Will Women Ever Achieve Equality?

By Kaili Joy Gray

As a nation we are unable to recognize the obstacles and needs of half the country.

Ninety years ago, a young man named Harry T. Burn, at the insistence of his mother to “be a good boy,” changed his vote from “nay” to “yea,” and the generations-long struggle for women’s suffrage was at last won.

It is easy to catalog the progress of the last nine decades. Women can vote, own property, earn a paycheck and keep the money in their own bank accounts, go to college and play sports there, and yes, run for and hold elected office. Three of the last four Secretaries of State have been women. The Speaker of the House is a woman. Three of the nine Supreme Court justices are women. And let us not forget that a woman very nearly won the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.

But -– and of course there is a but –- it is not enough. Because despite these achievements, control of our economy and our government still rests almost exclusively within the hands of men. For women to achieve full equality, they must have a real role in making the decisions that affect their lives. And that role requires real, and proportionate, representation -- something 90 years of struggle for equality has yet to achieve.

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posted 29 August 2010

10 Things That Feminism Could Do Better

By Nina Power

I should start by saying that this list should in no way be seen as an attack on anyone actively involved in feminist politics, or on the history of the women’s liberation movement. The fruits of feminism reflect the most successful and long-term social revolution that human history has ever seen -- this should never be forgotten. The list is simply a set of personal reflections on some current dimensions of the struggle, and could equally well be applied to women in general, as opposed to just those who identify themselves as feminists. 

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posted 19 July 2010

Women at the peace table

By   Robert Serry

The 10th anniversary of a landmark UN resolution linking women, peace and security is a reminder of the importance of having women at the top table of peace, including in the Middle East. If you review peace processes in the last two decades throughout the world, you discover that only one in 50 signatories to peace treaties is a woman, and only one in every 13 members of negotiating delegations has been a woman. By one count, during the nearly 20 years of Israeli-Palestinian negotiation efforts, there have been just five Palestinian women and two Israeli women in senior negotiating teams, among the many leaders and senior officials involved.

Why does this matter? Not because the presence of women at the peace table guarantees that peace will be achieved. But their absence usually means that certain issues are not taken into account in peace negotiations, important constituencies are not heard, and valuable tools for peace-building are not used. Women (and children ) often bear the costs of conflict in disproportionate ways, but their contributions to conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace-building are grossly unrecognized and underutilized.

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posted 31 October 2010

Gender Bias Affects the Bottom Line

The Real Deal Blog

In response to the Harvard Business Review blog posting, "Why Stock Price Drops When Women Join the Board," NCRW President Linda Basch submitted the following comment:

Implying that companies rely on women to provide politically-correct ratios rather than valuable skills and approaches is unsupported by evidence. As we found in our report, "Women in Fund Management" , board diversity usually improves stock performance. But we also found that bias can make it difficult for women investment managers to attract investors (Journal of Financial Research XXVI (1), 1-18.). Still, Catalyst , Michel Ferrary at Ceram Business School and others show that women boost the bottom line despite bias. Hedge Fund Research Inc. found that women-owned funds delivered better annual returns than a broader composite of hedge funds over a ten year period. In an economy in need of innovative thinking and new strategic directions, gender bias is something we simply can't afford.

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posted 25 July 2010


50.50 - equal but different: a reply to Ruth Rosen 

Rosemary Bechler

Something challenging and refreshing has begun to emerge in some serious publications. Women are claiming an equal right to exploration and debate, and helping to redefine the 'mainstream', but through gender difference, not through submerging. 

Congratulations to 50.50 writer, Ruth Rosen, for writing such a cogent piece about an important subject - the extent to which women's sections or sections devoted to a gender perspective, such as 50.50, are being siphoned off into spaces where they cannot challenge the dominant discourse. In 'Gender Apartheid Online' she lines us up as evidence alongside Salon's Broadsheet, Slate's DoubleXX, PoliticsDaily.com's "Woman Up", IPS Gender Wire and even the New York Times' online series called the Female Factor, and concludes that the "smart, incisive" material to be found there is still, "not on the 'front page' where men might learn about women's lives." 

For the sake of a general argument she has missed out some of the nuance of the 50.50 format on openDemocracy by describing it as " a separate section that focuses on news stories about women around the world". That just gives those of us who have been involved in editing 50.50 a rare chance to explain what we're about. 50.50 is a separate section, but all openDemocracy section editors can publish daily on openDemocracy's front page. 50.50 also has a permanent highlights box on the openDemocracy front page, and our articles are regularly chosen by openDemocracy front page editors for the day's top selection. 

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posted 24 June 2010


Feminism is Alive and Well ... Even Sarah Palin Wants to Be One

By Katie Couric and Gloria Steinem and Jehmu Greene

KATIE COURIC: Let me ask you a question somebody asked on Facebook. Jaclyn Koch says on Facebook, “Do [you] think that feminism is still considered a bad word today? I think the term used to really get a bad rap. But today it seems things are beginning to level out.” What say you?

GLORIA STEINEM: It’s interesting to me because is Rush Limbaugh gonna call [Sarah Palin] a “feminazi” like he calls me? Obviously feminism is winning, otherwise these women wouldn’t be calling themselves feminists. So the truth of the matter is that, in public opinion polls more women consider themselves feminists than consider themselves Republicans, evangelicals, or even Democrats.

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posted 10 July 2010

A Church Mary Can Love


I heard a joke the other day about a pious soul who dies, goes to heaven, and gains an audience with the Virgin Mary. The visitor asks Mary why, for all her blessings, she always appears in paintings as a bit sad, a bit wistful: Is everything O.K.?

Mary reassures her visitor: "Oh, everything's great. No problems. It's just ... it's just that we had always wanted a daughter."

That story comes to mind as the Vatican wrestles with the consequences of a patriarchal premodern mind-set: scandal, cover-up and the clumsiest self-defense since Watergate. That's what happens with old boys' clubs.

It wasn't inevitable that the Catholic Church would grow so addicted to male domination, celibacy and rigid hierarchies. Jesus himself focused on the needy rather than dogma, and went out of his way to engage women and treat them with respect.

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posted 19 April 2010


Daring to Discuss Women in Science


The House of Representatives has passed what I like to think of as Larry's Law. The official title ofthis legislation is "Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering," but nothing did more to empower its advocates than the controversy over a speech by Lawrence H. Summers when he was president of Harvard.

This proposed law, if passed by the Senate, would require the White House science adviser to oversee regular "workshops to enhance gender equity." At the workshops, to be attended by researchers who receive federal money and by the heads of science and engineering departments at universities, participants would be given before-and-after "attitudinal surveys" and would take part in "interactive discussions or other activities that increase the awareness of the existence of gender bias."

posted 9 June 2010

For women in America, equality is still an illusion

By Jessica Valenti

Every day, we hear about the horrors women endure in other countries: rape in Darfur, genital mutilation in Egypt, sex trafficking in Eastern Europe. We shake our heads, forward e-mails and send money.

We have no problem condemning atrocities done to women abroad, yet too many of us in the United States ignore the oppression on our doorstep. We're suffering under the mass delusion that women in America have achieved equality.

And why not -- it's a feel-good illusion. We cry with Oprah and laugh with Tina Fey; we work and take care of our children; we watch Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice proudly and sigh with relief, believing we've come so far. But we're basking in a "girl power" moment that doesn't exist -- it's a mirage of equality that we've been duped into believing is the real thing.

Because despite the indisputable gains over the years, women are still being raped, trafficked, violated and discriminated against -- not just in the rest of the world, but here in the United States. And though feminists continue to fight gender injustices, most people seem to think that outside of a few lingering battles, the work of the women's movement is done.

It's time to stop fooling ourselves. For all our "empowered" rhetoric, women in this country aren't doing nearly as well as we'd like to think.

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posted 21 February 2010


It's time for New Deal feminism

By Dorothy Sue Cobble

We are in the midst of a sexual revolution at work. Thanks in part to the recession, women now hold close to half of all jobs in the economy, mothers are the main or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families, and men can claim the dubious honor of being a majority of the jobless. But this is one sexual revolution that hasn't produced much joy of late -- at work or at home. For many, decent wages and economic security remain elusive, and the stress of long hours and job competition has frayed social relationships.

The American workplace is transforming, but women's lives aren't necessarily improving. If we'd known what it was like to have it all, as Lily Tomlin might say, we would have asked for something else.

The answer is not for women to leave the workforce -- as if that were even a remote possibility. But neither is it to resurrect the feminism of the 1960s generation and refight the battles of the past half-century. In recent weeks, the vitriol stirred up by the health-care reform amendment from Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that would restrict insurance coverage for abortion has highlighted the divide among women, many of whom consider themselves both Democrats and feminists, over how to focus feminist efforts. It is painfully clear that consensus in this country on the issue of abortion rights is impossible at this moment.

Feminism today should concentrate on the economy and the workplace -- and on the huge transformations that are needed there to get greater equality and security.

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posted 15 December 2009