Global Womenʼs Rights: Amnesty International USA Town Hall, Part II
The Domestic Policy Panel discussed “Whatʼs at stake for womenʼs rights in the United States? What will bring the young generation into the feminist rights issues? What are the objectives and goals that should form the centerpiece of the womenʼs rights agenda? What is the importance of womenʼs political participation in the 2012 election and beyond?
Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President of Education and Employment at the National Law Center, indicated that, economically, our greatest challenge is to determine how to break down the barriers to gender equity. Essentially, there have been no advances in the average wage of women in decades. The same is true for African American women who still earn approximately 64 cents on the dollar and Hispanic women who earn 55 cents on the dollar. Womenʼs earnings in their lifetime are directly related to their ability to reach higher levels of education. One of the hardest challenges is to remove economic training barriers to women. We need to secure places for women in the higher paying jobs, not the usual training programs in low paying “womenʼs fields”. Fatima stated that, since women are 40% of bread winners, there are ways to rephrase how lesser pay hurts the family, the environment and transcends the plight of solely women. Their status affects the total society.
Linda Hirshman, brought another insight to the issues. As retired Allen/Berenson Distinguished visiting Professor of Philosophy and Womenʼs Studies at Brandeis University, an author, lawyer and feminist scholar, she provided insight into what she perceived as the failure of the feminist movement of the seventies. She described how the present “Gay Movement” might be used as a model for the current feminist movement to gain rights for women. Women of the seventies invested in their male partners/husbands and “slaughtered themselves”. They lost the first layer of bargaining power. They gave up maximum power for minimum wage. By contrast, Linda states that the Gay movement (by this she meant lesbians and gay men) which she describes in her forthcoming book, has been the most effective movement. This movement produced the greatest achievements in the shortest period of time. The motto was “Gay is Good” and they would not settle for less. Linda emphasized that women today must “better yourself, rather than enable your male. Invest in self.”
Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of Choice USA, was the voice of the young, bringing a young perspective to the resolution of issues. First of all, Kierra stated that their three priorities were the economy, health care and education. Young people are talking about sex and having sex, but barely talking about what healthy sex and sexuality are. College women are not as concerned with abortion as working together with men in the broadest aspects of reproduction rights in how and when to create families and such issues as the shackling of pregnant women in prison.
Todayʼs young women are more likely to go to college, represent a greater percentage of college students than ever before, are aware and want to have the same rights and safety. But, Kierra continues, women are not in the center of conversation. A women lawyer receives the same wage as a man when they graduate, but a gap occurs and widens during her career. The young (18-29 year olds) represent 25% of the electorate and 20% have partners born outside this country. This population is more ethnically diverse and more complex than in the past.
A crucial issue is how to engage these young people, men and women, and their causes and values in the political so that we do not lose their power to make something happen. Being culturally engaged is political and women hold the culture of society. Young women know that "occupation segregation" is real; they will push to create a broader justice cause and not condone gender restrictions. They are staying single or marrying late or having children later. As Kierra states, "they could run against the older male Congressman".
A highlight of the conference was the showing of the new ONE BILLION RISING promotional video by Eve Ensler, playwrite, author, performer, founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising Campaign. On V-Dayʼs 15th Anniversary, February 14, 2013 there will be a global event for women to strike, dance and rise against violence of women. One in three women have been victims of violence (rape or beatings). Communities and groups are invited to dance, perform, discuss and do whatever they deem important in their space to make people aware of violence against women and to demand an end to violence. As Eve describes this event: V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers and our solidarity across borders. What does one billion persons dancing all over the world look like? Encourage everyone to dance. We can shift the energy of the world. When you dance you transform. When we are connected to our hearts we cannot do wrong to others. Eve invites us to join and learn more by visiting:
www.onebillionrising.org twitter: @VDay:1BillionRising
facebook.com/vday text Billion to 50555
Dr. Marlene Adrian, posted October 23, 2012