Islamic reform

If you listen to NPR in any city but Chicago, you are missing an excellent weeklong series on Worldview about Islamic reform.  Fortunately it’s available on the web.  Twice today when I jumped in the car for an errand, I heard Jerome McDonnell’s most excellent  interview with Islamic scholar Amina Wadud, author of the book Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam.

Wadud (and you really do have to listen to her talk–this doesn’t do her justice):

What has happened in terms of our text and textual analysis is there are some people in this era–we call them neo-conservatives–that believe that at some point, 8th century, 9th century, 10th century, whatever, that somebody gave a perfect  understanding of everything in the text so all we have to do is follow what they did and not assume the agency, which is the mandate for us as human beings .  We are all agents from God.  So if I were to choose one text from the Koran it would be “ini ja ailun fee al-ardi khalifa” اني جاعل في الارض خليفة — “verily I am going to create on the earth a khalifa”–a khalifa is an agent– we are agents of God.  Not tenth century people were agents of God and then we’re agents of those people.  Not the Prophet was an agent of God and we’re agents of the Prophet.  We’re all agents of God, therefore our agency require of us to use our live reality, our known sciences, our information about the universe, our known awareness of social context, and to put all this together to be able to follow the divine trajectory which again is taoheed, unity, unity in diversity.


…in our tradition the mandate for  seeking knowledge is for both males and females; explicit.  The prophet said “seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”. The prophet said “the seeking of knowledge is incumbent on every Muslim male and female”.  So we are required.  Yet the circumstances of history, especially following the Abbasid period, put women in a place where, yes there were learners, people who studied the Koran, women who memorized the Koran,  but the act of participation in the sciences of interpretation of the text left no record, not a single record, of women’s interpretation of the text.  Maybe they had some that was oral,  and we didn’t get it, I don’t know, but you can look back and see there’s no written record.

And as a consequence, men were reading the text for themselves as humans, which we as women share in humanity.  They were reading the text for themselves as men which we as women do not share.  But then they were also reading the text for us as women.  So the consequence, I used to say,  was that men were telling women how to be women without ever having been women themselves.


We have had an inadvertent emphasis on looking for Muslim women as victims.  So when we look at Muslim women who are empowered to be able to articulate their own identity, their own relationship with the law, their own understanding of what is Islam–it’s not as interesting to us, so we haven’t pursued it, we haven’t supported it. We are much happier to hear the stories of women in burkas and women who can’t get off to school or women get acid thrown on them–we are happy to hear that stuff.  But women empowering themselves to make change–we are unfortunately very, very much behind the curve.

Oooh, she’s good.

A teaser promises us something about the oud later in the week, but for now, here are links to the segments that are available so far:

Iran: Beyond the Veil
Vermont Public Radio’s Steve Zind traveled to Iran to explore how the tensions between tradition and modernity play out. This piece was provided by the Public Radio Exchange.
Muslim Women’s Leadership
Dr. Ingrid Mattson is Director of Islamic Chaplaincy at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. She was elected the first female President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in 2006.
Moroccan Morchidates
Independent reporter Sarah Kramer brings us the story of female preachers from Morocco. This peice was provided by the Public Radio Exchange.
Women in the Quran: Alternative Interpretations
Amina Wadud is an Islamic scholar and author of the book, “Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam.”

[Image:Photo by Nevit Dilmen (source). Woman looking at large writing of the word Allah in Arabic script at Edirne Old Mosque in Turkey.

Posted in Islam, Women. Comments Off on Islamic reform

Honor killings

Rana Husseini is tall, unusually tall for a Jordanian. Several years ago I met her when she was collecting signatures on a petition to do away with honor killing in Jordan. “If you are Jordanian, please sign the petition”, she asked the mixed Arab and western crowd. I got the point. I am a westerner and will never be able to understand this culture completely. Anything said by a westerner would be interpreted as unwelcome foreign meddling and would hinder the cause.

rana-husseini1Rana Husseini covered crime stories for the Jordan times. Every time I was in the capital I picked up a copy of the paper and looked for her byline. Over and over again she wrote the stories of women killed by their families. A thirteen year old boy saw his sister talking on the telephone, thought she was talking to a man, and strangled her with the phone cord. Another woman confessed to her brother that she was pregnant by an Egyptian who had left the country. The brother promised to get her an abortion and an operation to restore her virginity, then returned with a gun and shot her. Sometimes Husseini would go to a village and no one would talk to her about the killing. Other times she received death threats herself.

During the time I lived there about 30 women were killed by their families every year. The upper house of Jordan’s parliament, appointed by the King, had passed a bill against honor killings, but the bill could not pass the lower house, whose members are elected, largely through tribal politics. Since I left the law has changed. Honor killing is now illegal in Jordan.

Is honor killing Islamic? In an article for PBS, Husseini says no:

I want to emphasize two things. One is that all women are not threatened in this way in my country. Any woman who speaks to any man will not be killed. These crimes are isolated and limited, although they do cross class and education boundaries. The other thing is a lot of people assume incorrectly that these crimes are mandated by Islam, but they are not. Islam is very strict about killing, and in the rare instances where killing is counseled, it is when adultery is committed within a married couple. In these cases, there must be four eyewitnesses and the punishment must be carried out by the community, not by the family members involved.

Honor killings are part of a culture, not a religion, and occur in Arab communities in the United States and many countries. One-third of the reported homicides in Jordan are honor killings. The killers are treated with leniency, and families assign the task of honor killing to a minor, because under Jordanian juvenile law, minors who commit crimes are sentenced to a juvenile center where they can learn a profession and continue their education, and then, at eighteen, be released without a criminal record. The average term served for an honor killing is only seven and a half months.

Rana Husseini has written a book on the subject, Murder in the Name of Honor. When it is released, it should be well worth reading.

Cross-posted at Chilling Out.

Bedouins and goats

Here is a Jordanian goat.


The goat belongs to Fatma. Fatima is the one on the left. Yes, they have tatoos on their faces. I found out later that Jordanian women don’t usually allow themselves to be photographed.  I hope I don’t get into trouble with the Bene Sakr for this one.

Fatima is stirring up the goats with a stick to try to get them to be more photogenic for the picture.


Then Fatma took a picture of me with the goat. I don’t know if she ever used a camera before.


[photo edited]

I know a Jordanian guy who put a photo of his wife on the internet–she had a proper scarf on, hair completely covered  and everything.  He had to take it down after some guys at work started making nasty comments about her. There were pictures of his kids too, but that wasn’t a problem.  I wanted to take a picture of her–I had stayed with the family a few times–but by then she didn’t want anyone taking her picture because of the bad experience.

It’s too bad when women’s photos have to be removed–in any culture. You don’t see that happening with men.

Women’s History Month: Mariachis

mariachi-juanitaYes, there is a whole history of women mariachis.  For a synopsis of mariachi women from the 30’s on up and some interesting photos–and the women’s mariachi costumes too!–check out The History of Women in Mariachi Music by Leonor Xochitl Perez and Laura Sobrino.

Two famous mariachi women are Juanita Ulloa who has a classically trained voice but also does mariachi music, and the amazing but tragic Lucha Reyes (1906-1944), who started out as a more classical singer.

Juanita Ulloa

Listen to Juanita Ulloa here. According to her website :

JUANITA is one of the USA’s rising star singer/songwriters in music from Spain and Latin America, especially Mexico. Ms. Ulloa specializes in the performance, promotion and study of both Classical and folkloric Hispanic vocal styles from Spain, Latin America and Mexico, and she began the unique “Operachi” style of singing, which combines Opera with Mariachi in a unique way, taking the role of women in mariachi to a new level of singing.

mariachi-juanita-ulloaMs. Ulloa is a Yale University graduate with eight prize winning CDs and three songbooks in libraries worldwide, with the world’s first ever Mariachi for Kids & Families CD slated for 2009. She has served as a musical ambassador for Peru and Mexico, entertaining dignitaries and ambassadors in Spain, Peru, Mexico and major cities in the USA, plus the LA Olympics. Ms. Ulloa teaches Hispanic voice and music as “Profe Juanita” at Texas State University, Northwest Vista College and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Lucha Reyes

Lucha sings “Ay Jalisco no te rajes”:

Lucha Reyes, also known as  María de la Luz Flores Aceves (her maddeningly incomplete wiki, and her Spanish wiki) was a native of Guadalajara, Jalisco, the home town of the mariachis.  She  started singing in the circus at the age of thirteen and became a popular Mexican radio singer. In the 20’s  she went on tour of Los Angeles and Europe as a soprano singer. After an illness, her voice changed and she began singing in the “ranchera-mariachi” style.  Between 1937 and her death in 1943 at the age of 38, she was in six movies.

Some images of women mariachis (and a few with folklórico costumes).  Can you spot Ronald Reagan?


Digging Out Women’s History

women-votes1March is here already. What to do for women’s history month. First of all, the president has not yet made the declaration, but when he does, it will be posted here:

My students this semester are pretty much at a very basic level of English–I just read them Dr. Seuss’s Foot Book (“Left foot, right foot, feet, feet, feet.”), so anything I use will either have to be very basic or in their own language. And how many of my students have finished the sixth grade in their own countries?  Some, but others are on a fourth grade level in their own language, so they might not do well with that either.  So what they need is either something very simple or with a Hispanic focus, preferably both.  And for me, something more challenging.

The Library of Congress does have some pages devoted to Women’s History Month, including historical photographs, but if you want to use them you’re stuck trying to puzzle out the copyright explanation page which says you have to research each photograph.

And what if you want to link to LOC?

If you wish to link to our site, you may do so even without permission as long as your link makes it clear that there is a transition to another site, and that you do not present the link in a way that implies that the Library of Congress or the National Digital Library Program is endorsing a particular product, service, or organization. However, the Library of Congress does like to hear how its site is being used, so please send an email message to the National Digital Library Program mailbox as a courtesy.

Forget that. If anyone really, really wants to see it they can google “women’s history month” and will come up on the first page.

women-guardians-largeThe National Women’s History Project has an interesting “test your knowledge of women’s history” quiz with the answers at the bottom.  We once had a similar quiz at work during African American History Month with prizes given to those who could guess the most historical people.

You might also check your local public library, your local city or municipality (nothing publicized yet  in Chicago), or your local universities (hmm, some of these look interesting), especially those with women’s studies programs.  Chicago Public Schools has an excellent page with book recommendations for children by grade level and a list of external websites for Women’s History Month. You could also check out some blogs about women’s history like this one in Australia (with an extensive blogroll). Or this intriguing Chicago history site written by a woman–check the sidebar for women social reformers like Florence Kelley and Jane Addams.

And what do real people recommend reading?

women-en-mi-familia►check out books by Carmen Lomas Garza. “En Mi Familia” is one but there’s another one too… (from LJSNAustin)

►If you want strong women in old children’s books at a read yourself level, maybe 4th grade, there’s a rare one, THE WICKED ENCHANTMENT by iirc Margot Benary-Isbert about a good witch in Germany in mid-century, totally delightful! (from TDO)

►Strega Nona but she’s Italian. (from TDO)

►Ooh, here’s a great female heroine for children around 10 though some mid-century sophistacation required. Now what was her name? A British mouse … sort of like Hillary … ah, Margery Sharp’s “Miss Bianca”. Sort of like Miss Manners. (fromTDO)

Victor Villasenor has written several AMAZING books – The best is called Rain of Gold (it’s big) but many of the ‘tales’ from the larger book can be found in “Walking Stars” as well .  He tells the story of his families roots from deep in the mountains of Mexico and the personalities, strength and character of the women (his great grandmothers) and their unbelievable struggles and triumphs has made Rain of Gold one of my all time FAVORITE books .

I will warn you , though , he does not sugar coat the experiences of these women during Pancho Villa’s revolution . He IS , however a master Storyteller, and I would recommend ANY of his books .

I am reading “Burro Genius” with a co-worker (young latina mother ) while we are working on her GED . (from Texas Tigress)


Guardians poster above by Ann Altman, Poem by Diane Ackerman.“…I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace….”

Rumproast Flame War (just kidding)

rumproast3Thanks to the RumpRoast for inviting my comments, and thanks to all the Rumpsters who commented here.  Actually, thanks to John D, specifically.  Now that he has identified himself as the one who sent me the super secret email, I guess it’s not a secret anymore. [Note: If you want to read the original email, he has added it to the comments at January 23, 2009 at 7:34 pm.]

I want to start to respond to all the comments by saying something general about Islam, since so may people commented about that specifically, then I’ll try to answer the rest of the individual commenters separately.  And there’s a final thought at the very end.

But first let me just repeat Answer #5 from my FAQ in the original thread:

Q: [X] person on [Y] website is not a nice person and said something I don’t agree with.

A: I don’t care.

rumproast1Several people have gone into detail about various Puma commenters, and to tell you the truth, I haven’t followed every single personality and every single ping pong among the many people who comment on various Puma websites.  I don’t necessarliy agree with 100% of what every commenter writes.  I do read all of Murphy’s posts at

There are some 500 or more comments that come across my feedreader every day just from the  blog, and many more that are on the blog that for some reason never make it through the feedreader.  That’s a huge number of comments to read, even if that’s the only blog you look at.  It would be a huge number of comments for any moderator to keep track of and try to keep every person to a party line, if the Pumas did have a party line.

Perhaps some of the disappointment some of the Rumpsters have with the PumaPAC blog is that it isn’t a neatly prepackaged product and doesn’t fit any neat genre that they are used to.  The posters are of all types, all ethnic groups and income levels, and levels of education and internet experience. They don’t have a supreme dictator telling them what to believe. They do have a lively dialog, lots of points of view, and some disagreements. Some issues are getting worked out and some ideas are being kicked around for the first time. No one is having a single point of view crammed down their throat–there is a lot of educating going on, and a lot of times, education can’t happen until the person is ready for it.

It might not look tidy from the outside for someone who is used to receiving their talking points pre-digested, but maybe if you feel so strongly about some issue, instead of just sitting back and making smug remarks on a blog none of them will see, why don’t you enter the conversation–without the elitist snarks and repetitive Axelrod talking points–and ask them about what they think? If the only reason you interact with someone is to provoke some sort of reaction that you can use somewhere else to try to “prove” some predetermined negative opinion you’ve already formed, then go back to some other forum and make remarks that “prove” you are “superior”, they will sense your hostility, and I can guarantee you’re not going to have a dialog–or convince anyone of your own point of view.

Okay, about Islam.

Several people have pointed out some very extreme comments about the Middle East.  I wrote more about the Middle East internet thing yesterday here, and I posted the hate mail I received on the topic  here. (Scroll down to the screen shot of the email, then click on the NSFW image link to see it without the child-friendly asterisks, then read the rest of my comment about who may have written it.) If you’re going to point out the negative comments, you will also have to point out some of the long time Puma commenters who have responded very favorably and have left some positive, compassionate thoughts about Islam here as well.

The point I want to make is that no one knows who is making those comments. They seem to appear long after everyone  in a U.S. time zone has gone to bed, in fact, about 8 or 9 in the morning Tel Aviv time–or Gaza time. And the people who post them don’t seem to have any other comments to make about American politics or women’s rights.Anyone could write them.  In fact, I notice a few Rumpsters already have Puma accounts and  occasionally talk about posting comments at PumaPAC. So for all I know, the Rumpsters themselves could have written it.

That said, Murphy has also posted a few things about the Middle East, some of it not very complimentary about the treatment of women in those countries.  In particular, Murphy has published some photos of extreme acts against women that deserve to be more widely known–I only wish she had printed links to articles describing the scenes. Someone needs to do this–to hold extremist Moslems accountable for the acts they do in the name of their religion, that is giving Islam a bad name. You won’t find that here.  Remember my “about” page?  I’m the one who wants to suspend mistrust and look for common ground. But someone needs to do hold some feet over the fire when it comes to Islamic treatment of women, and do it in a responsible, accurate way.

Some of the over-the-top right wing  comments about “jihad” (it’s “struggle”, for Pete’s sake, and can be accomplished by studying the religious writings or by…housework!) only serves to mask some of the valid criticisms that can be made about the culture. Unfortunately, the right -wing bigots make responsible criticism very hard to tell apart from pure hate speech.  That’s another reason I go after them online.  They make valid criticism look like one more prejudicial smear job,  and set back the rights of women around the world.


Now, responses to some of the individual comments I haven’t already responded to.

kcindenver, thanks. With the war winding down in anticipation of the inauguration, I think we’ll see less boilerplate Middle East spam in the forums.

Mrs. Polly, I can’t answer for the structure of PumaPAC.  As with most new populist organizations, it is very ad hoc, and will probably evolve, but seems to be the only women’s organization involved in activism at this point, and the only women’s organization that crosses class boundaries, or has any patience for the blue collar/ union values and aspirations. I also can’t answer for the individual you are talking about, as I know nothing about the context of what happened or any of the underlying issues.  I did see the film and the tacky comments about appearance and voice, but AFAIK this is not someone who speaks for Puma. I don’t see the problem with the sidebar widgets you are talking about on any of the computers I use.  I wonder if you are using Internet Explorer? It’s notorious for stuff like that. Here’s the free Firefox download.


Who do you have back there

I’m glad you asked.  I have kat in your hat 01.18.09 at 8:55 pm

but you seem rational enough on the surface that I’m curious how you don’t see what a giant trainwreck of crazy the PUMAs are

That kind of comment is a prime example of why Rumpsters get called stuff like immature fratboiz. If you want to deconstruct it, it’s a bunch of non-specific adjectives that don’t really say anything, except that the writer has a negative opinion of something.

It’s like this.  Say you want to describe a car.  You say “A nice car.” Now everyone can visualize the car, right? Not at all.  Now you say “a green two door car with purple leather upholstery and a sun roof.”  Now people start to visualize the car.  You don’t have to say if it’s nice or not because people can see the car for themselves. Or you can just do like Kat in your Hat and wait until Murphy isn’t looking, then post a video that expresses your opinion about teh motivations of someone who would write a giant trainwreck of a crazy comment like that.

Sean, as I indicated elsewhere, I have no knowledge that the Pumas are the ones writing the anti-Palestinian spam.  In fact, several Pumas have commented favorably on some of the first-hand stuff I have written about Islam here. The people writing the offensive stuff don’t talk about American politics and they don’t come out in the daylight, at least when it’s daylight on this side of the globe. I suspect they don’t care about Puma at all but are just using the PumaPAC forum for their own purposes. I actually find it sort of interesting in a canary-in-the-mine sort of way.

Betty Cracker, the post I was referring to was  on the Rumproast,  not some other blog:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Dear Democrats
More like this, please.  Thank you.
Posted by Kevin K. on 01/13/09 at 05:52 PM

The link was to a blog with a photo of a fat person with a wheelbarrow.  Obviously I would like to see “less like this, please.” I have no problem with “the Daily Pig”.  It singles out people for their actions, which they are responsible for, and not their appearance,  which is an accident of birth. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for employers like Dov Charney. Since I don’t have a trust fund, I need to work in order to eat. American Apparel did the right thing in removing Charney from contact with employees , but they still are paying the price for his indiscretions. He was not just some jerk schmo lurking in the alley, he was the CEO.   Let’s hope there aren’t more like him still out there–waiting for your own daughters when they get old enough to look for work.

I notice, Betty Cracker, that your blog has the “b-word” in one of the titles–and linked with violence towards women no less. I see where violence against women has become slick and trendy these days. Looks like the Rumpsters are helping that trend  along just a little.

Clownshoes the Clown, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I have never written about those subjects. If you think something I have written is “racist”, do point out where specifically, and say why you think it is “racist” instead of making vague menacing  accusations. As far as “levels of trust and approval”,  although your statement seems a bit like unsupported assertion/adoration at this point, there are people who do measure this.  As might be expected, public trust in the government dropped sharply after Watergate, but rose slowly after that.  I doubt if you could collect statistically significant data at this point before a government is actually in office. Your “shooting fish in a barrel” comment doesn’t make any sense at all. Are you saying you want to shoot me? Kindest regards to you too. Oh, and this pretty much sums it up as far as mysogyny in the campaign.

yetanotherfreakingbrit, I would be curious as to which of Murphy’s posts you found offensive. Also I’m not quite sure which of Murphy’s posts contains the “conspiracy theories” you object to, but the mission statement is here. Looks to me like this is their program:

  • Passing the Equal Rights Amendment after 86 years of struggle
  • Monitoring the 111th Congress and advocating for legislation that supports our mission
  • Documenting and Protesting sexism in the mainstream media AND educating the public about its widespread and long term effects
  • Developing a national women’s rights curriculum for all American children
  • Researching and investigating voter fraud and campaign finance violations during the 2008 election
  • Protecting women’s lives by strengthening anti-femicide laws and drawing attention to the crisis of woman-lynching in the United States

John D, thanks again for the invitation.  As I’ve said before, I don’t think you can draw any inferences from something on one website linked to by one commenter late at night when the thread is pretty obviously unmoderated. As far as the “Kill them em all. Let God sort them out,” quotation, that’s often used by right wing blogs in reference to suicide bombers, but the old military proverb goes back much further than that, to at least Roman times–in Latin: neca eos omnes, deus suos agnoscet.


One final thought. Everyone posting here has a mother, a sister, a daughter, or is one themselves.  What do you see as the agenda for women during the next four to eight years?  What outcomes do you want to see in 2009? Then, as Bill Clinton would say “Tell me how, and be specific.”

Book list for women’s rights

century-of-struggle11On a late night thread, the discussion turned to books about women’s rights and politics. Here are my recommendations.  I am also emailing this list to the person who wants to stock their bookshelf.   A lot of the books are from the 60’s.

For books, I remember two classics from the 60’s: Sisterhood is Powerful, an anthology, and Century of Struggle about winning the vote (you can’t even say “suffrage” any more because they don’t know what that means) and there’s a lot in there about women in trade unions too.

Here is the Amazon review for Sisterhood is Powerful, ed. Robin Morgan with the red fist on the cover. Out of print and there are several more modern ones by Morgan, but I don’t know anything about them to recommend or not.

This was the eye-opening book, the manifesto, the “click” that happened when you suddenly saw your situation from the outside and realized the deck was stacked. It was divided into sections by topic, politics, psychology, sexuality, lesbians…so you could start with something you were interested in and work into the other stuff that was more difficult or controversial later.  This is probably really dated, birth control was new at the time, but it was a classic.

I don’t know that I’m recommending (since it’s out of print) so much as putting it out there for discussion since it was so influential.

Here is Century of Struggle, the history of the battle for the vote by Eleanor Flexner. The version I read was much older with a different cover. For me this is required reading and I see someone else reviewed it by saying “required reading” too. I would worry that it isn’t dumbed down enough for today’s crowd though. At least this one has stayed in print. Nice index too.

I am reminded of what the African Americans I used to work with used to say, “No one gives you your rights voluntarily–you have to take them.”

Of course you want The Feminist Papers, ed. Alice Rossi. Not exactly readable but has all the documents from Abagail Adams to Mary Wollstonecraft to British feminists and a description of Seneca Falls Convention.  If you need to quote something historical, this is the reference to have:

I don’t know if anyone is looking for religion/goddess type historical stuff but I love Barbara G. Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.  At first glance this one looks like it’s way out there, and you say to yourself, “Oh I have that reference and what she’s saying just isn’t in there”, then you pull your copy off the shelf to make sure and it’s in there all right–down in a foot note–you just never connected the dots.

In a similar vein but not as comprehensive, is Merlin Stone’s When God was a Woman with some archaeological conjecture—lots of biblical references to ancient goddesses too. Still, I enjoyed reading it– since you won’t hear that sort of evidence from male archaeologists.

Also, textbooks on Public Administration and maybe Personnel often have sections on women, especially in light of legal changes for those who have to follow the law in hiring practices (hostile workplace environment, anyone?) without necessarily having a law background.  Sometimes there’s a rather interesting philosophical/theoretical discussion that goes with it.

Have fun.

Posted in Books, Women. Tags: , . Comments Off on Book list for women’s rights

Troubled about the status of women in America? Sign the petition.

women-count-logoWomen Count is a non-profit political group committed to giving women a voice in the political process. They have a petition for you to sign. They are calling for the new president to create, within the first 100 days, a presidential commission on women similar to the one President Kennedy commissioned in 1961.



• As the economy became the single most critical issue in the election, the role that women play in our economic structure has never been clearer. Women are the backbone of the nation’s workforce and control 70 percent of its buying power.

• The candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, while inspiring women and girls around the country to imagine what can be, exposed extreme gender bias in the media and throughout our culture.

• Women, who make up 56 percent of the voting population, were targeted as never before as the critical bloc that would determine the outcome of the election.

In 1961, as the nation grappled with the issue of women in the workplace, President John Kennedy convened the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as its chair. Kennedy recognized the moment was right.

That was 47 years ago, and it’s time to do it again. As in 1961, women are at the forefront of our political discourse – and we are committed to keeping them there.

A record number of women are seeking ways to participate more fully in all aspects of American life, politics and policymaking. A Presidential Commission on Women is the right vehicle to initiate a national conversation on the future of women. If Not Now, When?

Status of American women falls short–very short

So the United States must be number one in the world for just about everything, right?   Not when it comes to the status of women.

The 2008 Women’s Index Rank is a composite score based on educational, economic, poitical, and health status factors like maternal mortality and life expectancy.  According to the index, the United States ranks number 22 out of the 43 more developed countries (right behind Sweden, New Zealand, Iceland, Australia, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Greece, Slovania, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia).

The U.S. also has the dubious distinction of paying women 63 cents for every dollar a man makes. Compare this to 81% for Sweden or 67% for Croatia. And in the United States only 17% of seats in national government are held by women. Compare this with Portugal (28%), Iceland (33%), the Netherlands (39%), and Sweden (47%).

If we can’t hold our own against Europe, then maybe at least American women are better off than Arab women? Maybe a little. The ratio of estimated female to male earned income is Bahrain 34%, Egypt 23%, Iran 39%,  Jordan 31%, and Kuwait 35%. When it comes to participation of women in national government, it’s Bahrain 3%, Egypt 2%, Iran 4%, Iraq 26%, Jordan 6%, and Kuwait 2%.

Hey wait a minute. In Iraq 26% of the legislators are female? And here in the U.S. only 17%?

Maybe we ought to find out how those Iraqis are running their government and have them come over here and help us.

Posted in Gender, Women. Tags: . Comments Off on Status of American women falls short–very short

Will the “historical” candidate have a “historical” cabinet?

no-girls-sign-200pxLast night I turned on the television long enough to hear McCain’s concession speech and Obama’s victory speech.  And of course between speeches the pundits had a little time to fill.  “A historic candidate”, they said about Obama.  Changing channels, “…historic…”  Changing channels again, “..historic…”.  Well, at least they all agree.

Today the pundits are asking who will be on the staff of the executive branch. Good question. Currently the the United States ranks 69th in the world with regard to women in government.

Surely the new president who says he wants to unite people will have an inclusive staff? Doesn’t look like it. Obama’s people say there “aren’t enough qualified women” and call the idea “stupid”.

After the last Democratic Primary was over and it was clear Senator Clinton was not going to get the Democratic nomination, myself, and a small group of Clinton supporters met with Senator McCain.I personally explained to Senator McCain that women comprise well over half of the population, yet you will not see a single picture of a woman on paper currency. Women are underrepresented in every branch of government and there has never been a female president or vice president. I personally asked Senator McCain to choose a woman for the Vice Presidential slot and to increase the number of women in the cabinet and on the Supreme Court. Senator McCain listened respectfully to my request. Little did I know then that he heard me and the millions of women of this country who have gone unrepresented in the Executive branch of government for far too long.

When I made similar requests of the Obama campaign, I was laughed at by the canvassers outside my home, told there weren’t enough qualified women by a member of his Finance Committee, and asked by a member of a policy committee why I was making such a stupid request.

But that’s just the finance and policy staff, right? Obama himself really stands for fairness, doesn’t he?  Maybe not.

Obama’s female staffers, on average, make just 83 cents to the dollar his male staffers make.

Ooops.  And it looks like Vice President Elect Biden’s pay practices are even worse. Despite the fact that Biden employs 27 women and only 14 men, very few of the women and men share common titles.  The one job where there is overlap is staff assistants.  These are traditionally entry level low-wage jobs in congressional offices.

So how do Biden’s salaries stack up?

The average male staff assistant in Biden’s office (based on the most recent salary figures) made $39,162 in the time period.

The average woman in that position made $21,323.

McCain’s promise:

By the end of my first term, I promise you will see a dramatic increase in the presence of women in every part of the government. You have my word on it.


For those of us who don’t have a trust fund, this could be a looooong four years.
(Thanks to Madamab at The Confluence)