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Fast Food Strike: Tired of Living in McPoverty

mcpoverty

by Jen Giacalone

People, I promise you, I really don’t normally have a beef with MSNBC’s Chris Jansing.  She usually does a yeoman’s job (yeo-woman’s?) of covering the news.  But when she was interviewing one of the leaders of the striking fast food workers the other day, I was doing an awful lot of yelling at the television.

“So, a lot of teachers only make $16 an hour,” she asked him,  “what makes you guys feel that you’re worth $15?”

No, Chris, no.  First of all, this plays right into that old Jay Gould chestnut, “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”  Second of all, it ignores the bigger systemic issue with not only income inequality in general, but the gender-based pay gap and the troubling matter that so many women “choose” to go into low paying fields.  One wonders if the fields pay so little precisely because so many women are drawn to them.

The guest, to his credit I suppose, didn’t get sucked into pitting the value of fast food workers against that of teachers, but he also (frustratingly!) missed the opportunity to point out that, actually, teachers generally also ought to be valued more highly and paid better than they are.

The income inequality in America is getting to be so bad that even that bastion of socialist thought, The Wall Street Journal, is saying, “Hey guys… maybe this keeping all the money for ourselves isn’t such a great idea after all because it’s like, causing instability or something.”  It’s been said, but bears repeating, that if minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since the Johnson administration, minimum wage would be about $20/hr.  Cast in that light, the $15/hr the fast food workers want doesn’t sound like so much.  A girl could pay her own bills on that.  Probably.

But oh, the hue and cry!  And I’m not even talking about from the Stuart Varneys and other Right Wing Business News “spewing-heads” of the world with their disregard/disdain for humanity.  I’m talking about other lower wage workers.  I recently had an argument with a dialysis technician who, in her current job, with something like seven years of experience, does not yet make $15/hr.  And rather than looking at the organizing fast food workers and thinking, “Hey, that’s a good idea,” she looks at them and thinks, “Hey, who are they to think they should get paid more than me for flipping burgers?”  There’s no making the point that maybe the fast food workers getting paid $15/hr is good for her, because it strengthens her case.  She can say to her employers, “Look, the burger flippers at McDonalds are making $15, you have to do better by me or I’m going to leave to go flip burgers at McDonald’s.”

When I pressed her about this, she said, “Well, when I became a dialysis tech, they told us we weren’t going to get rich doing it, it was something we were doing because we loved it.”  Now look, there’s lots of professions you can say that about.  If you are a jazz musician playing in a club, fine.  If you are an anthropology graduate assistant living your dream of studying the mating habits of the wild Bortok Igorot tribesmen of Polynesia, fine.  If you hold people’s lives in your hands… uh, no. You should get paid as if you hold people’s lives in your hands.

There is a systematic undervaluation of professions where women are heavily represented: whether it’s fast food work (skews female by 13% among adult workers), teaching (70% women) or nursing (over 90%), the pay is often not enough to really live comfortably on, or accurately reflect the value of the work.  And we tolerate it.  When I say we, I don’t refer to myself.  I’m fortunate enough to be extraordinarily well paid for what I do.  I mean “we” as women, and “we” as a society.  We say, “That’s the way it is.” In class-obsessed, status-conscious America, people can often be caught in the trap of determining their worth as a person according to what they are paid.  It’s a natural consequence then, that someone looks at a less-skilled job and resents those workers for having the nerve to ask to be paid better.  Case in point, the dialysis tech I was arguing with; but you see this attitude reflected all over social media, even from supposed “progressives.”

It comes to this:  every last low-wage worker, in every industry, should be cheering the fast food strikers, but most especially women in these kinds of underpaid, under-appreciated but deeply vital fields.  It’s the first step to demanding human dignity and, in our class-obsessed society, respect.  Get it together, ladies.  The fast food workers are striking for you, too.


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Why Identity Politics Works (Except When It Doesn’t)

Guest Blogger Dave Thomer explains how he picked a candidate to support in the PA Gubernatorial race.  (Hint: It's NOT this guy, current Governor Tom Corbett)

Guest Blogger Dave Thomer explains how he picked a candidate to support in the PA Gubernatorial race.
(Hint: It’s NOT this guy, current Governor Tom Corbett)

I’m a Philadelphia resident who teaches in the Philadelphia public schools and has been married to WRUN Admin Pattie for the last 14 years. So you are probably not surprised to hear that I am rather eager to see Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett defeated in 2014. I am optimistic that the Democratic nominee will be able to defeat Corbett, but first there is the significant issue of choosing said Democratic nominee. I spent a large chunk of today trying to decide if I would donate to any of the candidates before the July 31st filing deadline, and wrote about that process at my site, This Is Not News. I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss how gender factored into my decision. All things being equal, I would like to support a female candidate for the nomination. But at this stage of the campaign, I found myself unable to do so.

Let me tackle both parts of that process. Why did I go into the process hoping that I could find a woman to support? Part of the answer is pure political calculation. There is usually a significant gender gap in support of the Democratic and Republican parties, and I believe that a qualified female candidate could widen that gap in the Democrats’ favor. In the specific case of Corbett, his position on reproductive choice and his comments about women closing their eyes during trans-vaginal ultrasounds might not be the primary reasons for his low approval ratings. But they are certainly not helping, and a strong female candidate should be able to vividly demonstrate how absurd and out of touch Corbett’s positions are. As I mentioned, I really want to see Corbett defeated. So if a woman gives the Democratic Party a better chance to do that, I would like to pick that woman.

The larger reason, however, is that when we vote for someone we are not selecting a policy automaton who will make political decisions based on some set of formal algorithms. We are electing a person who is going to make judgment calls, and sometimes that judgment is going to be based on the personal experiences that make each one of us different. I have written before about how important empathy is for a functioning democracy. It is important for each of us to try to look at the world from another person’s point of view, and understand how our choices will affect them. It is important that every citizen believe that the people in their government are trying to understand the consequences of the policies they they propose.

In order for empathy to really work, we have to be exposed to as many different perspectives as we can. With all the good will in the world, I can not imagine the perspectives and experiences of others who come from different backgrounds. I need to listen to them when they speak. I need to read them when they write. I need to spend time with them in order to know them as people so that my imagination has something to work with when I try to be empathetic. It is a lot easier to hear and learn about different experiences when there are leaders who have had those experiences. It is a lot harder to avoid hearing and learning about them as well. I would point to President Obama’s comments about Trayvon Martin as an example.

On the flip side, empathy only goes so far. There are things that I understand at a deeper level because I experienced them. So when you have a job like the governor, which can only be held by one person at a time, it is inevitable that there will be some issues and concerns that the governor understands at a personal level and some that he or she does not. As long as the governor is trying to reach beyond his or her own experiences, that is fine. But what can be harmful is if one governor after another has the same basic background and perspective. The government will wind up institutionalizing that one perspective, and others will be lost. There have only been a total of 36 female governors in the entire history of the United States. There are currently only five in office. Pennsylvania has never had one. So in the abstract, before I look at individual candidates, I can see a strong reason to want a governor who can bring a personal experience of the issues facing women to the office.

Some people might question me generalizing that women and men have different experiences, such that I would assume that a woman has understanding of something that I assume a man is lacking. Don’t those assumptions work against the idea of equality? Wouldn’t it be better if I just took a bunch of resumes, biographies, and policy statements, then stripped them of all reference to gender, and picked the best one? Well, besides the fact that such a process is practically impossible, I believe that equality requires recognizing and affirming differences. From a pure biological standpoint, women and men will have to deal with health issues that are not identical. I think that’s a relevant difference when you think of the impact that a governor can have on health care policy.

Beyond that, as much as I would like to say that we live in a world that is free of gender stereotyping (as well as stereotyping based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and so on), the truth is that we do not live in that world yet. Lots of people treat men and women differently. That means that men and women will experience the world in different ways.

Here’s a personal example. When our daughter was born, I was in graduate school working on my dissertation. Pattie had a full time job that provided the bulk of our income, not to mention our health insurance. So Pattie went back to work and I stayed home to watch our daughter while I did my research and writing. At work, many of Pattie’s female coworkers assumed that she was going to quit her job as soon as possible in order to be a stay at home parent. Meanwhile, I took our daughter with me to take care of some paperwork at the university, and a couple of people made comments like, “Oh look, Daddy’s taking care of you for the day!” We each fought against the expectations people had based on our gender, and I’d say that Pattie had the more aggravating fight to deal with.

If you want a more substantial example in the policy world, look at what people are saying about Janet Yellin and whether she has what it takes to be the chairperson of the Federal Reserve. Men can and should be empathetic to that kind of stereotyping. But we should also have leaders who have faced and overcome it personally, to help create a new culture where the next generation of leaders will not have to face the same obstacles.

So that’s why, all things being equal, I would like to support a woman to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor. (Feel free to bookmark this post, come back in 18 months, and do a search-and-replace to change to “governor” to “president.”) And yet, at the end of the day, I’ve chosen to support John Hanger. How can I do that in light of everything I have just written?

Well, that’s where the “all things being equal” comes in. Background and biography are important, but they are not a blank check. I have to have the sense that the candidate will use that background to try to implement policies that I support. Hanger has just done so much more than the other candidates to define his positions that the other candidates look much poorer in comparison. I absolutely love former environmental protection secretary Katie McGinty’s resume and biography. But she barely mentions education at all on her campaign website, and even her environmental policies are vague. I want her to step up her game. If by January, she’s laid out proposals that are even close to Hanger’s on the critical education and economic issues facing the state, I will happily change my support.

In the end, I think that this shows where “identity politics” factors into my thinking. It’s important to evaluate candidates based on their qualifications and proposals. But when deciding between candidates who have cleared that bar, establishing greater diversity in government is a virtue that can legitimately push one qualified candidate ahead of another.

Dave Thomer is a teacher, adjunct professor and blogger from Philadelphia. He blogs at www.notnews.org


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Romney Policy Asks ‘Do you have a License to Operate that Uterus?’

by Siobhan Carroll
Guest Blogger, Braevehearts Blog

“As governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman lieutenant governor, a woman chief of staff. Half of my cabinet and senior officials were women. And in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.”
– Mitt Romney’s Republican Nomination Acceptance Speech

I’ve been mulling over the above part of Mitt Romney’s speech for a few days. The RNC did a great job of showcasing an impressive bullpen of conservative women leaders like Nikki Haley and Mia Love. I don’t doubt that those two in particular will be voices we will hear from for decades to come. I may not agree with their stated policies or beliefs, but as women are underrepresented as it is I am always happy to see female leadership in politics.

Something about Romney’s comments coupled with these promising young faces wasn’t sitting right with me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Until, of course, at 3 o’clock this morning.

That snarky voice of mine emerged from my subconscious and verily shouted:

“Mitt trusts women to be leaders in his companies, the state and federal capitols, and arguably his own home, but yet they shouldn’t be trusted to make decisions concerning their own bodies?!”

Needless to say, I was pissed off. Mostly because I was woken up at 3am by Miss Snarkatude, whom I usually try to silence with copious amounts of wine and Xanax so things like this don’t happen. But of course what she was saying was true- if you trust women with your sons, your business, your public policy and legislation, why don’t you trust them to make decisions about their own reproductive health?

I have a college education. I am 35 years old (coming soon to a Senate race near you!). I am married, I have a good job, I have two children, two mortgages, a car payment, and a mildly embarrassing purse collection. What of the above criteria disqualifies me from deciding how to best plan for my family? If you say it’s the purse collection I have a Coach leather carry-all that I might fill with rocks and swing in your general direction.

But seriously, at what point am I “allowed” to decide to terminate a pregnancy? To seek permanent birth control when we have decided our family is complete? To make sure my daughters have access to scientifically accurate information about their bodies and their health?

Forbes magazine reported in June that between 2004 and 2008 companies in the top quartile of boards with women directors outperformed those in the lowest quartile by 26%. If the warnings of Coleen Rowley, FBI field agent in Minneapolis, about men training to be pilots who had no interest learning how to land a plane had been heeded perhaps September 11th would be just an ordinary day to us. Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton have each made extraordinary contributions to US efforts abroad as Secretary of State.

Yet despite these powerful examples of intelligent women making inroads in business and politics by using good judgment, we are still not allowed full governance of our bodies and reproductive health. It is important to note the connection between successful career advancement and the ability to plan one’s family. Having access to birth control, family planning assistance and basic healthcare is key to not only to a woman’s professional success but also to her family’s health and financial security. Nature’s timing is such that our most fertile years correspond with our most promising educational and professional opportunities, and being able to successfully manage our 20s and 30s is what leads to prosperity and health in our later years.

Let’s pause a moment to consider our male brethren as well. In a world where stay at home dads and female breadwinners have become more common and where fathers are more involved in domestic life than ever, we are short-changing men when we don’t give their female partners access to birth control and options to terminate a pregnancy. How can any man be a full partner in the decision to start or enlarge a family if his significant other can’t procure even the most basic contraceptives, or even accurate information about abortion?

I wonder when this infernal “debate” will come to an end. I’m thinking of instituting an exam where I get some sort of uterus license like my driver’s license if I pass (what would the picture on the uterus license be? Think on THAT one for a moment). It often feels like the only qualification for getting to decide want to do with my female reproductive organs is not to have any.

We’ve come a long way, ladies, but in order to end this misogyny we have to make it clear to business and political leaders that if you want my brains in your boardroom and my profits in your pocket, you need to keep your hands off my hoo-ha.


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Planting the Seeds of Incipient Democracy: Five Women who changed American politics before 1900

By Deliciously Geek
Women’s Historian
Special Guest Blogger

We are all no doubt familiar with the names of women who fought for equal rights and equal suffrage: Carrie Chapman Catt, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton are just a few who come to mind. But what about those who came before them? While the late 19th century was a hotbed of political activity for and by women as they embraced the role of “municipal housewife”, the foundation was laid even as women were stepping off the Mayflower in search of religious and political freedom.

Anne Hutchinson on Trial by Edwin Austin Abbey

First among these early political pioneers was Anne Hutchinson. Wife and mother of twelve, Anne arrived in Boston in 1634 with the impression that she and her family would be free to express themselves without censure by the government for their Puritan beliefs. She found, quickly, that she was wrong; rather than finding equality within her religion, she found that she was required first to answer to her husband and church and then to God. In response, Anne began to hold semiweekly meetings to share her beliefs- which were in some conflict with the Puritan church’s doctrine – and eventually amassed a small following of those who agreed with her “religious politics.” Her influence was so great that during the 1637 elections, her party very narrowly lost to the Winthrop party; the ultimate result was excommunication from the Puritan church and exile from the Massachusetts Bay colony. Anne’s only crime was being a woman in philosophical conflict with the local governing body.

Not long after the events in Boston, Margaret Brent arrived in Maryland to claim a land grant from Lord Baltimore. She immediately established herself as a prominent entrepreneur and attorney-in-fact, acting on behalf of her brother and occasionally for Lord Baltimore, and as a proprietress in her own right she was accorded a position in the Maryland Palatinate Assembly. Eventually Margaret was named the executrix of Governor Leonard Calvert’s estate, which included his seat in the Assembly as well. In 1648, Brent opted to finally exercise her right to both seats, which included both a “voice and vote” each. She was denied the votes because of her sex; the Assembly conceded her right to at least the voice and seat.

Notables such as Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren were activists in the name of their sex during the Revolutionary period, after which there was a tacit moratorium on women’s rights. Suffrage, such as it existed in America’s infancy, was in fact granted to women in certain territories until those rights were revoked in 1807 following scandals associated with local elections. However, women were not politically silent during those years. Between 1807 and 1838, women with an interest in their federal and local governments began to organize partisan rallies and parades, petitioned state legislatures, canvassing on the part of candidates, and editing and writing for partisan publications.

Engraving of Elizabeth Oakes Smith.

Which is what Elizabeth Oakes Smith found herself doing in 1850. Elizabeth’s husband, Seba Smith, was editor of the Eastern Argus and later the Portland Daily Courier, to both of which Elizabeth had been known to contribute. However, it was her New York Tribune series “Woman and Her Needs” (1850-1851) which brought attention once again to the issue of national suffrage for women. While several states and territories had restored some suffrage rights to women by 1850 – set into motion by granting school suffrage rights to widows with children in Kentucky – there was still a lot of ground to cover, as evidenced by the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. Elizabeth’s series was a call to arms for women to rise up and consider their plight: “The world needs the action of Woman throughout its destinies.”

And women were heeding that call. Anna Dickinson, that “Quaker lass”, was so firm in her beliefs about abolition and women’s suffrage that she addressed Congress directly in 1864 – something which had never been done before by a woman. Her arguments were so persuasive and eloquent that she became a direct influence on the results of the 1863 Congressional elections.

As critical as women were during the ante- and post-bellum periods in terms of political activism, it wasn’t until after the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments- which, respectively, abolished slavery, defined citizenship, and defended the right to vote for “citizens of the United States” regardless of race, colour, or “previous condition of servitude” – that women discovered that they had truly were second-class citizens. Because the 14th Amendment defined citizenship as “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States”, the hue and cry went up to exercise the rights which were clearly protected by the 15th Amendment – rights which were summarily dismissed by the male-populated governments because it was never intended for women to vote, regardless of their citizenship, race, colour, and gender.

Photograph of Myra Bradwell taken circa 1870 by C.D. Mosher

No one was better equipped to challenge these unspoken prohibitions than Myra Colby Bradwell. The first woman to be admitted to the bar in Illinois, Myra began her legal education as her husband’s apprentice and then later as founder and editor of the Chicago Legal News. She penned the Illinois Married Women’s Property Act (1861) and Earnings Act (1869), which gave married women individual rights to their personal property and funds earned through work. In 1869, Myra applied to the Illinois State Bar for her license to practice law in her own name; she was summarily denied on the grounds that as a married woman, she was legally prohibited from entering into legal contracts on her own. She brought her case before the Illinois State Supreme Court, where she was denied admittance to the legal profession because of her sex; and again in 1873, claiming that her 14th Amendment rights were being ignored, she went before the United States Supreme Court to appeal her case; she was summarily denied her license again. Rather than work against a legal system which was obviously not supporting her rights, Myra focused on her newspaper and becoming an activist for women’s rights, honing her abilities as a student and writer of law. In 1890, the Illinois State Supreme Court acted on its own accord (and in accordance with a law the court itself passed in 1872 which prohibited discrimination from employment based on gender) and reversed its initial decision of 1870, granting Myra the right to practice law in Illinois.

As we all know, women were granted the vote in 1920 – thirty years after Myra Bradwell was given her license to practice law, and nearly 300 years after Anne Hutchinson first challenged the patriarchal stronghold of the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony. The journey from first heterodoxical thought to 93 women currently serving in Congress, 9 incumbent female governors, and countless female local and state officials has been tumultuous, fiery, and occasionally violent; but at the end of the day, it has been rewarding and enriching not only for women, but for American society as a whole.

All images are public domain and courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


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by Jamie Utitus,
Guest Blogger, nj.com

I have to admit, I am intrigued, maybe even star struck with the Nuns on the Bus. Lead by NETWORK’s Executive Director, Sister Simone Campbell (I imagine her actually driving the bus and I smile), the Catholic sisters made me feel like I’m not-so-alone for being a Christian while also being vehemently opposed to Republicans war on America; more specifically women and civil liberties.

Just recently they put this up on their site:

“As Catholic Sisters, we must speak out against the current House Republican budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). We do so because it harms people who are already suffering.

The Ryan Budget would:

Raise taxes on 18 million hardworking low-income families while cutting taxes for millionaires and big corporations.

Push the families of 2 million children into poverty.

Kick 8 million people off food stamps and 30 million off health care.”

I remember watching Sister Simone Campbell during an interview where she, more or less, was denouncing the Republican platform, but the overwhelming feeling that I walked away was, warmth and love. She was not denouncing conservatives and condemning them to hell, there was no hate or mudslinging. She was incredibly smart, and incredibly focused on the poor and needy in the U.S; not hateful or hysterical.

I walked away shaking my head, almost in disbelief while muttering, “Amen. Amen? Amen!” Hallelujah, the poor and the needy. This was what Jesus called us to do.

NETWORK, a Catholic National Social Justice Lobby and Nuns on the Bus went on a 9 state tour to spread the good news-as Catholic Sisters, they stand with people in need and to be witnesses for economic justice.

I used to struggle with my Christianity. I loved Jesus, but I hated admitting that out loud. I was a closet Christian. I’d much rather come out as gay, than as a Christian. Many of my friends were gay. Or atheists, or gay atheists, or Jews or Muslim. When people say the words, “I am a Christian,” people tend to think of Harold Camping predicting the end of the world.

So, I cannot tell you how much it meant to me listen to Sister Simone Campbell and to witness her and the NETWORK lobby for America’s impoverished and most needy. They had me at hello. At the tippy top of the Nuns on the Bus site it reads: Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria, and indeed to earth’s remotest end.” (Acts 1:8)

When the federal government cuts funding to programs that serve people in poverty, the sisters see first-hand the effects in their daily work. Simply put, they see real people suffer.

When you, or maybe I should say “I”, think of nuns, I think of the Catholic Church. I think of them voting anti-abortion, anti-birth control, and anti-gay marriage.

So, where do the nuns stand on issues that the Vatican considers ‘crucial’ like abortion and same sex marriage? Well, they’ve been very busy focusing on social injustices and feeding the hungry. Too busy according to the Vatican. Church leaders accused the nuns of promoting “radical feminist” ideas for spending too much time on social injustices and challenging key teachings on homosexuality and male-only priesthood.

“To me, it’s quite puzzling that our work with the poor, which Jesus told us to do in the gospels, would be the source of such a criticism,” says Sister Simone Campbell.

Take note how Sister Campbell omitted same-sex marriage in her mention of the Gospels. She did this for a reason. Jesus came and said many things, but not a one about homosexuality.

He was very clear, however, about serving the poor. Social injustices made him angry, so angry he would flip over tables and lose his marbles and put the church leaders of the day in their place. He was also very clear that you cannot serve Him and serve money and wealth. The party that claims to do all things in His name, happens to be the wealthiest. And they propose to pass legislation to keep it that way.

The sisters are sticking with Jesus, with his call to all Christians, to serve the poor and the needy. Amen!

A right wing conservative Christian called me a socialist because of my support for Obamacare. I’m fairly certain she, literally, believes Obama is the antichrist. I responded, “Then I believe Jesus and his Pops were socialists too. I feel warm and cozy knowing I’m in such good company.” This sent her over the edge, I was an abomination to Christianity and was indeed going to hell.

But I’ll be in some good company. Even some sisters, like Campbell, have gone against orders from the bishops and supported Obama’s healthcare reform law and mandate. Sister Campbell says she believes the Vatican targeted her group because of their support for healthcare reform. “They like it when we just do service, but don’t have thoughts, don’t have questions, don’t have criticism,” Campbell says. “That is a real challenge in a political society, when we have to do a deep, nuanced analysis in order to know the way forward for this, for the common good.”

Sadly, this is the year of 2012, the year of the Presidential GOP Platform to Wage War on Women, I guess it is no surprise that the sisters would be targeted as well. My heart bleeds for these sisters who seek to serve the church and do God’s will, but I am honored to stand in solidarity with such noble creatures. All too often I am associated with Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, and yes, even the occasional Harold Camping, for being a Christian.

As Women Rise Up Now had previously mentioned, by last count, the 112th sent only 54 bills to the President, 14 of which were to rename post offices (the latter of which is ironic since one of the main items this Congress failed to do was come up with a plan to restructure the struggling U.S. Postal Service). They also failed to take any action on the economy (despite having the President’s proposed jobs plan in their laps since last year) and failed to come up with a federal response plan to the worst drought this nation has seen since the Dust Bowl. Instead, they chose to spend their time-Trying to block the Affordable Care Act, obsessing about birth control coverage, and trying to limit abortion rights.

As a Christian, I worry about the hungry, the impoverished and it pains me to see Congress, and Presidential Platforms hiccupping over birth control. People call me a socialist for wanting all people, especially children and those with pre-existing conditions to have access to healthcare. As a Christian, it’s the heart of who I am. As a woman who has Multiple Sclerosis, it’s at the heart of who I am.

I cringed watching Ann Romney speak about her MS. The fact that she wants to be the first lady to a party that opposes health care for all, pains me. How convenient that she opposes Obamacare and could buy an entire hospital just for herself. She will never have to worry about her $8,000 a month infusions not being paid for so that her legs will work.

I understand that some religions are truly against same-sex marriage. My religion is not. Some, for religious reasons are wholeheartedly opposed to birth control and abortion. I understand and respect that. Don’t marry same sex couples at your church. Don’t have an abortion and pray for those who do.

If you are against something for religious beliefs, I support that. Our constitution supports that as well. It pains me to see the right claim to represent all Christians. Then they get indignant that not all Americans have those beliefs. We are a pluralistic country that represents many different beliefs, some of those beliefs being non-belief.

So indignant that they vow to take back ‘their’ America and pass legislation that will amend the Constitution to define a marriage as one man and one woman. Romney wants to do away with birth control altogether. On August 1st, Rep. Mike Kelly’s compared women receiving expanded heath care coverage, which includes a mandate that requires insurance plans to cover birth control options, to the attacks of Pearl Harbor and the September 11, 2001 attacks. Really?

The most frustrating part for me, as a citizen and a Christian, is wondering why this party, who must be well-schooled in how this whole U.S. Constitution thing came to be, all of a sudden, feels entitled to take down the wall between religion and nation that our forefathers’ took great pains to resurrect. It’s there because they understood, and experienced first-hand, the dangers of mixing the two.

I’m very afraid for our country. I pray for guidance. I pray for the sisters and the work that they do. But more importantly, I pray that you have the right to choose to pray or not. I pray for your right to choose birth control or to have an abortion. I pray that same-sex couples know that there are churches in this great country of ours that celebrate and welcome them. And I pray that our government stops deflecting from the biggest, most significant issue at stake-the economy.

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12/17/13 Editor’s Note – If you love the Sisters and their work, please read this short article about the upcoming documentary about them and a small way that you can participate, here.


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The Marching Type

(originally posted on Friday, 27 April 2012)

When I was a teenager, I thought I wasn’t a feminist.  I had this sense of it being an old-school thing, something that had mostly happened before I was born.  Feminism was for my mom’s generation and was about something kind of vague and foreign to me; burning your bra, not shaving your legs, and yeah, the Equal Rights Amendment (“um, they passed that, didn’t they?”).  Blurry black and white photographs of women marching, holding signs.   By the time I started to have any awareness of feminism, I had already made some assumptions.  Guys were still pigs and jerks and so on (a view that has evolved a great deal since then), but we all pretty much had the same rights … right?  The whole time I spent growing up, I had been hearing that I could be anything, do anything that I wanted, and be just as good at it as a guy.   And well, if some employer thought they were going to be paying ME any less for it, they just had another think coming.

Besides, at the time, I was wrapped up in another “rights” movement.  When I was 16, I came out as a lesbian and fell painfully, desperately in love with a girl I knew.  The same way a lot of girls do at 16, I immediately began imagining our life together and dreaming about our wedding.  And as I navigated the waters of being an openly gay kid on Long Island, I found gay and lesbian friends my age, and found that we all did that.  That was when I began to work toward the goal of gay marriage in New York State.  I called our Republican state senate majority leader’s office, wrote letters, distributed literature, and yes, marched.  I did all those things that were available to us as junior wonk/activists back in the early 90s, before it became easy and commonplace to rally people for causes online.  Even though I wound up surprising everyone else years later by up and marrying a man, and having children, I didn’t feel any differently about whether marriage ought to have been a right for any couple who wanted to make a life together.  Funny, but that sick, soaring, dizzy, desperate in love feeling was just the same.   I can’t lie and say that when New York passed their gay marriage law last year, that my eyes didn’t well up.  A battle that I had thrown in with 20 years ago had just finally been won.

So, no.   I’m not exactly a stranger to political activism.

When you’re young, you plan your life based upon the floor beneath your feet, on the bedrock of The Way Things Are, maybe imagining carving some new paths if you’re the bold or dreaming type.  When you’re an adult, you’ve been walking on that floor long enough that you damn well expect it to be there every goddamned morning when you get out of bed.  And, then as now, I’ve been realizing, I’ve got a bunch of people I don’t know and have never met, deciding without my consent what kind of plans I could or could not make for my life.  A bunch of people telling me that, no, actually, I cannot have the rights that I thought were inalienable, that were fought for and gifted to us by those women in blurry black and white photographs in the pages of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”  A bunch of people trying to take away the floor under my feet.

The work that WRUN does online is enormously satisfying.  It’s an incredible experience to be reaching out to so many people and having them respond.  But it’s not the same as marching.  Most of us don’t have time to do it all the time, especially those of us with jobs and children.  But there’s nothing else like it.  My first time marching for anything was scary and exhilarating; not everyone is comfortable with or accustomed to putting themselves out there.

You’re not sure if you’re the marching type?  You should be!   Not just for the message it sends.  Not just for making your voice heard.  Not just for the effect you hope it has, externally.  But for the effect it has on you, internally.  No, you’re not crazy.  Yes, you believe in something.  You are standing up for something.  Shoulder to shoulder with others who share your belief and purpose.  I’m not going to lie, it can be hard getting emotionally involved in something that in the end, you don’t really have control over.  You just have to make as much noise as you can, and hope for the best.  And if it doesn’t go your way, you have to look at the problem, hold it up to the light, spin it around, and come at it from another direction.  But win or lose, there’s value in the fight, either way.  The simple act of standing up makes you see yourself differently.  It changes your perspective on who you are, what your place is, your role and significance in society and the world.  Whether you win or lose on the issue, you win something by claiming legitimacy for your own voice.  For some of us, that’s no different than every day… but for a lot of us, a lot of you reading this who aren’t sure if you’re “the  marching type” … it might be a radical change.  Maybe one that you need.

So … See you tomorrow?

~Jen