women, but they had to start somewhere. I think Jeannette did a fine job for being the first.

Sources:

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Women In History: Mary Church Terrell

I’m going to be starting a new feature today. It won’t run on any sort of regular basis. It will be about women in history, women who have come before. Without the women who came before, we would never be able to even consider making the strides we are trying to make today. So I think that it’s important to recognize their accomplishments, because they opened doors, not only for themselves, but for the women who were to come after them. (P.S., yes, I did just attend the UN High Level Meeting on Youth and I will be talking about that meeting and Planned Parenthood’s radical agenda at some point, probably spread out, but I will be talking about it, I’m still just mulling over all my feelings).

She

  • lived from 1863 – 1954.
  • had a father who was shot during the Memphis Race Riots, but survived.
  • earned a college degree (in classics), becoming the first African-American woman to do so and did so under a “gentleman’s” course as well, which was harder.
  • served on the District of Columbia Board of Education, becoming the first African-American woman in the country to do so.
  • went onto become an activist, particularly for the suffrage of African-American women.
  • also went onto earn a Master’s Degree.
  • also taught, both secondary school and college.
  • was fluent in French, German, and Italian after spending 2 years studying in Europe.
  • had a high profile husband, Robert Heberton Terrrell, Washington, D.C.’s first African-American municipal court judge.
  • was a mother to five children, three who died very young, Phyllis, who lived past infancy, and Mary, who was adopted.
  • had to quit her teaching job after being married since married women weren’t allowed to work.
  • was the first president of the National Association of Colored Women.
  • met with the president after her friend was lynched, but he refused to make a public statement about it.
  • founded the National Association of University Women.
  • published many things under the pen name Euphemia Kirk.
  • spoke at the International Congress of Women in Berlin, Germany.
  • spoke at the Quinquennial International Peace Conference in Zurich, Switzerland.
  • spoke at the International Assembly of the World Fellowship of Faith in London, England.
  • was a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
  • was a Republican.
  • helped lead the fight to end segregation in Washington, D.C. restaurants (which was successful).
  • lived to be 90 years old! And was an activist right up until the very end. Her death came just after Brown vs. Board of Education was decided.
  • was recognized by her university as one of their top 100 alumni.
  • has been on a postage stamp.
  • was highly passionate about education.
  • was honored by Mrs. Eisenhower for her work with human rights.
  • has a school named after her in Washington, D. C.
  • held three honorary doctorates from Wilberforce College,  Howard University, and Oberlin College

Others have said about her

  • “For more than 60 years, her great gifts were dedicated to the betterment of humanity, and she left a truly inspiring record.” – Marie Eisenhower
  • This isn’t directly about her, but it showed her power to move people. “When my feet hurt I wasn’t going to let a women fifty years older than I do what I couldn’t do. I kept on picketing.” – A picketer in Washington, D.C. when they were trying to desegregate the restaurants.
  • “Mary used her education in journalism to bring awareness to the world that people where [sic] still held as slaves and that slavery did not end as alleged in 1863 for hundreds of thousands of people in 16 states and 27 counties.” (Antoinette Harrell)

Some of the things that she’s on record as saying

  • About African-American women, “with ambition and aspiration [are] handicapped on account of their sex, but they are everywhere baffled and mocked on account of their race.” (America’s Story from America’s Library)
  • A speech about What It Means to be Colored in the Capital of the U.S.
  • A speech about The Progress of Colored Women
  • “Seeing their children touched and seared and wounded by race prejudice is one of the heaviest crosses which colored women have to bear.” (A Republican Woman of Means: Mary Church Terrell)
  • “I resolved that so far as this descendant of slaves was concerned, she would show those white girls and boys whose forefathers had always been free that she was their equal in every respect… . I felt I must hold high the banner of my race.” (Answers.com)
  • “I knew I would be much happier trying to promote the welfare of my race in my native land, working under certain hard conditions, than I would be living in a foreign land where I could enjoy freedom from prejudice, but where I would make no effort to do the work which I then believed it was my duty to do.” (Answers.com)
  • “I cannot help wondering sometimes what I might have become and might have done if I had lived in a country which had not circumscribed and handicapped me on account of my race, that had allowed me to reach any height I was able to attain.” (About.com Women’s History)
  • “As a colored woman I may enter more than one white church in Washington without receiving that welcome which as a human being I have the right to expect in the sanctuary of God.” (About.com Women’s History)
  • “A white woman has only one handicap to overcome – a great one, true, her sex. A colored woman faces two—her sex and her race. A colored man has only one—that of race.” (Learning to Give)

And so, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving, and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition ere long. With courage, born of success achieved in the past, with a keen sense of the responsibility which we shall continue to assume, we look forward to a future large with promise and hope. Seeking no favors because of our color, nor patronage because of our needs, we knock at the bar of justice, asking an equal chance. (About.com Women’s History)

Surely nowhere in the world do oppression and persecution based solely on the color of the skin appear more hateful and hideous than in the capital of the United States, because the chasm between the principles upon which this Government was founded, in which it still professes to believe, and those which are daily practiced under the protection of the flag, yawn so wide and deep.(About.com Women’s History)

You can also visit her house, which was preserved as a historical landmark, the Robert and Mary Church Terrell House

Sources:

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