Women candidates and money: Another double standard?

Lauren Martin

A woman can either be a prude or promiscuous. Too pretty or too masculine. A shrew or a doormat. As women try to tip-toe somewhere in the middle, we find that one small move can send us plunging straight into one of the extremes.

A woman can either be a prude or promiscuous. Too pretty or too masculine. A shrew or a doormat. As women try to tip-toe somewhere in the middle, we find that one small move can send us plunging straight into one of the extremes.

And of course, politics is not free of these dichotomies: Sarah Palin is hot. Hillary is mean. Martha Coakley is a Jezebel.

But lately I’ve noticed a new double standard arising: Women candidates either have too much money or not enough. money-bag

Let’s look at two different races: Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner running for U.S. Congress and Linda McMahon running for Senate in Connecticut. 

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From the beginning, Jennifer Brunner has been told she shouldn’t run
for Senate because she’s such a good Secretary of State. They need her
there. This is one of the most classically lame “reasons” given to
women as to why they shouldn’t run for higher office. 

On top of that, she’s now being assaulted by her own party about her fundraising. Bob Menendez of the DSCC is threatening not to support her
until she raises more money—despite the fact that many are saying she’s
the only hope for a Democratic win (Lee Fisher reportedly lost his last
two campaigns, despite outraising his opponent).

Unfortunately, we all know that fundraising is a necessary component
of political campaigns. (That’s a whole different rant for a different
day). However, I have to ask—would Menendez be pulling support from the
more viable male candidate who wasn’t raising as much as his
less-viable opponent?

Now let’s look at Linda McMahon. The former chief executive of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), she apparently has too much money.
Though hundreds of male candidates have self-funded their way to
elected office, McMahon is being accused of trying to buy the seat.

Again, all personal feelings about campaign financing aside, I have
to say that it’s nice to finally see a successful woman using her
wealth to run for office. Men have been doing it for decades, so for
better or for worse, seeing a woman have that same ability gives me
some sense of satisfaction.

But I do wonder what kind of double standard women in politics will
face next. I’m sure 2010 will unfold some new gems for us, as well as
reignite some old classics.

Cross-posted from Women and Politics.org.

Commentary Human Rights

Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation—A Public Health and Cultural Perspective

Dr. Belkis Giorgis

Culture is one of the most sensitive aspects of people’s lives, particularly as it relates to sexual and reproductive behavior, attitudes, and norms. Therefore, when we talk about female circumcision (I still cannot call it mutilation), we should always look at this cultural practice as one of many good and bad things that happen to women universally, and not only to African women but women worldwide.

Cross-posted with permission from the Global Health Impact blog.

I was circumcised when I was eighty days old, as is the tradition in Ethiopia. My sister was three. My mother had tried to spare us, but her aunt discovered that we were not circumcised and took it upon herself to have us circumcised.

Years later, I asked my aunt why she did it. Her response was not defensive. On the contrary, she responded very matter-of-fact: My sister and I were circumcised so that we could find a husband, have children, and become women. This is the cultural ideology that most Ethiopian women believed at that time, and unfortunately, that many still adhere to in the 21st century—an ideology and practice that is detrimental to a woman’s health.

Female genital circumcision alters or causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. There are no health benefits for girls. On the contrary, the procedure can lead to severe bleeding, infections, and problems urinating, during sexual intercourse, and complications in childbirth, as well as later cysts and increased risk of newborn deaths—not to mention the severe pain and shock of the procedure.

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As a person working in the area of public health, I believe that the eradication of female circumcision is a priority for girls in Africa. In the 1980s, the issue of female circumcision was brought to light in the western world. As a young African feminist, I wrote and argued for not using the term mutilation when describing female circumcision. I argued this because I did not see my mother or my aunt as people who mutilated me, but as people who allowed the act to be performed out of ignorance, love, and compelling cultural traditions. They felt that for me to be a woman, to have children, and to find a husband, I had to undergo this operation. During that time, the sensationalism around these issues also made feminists and pan-Africanists like me believe that a double standard was being used in defining, denying, and indicting our culture.This is precisely why I pose this food for thought regarding the use of the term mutilation: from my cultural lens, for example, a woman who gets breast implants belongs to a culture that glorifies a woman’s youth and beauty in such a way that it forces some women to resort to operations – like breast augmentation – that are not necessary. But then again, it is hardly ever said that a woman mutilates herself when she gets breast implants …

Culture is one of the most sensitive aspects of people’s lives, particularly as it relates to sexual and reproductive behavior, attitudes, and norms.

Therefore, when we talk about female circumcision (I still cannot call it mutilation), we should always look at this cultural practice as one of many good and bad things that happen to women universally, and not only to African women but women worldwide. The manifestations of this culture are varied and the interpretation we give to each of them should be informed by a respect to how people view their culture and that of others.

While I vehemently fight for the elimination of this culture, as one who has been a victim of it and a public health professional, I challenge readers and those of us working to eradicate this practice to view it within the larger framework of how women suffer from different forms of oppression in the name of culture throughout the world – as the recent United Nations ban on Female Genital “Mutilation” articulates. The ban is a significant milestone towards the ending of harmful practices and violations that constitute serious threats to the health of women and girls. It is a very important step to bringing about cultural and attitudinal change: we cannot hide behind our cultural traditions to defend practices that harm women. On the other hand, we also cannot judge and indict people who in the name of culture perform acts out of ignorance and a lack of understanding of the harm such practices have on women.

As we commemorate International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital “Mutilation”/Cutting, we must continue to work toward eradicating the practice—even as we push toward culturally appropriate descriptions and intervention—and improving the health of women and girls in all parts of the world.

Follow LMG at @LMGforHealth and MSH at @MSHHealthImpact

Repro-Briefs: The Lesser-Noticed Abortion Battles

Robin Marty

Wisconsin still can't get emergency contraception to rape victims, Florida tries to get judges to tell pregnant teenagers they should give their babies up for adoption and more stories that went under the radar.

Mandatory ultrasounds, fetal pain bills, and ridiculous waiting periods.  We watched a lot of anti-choice legislation get passed in the 2010 session, but here are a few losses and victories that may have been missed among the more headline-grabbing fights for reproductive choice.

North Dakota

It’s been a while since the Dakotas have had a ballot measure to get them fired up against abortion.  That appears to be the plan with the recently introduced “Skull Crushing and Decapitation Ban Act.”  The ban is an effort to save a “living unborn child,” according to the initiative petition, and has such wonderfully vague language as:

1. “Decapitation” means serious bodily injury in which a person uses any instrument or procedure to grasp the skull or neck of a living unborn child for the purpose of separating the skull from the neck

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2. “Skull Crushing” means seriously bodily injury in which a person uses any instrument or procedure to grasp the skull of a living unborn child for the purpose of compressing or collapsing the skull in a life-endangering manner.

that it could likely be applied to almost any procedure that isn’t a medical abortion.

The Secretary of State approved the proposed petition, which now needs approximately 13,000 valid local registered voter signatures to make it onto the ballot.

Wisconsin

Although Wisconsin has some terrific programs in place like Compassionate Care and now the Healthy Youth Initiative, getting them implemented properly can still be a problem.  Compassionate Care, a program to ensure victims of sexual assault have access to emergency contraception, was passed two years ago, but it appears some hospitals still aren’t getting with the program, according to the Wisconsin Radio Network.

Emergency contraception is still not available at all Wisconsin hospitals, according to a new survey. Two years after Compassionate Care for Rape Victims became law, a survey by the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health finds twenty-two percent of state hospitals are not complying.

“We weren’t totally surprised that many hospitals were lacking resources they needed, to truly comply with the law,” says the Alliance’s Sara Finger. “It just goes to show that there’s more work to be done, to educate and empower hospitals.”

Sara Finger with the Alliance says they’re distributing a comprehensive compliance tool kit to every emergency room and sexual assault nurse examiner in the state to help overcome a lack of resources. Other hospitals continue to object to the law, citing “provider beliefs.” Finger says that’s a matter for education. “The AMA, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Public Health Association, the AMA, all agree that emergency contraception is the standard of care to provide a rape victim in preventing a pregnancy from her attacker.”

South Carolina

Still, we do get to find some small victories here and there.  In South Carolina, an attempt to pass a personhood amendment via bureaucratic hocus pocus after it had been stalled in the legislature got completely shut down, with even Republican leaders chastising the maneuvering.

The Senate put turned back a bid Tuesday to bring anti-abortion legislation to debate on the Senate floor – an effort by an Upstate Republican to bypass stalled hearings at both the subcommittee and full committee levels.

The action, led by Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, stalled Senate business, delaying final passage of a cigarette tax increase to 50 cents a pack.

Bright, who has emerged as the Senate’s most vocal opponent of abortion rights, tried to force a vote on bypassing the committee hearings.

“This is one of those gotcha votes,” McConnell protested. “You’re for abortion or you’re against it.”

Bright said he took the step because his bill, S450, which seeks to establish fetal personhood, was introduced in February 2009 but had not yet come up for debate.

“Never debating the cause – I don’t see how that helps,” Bright said.

An irritated Senate president pro-tempore Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, blasted the move, however, which he said not only breaks Senate procedure, but also would wind up costing the state money.

“It is unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution,” said McConnell, an attorney. “Let me tell you what he is trying to push on us: This bill would make a doctor guilty of manslaughter or murder if it goes forward.”

McConnell, who described himself as “pro-life,” scolded Bright for attempting to change U.S. law established by the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case, by passing a conflicting state law.

McConnell also blasted Bright for attempting to force senators either to support that effort or look as if they favor abortions.

Florida

Much attention is still on Florida for passing a new restrictive mandatory ultrasound bill.  But one thing that went mostly unnoticed was a push for more onerous rules around judicial bypass for parental consent, including only being able to go to your local judge, a higher level of evidence to prove the teen is “mature enough” and host of waiting roadblocks intended to, among other things, delay the teen until she is too pregnant to obtain the abortion itself or force her to have a more invasive procedure.

The best part?  This add on measure from the committee:

The House Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Committee added a measure to mandate a judge determine whether a minor is aware of the “shortage of unborn babies available for adoption.” It passed 11-4, but defied party lines with a moderate Republican and a Catholic Democrat switching sides.

Happily, the Florida senate killed the proposed new regulations.

A controversial bill to expand parental notification for abortion appears dead this session after the Senate Health Regulation Committee failed to consider the measure Monday. It is still moving in the House, so critics are careful not to celebrate yet.

But it’s the legislation’s supporters who are throwing in the towel — and blaming bill sponsor Sen. Andy Gardiner.

In an e-mail titled “UNBELIEVABLE,” the Christian Family Coalition said Gardiner “ran out on his bill” and “lost all credibility” with supporters. He left the room before it was considered and asked committee Chairman Don Gaetz to postpone it. The committee won’t meet again this session.

“This is the biggest act of COWARDICE that I have seen a public official display in all of my years in statewide politics, he didn’t even have the decency to stay in the committee hearing room and postpone his own bill,” said Anthony Verdugo, the founder of Christian Family Coalition in a statement. “Someone needs to get the message to Gardiner that politics is a contact sport and NOT for the faint at heart!”

Not for the faint of heart, sure. But it’s nice to see some politicians remembering to have a heart at all.

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