The Most Important Human Rights Issue: Women

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

Sometimes an idea hits me leading to an epiphany. Epiphanies for me usually take the shape of the realization that a Woman_Montage_(1)belief I’ve held for a long time, is actually more important in the scheme of things than I had previously thought about. This happened with me some few years ago when the opposition to gay marriage defeated a voter initiative. I had been a believer in the need for equality for Gay men and women since I was a teenager. After all the bullies who were beating me up kept calling me a “fag, or “queer” and while I wasn’t, I got insight into what it must be like to be homosexual. In life you have the choice of identifying with the bully, or those who are bullied. I’ve always chosen the latter. So as a young adult I cried tears of joy when “Stonewall” happened and the police found that Gays would no longer be easy targets. Working for NYC’s Human Rights Administration and then living in Manhattan gave me the privilege of meeting and befriending Gay people of both sexes. When AIDS hit the scene I had many friends die and I worked to help the Division of Aids Services as a Budget Director. Yet while I always completely supported LGBT rights, for a while I believed the focus on Gay Marriage, shouldn’t be in the forefront of the movement. The argument over Proposition 8 in California http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proposition_8  gave me an epiphany that led me to see that not only was the right to marriage an essential part of ensuring the Constitutional Rights of Gay people, but it was the key element. Being unable to assist in the health care choices of long term partners, in some cases even being barred from the funerals, or participating in ones’ partners Health Plan are important Constitutional issues and the essence of the battle.

Last night my wife and I saw and were very moved by Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln”. There was a scene in it during a congressional debate where one congressman said in effect “If we grant Blacks freedom, then we’ll have to give them the right to vote……and if we give them the right to vote we will have to give women the right to vote. In truth it was another six decades before this country bestowed upon its’ women the basic Constitutional Right of voting as my wife pointed out to me. Later in the evening we watched the Bill Maher Show and during the discussion reference was made to the frequency of abuse and murder of women throughout the world and suddenly my epiphany. While I’ve always supported women’s rights, it is so easy in a world where so many wrong things occur daily to not place the abuse and murder of women particularly at the top of an agenda decrying unjust war, drone attacks, racism, economic disparity and torture, to name a few. As it became clear to me last night, the murder, rape, bondage and the degradation of women is part and parcel of all these issues of evil and not merely one aspect of them. Considering that women comprise at least half of humanity, the mistreatment of women worldwide is actually the most important issue humanity faces. We must solve this before we can even hope to solve any other great issue. Because I’m not really a great thinker, many of my “epiphanies” are ones that are obvious to many. However, when they do occur I am willing to reconsider the hierarchy of my beliefs. Unlike my other guest blogs I will not tire you with the evidence of what to me is self-evident. Do you agree, or do you have other world problem solving priorities?

184 thoughts on “The Most Important Human Rights Issue: Women

  1. “Elizabeth Warren Embarrasses Hapless Bank Regulators At First Hearing (VIDEO)”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/14/elizabeth-warren-bank-regulators_n_2688998.html

    Excerpt:

    “WASHINGTON — Bank regulators got a sense Thursday of how their lives will be slightly different now that Elizabeth Warren sits on a Senate committee overseeing their agencies.

    At her first Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, Warren questioned top regulators from the alphabet soup that is the nation’s financial regulatory structure: the FDIC, SEC, OCC, CFPB, CFTC, Fed and Treasury.

    The Democratic senator from Massachusetts had a straightforward question for them: When was the last time you took a Wall Street bank to trial? It was a harder question than it seemed.

    “We do not have to bring people to trial,” Thomas Curry, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, assured Warren, declaring that his agency had secured a large number of “consent orders,” or settlements.

    “I appreciate that you say you don’t have to bring them to trial. My question is, when did you bring them to trial?” she responded.

    “We have not had to do it as a practical matter to achieve our supervisory goals,” Curry offered.

    Warner turned to Elisse Walter, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who said that the agency weighs how much it can extract from a bank without taking it to court against the cost of going to trial.

    “I appreciate that. That’s what everybody does,” said Warren, a former Harvard law professor. “Can you identify the last time when you took the Wall Street banks to trial?”

    “I will have to get back to you with specific information,” Walter said as the audience tittered.

    “There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I’m really concerned that ‘too big to fail’ has become ‘too big for trial,'” Warren said.”

    • AP,

      I’m with you re: dancing and singing, but would add music. Culturally, this type of activity has developed community among humans for perhaps 40,000 years, at least. They are just as intrinsic to successful human survival as those we normally credit as life sustaining. As a self aware animal humans are faced with mortality. We use these arts to lessen the burden of aloneness we feel knowing our deaths can come in an instant and that none of us will escape our end. Since dancing, singing and music reach us on an emotional level, prpoerly used they can effect change. Well I remember the emotions “We Shall Overcome ” evoked during civil rights marches.

  2. ap,

    She’s a gem. She knows more about their business than they do and doesn’t need a staff member whispering in her ear so that she may appear intelligent.

    She’ll spot the loopholes their attys try to write into legislation before spell check has finished editing the document and she’ll query their bosses on it mercilessly easily revealing the gross ignorance of their CEOs, CFOs and various V.P.s in charge of whatever.

    Then she’ll turn her attention to Senators who sponsored the legislation who will be furiously listening to their aides’ whispers.

    Obama is going to wish he’d appointed her when he had the chance because now she has real power and 99.9% of the voting public in her corner.

    Of course that’s what happens when the kind of Harvard profs you’re comfortable with are of the caliber of Larry Summers … sexism and careless scholarship just doesn’t allow one to see Warren clearly, thank God.

    • AP,

      Blouise and Raff beat me to it but I agree that I was happy to see your comment on Senator Warren. From the moment I first heard her speak on the Bill Maher Show, I knew I was listening to a extraordinary person. Warren is one of the very few voices of sanity holding office today, with an obvious empathy for the people and a brilliant mind. As Blouise alludes part of the slow recognition of Warren’s talents comes directly from sexism. Her sex and her appearance don’t fit in with the stereotype of genius, nor does her manner of speech. This overlooking of an extraordinary person, because of their sex, is the essence of why I wrote this blog. Having two extraordinary daughters and an extraordinary wife have clarified for me just how undeserved the traditional view of womanhood is. This was backed up by the fact that in my career I met so many woman of great capabilities and courage. Any talk of achieving a state of freedom and equity for all human beings must begin with equal status for 50% of the population. The fear of this equality stems mainly from men who would feel threatened by admitting to the reality of womanhood’s capabilities

  3. AP: Yes, they are self-indulgent, and they appear self-indulgent in the context of a protest march, are you truly that un-self-aware?

    There is truly nothing wrong with some harmless self-indulgency, or a LOT of harmless self-indulgency, but you seem intent upon missing the point and resorting to the denial of reality in order to do that: When protesting, self-indulgency does not sell the protest and attract supporters, in fact the appearance of self-indulgency will attract ridicule and antagonism.

    Mike: Properly used, indeed. Music (and therefore singing) is not always self-indulgent, and “We shall overcome” and some spirituals are a good example of that, because they convey first the impression of faith in the light of suffering or hardship, they do not convey the impression of having a frakkin’ party. As I said, the protest has to look like the protesters are working, sacrificing, suffering to make a point; songs of grief and hardship and loss can buttress that perception.

    Dancing, on the other hand, always looks like the dancers are having fun.

  4. Blouise: would violate the entire “leaderless” premise of [OWS] … remember no microphones and no speeches longer than 5 minutes.

    That just seems silly to me, and contradictory to boot. If there are no leaders, who had the privilege of deciding on these bright-line rules like “no microphones” and “no speeches longer than 5 minutes”? Somehow those were conveyed to people as laws within the OWS community, which they accepted as dictums. They certainly didn’t vote on them, so that means some person or group early on unilaterally declared them as a condition for participation.

    Blouise: The whole point was that all the 99.9% had to do was show up and the .1% were f*cked.

    Well, I think that was a particularly ineffective strategy to change.

    As you undoubtedly know by now, I much prefer engineered approaches that, while not certain due to the variability of human emotions and motivations, have a plausible and significant chance of success.

    A good organization model for something like OWS would have been the collaborative inverted management structure of WL Gore, a very successful private company founded by an academic engineer (Bill Gore) turned entrepreneur.

    Here is an article describing their style. No bosses, nobody can command anybody to do anything, all leaders serve at the pleasure of their subordinates, all the way up to the CEO.

    They have about 9,000 employees and several billion dollars in sales. They run factories this way; and one might think a factory is the perfect example of where a command-and-control model is necessary, but it really is not.

    I think WL Gore proves it is possible to have leadership of an arbitrarily large group without actually putting anybody in charge or granting them power. But obviously it requires a structure and rules, and that culture was agreed upon by Bill and his first employees.

    The WL Gore inverted management structure is the model I would adopt if I could form an organization to try and solve our political problems.

  5. Tony,

    I know … which is why I called it “unobserved” leadership.

    Started by a group in Canada, the OWS was basically anti-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian and consensus-based. Consensus is not agreement and it leaves room for dissent. I know you are not the least bit religious but if you know anything about the organization of congregations, consensus is a Quaker model. It is also the model used in much of the women’s liberation movement.

    I suppose we could call it leadership by example, not by authority.

    The use of human microphones was a clever way of getting around the need to apply for a permit covering the use of amplified sound. And on we go.

    As an example of Direct Democracy, it was a movement well worth studying. The average age of the protesters was 33, 81% white, and 70% identified themselves as Independents. Over 1/3 of the protesters had incomes over $100,000, 76 percent had bachelor’s degrees, and 39 percent had graduate degrees … these are the figures from the NYC area. When these people left the street they went straight to their voting booths and took their friends and neighbors with them.

    Failure to understand this is, for a politician, a real failure to understand both the market and the consumer of your product.

    This why the RNC and Wall Street and Obama’s administration failed in their quest to marginalize Warren. I’m going to suggest that the attitudes which are similar to yours will also lead to a scratching of the heads come 2016. (Think back to the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas … he was confirmed so I suppose one could say the movement against him failed and if one does say that then one has to completely ignore what followed in the voting booths.)

  6. Blouise: I doubt I will be scratching my head, I have no defined expectations for 2016!

    I think it is too early to predict anything for at least another year. Politicians implode (like Jindal, like Rubio’s disaster of a speech), they get sick and die, they can rise very rapidly to prominence (like Obama).

    I also think people are still sorting the result (one I DID expect) that Citizen’s United could not buy the election for Romney. I do not watch Fox News except indirectly through the Daily Show and Colbert Report; but on those shows it appears to me the Republican elite is scratching their heads until their scalps are bleeding, they truly appear to have been blind-sided, and that continued in Rubio’s rebuttal to the state of the union.

    So I am waiting to see what (probably erroneous) conclusion they come to on that front, before the 2014 races begin in earnest.

    We should count our blessings with Citizen’s United, btw. I think it is a wrong headed ruling, certainly, but it allowed an environment that established a fact I think both sides find frightening: There was massive spending on Romney’s behalf and he still lost very badly (for a modern Presidential Election). They may be in denial, but it seems clear to me that money could NOT buy the election. As I have long suspected, there is a saturation threshold for advertising, and more money won’t create any more awareness or switch any more votes. I think that threshold is about 20% of what we saw spent.

    The reason that is good news (for everybody) is that it means politicians are wasting their time chasing ever more campaign dollars (unless they are corruptly spending those donations on themselves). If they come to realize that, I think it will reduce the influence of money on politicians, and the propensity to donate for the rich. In short, I think the rich got what they wanted, no limits, and it backfired on them (or at least fizzled).

    We will see what the political landscape looks like around March of 2014, that is the time (for me) to start parsing the developments in anticipation of the mid-terms. And it will be March of 2016 before I have any expectations for that year.

  7. Tony C.,

    “We should count our blessings with Citizen’s United, btw. ”

    On this topic we are in 100% agreement and for all the same reasons.

    I determined several months ago that our opinions on greed are quite similar as is our rather perverse (in the minds of others) pleasure in giving people enough rope to hang themselves.

  8. Elizabeth Warren’s Aggressive Questioning Prompts Anger From Wall Street

    The Huffington Post | By Luke Johnson Posted: 02/15/2013 12:11 pm EST | Updated: 02/15/2013 2:09 pm EST

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/15/elizabeth-warren-wall-street_n_2695212.html

    Excerpt:

    “Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) meeting with bank regulators Thursday left bankers reeling, after the politician questioned why regulators had not prosecuted a bank since the financial crisis.

    At one point, Warren asked why big banks’ book value was lower, when most corporations trade above book value, saying there could be only two reasons for it.

    “One would be because nobody believes that the banks’ books are honest. Second, would be that nobody believes that the banks are really manageable. That is, if they are too complex either for their own institutions to manage them or for the regulators to manage them,” she said.

    That set off angry responses to Politico’s Morning Money. “While Senator Warren had every right to ask pointed questions at today’s Senate Banking Committee hearing, her claim that ‘nobody believes’ that bank books are honest is just plain wrong,” emailed a “top executive” to the financial newsletter. ” Perhaps someone ought to remind the Senator that the campaign is over and she should act accordingly if she wants to be taken seriously.”

    The anonymous emailer said Warren was being as “extreme” as fellow freshmen Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who asserted Tuesday without evidence that secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel may have received money from “extreme or radical” groups.”

  9. AP,

    Call me hyperbolic but to my mind to even conceive of a law like this its creator must have an underlying hatred of women and a need to abuse them.

  10. The co-sponsor is female. Others weigh in:

    http://www.wral.com/topless-bill-busts-out-of-committee/12102043/

    Topless bill busts out of committee

    By Laura Leslie

    Posted: February 13

    Raleigh, N.C. — Rep. Rayne Brown, R-Davidson, knows all too well that House Bill 34, her bill defining women’s nipples as indecent, has been the punchline of many a joke this session.

    “We’ve had the most fun with this bill for about the past week and a half, and that’s OK. You need to laugh sometimes,” she told the House Judiciary C Committee. “But there are communities across this state, there’s local governments across this state, and also local law enforcement for whom this issue is really not a laughing matter.”

    The measure was requested by Asheville officials after participants in a women’s rights rally held a second annual topless protest in a downtown park last summer.

    Brown, whose district is more than 100 miles from Asheville, said she hadn’t planned to get involved with the issue until she started getting calls about it from her constituents. “I felt that, if this was of concern to my constituents, it was going to be of concern to others as well.”

    Brown says topless protests are actually illegal under the current law, but there’s some confusion about it, dating to conflicting court rulings from the 1970s.

    “You’ve got local governments passing ordinances to protect themselves from just this thing,” she said. “These folks don’t need to be doing that, but they do it because they’re not sure about the law.

    “This bill that I’m presenting in no way shape or form changes North Carolina law,” she said, “but we do need clarification.”

    North Carolina law already forbids “indecent exposure,” but it doesn’t specifically define “private parts” as including breasts.

    The proposal adds that definition, including “the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast,” with an exception made for breastfeeding.

    “All we are doing is codifying the Supreme Court definition of ‘private parts,’” added committee Chairwoman Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry. “That’s it. “

    Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Ahoskie, voiced concerns that the bill could affect people wearing “questionable fashions.”

    Stevens said using pasties or other nipple coverings would protect those women against prosecution. “They’d be good to go.”

    Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, quipped, “You know what they say – duct tape fixes everything.”

    The measure passed the committee on a nearly-unanimous voice vote. Its next stop will be the House floor.”

  11. AP,

    Where do you get such great posts…. I am amazed that there has not been someone clambering to shut you down as you provide the greatest posts over all that are very informative….. Thank you…..

    So now where o you think these red necks are gonna go for entertainment,,,, they certainly can’t expect the wife to do this for them….

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