Today's post has been floating around in my mind for awhile------I just didn't know it!! What prompted my awareness was this article on Politico.com entitled "No Criticism From Women's Groups" by Ben Smith which reported on the remarks by Anita Dunn in the new book by Ron Suskind. In it, Dunn and other women who have left the Obama administration talk about a hostile work environment for women in the Obama administration. Smith turned to various women's groups to comment and NO ONE was willing to say anything. Not one of FIVE women's groups deigned to comment on such an allegation. Not the National Organization for Women, Emily's List, Women's Campaign Forum, Women's Media Center, nor the Susan B. Anthony List. NONE of them. If these groups aren't willing to discuss an important issue such as whether our current president has fostered a difficult working environment for women AS REPORTED BY THE WOMEN WHO WORK THERE, just who are these groups and why does anyone bother going to them to give a quote representing women's points of view?
The fact is, there is huge change roiling the world of women's equality, women's rights, women's position in the workplace, home, political world, etc., and it's a story that NO ONE is covering. Do we ever hear that the U.S. ranks #70 in the world in female representation in government? NEVER. Do we ever hear that women make 75 cents on the man's dollar? RARELY. Do we ever hear that women hold only 23.8% of state legislative positions? WHEN HELL FREEZES OVER is about as often as that stat is trumpeted. And as usual, I could make a list like this be a post in itself.
No one speaks for women, IMHO, because 1) we are stuck in our divided political state and 2) ironically, people are afraid to change anything about the current dysfunctional status quo for women because of fear of what our liberated power might unleash. What if women decided to stop what we've been doing and reevaluate where we've been, what we want, and then come up with a fresh, new approach as to how to get there?
Let me be honest--------I believe that none of those women's groups approached in the Ben Smith article (with the possible exception of the Susan B. Anthony List) were willing to stick their necks out for fear of criticizing the president and losing their influence in his administration. It is also possible that these groups didn't have enough information to comment. Either way, these groups abrogated their position as spokewomen for all women (laughable in itself!!). First of all------if this president and his minions have created a difficult environment for women in which to work, very simply they need to be called out for it. And if the women who have left (fled?) their positions are the ones saying it, why aren't the women's groups backing these women and giving them support? What good is a women's group who can't support women put in these difficult positions----like it is anything new? And we wonder why these issues persist?
What possible influence could these women's groups be protecting? Seems to me that since this administration was willing to tolerate an intolerable level of sexism during both the primary and general presidential election in 2008 WITHOUT COMMENT, the die was cast for what kind of women-friendly policies were going to come out of it for anyone working at the White House. One of the most senior ranked women, Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors just blew the sexist whistle once again at Larry Summers. Sure it wasn't Obama himself doing it-----that is the argument that I often get back when I mention that his administration has been anything but women friendly, but that's not the point. The point is that he leads the administration, and he has set the tone that he won't call out people for being sexist. So the sexists get to run amok and that is why the women in the administration have left with such a bitter taste in their mouth, according to Suskind.
As for the second point, that the women's groups didn't have enough information to comment, that doesn't mean that they weren't handed a golden opportunity to comment on if the situation were actually true. They had a platform to speak----a very timely platform. They were given a megaphone to say some important things. And what did we hear? Silence. We could have heard them say that they don't know about those specific allegations, but if they were true, blah blah blah. It was truly disappointing that for the umpteenth time, these women's groups purporting to speak up for us and protect our interests have gone AWOL. I for one have reached the boiling point over this silence.
The way I see it, the women protecting the Democratic interests have become a comic book copy of what they purport to be. These women used to be bold once upon a time and say things that were the truth that no one wanted to hear. The truths that they spoke up for were things people needed to hear, and once heard, were acted upon in a positive way. No more. The Democratic women have allowed themselves to become captive to a narrow set of interests and in clinging on to these interests have become afraid to speak up about anything controversial. And lets face it, as long as men are running most things, women's rights will be controversial in some sense.
The Republican women have a different set of problems because 1)they have rarely stuck their necks out for fear of looking like the bold Democratic women of earlier times, 2) women's rights became a narrow abortion fight, and 3) they just weren't organized in any way to fight for economic parity. And sadly the result is that they were just not at all engaged in a fight to enhance their interests in the workplace. That's what happens when abortion becomes the only woman's right worth a fight. We ended up leaving all of the other parity issues behind.
The good news is what I noted above-----the world of women's issues is marching on without the political parties and without the media. The internet has spawned one pro-woman site after another where these current issues are discussed without the boundaries of party interfering with the discussion. We also have the women on Fox fiercely stand up and fight sexism every single day without apology. For those of you out there who haven't watched Megyn Kelly, Greta Van Susteren, Gretchen Carlson and all the rest just hammer away at sexism whenever it comes up, you have missed something amazing. I know that some people don't watch Fox because they have bought the propoganda about that network. But really----the women on that network are given full and free rein to blast anything sexist. The women on the other networks just aren't vocal about such things----surely that is because their networks either don't see it as imoortant or because they still see women speaking up for themselves as controversial. Sigh.......
It would be awesome if on these networks on their regular shows that a panel of women from all over would get together daily for a 20-minute segment just to share ideas about what it would take to get women economic parity in the United States. And not the same women every day. It would be terrific to get these new voices together and discuss new ideas. I'm not talking about women having their own show to do this. I'm talking about making this discussion go mainstream. And mainstream with NEW VOICES, new ideas, a clean slate. The old women's groups clearly are speaking for an increasingly narrow segment and narrow issues. That discussion is taking us nowhere. We should have tackled these issues of parity and glass ceilings long ago. But it is never to late to start anew and keep at it until the work is done. What other choice do we have? So guess who speaks for women these days? WE DO------let's keep the dialogue going!!!! When we speak up for ourselves, we can make anything happen. When we are silent, we deserve what we get. Silence equals stalled progress. Speaking up----well there is real hope in that!!!!!