This post originally appeared on the Ms. Foundation for Women’s Igniting Change blog.
2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day – a day for the celebration of women worldwide. In 25 nations (including China, Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia), the day has become a national holiday, a time not only to cheer for women’s advances, but also to reflect upon the many global inequalities women still face.
We honor this day in the United States, too, and stand in solidarity with our sisters who are struggling to surmount injustice around the globe. But here at the Ms. Foundation, we know we must do more than look outward at the failures and fault-lines of equality beyond our borders. Today, this entire Women’s History Month, and throughout the year, we must take a hard look at our own country’s shortcomings. While we pride ourselves on our global leadership and our national ideals, there is no doubt that the US falls hideously short.
Of course, we need not look far. Whether it’s Representative Chris Smith’s (R-NJ) attempt to redefine rape and set the women’s movement – and our entire country – back decades, or Congressional attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and other Title X providers, it is clear that women’s reproductive rights and health are under blatant attack. But even before the Right’s most recent assault on women’s lives, the status of women’s health in the US has lagged far behind. Did you know, for example, that over the last 20 years, deaths from pregnancy and childbirth in the United States have doubled? And need we remind you that this is taking place in a nation that spends more than any other country in the world on health care?
And then there’s Wisconsin. While the battle over collective bargaining rights and unions is not being framed by mainstream media as a “woman’s issue,” it more than surely [E1] is. Women make up a majority of public sector workers at the state and local level – they also make up 56 per cent of the “working poor” and are most likely, alongside people of color, to benefit from union membership. As such, our friends at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research point out, women and their families stand to lose the most if workers’ rights in Wisconsin and elsewhere are dismantled. In a time of ongoing economic crisis in which women continue to lose jobs, this is an especially frightening prospect.
The current US political and economic climate alone makes women’s fate seem especially grim. But this should not obscure the fact that women have long experienced the disproportionate impact of harmful policies and gender discrimination. No matter the decade, if you’re a woman here in the US you’re more likely than a man to be poor, to earn minimum or below minimum wage, to pay more for health insurance…and the list goes on. This while only a small percentage of us are at policymaking tables where decisions are made that directly impact our lives.
And how do we compare to the rest of the world? Global statistics tell a striking story of just how poorly the US performs when it comes to promoting women’s well-being. Among 42 countries with “high human development” levels, the US currently ranks 37th — in the bottom five of such countries — in terms of gender equality according to the United Nations’ 2010 Human Development Report [pdf]. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index [pdf], which analyzes rates of economic opportunity and participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment to compile its ratings, puts the US in 19th place globally. That means women in America fare worse, by some measures, than our sisters in nations like Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Philippines, not to mention much of Western Europe and all of Scandinavia.
The bad news continues. The US currently ranks last among the 11 industrialized nations who are members of the Group of 10 in terms of both infant and maternal mortality rates. Our current gender wage gap of 19 cents places the US 64th [pdf] in the world. And we rank 73rd in terms of women’s political leadership, falling behind nations like Rwanda, Uganda and Pakistan, and tying with Bosnia.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter what list you turn to, or how you spin the data: check any of the published rankings of global inequality from a gendered perspective and nowhere will you see the US ranked in the top ten of nations closing the gender gap. Nowhere.
Shocking? Disappointing? Certainly — yet if you understand the realities of daily life for most women in this country, the reason we maintain our embarrassingly low rankings, year after year, is disturbingly self-evident. Just ask the nearly 150 social justice organizations we support – groups led by and for women who, either through personal experience or through the lives of their members, come face to face with this unjust reality every day. They, better than anyone else, understand how urgent the need for change is.
Across the country, our grantees are fighting to win progressive changes that women in every corner of the world should be able to call their own. In Colorado, West Virginia, and other statehouses nationwide, they are fighting for reproductive justice, and against regressive measures that devalue women’s lives. In Wisconsin, Indiana and elsewhere, they are standing on the front lines to defend the right to collective bargaining now under attack. In Arizona, in Kentucky, and in Washington, DC, they’re taking on unjust immigration policies that disproportionately impact women and families. And at every level, whether city, state or federal, they’re fighting to ensure that women’s perspectives, and women leaders, are included at policymaking tables where key decision about our nation’s future are being made.
So, today, as the world pauses to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide, we honor our remarkable grantees. They, some of our country’s most treasured social justice trailblazers, are exemplary models of the kind of change-makers we should all aspire to be. We believe in their voices. We believe in their vision. We believe in their power to promote women’s well-being and create the just and inclusive democracy our nation was meant to be.
On this 100th International Women’s Day, we stand with all women and girls — down the street and around the world — to cheer our wins and inspire us all to further action. We have come a long way… but we’ve got miles to walk, here in America and across the seas.
President & CEO
Ms. Foundation for Women
Last week, I received an inspirational letter from a donor in Miami Beach. She sent AlterNet a check and wrote to cheer us on: "Keep up the good work... the Kochs are such a pain in our body politics."
I had to laugh. Our donor has the fiesty spirit that keeps us cooking. To be sure, in America "things don't go better with Koch" (pronounced Coke). I hope you will join her in our fight against two of the richest and most destructive men in America.
As we launch our spring fundraising campaign, AlterNet's eyes are trained on all things Koch. Can you support us in exposing and keeping the heat on the Koch brothers? Every little bit helps.
Who They Are
Charles and David Koch own the 2nd largest private corporation in the U.S., with revenues of more than $100 billion. They operate in 60 countries. Koch Industries is a well-documented and infamous polluter of air and water -- and the public discourse.
For too long, the Koch brothers' aggressive funding of the Tea Party movement and a vast right-wing network -- built to destroy unions, deny climate change, and protect their polluting industries -- flew below the radar. But no longer. The Kochtopus has been exposed, and their billionaire lives will never be the same.
There is a very good chance you first heard about the Koch brothers on AlterNet, where we have published dozens of articles about their nefarious activities and political manipulations.
The Wisconsin Uprising
Reporting on the Kochs' vast influence in Wisconsin's battle for workers' rights, AlterNet burst out of the gate early. We were the first to report the connections between Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting power-grab and Koch-supported institutions and politicians, beating the New York Times on the story by three days.
AlterNet was also the first to report on the partnership between Koch and Murdoch, showing how Fox News and the Wall Street Journal -- both owned by Murdoch's News Corporation -- collude with the Koch-funded Americans For Prosperity to spread and amplify disinformation about labor unions, health-care reform and climate change.
But we know you want more than that: you want to know what you can do to reduce the Koch influence on your daily lives. That's why we put together our boycott guide to Koch Industries products -- ranging from Brawny paper towels and Dixie cups, to Stainmaster carpet and Georgia Pacific lumber -- the guide registers as one of our most-read articles in recent weeks.
As Jim Hightower Says
As our friend and long-time Koch watcher Jim Hightower says of Charles and David Koch: "It's all about them, you see -- they want to be free of anti-pollution regulations, labor laws, corporate taxes, and other policies that serve the common good. The public be damned. Keep your eyes on these two. After all, the higher the monkey climbs, the more you see of its ugly side."
Since early in 2009, AlterNet has kept close tabs on the brothers Koch. But to keep our journalists combing public records, reporting from the field, and coaxing reluctant sources into spilling the beans on these would-be oligarchs, we need your help. We need to raise $50,000 in this Spring campaign to keep our budget whole. The first portion of that will be invested in more investigations into the long tentacles of the Koch Brothers. Please help us with as much as you can.
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URGENT: Late on Friday, Speaker John Boehner announced that the House Republican leadership will take the steps necessary to defend DOMA in court, a move which could result in an exorbitant waste of time and resources. It's simply unconscionable. Help us fight back now »
"Bordering on treason." "An act of societal suicide." "Fitting if it were in the Middle East in one of those dictatorships."
When it comes to President Obama's courageous stance against DOMA, the extreme right hasn't been shy about how they feel. One Congressman is even calling for the impeachment of the President.
It's clear our victory has stirred a right-wing hornets' nest. On Friday, House Republican leaders announced a plan to defend the hateful law in court – and waste precious time and resources doing so! All this from lawmakers who promised to focus on jobs and the economy.
We've stood up to these ugly attacks before. And we know the next few days and weeks will be critical. We can't stand by and let House Republican leaders use LGBT families as a political pawn – in this moment or in the future. And we must continue urging President Obama to support full marriage equality while we fight for marriage everywhere – from Maryland to Delaware to New Hampshire. I hope we can count on your support now.
Now is the time to act. Join HRC with an urgent gift to fight DOMA and stand up for equality.
Less than two months after taking charge in the House, right-wing lawmakers have abandoned promises to focus on making things better for all Americans, and instead are attacking LGBT couples with newfound energy.
This isn't about one law or one special counsel. It's about whether our nation becomes stronger and more equal, or falls back on old prejudice and hate. So we've got to respond on multiple fronts:
We're moving forward every day – but every day we're up against new volleys of hatred. Herman Cain, a former CEO and likely 2012 presidential candidate, thinks the President's courageous decision was bordering on treasonous. Conservative activist Alan Caruba called it an act of "societal suicide" in a column titled, "America's Gay White House."
And it was Tony Perkins, head of the powerful Family Research Council, who had the gall to compare President Obama's actions to those of brutal Middle East dictators – just because the President believes all married couples should get benefits like Social Security survivorship, joint tax filing, and family and medical leave.
In the civil rights battle of our generation, we can never afford to take a step backward. That's even truer at moments like this. Momentum is on our side – and we've got to seize this opportunity.
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The 2012 Campaign is upon us! Soon the Secretary of State will have to make her decision about her resignation from the State Department and the announcement of her candidacy for the 2012 Democratic Nomination.
As difficult as the decision will be to challenge a sitting President in her own party, especially at a time when she has a lot on her plate in Egypt and Haiti, we must show Secretary Clinton that she has the support of her loyal following.
I implore you to get as many signatures as you possibly can on The Petition to Draft Hillary in 2012. Post this link http://bit.ly/9T0024 on every political blogging site and social networking site you are a part of: Facebook, Twitter, yahoo groups, google groups, etc.
For those of you who have friends who are not internet savvy, please help them log into the site from your computer. Talk to all your family members, co-workers, and friends. Organize Draft Hillary 2012 get-togethers in your home town. Call everyone you know.
We need to get enough momentum going so that Madam Secretary feels that it is incumbent upon her to run and knows we are calling upon her to fulfill her destiny.This is a Draft! No other Democrat can win the White House in 2012. It's either Hillary or President Romney.
So go to it. Each of you is charged with being a soldier in Hillary's Army. There is not much time left, given the considerable cost and months needed to campaign.
Together we WILL all be a part of HER-STORY