Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Woman Still Emerging

Greetings, Readers  - Some recent reports have made it clear: women STILL have a ways to go for real equality. 

Some Reports

Let's start by noting that reproductive health care for women is under attack.  Rabbi Leah Rachel Berkowitz argues that we must trust women with their own reproductive choices.   Melinda Gates is advocating for reproductive and family planning services worldwide.  And as it turns out, access to reproductive health care is also good for the economy!  So it should be a win-win, right?  Why then, is there so much resistance to something that should be a total positive?  We all need to be advocates for this.

But sadly, there's even more.  Missouri is seriously on verge of passing legislation which would allow employer to fire women who are using birth control or who have had abortions and also allow landlords to discriminate against such women.  I'm tired of some holier-than-thou excuse for allowing discrimination.

Whew! And we haven't even gotten to the two reports which  prompted this post - yet.  One that floored me was a report from North Carolina.  There is a loophole in law that says a person cannot withdraw consent for sex once given.  Not if she (or he) changes mind or things get out of hand.  There is a call for change, but apparently the proposal is stuck in a legislative committee.  All should hope and pray that this law does get change rather soon.

But I came across an even more stunning case.  The story of Megan Rondini, who accused a powerful member of her community of rape.  Under Alabama law, victims (yes, victims!) must prove the seriously fought back. The investigator in Rondini's case concluded she did not, that no rape occurred, and further, started building a case against her for various crimes!  What is going on in that state???  I can say no more except that when I reached the end of the piece, my heart just broke.

Patriarchy and Control

Such reports, and other recent news, such as the incident where the Senate moved to stop Sen. Warren from reading Coretta Scott King's letter and the reluctance of folks to pay attention to Cosby accusers early on show that the U. S. really is still a patriarchy.  In fact, most cultures, historically and even still today, are patriarchal. So to make sure we're all on the same page on exactly what that is here's a definition from Gerda Lerner: "the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family and the extension of male dominance over women in the society in general." which implies "that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and that women are deprived of access to such power. It does not imply that women are either totally powerless or totally deprived of rights, influence and resources".  (you can check out her book: The Creation of Patriarchy)

This dominance - and accompanying controls often centered on controlling female sexuality (see section on "Historical Conceptions and Controls' here).  A paper by Prof. Bo Lewin, Uppsala Univ., Sweden, has quite an interesting take on some very possible reasoning:

"...men do not give birth to other men. This is the weak link of patriarchy. Men are, in spite of universally being of the ruling gender, dependent on women to have heirs; And women can be certain about who is their child and who is not, but men cannot be certain about who is the father of the children of their spouse.

 The fecundity of women, and ultimately the sexuality of women hence has to be controlled since this really is the weak spot of patriarchy: Who is the real father of the alleged son and nephew? Because we cannot have wealth and privileges passing to the wrong male child, since that would be totally against the orderly, organised and foreseeable transferral of wealth, power and privileges that to a large extent is what constitutes society! The sexuality of women, thus constitutes a threat to male supremacy and the existing social order."

Lewin continues by observing that often one of two general ways cultures react to this: either by de-sexualizing women or by somehow controlling their sexuality physically.  To address this and to work for progress, Lewin advocates studying the socialization of the particular culture in question and:

"...then to analyse the particular social contexts attempting not only to be descriptive but with an aim of understanding how cultures and sub-cultures have been formed so that we may find exactly those areas where women and men are seen as companions, to find those areas where people are people and not commodities, and to find those areas of these particular cultures and subcultures where the sexuality of women is not perceived as threatening."  I like that.  I like that a lot!

We need to be aware of such strictures and look to progress beyond them.  For example, one might not think of the Civil Rights Movement here, but... I have a copy of the book, At the Dark End of the Street - Black Women, Rape, and Resistance  - a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power (disclaimer: I have not READ the book yet, but author Danielle L McGuire's c-span presentation was quite good!).  In the preliminary pages there is a quote from Gunnar Myrdal from 1944: "Sex is the principle around which the whole structure of segregation... is organized." This volume addresses this very important subtext to the story of the Movement.


To make progress, we need people of goodwill period, to be allies.

John Adams relinquished his title of master.  And I found this gem from John Stuart Mill:

"That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes — the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other" (from The Subjugation of Women, 1869)

We women also need to step up our game.  It's often said women aren't always the most supportive of other women.  Well, here's a dose of why we SHOULD support each other! I really like #12.

So in spite of resistance, we women (and allies) need to keep persisting as WOMAN is still emerging into the fullness she is destined for.

Remember: comments are gold and sharing is caring!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Moral Values? American Values?

Greetings.  I know it's been a while, so here we go!

I'm quite sure that by now most of you have heard of that infamous speech by our nefarious Sec. of State in which he said: "Our values around freedom, human dignity, the way people are treated – those are our values. Those are not our policies."  He went on to say: "In some circumstances, if you condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values, we probably can’t achieve our national security goals."  (He seems to have no problem with the Global Gag-Rule which ties our health assistance to some value - oh wait, that's one of the right-wing's values!)  You can read The Guardian report on on that Tillerson 'values' speech here .

Moral Values

Maybe we should start our thoughts here with some words from our Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..  This quote is from a speech he delivered in 1954:  "The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is that all reality hinges on moral foundations.  In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws." 

Critiquing Tillerson's speech, John Kirby, the state department’s former spokesman tweeted: “Divorcing our interests from our values in foreign policy is like trying to plant cut flowers.” 
(from The Guardian's coverage) How can we claim "moral leadership" if we don't champion them at least on some level?  Look at the very recent spectacle of our nutjob  #45 meeting with all those dictators in Saudi-Arabia (and an arms deal!).  He also congratulated the new dictator of Turkey, Erdogan. Our actions do speak, often quite loudly.

Next, please consider this quote from professor/scholar Edward Said:  "Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate."  (The entire article by Said is worth reading!) Telling thoughts indeed. Wouldn't it be refreshing to see us actually promoting policies and programs that in reality help and empower folks? And once again, I maintain that investing in such initiatives is more productive than investing in guns and bombs. Here is a recent review from Oxfam on some facts about poverty-reducing foreign aid from the U. S.. We're not actually such big givers, which will probably surprise many. Such programs with real local input, however can make a difference.  (Now a quick aside here... recently Cal. State, Fresno made a quite controversial decision to not this year fill the position of an Edward Said Professorship )

Further, isn't there also an old saying that 'if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything'? (The exact origins of this quote are very hard to pin down: there are variants listed from Chaplain Peter Marshall, Ginger Rogers, Malcolm X, Dr. King and a BRITISH Alex Hamilton;  it's often attributed to our A. Hamilton, but with little hard evidence.)  To me this means that although in this life, countries - and we as individuals - sometimes do have to make compromises; but we need to always have our guiding moral principles in mind to make sure we don't stray too far from what we claim to be about.  Our policies should, as much as possible, reflect our commitment to our values, values such as freedom and human dignity, which even Tillerson mentioned.

Values must also not exist in a vacuum. Pres. Thomas Jefferson recognized the need to have laws back up our values.  In a letter to Mordecai Noah (1818) he wrote concerning the religious intolerance often faced by Jewish Americans:  "Your sect, by its sufferings, has furnished a remarkable proof of the universal spirit of religious intolerance inherent in every sect, dis- claimed by all while feeble, and practiced by all when in power. Our laws have applied the only antidote to this vice, protecting our re- ligious as they do our civil rights, by putting all on an equal footing. But more remains to be done, for although we are free by law, we are not so in practice..."  (one place the full text of this letter may be found is in this online volume!)

Our values, our guiding principles must be backed up by laws, policies, programs, and daily actions if they are to be effective in their job of lighting the way forward.  Our job is to keep them in mind always when configuring our decisions and programs.

American Values

So what are American values anyway?  My own list would include: equality, freedom, democracy, social mobility ('The American Dream'), justice, individualism & independence, human dignity,  and the rule of law.

These values are deeper than just "Mom, the flag, and apple pie." They speak to aspirations we still need to work toward.  America has often been called an "Experiment."  Well, doesn't the experimental process usually involve adjusting things? Controls, procedures, or maybe materials, and hypotheses get modified as the quest to answer a question continues.  Thus, we must continue to advocate for changes which will move us closer to the full realization of the values and ideals we supposedly stand for.

American values can even trace their roots back in time!  The Founders were definitely influenced by European Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke.  Locke, in turn, was definitely at least somewhat influenced by Aristotle.  What? Those Ancient Greeks again?  I remember (it was only  - um - X - years ago) a class in Freshman Western Civ., with our most excellent prof, Ms. Audrey.  One day she brought in a travel ad for Greece which had as its main caption "You were born here."   From our study of those Ancient Greeks and our consideration of the values the U. S. supposedly espouses, we decided it rang true.  So the aspirations these ideals speak to didn't just spring up overnight.  It might be "enlightening" if we thought of them as part of an evolving human endeavor.


Values should not be something we intentionally sideline.  They should be a constant source of guidance for our policies and programs.  If we align our decisions properly with our values and ideals, I believe results will be most effective.  And it is also good to keep a bit of historical perspective in mind as well.  And to tie things all together, here is a fantastic quote from Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower. This comes from his First Inaugural Address in 1953:

"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both...these basic precepts are not lofty abstractions far removed from matters of daily living.  They are laws of spiritual strength that generate and define our material strength."

So on to you, readers.  Any thoughts about values? Please share in comments. 

Here's something I found while working on this post.  A blast from the past which speaks so clearly to us today. 

Please do comment and/or share if you find this or any post here to be of value.  Thanks!