New Cruise Line To Offer ‘Social Impact’ Vacations

A new twist on social impact and giving your time and services to others — take a cruise and volunteer your time and skills in a developing country.

SOCIAL DISCUSSION

 By: Gene Sloan USA Today – 

Would you take a cruise to help people in need? Industry giant Carnival Corp. is betting on it.

The parent company of Carnival, Princess and Holland America today announced plans for a new cruise brand to debut in 2016 that will offer week-long “social impact” vacations to developing countries such as the Dominican Republic.

To be called fathom, the line will launch with a single ship, the 710-passenger Adonia. The vessel currently sails for Carnival’s UK-base P&O Cruises brand.

“fathom will cater to an under-served market of consumers who want to have a positive impact on people’s lives, and aren’t always sure where to begin,” Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald says in a statement accompanying the announcement. “We believe travel is a meaningful way to…

View original post 867 more words

My Part in the #StopTheCuts TwitterStorm

Today I participated in the Coalition on Human Needs Twitterstorm to help #StoptheCuts in support of President Obama’s proposed budget that lasted from 2 to 3 pm Eastern Standard Time. Here is my contribution to that storm. Results shown are as of 3:07 pm (seven minutes after the Twitterstorm ended):

 Original Tweets

Spot on! MT @kilby76 45.3 mil Americans live in #poverty. Shameful 4 richest country on earth #CutsHurt #StopTheCuts @SenToomey @SenBobCasey

0 replies 0 retweets 1 favorite

We need more investments, not less, in programs that keep even more people out of #poverty. #StoptheCuts

0 replies 1 retweet 0 favorites

FACT: Since FY2010, 136 important human needs programs were cut, 51 by > 15% #CutsHurt #FY2016 http://ow.ly/i/8uqP2  http://ow.ly/i/8uqPC 

Meme stating that 45.3 Million Americans Live in Poverty #StopTheCuts

45.3 Million Americans Live in Poverty #StopTheCuts

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

We need a #FY2016 budget that works for all, not just corporations and the wealthy #TalkPoverty http://ow.ly/i/8upzt 

Meme stating that 45.3 Million Americans Live in Poverty #StopTheCuts

45.3 Million Americans Live in Poverty #StopTheCuts

0 replies 0 retweets 1 favorite

Continued cuts to human needs programs are bad for America, our economy #TalkPoverty #CutsHurt Pass @presidentobama #FY2016 budget

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

Pass #FY2016 RT @BlueUpali @SenateDems #GOP thinks cuts to foodstamps SSA will help? They are bad at math as well as science. #StopTheCuts

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

Only 1 in 4 households eligible for federal rental assistance receive it due to lack of funding #Sequester #CutsHurt #FY2016 #Budget

0 replies 0 retweets 1 favorite

Want to know the ins and outs of the President’s Budget? Check out @MomsRising analysis: http://moms.ly/1Ct2VX7  #StoptheCuts #FY2016

0 replies 1 retweet 0 favorites

Federal rental assistance is effective, lifts millions out of #poverty. @RepTomPrice stop the cuts, stop sequestration #cutshurt #FY2016

0 replies 0 retweets 1 favorite

Housing instability limits opportunity. Restore voucher funding so those eligible are not left waiting! #cutshurt http://ow.ly/i/8uqCu 

meme re Join the #StopTheCuts TwitterStorm on February 3, 2015.

Join the #StopTheCuts TwitterStorm on February 3, 2015.

0 replies 1 retweet 0 favorites

3 million children were lifted out of poverty by #EITC and #CTC in 2012. #CutsHurt this progress. #TalkPoverty #FY2016

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

Research shows children of #EITC recipients do better in school, attend college & earn more as adults #TalkPoverty #cutshurt @RepTomPrice

0 replies 0 retweets 1 favorite

 1/4 people without a high school degree are living in poverty. Tell Congress to support job training in #FY2016 #TalkPoverty #JobsNotCuts

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

.@CoalitiononHN “.@BeaverValleyNOW @PA_NOW @NiTaNeeNOW Thank you for joining us and spreading the word! #StopTheCuts”

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

 Modified Tweets

MT @natpriorities Most Americans support spending in federal programs that help families in need. #StopTheCuts #CutsHurt http://ow.ly/i/8v627 

Picture of a woman holdin70% of Americans oppose cuts to the SNAP (food stamp) program g a toddler saying that 70% of Americans oppose cuts to the SNAP (food stamp) program

70% of Americans oppose cuts to the SNAP (food stamp) program

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

MT @MomsRising The earlier we invest in our littlest learners the better for our children & economy. Invest in #earlylearning! #StoptheCuts

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

MT @natpriorities Only 1 in 4 households eligible for federal rental assistance receive due to low funding #Sequester #CutsHurt

Meme stating that Every hour the US spends $5 million for housing assistance and $58 million for the Dept. of Defense

Every hour the US spends $5 million for housing assistance and $58 million for the Dept. of Defense

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

 .@CongressmanGT MT @ChildDefender 57,000 children lost their Head Start cause of sequestration. #CutsHurt #StoptheCuts #BeCarefulWhatYouCut

0 replies 2 retweets 0 favorites

MT @ChildDefender 57,000 children lost their Head Start cause of sequestration. #CutsHurt #StoptheCuts #BeCarefulWhatYouCut @SenBobCasey

0 replies 1 retweet 0 favorites

MT @ChildDefender: 57,000 children lost their Head Start cause of sequestration. #CutsHurt #StoptheCuts #BeCarefulWhatYouCut @SenToomey

0 replies 1 retweet 0 favorites

 MT @NAEYC: Kidsthrive & learn n society dedicated 2 ensuring they reach their full potential #investinkids n #FY2016 2 ensure their future

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

MT @RESULTS_Tweets: The #2016Budget is out! Time 2 #talkpoverty w policymakers & make ending poverty a top priority: http://bit.ly/16fyKVh 

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

MT @MomsRising: #Congress need 2 pass tax bills that help ALL families. Write @SenateDems: http://moms.ly/1zvIHrV  #StoptheCuts #CutsHurt

0 replies 1 retweet 1 favorite

MT @MomsRising: #Congress need 2 pass tax bills that help ALL families. Write @PAHouseGOP: http://moms.ly/1zvIHrV  #StoptheCuts #CutsHurt

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

MT @MomsRising: #Congress need 2 pass tax bills that help ALL families. Write @Senate_GOPs: http://moms.ly/1zvIHrV  #StoptheCuts #CutsHurt

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

MT @MomsRising #Congress need 2 pass tax bills that help ALL families. Write @HouseDemocrats: http://moms.ly/1zvIHrV  #StoptheCuts #CutsHurt

0 replies 0 retweets 0 favorites

Retweets

MedicareRightsCenter @medicarerights  ·

Read @josephrbaker‘s statement on the #FY2016 Obama budget: http://www.medicarerights.org/newsroom/press-releases/2315-2/ … #Medicare

0 replies 2 retweets 0 favorites

TalkPoverty.org @TalkPoverty

Stagnating wages & changing corporate practices decrease amt working families can save for retirement http://bit.ly/1yQBLqd  #talkpoverty

0 replies 4 retweets 3 favorites

CoalitiononHumanNeed @CoalitiononHN  ·

Fact: It would only take 2% of the federal #budget to reduce child #poverty by 60% http://ow.ly/InD58  #TalkPoverty @ChildDefender

0 replies 17 retweets 2 favorites

  PWN-USA @uspwn  ·

Continued cuts to human needs programs are bad for America, our economy #TalkPoverty #CutsHurt #StoptheCuts in #FY2016 #pwnspeaks

0 replies 1 retweet 0 favorites

Housing Alliance PA @PAHousing  ·

Starting NOW! Tell Congress to #StopTheCuts in #FY2016! Join the @CoalitiononHN twitterstorm & tweet at your Reps/Senators #TalkPoverty

0 replies 2 retweets 1 favorite

Asset Building @AssetsNAF  ·

Obama’s #FY2016 Budget requests additional funding for HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program. See our FSS work: http://ow.ly/Iqp0J 

0 replies 2 retweets 0 favorites

ChildrensDefenseFund @ChildDefender  ·

Tell Congress: #EndChildPoverty #StoptheCuts #TalkPoverty #BeCarefulWhatYouCut http://ow.ly/H1gcu 

Picture of a baby saying, "It's hard to tighten your belt when you are wearing diapers.

It’s hard to tighten your belt when you are wearing diapers.

0 replies 22 retweets 8 favorites

Leslie @love2laugh4ever  ·

#StopTheCuts raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 now and have it automatically raise thereafter. Keep people above #poverty

0 replies 3 retweets 0 favorites

CoalitiononHumanNeed @CoalitiononHN  ·

1/4 people w/o a high school degree are living in poverty. Tell Congress to support job training in #StopTheCuts #TalkPoverty #JobsNotCuts

0 replies 3 retweets 0 favorites

 Pennsylvania NOW @PA_NOW  ·

Housing instability limits opportunity. Restore voucher funding so those eligible are not left waiting! #CutsHurt @SenToomey @SenBobCasey

0 replies 1 retweet 1 favorite

MoveOn.org @MoveOn  ·

RT if OUTRAGED: 1st time in 50yrs, maj. US public school stdnts in #poverty @GOPHouse http://wapo.st/17NzFgO 

Meme stating that 45.3 Million Americans Live in Poverty #StopTheCuts

45.3 Million Americans Live in Poverty #StopTheCuts

0 replies 27 retweets 12 favorites

Am Sociological Assn @ASAnews  ·

Is Ending #Segregation the Key to Ending #Poverty? @Stefanie_DeLuca & other sociologists http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/02/is-ending-segregation-the-key-to-ending-poverty/385002/ …

View summary

0 replies 7 retweets 1 favorite

Parents of OMM @ParentsofOMM  ·

The truth about #singlemoms using #foodstamps and what you can do to help http://bit.ly/1zkIx9w  #family #poverty #welfare #womenleaders

0 replies 1 retweet 1 favorite

Educating Girls with Disabilities around the World: A Guest Blog

Stephanie Ortoleva photo

My friend, Stephanie Ortoleva, President and Founder of Women Enabled, Inc.

Friday, October 11 was the International Day of the Girl.  To celebrate that day, one of my best friends, Stephanie Ortoleva, wrote about a missing piece of the conversation on educating girls – the education of girls with disabilities.  I thought you’d like to hear what she has to say. Thus this guest blog.

First, a bit about Stephanie. She is the President and Founder of Women Enabled, Inc., a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of woman and girls with disabilities in collaboration with activist organizations around the world.  She is also an international human rights lawyer, advocate, speaker, and author.  You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook and read her papers on the Social Science Research Network.

If you like this blog, you can get more information on this topic from Stephanie.  She has written a chapter in a soon-to-be-published (2014) Sage Publications book edited by Asha Hans entitled “Women and Girls with Disabilities – Global Perspectives” (ordering information will be on the Women Enabled, Inc. website in the Reading and Listening Room). You can also go to the Women Enabled, Inc. website in the “Education and Employment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” section and the Publications Section for several other articles on women and girls with disabilities.

And now, here’s what Stephanie has to say on the education of girls with disabilities….

International Day of the Girl:  Focus on Education – Missing Stories in the Blogs

The United Nations has designated October 11 as International Day of the Girl, with a focus on Education.  But as I read many well-written and strong feminist posts on this issue, the concerns of millions of girls with disabilities are missing from the dialog.  Who are the missing girls?  The deaf girl in India who attends a school for deaf children and who was raped by her teachers.  The blind girl in the United States who wants to be a scientist, but is not permitted to take the classes and who is told a blind person can’t be a scientist, especially not a blind girl.  The girl with a disability in Pakistan whose parents keep her at home and will not even let her attend school because they are ashamed.  These are only a few of the untold stories.  But the statistics about education of girls with disabilities tells an even starker story.

Statistics

Estimates of the percentage of children with disabilities not attending school are extremely variable.  However, in general, children with disabilities are less likely to start school and have lower rates of staying and being promoted in school than their peers without disabilities.  The correlation between low educational outcomes and having a disability is often stronger than the correlations between low educational outcomes and other characteristics such as gender, rural residence or poverty.  The limited statistics that are available indicate that although the literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 3%, only 1% of women with disabilities are literate, based on comprehensive research completed by Harilyn Rousso for UNESCO.  These percentages are significantly lower than those for women in general.

  • The UNESCO Institute for Statistics reports, “In 2008, 796 million adults worldwide (15 years and older) reported not being able to read and write and two-thirds of them (64%) were women.  The global adult literacy rate was 83%, with a male literacy rate of 88% and a female literacy rate of 79%.” In 2010, according to a journal article by Francis  Huebler, this statistic improved marginally to a male literacy rate of 89% and a female literacy rate of 80%, with the percent differential between the genders remaining the same.
  • The World Bank and the World Health Organization Report states that out of the 51 countries included in the analysis, “50.6% of males with disability have completed primary school, compared with 61.3% of males without disability. Females with disability report 41.7% primary school completion compared with 52.9% of females without disability, a difference of 8.9% between males and females with disabilities.”
  • There is a direct correlation between poverty, being a child with disabilities and low education participation, with the girls with disabilities from lower socio-economic backgrounds rarely attending school.
  • Girls with disabilities have the lowest education participation rates of all groups and they have few opportunities for vocational training, all of which further contributes to their low employment rates.

International Law

Under international law our participation is our human right. [These rights are enumerated in both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women]. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in its Article 7 on Children with Disabilities and its Article 24 on Education focuses on the girl child with a disability and her right to education. The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in Article 10, guarantees to all women and girls the right to education.  Furthermore, in several of its General Recommendations, the CEDAW Committee has specifically addressed the rights of women and girls with disabilities. And  the Final Conclusions from the 55th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which focused on women and education and employment in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields, specifically incorporated these rights for women and girls with disabilities.  Thus, the synergy between the CRPD and the CEDAW is a vital tool for advancing our rights in this area.

Barriers to Participation in Education

Barriers to the participation of women and girls with disabilities in education are based on culture, family structures, societal attitudes and stereotypes, institutional systems, law and legal processes, economic realities, patriarchy and paternalism.  Specific barriers include:

  • Cultural bias – Often, women are denied education because it is believed that they will become wives and mothers and such resources are provided to male children.  But for women with disabilities, are often seen as unlikely to assume such roles, and thus are the last to receive family resources;
  • Double discrimination – Women and girls with disabilities face double or intersectional discrimination based on both gender and disability (as well as other identities) and stereotypical attitudes based thereon further limit our opportunities;
  • Invisibility – Girls with disabilities are often kept in the home and their births may not be registered, making them invisible to the education system, either because of assumptions about our abilities or embarrassment on the part of our families.  Additionally, misconceptions about our abilities may make us invisible to teachers even if we attend school;
  • Violence against women and girls with disabilities – Women and girls with disabilities are more likely to experience gender-based violence than their non-disabled sisters, sometimes because we are erroneously perceived as sick, helpless, asexual, and powerless, or on the other hand, we are seen as hypersexual or just lucky to have sexual experiences at all wherever we can because we are undesirable.  Additionally, women and girls with disabilities living in residential facilities or schools are even more likely to experience such abuse;
  • Pregnancy, HIV-infection and other results of sexual assault and rape – As a result of sexual violence and rape, women and girls with disabilities may become pregnant or contract sexually transmitted diseases from the abuser;
  • Bullying and teasing – Disabled girls are sometimes subjected to bullying and teasing by their peers based on both our gender and our disability, negatively impacting our emotional and cognitive development, as well as causing low self-esteem;
  • Economic resources for education – Male education is prioritized as it is believed that a male child can contribute financially to the family, and women and girls with disabilities are not viewed as worthy of an education since many assume their disabilities will preclude success;
  • Schools in inaccessible locations and/or lack of transportation – Schools that provide special education and/or education for children with disabilities in integrated settings are often located in cities and families are reluctant to send daughters to the city or there is no accessible transport to such schools.  Boys are often seen as more independent and permitted to travel to urban locations;
  • Accessibility to assistive technology and rehabilitation – Men and boys have greater access to such services;
  • Accessibility of school facilities – Often the school buildings and facilities themselves are inaccessible, posing yet another barrier;
  • Accessible toileting facilities and assistance in toileting – Provision of toileting assistance places a particular burden on women and girls with disabilities, especially with respect to menstruation which is often a taboo topic. [In addition,] access to appropriate hygiene products is non-existent or in very short supply, resulting in increased isolation for women and girls with disabilities and further impairs their ability to attend school or work;
  • Availability of special education – Girls with disabilities are less likely to receive special education, in some instances because teachers expect more from boys than girls and sometimes because girls, who may be less likely to act out due to cultural control pressures, are not referred for services based on a learning or other disability.  And even if a girl receives special education services, she may be tracked toward pursuing traditional gender-identified career paths;
  • Competitive classroom climate and teaching strategies – Competitive educational approaches are challenging to some girls with disabilities.  Mainly for the same reasons discussed earlier, like bullying, being outnumbered by males in the classroom, and low self-esteem.  In addition, many teachers are trained to teach more life skills to students with disabilities rather than focus on competitive subjects;
  • Digital divide – Women and girls with disabilities are at the bottom of the digital divide and the least likely to have access to technology;
  • Belief that girls do not do math and science – We are presumed not to have aptitude in these subjects and are steered into gender stereotypical subjects, as well as the “talent myth” which is based on the erroneous assumption that skills in STEM fields are an innate aptitude and cannot be learned;
  • Counseling based on stereotypical roles for women and girls – Counselors often steer girls with disabilities toward gender-stereotyped jobs and generally they are less likely to afford girls with disabilities vocational education. [Also,] many counselors hold the incorrect societal perception that girls with disabilities have limited aptitude or interest in STEM and other challenging subjects;
  • Girls with and without disabilities have limited interaction – Both groups would benefit from such interactions, as they contribute to networking and peer support, and reduction of fear and stigma;
  • Absence of women with disabilities as role models – The invisibility of women with disabilities in educational materials, as educators, in the workplace and in the media creates a dearth of positive role models for women and girls with disabilities; and
  • Shortage of women with disabilities as mentors – Having a responsive and supportive mentor makes the world of difference for academic and professional success and increased self-esteem.

Let’s spread the facts and then, let’s change them!

Third Circuit Upholds Girls’ Free Speech Rights in School

In September 2011, just before I stepped down as Pennsylvania NOW President, PA NOW along with the Feminist Majority, Legal Momentum, and several other feminist organizations signed onto an amicus brief written by the Women’s Law Project in support of two middle school girls from the Easton Area (PA) School District who participated in a youth breast cancer awareness program by wearing “I ♥ boobies” breast cancer awareness bracelets to school.

"I ♥ Boobies" bracelets made by the Keep a Breast Foundation

Sample “I ♥ Boobies” bracelets that were banned by the Easton Area School District; photo courtesy of Keep a Breast Foundation

Kayla Martinez and Brianna Hawk, then seventh and eighth graders, were suspended for wearing Keep A Breast bracelets on Breast Cancer Awareness Day.  Subsequently the school district instituted a district wide ban on the bracelets because they were supposedly “lewd” statements about women’s bodies.  These young women, citing 1st Amendment rights, refused to take them off and then filed suit through their parents after the district-wide ban was instituted.

On August 5, 2013, the 14-member 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 9-5 en banc decision, upheld the District Court injunction against this ban on educational free speech.  They looked at the question of whether or not speech about women’s bodies and their health could [be] interpret[ed] as lewd, vulgar, profane, or offensive [when that] speech could also plausibly be interpreted as commenting on a political or social issue.”  The court decided that breast cancer is a social issue exception and thus protected speech.  This means that talk about breasts and breast cancer is protected speech in schools throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, the three states that fall under the jurisdiction of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to the Keep A Breast Foundation, the makers of this bracelet, the 3rd Circuit Courts decision

“[M]arks the first time a federal court of appeals has ruled that the First Amendment protects student speech that is plausibly understood as commenting on political or social issues.”

The Court’s bottom-line statement in its en banc decision, I believe, says it all:

“The bracelets are intended to be and they can reasonably be viewed as speech designed to raise awareness of breast cancer and to reduce stigma associated with openly discussing breast health.”

Thanks to Mary Catherine Roper of the ACLU of Pennsylvania  for taking this case to the 3rd Circuit and to Terry Fromson and staff of the Women’s Law Project for working on this issue in support of young women’s free speech rights when talking and taking a stand on their bodies and their health!

King’s Dream in 2013: Interlocking Destinies

It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. One of his colleagues at that event was the Rev. Jessie Jackson, Sr.  Rev. Jackson has continued speaking and advocating for that dream of “uniting people on common ground across race, culture, class, gender, and belief.”  This idea of interlocking destinies was presented during his plenary speech at the National NOW Conference held in Chicago on July 5, 2013.

I was in the room during Rev. Jackson’s speech and took several video clips with my smart phone.  One of them came out clear enough to post on this blog.  So after getting back home, participating in a family reunion, and then spending a week and a half looking for a replacement car for our 253,000+ mile vehicle, I was able to upload the video and present it to you.

Video of Jessie Jackson at the 2013 National NOW Conference in Chicago, IL

The following quotes, along with the time tags are some of the best comments, IMHO, that Jessie Jackson made during this speech discussing the intersection between the women’s movement and the civil rights movement, which at 13:59 into this video, Jackson calls a “sharing of interlocking destinies.” He started off by discussing these Interlocking Destinies and shared rights.

3:10 Fifty years after the “I Have a Dream” speech, we still need the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment].

3:52 The right to vote should not be a state right. It’s a constitutional right for everyone.

4:10 Every child should have access to have access to high-quality public education.

4:20 No matter if you are in Mississippi, Maine, or in California, we live under one flag; you should have equal protection under the law.

5:52 Our goal is to learn to live together.

6:20 Civil rights cannot be another word for “black” and NOW cannot be another word for “white women.”  Black women, in big numbers, should be members of NOW now!

7:00 We must pull down the walls [of cultural resistance] that leave us in the shadow of fear…. When the walls come down, we can all grow bigger, better, stronger with greater productivity.  When the walls come down.

9:00 There’s a new South today that can have the Super Bowl, CNN, high-tech universities [showing that we are] learning to live together.  Yet…

At this point, Rev. Jackson starts talking about some of the interlocking issues of racism and sexism still present that need to be addressed in the United States:

9:56 It’s interesting to me that during the Republican Primary, in my [home] state [South Carolina] with an open primary, not one candidate went to a single school or church of the black community.  Not one! 33% black.  Not only did they not go, the media did not challenge them to go.  This instance [of the] reinforcement of apartheid was natural because it’s [still] normal.

Jackson then spends a bit of time framing these interlocking destinies and the problem of economics and access to justice.  He gave several examples of this framework.  The one that resonated with me was the one about the automobile industry, considering that my car had died the weekend before the conference and knowing that I would soon be car shopping. He said,

12:38 What does it mean that there are 21,000 automobile dealerships? 200 black-owned. Almost no women. Pepsi: one black franchise. Coke: zero. When you go get educated. You get your masters and PhD degrees. Business people, you cannot buy one of these franchises, by the way, because they were sold under the laws of perpetuity. Those that got the territories [back in the day] have the territory eternally.  So it’s not about getting on the ball field.  If you get on the ball field, there are no balls left…. Even money can’t buy them.

And finally, just as the battery in my smart phone died, he ended on a high note using history to look towards the future. He said that as in the past, we have not and can never be at loss for continuing to advocate for reform.  This is what I caught on the video as it beeped “bye-bye:”

13:59 The agenda of race and gender equality are inextricably bound.  We share interlocking destinies.  African-Americans won the right to vote in 1879 – 15th Amendment. Women in 1920 – 19th Amendment. We [finally] got the right for blacks to vote in the Deep South in 1965 [with the Voting Rights Act] while women got the right to serve on juries in 1967 – 2 years later [as a result of the US Supreme Court decision in Taylor v. Louisiana]Eighteen year olds got the right to vote in 1970; [before that] those [young people] serving in Vietnam could not vote…

DOMA and LGBTQ Rights in PA

I just finished reading an article in PhillyNOW, a weekly blog that touts itself as an alternative to the mainstream press in Philadelphia to “bring you news and politics with an attitude, whether you like it or not.”  This article, in light of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in UNITED STATES v. WINDSOR overturning the definition of marriage as described in Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), calls on the Democratic Party at both the state and national levels to “stand up on LGBT rights.”

I would go even further. Not only should Democrats step forward, but Republicans need to step of to the plate of equal access as well.

It doesn’t matter what party you belong to.

The Declaration of Independence says,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [sic] are created equal, that they are endowed … with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The  5th amendment to the Constitution, in part says,

“No person…shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…”

(FYI, It was this constitutional “due process” amendment that was used to overturn DOMA in yesterday’s majority opinion).

That means equality for all. Including in marriage and an end to hate and discrimination for all, gay or straight.

Our laws need to be changed here in Pennsylvania to live up to the Declaration of Independence and our Constitutional right to democracy and freedom for all. That includes, but are not limited to:

  1. revoking Pennsylvania’s DOMA law;
  2. passing marriage equality;
  3. adding sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as gender, disability, and ancestry (click here and here for current bills) back into PA’s hate crimes law;
  4. adding sexual orientation and gender identity (bill not yet introduced into the PA General Assembly) into PA’s Human Relations Act;
  5. passing the proposed the Pennsylvania Safe Schools (PASS) Act that focuses on bullying and harassment in public schools; and
  6. changing state inheritance tax laws to give the same exemptions to the tax that heterosexual couples have (as far as I can tell, there is no pending legislation in the PA General Assembly to do this).

Let’s do it sooner rather than later. Let’s come together.

War on Women in Pennsylvania: At Least a 20-Year Happening

Last week, Governor Tom “Just Close Your Eyes” Corbett signed into law Act 13 of 2013, also known as HB 818.  This newest attack in the War on Women denies women the ability to use THEIR OWN FUNDS to purchase coverage for an abortion within the new healthcare exchange that Corbett decided to fob off onto the federal government.  Although the state couldn’t be “bothered” with running this exchange, they have no problem in denying women the ability to purchase coverage for an abortion even in cases in which her life is endangered.

At the time of final passage of the bill I sent out an email to several friends listservs. Here are some of the comments I received back:

What is going on in PA?  It’s beginning to sound more & more like a North Dakota or a Kansas [or a Mississippi or an Arizona or a Wisconsin or a Texas or any other state that’s been taken over by misogynists and racists].  Terrible!!

If women aren’t allowed to spend money on their healthcare the way they deem medically necessary, then it’s time to face the fact that we’re not even citizens in our own states.

I agree with all of these sentiments.  Yet, these types of legislative actions have been going on in Pennsylvania for a long time, despite Pennsylvania having an ERA in our state Constitution and having already ratified the national ERA.

Bit of history of the War on Women in Pennsylvania.  We’ve been battling this War for over two decades in our legislature.  The battles started with attacks on reproductive justice and have now spread to other areas of women’s lives.

Reproductive Justice Battles

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has basically been co-opted by the radical right-wing on both sides of the aisle.  The Democrats do have more pro-choice people than the Republicans.  The Senate is a bit better than the House of Representatives.  And this has basically been true since the late 1980’s.

  1. Which is why Governor Bob Casey, Sr. (D) pushed through Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act that initially mandated parental consent, spousal consent, a 24-hour waiting period, and a state-mandated script about the “detriments” to health in abortion procedures.  Planned Parenthood contested the law that went all the way to the US Supreme Court in a case called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. Decided on June 29, 1992, the Court threw out spousal consent as an “undue burden,” but upheld the rest of the law. This was one of the first battles partially won by the emerging War on women.  That was 21 years ago this week.
  2. Which is why Title X and state Family Planning monies are split 50/50 each year in the state budget between crisis pregnancy centers and legitimate family planning clinics.  And this has been happening for over a decade now. And in 2012, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R) proposed eliminating ALL funding for family planning for Planned Parenthood or any other clinic that provides abortion services.
  3. Which is why we are losing stand-alone abortion providers due to the TRAP (Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers) law passed in December 2011 following “Dr.” Gosnell’s arrest and guilty verdict for murdering 9 live-born infants and one woman in a filthy, rat-infested facility that the state had not inspected despite complaints from legitimate providers for about 10 years.
  4. Which is why we almost had a transvaginal ultrasound law last year.  And for Governor Corbett’s “Just close your eyes” statement (Corbett’s comments on the ultrasound bill start at 14:28).  The main reasons I think it ultimately died in committee is thanks to the activists in VA who created the uproar there and because so many people, including doctors were outraged by the invasiveness of this bill and for Corbett’s insensitive statement (of which he is becoming more or more well-known for – he’s his own worst enemy).

Other Battles in the War on Women in Pennsylvania

And on other issues – similar actions have occurred.

Increasing Conservatism in the Legislature and Governorship

In 2010, the Tea Party and the radical right swept into office an even more anti-woman legislature and governor here in Pennsylvania.  The War on Women went into full swing.  Both houses of the General Assembly became even more heavily conservative, with the House switching from a Democratic- to a Republican-controlled majority and the state elected an anti-choice, anti-woman, and in my opinion, racist governor – Governor Tom Corbett (R).

To highlight how conservative the Pennsylvania General Assembly has become, just look at the 2012 ratings of legislators by the American Conservative Union.  They indicated that 51% of members in the combined Assembly are solid conservatives; 105 or 42% are given a score of 100 and an additional 22 or 9% are rated at 63 or higher.  The entire leadership of the majority party in both houses and thus those with the power to deny women, people of color, people with disabilities and people living in poverty their basic rights are listed in their report as so-called “Defenders of Liberty” or “Conservatives” because of their rating of, respectively, either 100 (13 of the 16 leaders) or 80 (the remaining 3 leaders).

Attack on Hate Crimes Protections

An updated hate crimes bill was initially passed in 2002 that added gender, gender identity, national origin, disability, and sexual orientation.  Because the radical right didn’t want to vote against adding sexual orientation coupled with disability and gender and thereby anger multiple constituencies within their district, a member of the House, proposed a late-night, end of session amendment in the 2001-2002 legislative session that substituted the hate crimes bill for an agricultural crimes bill.  The vote was overwhelmingly in favor, mostly because the legislators didn’t want to appear to be supporting hate crimes via a no vote (prior to this the then Republican majority had refused to bring up the bill for a committee vote). The radical right-wing appealed saying that this substitution violated the state’s constitutional mandate that any amendment has to be germane to the original intent of the bill.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed in July 23, 2008 that this procedure (but not the underlying intent) was unconstitutional and threw out the law.  It has been reintroduced every session since then with no hearing or vote in any committee in either house.

Attacks on Marriage Equality

In addition to having a state-based mini-DOMA (a state-level Defense of Marriage Act) on the books, Pennsylvania has had several attempts at adding this form of discrimination to our state constitution introduced every session for the last decade.  The major reasons they have not passed is that the House is even more conservative than the Senate and the two houses can’t agree on how extreme to make it.  There is another one that has been introduced in the General Assembly this year, but due to increasing support by the public for civil unions and marriage equality (almost 2/3 support throughout the state), they haven’t yet held any hearings.

Budgetary Attacks

One of the spears attacking women, families, and people of color since the takeover of our legislative and executive branches of government here in the state is the budget.

We have had severe cutbacks in state funding for education, health care, and human services since 2011.  According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, spending on these three areas in the final budget for 2012-2013 that ends this week was either flat-lined (“welfare” programs) or reduced by 0.3% (for public school education), 15.9% (for higher education), and 37% to 45% (for Medical Assistance inpatient and outpatient care).

The proposed budget plan for 2013-2014 continues these cuts. Here are a couple of examples of this budgetary war:

Attacks to Eliminate Equality for All

In the very first budget introduced by Governor Corbett, every advocacy Commission in the Executive branch was eliminated in the 2011-2012 budget – this includes the Pennsylvania Commission for Women (which I served on until it was abolished), Latino Affairs, Asian-American Affairs, and African-American Affairs.  As you will see from the links to these commissions, there is no public information on who the commissioners are nor is the any information on the services any of these commissions provide.  Prior to the elimination of these commissions in 2011, the Commission for Women, for example, had an extensive web presence which included our mission (the only thing that now remains), hotline contact information, copies of reports written by the Commission, information on the advocacy being conducted by the Commission, and links to programs and services to broadly assist women.  Transparency has disappeared; this is another spear in the attacks with the War on Women here in Pennsylvania.

Like every other state, Pennsylvania has a commission that monitors, reviews and adjudicates alleged acts of discrimination; here in Pennsylvania that is the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Severe budgetary cut-backs have occurred in the funding for the PHRC in every budgetary cycle since 2011.  An individual who works within the PHRC told me last month that as a result of these cuts, they are down 50% in staffing and that long-time civil rights advocates in the agency have either retired (some early) or left for other work.  And it’s not getting any better. The PHRC is flat-lined in this year’s budget.  We don’t yet know if this will still be true once the budget is passed, which theoretically must be done this week since our state constitution requires passage by June 30 of each year.

Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is part of the War on Women due to its impact on legislation directly affecting women’s lives. Gerrymandering here in Pennsylvania, aka the “Gerrymander of the Decade,” has entrenched the right-wing Republicans in both the General Assembly and the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation.  This, despite the fact that there are many more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state.

Being a Democratic legislator, as we all know doesn’t guarantee concern for women’s rights (think Senator Bob Casey, Jr. and his father, former Governor Bob Casey, Sr.). But in these days and times, it’s less likely to cause a problem for us than do the Tea-Party dominated Republicans.

The most recent vote in the General Assembly is a clear example of what gerrymandering has done to the legislature.

Gerrymandering, combined with the elections resulted in the passage of HB 818/Act 13 this month. Tea Party Republican conservatives won many of their races in 2010 and 2012, taking control and leadership of both houses in 2011.  In the House there are 111 Republicans and 92 Democrats.  On April 24, 2013, all but 2 Republicans (98%) voted against and all but 32 Democrats (65%) voted for women’s reproductive justice. In the Senate there are 28 Republicans and 22 Democrats. On June 5, 2013, all but 2 Republicans (93%) voted against and all but 5 Democrats (77%) voted for women’s reproductive justice.

State and Federal ERA

Another comment that was made when I sent out my email was about passing the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The person said,

This is the reason we need to be included in the Constitution of the United States!  One of main ways to stop bills like this is to pass the ERA and thus be admitted as full-fledged citizens of the US.

Before the War on Women started, Pennsylvania passed a state-based ERA that was voted on by the electorate and placed into Section I of the Pennsylvania Constitution in 1971.

Yet even with this state-based ERA, the War on Women is being raged here in Pennsylvania.  Sometimes the state ERA works and sometimes it doesn’t.  It worked back in the 1980’s when Pat and Twiss Butler worked with Pennsylvania NOW to get gender-based auto insurance rates eliminated.  But it didn’t work in 2008 when a woman sued her employer using the state ERA based on sexually offensive comments made by her supervisor but not stopped by the company.

Many people, in frustration have made statements or created nicknames to replace the official monikers of “City or State of Brotherly Love” and the “Cradle of Independence.”  A couple of the pejoratives include “Pennsyltuky” and “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in the middle” (this latter one is attributed to James Carville)  The progressive parts of the state (for the citizenry, but not necessarily the full legislature) are currently Philadelphia and SE PA, the capital Harrisburg (to some minor extent) and Centre County where I live.  Pittsburgh is still itself progressive, but Allegheny County (where Pittsburgh is located) has become very, very conservative and thus more like the “T” (the term used to describe the rural part of the state outside of the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia regions).

Yes, it is frustrating.  But as a “cock-eyed optimist” (something I’ve often been called), I continue to push back and sometimes we get things that are a bit better than they would have been otherwise.  Much of our work is being done in coalition these days.  I won’t stop my push-back against this War on Women.  I will continue my multi-decade work and will continue to shout from the mountain top whenever and wherever needed.  As will others (see for example, an article in Politico about the War on Women battle for the Pennsylvania governorship gearing up here in Pennsylvania).

Be a “cock-eyed” optimist.  Get the ERA passed and stop this state and national War on Women. As Margaret Mead said,

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

What is Equal Pay Day and Why Should I Care?

For the last three years, my local NOW chapter—Ni-Ta-Nee NOW—has organized community education events surrounding Equal Pay Day and paycheck fairness.

A frequent question we have is, “What’s Equal Pay Day and why should I care?”  To help answer that question, we have done op-eds and interviews with the local press (See here and here).  We also create a flyer that we update each year.  As President of Pennsylvania NOW, I wrote another blog on this issue in 2011. And elsewhere on my blog site, I have commented on the need for fairness in pay.

Today, we will once again be distributing Equal Pay Day flyers in front of the gates of The Pennsylvania State University over the dinner hour today.

Why today? Because Equal Pay Day moves from year to year. For 2013, that day is April 9.

The following is a web-based version of this flyer.  The hard-copy version focuses on Pennsylvania.  I have kept that information here; I’ve also added commentary and links for information and contacts in other states.

TUESDAY APRIL 9TH 2013

EQUAL PAY DAY

IT’S THE DAY ON WHICH WOMEN’S WAGES CATCH UP WITH MEN’S WAGES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR.

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work full-time, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year.  In 2013, it took 2 days MORE than in 2011 and 8 days LESS than in 2012 for a woman to earn as much as a man earned in the entire year.

THE WAGE GAP

National Perspective

The wage gap shows that women, particularly women of color are paid significantly less than white men.

The Wage Gap: Lack of Equal Pay

The wage gap is the ratio of women’s to men’s median annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers. Based on these earnings, women earned just 82% of what men earned (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013).

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 88% of what the average white man earned in 2012. White women are next, earning approximately 81% of white men’s average income. African-American women (68%) and Hispanic women (59%) have the largest wage gaps compared to white men (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, March 2013).

A typical woman earns $431,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. (Center for American Progress, 2012)

At the current rate of progress, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that it will be 2057 before women’s wages reach parity and Equal Pay Day will finally be on December 31 rather than somewhere in April of the following year!

Pennsylvania Perspective

The wage gap is just as bad, if not worse, in our state. When ranked among the other 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed it 34th (Women’s Law Center calculation based on American Community Survey Briefs, April 2013).  You can look up your state’s pay equity ranking at this site as well if you don’t live in Pennsylvania.

The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year round in Pennsylvania in 2011 was $37,089, compared to men’s $47,956. This is a wage gap of 77% (Women’s Law Center calculation based on American Community Survey Briefs, April 2013). A typical woman in PA earns $459,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. This gap rises to $722,000 for women who have earned college degrees. (Center for American Progress, 2010)

WHAT CAN I DO??

If You are an Employer

If you are an employer, you can get help in examining pay practices by conducting an equal pay self-audit using the guidelines from the US Department of Labor (available at www.pay-equity.org/cando-audit.html).

If You Believe You Are Experiencing Wage-Based Discrimination

Tell your employer if you are being paid less than your male co-workers. Click here for some tips on negotiating for pay equity.

If there’s a union, ask for their help.

If discrimination persists: There are three places to file complaints – at the federal level, at the state level, and at the local level.

At the Federal Level

You can file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Go to this link and follow the instructions.

At the State Level

You can find your state’s anti-discrimination agency website and contact information in a pdf file created by Legal Momentum starting on page 28.  Most of the agencies have a website address that you can copy and paste into your browser.  All of the agencies have a phone number that you can call for assistance.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg.  Contact information is available by region.  Just go to their website and look for your county’s name.  The phone number and address for your regional office is listed directly above the names of the counties served by each office.

At the Local Level

There are a few communities throughout the country that have created local ordinances that include the state-based anti-discrimination protections and have also expanded coverage to other areas (such as protections based on sexual orientation, family status, and/or family responsibilities across the life-span).

You should therefore check to see if your local county, city, or community has an ordinance providing similar protections for wage-based discrimination. If so, you can more conveniently file a wage-based complaint at the local level.  Check with your state’s anti-discrimination agency (see info above under “At the State Level”) to see if there is a local ordinance in your community.

In Pennsylvania, there are about 30 communities with such an ordinance. Your regional office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission can give you this information, along with whom to contact.

One of these 30 communities in Pennsylvania is State College, PA, where the main campus of The Pennsylvania State University is located. Their ordinance covers wage-based discrimination based on sex as well as color (race), religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids.  If you work within the State College, PA borough, you can file a complaint with them under their Employment Anti-Discrimination Ordinance at 814.234.7110 (Side note: I was one of the people instrumental in crafting this ordinance).

Supporting and Advocating for Paycheck Fairness

Ask your Congressional representatives to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act – HR 377 in the US House of Representatives and S 84 in the US Senate).  The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It gives women the tools they need to challenge the wage gap itself.

You can find out where your representatives stand on the Paycheck Fairness Act by going to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. In the search box in the middle of the page, type in “Paycheck Fairness Act” and click search.  On the next page, two bills will show up—SR 84 and HR 377.  This page provides several links to information about both of these bills—text, bill history, co-sponsors, etc. If you click on “cosponsors” for each bill, you can determine if your representatives are publicly supporting the bill or not. If they are a sponsor, thank them and then ask them to call for a hearing on vote on the bill.  If they are not, ask them to sign on.

And For More Information

Visit http://www.pay-equity.org – the website created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE).  NCPE is a coalition of women’s and civil rights organizations; labor unions; religious, professional, legal, and educational associations, commissions on women, state and local pay equity coalitions and individuals.”  They are dedicated to ending wage-based discrimination and achieving pay equity. If you like what they are doing, you can join and become a member.

A Further Comment on Violence Against Women and Children on V-Day

I received a comment on LinkedIn this morning in response to my posting titled VAWA Passes Senate: One Step Toward Ending the Climate of Indifference Towards Violence Against Women.  My status statement said, “Feb 14 is V-Day. Rise to end indifference towards violence against women.”  A man in one of the groups I am a member of responded with a question:

So, please explain how we are being “indifferent” towards violence against women. There are laws against violent attacks on any human being – women included. Are these laws being ignored in cases where a woman is the victim?

I think not.

What we see here is another group who wishes to reap the benefits of victim status whether the facts bear them out or not. Beware of those who believe that they deserve special treatment – especially when that special treatment comes at the expense of others.

His question deserves a response.  Which I gave him within LinkedIn.  Since there are many others how might have a similar question but aren’t on LinkedIn, I’m commenting here as well.

The Violence Against Women Re-Authorization Act (VAWA S.47) does not call for special treatment of anyone. VAWA is calling on fair treatment of ALL victims of violence.

A climate of indifference is a climate where attacks against others – sexual assault, acquaintance or domestic violence, sexual harassment, and stalking– are ignored, covered up, or made light of. And in some instances, the climate of indifference is perpetuated when the alleged perpetrator is treated more lightly than someone else who may have committed the assault simply because of his status or affiliation.

That’s what has partially been happening with the Athletics program at Penn State University since 1994 and which helped lead to the situation of the child sexual assaults done by Jerry Sandusky. That’s part of what is happening in Steubenville, OH in the rape case where perpetrators made a video of themselves and others carrying a teenage girl from one house to another and raping her. That’s what led to the DC police refusing to take a police report last week from a friend of mine after a man exposed himself to her and masturbated because she didn’t stay with the man until the police came!

In addition, VAWA’s re-authorization has been delayed for over two years because some legislators – mostly Republican, including the majority of the US House of Representatives – are indifferent to the violence perpetrated on Native Americans, immigrants, and gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered persons. This “indifference” towards violence against specific people is based solely on the victim’s status, is disparate treatment, and IMO is discriminatory.

Yes there are laws in place. Yet, until all victims are treated fairly and in a timely fashion, I will continue to call out people and communities for creating a climate of indifference that allows this to continue. All people need to live in safe communities and homes.

Ending this climate of indifference wherever it occurs is a start towards caring for our loved ones.  PASS VAWA NOW!

“Gabby Giffords Deserves a Vote:” So Says President Obama

I’m a graduate of Virginia Tech and know the buildings where the VT shootings occurred. In 1996, my husband unknowingly walked right by shooter Jillian Rogers on the HUB lawn at Penn State University; fortunately he wasn’t one of her victims. When I was a social worker, I was threatened by a man with a gun; again, fortunately the gun wasn’t loaded when he grabbed the gun and his father was able to wrestle the gun away from him. As a child, my father dismantled his pistol when my mother became depressed; he was sensible and did the right thing. Gun safety and responsible solutions are necessary. As Mr. Obama said, we need to support commonsense solutions to reduce gun violence. I agree with Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

President Obama calling for a vote on sensible solutions to gun violence.

“It was powerful to be in the chamber tonight as we stood in support of commonsense solutions to reduce gun violence. We were joined by victims from Aurora, Newtown, Tucson, Chicago, Wisconsin and other American communities. The President cut through the acrimony and partisanship and showed that measures to reduce gun violence like universal background checks aren’t Democratic or Republican – they’re important for and supported by almost all Americans.

Hard to say it better than the President did tonight during his State of the Union Address: “Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote.” We leave tonight, Gabby’s 6th State of the Union, more optimistic and determined than ever.