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Standing Our Ground: Going Beyond Maslow’s Basic Needs

1:38 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine


By Mary E. Plouffe, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine.

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us that basic needs (food, shelter, safety) must be satisfied before higher level needs (social relationships, self-esteem, self-actualization) can be given much attention.

A University of Illinois study published in 2011 challenges this assumption. In fact, even in countries where survival is a daily battle, people report a need for relationship, accomplishment and a feeling of effectance (personal power) in the world. We can, it seems, concern ourselves with many things at once.

The day after the election, the women’s movement needs to remember this.

The forces that want to turn back the clock on women’s rights, on reproductive rights and “issues of the womb” are counting on the old paradigm to be true. They are hoping that women will be so distracted with these core issues of safety and security in our own bodies that we will leave their war rooms and policy rooms bereft of our voices. This would be a big mistake.

There are extremists who want to put women and their bodies back under the control of a single conservative perspective. The laws and regulations they are proposing need to be challenged and beaten back. But I believe that this group is small, loud and beatable.

Women born in the last 30 years may have grown up without the need to grab the feminist flag, but they will rally if the rights they have enjoyed since they were born are in danger. And their mothers and grandmothers, who fought for those rights years ago in the trenches, will know how to lead them.

The larger danger comes from those who want to preserve and extend the balance of the past, the long-held reality that debates about economics and military policy and international policy are held almost exclusively in male voices.

Their use of Maslow’s psychology is simple: Keep the pot overflowing on the stove and the drawing room will remain cigar-friendly. Whether this is by chance or design, the resurgence of old feminist battles risks usurping too many women’s voices, and leaving critical issues without our influence. It will be no one’s fault but our own if we let that happen. Women have won many battles by uniting our voices. I believe, the day after this election, we need to hold our ground, and respond with a chorus of diverse feminine voices from every powerful position we own.

Here is how progressive feminists can do this.

Moving Forward with Four Action Steps

First, as a community, we need to encourage our members to put their energy and resources where they will make the most impact. I want female engineers talking about energy policy, and female economists talking about financial policy. I want them not only to feel free to do this, but to be applauded when they put their time and energy where they have the most credibility and where it will have the most impact for good.


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Presidential Debate and the Twenty Year Gender Gap: Carole Simpson on 1992

2:28 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

By Barbara Fischkin, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine.

Democrat & Republican logos

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

It was 1992 and the presidential race between incumbent George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot was in full steam.

Five days before the second debate, ABC’s Carole Simpson was named the first woman-and first African American-moderator.

It was also the first time a television debate would include a “town hall” segment, enabling selected “typical” American citizens to ask questions.

So many firsts. And a woman who was, in many ways, alone in trying to figure it out.

“I had no tapes to go by,” Simpson said during a live panel presentation Thursday evening. “I don’t have any way to see how this is going to look.” So she “studied morning, noon and night. I made up my own questions, in case something happened.” It was the pinnacle of her career, so she just kept saying to herself: “Carol you gotta do it. You just gotta do it.”

Flash to 2012. Candy Crowley, CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent was told in August that in October she would be moderating the second presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Plenty of time to prepare.

It might seem that we have come a long way, baby. Except for this: Crowley is only the second woman to moderate a presidential campaign. Between Simpson and Crowley there has been a twenty year gap.

Which was exactly the point the Women’s Media Center (WMC) wanted to drive home at that panel presentation in Manhattan held at The Paley Center for Media, in association with the center and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. THE WMC, founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem, has surveyed who holds the jobs in the media and starting at the top the numbers are startling for 2012. And not in a good way for women.

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Brilliance Outside the Box: Shulamith Firestone Remembered

4:51 am in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

By Barbara Fischkin, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine

Cover for the Dialectic of Sex

The Dialectic of Sex by Shulamith Firestone

It was a memorial service – and a call to action.

Shulamith Firestone, the brilliant, troubled feminist author, artist and activist who died in late August, was remembered at a sad but energized Manhattan memorial service Sunday night at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery.

“The only box Shulie ever fit in was a simple pine box,” Firestone’s sister Laya Firestone Seghi told a tearful, multi-generational gathering, speaking about her sister’s funeral on August 31. More than a hundred mourners- including many feminist leaders- attended.

Seghi spoke about the life of her sister, a woman who fought a decades-long battle with mental illness, medications and hospitalizations. Firestone’s first book, ‘The Dialectic of Sex,” published in 1970, is still taught in universities throughout the country. It is a complicated work which speaks about the toll childbirth and child-rearing take on a woman – and calls for gestation and birth outside the womb.

Seghi said that her sister “burned with a life force that was so intense and so powerful it consumed her.”

But while Firestone’s death at 67, alone in her East Village apartment, was heartbreaking, it has also prompted many progressive women to call for continued and renewed feminist energy. National Women’s Liberation is organizing “The Shulamith Firestone Women’s Liberation Conference,” now planned for the first weekend in March 2013.

Kate Millet, another pivotal influence on second-wave feminism and the author of “Sexual Politics,” was among those who spoke about both Firestone and renewed action.

“I think we should remember Shulie because we’re in the same place now just about,” Millet said, referring to setbacks for women’s rights. “We should remember her because we have lost our nerve altogether. Let’s get it back!”

In an interview later, Millet said:

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A Woman, Without A Fish, On A Bicycle

2:19 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

By Cindy Cooper, cross-posted at On The Issues Magazine.

Woman cycling, circa 1900. Collected by radlmax.

In 1892, suffragist and temperance leader Frances Elizabeth Willard had a truly wild idea: she would learn to ride a bicycle. Willard made this brave decision, in her words, “at the ripe age of fifty three.” She later explained it was “an act of grace,” emerging from the “pure natural love of adventure.”

Willard not only became the rider of a two-wheeler in a mere three months of testing and practice, but she wrote a bestseller to tell about it – A Wheel Within a Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle with Some Reflections By the Way, a slim volume published in 1895 (reprinted by Applewood Books in 1997). Willard was no wilting flower, but the challenges posed by the chain-driven two-wheeler went beyond balance and mounting to bumpy roads, puddles, clothing, animal interlopers and social propriety. In the end, she saw her accomplishment as a contribution to the advancement of women – to “help them to a wider world.”

The popularity of bicycling was growing rapidly with improvements to the two-wheeler. Pneumatic tires, new metallurgy and mass-production helped the bicycle take off in the 1890s. For the prior 30 years, inventors of all sorts had experimented with a variety of forms — adult tricycles, high-wheelers, hard-tired cycles. Then, the “safety bicycle” came into vogue.

Willard only lived a half-dozen more years after conquering the bicycle, dying at age 58 of influenza. But the changes to women’s lives were rolling and so was the continuing popularity of the bicycle. And the two, perhaps, were spokes of a wheel. Susan B. Anthony reportedly said in 1896: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”

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Lila Rose: A Sweet Face to Accompany Extreme Anti-Abortion Claims

2:28 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine

Close examination of this rose reveals many thorns (photo: drb62/flickr)

Close examination of this rose reveals many thorns (photo: drb62/flickr)

These days anti-abortion ingénue Lila Rose needs no introduction. In advertisements for this year’s Values Voter Summit, an annual conservative Christian confab, Rose was a headline attraction. While former Attorney General Edwin Meese required a note of background, Rose, like fellow speaker and antifeminist icon Phyllis Schlafly, was advertised by name alone. In LifeSiteNews, a Christian anti-abortion news service, Rose is often known simply as “Lila,” a one-name celebrity for the anti-choice right.

For those outside the fanclub, Rose is the early-20s activist and UCLA graduate who founded Live Action, an anti-abortion group that came to fame in 2008 for its high-profile “sting operation” against Planned Parenthood: a series of four taped phone calls wherein clinic employees awkwardly accepted donations targeted for black women’s abortions after Rose’s collaborator claimed he was worried about black birth rates and complained that affirmative action would decrease his own progeny’s prospects.

The sting was one of many. Rose followed this “Racism Project” with the 2008 “Mona Lisa Project,” which culminated in the release of hidden camera footage of a baby-faced Rose posing as a 13-year-old girl pregnant by her 31-year-old partner. The pained responses of clinic nurses and staff, who — head in hands — told Rose that they’re obligated to report instances of statutory rape and that she shouldn’t mention her boyfriend’s age if they were to help her access services, amounted to an even larger coup. And in 2011, Live Action released another series of stealth videos featuring a make-believe “pimp” inquiring about STD and contraceptive services for the underage or undocumented immigrant girls working for him to demonstrate its view that Planned Parenthood enables sex trafficking, too. While most clinic staff responded to the visits with suspicion, reporting license plate numbers to local and federal law enforcement, one manager came across as an eager co-conspirator, and a conspiracy theory born on the fringes of anti-abortion extremism became headline news. Read the rest of this entry →

No Women, No Peace: Time to Change Peace Building

12:33 pm in Uncategorized by On The Issues Magazine


"Peace" by stuckincustoms on flickr

By Shelagh Daley, cross-posted at On The Issues Magazine

You can’t build peace leaving half of the people out.

Women are a prime target in conflict, yet when it comes to building peace, they are being left out. The discourse around peace building often emphasizes the importance of inclusive and sustainable peace; however, many negotiations proceed amid blatant discrimination against half of the population.

Agreements made in peace negotiations set out the groundwork for post-agreement political, economic and social development, yet only a shocking one in 40 peace signatories in the past 25 years has been a woman. In addition to making claims of inclusivity highly questionable, this means experiences and issues affecting women are left off the agenda. Decision-making that is more inclusive and democratic is a better informed process and leads to better decisions and outcomes.

The “No women, no peace” campaign was created in the United Kingdom to mark the tenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and to urge the UK government to honor its commitments on women, peace and security.

Issues such as sexual violence (including the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war), widowhood, women’s insecurity and the erosion of women’s rights in times of conflict are not paid sufficient attention. When women’s voices are not heard, their needs go unmet and wider power inequalities are perpetuated. Only 16 percent of peace agreements even mention women, and often when women are mentioned, it is to restrict their rights. In addition, the failure to empower women peace builders has been identified as a key barrier to the successful implementation of peace agreements.

The need to include women in peace negotiations has been accepted by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1325, which recognizes women’s experiences of conflict and calls for women’s participation in peace and reconciliation efforts. October 2010 marked the tenth anniversary of this landmark resolution, but its real impact is yet to be felt by many women who experience conflict. The “No women, no peace” campaign is working to change this. Read the rest of this entry →