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Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Category

Recently, I’ve been reading quite a bit about raising the minimum wage on Facebook.

Some naysayers have opposed this idea, insisting that minimum wage workers should not make as much as college graduates and those in skilled trades; saying that such jobs should only be a stepping stone, not permanent jobs.

But it’s not that simple.  Complex problems never are and they deserve more than simple answers.

First of all, no one is suggesting that minimum wage workers should now be making a hundred thousand dollars a year.

All that is being asked for is a minimum wage that keeps pace with inflation and does not lose buying power.  I remember once reading that in 1973, a minimum wage worker  who worked a 40 hour week made enough to keep three people above the Federal poverty line.  Now, that same worker cannot keep one person above it.  During the 12 years of the Reagan and Bush I presidencies, the minimum wage was not raised once, though prices most assuredly did during that same time.  Hence, the minimum wage’s buying power has steadily dwindled over the years.

If the minimum wage had been increased in small increments every year during those 12 years and in the years since, it most likely would have kept better pace with inflation and retained the same buying power it had in 1973.

To address another objection, that it should be only a stepping stone to a better job, well, that’s the ideal, but not how it always works out in real life.  And we must deal with this issue and those involved by how it really is, not by some ideal of how it should be.

First, there are thousands, if not millions, of college graduates and those in skilled trades already out there competing for a finite number of jobs, where there aren’t enough jobs for all those wanting them.  Adding every current minimum wage worker to that pool of applicants isn’t going to help matters any.

Second, with the student loan system currently the way it is, it is truly a gamble to take out such loans for further education, when one doesn’t have reasonable certainty that they will find jobs in their field upon graduation.  Many times, the person ends up in a worse situation than what they were in before — unable to find work in their field and now with the millstone of staggering student loan debt around their necks.

Third, there are many people who don’t have the aptitude for a better job, yet they want to work and not be on welfare.  They give up as much or more of their time and work just as diligently.  Their jobs are often much more physically demanding, with disagreeable working conditions, and are accorded little to no respect.

Yet, unglamorous as such jobs are, they are necessary jobs.  There is honor in all honest work, and no one should b look down on those in minimum wage jobs.

Surely, minimum wage workers deserve the dignity of making enough money working one 40 hour job to at least afford the basic survival needs of life: adequate shelter, food, utilities, and the like.  No one should have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to keep a roof over their heads.

To those middle class and near-middle class workers who were able to go to school and get jobs in their field, their ire is misdirected.   The poor aren’t their enemy.

Their grievances would be better directed at the fat cat CEOs, whose salaries are hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of times that of their rank and file workers.  (See this article, CEO Vs Worker Pay, for more information).

As an example, the CEO of McDonald’s makes 1, 196 times more an hour than that of the average McDonald’s worker.  That’s $9, 247 an hour compared to the average worker salary of $7.73 per hour.  For the CEO, that comes out to nearly $380, 000 a week and nearly 20 million dollars a year, while the backbone workers of McDonalds don’t make enough to rent an apartment or buy food without food stamps. Does any CEO really need to make that much money?

The one-percenters chortle with glee whenever middle class workers, who have legitimate grievances as well, misdirect the ire properly aimed at them at the poor instead.

Don’t be a tool.  Be angry, but focus your anger at the true culprits.

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In the last several days, Facebook (and other places, I’m sure) has blown up covering the Chick-fil-a story.  For the record, my own personal opinion of this story is that it’s wrong to try to ban Chick-fil-a from opening stores in certain cities, as long as they are obeying the law.  And I believe that their CEO has a right to his opinion and to use his money as he sees fit, however reprehensible  I find his opinion and the groups he donates money to.  On the other hand, in a free market society, people have every right to vote with their wallets and to spend their money elsewhere for whatever reason they choose.

But the point of this post isn’t the story itself, nor to debate the pros and cons of the matter but, rather, how this story is being covered.

As a liberal, I subscribe to several liberal pages on Facebook, which have covered this story in every detail.  I also have Facebook friends, both liberal and conservative, who have also posted links expressing their own opinions on the matter.

In my opinion, some of the links were right on, some were funny, some were of questionable taste, but there was one photo circulating at a few liberal pages that I found to be offensive and an entirely inappropriate way to defend the rights of gay people.

 
 
 

Really?  Whose bright idea was it to defend the rights of gay people by ridiculing another marginalized group that is bullied as often as gay people are — and sometimes more often?  At least the cause for gay rights is growing by leaps and bounds, despite the fact that there is still a long way to go,  Fat people, however, are still considered fair game by people of all political stripes;  it’s probably the last socially “acceptable” prejudice, gleefully indulged in by liberals and conservatives alike. As Lindy West said in her excellent article on Jezebel’s website:

No matter what you do with your life, if you are fat, people will only see fat. No matter how generous, kind, and productive you are; no matter how much you contribute to society or take care of other people; you’re just some fucking fatass whose physical laziness is only outstripped by your mental laziness. As if your butt size has some direct correlation with your moral fiber.

Is this really how liberals want to be?  Aren’t we supposed to be the tolerant ones who try to avoid simplistic and judgmental, knee-jerk reactions to complex problems?  Dumping on fat people to defend gay people is a distraction at best and hypocrisy at worst.  Do they not realize that there are gay fat people, as well as thin conservative people?  Do they not recognize the blatant class snobbery  in this approach?  Some conservatives called the liberal owners of these pages on this and, for once, I don’t blame them one bit.

The majority of the commenters on one of the pages shared my indignation and the page owners eventually removed the offensive post, albeit with a “some people just can’t take a joke” half-apology. 

The other page, however, had a completely different class of commenter.  Most of the comments were of the smirky, “oink, oink”, frat boy variety.  Yes, these were liberals, who are readily able to see how prejudice dehumanizes gays, blacks, women, and other groups, but find it perfectly fine to ignore the humanity of  fat people and who made crude comments at the expense of some poor fat woman who is someone’s daughter, sister, wife, mother, or grandmother.  It’s as if they believe courtesy has a weight limit and if one exceeds it, then they deserve all the scorn heaped upon them.

Instead of viewing obesity as a complex health issue, people of all political stripes view it as a moral issue first, believing that fat people have forfeited all expectations of common courtesy for not being thin.   Fat people are viewed as lazy gluttons with no control who deserve everything they get.  Never mind that those heaping the scorn are not perfect paragons of virtue themselves and may well be smokers, alcoholics, drug users, workaholics, and so on.  They somehow think their “sin” is better because it doesn’t show on the outside for all to see.   Never mind that their habits are every bit as unhealthy and sometimes, even more so.

The truth is, though, that no one is perfect.   Everyone has their crosses to bear in this life and no person’s bad habits are “better” than that of another.

As with homosexuality, many people believe that obesity is a simple choice, well within the power of the individual to control and change.  But, as with homosexuality, who would choose to be hated, ridiculed, bullied, and discriminated against?

Many fat people on both pages (and elsewhere) offered apologetic excuses of why they are fat and how they’ve unsuccessfully tried to lose weight over the years.  This is similar to how gay people often feel it is necessary to justify why they are gay by pointing out that it is not a choice, but a genetic thing.

But, in the end, it doesn’t matter why fat people are fat or why gay people are gay. Neither group owes anyone any explanation of why they are the way they are in order to deserve basic human rights and to be treated with dignity and common courtesy.

Gay people and fat people have a lot in common in our society, both often dehumanized, bullied, and hated.  They should be natural allies working together for the common good of both.  Throwing one group under the bus to defend the other is a distracting, divisive tactic that is unworthy of us as liberals.  Let’s take the high road next time, shall we?

 

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Recently, I’ve been reading news stories about a woman who was prevented from boarding an American Airlines flight because the airline objected to what she was wearing.  Judging from the headlines alone, one would be led to believe that the airline had objected to the woman’s T-shirt simply because a pro-choice sentiment was printed on it.  Searching on Yahoo for articles about this incident, I found several headlines that conveyed this idea:

Woman Kicked Off Plane For Wearing Pro-Choice T-Shirt 

Women Kicked Off Airplane For Pro-Choice Shirt

American Airlines Rejects Female Passenger Because Political Pro-Choice T-Shirt Is ‘Inappropriate’

Woman in a Pro-Choice T-Shirt Not Allowed to Board Her Flight

And so on.

Naturally, such an incident would generate widespread ire among pro-choice advocates and those advocating free speech in general.  Indeed, the sharing of articles about this incident has gone viral on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and has no doubt inspired many blog posts.

But when I clicked on such articles that included a photo of the t-shirt in question, I immediately saw that the headlines had been misleading:

Seeing the T-shirt makes it rather obvious that the problem American Airlines had with the shirt had little or nothing to do with the sentiment expressed, and everything to do with the F-bomb in the middle of it.  Indeed, after seeing the word “fuck”, they probably didn’t bother to read the rest of it, as that one word was enough to make it offensive according to their guidelines.

Thus, the headlines are misleading because she was not denied entry to the plane because she is pro-choice, but, rather, how she chose to express that opinion.

It still could be argued that this is a free speech issue, but I’m guessing that a headline reading, “Women Kicked Off Plane for Wearing F-Bomb T-Shirt” wouldn’t have generated anything near the amount of ire and publicity that using “Pro-Choice” in place of “F-Bomb” did.  After all, too many people would be able to understand the airlines’ position then, as many people traveling with children would have no doubt been offended by seeing the F-Bomb on someone’s clothing,  It’s reasonable that the airline would choose to avoid such a problem.

I think it’s wrong to mislead people as to what the actual issue is.  If people want to protest that she has a right to wear a shirt printed with expletives on a plane and in other public places,  that would have been fine.  But let’s give readers the real story, so they know just what they’re arguing about, fully informed.  As a pro-choice liberal, I resent being manipulated and I especially don’t want to give anti-choice conservatives any ammunition to use against us.

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Rush Limbaugh’s recent example of foot-in-mouth disease, where he referred to Sandra Fluke as a “slut”, is a classic example of the Madonna/Whore complex.   This is probably one of the most schizophrenic types of sexism, in my view, because men who display this attitude are ultimately screwing themselves.

It would be safe to say that nearly all heterosexual men enjoy having frequent sex with women.  Yet, through religion and other means, they have stigmatized women who are as eager as they and who approach sexual matters in the same fashion as most men do.

For thousands of years, women have been divided into two categories.  There were the “good” women who restrained themselves sexually and who were celibate when single.  These are the type of women such men seek to marry and whom they bestow what they consider to be respect.  The problem with this has traditionally been that many such women who have played by the rules and squashed their sexual desires have often, in years past, remained inhibited even after marriage.  Quite a few women found it difficult to “flip the switch” once they had that magical marriage license in hand. Many saw sex mainly as a duty; something that’s necessary to have children and to keep their husbands appeased.   Though much less prevalent now than in centuries past, it still exists often enough to  be worth commenting on.  This phenomenon is the source of the trite, sexist quotation, “Women give sex to get love; men give love to get sex”.

Then there were the “bad” women; basically the ones who have approached sex like men do and enjoy it for its own sake and those who openly viewed it as a commodity. These are the women who have engaged in non-marital sex, whether or not there is a possibility of a future marriage with their partners. For a sizable minority of men who bought  into the Madonna/Whore complex in centuries past, this even included married women who initiated sex with their husbands instead of  following his lead and seemed to enjoy it “too much”.  Most “bad” women were typically the prostitutes and mistresses and married women who had affairs.  But even women who had been raped or those who had been seduced by  their suitors who then declined to marry them, were considered “ruined” and no longer marriageable.

The original reasons for restricting the sexual expression of women are correlated with religion, but probably were for mostly practical reasons relating to ancient humans settling down into farming communities and the introduction of the ideas of private property and inheritance.

That is, ancient men wanted to make sure that the children they passed their property down to were actually theirs.  Because there was no reliable method for determining paternity in the ancient world, the only way to do this was to restrict the sexuality of women.  This is why women have traditionally been punished for having sex with any man but her legal husband and men have been mostly winked at for straying from their marriage vows.

Naturally, such a system had drawbacks for men, too.   With wives culturally required to regard sex as a duty and with no reliable birth control, horny men who wanted more sex, more lusty sex, and/or who wanted to limit their family size, for whatever reason, had to find other outlets.  Add to this, that many men had the idea that it was wrong to subject their wives, the ones they respected, to passionate sex.   Single men who wished to avoid “ruining” a “respectable” woman also had to find an alternative as well.

Thus, they turned to prostitutes and mistresses.

And this is where the schizophrenia comes in.  These were the women who provided a service for men, who provided a release from the corner they’d painted themselves into when they’d imposed rules to restrain the sexuality of women.  One would think that they would have been grateful to such women for providing a ready sexual outlet.

But, instead, they have reviled and scorned these women; women who gave them what they wanted, even knowing that the alternative would mean much less sex for them.  On the flip side, they “respected” the “good” women, but that didn’t stop them from dallying with the “bad” ones.  It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

One would also think that the fact that the original reason for restricting the sexuality of women no longer exists, now that we have effective birth control and can reliably determine paternity, would have extinguished the Madonna/Whore complex.  Granted, it has lessened to a great degree since the 2oth century.   And it would seem that men with any sense at all would fervently support the wide availability of cheap birth control, not wanting to ever return to the days where every sexual encounter with a woman was playing baby Russian Roulette.

But Limbaugh and others of his ilk, have proven that the Madonna/Whore complex still has a lot of life in it yet, despite its utter lack of logic and sense for both sexes.

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Now that  we’re well ensconced in the 21st century, it’s astounded and disheartened me that not only are the right wingers continuing their campaign to chip away at abortion rights, as they’ve been doing since 1973; they are now targeting birth control as well.

The Virginia legislature has passed a bill that would compel women seeking abortions to undergo a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound.  In my opinion, the purpose of this unnecessary penetration is simply to induce shame and humiliation, in the hopes of discouraging women from getting an abortion at all.

Similarly, fetal “personhood” bills have been introduced in a few states that would give a fertilized egg full human rights, which would have the result of making some forms of birth control illegal.

To get an idea of the mindset behind these campaigns, billionaire Santorum backer Foster Friess said in defense of Santorum’s opposition to birth control, “This contraception thing, my gosh it’s so inexpensive. Back in my day they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives, the gals (sic)  put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Seriously?  Someone is making comments like that in 2012?

Perhaps the most chilling thing was last week’s House hearings about insurance coverage of birth control, at which no women were able to testify; who are the only people who would be affected by such a law.

And in the most recent example of anti-woman batshittery,  Indiana Republican Rep. Bob Morris has attacked the Girl Scouts.  Yes, the Girl Scouts, a hundred year old girls’ organization long respected by nearly all Americans, regardless of their political beliefs.  Voting against a resolution that would honor the organization on its 100th anniversary. Morris said the Girl Scouts were a “tactical arm” of Planned Parenthood, and are “bent on promoting communism, lesbianism and subverting “traditional American family values.”   Shades of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson much?

So far as abortion and birth control are concerned, one would think that someone who deplores abortion would support birth control because the proper use of birth control drastically reduces the number of abortions, as women who use it don’t get pregnant in the first place.

The birth control pill is also used to regulate a variety of women’s health issues, some of which can be debilitating if left untreated — it’s not just to prevent pregnancy.  Planned Parenthood also offers preventive measures against STDs as well as treatment, with only 3% of its budget going to abortion services.

But opposition to abortion and birth control isn’t really about saving babies.  Rather the unstated goal is to remove a woman’s control over her own fertility.  Much of the discrimination against women has generally been based on the fact that, until the 2oth century, women were at the mercy of their reproductive systems for much of their adult lives, which gave men an excuse to discriminate against them in activities that took them away from their roles as mothers.

After World War II and especially after the 1965 Supreme Court ruling that removed bans on contraception and the 1973 ruling that made safe abortion legal, the skids were kicked out from under most of the reasons for sex discrimination.  Those on the right wing quickly understood that the key to the independence of women and the freedom for women to deal with men and society on their own terms rested on the ability to control their fertility, hence the push to remove this control.

What some of them don’t realize though, is that there’s a downside to this for men, too.  I can’t imagine that many men are keen to return to the days when any sexual encounter with a woman could result in a baby.  And this isn’t just the men in bars seeking one night stands.  It’s the married fathers who can’t afford to support another child, and the ones who, along with their wives, have decided that they just don’t want more — or any at all.

In a faltering economy on a planet groaning with overpopulation, to restrict or deny women access to contraception or abortion isn’t just sexist, it’s shameful and irresponsible.

Similarly, Bob Morris’ condemnation of the Girl Scouts indicates that  he hates them because they teach girls to think for themselves and that they can grow up to be whatever they choose to work to be, instead of indoctrinating them into being future Stepford Wives. It’s also interesting that he’s not accusing the Boy Scouts of turning boys gay, but that’s the old double standard at work again.

At this point, I’d not be surprised if they tried to have a woman’s right to vote rescinded next.  To those who think this is totally farfetched, I will leave you with a quote from Ann Coulter:

If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president. It’s kind of a pipe dream, it’s a personal fantasy of mine, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

I’m guessing she’s thinking they’d make an exception for her or that she doesn’t consider herself a woman.

In any instance the bar for batshittery seems to getting lower all the time.

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Recently, the actress Cynthia Nixon, from Sex and the City, made the comment that she has chosen to be gay.  She said:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

This has predictably angered many gay rights activists, who believe that being gay is not at all matter of choice; that it’s an inborn trait.  Reactions from the gay community pointed out that Ms Nixon’s comments played into the hands of right-wing anti-gay activists, who believe that being gay is always a choice — and that it’s a choice that a person can and should “correct”.  Some have made the observation that after having been in relationships with both men and women that Ms Nixon is actually bisexual.

This all may be so, and I’m inclined to agree with the notion that being gay is largely inborn, but it’s beside the point of this blog entry.

I believe that in putting the focus on the idea that being gay is inborn, gay rights activists are operating from a defensive position and that they are allowing the right to frame the terms of the issue.  They are offering a reason to justify why they are gay, when they really don’t owe anyone an explanation at all in order to deserve equal rights in our society.

Let’s compare it to religion.  What one believes, if they choose to believe in anything at all, is completely a choice, and the right to this choice is guaranteed in this country.  No one has to justify why they chose one religion over another, or not to believe; it’s a private matter.

So it should be with sexual orientation.  It’s a private matter that does not affect the rights of others to do differently.

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