Don’t believe women are oppressed in the US? Read on.

Many people feel that women in the US are privileged, have won their rights, and ought to be content with their lot. While women in the US definitely benefit from many privileges that women in other countries do not have, they are still an oppressed group, and this oppression needs to end. The thing is, people are relatively uninformed about the status of women in the US, and the various issues that factor into their oppression. I have compiled a list of statistics and data that shows, by the numbers, the truth about being a woman in the USA.

Beauty Standards:

42% of American girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner. 80% of 13 year olds have attempted to lose weight. Fast forward to older women, and 2.8 million American women have had botox injections, almost 400,000 have had breast augmentation surgery, 456, 828 have had liposuction. In 1997, 2 million cosmetic surgeries were performed, while in 2007, 11.7 million cosmetic surgeries were performed. 91% of these surgeries were performed on women. Women in the US feel the need to have their bodies cut, reshaped and mutilated in order to conform to prevailing standards of beauty. Women are oppressed by the onslaught of media and advertising that objectifies their bodies.

Sex, Domestic Violence and Rape:

In terms of the global sex trade, an estimated 50,000 women are trafficked into the US each year. The USA is both a destination country for trafficking, as well as a source country. This means that American women ARE kidnapped, or otherwise coerced into the sex trafficking industry. Women are often lured into the sex trade under false pretenses; being hired as waitresses or maids and then forced into prostitution. This is not just a problem for developing countries. It is here, on our own soil.

In the US, 23 women a week are killed by intimates. This has held steady for more than a decade. 74% of women  murdered from instances of domestic violence were murdered after the woman left the relationship, filed for divorce or got a restraining order. Our government has failed to protect women from abusive partners, and band-aid solutions like restraining orders are proven to be, ultimately, ineffective. Until we start taking domestic violence seriously on a legislative level, this percentage will stay about the same. The only country with more women known to have been killed by domestic violence than the US is Russia.

up to 700,000 rapes occur in the USA each year. 18% of American women have survived a rape or attempted rape. In 2001 39% of rapes were reported to the police. 81% of rape victims are white, 18% are black. Fortunately, marital rape is a criminal offense in the USA.

Abortion Rights

Christian fundamentalists continually seek to impose increasing social restrictions on women. We see this because, between 1995 and 2007, 301 anti-choice measures were enacted by state legislatures. 87% of counties in the US are now not served by an abortion provider. Roe v. Wade may stand, but on a state level, women are increasingly oppressed, and hypocritical “anti-big government” Republican politicians seek to legislatively erase women’s power over their own bodies.

In the Workplace

Women still earn 72 cents for every man a dollar earns. In 2008, women occupied only 15% of board positions of Fortune 500 companies.

The proportion of women in government was lower in 2007 than 1997. In Scandinavian countries, there are policies that enforce equality in representation of government. Not in the US, with a paltry 17% of female government officials–Iraq has a higher representation of women in government than we do. So does Namibia, Rwanda, and Afghanistan. Until there is equality in representation on a government level, there is no equality for women on the civic level.

On a Global Scale

While countries such as Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan have signed and ratified the CEDAW treaty (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) the US is the only signatory that hasn’t ratified it. One aspect of CEDAW would outlaw female genital mutilation-a common practice in developing countries intended to reduce female sexual desire, and thus, ensure virginity at the time of marriage. Not only are women oppressed in the US, the US won’t acknowledge the plight of women in more demeaned, oppressed situations on an international level.

This data was updated in 2009, in the fourth edition of The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World.

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Drug war on our doorstep: Why marijuana should be legalized

Personally, I will never smoke marijuana, nor do I think it is necessarily a good thing that others do so. However, my opinion about the morality of personal marijuana use is irrelevant in the face of strong evidence that it must be legalized.

There is no reason why marijuana should be treated differently than alcohol and tobacco in terms of its legality. All of them are bad for you, and all of them are worse for you the more you use. Nearly 100 million Americans acknowledge having used marijuana during their lives. It makes no sense to continue to treat nearly half of all Americans as criminals for their use of a substance that does not have drastically different  health risks than alcohol or tobacco—especially because it costs so much to prosecute all marijuana related arrests. A better and more sensible solution would be to tax and regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco.

This measure would accomplish several things: First, it would address the health issue of marijuana use. Dealers often add more ingredients to their particular stash of marijuana so they can sell more, and therefore profit more. These additives are mostly worse for you than the actual marijuana, and can be lethal. If the government regulated marijuana like it does tobacco and alcohol, it would also have the power to regulate what goes into it, thereby making it much safer and getting rid of lethal additives. Legalization would reduce health care costs by reducing the probability of overdoses and accidental ingestion of an unintended drug—situations that will remain prevalent without government implemented product safety standards.

Legalizing marijuana would greatly impact the covert nature of the marijuana trade itself. Dealers are the ones in power now, what with their ability to, in large-scale cases, greatly threaten the safety of the general public. One example is the drug war in Mexico (in which 10,000 people have already been killed), another is drug related violence we hear about every day on local news. Dealers are the source of the danger, and if the government stepped in and legalized marijuana, there would be much less need for dealers.

Economically, it makes sense to legalize and regulate marijuana. Prohibition entails direct enforcement costs, and prohibition prevents taxation of marijuana production and sale. First, legalization eliminates arrests for trafficking in addition to eliminating arrests for possession. Second, legalization saves prosecutorial, judicial and incarceration expenses.

   Harvard University Professor Jeffrey A. Miron created a report endorsed by over 500 economists titled The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition. The report shows that taxing and regulating marijuana  in the same way as alcohol or tobacco might generate as much as $6.2 billion annually for a state’s individual budget, and upwards of $300 billion nationally.

Many are concerned that, with legalization, suddenly there will be an increase in marijuana use. What they don’t realize is that people who want to smoke a joint can obtain marijuana very easily anyway. Those who want to use it already can- its legality or lack thereof wouldn’t change that.

To put one’s faith in the anti-drug movement is to ignore the fact that it just isn’t working. We are now in the same position we were in during Prohibition. Everyone who wanted alcohol could already obtain it, and eventually, the country was forced to acknowledge that their efforts to put an end to alcohol consumption had failed.

I am by no means suggesting that we just “give in”—I am suggesting that we assess the situation without a cloud of cultural stigma impeding our ability to see reality. In order to accomplish this, marijuana must be legalized, and in doing that, we can protect the health of a significant portion of our population, eliminate middlemen from the marijuana industry and profit economically.

 

Published in: on April 16, 2009 at 5:23 pm  Comments (1)  
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Why We Need a New Political Party

The abyss created by America’s recent culture wars only grows deeper as it divides the far-right Republicans and those who are conservative, but socially liberal. My own father, for example, is a lifelong Republican, yet he doesn’t support the socially conservative agenda being pushed by his party’s vice presidential and presidential candidates. The disparity between the two groups of conservatives has only grown wider with this election, and now, cautious fiscal conservatives are no longer represented by the party that has instead adopted a slash-and-burn approach to economic policy (i.e. McCain’s proposed spending freeze). In much the same way, fiscal conservatives/social liberals no longer have a political party that truly represents them. They are now forced to choose between two candidates who they don’t feel strongly about one way or another. I would recommend that independents and fiscal conservatives/social liberals form their own political party. Hopefully, the extremist philosophy of social conservatism would fade away election after election, leaving the U.S. without the ideological dead weight that inhibits societal progress.

The Third “Red Scare”

The liberal-hating witch hunt has begun, courtesy of McCain-Palin ’08.

But this isn’t the first time Republicans have appealed to the mob-forming instinct of a certain sect of low-information voters. Let’s think back to a time of poodle skirts and greased lightning…

In 1950, Sen. Joseph McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period of intense anti-communist suspicion inspired by the tensions of the Cold War. He claimed that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the federal government and elsewhere. During this time, referred to sometimes as the “Second Red Scare,” many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning. The primary targets of these suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. In other words, liberals.

On Hardball with Chris Matthews, Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachman called for a movement by the media to investigate liberals (or “extreme leftists,” as she put it) in the Senate and Congress to see whether or not they were “Anti-American.” The new robo-calls by the McCain campaign accuse Barack Obama of being friends with people who “kill Americans.” I have now seen multiple Republican politicians refer to liberals and, more specifically, Barack Obama, as “Anti-American.”

So will someone please enlighten me, poor, unrepentantly “leftist” gal that I am, as to how eliminating women’s right to choose, sending AMERICANS to die for a war based on exaggerated evidence, creating a healthcare plan that ignores the plight of those who can’t afford health insurance, inciting radical right wing mobs under the slogan that the Democratic opponent is “palling around with terrorists” when that “terrorist” (singular) is now repentant, rehabilitated and an advocate for social reform, is “pro American”?

But clearly, these Republican politicians I’ve mentioned don’t believe in rehabilitation and reform. If they did, they’d try it with our country.

Palin-Land: What GOP Feminism Means for America

Somewhere, Susan B. Anthony is turning over in her grave.

 

It’s insulting that the McCain campaign would try to appeal to female voters by nominating a woman who is radically antifeminist. During her career as mayor, Palin approved a law that makes rape victims pay for all forensic and medical exams after they have been raped. What kind of barbarian makes women essentially pay to be raped?

 

Palin believes that Roe v. Wade should be overturned (although, when interviewed, she said she believes there is an implicit right to privacy in the constitution). What kind of backwards society would Palin’s America be?

 

We can be certain, given her record, that we would see an even more intolerant, unsupportive America for women. The Bush administration this month is quietly cutting off birth control supplies to some of the world’s poorest women in Africa. They, along with the world, are turning a blind eye to the fact that without birth control supplies, these women have an increased chance at dying in childbirth- a chance that is already 1 in 10. If Palin thinks nothing of making rape victims pay hundreds of dollars after they are raped in the town of Wasilla, Alaska, then what would stop her from continuing to ignore women’s rights on a global scale? The last thing Palin needs is a wider sphere of influence.

Palin has strongly encouraged an abstinence-only sex education curriculum because of her belief that birth control is a form of abortion. The United States has double the amount of teenage pregnancies as Canada, largely due to our backwards idea that abstinence only sex ed will work in 21st century America. Palin’s solution for the abortion problem is “a more supportive community for teenage mothers.” Does she forget that under Democratic presidents, there are statistically fewer abortions because of increased funding and attention to sex education? Apparently. We can be sure that, in a McCain-Palin administration, the needs of women will continue to be ignored and a retrograde attitude towards teenage pregnancy will continue to be held.

McCain didn’t think it was important to choose a qualified female nominee. When asked about Palin’s knowledge, GOP advisors say that being knowledgeable “isn’t her function” and proceed to talk more about “exciting the base.” If her job isn’t to be knowledgeable, then what is it? To be a more attractive alternative to a furry elephant mascot? In effect, McCain chose a female running mate because he thinks women are stupid enough to vote solely based on gender and that nobody will pay attention to the fact that their “feminist” candidate is no more a feminist than Sen. McCain himself, who has consistently voted against progressive laws for women’s rights, including equal pay for equal work.

One could argue that the VP choice shouldn’t decide the election- the presidential candidate should. I agree. But what does it say about John McCain that he would nominate a woman who, if given the power, would reduce women’s rights to what they were in 1920?

No one who votes for a McCain-Palin ticket can call themselves a feminist, because they would knowingly be voting into office a candidate who (just like her running mate), would turn back the clock on women’s rights if given the power- and she’d do it with a wink.

Biden, presidential? “You betcha!”

World, please don’t wink at me, say the words “betcha,” “ain’t,” “darn,” or stare at me unblinkingly with a bemused, brainwashed-looking smile. If, however, you absolutely insist on making a hillbilly caricature of yourself in my presence, I may have to resort to physical violence to preserve my sanity. Last night’s cringe-inducing responses from the clearly unqualified Alaska governor Sarah Palin made me want to vomit, especially given the knowledge that she may be (God forbid!) President one day.

While Joe Biden gave strong, substantive, specific answers debunking the “maverick” myth, the “we’re reformers” myth, and the “we’re not like Bush” myth with a forceful but calm delivery, Palin transformed herself into a cartoon. The fact that she believes she can appeal to mainstream America by dumbing everything down is an insult.  Sarah dear, you can “say it ain’t so” all you want, but it’s fairly obvious that you have only a tangential grasp of policy at best, and that you were very well trained by those GOP ideologues that gave you those flashcards to practice with.

It’s interesting that now, Obama/Biden looks like the “safer” ticket to vote for, with the McCain/Palin ticket looking like a risk, which it is.

While Palin didn’t trip, start weeping, or throw her frameless glasses to the ground in frustration, she most certainly didn’t do well. Let’s look at this analytically: If Palin were a man, and if she hadn’t just had an incredibly embarrassing week, pundits would be tearing apart her performance en masse like my fat chihuahua tears apart my old beanie babies.

It’s clear which candidate looked ready to step in for the president if need be. I’ll give you a hint: It’s not the folksy cliche machine otherwise known as “Hockey Mom,” “Maverick,” or “Joe Sixpack.”

Liar, Liar- Will it Backfire?

For someone who claims to want to take politics out of the current bailout plan, John McCain was able to put politics right back into the equation. First, like a schoolyard bully, McCain practically dared Obama to be as “take charge” as he is. By that, I mean John McCain tried to take control of his dwindling poll numbers by looking like an altruist. America, don’t be fooled. John McCain called our economic state a “crisis” last week- yet it was only when the new ABC poll (in which McCain was 9 points down) was showed, that he decided to “suspend” his campaign.  He managed to do several network interviews and spend some time at home, yet somehow an actual substantive debate is tacky when the economy is crashing and burning. When McCain went to Washington, he didn’t make the bailout a shining example of bipartisanship as he promised- rather he walked in on an already bipartisan agreement, introduced a very partisan new idea, and proceeded to undo the past six days’ work within a couple hours. At the comedic farce that was his meeting with Bush this morning, McCain spoke just once and only for a couple minutes. Did he redeem his lack of input with a stunning, “maverick” style new idea? Of course not.

In short, John McCain put his own potical gain over the very real needs of our country. But never fear, McCain has Sarah Palin to lean on. She knows a thing or two about the economy- As governor of Alaska, she saved money by making women pay for rape kits!

As Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel said- in the name of progress, he stalled it. he claimed to take politics out of it and put politics right back into it.

As I said- Liar, liar.

Palin’s Speech: Three Troubling Remarks

1. “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

This was slap at all those who work hard to build up communities from the bottom up. Often working in inner city areas, community organizers teach local leaders how to lead and improve their community when politicians just aren’t getting the job done. I’m sorry, Sarah, but the paltry 616 votes you received to be elected mayor don’t make you better than Barack Obama. I’m sorry that, in your book, the Iditarod races are more important than helping the disadvantaged get healthcare. While the first portion of the RNC was supposed to be about service, I guess that was purely political, then, since you so blatantly mock it?

2. Palin also said that the war in Iraq is “a task from God”

……Are you kidding me?

3. “Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and [Obama’s] worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”

When more than half of the men and boys -some as young as fourteen- detained at Guantanamo Bay as suspected terrorists and tortured for years by US officials were eventually released without charge, there may be a reason for having those most minimal of rights accorded to suspects after all.

Sarah: This is democratic nation, not a fascist regime.

“I’m an Older, Whiter Obama.”

McCain’s speech last night was a strange speech. Whoever wrote the speech did a terrible job, because it made McCain look unenthusiastic about his own candidacy. He isn’t known for his oratorical skills, but the speech lacked any overriding theme that could serve as an argument for the Republican “cause,” and it featured a few choice lies about his political record and that of Sarah Palin, as well. McCain wants to be seen as a lobbyist-bashing, reform minded Conservative, when in fact a lobbyist wrote his economic policy, he voted with Bush 95% of the time, and he is willing to adopt the very economic policy he once criticized as being “unfair to the middle class”. “Straight Talk”? Please.

The speech can be summarized like this: “I will change Washington by fighting against the special interests. I will fight for you. I will fight for America. We’ll all fight, fight, fight. Change is coming. It’s time to change politics as usual. It’s time to lessen the influence of the lobbyists in Washington. Fight, fight fight. I’ll never stop fighting for you because I’m a fighter. I remember a Latino man from Michigan…”

OH MY GOD! IT’S BARACK OBAMA AND HILLARY CLINTON’S LOVE CHILD!

Political Ambition First. Country? Not So Much.

During the entire Republican Convention, not once was the plight of the increasingly polarized condition of our economy mentioned, but the Iraq war was called “a mission from God.”

While Sarah Palin tried to paint Barack Obama as a celebrity who stands for nothing and scorns small town America, she avoided ever talking about how exactly a McCain/Palin administration would, as she put it, “Shake up Washington.” Here’s how they really plan to instigate “reform”:

1. the Global Gag Rule, a measure to cut funding of aid organizations in developing nations if they so much as advise women on birth control, will be made permanent. This shows how out of touch McCain and Palin are, because one of the keys to making a developing nation developed is to help with population control and to empower the women of that country. Don’t worry, Sarah, I’m sure God would approve a woman’s use of birth control if it would mean that she wouldn’t bear a child who would almost surely die of starvation or disease.

2. The Bush economic policies would remain in place. As McCain vowed, “I will not let the Democrats overturn the Bush tax cuts.” Like Bush, he will pour billions of dollars into tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations. While trickle down economics has worked in the past, it certainly hasn’t been working for the past eight years, and to promise that everything will be different when everything is, in fact, the same, is just misleading. While you could argue that everyday people will end up paying more for consumer goods if the large corporations are taxed more and hike up their prices, big corporations are much more able to absorb taxes than everyday people just trying to get by. If you want to see an increase in the price of consumer goods, just look at what we have now. It is NOT working and will not work even if a different crusty old man implements it.

3. Pretending that a McCain Palin ticket is going to be better for the environment than an Obama Biden ticket is utter nonsense. Palin herself denies that humans are the cause of climate change and openly disputed the US government’s own findings so that drilling could occur in Alaska. Palin and McCain’s “let’s scorch the earth first” agenda is not going to help us in the long run. The idea that gas prices will go down if we drill is misleading because oil companies can still raise prices, and knowing them, they most definitely will.

4. If McCain really supported the troops, he would have supported the GI Bill. There’s a reason that deployed soldiers support Obama 6:1. Why? Because they know he cares about them enough to give them the benefits they deserve. Obama won’t, as McCain did, argue that the GI bill should be based on how many years someone is overseas. If someone is there a month and is maimed for life while another is there for three years and nothing happens, how is the person who was there a month not deserving of a guaranteed college education? Alternately, if you need to keep Americans in Iraq for 3 or 4 tours of duty on the threat that if they don’t, they won’t have college guaranteed, then what does that say about the level of public support for the war? Clearly, not enough people want to enlist, because they know that they’re not fighting to safeguard American freedom. Yet again, McCain shows how out of touch he is with the realities of our military situation.

5. calling diplomacy a “failed policy” as McCain did when referencing talks with Iran proves that he will continue the same “We’re America, Dammit” approach to foreign policy. Do we really want to see more news coverage of American flags burning on foreign streets? We need to view ourselves not only as the world superpower, but as one of an international community that is more interdependent than ever before. Barack Obama will accomplish this.

So go ahead, Sarah, talk about being a hockey mom. I get it. You’re normal. But that’s all you proved to me last night. If you and McCain really wanted to help this country, you would have talked more about how to implement the “reform” you speak of, not exhibit the various ways in which you can pander to the uninformed but enthusiastic crowd at the RNC.