Monday, May 28, 2012

Is Anyone Listening to Women?

This month The New York Times, The Washington Post, several op ed columnists and TV commentators all remarked about the astonishing fact of a Republican War on Women. This "war" was, of course, denied by those on the right, but evidence is much to the contrary. Aside from the contraception legislation and abortion restriction proposals being put forth by many on the right, other issues which pertain to the interests of women continue, such as women’s access to unrestricted health care. Women, many who thought that these subjects were settled a generation ago, are finding themselves again on the defensive.
One of the major debates is found in the Congressional discussions about the Renewal of the Violence Against Women Act -- VAWA. The bill which supports shelters, self-help and educational programs, among other options, for victims of violence has been passed by the Senate but has been stalled in the House. Changes added there have led to a veto threat by President Obama. The Violence against Women Act has already been renewed on a bi-partisan basis 3 times in the last 18 years.

The main arguments against this renewal regarding taxes, immigrant rights, and domestic violence as made by the Republicans are seen by many as spurious. One of the major sticking points for the Republicans in the proposed renewal of the Violence Against Women Act was a requirement to mandate that Native American women subjected to domestic violence or rapes on the reservation by non native men could bring them to tribal courts and they would be subject to tribal justice. Republicans were claiming that these "American" men would not be getting a trial by a jury of their peers and needed to be tried through the Department of Justice. Since reservations are sparsely populated and law enforcement is intermittent and separated by wide distances, such changes would mean that fewer rapes would be prosecuted. Historically 70% of the reservation rapes are never reported, whether the accused are native or non-native men.

Many Alaskan native women voiced a distrust of law enforcement since domestic violence claims had previously been disregarded leading them to subsequent and repeated violence. New this year, would be allowances for protection for gay, lesbian and transgendered victims of domestic violence. Also included are broadened protections or visas for immigrant women, some of whom request protections against being sent back to their home countries or being threatened with loss of their children. State laws against immigrants and the undocumented populations such as in Arizona, Georgia and Alabama have made it more problematic for victims of violence to come forward as they fear they may jeopardize their visa status by speaking out.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) has broadened its outreach to the Native American and immigrant communities and is encouraging the Department of Justice to develop statistics on levels of violence in these communities.

Recently, census data released showed that non-white births in the United States for the first time exceeded white births in the 2010 census. Do the overwhelmingly numbers of white males in the Republican led House understand what these facts are telling us? According to Bloomberg News, four states -- Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas, plus the District of Columbia -- now have majority-minority populations. Non-Hispanic whites now account for slightly more than 63% of the total population, Hispanics are noted to be about 18.7 %, African Americans average 12.3%, while Asians are about 4.8%. Most of this growth is attributed to births, rather than immigration.

So, how does the anti-immigrant, anti-health insurance rhetoric play out in the populations of minority families, many of whom have children? How are the anti-education, anti-safety net, every man for himself speeches by those such as Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and others on the right addressing the interests of many in this country? Could it be that these politicians are counting on the low voter turnout typically seen in some minority communities, or are they counting on a divide and conquer mentality, saying whatever they think each group wants to hear? Special interest groups continue to speak up in all political races; however, it seems some voices are being heard more than others. Traditionally, more women turn out to vote than men. In 2008 the gender gap showed 56% of the women voted for Barack Obama and 43% voted for John McCain, despite the presence of a woman (Sarah Palin) on the ticket. A candidate ignores these voters at their peril.

So what’s a woman to do? Some say: get even. Many women have filed for Congressional office this year (more for Democratic seats than Republican seats) according to an opinion article in the Washington Post. Women need to lift their voices, so they can be heard and heeded.

So, if you are a woman, how will you make your voice heard in November? If you are a man, how will you work to help issues relating to women? Let me hear from you.

1 comment:

  1. "War"? There's no war. Keep 'em barefoot, pregnant, and chained to the stove.
    I see it as an increasing problem. The rate of rape on reservations, for example, is reported to be 33% (Nightwolf). Our treatment of immigrant women--not just Hispanic--is appalling.
    Do we need Thomas Frank to explain to us why we (women and enlightened men) continue to vote against our own best interests, for male and female candidates for office? And why we don't demand recalls of the tigers who change their stripes? Did Wisconsin succeed (so far) only because men were also threatened, and women are too busy/tired/self-involved to initiate actions without men?
    I think television, movies, magazines, our vaunted educational system all put out the message that women don't really count, except as arm candy.

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