‘Creepy Uncle Sam’ Gives Pelvic Exam in Obamacare Attack Ad

The right-wing organization, Generation Opportunity, is pushing the boundaries of decency with a new video attacking Obamacare.

As reported by Chris Moody of Yahoo News,

Generation Opportunity, a Virginia-based group that is part of a coalition of right-leaning organizations with financial ties to billionaire businessmen and political activists Charles and David Koch, will launch a six-figure campaign aimed at convincing young people to “opt-out” of the Obamacare exchanges. Later this month, the group will begin a tour of 20 college campuses, where they plan to set up shop alongside pro-Obamacare activists such as Enroll America that are working to sign people up for the insurance exchanges.
According to their website,

In this first Generation Opportunity video, a woman is shown being ushered into an OB/GYN’s treatment room after signing up for an insurance exchange under Obamacare. She is then abandoned by the doctor in the treatment room with her feet in the stirrups of an examination table after being told by the doctor “Okay, let’s have a look.”

At this point “Creepy Uncle Sam,” as he is called in the title [Opt Out – The Exam – Creepy Uncle Sam] appears from between her legs looking maniacal, followed by the tagline: ”Don’t let government play doctor.”

The Generation Opportunity YouTube post directs people to the OptOut.org site which boasts: “Good news! You are not required to purchase health insurance through an Obamacare exchange! There are cheaper, better options for young people.”

As one might expect, the video is generating heated comments.

Ilyse Hogue, president of the abortion advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America, told MSNBC that:

“This ad is brought to you by the same people who force Uncle Sam between our legs when it comes to reproductive health. It’s un-American to mandate forced ultrasounds, restrict abortion care, and deny contraception coverage while trying to trick students into forgoing Obamacare, which will help them get preventative care and end gender discrimination in insurance coverage. If this ad isn’t a parody from The Onion, then Generation Opportunity needs to look up the definition of ‘irony.’”


The Women Who Mapped the Universe And Still Couldn’t Get Any Respect


Edward Pickering and his female assistants, known as  the “Harvard computers.” Image from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Read more:  http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2013/09/the-women-who-mapped-the-universe-and-still-couldnt-get-any-respect/#ixzz2fOpzPS6Z Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

In 1881, Edward Charles Pickering, director of the Harvard Observatory, had a  problem: the volume of data coming into his observatory was exceeding his  staff’s ability to analyze it. He also had doubts about his staff’s  competence–especially that of his assistant, who Pickering dubbed inefficient at  cataloging. So he did what any scientist of the latter 19th century would have  done: he fired his male assistant and replaced him with his maid, Williamina  Fleming. Fleming proved so adept at computing and copying that she would work at  Harvard for 34 years–eventually managing a large staff of assistants.

So began an era in Harvard Observatory history where women—more than 80  during Pickering’s tenure, from 1877 to his death in 1919— worked for the  director, computing and cataloging data. Some of these women would produce  significant work on their own; some would even earn a certain level of fame  among followers of female scientists. But the majority are remembered not  individually but collectively, by the moniker Pickering’s  Harem.

The less-than-enlightened nickname reflects the status of women at a time  when they were–with rare exception–expected to devote their energies to breeding  and homemaking or to bettering their odds of attracting a husband. Education for  its own sake was uncommon and work outside the home almost unheard of.  Contemporary science actually warned against women and education, in the belief  that women were too frail to handle the stress. As doctor and Harvard professor  Edward Clarke wrote in his 1873 book Sex in Education, “A woman’s body could only handle a  limited number of developmental tasks at one time—that girls who spent to much  energy developing their minds during puberty would end up with undeveloped or  diseased reproductive systems.”

Traditional expectations of women slowly changed; six of the “Seven Sisters”  colleges began admitting students between 1865 and 1889 (Mount Holyoke opened  its doors in 1837). Upper-class families encouraged their daughters to  participate in the sciences, but even though women’s colleges invested more in  scientific instruction, they still lagged far behind men’s colleges in access to  equipment and funding for research. In a feeble attempt to remedy this  inequality, progressive male educators sometimes partnered with women’s  institutions.

Edward Pickering was one such progressive thinker–at least when it came to  opening up educational opportunities. A native New Englander, he graduated from  Harvard in 1865 and taught physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,  where he revolutionized the method of scientific pedagogy by encouraging  students to participate in experiments. He also invited Sarah Frances Whiting,  an aspiring young female scientist, to attend his lectures and to observe his  experiments. Whiting used these experiences as the basis for her own teaching at  Wellesley College, just 13 miles from Pickering’s classroom at MIT.

Pickering’s approach toward astronomic techniques was also progressive;  instead of relying solely on notes from observations made by telescope, he  emphasized examining photographs–a type of observation known today as  astrophotography, which uses a camera attached to a telescope to take photos.  The human eye, he reasoned, tires with prolonged observation through a  telescope, and a photograph can provide a clearer view of the night sky.  Moreover, photographs last much longer than bare-eye observations and notes.

Early  astrophotography used the technology of the daguerreotype to transfer images  from a telescope to a photographic plate. The process was involved and required  long exposure time for celestial objects to appear, which frustrated  astronomers. Looking for a more efficient method, Richard Maddox revolutionized  photography by creating a dry plate method, which unlike the wet plates of  earlier techniques, did not have to be used immediately–saving astronomers time  by allowing them to use dry plates that had been prepared before the night of  observing. Dry plates also allowed for longer exposure times than wet plates  (which ran the risk of drying out), providing for greater light accumulation in  the photographs. Though the dry plates made the prep work more efficient, their  sensitivity to light still lagged behind what astronomers desired. Then, in  1878, Charles Bennett discovered a way to increase the sensitivity to light, by  developing them at 32 degrees Celsius. Bennet’s discovery revolutionized  astrophotography, making the photographs taken by the telescopes nearly as clear  and useful as observations seen with the naked eye.

When Pickering became director of the Harvard Observatory in 1877, he lobbied  for the expansion of the observatory’s astrophotography technology, but it  wasn’t until the 1880s, when the technology greatly improved, that these changes  were truly implemented. The prevalence of photography at the observatory rose  markedly, creating a new problem: there was more data than anyone had time to  interpret. The work was tedious, duties thought to lend themselves to a cheaper  and less-educated workforce thought to be capable of classifying stars rather  than observing them: women. By employing his female staff to engage in this  work, Pickering certainly made waves in the historically patriarchal realm of  academia.

But it’s hard to tout Pickering as a wholly progressive man: by limiting the  assistants’ work to largely clerical duties, he reinforced the era’s common  assumption that women were cut out for little more than secretarial tasks. These  women, referred to as “computers,” were the only way that Pickering could  achieve his goal  of photographing and cataloging the entire night sky.

All told, more than 80 women worked for Pickering during his tenure at the  Harvard Observatory (which extended to 1918), putting in six-day weeks poring  over photographs, and earning 25 to 50 cents an hour (half  what a man would have been paid). The daily work was largely clerical: some  women would reduce the photographs, taking into account things like atmospheric  refraction, in order to render the image as clear and unadulterated as possible.  Others would classify the stars through comparing the photographs to known  catalogs. Others cataloged the photographs themselves, making careful notes of  each image’s date of exposure and the region of the sky. The notes were then  meticulously copied into tables, which included the star’s location in the sky and  its magnitude. It was a grind. As Fleming noted in her diary:

In the Astrophotographic building of the Observatory, 12 women, including  myself, are engaged in the care of the photographs…. From day to day my duties  at the Observatory are so nearly alike that there will be little to describe  outside ordinary routine work of measurement, examination of photographs, and of  work involved in the reduction of these observations.

women working

Pickering’s assistants examine photographs for  astronomical data. Photo from the Harvard College Observatory.

But regardless of the unequal pay and distribution of duties, this work was  incredibly important; the data provided the empirical foundations for larger  astronomical theory. Pickering allowed some women to make telescopic  observations, but this was the exception rather than the rule. Mostly, women  were barred from producing real theoretical work and were instead relegated to  analyzing and reducing the photographs. These reductions, however, served as the  statistical basis for the theoretical work done by others. Chances for great  advancement were extremely limited. Often the most a woman could hope for within  the Harvard Observatory would be a chance to oversee less-experienced computers.  That’s what Williamina Fleming was doing when, after almost 20 years at the  observatory, she was appointed Curator of  Astronomical Photos.

One of Pickering’s computers, however, would stand out for her contribution  to astronomy: Annie Jump Cannon, who devised a system for classifying stars that  is still used today. But as an article written in The Woman Citizen‘s  June 1924 issue reported: “The traffic policeman on Harvard Square does not  recognize her name. The brass and parades are missing. She steps into no  polished limousine at the end of the day’s session to be driven by a liveried  chauffeur to a marble mansion.”


Annie Jump Cannon at her desk at the Harvard  Observatory. Photo from the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Cannon was born in Dover, Delaware, on December 11, 1863. Her father, a  shipbuilder, had some knowledge of the stars, but it was her mother who passed  on her own childhood interest in astronomy. Both parents nourished her love of  learning, and in 1880, when she enrolled at Wellesley College, she became one of  the first young women from Delaware to go away to college. At Wellesley, she  took classes under Whiting, and while doing graduate work there she helped  Whiting conduct experiments on x-rays. But when the Harvard Observatory began to  gain fame for its photographic research, Cannon transferred to Radcliffe College  in order to work with Pickering, beginning in 1896. Pickering and Fleming had  been working on a system for classifying stars based on their temperatures;  Cannon, adding to work done by fellow computer Antonia Maury, greatly simplified  that system, and in 1922, the International Astronomical Union adopted it as the  official classification system for stars.

In 1938, two years before Cannon retired and three years before she died,  Harvard finally acknowledged her by appointing her the William C. Bond  Astronomer. During Pickering’s 42-year tenure at the Harvard Observatory, which  ended only a year before he died, in 1919, he received many awards, including  the Bruce Medal, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s highest honor.  Craters on the moon and on Mars are named after him.

And Annie Jump Cannon’s enduring achievement was dubbed the Harvard—not the  Cannon—system of spectral classification.

Sources: Annals of  the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College, Volume XXIV,” on Take Note,  An Exploration of Note-Taking in Harvard University Collections, 2012. Accessed  September 3, 2013; “Annie Cannon (1863-1914)” on She Is An Astronomer, 2013.  Accessed September 9, 2013; “Annie Jump Cannon” on Notable Name Database, 2013. Accessed  September 9, 2013; “Brief History of Astrophotography” on McCormick Museum,  2009. Accessed September 18, 213; “The ‘Harvard Computers’” on WAMC, 2013. Accessed September  3, 2013; “The History of Women and Education” on the National Women’s  History Museum, 207. Accessed August 19, 2013; Kate M. Tucker. “Friend to the  Stars” in The Woman Citizen, June 14, 1924; Keith Lafortune. “Women at the  Harvard College Observatory, 1877-1919: ‘Women’s Work,’ The ‘New’ Sociality of  Astronomy, and Scientific Labor,” University of Notre Dame, December 2001.  Accessed August 19, 2013; Margaret Walton Mayhall. “The Candelabrum” in The Sky.  January, 1941; Moira Davison Reynolds. American Women Scientists: 23 Inspiring  Biographies, 1900-2000. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1999; “Williamina  Paton Stevens Fleming (1857–1911)” on the Harvard University Library Open  Collections Program, 2013. Accessed September 3, 2013.

Read more:  http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2013/09/the-women-who-mapped-the-universe-and-still-couldnt-get-any-respect/#ixzz2fOpVXYfc Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Girls Get IT! A Love for STEM, a Dedication to Pass It On

This story is a part of a collaboration between HuffPost’s Girls In STEM Mentorship Program and The Intel Foundation. Inspiring Girls is a podcast series highlighting the innovative thinking and work of extraordinary girls, presented by The Intel Foundation in honor of their 25th Anniversary and the work they do to foster education, especially among girls and women in STEM.

When Savannah Loberger was in the 5th Grade, two things happened. The first is that she had an extraordinary teacher, Ms.Lasky. “She encouraged the whole class to love science and really explore and have fun with it. She reinforced what my parents taught me, that it’s definitely ok to be smart, it’s actually encouraged!”

The second thing that happened was that Savannah’s Mom signed her up to a Girl Scout robotics day camp that changed her life.

“The first time I made a robot move and do what I tell it to do, well, it was an amazing experience, to have that sense of accomplishment that, wow, this can actually be used in real life. When you type in something on the computer and the robot then moves and will reach out and sense you being there and react and respond to you, that’s when it clicked that engineering can be used to transform the world and really make a difference around you.”

intel foundation savannah

After seeing how STEM could make such a huge impact, Loberger was inspired to offer that same experience to the girls around her. So three years ago, at the age of 15, she started a summer camp for girls called Girls Get IT. As the oldest of five children and growing up in a military family, she did not necessarily have science role models. What she did have however is the support from her parents, and turns out that’s all she needed.

“I never had any boundaries on what I thought I could do. The stereotype of girls not being in engineering, I just never thought they applied to me I guess.”

Today, Girls Get IT is a thriving summer camp that has been growing exponentially every year. The girls learn everything from soldering to game making but maybe most importantly, they break boundaries within themselves and challenge stereotypes in society, realizing that they can do things they never thought they could. The most rewarding part for Savannah is seeing the transformation that happens in the girls and witnessing how they come to see just how smart and capable they are.

Girls Get IT caught the attention of many organizations and universities across the US, including The Intel Foundation, which has contributed to Girls Get IT both financially and emotionally. As Savannah says, “I can tell that I’m valued…That has been key in being able to continue doing what I do.”

In this podcast, you will hear from Savannah, sharing her motivations and experiences with Girls Get It, accompanied by her sister Ashley, who is a camp counselor, and like her sister, a believer in the power of role modeling to dispel myths and fuel self-determination.

Please click the play button to learn more and hear from the girls themselves. To explore more about the Intel Foundation’s 25th Anniversary program click here.


Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion

Pope Francis, who has said the church should be a “home for all,” on Sept. 4 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.


Published: September 19, 2013   


Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic Church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.       

In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.       

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”       

The interview was conducted in Italian during three meetings in August in the pope’s spartan quarters in Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse, and translated into English by a team of translators. Francis has chosen to live at Casa Santa Marta rather than in what he said were more isolated quarters at the Apostolic Palace, home to many of his predecessors.       

The interview was released simultaneously on Thursday morning by 16 Jesuit journals around the world, and includes the pope’s lengthy reflections on his identity as a Jesuit. Pope Francis personally reviewed the transcript in Italian, said the Rev. James Martin, an editor-at-large of America, the Jesuit magazine in New York. America and La Civiltà Cattolica together had asked Francis to grant the interview, which America is publishing in its magazine and as an e-book.       

“Some of the things in it really surprised me,” Father Martin said. “He seems even more of a free-thinker than I thought — creative, experimental, willing to live on the margins, push boundaries back a little bit.”       

The new pope’s words are likely to have repercussions in a church whose bishops and priests in many countries, including the United States, often appeared to make combating abortion, gay marriage and contraception their top public policy priorities. These teachings are “clear” to him as “a son of the church,” he said, but they have to be taught in a larger context. “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.”       

From the outset of his papacy in March, Francis has chosen to use the global spotlight to focus instead on the church’s mandate to serve the poor and marginalized. He has washed the feet of juvenile prisoners, visited a center for refugees and hugged disabled pilgrims at his audiences.       

His pastoral presence and humble gestures have made him wildly popular, according to recent surveys. But there has been a low rumble of discontent from some Catholic advocacy groups, and even from some bishops, who have taken note of his silence on abortion and gay marriage. Earlier this month, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., told his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis” because he had not spoken about abortion. “Many people have noticed that,” the bishop was quoted as saying.       

The interview is the first time Francis has explained the reasoning behind both his actions and omissions. He also expanded on the comments he made about homosexuality in July, on an airplane returning to Rome from Rio de Janeiro, where he had celebrated World Youth Day. In a remark then that produced headlines worldwide, the new pope said, “Who am I to judge?” At the time, some questioned whether he was referring only to gays in the priesthood, but in this interview he made clear that he had been speaking of gays and lesbians in general.       

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he told Father Spadaro. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”       

The interview also serves to present the pope as a human being, who loves Mozart and Dostoevsky and his grandmother, and whose favorite film is Fellini’s “La Strada.”       

The 12,000-word interview ranges widely, and may confirm what many Catholics already suspected: that the chameleon-like Francis bears little resemblance to those on the church’s theological or political right wing. He said some people had assumed he was an “ultraconservative” because of his reputation when he served as the superior of his Jesuit province in Argentina. He pointed out that he was made superior at the “crazy” young age of 36, and that his leadership style was too authoritarian.       

“But I have never been a right-winger,” he said. “It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”       

Now, Francis said, he prefers a more consultative leadership style. He has appointed an advisory group of eight cardinals, a step he said was recommended by the cardinals at the conclave that elected him. They were demanding reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, he said, adding that from the eight, “I want to see that this is a real, not ceremonial consultation.”       

The pope said he has found it “amazing” to see complaints about “lack of orthodoxy” flowing into the Vatican offices in Rome from conservative Catholics around the world. They ask the Vatican to investigate or discipline their priests, bishops or nuns. Such complaints, he said, “are better dealt with locally,” or else the Vatican offices risk becoming “institutions of censorship.”       

Asked what it means for him to “think with the church,” a phrase used by the Jesuit founder St. Ignatius, Francis said that it did not mean “thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”       

He said he thinks of the church “as the people of God, pastors and people together.”       

“The church is the totality of God’s people,” he added, a notion popularized after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which Francis praised for making the Gospel relevant to modern life, an approach he called “absolutely irreversible.”       

And while he agreed with the decision of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, to allow the broader use of the traditional Latin-language Tridentine Mass, he said that the more traditional Mass risked becoming an ideology and that he was worried about its “exploitation.” Those who seek a broad revival of the Tridentine Mass have been among Francis’s harshest critics, and those remarks are not likely to comfort them.       

In contrast to Benedict, who sometimes envisioned a smaller but purer church — a “faithful fragment” — Francis envisions the church as a big tent.       

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” he said. “We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”       

Labor Department: Gay Married Couples Have Benefit Plan Rights

By SAM HANANEL  09/18/13 08:06 PM ET EDT AP

labor department gay couples

WASHINGTON — Legally married same-sex couples enjoy the same federal rights as other married couples when it comes to pensions, 401(k)s, health plans and other employee benefits, even if they live in states that don’t recognize their union, the Labor Department said Wednesday.

The new guidance is the latest effort by the Obama administration to clarify questions left unanswered after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June which invalidated part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The interpretation is consistent with a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service last month that legally married gay couples can file joint federal tax returns even if they reside in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages.

“This decision represents a historic step toward equality for all American families, and I have directed the department’s agency heads to ensure that they are implementing the decision in a way that provides maximum protection for workers and their families,” said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

The agency said the terms “spouse” and “marriage” in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act should be read to include same-sex couples regardless of where they currently reside. That means a gay couple that marries legally in Minnesota or New York can still participate equally in retirement and other federal employee benefits if they move to Florida, where gay marriage is not legal.

The interpretation “provides a uniform rule of recognition that can be applied with certainty by stakeholders, including employers, plan administrators, participants, and beneficiaries,” the agency said.

Groups that represent large employers welcomed the guidance, saying it makes it easier for companies operating across the country to have uniform rules to follow when it comes to issues like spousal consent on distribution of benefits and survivorship rights. Gay marriage is currently legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia. The new guidance extends federal employee benefit rights to married same-sex couples in the other 37 states – even those that have laws refusing to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

“We’re looking for consistency among all the federal agencies and consistency from one state to another,” said Scott Macey, president of the ERISA Industry Committee that represents large employers. “We view this as a positive step to continue to help clarify the impact of the decision.”

Brian Moulton, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights group, praised the government’s action.

“We’re pleased to see yet another agency issuing guidance implementing the decision and recognizing individuals as lawfully married for federal purposes even if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage,” Moulton said.

Benefits experts said lingering questions still persist, though, including questions about whether the Supreme Court’s decision is retroactive to benefits that have already been paid out before the case was decided. Those questions likely will be addressed by the courts.


Why We Need a Fair Shot

A Plan for Women and Families to Get Ahead


What women say they most want and need—economic security, good health care, and workplace structures that can help them better combine work and family life—are interconnected.

By Judith Warner | September 18, 2013

“It doesn’t stop … having to clean up, do laundry, cook dinner … there’s no breathing time … you feel you’re just consumed with all these different things coming at you.” — Danielle Crespo, New York, New York

Danielle Crespo, a 36-year-old mother of three who works in building services and housekeeping at Richmond University Medical Center, speaks for millions of women in the United States. Earning a living, caring for her family, hoping to save for the future, and struggling every month just to make ends meet, she dreams of getting ahead, while doing all she can to get by. Her story expresses the day-to-day reality of most families’ lives in our country. Yet voices like hers have been sorely lacking from the heady debates about American women that have received so much attention over the past 18 months.

In that time, high-pitched media debates about “having it all” and “leaning in” launched impassioned conversations about the stalled progress, unequal pay, and caregiving penalties that women face in the workplace. Conservative lawmakers’ efforts to redefine rape and the revelation of widespread, unprosecuted sexual crimes against women in the U.S. military raised painful new questions about women’s safety, privacy, and basic dignity. Political fights over access to birth control and new state laws that impose intrusive medical exams upon women seeking abortions shocked many women into an awareness of just how embattled their bodies remain, four decades after Roe v. Wade. And in the wake of the Great Recession and a government sequester, deep cuts in women-heavy sectors of employment drove home the extreme vulnerability of many female breadwinners and their families.

All of these examples of personal, professional, and economic struggle—up and down the income chain and in all sorts of differently organized, educated, and politically affiliated households—have sent American women a loud and clear message: We have come a long way, maybe. But we certainly could be doing a whole lot better. Here are some facts:

  • Women make up 47 percent of the U.S. labor force and hold 52 percent of all professional-level jobs. Yet only 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and 18 percent of Congress members are women.
  • Fully 40 percent of women are breadwinners, earning as much or more than their partners or providing the sole income for their families as single mothers. Yet they are only earning 77 cents for every man’s dollar.
  • Overwhelming majorities of Americans—Democrats and Republicans alike—say it is important for our government to consider new laws such as paid sick days and paid family and medical leave insurance and help fund child care for working parents. Three-quarters of Americans believe that employers should give workers more flexibility in their schedules and work locations. Yet many women are still forced to choose between earning a living and caring for their families.
  • A full 40 years after the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was a private matter between a woman and her doctor, women still contend with restrictive laws imposing rules, regulations, and logistical hurdles so onerous that, in many states, Roe v. Wade is all but a dead letter.

Fueled by frustration, women flocked to the polls last November and voted to re-elect President Barack Obama by a 12-point margin. Their sense of urgency and outrage turned the campaign-season “War on Women” into a “Year of the Woman” in American politics, with historic gains for female candidates on both the state and federal level and more women candidates than ever before.

“You don’t make women angry” was the lesson pollster Celinda Lake drew from the results. But in the wake of the dramatic election year, the sense of angry challenge and the promise of something new have faded, and many women are left feeling that all the “woman” talk has proven hollow.

Consumed with the day-to-day difficulties of making ends meet, worrying about the future, and scrambling to keep up with the many demands on their time and energies, many have grown impatient with what sounds like canned political theater as the two parties continue to vie for their favor. They have grown disgusted with the seemingly endless media coverage of the lifestyle choices of the worried wealthy and hand-wringing over the much-decried “end of men.” They have grown tired of commentary that reduces the complexities of their lives to sound bites.

They have seen themselves proclaimed the “winners” of our current economy— while watching their male colleagues outearn them at all ages and in all fields. They have been passed over for promotions, and know they are looked down upon professionally—no matter how well, how much, or how hard they work— if they make a visible priority of taking time to care for their kids. They are stressed and stretched to the full extent of their capabilities—working hard and doing as much as they can as the primary caretakers in their families—and yet still feel as if they are not spending enough time with their loved ones. They are not earning enough or saving enough. They are scared about paying for health care, college, and—above all—retirement. And as breadwinners responsible for their family’s economic security, they are tired of hearing their challenges narrowed down to “women’s issues”—for they know these problems deeply affect all the people who matter most in their lives.

At the Center for American Progress, we believe that for women and their families to get ahead, we need to change the national conversation—and then move from talking to doing. We too are tired of talk that is forever focused on individual women and their private problems, rather than on the bigger social and political issues that drive and sustain their difficulties. We know that this talk alienates many women and does not include men. We also know that it ignores the fact that what most women say they want is, very simply, what everyone in our country needs: a fair shot at the American Dream. Not just “equal rights”—as was true in the 1970s—but rather, opportunities to find good jobs with fair pay, good medical care that addresses all of their families’ health needs, and family-friendly workplace policies that help build job security and peace of mind.

We at CAP feel that, as a nation, we have never taken decisive steps to develop policies and update our institutions to embrace the changing realities of modern women’s and families’ lives. We know that the substantive difficulties that American women face are neither inevitable outgrowths of their contemporary working lives nor intractable “conflicts” that their families must try to work out on their own. We maintain that these problems persist because of deliberate policy decisions made in the past, and that these decisions must now be revised, in recognition of the changes in contemporary families’ lives.

What women say they most want and need—economic security, good health care, and workplace structures that can help them better combine work and family life—are interconnected. For too long, however, efforts to promote progress on these fronts have been fragmented. In the face of constant conservative attacks on families’ basic economic strength and well-being, advocates for women and families have been locked into defensive battles that sapped their resources. Our new Fair Shot campaign will be different.

Over the coming months, in partnership with American Women, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the Service Employees International Union, the Center for American Progress will fight for policies that strengthen women’s economic security and promote women’s health and the health of their families. We will work for the election of more women to high office, advocate for workplace solutions that will guarantee men and women a fair shake, and promote women’s opportunities for growth and leadership.

The cornerstone of this campaign is a comprehensive, common-sense policy agenda that spells out solutions to the most pressing challenges American women and their families now face. Specifically, this agenda includes:

Economic security

Make sure women earn what they deserve and have a fair chance to succeed in the workplace.

  • Raise the pay of minimum-wage workers, 62 percent of whom are women.
  • Enact stronger equal-pay protections such as the Paycheck Fairness Act to hold employers more accountable for discriminatory pay practices, ensure vigorous enforcement of equal-pay laws, and empower women to uncover discrimination and negotiate fair salaries.
  • Renew legal efforts to fight gender-based stereotypes and combat forms of gender-specific bias such as pregnancy discrimination.
  • Empower women in the lowest-paid jobs to embark upon career pathways that can lead to higher wages and better skills, and enable them to work collectively to improve their economic opportunities.

Make workplaces more responsive to the needs of working families, and ensure that all families can give their children the best start in life.

  • Support federal paid family leave legislation to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of leave at partial salary to care for a new child or seriously ill family member or to recover from a serious illness.
  • Support the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers to earn up to seven days of earned sick time per year.
  • Work with employers, policymakers, and advocates to promote flexible workplace practices for all.
  • Expand access to affordable, high-quality preschool and child care.

Women’s health

Promote women’s health throughout the continuum of their lives.

  • Support congressional legislation to ensure that all women—regardless of where they live—have access to abortion services without having to contend with impossibly burdensome state restrictions.
  • Ensure that women get accurate and medically appropriate information from their doctors on all health matters without political interference.
  • Fully implement the Affordable Care Act, which contains provisions that guarantee women’s access to vital preventive services, protect against sex-based medical discrimination, provide coverage for maternal health services and contraception, and help women make informed health decisions throughout their lifetimes.
  • Enable healthy pregnancy and delivery by making sure that women have access to affordable care; information on how to maintain a healthy pregnancy; and unbiased, multilingual, and culturally competent medical care.


Promote women’s leadership at all levels of government, the workplace, and beyond.

  • Eliminate the structural barriers to women’s equal participation and advancement in politics and the private sector.
  • Identify workplace practices that disproportionately hold women back and time-tested workplace solutions that would level the playing field.
  • Change the elements of workplace culture that demand unlimited availability and overwork in favor of more balanced work-life expectations for men and women alike.

After decades of steady progress, women have flat-lined in a wide range of areas where they should still be advancing. As a result, they are not reaching the prominent positions in public service or the private sector that would give them the power to affect meaningful change. There are indications that younger generations of women see a more limited horizon of choices than did the Baby Boomers and their immediate successors in Generation X. This is unacceptable.

As we rebuild our economy and seek to rise to the challenges of an uncertain future, we cannot afford to leave women behind. As consumers and, increasingly, as breadwinners, women are key drivers of our nation’s growth. But they cannot fully contribute if our society fails to provide the structures they need to have a fair shot at success.

Together, we can do better.

Judith Warner is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

French Senate votes to ban child beauty pageants as part of women’s rights law



By  Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 8:06 AM

PARIS — France’s Senate has voted to ban beauty pageants for children under 16 in an effort to protect girls from being sexualized too early.

Anyone who enters a child into such a contest would face up to two years in prison and 30,000 euros in fines. A pageant organizer lamented that the move was so severe.

The Senate approved the measure 197-146 overnight, as an amendment to a law on women’s rights. The legislation must go to the lower house of parliament for further debate and another vote.

Such beauty pageants, involving girls of all ages often heavily made up and dressed up, regularly elicit public debate in France and elsewhere. While such pageants are not as common in France as in the United States, girls get the message early on here that they are sexual beings, from advertising and marketing campaigns — and even from department stores that sell lingerie for girls as young as 6.

“The foundations of equal rights are threatened by the hyper-sexualization that touches children … between 6 and 12 years old,” said conservative lawmaker Chantal Jouanno, who authored the amendment.

“At this age, you need to concentrate on acquiring knowledge. Yet with mini-Miss competitions and other demonstrations, we are fixing the projectors on their physical appearance. I have a hard time seeing how these competitions are in the greater interest of the child.”

She noted the amendment is primarily focused on protecting girls. “When I asked an organizer why there were no mini-boy contests, I heard him respond that boys would not lower themselves like that.”

The amendment’s language is brief but sweeping: “Organizing beauty competitions for children under 16 is banned.” It doesn’t specify what kind of competitions would be covered, including whether it would extend to online photo competitions or pretty baby contests.

It would apply to parents or others who enter children in such contests — but also anyone “who encourages or tolerates children’s access to these competitions.”

The amendment says it’s aimed at protecting children from danger and being prematurely forced into roles of seduction that harm their development.

Michel Le Parmentier, who says he has been organizing “mini-Miss” pageants in France since 1989, said he’s disappointed that the draft law involves an overall ban. He said that he has been in discussions with legislators about regulating such pageants but wasn’t expecting such sweeping language.

The senators debated whether to come up with a softer measure limiting such pageants, but in the end decided on an overall ban.

The Socialist government’s equal rights minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, suggested Wednesday that the Socialists may push for a compromise measure when the bill goes to the lower house of Parliament in the coming weeks.

Some pageants make an effort to de-sexualize the competitions. One recent pageant in the Paris region specifically banned makeup, swimsuits, high heels or anything inappropriate for the child’s age.

In the same debate, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have restricted the use of models under age 16 to modeling for products or services destined for children.


Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.

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