Sunday, April 29, 2007

A 21st Century “Equal Rights Amendment” to the Constitution?

“Conflicted” is how I described my reaction to the March 26, 2007 press release:
“Senators Kennedy & Boxer, Reps. Maloney & Nadler Begin New Push for Women’s Equality Amendment.” Actually, I read ABOUT the press release in a Wall Street Journal Commentary, April 3, 2007: “’Equal Rights’ Time Warp” by Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “The War Against Boys.” I guess you could figure out pretty quickly on which side of the debate Ms. Sommers landed.

The Republican argument against a specific ERA is this: (1) the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause bans unreasonable state discrimination against women and (2) The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans private discrimination “based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin” (and other federal statutes specifically address discrimination in the employment arena). So, Republicans basically say, “There, see? There’s no more discrimination.”

Except that everyone knows that is not accurate. Discrimination exists and these laws simply allow one the right to sue someone else for allegedly taking away what was presumed to be a right. The real question is whether the Women’s Rights Amendment as proposed would enhance this “right to sue” substantially enough to deter discrimination.

What is discouraging is to read, in the press release from the amendment’s ADVOCATES, that women today are still only “hoping” that -- with the help and support of the 110th Congress and only through the passage of this particular proposal – it would be possible that “women will finally achieve official equality in America.”

You see, I don’t buy the argument that I’m just “hoping” for equality. I am equal. I don’t need someone to give me a piece of paper to make it official. From the day I was born, I felt I did not need to go to court to prove anything. I still believe that. I was not raised by people who told me to go looking for Prince Charmings who would save me or Frogs to Kiss so that I could live happily ever after.

I surely don’t buy the Republican argument that discrimination no longer exists. I know we have to challenge bias and prejudice wherever it rears its ugly head using whatever tools we have at hand. The existence of idiots who persist in discrimination does not take away my equality. If anything, it simply proves there are idiots out there.

It sort of bothers me to read that IF CONGRESS does not pass the latest bill, or IF A MAJORITY OF STATES do not enact this new and improved amendment, that somehow I would be condemned to being NOT EQUAL in the United States of America.

I don’t buy that argument either: I have no intention of waiting for a group of politicians, on the edge of the Washington swamp waters, to tell me when and how I can pursue the opportunities available to me in this great nation.

We’ve been her before, my friends: since 1923, through 1972, through 1982. That represents almost 60 years of playing with this approach – a strategy that did not work. So, now, a mere 25 years AFTER that, we’re still trying to play this game of “pass a law” that has nothing to do with reality.

I live in California where the good people of this state, in their infinite wisdom, passed a resolution in 1996 called Proposition 209 which ALSO prohibits California’s public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity (RSorE). Only the interpretation went the other way: Prop 209 BANS anything that even hints, suggests, or smacks of efforts to encourage or advance based on RSorE. It sounded like a good idea at the time, except that the actual implementation has distorted our opportunities. Try to get any program in any public education institution that might even LOOK at an issue from an RSorE perspective. Any research into how women lead will be barred by the Prop 209 Thought Police.

Prop 209 has had a horrific intellectual chill on research, instruction, education, and publications that might benefit from public funds. Try to study an issue touched by Prop 209 overtones, and you can expect to be labeled as PC, a rights advocate, promoting a specific leftwing agenda. That’s just a nice way of shutting down independent inquiries. That is why I seldom trust what happens on the banks of the political waters – local or national.

I’m “conflicted” primarily because I am tired of hearing about “wings” of thought instead of true reasoned inquiry. I am tired of the polarization of debate. I am tired of hearing proponents, one way or another, paint each other into ethical, legal and moral corners. I am tired of having my research queries pigeon-holed by one side of that ancient debate or another, so that they can attack their presumption of my association rather than the substance of my arguments. It’s easier to dismiss the shorthand than it is to consider the thought.

I am also tired of having to carry on the back of my deliberations issues that have little or no direct relevance to the concerns I am documenting. I do not want to incorporate issues of single-sex schools, Roe v. Wade, pro-life or abortion, day-care, child-care, feminism, and the existence or the absence of bras in my examination of how women of achievement accomplished what they did. I don’t care about most of those ancient peripheral and, frankly personal issues, my dears. But, they get brought into the debate because ONCE 25 years ago or 60 years ago those questions might have been part of those deliberations.

Perhaps it is time we closed the doors on old rhetoric and started to listen to today’s dialog: a twenty-FIRST century exercise in intellectual inquiry.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It’s Not the Words -– It IS The Attitude

The debate about “politically correct” words and phrases is getting more interesting and more complicated. The current proposal is that some offensive words be banned as derogatory, racist, and/or sexist. This being a family-oriented blog, we choose to use only the initials and not even give breath to the negative overtones implied by the words themselves. The words are: n*, w* or h* and b*. Women clearly have a vested interest in this debate because the majority of the terms have been applied to people of the female persuasion.

One aspect of the debate is that (1) if people use one of the derogatory terms toward their “own people” that somehow makes the word acceptable within a certain group or culture, but when the word is used by “other people” only then does it become derogatory.

If the Black Hip Hop culture applies these terms to themselves, somehow that is supposed to be okay. Is it really okay for a member of the group to call themselves N*? Can men call women W*, H* or B* with impunity? We suspect not. Could women call men N* without disparaging them? Again, doubtful.

When women call each other B* or W* or H*, it certainly is not a compliment, but a major slam or slap in the face. One really must contort one’s mental perspective to conclude that the asterisked terms are anything other than cruel, negative stereotyping of others as well as one’s own self. It’s really difficult to not feel smarmy when one is elbow deep in dirt, even muck that’s supposed to be familiar muck.

Another argument is that (2) it’s “just” humor. Good natured fun, is it? If it were good, natural or fun then it would generate much more laughter and far less cringing among civilized people. Was humor to be generated by use of these words or was the intent to generate blush and a rising of the small hairs at the nape of our neck in reaction to these words? What exactly WAS the desired reaction and by whom? Who is laughing? And more importantly, who is harmed?

The third debate point brings up this specific issue: (3) it’s “just” the shock jocks talking among themselves. Exactly who was the intended audience? If it were just the boys in the locker room, why was it so important to spread the words so glibly beyond that enclave? Why did the major mainstream corporate media insist on repeating the words for weeks on end? If these words were truly acceptable, do we really believe that boards of directors would feel comfortable listening to their own CDs/DVDs with these words in the boardroom among their peers?

If these terms are unacceptable in some situations or circumstances, or among some audiences, then perhaps the hypocrisy of this situation has finally begun to emerge. Who would say these words in the presence of persons whom they respected?
That is the core of the matter.

It is NOT the words. Because there is no way that we could ever draw up a list of all the offensive, un-PC words to be prohibited. There is no way that we could ever have enough police to enforce that prohibition. The only thing that we have are the rules of our own conscience as human beings. The only protection we have against the onslaught of such derogatory, racist and sexist terms is our genuine attitude of respect toward another.

I have “a friend” who occasionally uses similar racist comments in my presence. Recently, it has come to my attention that he does not use these words in the presence of some others. Perhaps he perceives these other people are more gentle or refined than I and therefore more likely to be offended by the words. What did I ever do to deserve being so honored as to be “worthy” of hearing his slurs? Perhaps I just let him use them once without challenging him. Like Pete Rose, he “got away with it once and figured he could get away with it forever.”

The burden is on me to make sure my “friend” understands what is and is NOT acceptable terminology in my presence -- gentle, refined or tough and hardy. I am the one responsible for protecting myself against his garbage language by my refusing his words the light of day. I don’t need a PC Handbook to know that he is showing a lack of respect toward the object of his words. And he is showing a lack of respect toward me by sharing his terminology with me.

That is the case when anyone uses any words that disparage any group or type or cluster of people. The real and important question is whether, by our words, we are evidencing respect or contempt. What is the attitude we are conveying? How are we thinking about each other when we use these words? Why would we chose these words rather than the literally hundreds of thousands of other possible words we have available to us? The words are simply the messenger of the mind.

It is not the words. It is the attitude behind the words that matters.

Monday, April 16, 2007

They're NOT in the Shame Game?

According to a recent BusinessWeek article, “When Catalyst released its 2006 census of women at America's 500 largest companies a few weeks ago, a breakdown by company was missing.” Catalyst President Ilene Lang was quoted as saying: "We're not in the shame game. We don't find that publicly embarrassing people achieves anything."

Make that “ANYMORE.” Because for years Catalyst Inc. and the 8 sisters of the InterOrganizational Network (ION) have been in “the shame game,” trying to embarrass corporations into hiring more women on boards and placing more women in executive ranks by publishing data that suggests how gender diversity is losing ground.

But wait a minute: President Lang says that “Catalyst is about to post a list of the 58 companies with no female directors.” If they were interested in NOT embarrassing companies that are “failing,” as measured by the absence of women in top positions, then why would Catalyst publish the list of 58 companies with NO female directors? Is that designation supposed to make the companies feel good?

Let’s get real here. Catalyst used to be a women-in-leadership-membership organization, until their membership ranks began to dwindle. Today, Catalyst is a "corporate membership organization” that gets $11 million annually from 340 multinational corporations (that’s an average of $32,000 each). Catalyst does not sell any substantive product or service. Ok, they do charge $100,000 for female director searches, but by their own evidence, that line of business appears not to be a big money-maker. Catalyst makes their big bucks from the big corporate donors that want a Catalyst Award for diversity do-good-ism on the job. It’s a business, don’t kid yourselves.

If you were a smart business, though, why would you publish the names of your priority target prospective clients? There must be more for Catalyst to gain in publishing the names of the losers than their potential gain from publishing the actual winners. If you were one of the 58 companies with ZERO directors, how much would you be willing to pay Catalyst to get you off that special list? Is this perhaps a strategy of “we can make the pickets go away?” Does this strategy really support the contention that Catalyst “prefers to cite model companies?”

Catalyst Inc. has had just three leaders in its 45 year history. A lot has changed since Felice Schwartz founded the organization in 1962, Sheila Wellington instituted the annual census in 1993, and Irene Lang succeeded her in 2003. Women in business and in leadership have gone through a lot of changes. For example, in 2007, there are some women who still believe that passage of a constitutional amendment, the Women’s Equality Amendment, will guarantee that women will no longer be subject to bias, prejudice, discrimination and misogynist diatribes. Yeah, right!

When you have an organization like Catalyst Inc. or the 7 holy ivy league academic sisters (oh, excuse me, there are only 5 today, the others having gone under or gone coed) or the 8 holy ION sisters, then the media can pretend that “someone ELSE is keeping the pressure on” recalcitrant WASP males or other perpetuators of the devout one-ness of the dominant male world-view.

As long as Catalyst is doing its annual census, magazines like Business Week can just suckle at their once a year press release and never have to do the real work of researching or studying who ARE the real women on boards or understanding how women ARE advancing to leadership positions across the economy. As long as America’s media monopoly can count on the once a year diatribes of a few “women’s rights advocates,” they feel they can ignore women of achievement every one of the other 364 days of the year.

The BusinessWeek April 16, 2007 article, "A Little Shame Goes a Long Way" is here:

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I Think We Have A New Record, Here

April 14, 2007. A gaggle of little boys huddles in their locker room, watching one of their own performing at the window. Their t-shirts and sweats read: MSNBC, CBS, Viacom, American Talk Radio, American Shock Jocks and Gangsta Rap. The little boys in the locker room are cheering, hooting and high-fiving each other in support of the competition at the window, as a fountain of urine spews from the pants of the little boys facing out the gym window.

The target of their admiration is Don Imus, pissing out the window onto a map of the entire United States of America.

One little boy, with Radio Talk Show blazoned across his chest, says to a buddy, “One piss, 10 days, 10,000 media outlets. I think we have a new record here.”

Someone once said “man is the only animal that blushes or needs to do so.” It really doesn’t matter who said it anymore. Intelligence really doesn’t matter anymore as long as we have shock jocks, supported by all of our institutions and wealth, spewing on our basic rights and principles. Americans have apparently lost the fundamental concepts of free speech and sacrificed the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. And we assume, still, with our grandiose pomposity, that we have any right to tell any other member of this planet how to behave, act or speak. It’s all crap, and you know it.

The only persons who have earned the right to speak on this subject are (1) Coach C. Vivian Stringer, who distinguished herself as a true leader and (2) the young women of Rutgers University who demonstrated how much class some young people CAN possess in the face of what must have been simply grueling torment.

Almost two weeks after this obscenity, we have American Radio Talk Show jerks showing STILL their abject inability to see this insult as anything other than “a stupid joke.” It’s very hard to believe that any of these jerks had a mother, let alone a father, let alone a community. They must have spent their entire life in an airless chamber to not comprehend the impact of their words on the human beings that surround them. They don’t understand an insult because they are insult-givers, not insult-getters. And it’s all just a big joke, after all, isn’t it? LOL!

We own this illness – every one of us who spends one penny financially supporting any single member of this clique from The Lord of The Flies. We are the ones who tune in, turn on, listen to this garbage. We are the ones who echo their sentiments in water cooler conversations or locker room pissing contents to demonstrate, what? Virility? MAN-liness? We are the ones who sustain these insults through purchases of CDS/DVDS, downloads, clips.

We keep “hoping” someone else will take responsibility, be the adult, make them behave. We want someone ELSE to stand up and hold them accountable. That’s what we “HOPE” Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would do, or the FCC, or some cracker-jack lawyer, or some board member at CBS, or some advertisers of Sirius/XM Radio. Somebody ELSE. Because, WE don’t want to be held accountable to change our preferences, our radio dial, our iPod music, or even our close personal friends who use the same derogatory language in emails or conversations every day.

No, that would be too much to expect – that we would mean holding ourselves to a high enough standard to stop supporting the crap.

One piss, 10 days, 10,000 media outlets. Three 3 demeaning, insulting, gutter-snipe words. Not 1 of those words deserved the light of day. Yet, day in and day out, broadcast after broadcast, newspaper after newspaper, and millions of individuals repeated those very same 3 words – every one of them perpetuating the insult. Every single one of those corporate and individual slanderers owns a piece of this trash. That is the ill that we must face in this society. That is the ill that we are refusing to accept. If those words touched your lips, you were part of the problem.

This issue has gone so far beyond a question of free speech as to be laughable. Free speech is responsible speech, first and foremost, not slander and mud-slinging at innocents. Free speech is principled. We do not deserve the right of free speech until and unless we are willing to accept responsibility for our words and the consequences associated with the ideas that back free speech.

What, pray tell, are the principles behind those 3 words? What concept do they convey in a free society? How dare the shock jocks pretend that their demeaning words have anything other than excrement value?

Oh, yeah, we certainly have a new record here. Never before has the entire American media industry earned greater condemnation and contempt. And never before has the American public earned the blush of shame.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Don Imus Insult

Don’t you just love how the talk radio circuit, as well as all the print and TV news media, in all of their white male dominance and arrogance, continue to fully quote the complete, unedited Don Imus Insult again and again and again AND AGAIN, with impunity. It’s almost as if the white male media establishment hopes that by continuing to use the slur repeatedly that the words WILL become ingrained in the American memory. Articles now even try to define and explain individual words and components of The Imus Insult to be sure that all readers understand the terminology being used. Do you GET IT YET?

Do you think this would happen if The Don Imus Insult had been something with the N* word (notice, there is no longer ANY permitted use of the male counterpart to the female slur) or had he applied it to Ohio State University’s male basketball semi-finalist team? But, applying a misogynist comment to the women of the Rutgers University basketball team, somehow, is supposed to be ok. It’s also okay to repeat the same derogatory comment all night on MSNBC in interview after interview with self appointed white male authorities on the subject.

This is what the verbal bullies allege:

Allegation #1: He used the slur against a “mostly black Rutgers University team”

Mr. Imus used the slur against innocent individuals who had nothing but achievement speaking for them: the semi-finalists in the NCAA women’s basketball team, a group of champion basketball players at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, a traditionally all-male college which went co-ed in 1972. Somebody tell me when Rutgers men’s basketball team last went to the final four??

What did those women or any other women or any black women ever do to invite such invective? Was he simply “jealous” of the accomplishments of these women who were accepted into a credible university, achieved championship status, and held their heads high?

Allegation #2: It was “just” the slip of the lip.

Mr. Imus uses the same slur against many women, including his own wife Diedre, whose good work on behalf of children with cancer and the environment has been smeared with his own excrement.

Mr. Imus uses these words with intent and contempt. He smears the public airwaves with his misplaced and inappropriate anger and ire. There is nothing “redeeming” about his commentary. It is insulting.

Allegation #3: It’s just shock radio schlock. It’s just gangsta rap vernacular. Why hold Mr. Imus responsible for something about which we have become accustomed?

He is being held accountable for his own words which were racist and sexist. Perhaps the reality is that, when the words moved out of the gutter of gangsta rap into the public radio airwaves, we saw them for what they were: bully trash talk.

Members of the black community certainly (and thankfully) were strongest in their condemnation of his words. They too have been trying to address the same problems in their parts of the American community for years. Perhaps we should have been stronger in supporting them, earlier. Mr. Jackson, Mr. Sharpton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Bruce Gordon, a director at CBS, were rightfully incensed when we all should have been livid at the verbal onslaught.

Men AND WOMEN who purchase these rap music CDs, etc. are sustaining the insults and verbal abuse of innocents.

Allegation #4 The definition of a whore is “A person considered as having compromised principles for personal gain.”

That certainly describes Mr. Imus, CBS, MSNBC, and Viacom who are still compromising their principles of fairness and free speech – valid free speech – in exchange for commercial advertising dollars. If there is no inherent “right” that would permit one to yell fire in a crowded auditorium, certainly there is no inherent “right” to smear the reputation of 10 champion women just for the sake of being able to open one’s mouth before a microphone and 3 million radio listeners.

Mr. Imus must go.