Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Women In The Age Of Trump


-by Helen Klein

An article in last Sunday’s NY Times Week in Review raised my hackles and led to the writing of this piece. Since When is Being a Woman a Liberal Cause? was penned by Susan Chira, a senior correspondent and editor on gender issues.

As a baby boomer, I am old enough to have seen first-hand the dramatic changes that have taken place for women in this country. Mid-Twentieth Century, women were second-class citizens and did not have equal rights. During my 13 years in public school in New York City (K-12) I was never allowed to wear pants. This changed a year or two after I graduated. There were no girls’ sports teams at my high school, only boys’ teams. In my physics class, there were three girls out of about 40 students. In 1969, when my boyfriend entered medical school, there were three women out of the 100 in his class. Howie and I went to the same undergraduate college, State University of New York at Stony Brook. He had the option of joining the swimming team; I'm a better swimmer than he is but all I and all other women were offered was-- wait for it-- water ballet!

This article looks at who gets to define what it means to be pro-women. The conservative women interviewed give little acknowledgement or credit to the courageous women who fought tooth and nail for women’s rights, rights these women take for granted, rights that have given them the opportunities they have had and lives they now lead.
The left has staked its claim…Now the same groups that organized the march are proposing a general strike-- “a day without a woman”-- to show that women continue to oppose him (Trump) and that the world would be lost without them.

The leaders of these protests argue that women’s causes-- abortion, contraception, economic equality, immigration, criminal justice-- essentially demand liberal solutions.

That leaves conservative women-- those who support the President and those who don’t-- out. Their opponents claim to represent the best interests of an entire gender, one that happens to be theirs.
The article goes on to share objections to this stance by various women. Four women’s comments are noted below and responded to later in this piece.

Cleta Mitchell, a partner at the law firm Foley and Lardner who has long been active in conservative politics, finds nothing but hypocrisy on the part of women who claim to speak on her behalf. “These women don’t represent me or anyone I know.” For years, conservative women have wrestled with the very idea of feminism. “Conservative women say ‘don’t put me in the feminism bloc’ because somehow it’s emblematic of a whole set of liberal issues that may have nothing to do with promoting women,” Mrs. Mitchell said.

Mary Matalin, the veteran Republican strategist who switched her party affiliation to Libertarian last spring, believes any attempt to brand the Republican Party as anti-women will fail. “The critical fallacy in the liberal logic of identity politics is that-- demonstrably-- ‘groups’ don’t think homogeneously; they don’t behave homogeneously.”

“I guess I am not someone who thinks in terms of gender,” said Sharon Fraser Toborg, 48. (She) resents that her choice to stay home despite Ivy League and graduate degrees still draws condescension from many women. She did not back Trump in the primaries, but preferred him in the end to Mrs. Clinton. “I’m someone who thinks in terms of capabilities, so to me how many men or women are in a particular president’s cabinet, I don’t keep score.”

Lani Candelora, 39, wrote to The Times in response to a question about who was, or was not, attending the marches. “It might come as a shock to the New York Times, but many American women are feeling hope and joy in the change of administration…We believe our families will have financial relief, that we’ll have a better chance of everyone finding gainful employment, that we’ll have affordable health insurance again for our families, that our religion will no longer be shunned and persecuted by the presidential administration, that the phony selfish feminism promoted by the women’s march is not continuously projected onto millions of other women who strongly disagree.”

Well. Let’s take a deep breath and look at these statements.

Cleta Mitchell: You are a lawyer. Have you ever looked at the history of women in law? If not, you certainly should. It would be important for you to take into account history and facts before claiming liberal women don’t represent you. You would not be where you are without them. I find the hypocrisy in you, not liberal women.

From Wikipedia: History of women in law school:
Women were not allowed in most law schools during the late 1800s and early 1900s…The difficulty of entry of women in to the legal profession was further aggravated by the fact that federal courts did not allow women to be admitted as lawyers… The federal courts were subsequently opened to women in 1878 due to a successful campaign by Belva Ann Lockwood… The elite law schools remained closed to women for a while after. Pushed by the suffragist movement for women, Harvard Law School started considering admitting women in 1899 but without success.

World War I encouraged the movement toward admitting women to law schools, and in 1918, Fordham Law School and Yale Law School started admitting women. Northeastern University School of Law started admitting women in 1923. Harvard Law School did not admit women until 1950. In 1966, Notre Dame Law School started admitting women.

Despite these advances, “in 1963, women comprised only 2.7 percent of the profession. In the academic year 1969-70, only 6.35 percent of the degree candidates in law school were women.”

A prevalent attitude has been mentioned several times by Hillary Clinton, who recalled that she had been accepted at Harvard Law School in 1969 but had been repelled by a professor who told her at a student recruitment party, “We don’t need any more women at Harvard.” (She went to Yale Law School instead.)

Attendance at women’s law schools did, however, improve significantly in the next 10-year period. “In 1968, 3,704 women of the 62,000 law students were women; by 1979, there were 37, 534 women out of 117,279 students in approved schools,” although still represented in larger proportions in less elite law schools.
These changes for women were attributable to the feminist movement in the 1950s and 1960’s, of which I was proud to be part of. It should be said that many young men were also very supportive of inclusiveness. The protests against the war in Vietnam and the draft were critical in bringing young people of both sexes together.

Mary Matalin: Of course groups don’t think or behave homogeneously. Not that insightful of you, really. Unless you look at the Republican Party and their current voting record. They stick together like glue, regardless of the issue. No independent thoughts expressed other than in a knee jerk fashion and certainly no meaningful actions taken. More contrasting opinions (and votes) and less homogeneity would be welcome but unlikely. It is unnecessary for you to cast women’s rights with a liberal brush and lump it with other liberal causes-- by doing so, you are guilty of your own accusation of homogeneity.

Historically, with any movement involving progressive causes, the minority eventually becomes the majority. This has nothing to do with the “liberal” label; it is about decency and common sense. Just look at how far LGBTQ rights have come in twenty years. At this time, women who care about and support women’s rights happen to be in the majority. Lucky for all of us, not just some of us.

You, Mary Matalin, have had a very public and successful career in politics. Without the feminist movement in the 1950s and 1960s, you would be absolutely nowhere. No career whatsoever. Appreciate what you have, and why you have it.

And as for Republicans being against women, we will see, won’t we? So far it does not look good. Sorry to say, many Republicans have long been against issues of equality and now they are in charge. Mike Pence, for one, will have great influence in the upcoming years. He has a history of homophobia, which does not bode well for gay rights. If you have not, you should read Cosmopolitan’s article from October 4, 2016, All of Mike Pence’s Awful Positions on Women’s Rights.

Do you want your daughter to have access to birth control? Get an abortion if she needs one? Express her opinion in Congress without being told to shut up? Belittled professionally because of her looks or being harassed at work? It is easy to be against abortion until the circumstances of life hit you in the face. If it is ever outlawed, the procedure would continue to take place anyway in a back room under horrible conditions, as it did in the past, and those with money would fly abroad, of conservative or liberal persuasion notwithstanding.

Politicians are the most hypocritical of all, with a disconnect between their personal and public lives. Surely with your experience in the field, you know this. Just look at Strom Thurmond, a blatantly racist Senator who filibustered against the Civil Rights Act-- after he died, it turned out he had a mixed race daughter, whom he actually treated fairly well. Mark Foley, House representative, and Larry Craig, Senator, voted against gay rights but were eventually exposed to be gay.

Sharon Fraser Toborg: So you went to Ivy League schools and have a graduate degree. How likely would that have been prior to the 1960’s when all those feminists stirred up inclusiveness for women? Unless you went to an elite women’s college like Smith, but I doubt it. Where did you go? Now your daughter (if you have one) could go to any school she gets in to and become a doctor, lawyer or politician; back in the 1960s, not so. You should thank those “liberals” for these opportunities.

Let’s look at when the Ivy League schools become coed. These institutions barred women until very late in the game. Women my age know this as we lived it; younger women do not seem to be aware.
Yale- 1969
Princeton- 1969
Cornell- technically 1872, but as a practical matter 1970
Brown- 1971
Dartmouth- 1972
Duke University- 1972
Harvard- 1977
Haverford College- 1980
Columbia- 1981
Over the years since the 1970s, the statistics have changed dramatically. Now there are generally equal amounts of men and women attending most colleges, e.g., Brown 51% female, 49% male; Princeton 49.3% female, 50.7% male.

How fortunate is Mrs. Toborg not to have to think about gender. That is only because “we’ve come a long way, baby!” She says she doesn’t keep score about how many men and women are in a President’s cabinet. Perhaps she should review the history of women in the cabinet. Prior to the nineteenth amendment in 1920, no women were allowed to hold a cabinet position. The first woman to serve in the Cabinet was Frances Perkins in 1933. It was quite a slow slog for a long time but it picked up, you guessed it, in the 1970s.
Years President Number of women in cabinet

1933...  F. D. Roosevelt.....  1
1953...  D. Eisenhower......  1
1975...  G. Ford...............   1
1977-79 J. Carter.............   4
1983-87 R. Reagan..........   3
1989-92 G. H. W. Bush.....   3
1993-97 W. Clinton..........   5
2001-06 G. W. Bush.........   6
2009-15 B. Obama...........   8
2017  D. T. Trump............   2
We have gone downhill in women’s representation with the recent President. This does not bode well for women.

Let’s also look at the statistics for women in Congress. For more than a hundred years since our country was established, there were zero women in Congress. The first woman to serve in Congress, in the House, was Jeannette Rankin in 1915.
Range of Women in Congress (House and Senate combined) for various years

1917-1928...    1-5
1929-1948...    8-11
1949-1968...    10-20
1969-1988...    11-26
1989-2008...    31-92
2009-2015...    93-104
As of 2015, women hold 20% of the seats in the Senate (20 seats) and 19.3% of the House (84 of 435).

Lani Candelora: Ms. Candelora’s “hope and joy” with the new administration suggests she lives in alt reality. Perhaps she does not read the “real” news and holds onto the slogan “Make America Great Again” as the premise for her optimistic beliefs. She does not say on what basis financial relief for families and affordable health insurance are forthcoming or why she views her religion (not specified) as being persecuted. Her thought that everyone will have a better chance for gainful employment is a nice fantasy but misguided at best. It seems Ms. Candelora is in for a huge disappointment in many regards. She, as a woman of the 21st century, clearly has no awareness that she has benefitted enormously from “the phony selfish feminism promoted by this women’s march.”

In conclusion, the women in this article who are conservative and unsupportive are riding the crest of all of the outspoken and courageous women who obtained the rights that they now enjoy. Are these women so unaware of how these rights came about? Fighting for women’s rights, all civil rights, has always been a “liberal” cause and to think differently is a denial of history. It should not be forgotten that it is due to tremendous political battles and persistence that these causes eventually become mainstream. These women are way too complacent and as we have heard many times, complacency is the enemy of democracy. They have what they have today because of “liberal” women, not in spite of them. What you have can be taken away.

As Joni Mitchell sang, "Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone."

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At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An analogous quote was after a particularly odious 5-4 racist vote by the SC, someone pointed out that if this court had ruled in 1970, Clarence Thomas could never have gone to law school.

Conservatives are the most deluded people in humankind history. They value tribe over everything else. They adhere to tribal orthodoxy, expressed by the white males, religiously, no matter how patently asinine it usually is. And it seems to be catching... witness bibi's just concluded press thing with der fuhrer where both claim that everyone in this admin loves Israel. Were bannon and miller anywhere nearby?

Matalin has long been among the biggest or blindest liars on the right. She defends the indefensible more often than she takes a dump.

“The critical fallacy in the liberal logic of identity politics is that-- demonstrably-- ‘groups’ don’t think homogeneously; they don’t behave homogeneously.”

While technically true, I would illustrate it this way. The Nazis were pretty homogeneously anti-Semitic... but only a few thousand of them actually killed 6 million jews. Southern whites were (are) pretty much homogeneously racist, but it was the relatively small subset in the kkk that shot, lynched and beat to a pulp so many random blacks. So... yeah... there's that. In both cases (and so many more), while a minority committed atrocities and genocide... the rest did nothing to stop it... actually probably supported it.

Conservatives like that shitbag are quick to make liberal thought oversimple... like their own thought... in this case overgeneralized. But you cannot excuse atrocity by pointing out that not everyone is doing it.

You CAN and SHOULD point out that nobody is stopping the atrocity, and that indicates ubiquity of thought = hate.

At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These gals are infuriating. I appreciate you breaking it down for everybody: what is terribly wrong with their statements. But I suspect there may be a core of disingeniousness on the part of people who profit from others' sacrifices, and then put those others down. They do not seem to ever admit how they got where they got. I'm hoping for a world in which a tactic like that won't be profitable anymore, not financially, and not in reputation.

At 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a woman who has had to fight for fair treatment in every aspect of my life since the age of eighteen, I find the reasoning of these well-educated, privileged women extraordinarily insensitive and disturbing. If equal and fair treatment for all women is viewed as a loss for these elitist, privileged divas, then they are certainly drowning in their own appalling apathy.

At 1:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It IS truly heartwarming to know that the pernicious, "soul-killing" ideology of the radical reich has no gender bias!

Women, rejoice!

You ARE free, if you so choose, to suppress voters, destroy healthcare and the social safety net, discriminate, hate & kill (if "only" by austerity legislation, corrupt legal system or illegal foreclosures ... if you are not on a police force).

Oh, goodness, we ARE exceptional, as such abject tyranny in Russia is limited ONLY to devil Putin!!!!

John Puma

At 5:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it was Bill Maher who said that, wrt women, the measure of a man is how he treats a woman HE DOES NOT WANT TO FUCK.

The measure of a nazi prick wrt a woman he WANTS TO FUCK is, evidently, whether he grabs her by the pussy or just uses his words.

The peeing is optional in either case.


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