Politics, feminism, culture, books and daily life.
So now we know. John Edwards did have sex with that woman, Rielle Hunter, just as the National Enquirer said. So much for all those jokes about Bat Boy and Hillary's alien baby. I always thought the Edwards rumors were true, because rumors like that usually are (says she cynically) , and I defended this view in many an e mail. But every time I started to write something about it here I would get into a debate about monogamy, privacy, Puritanism, the reliability of tabloids etc with one of our more polyamorous editors, and the air would leak out of my balloon. I would think, Well, really, what do I know? and Oh why add to poor Elizabeth's troubles? I still sort of think that.
So good-bye to Edwards, aka the electable white man. I suppose you could say he's done the nation a favor by further tarnishing that overrated and outdated brand. (If you don't want to hear about women who give themselves names like Rielle and their love children, elect more female candidates!) If he had had more substance to begin with -- a thicker resume, more raw political talent,a bigger, more enthusiastic following, a more, how to put this, compelling and endearing personality -- an affair might not be fatal to his future. After all, Clinton got elected despite Gennifer Flowers. But , as Gail Collins points out, there just wasn't that much to Edwards, besides his policy proposals. Apparently the electorate intuited that. Fortunately, or we'd have just handed the election to McCain.
I supported Edwards because he was the only candidate who talked seriously about inequality, but the truth is I never liked him -- the 28,000 square foot house, the canned son-of-a-millworker routine, the endless parading of his family and its perfections, the (as it seemed to me) politically manipulative use of his son's tragic death and his wife's cancer. "I care about the policy, not the person," one of his academic advisers told me when I confessed my visceral dislike, and I felt properly rebuked for my superficiality. What, after all, did I really know about Edwards the person? What difference did his little vanity vibes make when compared with poverty, which only Edwards was willing to declare scandalous -- and curable?
Time -- and if not Time, the Enquirer -- will tell if he's telling the truth that Rielle Hunter's daughter isn't his, and that he knows nothing about the large sums of money being paid to Hunter and self-proclaimed Other Man and baby father Andrew Young. Color me skeptical. And next time, I'm going to trust my instincts more. For good reasons and bad, the person does matter.
When pro-choicers accuse anti-choicers of being anti-contraception they're often taken as crying wolf -- even though no anti-choice organization explicitly endorses birth control and despite the prominent anti-choice role of the Catholic Church, which explicitly bans contraception. After all, goes the complacent point of view, most women, and most couples, use some form of birth control. Opposition to it seems like something out of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, a novel whose futuristic vision of women's subjection to rightwing Christian patriarchs no less a shrewd social critic than Mary McCarthy found preposterous when she reviewed it in the New York Times Book Review in 1986.
The Bush Administration seems bent on giving Atwood material for a sequel. Last month, Health and Human Services issued a draft of new regulations which would require health-care providers who receive federal funds to accept as employees nurses and other workers who object to abortion and even to most kinds of birth control. This rule would cover some 500,000 hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities-- including family planning clinics, which would, absurdly, legally be bound to hire people who will obstruct their very mission. To refuse to hire them, or to fire them, would be to lose funds for discriminating against people who object to abortion for religious or --get this -- moral beliefs.
This represents quite an expansion of health workers' longstandingright not to be involved in abortion. And, incidentally, this respect for moral beliefs only goes one way. A Catholic hospital has no corresponding obigation to hire pro-choice workers or accomodate their moral beliefs by permitting them to offer emergency contraception to rape victims or hand out condoms to the HIV positive; a "crisis pregnancy center" would not have to hire pro-choice counsellors who would tell women that abortion would not really give them breast cancer or leave them sterile. Only anti-choicers, apparently, have moral beliefs that entitle them to jobs they refuse to actually perform.
There are several disturbing elements to this story. One is that even as it fades into history, the Bush Administration is catering to the anti-choice movement's larger agenda of making contraception harder to obtain. What Bush can't give them legislatively, he'll provide administratively, in bits and pieces, under cover of granting workers rights of conscience (the only workers' rights he seems to care about). Remember when it seemed just plain bizarre that a pharmacist could refuse to fill a woman's prescription for emergency contraception or even the Pill? Now pharmacists have that explicit right in four states, and possibly in five more.
Bureaucratic rules and regulations may seem arcane-- how many nurses who think the Pill "kills babies" want to work in family-planning clinics? Actually, they have far-reaching effects. For example, the HHS regulations could invalidate state laws requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. Moreover, the importance of regulations goes way beyond the actual number of people they affect directly. They shape both how we think of rights and how we decide what normal behavior is. As it becomes more accepted for health care workers to inflict their moral judgments on patients, and customers, the burden shifts onto women seeking care. Instead of asking "what gives the pharmacist the right to refuse to fill her prescription?" and "Why should a birth-control clinic be forced to employ a nurse who won't give out the Pill?" the question becomes "why can't she go to another drugstore or come back to the clinic another day"?
As the blogger Amanda Marcotte argues, antichoicers know they can't ban contraception, but they can redefine it as a lifestyle drug, a luxury, rather than a medical necessity that gets a lot of credit for modern women's good health and longevity. Amazingly, Bill O"Reilly is not the only person who thinks health insurance plans should pay for Viagra but not for the Pill. If you can't afford birth control, just don't have sex, you hussy! The next Administration may not find it so easy to turn this mindset around, and if McCain wins, I doubt it will even try. McCain himself, as I've noted before, has a longstanding record of votes against abortion and birth control -- 125 out of 130 votes in Congress and Senate. The man has a O% rating from NARAL. That he is widely regarded as a "moderate" on reproductive rights is truly incredible.
Another dangerous feature of the proposed rules is that they redefine contraception as abortion. Standard medical authorities define abortion as something that takes place after you become pregnant, that is, after a fertilized egg implants in your womb and sets off a cascade of physical changes in your body. The HHS draft changes all that. It defines abortion as "any procedures, including prescription drugs, that result in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.'" According to these rules, you can have an "abortion" without even being pregnant. (The Pill,emergency contraception, and the IUD mostly work by preventing ovulation and fertilization, but anti-choice advocates argue that they prevent implantation, and it is not yet possible to say with 100 percent certainty that this never, ever happens.) These are the knots we get tied up in when religious ideology replaces sound science.
Don't let the Bush administration take away women's right to get legal reproductive health care in a timely and respectful fashion. Support Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray, who are leading the fight in the Senate by emailing your senators here . Better yet, send them a real letter, on paper. As for Congress, So far only 104 Representatives --fewer than one in four --have signed a letter protesting the changes. Call or write yours and demand that they join you in the 21st century.
UPDATE: More info, including lists of Senators and Representatives who've signed on to letters opposing the new regulations here.
I realize it's not as world-shaking as the caricature of the Obamas on the cover of The New Yorker, which has the high-end media in a total tizzy. It's probably not even as important as the raunchy joke Bernie Mac told at an Obama fundraiser last week, which was bumped from the tizzy list by the New Yorker story. But can't the commentariat take a break from itself and let the world know how much John McCain opposes birth control? Vastly more people rely on contraception than read The New Yorker or know Bernie Mac from mac'n' cheese. In fact, vastly more people use birth control than believe Obama is a secret Muslim. They might like to know that when it comes to contraception, McCain is no maverick.
Here's the story. Last week, Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who has been helping McCain look bright-eyed and estrogen-friendly, told reporters that women wanted more choice in their health care plans; for example, it bothered women when plans covered Viagra but not contraception. Big mistake! McCain had voted against a bill that would have required plans to cover birth control if they covered prescription meds at all, like, um, Viagra. McCain's nonresponse when queried about this by a reporter was astonishing. As posted on Youtube, he squirms and grins and smirks (Viagra! Embarrassing!) and fumfers about evasively. "I don't know enough about it to give you an informed answer," he manages to splutter, "because I don't recall the vote, I've cast thousands of votes... it's something I've not thought much about."
So. John McCain is so opposed to contraception he voted against requiring insurance plans to cover it like other drugs, and either so indifferent to women's health and rights or just so out of it he doesn't even remember how he voted. That's the way to show American women you really care.
This is not a trivial issue. There's the basic unfairness of not covering these essential, even life-saving drugs and devices, so fundamental to women's health and well-being, and the added insult of denying coverage while men are lavished with cut-rate erections. And there's the craven submission to religious extremists that moves the politics of that denial. It's a pocket-book issue, too: A year's worth of contraception can cost a woman $600. That's a lot of money. Is it too much to expect the next president of the United States to understand that? Now that every politican in America prides himself on knowing the price of a gallon of milk and talks like he's just finished doing the week's shopping for a family of ten?
The story heated up the blogosphere, but a Nexis search at the beginning of this week found only 61 mentions in print and on TV, and most of those were passing references in stories about McCain's bad week (Phil Gramm calling Americans "a nation of whiners" obsessed with a "mental recession" got most of the attention) or focused on the effect Fiorina's off-message remark will have on her vice-presidential chances.
Where is the discussion of the real issue, which is that for over twenty years John McCain has voted against contraception every time it came up and -- now he tells us! -- doesn't even care or know enough to explain why. Women --and men -- need to know where he stands on this issue so basic to health and human flourishing if they are going to make informed decisions in the polling booth. But so far the media has refused to present McCain's anti-contraception record as a big, coherent story that tells us a great deal about who he is and what policies he would pursue in the White House.
Maybe The New Yorker could do a cover about it. Then the media might find it interesting enough to discuss.
For years, Democrats have been trying to shed their secular image in order to appeal to voters who think Jesus is a Republican. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, because now, thanks to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Democrats have got religion and everything that comes with it -- weirdness, wrath, insult, blowhardiness, vanity, paranoia, divisiveness and trouble. When Barack Obama told the 2004 Democratic convention, "We worship an awesome god in the blue states," this probably wasn't the result he had in mind.
By repudiating Wright Tuesday, Obama missed a chance to call on McCain to turn away from his own problematic clerical helpers. McCain still welcomes the endorsement of the televangelist John Hagee, who has famously attributed Hurricane Katrina to God's wrath at homosexuals, calls the Catholic church "the great whore," claims the Koran commands Muslims to kill Jews and Christians, condemns the Harry Potter books as witchcraft, and wants a world war over Israel, whose most aggressive settlement policies he vigorously supports, because it will precipitate the Second Coming of Christ.
As Sarah Posner lays out in an excellent post for TAPPED, Wright and Hagee have a lot in common. Both believe that chickens come home to roost--in New Orleans, on 9/11--and that God sends them. Both think America is sinful. Both have bizarre ideas with terrible, real-world implications: Hagee wants the US and israel to attack Iran to bring on the end times; Rev. Wright claims the United States government invented the HIV virus "as a means of genocide against people of color."
The fact is, if Wright were a white wingnut, the media--and the voters--would give him the pass they give Hagee- and Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and the other radical-right preachers, who say vicious, bigoted, nutty things that violate common sense and common decency all the time. The press portrays these divines in various ways -- respectable men of the cloth or shrewd political operators or occasionally even as crazy old coots-- but it doesn't get anywhere near as worked up about them, or about their closeness to Republican politicians, as it did about Wright. You probably don't even know that McCain accepted the endorsement of the Ohio Pentecostal minister Rod Parsley, campaigned with him in Cincinnati and praised him as a "moral compass" and a "spiritual guide"--Rod Parsley, who in addition to the customary anti-gay obsessions, has described Allah as a "demon spirit" and Islam as a "false religion" the United States was "in part" founded in order to destroy in holy war!
McCain's defenders want the press to make much of the fact that Wright was Obama's pastor for many years, while Hagee and Parsley are not personally close to McCain. Why that is the difference that should matter is beyond me-- why isn't it more important that McCain has sought out these warmongering preachers and specifically said their position on the Middle East is what he likes about them? Pretty scary!
But here's the larger point: If we kept religion out of the election campaign, we could just debate the issues, like rational people. After all, which is less likely, that the HIV virus came out of a government lab, or that the dead will rise from their graves? That Israel is on a course that is not likely to end well, or that God wants more West Bank settlements in order to set off a world war and bring on Christ's return? Empirical claims we can discuss and debate like citizens; religious beliefs, by their very nature, claim immunity from rational analysis. When men whose profession is the latter weigh in on the former, why should anyone take them seriously?
As Barack Obama has perhaps belatedly learned, the Democrats had it right the first time: Awesome,blue-state, red-state, whatever -- keep God out of it, and the men who claim to speak for him, too.
I want to do my bit for Obama, so I vowed I would give up attacking Obama-supporting progressives for the duration of the presidential campaign. No circular firing squads for me! Believe me, it hasn't been easy, and now Tom Hayden's "Why Hillary Makes My Wife Scream" has pushed me over the edge. Who cares what Tom Hayden's wife, the peaceful organic Barbara, feels when she watches Hillary on TV? Hayden is employing an ancient literary-political device, in which a man wards off charges of sexism by citing the example of a woman: I'm not averse to votes for women, but my wife, sir, won't hear of it! Barbara is female -- so that makes it okay for Hayden quote her comparing Hillary Clinton to "a screech on the blackboard" and Lady Macbeth. Because those are certainly similes that have never been used before! And that have no misogynist connotations, as in a woman who seeks public power is shrill and strident, a would-be despot who'll stop at nothing to achieve her evil ends, and is just so darn unlikeable, too. So bitter! As for Clinton flack "that Kiki person" -- when Hayden makes fun of a woman's girly first name and finds her just too ridiculous even to have a last one, that is not at all like rightwingers mocking Lani --Lani! ha ha ha! -- Guinier back in the day.
By rummaging in the tired old grabbag of male-chauvinist cliches, Hayden undermines the point he eventually gets around to making: that Clinton's attacks on Obama for guilt-by-association with Rev. Wright and Bill Ayres are vile and low and will come back to haunt her should she win the nomination. Not only is she alienating Obama supporters she'll need for the general election, she's inviting attacks on herself for her own past connections with leftwing figures and causes. Hayden calls on progressives to "send a message" to Hillary to "immediately cease her path of destruction." (Cease her path?) Fair enough.
Well, here's my message to Tom Hayden: Cease your path! Every time you and your fellow progressives write your sexist/nasty/catty garbage about Hillary Clinton -- and every time the Nation publishes it, which is far too often -- you alienate women whose energy and votes you will need if Obama wins the nomination. When you start talking about "millions" of young voters and black voters refusing to work for Hillary because of her unfair attacks on Obama you invite "millions" of women to say, well, why should I work for a candidate whose prominent supporters call my candidate Lady Macbeth?
Be the one you've been waiting for, Tom person. A man who respects women or if that's too big a stretch, who pretends to, for strategic reasons, at least till the election is over.
I have no idea whether Hillary Clinton should stay in the primary race or not. People who've done the math say there's just about no chance she can squeak past Obama, which would make it kind of pointless to keep going. But of all the people who could conceivably advise her to campaign till the bitter end, I'll bet the last person she'd like to hear from is Ralph Nader. I translate his letter, which John Nichols quotes approvingly in The Notion, as follows:
I didn't care about the consequences of my 2000 run (not that I ever admit that there were any! Florida? Not my fault! ) and neither should you care about the consequences of staying in the primaries. Consequences is for sissies and people who don't care about the First Amendment and other high-minded stuff. Besides, the Democratic party is evil! If dragging out the primaries till June or July hurts it in November, so much the better -- you might do for the Dems in 2008 what didn't do (did not! did not!) in 2000. I understand exactly how painful it must be to have everyone crushing so hard on Obama-- he's bewitched a lot of my former supporters too, which I just don't get, since he is, after all, a Democrat, like, um, Al Gore. It's like they've forgotten that the parties are basically the same and that the most important thing is to just express yourself no matter what. In fact, if you lose the nomination, why not run on your own? that's what I'm doing -- it's fun!
Your new best friend,
Liberal smarties and sophisticates are having fun mocking John McCain , but assuming he gets the nomination, he will a formidable candidate. He may look like a grumpy old man -- specifically, as my friend Kathleen Geier joked, the grumpy old man who yells at kids to get off his lawn -- or the nutty old uncle who rags on everyone at Thanksgiving before passing out in front of the football game. But that's another way of saying McCain is a familiar, indeed family, character. It does not require an imaginative stretch to get John McCain. How many voters know someone like Barack Obama?
McCain is white, male, patriarchal, a war hero with decades in the Senate. So what if he's old? In politics old can be good ( for men), especially to the older voters -- older white voters -- who dominate the polls. Besides, McCain's not so old that he couldn't get himself a much younger trophy wife, and even if Cindy McCain looks brittle and unhappy and like she hasn't eaten in a decade, she is always there by his side, a visual reminder of his manly prowess. McCain is brash and sly and seemingly unguarded, unlike the famously self-protective Hillary Clinton, and he loves to schmooze with reporters, who adore him and like most of the rest of America, refuse to see how conservative he is. It's like they're saying, Oh go on, Uncle John! you're just saying you love Sam Alito to get me riled up!
Obama v. McCain could be change/youth/black/exciting/internationalist against experience/maturity/white/steady/superpatriot. Put that way, it could come down to how many white male Democrats, who might vote for Hillary, won't vote for a black man, let alone one whose middle name is Hussein. They won't care about McCain's favors for business --too complicated, and anyway everyone does it -- and they certainly won't care if he had an affair with lovely lobbyist Vicki Iseman, as the New York Times sorta-kinda suggested. They might like him even better for that.
We've been patting ourselves on the back a lot for having a black and a woman vying for top spot on the ticket of one of the two major parties. November will tell us whether or not we have really come all that far.
Iranian judges apparently didn't get the memo about the moratorium onstoning issued in 2002 by Ayatollah Shahroudi, head of the judiciary.According to Amnesty International, nine women and two men arecurrently in prison awaiting this cruel and barbaric punishment, whichis usually meted out for sexual transgressions.
In May of 2006 a man and a woman were reportedly stoned in Mashhad and the government hasofficially confirmed the stoning on July 5, 2007 in the village ofAghche-kand of Jafar Kiani, convicted of "adultery" along withMokarrameh Ebrahimi, with whom he had two children. She has beensentenced to stoning also and is currently in prison with one of herchildren.
In the most recent case, two sisters, Zohreh and Azar Kabiri, havebeen sentenced to stoning for "adultery." (This sentence came afterthe ninety-nine lashes meted out for "inappropriate relations," which came aftera trial notable for its lack of due process.). Equality Now has the whole horrific story, with addresses of officials to address letterscalling for a ban on stoning and the decriminalization of "adultery."
The Iranian activist group Stop Stoning Forever has been pressing fora ban since the 2006 stonings. It was their network of volunteerlawyers, in fact, who identified the prisoners facing this punishment,and took up their cases. So far they have saved four women and one man;the sentence of another woman has been temporarily stayed.
The courage of these activists is breathtaking; several are currently underindictment for participating in a demonstration in support of women'srights. You can sign Stop Stoning Forever's online petition here.
Women Living Under Muslim laws has more information about the StopStoning campaign, and a sample letter about the case of the Kabirisisters.
Hillary Clinton is smart, energetic, immensely knowledgeable, and, as she likes to say, hard-working. I've been appalled by the misogynous vitriol (and mean-girl snark) aimed against her. If she is the nominee I will work my heart out for her.
But right now, I'm supporting Barack Obama. On domestic politics, their differences are small-- I'm with her on health care mandates, and with him on driver's licences for undocumented immigrants; both would probably be equally good on women's rights, abortion rights and judicial appointments. But on foreign policy Obama seems more enlightened, as in less bellicose. Maybe Hillary Clinton's refusal to say her Iraq vote was wrong shows that she has neo-con sympathies; maybe she simply believes that any admission of error would tar her as weak. But we already have a warlike president who refuses to admit making mistakes, and look how that's turned out. The election of Barack Obama would send a signal to the world that the United States is taking a different tack.
When Obama won Iowa, I was surprised that I was glad. Much as I would love to pull the lever for a woman president -- a pro-choice Democratic woman president, that is --I realized at that moment how deeply unthrilled I was by the prospect of a grim vote-by-vote fight for the 50 percent+1 majority in a campaign that would rehearse all the old, (yes, mostly bogus or exaggerated) scandals and maybe turn up some new ones too. I wasn't delighted to think success would mean four more years of Bill Clinton either, or might come at the price of downticket losses, as many red-state Democrats fear. Democrats have nominated plenty of dutiful public servants over the years -- Humphrey, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry . They have always lost (or in Gore's case, not won by enough to not lose). Obama may not be as progressive as we wish over here at The Nation-- and maybe someday we can have a serious conversation about why Edwards' economic populism, promoted for years by important voices at the magazine, was such a bust. But Obama is a candidate in a different mold. He's a natural politician who connects with people as Hillary Clinton, for whatever reason, just doesn't, and appeals to the better angels of their nature. He sparks an enthusiasm in people--independents, the young, the previously disengaged. An Obama victory could have big positive repercussions for progressive politics.
I usually resist words like "hope" and "change." But with Supertuesday barely 36 hours away what I think is, let's go with the charismatic candidate this time. Let's go with the candidate voters feel some passion about. Let's say goodbye to the Clintons and have some new people make history.
Plenty of feminists support Obama, by the way. for example Kate Michelman, former head of NARAL, and Ellen Bravo of Nine to Five. I signed a letter from " New York Feminists for Peace and Barack Obama." Other signers include the historians Linda Gordon, Alice Kessler Harris and Ros Baxandall; the sociologist Judith Stacey; the political scientist Ros Petchesky,and writers Margo Jefferson and Meredith Tax. You can read it and, if you are a New York feminist, sign it, here .
With advice and counsel from the History in Action e-mail list, I wrote up the Open Letter below to protest the way the media slanders the women's movement as indifferent to the human rights of women in the developing and/or Muslim world. Fact: it's feminists who first identified atrocities against women around the world--female genital mutilation, forced marriage, child marriage, spousal violence, rape-- as violations of human rights, not family matters or customs of no state importance. It is feminists who have consistently pushed for women's rights to education, health care, and legal and social equality and who've pushed organizations from the UN to Amnesty International to broaden their perspective to include women's rights to be free from violence and coercion. "Women's rights are human rights" was not a slogan dreamed up by David Horowitz or Christina Hoff Sommers.
In only four days, the Open Letter has gathered 700 signatures. it's been signed by people from all walks of life and every part of the country: writers, scholars, students, activists, leaders of feminist organizations and global health organizations, doctors, nurses, kindergarten teachers, clergypeople, stay-home mothers and so on and on--to say nothing of a whole bunch of people who simply describe themselves as "feminist."
If you'd like to sign, send your name to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure include how you would like to be identified; for example, writer, professor (with department and university), activist, astronaut, parent, movie star. if you are active with a feminist/progressive or global organization or NGO, that would be a good thing to mention. I would like the list to show that all sorts of women, and men, are feminists and how many are actively working for women's human rights. And yes, men can sign!
An Open Letter from American Feminists
Columnists and opinion writers from The Weekly Standard to the Washington Post to Slate have recently accused American feminists of focusing obsessively on minor or even nonexistent injustices in the United States while ignoring atrocities against women in other countries, especially the Muslim world. A number of reasons are given for this supposed neglect: narcissism, ideological rigidity, reflexive anti-Americanism, fear of seeming insensitive or even racist. Yet what is the evidence for this apparently now broadly accepted claim that feminists don't support the struggles of women around the globe? It usually comes down to a quick scan of the home page of the National Organization for Women's website, observing that a particular writer hasn't covered a particular outrage, plus a handful of quotes wrenched out of context.
In fact, as a bit of research would easily show, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of US feminist organizations involved in promoting women's rights and well-being around the globe--V-Day, Equality Now, MADRE, the Global Fund for Women, the International Women's Health Coalition and Feminist Majority, to name some of the most prominent. (The National Organization for Women itself has a section on its website devoted to global feminism, on which it denounces a wide array of practices including female genital mutilation (FGM), "honor" murder, trafficking, dowry deaths and domestic violence). Feminists at Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations have moved those organizations to add the rights of women and girls to their agenda. Feminist magazines and blogs--Ms. magazine, Feministing.com, Salon.com's Broadsheet column, womensenews.com (which has an edition in Arabic)--as well as feminist reporters and commentators in the mainstream media, regularly report on and condemn outrages against women wherever they occur, from rape, battery and murder in the US to the denial of women's human rights in the developing or Muslim world.
As feminists, we call on journalists and opinion writers to report the true position of our movement. We believe that women's rights are human rights, and stand in solidarity with our sisters who are fighting for equal political, economic, social and reproductive rights around the globe. Specifically, contrary to the accusations of pundits, we support their struggle against female genital mutilation, "honor" murder, forced marriage, child marriage, compulsory Islamic dress codes, the criminalization of sex outside marriage, brutal punishments like lashing and stoning, family laws that favor men and that place adult women under the legal power of fathers, brothers, and husbands, and laws that discount legal testimony made by women. We strongly oppose the denial of education, health care and equal political and economic rights to women.
We reject the use of women's rights language to justify invading foreign countries. Instead, we call on the United States government to live up to its expressed commitment to women's rights through peaceful means. Specifically, we call upon it to:
--offer asylum to women and girls fleeing gender-based persecution, including female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and forced marriage;
--promote women's rights and well-being in all their foreign policy and foreign aid decisions;
--use its diplomatic powers to pressure its allies--especially Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive countries in the world for women--to embrace women's rights;
--drop the Mexico City policy--aka the "gag rule"--which bars funds for AIDS- related and contraception-related health services abroad if they provide abortions, abortion information, or advocate for legalizing abortion;
--generously support the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which supports women's reproductive health including safe maternity around the globe, and whose funding is vetoed every year by President Bush;
--become a signatory to The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the basic UN women's human rights document, now signed by 185 nations. The US is one of a handful of holdouts, along with Iran, Sudan, and Somalia.
Finally, we call upon the United States, and all the industrialized nations of the West, to share their unprecedented wealth, often gained at the expense of the developing world, with those who need it in such a way that women benefit.
Katha Pollitt, writer
Marge Piercy, writer
Susan Faludi, writer
Alix Kates Shulman, writer
Julianne Malveaux, president, Bennett College for Women
Anne Lamott, writer
Mary Gordon, writer
Linda Gordon, historian, NYU
Jennifer Baumgardner, writer
Ruth Rosen, historian
Jane Smiley, writer
Anna Fels,MD, psychiatrist and writer
Debra Dickerson, writer
Margo Jefferson, writer
Jessica Valenti, writer
Dana Goldstein, The American Prospect
Karen Houppert, writer
Gloria Jacobs, The Feminist Press
Carole Joffe, professor of sociology, UC Davis
Janet Afary, Middle East historian, Purdue University
And more than 700 more women and men.
Please add your name to this powerful list, and thanks.
Update: You can read the complete list of signatories to date here, and, of course, you're most welcome to sign the letter at any time.