Hot Reads 8/10/14

From our Pinterest Hot Reads board, a list of our favorite reads on the internet during the past week. Enjoy!

huffpoflapper1. From HuffPo: “Dating in the 1920’s: Lipstick. Booze, and the Origins of Slut Shaming”
Favorite quote: “The new woman of the ’20s was totally different from her mother. She worked and voted. She smoked, drank and danced. She dated. She celebrated her new freedoms in style. She was a flapper.”

2. Also from HuffPo: “The Real “L” Word (Especially in the Bible Belt”) Is….”
(H/T: Part Time Monster)
Favorite quote: “Ministry isn’t always a sermon or a church service. No! Ministry is about loving people — all people. Jesus was radically inclusive. Just look at the woman at the well and the lepers, all considered abominations by the religious people. Jesus loved them, and He included them. That’s what I want to do with The Dandelion Project.”

3. Aaaaand, three times the charm. From HuffPo: “These Are the Things Men Say To Women On the Street”
This is shit that happens when you’re just walking down the street minding your own business. No favorite quote here. The pictures tell the story. huffpo

4. From Humanistic Paganism: “A Pedagogy of Gaia: How Lammas Changed My Life” by New Orleans blogger and activist Bart Everson.
Tagline: What can we learn, and how can we teach, from the cycles of the Earth — both the cycles within us, and the cycles in which we find ourselves?
Favorite Quote: “We may discover unexpected depths and make new connections if we are open to possibilities.”

photo(2)5. From Thought Catalog: “How and Why To Keep a Commonplace Book”
Favorite Quote: “Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept these books. Marcus Aurelius kept one–which more or less became the Meditations. “
Note: I’ve keep one of these little books off and on over the years. Here’s two of my old ones. For me, it’s a creative addition to traditional journaling. Plus, I love quotes.

 

6. From TammyVitale.com: “Things That Strike My Fancy”tammyv
Favorite Quote: “So each new creation we allow to come through us may have been written/sung/painted/danced/spoken before, but in this instance it is filtered through our unique human experience and so it must be something new under the sun. Bayles and Orland, in Art and Fear say: Each new piece of your art enlarges our [everyone' else's] reality. The world is not yet done.”
Note: this is a really great essay on nurturing inspiration in your art and writing.

7. And our list for the week comes from Part Time Monster: “Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books I’d Give to Readers Who Haven’t Read Southern Literature”
A great book list that you should check out. I’d add Mystic Pig by Richard Katrovas,  Atchafalaya Houseboat: My Years in the Louisiana Swamp by Gwen Roland and French Quarter Fiction: The Newest Stories of America’s Oldest Bohemia edited by Joshua Clark.
What book would you add?
8. And finally, great poem of the week is “Don’t You Miss the Phone Booth” by Kate Peper on Rattle. Well, don’t you? If you haven’t thought about it, read this poem. Really.
A little snippet:

Oh, sure, back then it meant people couldn’t reach you 24/7,
photos snapped from your cell at a dinner party couldn’t be sent
to your loved ones in Zurich, or your pre-teen’s thumbs
couldn’t get the workout from texting, but hey—

Adventures In Sexism

Perhaps it may just be me and the particular people I follow via Twitter, but my obsessive tweeting has unearthed far too many misogynistic postings lately, stuff that we were supposed to have left behind us in this country but clearly haven’t yet. I’m having some trouble dating this particular spate of insanity over men’s and women’s roles in society…perhaps it goes back to this past bunch of national elections…or the Makers documentary on women in recent history, the third part of which I still can’t bring myself to watch…

…or all this talk about “leaning in,” which you, too, can do in a circle with the right materials, but only if you’ve socked away a lot of dough to get your own personal staff to help with things like child care:

How much do you have to spend on household help to replace a traditional at-home mom—someone to do the schlepping, cooking, cleaning, child care, and laundry? About $96,261, according to Investopedia.

In all of the voluminous ink that has been spilled on Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, and on women and the barriers they face in cracking the glass ceiling, no one is saying what is glaringly obvious to anyone thinking about how to have a big career and a family: start saving for the army of help you’ll need to pull it off. In other words, a nanny, a housekeeper, and a baby nurse.

This is no longer some bourgeois luxury; it’s a necessity given the lack of affordable child-care options and the reality that men have not picked up much of the slack at home (whether because they are burning the midnight oil at their own work, or because they prefer to watch football with the guys).

All of which, when one cannot afford to lean in despite the stunning amount of talent and hard work one has exhibited, results in the decision I and many of my fellow women have had to make out of necessity and NOT of true choice: to stay at home with the kids instead of essentially working to pay just enough for child care and little else. You’ll have to excuse me when I post the following links for your perusal; I’ve read only one of them all the way through. Guess which one and you’ll win a Twitter follow from lil’ ol’ me.

  • The Retro Wife, in which feminism is somehow still affirmed even when the woman goes right back into the place where patriarchy says she’s gotta go. Someone tell me please how that works – does said woman not go quietly? Is there a message of protest every day in the kids’ & husbands’ lunch boxes? I’m still trying to figure this out.
  • Turnabout is fair play, and Ruth Fowler’s The Retro Husband makes the most of it. So smarmy & darkly humorous, I wish I could really belly laugh over it. I must instead be content with a knowing, wistful guffaw.

And then a tempest in an oven comes down the virtual pike with rocket scientist Yvonne Brill’s obituary in the New York Times:

New York Times obituary for Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist and inventor of a propulsion system that helped keep communication satellites in orbit, sparkedcontroversy over the weekend, as writer Douglas Martin led not with Brill’s notable scientific achievements but with the fact that she “made a mean beef stroganoff.”

After a number of complaints on Twitter — and the agreement of the Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan — the opening of Brill’s obituary was altered and the stroganoff line scrubbed. But the new opening sentence provides only the tiniest improvement — it rightly acknowledges Brill’s role as a brilliant rocket scientist up front, but it does so in the same breath and sentence in which she is commended for being a dutiful wife and dedicated, flexible mother: “She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.”

In contrast, recently deceased film critic Roger Ebert did write a cookbook, but it is mentioned in passing in his many obituaries – and certainly not as a defining element of his life right off the bat, though he dearly loved his wife Chaz and his stepchildren and step-grandchildren and had himself described that love as a transformative force in his life. It just wasn’t deemed by the media to be as defining a role in Ebert’s life as it apparently was in Brill’s.

I wish I could say all of this was new and startling, but it’s the same ol’ same ol’ since well before my time. All of us, women AND men, keep juggling with sexism in our lives. In the movies. In who gets called first when there’s a family emergency. In who should be leaning in – or leaning out, as the case may be. In what we do or do NOT do to help when women start families.

April 9 is Equal Pay Day, calling attention to the fact that women still earn approximately 1/4 less than men do. Why April 9? It represents the time a woman has to work to earn what a man got in all 365 days of 2012 – a year and a little over three months. A suggestion by economics professor Anne York is that the household tasks be split more equitably than they have been to help achieve greater awareness for all and, through both the equal pay and household work time measurements, this will achieve the equality we all crave.

It takes far more than that. It takes our fully recognizing that men are just as capable as women as being child-rearers, nurturers, and caregivers, and that it is just as important as women being successful in traditionally-male roles. It takes all of us making conscious choices to not give in to the stereotypes and to act accordingly.

We’re not there yet…and at the rate we’re going, we may not get there in my lifetime. But I sure hope it’ll happen in this century. And I certainly wish I didn’t have to keep setting my expectations so damned low.

V-Day Pileup: On Silence and Violence

There are two links in this post I urge you to contribute to, one being the fund for the recovery of the Garden District robbery and rape victim, the other for the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Read on to see why.

More and more, I’m finding it cannot be avoided, no matter how hard women try. We are still surrounded by people who would put us in what they think is “our place,” a position that tends to be highly restrictive on any and all physical and mental levels.

Tell me I’m crazy. Go on and talk down to me, I dare you.

…the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about al-Qaeda, and it was certainly shaped by a Bush administration to which you couldn’t tell anything, including that Iraq had no links to al-Qaeda and no WMDs, or that the war was not going to be a “cakewalk.” (Even male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness.)…

…Credibility is a basic survival tool. When I was very young and just beginning to get what feminism was about and why it was necessary, I had a boyfriend whose uncle was a nuclear physicist. One Christmas, he was telling–as though it were a light and amusing subject–how a neighbor’s wife in his suburban bomb-making community had come running out of her house naked in the middle of the night screaming that her husband was trying to kill her. How, I asked, did you know that he wasn’t trying to kill her? He explained, patiently, that they were respectable middle-class people. Therefore, her-husband-trying-to-kill-her was simply not a credible explanation for her fleeing the house yelling that her husband was trying to kill her. That she was crazy, on the other hand….

Even getting a restraining order–a fairly new legal tool–requires acquiring the credibility to convince the courts that some guy is a menace and then getting the cops to enforce it. Restraining orders often don’t work anyway. Violence is one way to silence people, to deny their voice and their credibility, to assert your right to control over their right to exist. About three women a day are murdered by spouses or ex-spouses in this country. It’s one of the main causes of death in pregnant women in the U.S. At the heart of the struggle of feminism to give rape, date rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and workplace sexual harassment legal standing as crimes has been the necessity of making women credible and audible.

Events and discussions will occasionally converge that lead me to a boiling point on this subject…

Why it’s disgusting and ignorant of you to imply that a woman caught large Mardi Gras beads in a risque manner, for instance. Yeah, it’s one of the oldest, sexist, dumbest Carnival tropes, but it does get tiring after a while. I caught huge, LSU-emblazoned beads just from being at the start of the Thoth parade route. Next Carnival season, I’m gonna ask the next guy I see with giant beads on what he flashed for them.

A list of the 10 cities where women earn the highest salaries is always nifty, but women are still earning less than men.

The horrific news about the murder of paraplegic Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius‘ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who was an advocate for victims of sexual abuse.

Controversy over the Eve Ensler-organized One Billion Rising Campaign, which I only just heard about today, but I also wonder about its premise…as do many other women around the world.:

I recently listened to a Congolese woman talk in a speak-easy setting of radical grassroots feminists. She was radiantly and beautifully powerful in her unfiltered anger towards the One Billion Rising movement, as she used the words “insulting” and “neo-colonial”. She used the analogy of past crimes against humanity, asking us if we could imagine people turning up at the scenes of atrocities and taking pictures or filming for the purposes of “telling their story to the rest of the world”. Take it one step further and try to imagine a white, middle class, educated, American women turning up on the scene to tell survivors to ‘rise’ above the violence they have seen and experienced by…wait for it…dancing. “Imagine someone doing that to holocaust survivors”, she said.

I had occasion to speak with someone about the recent kidnapping, robbery, beating, and rape of a young woman in the Garden District, and large chunks of the conversation revolved around the same tropes that come up whenever something like this happens to any woman. It all came around to our living in a world where women are taught “not to be raped,” and the suspicion that comes up is generally directed first against the woman who is the victim rather than the perpetrators. When a victim’s first move is to tell her would-be comforters and shelterers “Don’t touch me. I’m evidence,” then we know who the burden of proof is on.

This hasn’t ended with the capture of the criminals and their upcoming trial. Though a large amount of funds has been raised thus far for the victim’s rehabilitation, she will need far more than that – keep contributing here. This friend of a friend of mine will be grateful.

I ask you to also consider that state budget cuts will likely destabilize what structures there are to assist women who have been victims of domestic violence as well – among them New Orleans’ own Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. They accept donations of time or money here.

Know of any other needy organizations in the city or state that help female victims of abuse, rape, or violence? Please contribute names and links in the comments. It’ll be the best Valentine’s Day gift you give. Honest.

Downton Abbey week 5 review

Please stop here if you do not want to read any spoilers in week #5

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*SPOILER ALERT*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

This is the week of grrrrrrl power and greener pastures.

The pall of Lady Sybil’s death hung over the first part of this episode, but as life at the Abbey carried on, her passing began to lift. Of course her immediate family was stricken, and poor Tom Branson will suffer the loss of the love of his life for a long time, but life continues in both birth and death.

The most obstructionist character this week was Lord Grantham. I do empathize with the character, especially since he admitted culpability in the decision he made surrounding Lady Sybil, but otherwise he is running into obstacle after obstacle over his patriarchal role. Tom’s desire to baptize baby Sybil Catholic, Lady Edith’s pursuit of a journalist career path, Matthew’s handling of the estate and the Crawley women’s refusal to leave luncheon at Lady Isobel’s because she hired Ethel, a former Downton maid, who is reforming from an unfortunate turn as a prostitute just to feed her son, all have been decisions Lord Grantham vehemently objected to, but were also objectionable to those who were being dictated.  The women all presented a united front, and leading the charge was the dowager countess.

And she is to whom my next comments are directed. The dowager countess met with Dr. Clarkson and persuaded him to deflect the blame from her son Lord Grantham so that he and Lady Cora could reconcile from the rift surrounding Lady Sybil’s death. I was surprised the doctor went along with it, and perhaps he consulted the evidence and found her chance for survival was slim, but I don’t necessarily agree with the countess’ tactics. Perhaps it was her way of speeding up the closure, but I wonder if that could have been handled differently without compromising Dr. Clarkson’s integrity.

And now to the downstairs. Looks like Mr. Bates was successful in his appeal to be released from prison, a bit of good news that was welcome at the house. Thomas is still after Jimmy and O’Brien is egging that situation onward. The footmen are flirting with the new cook Ivy but there is a lot of unrequited feelings being flung about. Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson continue to bicker over progress at the Abbey with Mr. Carson, ever the loyal butler to Lord Grantham. But stirring afoot in the dialogue are discussions about life after Downton Abbey. Daisy continues to visit her father-in-law Mr. Mason on his farm and this week he proposed that Daisy consider taking over farming his land. Matthew planted a seed for Branson to consider in managing one of Downton’s properties and turning it into a sheep farm. Mrs. Hughes wisely talks about a future without all the pomp and circumstance surrounding an estate such as Downton. All this change was summed up nicely in what Mr. Mason said to Daisy: he told her she has 40 more years to work, which would bring her to the 1960’s, and he opened her eyes to the fact that she just might not work her entire career in service.

Next week’s episode proves to be an interesting one – some of the scenes in the trailer for episode 6 look quite scandalous! Until next time…

Downton Abbey – week 4

If you do not wish to read any spoilers from this week’s episode, then please stop reading now!!!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*SPOILER ALERT*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I knew this was coming. You see, Downton Abbey finished filming early last summer, and premiered in Great Britain in the fall of 2012. So the content of the episodes is out there, as is what’s going on with the cast behind the scenes.

I had read that Jessica Brown Findlay, the actress that plays Lady Sybil Crawley was leaving the series. I just didn’t know how she was going to be written off. I found out Sunday: she died in childbirth of eclampsia. It was horrid to watch the episode unfold, and what I took away from number four was the patriarchal mismanagement of a female condition that could have been averted. No matter that the actress was leaving the series, devoted fans felt the pain of her death and wonder why the pleas of her mother, another woman who went through childbirth, a woman intuitive of her daughter’s condition, an established physician who knew Lady Sybil since birth were discredited by the male hierarchy. Her father, and a stranger, Sir Philip made the decisions and ultimately made a bad call that cost Lady Sybil her life. Interesting how the parallel morphs into present day politics, for example Louisiana’s morass of political soup in Baton Rouge, where people with no qualifications are making decisions on other people’s lives and fates without expert input…

But I digress. Lady Sybil’s presence will be missed. She was the only truly purest of heart character on the series. Her death even provoked Thomas  to tears. It will be interesting to see how Lady Cora plays out the drama with her husband, and if or when they are able to reconcile. This episode continues to show the struggle for women to achieve their voice, their rightful place that maybe, just maybe, they know what’s up. The one person who’s voice was conspicuously absent in all the events surrounding poor Sybil was her husband Branson. My heart ached for him as he held his baby looking out the window. Not just women, but men not of the aristocracy suffered from this pecking order.

Aside from the major event of the hour, there were multiple subplots swirling around. Lady Edith’s letter to the editor on women’s right to vote was published and she received a solicitation to write a weekly column, much to her father’s chagrin. The Crawley’s attorney made a visit, and he was dispatched to visit Bates in prison to help him develop his defense. It will be interesting to see if Bates’ cellmate throws a monkey wrench into his proceedings. The new cook is stirring up the footmen, and Thomas is stirring one on his end, with the evil O’Brien plotting to expose Thomas for what he is. And poor Edith couldn’t cook a kidney souffle if her life depended on it: I wonder how long Lady Isobel will tolerate her, despite her noble intention to save her from ruin.

There are 3 episodes left, and hopefully PBS will air the Christmas special, which would mean there are 4 more to savor. Until next week…

 

post-script – last weekend’s Times Picayune published an article in the travel section on what to know if you want to visit Downton Abbey in England. Good read for anyone headed across the pond anytime soon.

In A Bind

I’ll admit a couple of things, first off.

Last night, I didn’t watch the second presidential debate. I’ve sadly become cynical about this election. I already have a darned good idea of how I’ll be voting, and it won’t be for the guy talking about…what was it again?…

Women in bondage?

A book of mail-order brides?

Great bookmakers (pun intended and not intended) who happen to be women?

Well, no, I mean this:

ROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equity for women? 

ROMNEY: Thank you. And important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. 

 And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are — are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?” 

 ROMNEY: And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.
I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women. 

 I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my Cabinet and my senior staff, that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states, and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

I want to believe that the man had some good intentions. It would be nice, after the past couple of weeks (hell, couple of months, couple of years, couple of millenia – take your pick…but I digress) that women around the world seem to be having.

I need you to get out of bed and go to school this morning for Malala.

Grumbles and a slight roll over from the bed.

 Hala. I need you to get out of bed today, without any whining, without complaining for Malala.

…and then a grumpy, whiny voice comes from under the blankets.

Mom, what are you talking about, what is Malala.

No. Not WHAT is Malala…WHO is Malala.

Malala is a girl, just like you. She lives in Pakistan. And all she wants to do is go to school and learn. She wants to get out of bed every morning and learn. And the other day, she was coming home from school, and horrible men who think she should NOT be allowed to learn shot her. They shot her because she is a girl who dares to think she deserves an education. She dares to think she is just as smart as boys. She dares to think she should get to read every book and do every math worksheet and write every paper and do every report and learn and learn and learn just like every boy in Pakistan. But some of the people there do not believe that girls should learn. Malala stood up to those bullies. She stood up to the mean, horrible men who believe girls should not be allowed to go to school. And she went to school. So you, you will get out of bed, and you will go to school without one whine, without one moan, without one complaint…because you are lucky to live in a country where you CAN.

Slowly my daughter got out of bed. Looking at me with confusion. She got dressed with me watching, and we went into my room where she brushed her teeth and continued to get herself ready for school. So far, she hadn’t said a word. She was still processing everything I had told her. The silence was deafening.

I wasn’t sure I was going to tell her. She is only seven. A seven-year old should be not burdened by the evil in this world. But she is also old enough to understand that she is extremely fortunate to be able to get an education in a world that still does not treat its females with the respect and reverence it treats its males.

Would that this were confined only to Pakistan. It’d be easier to dismiss it as something belonging to another country, or another religion. Another religion…ohhh, I wish I had that smokescreen. While the Obama-Romney debate was finishing up, however, I got this news from a member of the Jewish clergy:

On the eve of the Jewish New Month of Cheshvan, 16.19.12, at 11:00 PM Anat Hoffman, Chair of Women of the Wall, was arrested while leading a prayer along with members of Hadassah, some of whom have travelled to Jerusalem from all over the world to celebrate Hadassah’s centennial convention. Over 250 women joined Women of the Wall for a late night prayer which started off beautifully, until Hoffman was detained during the Shema prayer. Hoffman was held in police custody for over 12 hours, much of the time in handcuffs and has sustained bruises from violent and aggressive treatment while detained.

This morning, 17.10.12, at 7 AM, while Hoffman was still detained, Women of the Wall gathered for the monthly new month prayer service. Though the services went smoothly and quietly with no disturbance, police arrested Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall and board member Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, in the middle of prayer. The two women were detained and questioned for several hours. Upon release, the women were asked to admit to the crime of disturbing the public order, which they refused.

In court proceedings today, following her detainment, Anat Hoffman was accused of disturbing the public peace for singing out loud at the Western Wall. She was finally released and issued a restraining order from the Western Wall for 30 days.

The leadership of Women of the Wall remain committed to their struggle to gain the right of all women to pray at the Kotel, each according to her own custom, with Torah, Tallit and voices raised in song. Violence, intimidation and threat will not deter the group of women from joining together and praying together to celebrate every new Jewish month at the Western Wall.

Rosh Hodesh, the celebration of the new month, is sacred to Jewish women. So is their right to pray, to take on the obligations of prayer (tallit, kippot, tefillin) so long reserved only for men, to say the blessings that were meant to be said only by men, to gather and read Judaism’s most sacred text at Judaism’s most sacred site. Their only crime at the Kotel? Doing those things as women.

And then we go right back to Romney.

Sure, I laughed over “binders full of women.” So did most of the internet. So did Tumblr. Hell, I may have helped create the Sacred Krewe of Binder Femmes as a marching bunch via Twitter. Look for lots of 36-to-48-to-50+ inch bindered broads come Halloween in New Orleans.

My question once all our giggles die down…

When do we do something other than make jokes about these acts and these lies?

And in Romney’s case, I DO mean lies.

I know where I can keep on keeping on on all of this. In the voting booth next month.

where are all the men?

Isaac just blew through southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi with a vengeance. He was cunning and wily, and decided to sit and stay for awhile, spinning over us for 60+ hours, dumping 20 or so inches of rain, swelling lakes and rivers and causing massive destruction to the electrical grid, trees, and unfortunately massive flooding to homes lying outside the federal levee protection area.

But despite the “mancane” who unleashed his fury, there has been, at least in my sphere, a serious lack of men, the human kind, to help ease the burden of dealing with the aftermath. Men working for utility companies are hindered from working because of the overarching concern for safety issues by their company’s administration. Men are driving around, alone, sightseeing and snapping pictures of the destruction with their “smartphones” instead of parking and helping an elderly man drag a tree limb out to the street. Men are conspicuously absent when the generator needs refueling in pitch black darkness with the winds howling about at 50 mph. Men are nowhere near when an elderly woman is doing her best to rake the yard of storm debris, and who instead pulls over to help her but a female contractor. Where are the men who place a nonchalant phone call to check on someone instead of getting off their butt, driving over and checking on others without having someone beg them to do so. Practically every female I know, and there are many, have no male presence putting aside his personal needs to be with them while the winds howl, and after when the gutters need to be pulled off the house, or the tree limbs need to be chainsawed off the roof.

There are many instances of bravery however. Here is an example of a group of Plaquemines Parish men, Jesse Shaffer Sr. and Jr., Lanny Lafrance, Drew Lafrance, Mitch Meyers, Roy Ially and Jimmy Kamm, all heroes, who cast aside their personal safety and braved the height of the storm to rescue 120 people flooded out with 10-12 feet of water in their homes down in Braithwaite. There are countless heroes from down in Lafitte, Barataria & Crown Point who battled the floods to save their homes and their unique way of life. Despite this, I still have noticed a void of males, a void that when the chips are down, some women are doing all the dirty work and the men skirting the fringes of these women’s lives are nowhere to be found.

In part I blame feminism. Sure feminism liberated women a generation ago, but there has been a backlash – men witnessed women becoming more independent and figure, what’s the use? I’ve never been a die-hard feminist – I recognize my physical limitations, am comfortable in the traditional female roles of cooking and cleaning, however I am very well educated and prefer a partnership in which a male partner is an equal and will stand alongside me instead of commanding me to bid his demands and looking for constant competition. Perhaps men still are stuck in the “I-need-to-save-the-damsel-in-distress” mode. It certainly seems like all or nothing to many of them.

I am exhausted from Isaac, and unfortunately this post is a reflection over the grueling events of the past 10 days. I mean no disrespect to the men out there who pulled their weight, pitched in, stood beside their women and families during the storm, and then worked alongside their women in the aftermath, you know who you are. But I suspect those who post in argument to what I write may ultimately be looking in the mirror and decide they really don’t like what they see and then lash out at this post to deflect their guilt. Bring it on…

Blog For Fair Pay For Women

Today is the point in 2010 when the average woman’s wages finally catch up to her male counterpart’s salary from the prior year and the impetus for Blog For Fair Pay Day. The average pay gap between men and women in America is $10,662.00 and the theme for this year is “What would it mean if there weren’t a $10,662 wage gap?”

In 1963 President John F. Kennedy signed The Equal Pay Act making it illegal to pay women and men different wages for the same work. Fast forward to 2010 and that gap has still not closed. I’ve been working since the age of 16 with only a few months between then and now when I was unemployed. As a young married woman in the late ’70’s I wasn’t concerned with whether men were making more money than I, as a woman. I was too concerned with the day to day struggle of making my meager earnings stretch to cover my husbands and my living expenses while my husband finished college. We lived in a government subsidized apartment, I car-pooled to work with friends and we ate a lot of macaroni and cheese. Once  my husband finished college, we moved to New Orleans where he began his career and our lives became financially and emotionally comfortable. But I know how fortunate I am and I know there are  many, many women who still have to stretch their dollars eating lots of macaroni and cheese and many of them have children to raise and provide for as well. These are our sisters out there busting their butts trying to make a decent living wage for themselves and their children with little to no help from anyone else. Fighting for fair wages may be a luxury they can’t afford for now so it’s up to the rest of us to carry the torch for them.

On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the first act of Congress of his presidency,  The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Lilly Ledbetter amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964, stating 180-day limitation for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new discriminatory paycheck, thereby ending the discrimination sanctioned by The Supreme Courts’ decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

A companion legislation, The Paycheck Fairness Act, passed the House in January 2009  and is currently  in the Senate where it’s languishing. Here is a link where you can write your senators urging them to pass this important legislation.

Additionally, here is the 2008 American Community Survey of Men & Women’s Earnings By State which shows Louisiana women earned less than 75.4 percent of what men earned for that year.

All the stastistics in the world, though, cannot put a face to the thousands of women who are affected by the disparity in pay so for my blog post I decided to poll some of the hard-working women I know to find out how that extra $10,662.00 could be put to use in their lives.

Shercole

I would personally use the extra money to create a savings and investing plan to double that number. I would take it as an opportunity to build wealth and work on other independent projects I have for the future.
~~Shercole, Consultant
Shercole’s websites: New Orleans Tech, Minority Weirdos, Good Nola

Lisa

As a single mother, this is a significant question because such a pay increase means the absolute difference between being able to do things and not being able to do them, as I have no secondary male income to pick up the slack. I would:
#1 Get the neglected dental work done that I can’t afford, but that would hopefully be a one-time expense that would take up more than half of the increase. With the remainder, or in a dental work-free year, I would also
#2 Shop at places like Whole Foods, where I could and buy better quality food for myself and my kids without worrying so much about the cost.
#3 Take my kids on an actual vacation that’s not an evacuation. We haven’t had one in over 10 years.
#4 Take my kids out to dinner once in a while for something other than fast food, pizza or Chinese food and occasionally say yes when friends want me to join them out for a meal.
#5 Put some away so that maybe I could grow a little wealth and retire with fewer worries one day.
~~Lisa, Professor, University of New Orleans,and mother of two

Amanda

,

Because I have pre-existing medical conditions, I am currently without health insurance. Due to the nature of my health problems, monthly doctor visits and prescriptions are required, being paid out-of-pocket on the salaries that my husband and I make. The additionally $10,662 would off-set my health care expenses, my monthly health care expenses, spending nearly $1000/month maintaining my health care needs. This would help my family tremendously, to meet our monthly living expenses and not only fulfill all of our needs, but perhaps some of our wants as well.
~~Amanda Mueller, independent journalist and human rights activist, married, one child
Amanda’s websites: Dateline Palestine , Je ne regrette rien

Valentine

With $10,662 more a year I could have provided more for my children—simple things like health care and art programs. We would have had our own house because I wouldn’t have always been trying to scrimp pennies to get by. These days, with the damage the storm has done to all of our finances, I would have been better able to survive some of the ravishes and be in less debt. Now, all I do is struggle—like all my other women friends. Fortunately, like a lot of women, particularly single mothers, I am strong-willed and have managed to stay alive and continue moving forward. Both my children are college graduates; both graduated with honors; my son went on to get his Ph.D and my daughter chose to return to school for design. Of course, if I had that extra $10,662 a year I would not still be paying off her school loan for those first four years and I would have been able to help her get a better car. Being their mother’s children, they are strong-willed as well and are both successful young adults.
~~Valentine Pierce,Graphic Designer
two children, now adults
Valentine’s website: Poet Sense and Sensibilities, Valentine Pierce Designs – Graphics, Valentine Pierce Designs on Etsy

Aura

With an increase of over $10,000 in yearly income, I could easily improve my quality of life, especially in a city like New Orleans. That would give me the ability to upgrade to a better apartment without needing a roommate, and would also afford me the opportunity to obtain a more comprehensive health insurance plan. I’m okay most of the time, but I have little wiggle room in the event of an emergency. It’s difficult to feel comfortable day to day when you are aware of that. I also would be more comfortable increasing the amount of money I put into the creative projects I love doing, such as my pod cast.
~~Aura Shannon, Sales associate, Actress, Pod cast developer.
Aura’s Website: Backstage on the Bayou

Here is a list of bloggers participating in Equal Pay Day 2010.