Yes, All Men

Yes, All Men

As I drove my son back to college last week, where he’ll take a summer chemistry course, he said something that struck me: “I believe it’s very important for everyone to be a feminist.”

He didn’t say it for effect, to shock or provoke conversation. It was just one of those thoughts that surface on a road trip, a kind of sorting out of life by a son before his father.

He explained that he had never truly been aware of the extent of his own male privilege until recently, and that after watching the #YesAllWomen campaign unfold and doing quite a bit of reading, he had begun to chafe at the subconscious — and sometimes overt — gender inequity that pervades our society and the world.

It wasn’t fair, he insisted. Not to the millions of women he didn’t know and had never met, nor to his girlfriend, friends who are girls or his own sister.

I couldn’t have been more proud of his most principled stance.

Yes, we should all be feminists, but too often we believe that the plight of the oppressed is solely the business of the oppressed, and that the society in which that oppression is born and grows and the role of the oppressors and beneficiaries are all somehow subordinate.


Fighting female objectification and discrimination and violence against women isn’t simply the job of women; it must also be the pursuit of men.

Only when men learn to recognize misogyny will we be able to rid the world of it. Not all men are part of the problem, but, yes, all men must be part of the solution.

The statistics on violence and discrimination against women are just staggering. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women has reported that:

■ According to a 2013 global review of available data, 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced intimate-partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. However, some national violence studies show that up to 70 percent of women have at some point experienced violence from an intimate partner.

■ In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, violence by intimate partners accounts for between 40 percent and 70 percent of all murders of women.

■ More than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides; 46 percent of women ages 20 to 24 in South Asia and 41 percent in West and Central Africa report that they married before the age of 18.

■ Approximately 140 million girls and women in the world have suffered female genital mutilation/cutting.

■ In the United States, 83 percent of girls 12 to 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.

■ Women are already two to four times more likely than men to become infected with H.I.V. during intercourse. Rape increases the risks because of limited condom use and physical injuries.

■ In the United States, 11.8 percent of new H.I.V. infections in the previous year among women 20 or older were attributed to intimate-partner violence.

And that is only a sampling of the points made by the U.N. about the devastating scale of the problem. It doesn’t even take into account more subtle, but still corrosive, issues like job and pay discrimination, imbalances in parental roles and responsibilities, sexual double standards and the imbalance of political power.

Many of these issues are particularly acute right here in the United States. As CNN reported last year:

“The U.S. has a larger gender gap than 22 other countries including Germany, Ireland, Nicaragua and Cuba, according to a World Economic Forum report … [that] rates 136 countries on gender equality, and factors in four categories: economic opportunity, educational attainment, health and political empowerment.”

Men around the world, in general, do not have to worry as much, if at all, about being the subjects of such physical and psychological violence. They have the luxury of not being forced to fully engage and confront the scale and scope of the problem — and that is the very definition of privilege.

But we can fix that.
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Empathy is not particularly elusive. It only requires an earnest quest to understand and act on that understanding. The problems women face in this world require the engagement of all the world’s people.

“It’s very important for everyone to be a feminist.”


Obama pledges to address gender pay gap, warns Dems could get ‘clobbered’ in midterms

Obama pledges to address gender pay gap, warns Dems could get ‘clobbered’ in midterms

By Reuters
Friday, March 21, 2014 2:52 EDT

President Barack Obama used a speech at a community college on Thursday to begin a series of events highlighting economic issues affecting women such as the gender pay gap in which women earn three-quarters as much as their male counterparts.

He spoke at the Orlando campus of Valencia College, a two-year institution that has been recognized for placing students in jobs and sending them on for higher degrees. Many of the students at Valencia are older and are returning to school fort training that will lead to higher-paying work.

Women are “facing unfair choices or outdated workplace policies that hold all of us back, and that has to change,” the president said.

The White House plans similar events in Denver, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. The administration says the meetings will lead to a short list of actions the president can take by executive order, push Congress to act on, or launch with business collaboration. The measures would all be aimed at making it easier for women to find good jobs and be paid at levels that match those of their male counterparts.

“The president has a range of tools and he wants to figure out which are the right ones,” White House adviser Valerie Jarrett told reporters.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report last week saying that although more women are earning higher educational degrees and filling a wider range of jobs than in the past, they continue to earn less than men. Full-time female workers make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, the CEA said.

As part of efforts to spur gender pay equity, the Small Business Administration will hold a conference to identify ways to get more women trained and start careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, professions with higher salaries.

“To improve earnings, we need to get women in higher paying occupations,” said Betsey Stevenson, a member of the CEA.

Obama urged Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25, a proposal that faces strong opposition from many Republicans. The White House says the increase is particularly important for women, who constitute a large share of the minimum wage workforce.

Women have been steady supporters of the president and of Democrats, and Obama wants to rally support among voters to prevent the Republicans from winning control of the Senate in November elections.

At a fundraiser later at the Miami home of former basketball all-star Alonzo Mourning, Obama warned Democrats that failure to turn out and vote in November congressional elections could get them “clobbered.”

“The problem is not that the American people don’t agree with us,” he said. “Politics have gotten so toxic.”

NOW Comments on President Obama’s State of the Union Address: A Step in the Right Direction, But We Can Do More

NOW Comments on President Obama’s State of the Union Address: A Step in the Right Direction, But We Can Do More.

January 28, 2014

WASHINGTON – In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on Congress to take steps to reduce income inequality. NOW could not agree more. If, as the president has said, American workers feel that the deck is stacked against them, for women, the cards are marked.

Women disproportionately work in low-wage sectors, live on minimum-wage salaries and, thanks to working a lifetime at unequal pay, are significantly more likely than men to outlive their savings.

The president’s call for a significant increase in the minimum wage is welcome. While $10.10 per hour is not a living wage in most communities, it is a step in the right direction — but we can do more.

Women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers. A woman working full time, year round at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour earns just $14,500 — nearly $4,000 below the poverty line for a family of three.

Women are the sole or primary breadwinners in roughly 40 percent of U.S. households nowadays. They and their families need a livable wage — a wage that would allow them to save up for a down payment on a house, their kids’ college tuition, and their own retirement security. In the richest country in the world, that’s not too much to expect.

Lilly Ledbetter says the president can do more for equal pay: Sign an executive order

Lilly Ledbetter says the president can do more for equal pay: Sign an executive order

(Illustration by The Washington Post)

By Lilly Ledbetter, Published: January 17
Lilly Ledbetter was the plaintiff in the discrimination case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and the namesake for the first bill President Obama signed into law. She is the honorary public policy chair for AAUW of Alabama.

Nearly five years ago, newly elected President Obama committed to equal pay for women by signing the bill that bears my name, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act . I joyfully joined the president for the occasion, my mind racing ahead to what this action would mean for American women everywhere.

The day that bill was signed into law marked the end of the hardest fight of my life. The bill directly addressed Ledbetter v. Goodyear , a U.S. Supreme Court decision that essentially said my employer had been paying me unfairly for long enough to make it legal. This law, the very first to receive Obama’s signature, changed that. It restored the long-standing interpretation of civil rights laws, allowing employees to challenge any and every discriminatory paycheck — rather than be hamstrung by short statutes of limitations, as I was in my Supreme Court case.

More broadly, the law renewed my faith in American values. It proved that America’s commitment to fairness and equality is more than rhetoric. The president’s support also showed that the movement for equal pay for equal work was making progress. Women of the United States now had a champion with the authority and drive to do something about it.

Since that bill was signed, the president has recommitted to equal pay on all the biggest stages, including in his inaugural and State of the Union addresses. It’s great to be reminded that he shares my values. Yet his pledge when he signed the bill — that it was just the first step toward closing the pay gap — has gone largely unrealized.

I urge the president and Congress to stop resting on their laurels. Yes, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a great accomplishment. But the president and Congress should not fall back on that victory every time they’re asked about pay equity — as if all the work has been done and equal pay for equal work has been achieved.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is just the first of many tools women need. My fight for equal pay was never supposed to end with me, and it was never meant to be partisan. Letting that be the case would be an additional injustice. A 2012 study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) controlled for factors known to affect earnings, such as education, parenthood and hours worked, and found that college-educated women still earn 7 percent less than their male peers just one year out of school — even when they have the same major and occupation. That’s not a small amount, and it gets worse over time, as most benefits and raises are based on wages. These pay disparities harm women, their families and the nation’s economy. According to a recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the U.S. economy would produce an additional $447.6 billion in income if women received equal pay.

Members of Congress who truly believe in fairness and equality are already standing with me in efforts to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act . The bill, which has 207 co-sponsors in the House and 50 in the Senate, would help create stronger incentives for employers to pay workers fairly, empower women to negotiate for equal pay and prohibit retaliation against employees who share salary information. This isn’t rocket science, yet some members of Congress still claim that they support these values while not supporting them in legislation.

Congressional gridlock has led to sequestration and the government shutdown. That’s why Congress isn’t — and cannot be — our only avenue for this rallying cry. We need a powerful friend to help us advance equal pay now.

The president is that friend. He persuasively talks the talk. At the 2009 Ledbetter bill-signing ceremony and in strengthening federal civil rights enforcement, Obama has walked the walk. He is someone we can count on to speak out for women and families.

“But as congressional progress on the issue of equal pay has stalled, we need the president to take every action possible,” said Linda D. Hallman, executive director and chief executive of AAUW. “Just because Congress is stuck doesn’t mean American women have to be.”

As AAUW has recommended, the president could start by issuing an executive order that would ban federal contractors from retaliating against workers who ask about wage practices or share salary information. This is a critical element of the stalled Paycheck Fairness Act. And the president doesn’t need to wait for Congress; he has the power to put it in place with another history-making stroke of his pen. Even better, this action would help dismantle what was my largest barrier all those years ago — not knowing that I was being paid unfairly and having no way to find out.

Few women have that information, and some don’t feel safe asking questions for fear of retaliation from their bosses. I was told I’d be fired if I shared salary information at work. This executive order would empower employees to discuss salaries, a kind of openness that often leads to a smaller gender pay gap.

Companies given government contracts should not be able to discriminate with taxpayer dollars. Although the Paycheck Fairness Act is still needed to help all workers, the president’s executive order would affect roughly 26 million workers, or 22 percent of the nation’s workforce.

Such an executive order would not only be critical to advancing pay equity but would be good business as well. And when our government acts, the private sector often follows.

What a difference the president could make once again.


Closing The Gender Wage Gap Would Cut Women’s Poverty Rate In Half | ThinkProgress

Closing The Gender Wage Gap Would Cut Women’s Poverty Rate In Half | ThinkProgress.

Closing the gap in earnings between men and women would cut the poverty rate in half for working women, according to a new report from Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress.

Women still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, on average, a figure that hasn’t significantly changed in five years. For the report, economists Heidi Hartmann and Jeffrey Hayes of the Institute for Policy Research calculated that paying women who work full time, year round the same as men would boost their incomes by $6,250 a year on average. That extra money would cut their poverty rate in half, raising 3 million of the nearly 6 million working women who live below the poverty line above it. The extra income would also have a big impact on the economy as a whole, boosting GDP by 2.9 percent, or $450 billion.

The report notes that one in three women in the country either live in poverty or are “teetering on its brink,” coming to 42 million in total who struggle financially. In a poll conducted for the report, 90 percent of these women strongly favored addressing the gender wage gap, and the issue also got support from nearly three-quarters of the respondents overall.

But how to do it? Nearly 90 percent of the women struggling to get by said that paid sick days would be “very useful” to them, and it was in fact that number one policy they felt would give them a leg up, “even more than an increase in wages or benefits,” the report notes. But 40 percent of private sector workers don’t have access to paid time off when they or their loved ones fall sick given that the country doesn’t guarantee paid leave. (Although there are seven laws on the city and state level that do just that.)

Women living on the brink also supported expanding access to affordable child care. More than 7.5 million families with children under age 6 live on the financial brink, including four out of every five single mothers with young children. But when they’re able to work full time, year round, they’re twice as likely to have incomes that lift them out of that precarious situation. And it would impact the wage gap, given that child care assistance is associated with increased employment and higher earnings for these mothers. Expanding access to high-quality, affordable child care got support from nearly 80 percent of the poll’s respondents.

Paid family leave would also help increase women’s ability to stay employed and therefore boost their wages. But only about 12 percent of workers have access to it through their employers, and the country only guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid time off for those who work at companies with 50 or more employees. The FAMILY Act, recently introduced in Congress, would create a national system in which workers could pay into a paid family leave program through Social Security, costing them just about $1.50 a week. Such a plan garnered 85 percent of women’s support and 81 percent of men’s in the report’s polling.

The report also suggests increasing the minimum wage, given that women are two-thirds of the country’s minimum wage earners, strengthening public programs like food stamps, Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and child care assistance, and increasing women’s access to higher education and paths into high-paying fields.