In this, Women’s History Month, I am sorry to say that it cannot only be a time for celebrating our forbearers. In light of recent events – hearings where only men are called to testify about women’s health, beyond-nasty name-calling used to shame women to silence, and unneeded, invasive medical procedures used to dissuade women from obtaining legal medical services, to name a few – all of which painfully remind us of the long road still ahead for women seeking the Promised Land, it must also be a time for remembering our recent past, lest the warnings of an unwanted fate escape our notice.
We will do well to remember Abigail Adams, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Dorothy Day, Bella Abzug, Dolores Huerta, and so many, many more from this country and all across the world. But we will also be wise to recall Betty Dukes (of Wal-Mart v. Dukes), Sandra Fluke and Nina Turner.
Women, remember our history – no matter how distant, no matter how recent, offer thanks to the crusaders (even if you don’t always agree with them), teach your children their names, and join with your sisters in solidarity for a future of one human family.
And to all those who would stand in the way, Abigail’s words to her husband will suffice:
“If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice or Representation.”
Here’s the post from March 2011:
I’ve been meaning to write here about something insidious creeping stealthily into our lives. I am referring to the rash of recent stories about the marginalization of women, and what is more troubling, the marginalization of these stories in the media.
For instance, did you hear the one about a Georgia lawmaker proposing that rape victims no longer be termed “victims.” Instead, these women would be referred to as “accusers,” until the perpetrator was proven guilty. Subtle, eh? I heard that one on my evening commute on NPR and nearly had to pull over from the outrage searing through my body. Now, if this was proposed for all victims of crime that would be one thing (a murder accuser? sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?), but the fact that it was focused only on rape victims…well, that made me see RED.
And evidently, this effort was being pushed because increasingly restrictive state abortion laws (are you following Ohio?) are not getting the support hoped for. The latest here is the proposed federal legislation to mandate women whose insurance covers abortion report this on their income tax filing to the IRS. What? Whether one is pro choice or not, this is a completely inappropriate and sexist use of the IRS.
And today, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the sex discrimination class-action suit. For the past nine years, Wal-Mart has been arguing that Betty Dukes’ case should not be expanded to a class action on behalf of more than one million present and past female employees. And no wonder: it could be worth billions if Wal-Mart loses – and with their disturbing labor practices, they have every reason to be concerned. But will the Supreme Court actually deny the class action suit for women? This case is being heard TODAY: potentially, the single largest class action suit in the history of this country. Seems important we take notice.
No matter how we feel individually about these events – that they are caused by fringe elements, that they aren’t our business, that we don’t have the time – it is important for American women not to take our freedoms and our rights as individuals for granted. Look out into the world and see plainly that these rights are indeed precious, precious because so many women around the world do not enjoy them. Let us pay attention to what’s going on, let us join together and support efforts to maintain and expand the rights of women, let us demand coverage of these issues.
And let us not forget our own history or those who aspire to the freedoms we take for granted.
Additional Post Script: For the record, from June 2001 to June 2011, Dukes’ lawyers sought class action status for the women employees of Wal-Mart, arguing that Wal-Mart’s company culture is gender biased in favor of men. The District Court and the Ninth Circuit both ruled in favor of class action status, no less than four times. Wal-Mart appealed each decision, finally taking it to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case in 2010. Although the Court unanimously agreed on a procedural matter that overturned the class action ruling, the legal heart of the matter was decided 5-4, with Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan in dissent. Here is an excerpt from the dissenting opinion:
The plaintiffs’ evidence, including class members’ tales of their own experiences, suggests that gender bias suffused Wal-Mart’s company culture. Among illustrations, senior management often refer to female associates as “little Janie Qs.” One manager told an employee that “men are here to make a career and women aren’t.” 564 U. S. ____ (2011) Opinion of Ginsburg, J.
Here’s a story on what will happen in the Dukes case in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.