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The GOP War On Women Demands A New Women’s Rights Agenda for America

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“Feminism” with a capital “F” is making a roaring comeback, thanks to the Republican War On Women: misogyny on steroids. It’s time we demand a new women’s rights agenda.

As a young girl growing up in basketball-crazed Indiana, I used to go to bed often crying myself to sleep as I was explicitly prohibited from playing on my school’s basketball team because I was a girl.

This was an enraging situation, indeed intolerable and I took action to level the playing field in a number of creative ways: I challenged every boy in the neighborhood — among them were Rocky Hollingsworth, Shorty Miller and John Patty ( real names) – to a game of “21.” I beat them methodically, recording their humiliating defeats for posterity in my first “little black book” of life.

It was 1966 — only two years after the Civil Rights Act became law and included sex as a protected class of Americans — when I ceremoniously confronted Mr. Willen, the principal of Lincoln Junior High School in Indianapolis, by thrusting my little black book into his face as prima facie evidence, arguing that if I can beat the boys, why can’t I join them too and proudly wear the uniform of the Lincoln Junior High basketball team? Why can’t I too feel the thrill of sinking a 15-foot jump shot from the corner before a cheering crowd?

In retrospect, the Willen encounter turned out to be my first lobbying experience (which has become a life-long avocation) and he compromised by inviting me to participate in an intramural sports wrestling program, an odious prospect I imagine he calculated to offer, thinking I would be dissuaded from pursuing my “ridiculous” goal of playing on the basketball team. But I leapt at the chance to demonstrate that I could play with the big boys, although it took me on a temporarily circuitous path away from my immediate goal of playing basketball.

My experience with Willen and the neighborhood boys taught me very early in life that girls were always a step down and you had to fight like hell to push against the invisible wall of sex discrimination. I experienced the searing taunts of “why do you want to be a boy?” and felt the loud silence of disapproval from my tongue-clucking teachers and classmates, who were horrified at my behavior and physically turned away from me because I sought to dribble and shoot a ball!

I did not ultimately benefit from the passage of the Title IX law that passed in 1972, the year I graduated from high school, but I have witnessed the thrilling transformation of women’s sports in America that has given girls the experience of physical discipline along with the special bonding with women teammates while playing for high school and NCAA titles and competing for Olympic medals in a multitude of sports.

There has been push back by the right wing on Title IX too, and who is surprised by it? Those of us who are the women of the “Baby Boomer” generation, who knew life before Title IX and were denied graduate school education via quotas which admitted minuscule numbers of women; who dodged and managed unplanned pregnancies before the Supreme Court decided in Griswold v. Connecticut which provided that women possessed the constitutionally-protected right of privacy to seek birth control for themselves and their families in 1965; and who were forced to seek illegal, back-alley abortions, while many died from botched abortions, before Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, agreeing that women had the right to safe, legal abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy.

 


Consequently, these overt, sustained and outrageous attacks by elected officials of the Republican Party and their supporters—in Congress and state legislatures–on these hard fought gains is enraging and frightening for women’s rights advocates and has all the tell-tale signs of radicalizing a new generation of women, and some men, waking them up to the reality that misogyny has been openly tolerated by American society and its culture, writ large for a very long time.


 

A third, significant advance was achieved in 1994 when the domestic violence movement achieved passage of the first Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that was made federal law, marking 30 years of sustained advances on behalf of American women. Now Republicans in the Senate are blocking a floor vote on reauthorization of VAWA that extends protections to same-sex couples and illegal immigrants who may have been victimized by violent partners.

One of the first setbacks to women’s access to legal abortion was dealt by President Reagan in 1983 when he ordered military hospitals to no longer offer abortions to women service members or family members, effectively denying a constitutionally protected medical procedure to women who are serving our country, arguably putting them at great risk if forced to seek an illegal abortion, because medical privacy in the military is more permeable with real possibilities of misconduct charges for pregnancy out of wedlock, as an example.

These legal advances have taken decades to manifest which now reflect equal access for women in education, who have higher enrollments in colleges than men and have achieved parity in professional and graduate schools, save hard sciences; had achieved women’s access to birth control and safe, legal abortion procedures that was private and negotiated between a woman and her doctor and advances that have provided some protection and legal advocacy, albeit imperfectly, to women and some men, who are survivors of domestic violence.

Consequently, the overt, sustained and outrageous attacks by elected officials of the Republican Party and their supporters—in Congress and in state legislatures–on these hard fought gains is enraging and frightening for women’s rights advocates and has all the tell-tale signs of radicalizing a new generation of women, and some men, waking them up to the reality that misogyny has been openly tolerated by American society and its culture, writ large for a very long time.

“Feminism” with a capital “F” is making a roaring comeback, thanks to Republican misogyny on steroids.

Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh’s over-the-top attacks on Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, labeling her a “slut” and “prostitute” for her advocacy before Congress calling for universities, including religion-affiliated ones, to provide insurance covered contraceptives for women’s health, may mark a turning point in American social and cultural history.

Limbaugh’s sustained efforts to paint Fluke as a modern-day Hester Prynne, the fictionally created “Scarlet Letter” adulteress of the 18th century, backfired against him, causing a firestorm and uprising by women and their supporters who effectively pressured more than 100 advertisers to drop Limbaugh’s show in less than two weeks. This could be a watershed moment in America, which has marked a momentary wholesale rejection of misogyny and sexism in the Fluke example. I hope it is such and time will tell if my supposition is true.

But a focus on Republican transgressions does not give Democrats a pass, which are not exempt from infection by this disease and should not get a pass when it is warranted. Bill Maher, a so-called comedian who appears regularly on HBO, customarily refers to women as “twats” and c_ _nts, contributed $1 million to the Obama Super PAC.  Maher waded into the Limbaugh firestorm by defending his lame apology to Fluke. Since then, David Axelrod, the Obama campaign manager who was scheduled to appear on Maher’s show has since indicated he will not be appearing for the time being. Nonetheless, the Obama Super PAC has accepted the money and does not appear it will be returning it anytime soon.

 


Women still earn less than men in America–making 78 percent of what men earn on average, according to the 2010 census.

The Senate has yet to ratify the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We share this sad exception with countries such as Iran, Somalia and Sudan (and two small Pacific island countries).

The United States also has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the Western Hemisphere and the only modern democracy that has not ratified CEDAW.

The U.S. is ranked 78th by the International Parliamentary Union (tied with Turkmenistan) in women’s elected representation in Congress—16.8 percent are women (73) in the House of Representatives and 17 percent (17) in the Senate.

We are one of the lowest ranking Western democracies in the world with respect to women holding elected office.


 

With every challenge, there is opportunity and in this moment, we need to fight like hell. The state-by-state efforts to roll back access to legal abortion and now incredulously, these new obstructions to birth control medication too, reminds of the virulent attacks against the LGBT community who has been forced to fight these vigilantes similarly in a protracted battle to protect gains or fend off anti-homosexual measures on a state-by-state basis for years.

These tactics are not new strategies, but in the moment, there is an energized new coterie of right wing legislators who are initiating these rollbacks from Arizona to Pennsylvania. They must be stopped and turned out of office now and should be replaced with pro-choice women and men, who are across the board the most progressive lawmakers in support of policies and programs that uplift “others” in our society– those who have been left out of the American political compact–like the LGBT community, for example. Now more than ever, we need to elect many more pro-choice women to elective office.  It’s as if the Republic hangs in the balance amid this craziness that feels run-amuk and out-of-control. We don’t have another second to waste.

So in this election year it’s time to pull out our little black books, tell our stories and bring to bear not only the law, but also our votes. Civil disobedience actions have to be put on the table as a strategy that goes into the mix. It was effectively used in Virginia recently when demonstrators forced Gov. Bob McConnell to withdraw his support of state-sanctioned rape that would have required women to undergo a transvaginal sonogram prior to exercising their legal right to an abortion.

Grounding out a strategic women’s rights agenda in America must be sought with elevated efforts led by the president of the United States in view of these recalcitrant and calculated attacks on women’s lives and their bodies.

No one could be more proud of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s paradigm-shifting women and girls global agenda-setting at the State Department intended for the world, beyond America’s shores. And even though then-First Lady Hillary Clinton electrified the world’s women in Beijing in 1995 when she uttered “women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” America does not measure up to international human rights standards when it comes to women’s rights, where we decidedly lag behind Northern Europe and a number of Western European countries, in everything from political elected leadership to family medical leave and child care support.

Women still earn less than men in America–making 78 percent of what men earn on average, according to the 2010 census. And although women live longer than men in America, they are charged more for health insurance, which is to be remedied within two years by the Obama healthcare act. The Senate has yet to ratify the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We share this sad exception with countries such as Iran, Somalia and Sudan (and two small Pacific island countries). The United States also has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the Western Hemisphere and the only modern democracy that has not ratified CEDAW.

The U.S. is ranked 78th by the International Parliamentary Union (tied with Turkmenistan) in women’s elected representation in Congress—16.8 percent are women (73) in the House of Representation and  17 percent (17) in the Senate.  We are one of the lowest ranking Western democracies in the world with respect to women holding elected office.

All of us–women, people of color and LGBT people are intertwined in this struggle–those of us who seek to tangibly manifest the pursuit of happiness; the promise of America’s Declaration of Independence is to seek civil rights and human rights predicated on  America’s political compact that it has carried out during the past 235 years–to bend toward freedom and  the arc of justice and to flourish in all our diversity–to this we strain and struggle toward and shall not yield.

Images by DonkeyHotey: Aspirin, Chastity Belt

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Principal Ordered Librarian to Take Down Holocaust Survivor’s Famous Quote Just Days Before Holocaust Remembrance Day

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A Pennsylvania principal drew criticism last week after telling a Bucks County school librarian to take down posters with a famous quote by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winning human rights activist, professor, and Holocaust survivor, just days before Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Central Bucks School District reportedly has ties to an organization that appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

Despite being under investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights after an ACLU complaint, the Central Bucks School District earlier this month voted 6-3 to pass “a contentious policy that bans teachers from engaging in ‘advocacy activities’ and displaying inclusive symbols like Pride flags in their classrooms,” WHYY reported earlier this month.

Citing that new rule, known as Policy 321, the school principal told Central Bucks High School South librarian Matt Pecic to take down four posters that displayed Wiesel’s famous quote from his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, WHYY reports.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” Wiesel said.

READ MORE: $1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

The principal reportedly told Pecic if he did not comply human resources would have to get involved. Pecic, who has worked for the school district for three decades, met with the principal accompanied by his union representative.

“If I didn’t take it down, I knew there would be consequences that could impact me,” Pecic said. “It’s a horrible feeling. And you feel like you have to do something that you don’t agree with.”

Making the issue even more difficult, “Pecic’s ninth-grade daughter, a Central Bucks student at Holicong Middle School, originally emailed him the quote,” WHYY reports.

“This is where I get choked up,” Pecic said. “She said that ‘this quote reminds me of you.’”

Pecic describes himself as someone who often speaks up, “if I disagree with something, especially if I think it’s not for the benefit of students, I will say something.”

On Thursday, after uproar from the community, the district stepped in and allowed the posters with Wiesel’s quote to be put back up.

READ MORE: Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

“We regret that the decision was made to remove it,” the district said in a statement, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported,  “and in a manner that promotes not only the importance of the novel, but continued awareness and education surrounding the Holocaust and its National Day of Remembrance this coming Friday. The district apologizes for any hurt or concerns this has caused, particularly for those in the Jewish community.”

The Central Bucks School District hired a public relations firm, Devine + Partners, at the cost of $15,000 a month, “in an attempt to repair strained public relations and improve the school district’s image,” The Buck’s County Herald reported last summer.

Devine + Partners was hired to help after “a series of executive decisions made by the Central Bucks School District, most of which appear targeted towards the LGBTQ+ student body.”

“This includes the removal of Pride Flags in the classroom, under the justification that they were political symbols, and as such, not fit for the classroom. It also includes only allowing students to attend Human Growth and Development classes that matched with their assigned genders at birth, and pausing said classes shortly after they began, effectively outing these students to their teachers and peers.”

READ MORE: McCarthy Sat for an Interview With Trump Jr. – One Bragged About an ‘Illegal’ Act, One Wished His Dad Would ‘Show Some’ Love

WHYY is a separate report notes on Monday that the Central Bucks School District has ties to an anti-LGBTQ hate group, the Family Research Council.

The district is currently reviewing five books after rolling out a new, harsh policy “which aims to keep books that a yet-to-be-determined group might deem ‘inappropriate’ for unspecified ‘sexualized content’ out of school libraries,” WHYY reported in July.

“Recent updates to the policy were reviewed by a conservative Christian law firm, Independence Law Center, as first reported by the Bucks County Courier Times,” WHYY adds. “The Independence Law Center is the legal arm of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which is a statewide branch of the national organization Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ Christian nationalist group designated as an extremist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Earlier this month NBC 10 Philadelphia reported on the passage of Policy 321 by the school board. Watch below or at this link.

 

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Criminal Charges Against Trump Possible as Manhattan DA Presents Grand Jury With Evidence in Hush Money Probe

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Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has empaneled a special grand jury and prosecutors are now presenting evidence against Donald Trump in their revived investigation into hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and one other woman during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Calling it “a dramatic escalation of an inquiry that once appeared to have reached a dead end,” The New York Times reports the Manhattan DA is “laying the groundwork for potential criminal charges against the former president in the coming months,” and says it “a clear signal” that Bragg “is nearing a decision about whether to charge Mr. Trump.”

Among the witnesses testifying is David Pecker, “the former publisher of The National Enquirer, the tabloid that helped broker the deal” with Daniels.

READ MORE: $1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

Prosecutors have also contacted members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and have subpoenaed phone records and other documents that could provide evidence.

But The Times notes that a “conviction is not a sure thing, in part because a case could hinge on showing that Mr. Trump and his company falsified records to hide the payout from voters days before the 2016 election, a low-level felony charge that would be based on a largely untested legal theory. The case would also rely on the testimony of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer who made the payment and who himself pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the hush money in 2018.”

Cohen broke with Trump and in 2016, “made the extraordinary admission in court on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women during the 2016 campaign to keep them from speaking publicly about affairs they said they had with Mr. Trump,” The Times reported in 2018.

The payments were made “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016, Cohen testified.

He was sentenced to 36 months in prison.

“Days before then-President Donald Trump left the White House, federal prosecutors in New York discussed whether to potentially charge Trump with campaign finance crimes once he was out of office,” CNN reported on Friday, citing a new book from CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.

But they “decided to not seek an indictment of Trump for several reasons, Honig writes, including the political ramifications and the fact that Trump’s other scandals, such as efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the January 6, 2021, insurrection, ‘made the campaign finance violations seem somehow trivial and outdated by comparison.'”

Award-winning journalist and author Brian Karem tweeted: “As someone who worked extensively with [Michael Cohen] on the book ‘Revenge’ I can say this: Facts show that the MOST dangerous criminal case against Donald Trump could be made by the Manhattan D.A.”

Read The Times’ full report here.

This article has been updated to include Brian Karem’s tweet.

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$1 Billion Campaign From Group ‘Linked to Staunchly Conservative Causes’ Will Try to ‘Redeem Jesus’ Brand’ in Super Bowl Ads

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From electric vehicles to cosmetics, and even the word “mummy,” there is a lot of rebranding going on.

Bowing to anger from right-wingers and conservative commentators, M&M’s decided to rebrand the decades-old multi-colored candies after outrage over its latest addition, purple, and its new “spokescandy,” also named “Purple.”

“Roughly a year ago, Mars Wrigley updated the look of its M&M’s characters, announcing an initiative to make the mascots fit a ‘more dynamic, progressive world.’ As part of these changes, the company introduced new designs of some of M&M’s characters and wrote weirdly elaborate backstories for others. Most notably, the company made the green M&M less ‘sexy’ by shortening her legs and replacing her high-heeled boots with sneakers,” Vox Media’s Polygon reported last week.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson infamously has waged war on the “woke” spokescandies, declaring at one point, “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous.”

Fast forward to now: Actress and comedian Maya Rudolph is their new spokesperson, although the “spokescandies,” perhaps after some additional rebranding, will be returning in a new ad on Super Bowl Sunday.

Which brings us to the rebranding of another icon: Jesus Christ.

He too will be part of the Super Bowl Sunday ads.

READ MORE: Trump-Aligned Christian Nationalist Group ‘Taps Into Unholy Well’ That Threatens Democracy

Over the next three years a $1 billion mostly-dark-money campaign – which reportedly will include funds from billionaire right wing anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ funder David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby – will promote Jesus in ads, including during the Super Bowl on February 12. Those two Super Bowl ads to “to redeem Jesus’ brand” will cost $20 million, Religion News Service reports.

The campaign to promote Jesus includes $100 million in ads declaring “He Gets Us,” from “the Servant Foundation, an Overland Park, Kansas, nonprofit that does business as The Signatry,” RNS adds.

The “donors backing the campaign have until recently remained anonymous — in early 2022, organizers only told Religion News Service that funding came from ‘like-minded families who desire to see the Jesus of the Bible represented in today’s culture with the same relevance and impact He had 2000 years ago.'”

But the full list of donors remains unknown.

“Jason Vanderground, president of Haven, a branding firm based in Grand Haven, Michigan, that is working on the ‘He Gets Us’ campaign, confirmed that the Greens are one of the major funders, among a variety of donors and families who have gotten behind it.”

READ MORE: Pelosi Attack Video Release Leads to Criticism of Musk, Right Wingers Who ‘Trafficked in Homophobic Conspiracy Nonsense’

In a Washington Post interview last year, Vanderground “said Christians see their faith as the greatest love story, but those outside the faith see Christians as a hate group.”

But rather than try to convince self-identified followers of Christ to act as Jesus would want, right-wing interests are spending $1 billion to convince others of what Christianity is supposed to be about.

“Our research shows that many people’s only exposure to Jesus is through Christians who reflect him imperfectly, and too often in ways that create a distorted or incomplete picture of his radical compassion and love for others,” Vanderground told The Washington Post. “We believe it’s more important now than ever for the real, authentic Jesus to be represented in the public marketplace as he is in the Bible.”

Some are not impressed, and are more-or-less asking, “What would Jesus do?”

“They are latching on to this touchy-feely, conveniently vague, designer Jesus,” podcaster, author, and secular activist Seth Andrews told RNS. Andrews “poses the question of what Jesus would think of the amount of money spent on the ads. Would he prefer that the money be spent on ministering to people’s physical needs or making the world a better place?”

READ MORE: McCarthy Sat for an Interview With Trump Jr. – One Bragged About an ‘Illegal’ Act, One Wished His Dad Would ‘Show Some’ Love

“Or would he say, no, go ahead and spend $100 million to tell everybody how great I am?”

On-air, CNN said, “at first blush, it can all read like a stand against radical right-wing politics and related divisiveness,” but adds that “some are calling this a ‘right-wing stunt for politics.'”

“‘He Gets Us’ is funded by anonymous donors acting through a Kansas non-profit linked to staunchly conservative causes,” CNN’s report (video below) notes, saying it “raises alarms for some skeptics.”

Watch CNN’s report below or at this link.

Image: Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

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