Who Better to Help Women at the Department of Labor Than NOW President Kim Gandy?

Feb 9, 2009 by

Kim GandyVictories are beginning to add up for American women.

President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He’s signed a law expanding health care benefits for women and children under SCHIP. And now, there’s a chance that Kim Gandy, longtime women’s activist, feminist leader and President of the National Organization for Women is a contender for the slot as the head of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor.

To say that Gandy would be the perfect person for the slot is an understatement (and I’m not just saying that because I hear she’s read my blog every now and then!) 😉 The mission statement of the Women’s Bureau is:

To improve the status of wage-earning women, improve their working conditions, increase their efficiency, and advance their opportunities for profitable employment.

Gandy has devoted her life to fighting for the rights of women. It started for Kim when, according to her Wikipedia entry, she had to get her husband’s permission for employee benefits when she worked for AT&T after getting out of college. Yeah. His permission. That would have inspired me to do something, too.

Seriously, Gandy has worked tirelessly for women ever since, but apparently the people behind The New Agenda blog believe that NOW’s support of Barack Obama for president disqualifies her for a potential position in the Obama administration. Really? ‘Cause this is part of her resume:

Since 2001, Gandy has led NOW’s campaigns on issues ranging from Supreme Court nominations to the rights of mothers and caregivers, from Social Security reform to ending the war in Iraq. Through grassroots political action, Gandy helped increase the women’s vote and change the face of Congress in 2006 and is leading the organization’s efforts around the pivotal 2008 elections.

That’s exactly the kind of person I want in charge of women’s issues at the Labor Department, especially now as the administration contemplates how more women will be able to employed in the jobs creation aspect of the stimulus package.

Gandy has been a champion for women’s rights her whole life, and that’s who I want working hard to make sure women get an equal slice of the job creation pie. I’m sure Gandy isn’t the only person who could be good in that job. But I have to wonder what’s behind such a public dissing of Gandy by a group that claims to be all for advancing women’s rights? If you’re looking for a qualified, dedicated woman to lead efforts to promote and benefit women over the next four years, no one is more qualified. And, if you look carefully at the stated goals of The New Agenda, it seems that Gandy would be perfect for the, too.

I’m not sure what this preemptive strike is all about, but I’ve come to learn the hard way that if something smells a little fishy, odds are it’s worth taking a look around to see where the odor is coming from.

Kim, for what it’s worth, after everything you’ve done for women (and girls) in your lifetime, you’ve got as much support as I can give you. You deserve it.

Cross-posted from Joanne’s place, PunditMom.

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Obama Steps Out As the Environmental Candidate

Jun 26, 2008 by

ObamagreenFinally. The moment came when I felt like it could happen. I was already officially supporting Senator Obama, but yesterday as I sat down on the plane at JFK international airport, I noticed other passengers watching him in a press conference on CNN, so I turned my TV on.

Within moments, Senator Obama was saying what I had been waiting to hear for months: he wants to approach the environmental crisis the same way JFK himself approached getting to the moon, only with an even more aggressive goal. And I suddenly felt as if my plane was going to the moon. Finally we have the opportunity to elect a leader at a pivotal time in history who will make the policies we so desperately need to have a chance at saving the planet. I always knew he could do it, I knew he could rally people, and I knew if he could work with Al Gore, they could make it happen. But I hadn’t seen the evidence. Yesterday I did.

Try as I might to agree 100% with Obama’s environmental policies, I don’t really understand his attachment to Ethanol – I see the problems of too much dependence on corn and what it’s doing to our ecosystem – but the rest of it makes sense. And I can’t chide McCain for all of his ideas either… please, pretty please whoever wins take all of the cars and buildings used by the government and make them green. That’s absolutely essential. But there must be more to it than that. McCain can criticize all he wants, but Obama laid down a plan to get it done that’s not based on a bunch of nods to special interest groups.

If I remember correctly, Senator Obama yesterday called for putting $150 Billion toward solving the environmental crisis. And he calls it what it is – a ‘crisis,’ ‘global warming,’ etc. He uses ‘climate change’ sometimes too, but you get the sense that he understands the meaning of these things when he speaks about them vs. just touting whatever the party line terminology happens to be. And Obama has a new energypage on the site that describes what he has in mind.

I’m an issue voter a lot of the time. When in doubt, if candidates have similar policies across the board, I’ll go for the one with the stronger environmental record. And when comparing the candidates in the primaries, I was saddened that those with the most aggressive policies really had little chance of becoming the nominee (Richardson and Edwards). Throughout the primaries, I knew Senators Obama and Clinton both had it in them to step up to the plate and hit a home run for the environment, but at the seventh inning stretch, no one had.

I don’t really understand why it’s taken so long in the election for the environmental crisis to become a major contender in the debate. Maybe it’s because it seemed so obvious that the Democrats always come out as the environmental candidates and McCain is grabbing for whatever political real estate he can find, but it’s difficult to see how someone advocating offshore drilling and more wars could truly be an environmental candidate, no matter how much sweet talking he tries to do, no matter how many cheesy videos he releases on the topic. The sad truth is that if gas prices hadn’t skyrocketed as far as they have, perhaps the environment never would have been drawn into the discussion because now it’s all wrapped up in new, clean, renewable energy and it’s less scary and fuzzy to talk about energy than the environment for policy makers.

Troubling to me is that I can’t find video of yesterday’s press conference anywhere after a decent search on the Obama site and blog, and Google (inc. Google News), and YouTube. I wanted to include direct quotes. I wanted to help fire people up. But I’m sure the remarks and the clips will be released soon enough. It was a very “presidential” press conference, as Time magazine noted. I also wonder how Al Gore’s endorsement plays into all of this timing, along with the floods, oil spill issues and other disasters looming.

The bottom line is we truly do have an environmental candidate in Barack Obama and I believe he will make good on this initiative. I believe he can and should do it in the first 100 days when the world is watching and rallying behind him. I believe he can raise us up to feeling empowered to make the necessary changes, and I believe he can devise programs to solve the most difficult of dilemmas during the process.

Sarah Granger, formerly served as a member of a city level Environmental Quality Commission and currently writes for ecofabulous, among other things.

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How Long Will it Be Until the Next “Viable Woman Presidential Candidate?”

Jun 3, 2008 by

I didn’t start out as a Hillary Clinton supporter.

John and Elizabeth Edwards were my presidential couple of choice.  In fact, when it became clear, lo’ those many years ago, that Hillary was crafting her White House strategy I said to anyone who would listen that she would never be able to be elected — partly because of her Clinton “baggage” and partly because I didn’t think this country was ready yet for a woman president.

Uttering those words felt like feminist treason.

But as someone who grew up in a rural community and who has lived in some fairly red areas, I had a bad feeling in my gut that America wasn’t ready.

It looks like I was right.

Many have argued that such a notion is nonsense,  After all, plenty of other countries have had women leaders, so surely it was time for the US to join those ranks.

But America lags in so many things that benefit women — reproductive rights, numbers of women involved in government (we’re behind plenty of countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Argentina just to name two), and maternity leave benefits— that I doubted whether we as a country possessed the basic amount of respect toward women that would be needed to put one in charge of the whole country.

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Evolution of a MOMocrat

Apr 14, 2008 by

If I can change the subject from Barack Obama and the meaning of the word “bitter” for a bit, I’d like to talk about MOMocrats and what it’s done for me.

Growing up I learned there are three things you don’t discuss in polite conversation: sex, money, and politics.  Now, of course, if everyone followed the rules about sex and politics I think conversation would cease altogether.

Nevertheless, I took “the rules” to heart and rarely discussed my political views. Instead I clandestinely wrote letters to the editor in high school and read The Washington Post in the school library.

Then I went to law school.

Law school was a freeing experience because we were expected, no required, to discuss political and constitutional issues every day.  And to back our discussions up with legal arguments. “The rules” went out the window.

Attending law school in Washington, D.C. was like crack to a political junkie.  I could walk to the Capitol Building instead of watching C-Span. Supreme Court oral arguments were just a few miles away. I got excited about sighting politicians instead of celebrities. It was heaven.

Still, the realities of $100,000 in law school loans led me to a private law firm instead of the public sector.  Rather than become the international human rights lawyer I envisioned, I negotiated and litigated contracts between large corporations. I still followed politics, of course.

I still snuck in some C-Span and took camera phone shots of senators in the airport and political pundits in restaurants.  In fact, when I once attended a wedding with Clarence Thomas I had to restrain myself from attempting to argue with him.  But I had lost my drive to become involved, to make politics personal.  When we moved from the D.C. area to Chesapeake, in Southeast Virginia, it seemed my days of dreaming about political involvement were over.

Then this election cycle came around.

I’ve always spouted off about my liberal political viewpoints on my blog, but this election was personal to me.  I had supported John Edwards in the presidential primary in 2004 and was thrilled when he declared he was running again.  Finally, I felt like a presidential candidate was taking my concerns about health careIraqpoverty, and the concerns of the working class (and below) seriously.

Then I heard about MOMocrats.

GlenniaStefania, and Beth had started this wonderful blog supporting John Edwards for president, with the ultimate goal of seeing a Democrat take the White House in the presidential election.  One of my favorite political bloggers, Joanne, had already signed up and it took me about 2.5 seconds to respond to Beth’s email and beg to ask if I could join.

Slowly, we’ve grown and I am constantly amazed by the thoughtful, intelligent and well researched posts that come out of these women.  We have journalists, lawyers, free lance writers, techies, advertising gurus, social media entrepreneurs, and more.  Several of the women here will be delegates at their state Democratic conventions and at least one will be a national delegate.

The MOMocrats have helped me find my passion for politics again.  If I see protesters on the side of the road, I pull over and introduce myself.  I listen to their concerns and sometimes I even get involved. I’ve started to become involved in the Democratic party in my new home.  The MOMocrats inspired me to apply to be a delegate to the Virginia Democratic Convention and a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Politics is personal once again.

Thank you, MOMocrats.

Stephanie also posts the personal at her blog Lawyer Mama.

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How is Breastfeeding Related to Politics?

Nov 27, 2007 by

Dsc01287Did you hear about the flap in the Blogosphere when Facebook removed photos of women breastfeeding from their site and then banned one woman who continued to post them?  How about the recent nationwide breast-in at Applebee’srestaurants? How about when Bill Maher compared breastfeeding in public to masturbating in public?

Breastfeeding in public continues to be a hot button subject in our society.  Everyone seems to agree that “breast is best,” the American Academy of Pediatrics, theAmerican Medical Association, the World Health Organization, even our Department of Health and Human Services.  But breastfeeding rates in the U.S. are abysmal.  Why?  Because no one wants to see mothers actually doing it and our government, employers, and fellow citizens aren’t willing to give mothers the time and the respect they need to successfully breastfeed.

Apparently we’re supposed to lock ourselves in our homes for 12 months and never emerge.  Never visit the doctor, or the dentist, go the grocery store, the mall, or a playground.  And heaven forbid a breastfeeding mother enters a restaurant and actually attempts to feed her child.  She’s likely to be the subject of stares, recrimination, and discrimination.

Breastfeeding is protected by statute in one way or another in the majority of states in this country.  Despite this, discrimination against breastfeeding mothers continues to happen.  In response to this, The League of Maternal Justice formed to support mothers.  The women of The LofMJ created a lovely breastfeeding montage in response to Facebook’s banning of breastfeeding photos.  They put it on You Tube, where it became one of the most watched videos.

YouTube banned it, stating that it was “inappropriate.”  No further explanation.  Here’s the press release from The LofMJ:

For immediate release 11/27/07

Youtube Bans Protest Video
Video Depicted Breastfeeding Moms
A mom-produced internet protest video attacking Facebook’s banning of breastfeeding pictures was itself banned by the popular video sharing service Youtube after gaining recognition as the top-five most discussed of its day.  The email from Youtube stated that it was due to the video’s inappropriate content/inappropriate nature.  A group of moms called Youtube’s action hypocritical and harmful, and pointed to dozens of sexually explicit and harmful videos currently allowed on the service.  The moms also pointed to a number of state laws specifically stating that public breastfeeding was not inappropriate.

You can view the video, the press release, and contact information in full on The LofMJ if you want to see what all the flap is about.

Now you’re wondering: How the heck is breastfeeding related to politics?

It’s simple.  Attitudes towards breastfeeding mothers and mothers in general are a symptom of something wrong with our society.  We don’t value motherhood.  Not really.  If we did, paid maternity leave would be a no brainer.  Mothers would have more guaranteed time with their children after birth.

John Edwards has some wonderful ideas for making the U.S. more family friendly.   He has proposed universal health care coverage, affordable child care for those who need it and expanding FMLA to provide 8 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

The U.S. fails to fund the minimum of six weeks of maternal leave recommended by doctors for both mothers and newborn children. Many parents must rush back to work, leaving their newborn babies in suboptimal or ad hoc care. In many states, day care centers are prohibited from accepting children that young due to the risk of infection. By not guaranteeing any mothers paid leave, America departs with a worldwide consensus of 169 countries to stand with only five countries including Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland. [ACOG, 2007; NPWF, 2003; IHSP, 2007]

None of these steps will individually change how mothers, and the essential role that they play in our society, are viewed.  But to change attitudes we need new policies, popular or not.  I believe that John Edwards is the candidate who will work hardest for mothers.  Maybe in 10 years women breastfeeding in public will be applauded instead of vilified.

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