You are browsing the archive for sexism.

What’s the Matter With Bans on Race- and Sex-Selective Abortion? Everything

11:37 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Imani Gandy for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Infant

Sex- and race-selective laws serve an anti-abortion agenda, but don't protect actual minorities.

A particularly pernicious narrative about abortion rights is one that accuses pro-choice groups and abortion clinics of attempting to target “pre-born” minorities (and girls) for abortion, and dismissing as callously indifferent to the lives of “pre-born” minorities those who oppose efforts to ban so-called sex- and race-based abortion.

The narrative, based upon an out-of-context quote by Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, is as commonplace as it is false.  To hear anti-choice groups tell it, Margaret Sanger was a racist woman whose goal was to exterminate black babies and bring eugenics to the United States. This is, of course, nonsense.

According to the aggressively uninformed anti-choice crowd, Margaret Sanger proclaimed, “[W]e want to exterminate the Negro population.”  The full context of the quote, however, belies the meaning anti-choicers ascribe to it.

As David Edwards of Raw Story pointed out last year, in a 1939 letter to pro-birth control advocate Clarence J. Gamble, Sanger argued that black leaders should be involved in the effort to deliver birth control to the black community: “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs.” Facts be damned, however, anti-choice groups wail about abortion being black genocide, or black babies being an endangered species. This “black genocide” narrative drives the debate over “race-selective” abortion laws that have been introduced during recent legislative sessions around the country and at the federal level. (Only two such laws passed: one in Kansas as part of an omnibus bill in 2012 (SB 313), and one in Arizona in 2011 (HB 2443). Currently, Indiana is considering a race-selective abortion ban (HB 1430.)

Narratives based on social biases and stereotypes drive the debate regarding sex-selection, as does a fundamental failure to grasp that “son preference” in certain cultures is based upon gender stereotypes and inequity, and that abortion bans do not address these issues. (Currently, gender-selective abortion bans are being considered at the federal level (SB 138 (PRENDA 2013) and in six states:  Indiana (HB 1430 and SB 0183); New York (AO2533 and SO2286); Virginia (HB 1316); Missouri (HB 386); North Dakota (HB 1305); and Texas (HB 309). Notably PRENDA 2012 (which failed to pass last year) dropped the “race-selection” provision before putting it up for a vote, however the remainder of this article will use the term PRENDA to refer to both race- and sex-selective abortion bans.)

Generally, these bills would threaten doctors with up to five years in prison for performing such a procedure, and would permit fathers married to the woman who obtains an abortion to sue a doctor he believes performed an abortion based upon the sex or race of a fetus. These laws also require doctors and nurses to report women whom they suspect are seeking an abortion on the basis of gender bias.

Read the rest of this entry →

How Governments and Individuals — Meaning Each of Us — Deny the Persistence of Racism and Abuse

11:34 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Marianne Møllman for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

When you work on human rights issues, you notice a certain pattern in government denial of abuse. First line of defense: it didn’t happen. Or if it happened, they did it to themselves. Or if they didn’t, we certainly had nothing to do with it. Or if we did, we didn’t mean to. It doesn’t matter if the issue is torture, forced evictions, or garden-variety employment discrimination. The response from those in charge is often, if not always, the same.

Though this pattern is annoying, to say the least, I have lately become acutely aware of a much more depressing trend: the denial of abuse among those of us who should know better. Of course, we don’t call it denial. We call it “realism.” But the mechanism is the same.

1. “It didn’t happen.”

For decades, commentators and a large proportion of the US public have posited that racism no longer exists. Despite the fact that skin color and ethnicity matters with regard to just about any social indicator you care to look at — health, education, employment, housing, law enforcement — most white people believe the system we live in is racially just.

The writer Touré has described this situation as a “fog of racism:” a situation so subtle, it is blurred. “With this form of racism,” he says, “there is no smoking gun. There is no one calling you a nigger to your face. There’s no sign saying you can’t enter this building. … But … it’s there.”  

This is not much different from the many people who are genuinely puzzled at the need for continued attention to women’s issues in the United States now that “the genders are equal.” I hear this argument almost daily, despite ample evidence to the contrary, including the continued pay gap and the vicious attack on reproductive rights for women and not men.   

2. “They did it to themselves.”

Blaming the victim is par for the course in rape cases, a context in which it (rightfully) is denounced by women’s groups as sexist, discriminatory, and just plain wrong. But it is also common for individuals who identify sexual or racial discrimination to be called silly, overly sensitive, or even vindictive. 

When I firmly told off a male colleague at a former employer for caressing my waist, a female colleague immediately and loudly concluded that I “must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.” 

And I can’t count the times I have been told that “black people are racist too,” as a manner to excuse racial discrimination. In sociology and social psychology, this phenomenon is called internalized oppression, that is the manner in which an oppressed group comes to use against itself the methods of the oppressor. More commonly, it is expressed as a desire to maintain the dignity of the group: we may suffer, but we don’t complain or sulk. 

3. “We had nothing to do with it.”

Most people don’t like to think of themselves or the people they know as bigots. This is natural and reasonable. It is hard to remain sane if you believe your actions are consistently insensitive or morally wrong. This, however, is not the same as noticing and addressing injustice — especially injustice that we, ourselves, are benefitting from. 

For example, I cannot in good conscience say that I have nothing to do with racism (or sexism, or hetero-centrism, or…) when I know that I benefit daily from a system that overwhelmingly recognizes my humanity and rights because of my Northern passport, fair skin, perceived heterosexuality, motherhood, and Judeo-Christian background (I could go on). Unlike my Peruvian ex-husband, I don’t have to think about what I wear when I travel in order to avoid additional hassles at airport security. And unlike those of my female friends who are non-gender-conforming and childless, I don’t have to defend my worth as a woman.  

4. “We didn’t mean to.”

When all other justifications have failed, the usual fall-back for governments who violate human rights is lack of intent: we may indeed have tortured a couple of prisoners, but it was unknowingly done and therefore, it is implied, of limited importance. 

This excuse is hardly ever used as a denial strategy for continued and entrenched racial, sexual, and other discrimination in the United States. And not because we recognize our responsibility in the stereotypes we perpetuate. But rather because we don’t. In fact, as shown above, we routinely deny the very existence of discrimination.

I am not advocating a collective guilt complex, or, worse, some sort of warped paternalistic pity-fest in which those of privileged background pound our chests in earnest distress and bemoan the supposedly pathetic lives of those considered beneath us. I am, however, advocating a reckoning that allows us to confront those stereotypes that result in the abuse of human rights. Even, and especially, when this means that some of us must give up our special privileges.

And here’s why: I know I am benefiting from many of the stereotypes that prevail in the country I have chosen to live in. I also know I am complicit in the resulting discrimination to the extent that I don’t challenge it.

Anti-Gay New York GOP Rep to Teach Courses in “Feminine Elegance” to Help Women “Act Like Proper Ladies”

11:07 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Photobucket

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Thanks to colleague Rachel Sklar for the original tip on this piece.

I would say this is in the category of… “you can’t believe it,” but these days there is nothing about today’s GOP I can’t believe anymore. From forced pregnancy, to forced ultrasounds (trans-vaginal or abdominal), to denial of care for rape victims, and denial of both health and pay inequities, the GOP is going out of its way to tell us exactly how they feel about women.

And now this: An anti-gay New York GOP legislator has decided that women are not acting “feminine enough,” so… he will teach us how to be feminine.

This is reported from Joe. My. God.

Anti-gay New York GOP state Sen. Marty Golden thinks women need to start acting like proper ladies. And he’s going to teach a class on how to do just that. City & State reports:

Later this month, Republican State Sen. Marty Golden’s office is holding a career-development event for women in his southern Brooklyn district teaching them “Posture, Deportment and the Feminine Presence.” That’s according to a taxpayer-funded mailing being sent out in Golden’s district, which an offended reader passed along. The taxpayer-funded event – presented by a “certified protocol consultant” – is part of a series teaching women in Brooklyn “what’s new in the 21st century as it relates to business etiquette and social protocol.” More details are also available on Golden’s Senate website, including the fact that women in attendance will be taught to, “Sit, stand and walk like a model,” how to, “Walk up and down a stair elegantly” and “Differences in American and Continental rules governing handshakes and introductions.”

According to Joe. My. God., “Golden says his classes are meant to help young women get jobs, therefore you are paying for it.”

Of course, assuming women need to be taught how to be “proper ladies” means to this guy that they should be quiet, demure, undemanding of their rights, available for sex whenever men demand it, willing to endure forced pregnancy and childbirth, submissive to their husbands and (white) male politicians and religious figures. And I am sure we should stop asking for things like pay equity.

In turn, I will be offering members of the GOP, Tea Party, fundamentalist right-wing nutcases, and those Blue Dog Democrats complicit in their agenda to attend a class on how not to be idiotic, sexist, misogynistic pigs, but something tells me that attendance will be low, because you’d have to have some measure of self-awareness to even decide you needed help.

And, somehow, I don’t think tax-payer funding would be available for said class. Just sayin’.

What Do Sports and Reproductive Rights Have in Common?

10:59 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our 2012 Title IX coverage here.

Two high school-age women play basketball.

Photo: K.M. Klemencic / Flickr.

Saturday marked the 40th anniversary of what turned out to be one of the most important pieces of feminist legislation, Title IX. Title IX was a wide-ranging reform to educational standards in the U.S., one that required schools from kindergarten through doctoral programs to cease sex discrimination. It ended the traditions of barring boys from home economics and typing class while helping usher more women into STEM fields. But what most people think of first and often only when they think of Title IX is athletics. The requirement that schools invest as much in female athletics as male athletics has by far been the most controversial aspect to this amendment. People who wouldn’t dare suggest that only women should learn to cook or that unequal pay is fair often have no compunction about diminishing female athletes by claiming that their accomplishments simply can’t matter as much as do men’s. In the year 2012, female athleticism still causes overt anxieties.

Why is that? I propose it’s for the same reason that a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy — or even prevent one — is still controversial in our society. As with reproductive rights, female athleticism brings forth social anxieties about women exerting mastery over their own bodies. The female body has been positioned for so long as an object that exists for other people’s use that contemplating a woman using her own body for her own purposes unsettles, whether it’s a woman controlling her fertility or a woman using her body to compete in an arena, sports, which was previously considered only the domain of men.

The way this anxiety is expressed has changed over the years. In the past, women’s reproductive abilities were framed against their athletic aspirations, in much the same way the right still tends to see tensions between women’s reproductive control and capacity. (Look, for instance, at the ready assumption on the right that a woman being pro-choice means she’s intrinsically anti-motherhood.) While fears that athletic women aren’t “real” women have faded somewhat, there are still traces of that belief in modern athletics, from the overly defensive femininity displays of the WNBA to the risible and outdated practice of gender-testing female athletes competing in the Olympics. It seems the fear of stereotypes about women and athletics cause the powers that be in athletic competitions to feel like they have to prove that their athletes are “real” women in the way that men competing in athletics never feel they have to prove their maleness.

Read the rest of this entry →