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Category Archives: Obama

Oppression Renamed

As I’m making the slow drive to New Hampshire last Friday to see one of my besties home from Switzerland, I am listening to the “breaking news” on NPR about Obama’s plan to allow ALL women to obtain birth control in the year of our Lord, 2012. 

In a political move called compromise, the President bows slightly to the right and instead puts the onus on the insurance companies to cover the costs of women’s birth control.  If you haven’t followed the story, a quick recap:  Obama wanted to give all women in the U.S. birth control coverage under their health insurance no matter who was funding that insurance.  Previously, if a woman worked for a Catholic owned (or other religious affiliated institution)  organization, they could set up the health insurance to only provide services that did not conflict with their religious views and beliefs. 

The compromise forces insurance companies, who are contracted with these religious institutions, to cover the birth control so the organization won’t feel as if it’s “religious freedom” is being messed with.   The outcry by bishops was all the rage that Friday as I drove slowly toward Rt. 3 North.  And this outrage was expressed soley as Obama messing with religious freedom, the very foundation of our country.

Hmmmm.  So let’s break this down.  We are forcing the Catholic Church, the majority of whose female members USE birth control, to allow insurance companies to provide this birth control. I didn’t hear any women complaining about this.  The only people whining on the radio where men who felt that their religious freedom was being called into question.  Statistically speaking, Catholics are also the highest percentage of any religious group to get abortions.  (I wonder if this is connected to their inability to obtain birth control).

I am very uncomfortable with the term “religious freedom” being used in this matter.  For me, religious freedom allows anyone in this country to practice whatever religion they choose.  It does not, however, allow an institution like the Catholic Church to supersede federal laws providing equity for the protected class of women in this country. 

And lastly, because you know I could really drone on and on about this topic, I ask when will the Catholic Church and some of these right wing fundamental organizations come in to the 21st century and realize that controlling one’s family size and fertility should be in no way connected to anything religious?  This is an economic issue and one that speaks to the very core of women’s equality.  If a woman is not allowed to choose when and if to have a family she cannot be considered equal. 

This whole topic is ONLY a debate because it lies on the backs and belly’s of women.  I keep thinking this issue of reproductive rights will be resolved in my lifetime, but as I add 43 to my birth years, I am amazed at how now we are pitting reproductive rights opposite religious freedom.  It’s time the male leaders of the Catholic Church step back and leave women’s bodies out of their doctrine. 

And while I am not happy with Obama’s compromise, I have to give him credit for actually giving a damn that women weren’t getting equal coverage in birth control.  He’s the first one to take this on and that itself is worthy of note.

Should First Ladies Get a Paycheck?

There is a debate on the Internet about first ladies getting a paycheck. This is an interesting debate, and of course one that brings up much larger issues than why the first lady does not get paid.
In fact, when I raised this question with my colleagues and family, I got to witness quite an interesting debate. I could not find any research that lists whether the first lady is “allowed” to work or not.
Some say the first lady should not get paid because her position is not elected. Her job does not have an official job description or official duties. The president, with his $400,000 a year salary makes enough for both of them, including all the perks they get.
Compared to the reasons why she should be paid, the argument against her getting paid seems very weak. For instance, hundreds of staffers at the White House are not elected positions, yet they get paid, including the first lady’s secretary. The two major jobs the first lady does are playing hostess to heads of state, or event planner, and meeting with various guests, which resembles the job of a lobbyist. Those two jobs make between $45,000 and $130,000 a year.
Another point to raise here is if Hillary Clinton had become our next president, would Bill Clinton stop doing lectures and speeches? Would he stop making money for the four or eight years she was in office? Would he turn down his annual presidential salary for that time?
There was talk during the inauguration that Dr. Jill Biden was interested in teaching at a local community college. Why should she be allowed to work, but not the first lady? She is obligated to give up her career and cannot earn an income, pay off old debts or build for retirement.
If Obama is re-elected, that would mean eight years of her not earning any Social Security or money toward her retirement, which could adversely affect her in the future, regardless if she gets some kind of “package” for being the president’s wife.
The larger issue surrounding the first lady not getting paid, however, is about sexism and the rigid sex roles we still assign to men and women in our culture.
While she is welcome to come up with a platform and champion a cause that is personal to her, working for charity is not valued as important work in our society. Planning events, managing a home and children, and entertaining guests are also not valued in our culture and these are tasks assigned to the first lady.
Women do not get paid for the work they do in the home and raising children. The United States is often criticized for our lack of support for housewives and mothers. And when the woman married to the man at the top of the country cannot earn money for the work she does in the home to support her husband, then why would any other woman expect to get paid for her time spent in the home?
Arlie Hochschild’s book, “The Second Shift,” written in 1990, examines couples in dual career marriages and the time they each put in for housework and childcare. Her 10-year study revealed that women, who work full time, also work more 24-hour days than their husbands taking care of the home and the children.
The old adage “a man may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done” will always remain part of our culture until something changes. Maybe at the top?

my feminist praxis

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