Oct 222009
 

Imagine if we had spent the bailout money on education.  Via IPS:

Sending more girls to school may help poor countries get out of the economic slump faster, the NGO Plan International says in a new report. Just a one percent rise in the number of girls attending secondary school boosts a country’s annual per capita income growth by 0.3 percent.

Girls are a formidable future workforce – if they get adequate training. There are over 500 million adolescent girls and young women in developing countries, Plan estimates in its report ‘Girls in the Global Economy: adding it all up’. But many girls do not have the opportunities for good education, and the financial crisis is worsening their situation.

In times of economic hardship, girls in the poorest countries are the first to be pulled out of school, the report says. Some parents consider the education of boys to be more important, and girls often have to start working, or looking after children as their mothers try to improve household income.

“Boys are also affected,” Nikki van der Gaag, co-author of the report acknowledges. “But in a different way,” she tells IPS. “While writing the report, I was surprised to find that there are very little specific data about the situation of boys or girls. Such information is needed to adjust policies.”

The information available suggests that investing more in girls is a good way out of poverty. “Countries with the lowest number of girls in education lie at the bottom of the human development rankings,” van der Gaag says.

Investing in education promises an attractive return. “An extra year of education increases a girl’s income by 10 to 20 percent; it is a significant step in breaking the cycle of poverty,” the report says.

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 October 22, 2009  Posted by on October 22, 2009 Comments Off
Oct 222009
 

Unspeakable:

Christina Turner feared that she might have been sexually assaulted after two men slipped her a knockout drug. She thought she was taking proper precautions when her doctor prescribed a month’s worth of anti-AIDS medicine.

Only later did she learn that she had made herself all but uninsurable.

The Health Insurance Industry’s assault on women’s lives needs to stop right now.

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 October 22, 2009  Posted by on October 22, 2009 Comments Off
Oct 212009
 

I’m in one of my Andrea-Dworkin-I’m-A-Feminist-Not-The-Fun-Kind moods having already been called a feminazi twice this week by well-meaning folk who were just being witty on account of my relentless tendency to call out misogyny when I see it.  Also I’ve been having TMJ issues which I think are in part due to my jaw hanging perpetually open at the multiple insanities that we seem to be sinking in of late.  We run around trying to put out so many fires that we become disconnected, when the real problem is that all of these things are connected.  So let me string a few together for you:

1.  Despite what the men’s rights groups think, women are still the overwhelming  victims of intimate violence:

A new report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics released Monday said its victimization survey showed 652,000 incidents of overall violent crime inflicted by intimate partners in 2008.

More than 550,000 violent incidents targeted women; 101,050 targeted men.

Most of the incidents were classified as simple assaults, but there were 111,530 cases of aggravated assault, 44,000 rapes and sexual assaults and 38,820 robberies.

The number of homicides by intimate partners rose slightly in the past two years, while the cases of nonfatal intimate partner violence continued to decline, the Justice Department report.

2.  While women are welcome to join in the fight against ‘terrorism’, in doing so they face the risk of being terrorized by American men and corporations with the  blessings of not only the Republican Party, 30 members of which voted against the Franken Amendment,

but also the Department of Defense which offered this objection to said amendment (warning–you will need your Berlitz bureaucrat-speak book to understand the following policy statement):

“The Department of Defense, the prime contractor, and higher tier subcontractors may not be in a position to know about such things. Enforcement would be problematic, especially in cases where privity of contract does not exist between parties within the supply chain that supports a contract,” reads the DoD note. “It may be more effective to seek a statutory prohibition of all such arrangements in any business transaction entered into within the jurisdiction of the United States, if these arrangements are deemed to pose an unacceptable method of recourse.”

If??  There is a question of whether binding arbitration is an acceptable method of recourse for addressing the gross violation of a woman’s human rights?  No, really there isn’t and the notion that we have to spend even one second making this determination is repugnant.

3.  As the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) says so eloquently, the health insurance industry’s ideal female customer would believe that:

I don’t deserve health care that meets my needs.
I shouldn’t demand fairness in my health care coverage.
I can’t do anything about it anyway.

A reasonable assessment considering that being the victim of domestic  violence, having delivered a child via c-section are grounds for denial of coverage. One insurance company even told a perspective customer that she would have to be sterilized before they would cover her, telling her that:

Insurance letter

In a new report entitled, Still Nowhere to Turn:  Insurance Companies Treat Women Like A Pre-Existing Condition,

NWLC also found significant variations in the premiums charged to women and men at ages 40 and 55, within ranges similar to those observed in 2008. At 40 years old, women are charged from 4% to 49% more than men for identical coverage, but at age 55, women’s premiums range from 11% less to 14%  more than men’s premiums.

Maternity coverage continues to be largely unavailable in the individual health insurance market, with virtually no improvement in access to this essential health coverage from 2008 to 2009. NWLC examined over 3,600 individual health insurance policies offered to 30-year-old women living in capital cities across the country for 2009, and found that only 468 of those plans—or 13%—include any coverage for maternity care.

NWLC found that even when compared to male smokers, most individual health plans still charge a non-smoking woman more for coverage.15 In the capital cities of states that permit gender rating, 61% of best-selling plans charge a 40-year-old non-smoking woman a higher rate than they charge a 40-year-old male who reports recent tobacco usage. Among those plans that charge female non-smokers more, the difference in premiums varies widely.

Across the country, 40-year-old women who do not smoke are charged between 1% more (in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) and 63% more (in Little Rock, Arkansas) than men of the same age who smoke.

A woman can be charged 49% more than a man?  A non-smoking woman can be charged 63% more than a man who smokes? In what parallel universe does that qualify as being an acceptable national  health care policy?

So forgive me if I’m not all frilly pink demureness here, but the blatant, systemic and all too often lethal denial of women’s human rights in this country (and these are just 3 examples and needless to say a world-wide issue), done all too frequently with the excuse that the sacred cow of corporate profit trumps all, is truly horrifying.  And worse, it has become normal, even fashionable.  But that does not make it acceptable, and that is why we must, relentlessly, continue to speak out and work to bring an end to the never-ending misogynist pandemic.

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 October 21, 2009  Posted by on October 21, 2009 Comments Off
Oct 192009
 

Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s new book, SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance “challenges the way we think” by asking such pithy and sure to sell questions as, “How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?” Really. Econ 101 as if it was taught by ill-behaved 13 year old boys. What’s not to like about that? In a column in the Times Online (UK), the authors explain,

there is still a considerable economic price to pay for being a woman. The economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz found that women who went to Harvard earned less than half as much as the average Harvard man. Even when the analysis included only full-time employees and was controlled for other variables, Goldin and Katz found that the Harvard women still earned about 30% less.There is one labour market women have always dominated: prostitution. Its business model is built upon a simple premise. Since time immemorial and all over the world, men have wanted more sex than they could get for free. So what inevitably emerges is a supply of women who, for the right price, are willing to satisfy this demand. But what is the right price?

The right price for the commodification of women’s bodies?  Jennifer Drew points to the harms of this most unhealthy economic construct:

Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dunbar’s  latest work, promotes the claim prostitution is just economics. Or what is commonly termed demand and supply. Men demand innumerable women and girls be made available in order that they can sexually masturbate into the female body and then term it ‘sex.’

This is yet another article written from the male perspective, which views women and girls as men’s sexualized commodities and prostitution as simply an economic transaction between two individuals of equal societal power. Women and girls have ‘what men want’ and so it makes sense for ‘women and girls’ to profit from men’s sexual demands. Prostitution according
to Levitt and Dunbar is profitable business for women and girls because it has existed for centuries and the Johns are all ‘wonderful gentlemen’ who simply need regular sexual access to women and girls with no strings and no accountability. Odd how Levitt and Dunbar only interviewed women who work as ‘escorts’ and appear to be happy dealing with innumerable male strangers masturbating into their bodies, whilst telling the Johns their sexual prowess is amazing!! Ah prostitution is an excellent way
for women and girls to earn vast sums quickly with no negative impact on their physical and mental health. Missing from this narrative are the women and girls who are forced to seek out Johns on the streets and women who are enslaved by male pimps because they don’t exist in Levitt’s and Dunbar’s male-centered and male-fantasy world. Granted a minority of prostituted women are able to exert control and power over the Johns but they are a minority. Neither does it alter the fact reducing all women to men’s dehumanized sexualized commodities enforces and ‘naturalizes’ common perceptions women are ‘just sex’ whereas men are autonomous human beings who must never be held accountable for driving the demand in unlimited sexual access to women and girls. ‘Satyriasis’ meaning male sexual insatiability is never used to describe male sexual demand for women and girls.

Instead we are supposed to accept that prostitution is an economic
transaction totally divorced from how women and girls are devalued and dehumanized within our patriarchal society, because only the male perspective is ‘reality’ and women are men’s adjuncts not human being in their own right. Women’s bodies are never harmed by having to endure innumerable men forcing their penises into every part of a woman’s body and inflicting sexual torture on the woman is never violence, just enactment of men’s sexual rights over women. Transmission of HIV/Aids, STD’s from Johns to prostituted women is not an issue as long as the John wears a condom! Women’s bodies are naturally resistant to sexual
violence because hey – this what all women are – just men’s dehumanized sexualized commodities.

The male perspective claims even female monkeys are ‘prostitutes’ and this supposedly proves all females, whether they are mammals or female human beings are ‘just sex’ according to Levitt’s and Dunbar’s male-centered ‘fantasy world.’ Male power, male domination, male demand which drives prostitution is non-existent because women are apparently the ones controlling and profiting from men’s supposedly innate sex drives.

As Drew points out women are far more likely to be forced into prostitution than to choose it as a profession and most prostitutes  do not run their own business as the object of Levitt and Dubner’s economic fantasy does and their juvenile notion of successful economics is predicated on exploitive misogyny that treats women as property rather than valuing the work that they do.

Sickeningly, there is no doubt SuperFreakonomics will get far more attention than Riane Eisler’s phenomenal new project based on her book, “The Real Wealth of Nations” called The Real Wealth of America Public Policy Project which,

is designed to advance the real wealth of our nation: the health, well-being, and full development of our nation’s women,  men, and children. A major aim of the project is to change the present economic  perspective to one that not only recognizes the enormous “back-end” financial costs of  failing to invest in people, but also recognizes the direct economic benefits of investing in
human capacity building.

As Eisler states: “Rather than trying to just patch up a system that is not sustainable, let’s use our economic crisis to move to an economic system that really meets human needs. As Einstein said, we can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them. In our time of rapidly changing technological and social conditions, we must go deeper, to matters that conventional economic analyses and theories have ignored. We need a caring economics that no longer devalues the most important work: the work of caring for people, starting in early childhood, and the work of caring for our Mother Earth.”

The indicators for the currently used Gross National Product were developed and adopted  during the depths of the Great Depression. They were only meant by their authors to be a beginning for measurements, not the be all and end all.

We urgently need new economic indicators. The RWA public policy project is a strategic step toward achieving this goal.

The governing values for measuring and promoting the Real Wealth of Nations are:

  • Recognizing that the contributions of people are the real wealth of a nation– and hence the need to invest in human capacity development, starting in early childhood.
  • Recognizing that, especially for the post-industrial knowledge-information economy, our most important capital is high quality human capital.
  • Recognizing the need to give greater visibility and value to the work of caregiving in both the market and non?market economies.
  • Recognizing the value of investing in our human infrastructure for our world’s families, communities, equality, democracy, and economic success.

This is the kind of transformative, challenging economic vision that we need to embrace, not the juvenile, exploitive and utterly uninformed drivel of SuperFreakanomics.

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 October 19, 2009  Posted by on October 19, 2009 Comments Off
Oct 162009
 

Cross-posted from Reclaiming Medusa:

She changes everything she touches

And everything she touches changes.

© Starhawk

When I was a child, I had a book about a little girl whose grandmother gave her a word, I don’t recall the name of the book, but just the point that the gifting of words was enormously powerful.

Recently I asked for suggestions for “a word to describe the rising up of a matri- (meaning honoring both women and Mother Earth) energy force for peace.” I received numerous suggestions, all quite inspiring. The two that resonate with me are matridynamic which was offered by Loretta Kemsley and gaia-archy which was shared by Susan Hawthorne. They are both very potent words. Gaia-archy feels like a good descriptor of a framework, but matridynamic at least to me sounds more like an organic, growing, changing process that reflects what is needed.

There is little doubt that we have reached the time where there must be not only a turning away as Phil Ochs once put it, but also a very major change in paradigm. In this country it is now painfully obvious that every aspect of our well-being has been sold to the highest bidder and that those we have chosen to run our nation are, with few exceptions, corrupted to the core. Globally, the climate change that our plunder of the earth has wrought is making itself painfully apparent time and time again, with floods, droughts, water and food shortages, melting glaciers and disappearing species. There is no turning back now, only a question of how we go forward.

For this we need a changed way of being with ourselves and with the earth, a new way of going forward, a visionary shift that is well described by the word matridynamic.

Many thanks to all that participated in this dialog and especially to Loretta for such a magnificent word.

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 October 16, 2009  Posted by on October 16, 2009 1 Response »