Women in Politics: Well-behaved and mostly scandal-free

By Vinesha Rice

Image from Flickr

For some time now, men have been the perpetrators of most of the political sex scandals reported by the media. In an article posted in the New York Times, Michigan Representative Candice Miller raised an intriguing point: “Female politicians rarely get caught up in sex scandals.” If you take a moment to think about this, you’ll notice that there is some truth to this statement. These scandals may just be instances of men behaving badly and the media taking advantage of a public figure misbehaving. But the fact remains, women are less likely to get caught in these situations. 

The article suggests an interesting difference between men and women in politics: “women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody… Women run because there is some public issue that they care about, some change they want to make… and men tend to run for office because they see this as a career path.” Women respect the power that their political position gives them to make change happen; therefore, they are less likely to do something that would remove them from that position or diminish that power. Some men, however, see political power as a personal tool and way to get ahead. Although, this idea should not be generalized to all men in politics (and I’m sure there are many well-meaning, crusaders-for-the-good, male politicians out there) this statement speaks to power differences between men and women. Men in political office (as well as other high powered careers) automatically have power. Women in political office (or other high powered career), have to prove it. As the article suggests, women in powerful positions still have to prove that they are qualified for the position they hold.  They have to work harder and make careful decisions because of the constant scrutiny and the expectation to fail. This makes women more conscious of what other’s think about them; therefore, they are less likely to do anything embarrassing or scandalous.

What this can also mean is that women in powerful political positions make more careful and conscious decisions; thus making them better decision-makers. Some men in politics, as the recent news has shown, have clearly made some bad decisions lately. And aren’t these folks supposed to be making important decisions on our beahlf as our public servants? So when it comes to our public interests, wouldn’t you rather have someone in place that respects her political power and makes careful, conscious decisions, than someone whose loose consideration for the power he holds can result in bad decisions that can land him in the middle of an embarrassing sex scandal that ultimately distracts him from doing the job he was elected to do?

Should Women Become Doctors?

image from Flickr

By Patsy Campos

Because women have traditionally been the primary caretakers of their families, work/life balance is always a challenge. In a recent editorial, Dr. Karen Sibert argues that in the medical profession (especially for doctors), women may find it harder to actually find a balance between their home life and their medical practice.  She advises women to seriously consider their career choice before even going to medical school. 

Dr. Sibert feels that because so many women doctors are choosing to work part-time or leave the medical profession altogether due to family demands, the United States is on its way to a doctor shortage. She thinks that many women need to be more committed to their careers as doctors because, unlike other careers, doctors are responsible for the lives of their patients; therefore, they are always needed. Dr. Sibert’s claims are backed by studies that show that there has been an increase in the number of doctors who work only part-time or who leave the medical profession. Moreover, most of those doctors have been women. Besides the commitment doctors have to their patients, Dr. Sibert also feels that doctors have a responsibility to taxpayers whose taxes subsidize the medical schools and teaching hospitals that educate and train them.

Dr. Sibert’s article has received many comments on this issue, both in her support and opposing her. In every profession working women are challenged with balancing family life and work life, but the medical profession may be one that makes finding this balance more challenging for women doctors.  Should women doctors put more commitment into their careers and patients than their families? Or is it possible for a woman doctor to have both a successful career and a happy family? I think that, for years, men have been able to have successful careers as doctors, and women should be able to do the same. Whether her success is defined as a full-time doctor/part-time mother, part-time doctor/ full-time mother, or any combination of the two, it is an individual choice for a woman to make both aspects (work and family) fit into her life. Furthermore, she should be able to make this choice without being judged about her commitment to her career or to her family.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Employer

Image from Google Images

By Patsy Campos

In the workplace, racism and sexism are discriminatory offenses that can result in time-consuming lawsuits that draw an employer much unwanted media attention.  Women often fall victim to discriminatory behavior that may include being passed up for promotions or not receiving equal pay for the same work that men do. One such case involves the largest sex discrimination case in America between Walmart and several female employees. But another form of discrimination that often gets unnoticed in the workplace is “lookism.”

“Lookism” is discrimination or prejudice of others based on physical appearance.  A recent article in USA Today reports on the effects of lookism in the workplace and describes cases where women have felt discriminated against because of their appearance. One case involved a woman who was denied a Jazzercise franchise because she did not appear “fit.”  In another case, a woman was fired from her job as a casino bartender because she did comply with company policy that required her to wear make-up.  The women in these cases felt discriminated and took action against the companies they worked for. Although the issues were resolved, neither of the employers fully admitted to any discrimination. It is often difficult to prove that employers are discriminating based on looks and technically this form of discrimination does not fall under protected class; therefore, private employers are well within their rights to create vague policy based on appearance. But that doesn’t make it right, and often, employee appearance standards have some underlying racism or illegal discrimination to them.

What lookism does in the workplace is create an environment of the have’s and have not’s. According to the article, a recent analysis found that workers with below-average looks tend to earn significantly less (about 9% less) than above-average-looking employees.  Another study found that an increase in a woman’s body mass results in a decrease in her family income and her job prestige. These studies show that employees with the “right looks” get the bigger paychecks, the better jobs, and more respect. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then at some companies, the beholder also controls how far a woman can go and how much she can earn.

Women already have much going against them in the workplace. Sexism and racism still make it difficult for them to crack that glass ceiling. Lookism just adds another barrier as women try to achieve full equity on the job.

Movimiento Machista Colombiano (Male Chauvinist Colombian Movement)

By Maritza Gordillo

Image c/o Flickr.com

A recent news report on the Spanish channel Univision focused on a group of Colombian men forming a movement called, Movimiento Machista Colombiano (Male Chauvinist Colombian Movement). The group’s founder, Beto Barreto, wanted to start this political movement to defend the rights of the machistas. Barreto says he has seen many incidents in which men have been arrested for raping their wives, and he believes this punishment is ridiculous because there is no such thing as rape within a marriage; it is a woman’s obligation to attend to all of her husband’s needs. To be considered as a member in the movement, the Machos must have more than one woman at a time and cannot have a woman trying to sue him for rape or other abuses since that supposedly shows his incompetency at dominating his wife or partner. Barreto compares the absolute dominance he has over a horse to how men should dominate their women. One of his former followers, Otoniel Castañeda, gave an even more illogical comparison of women and dogs. Castañeda thinks that women should take care of the children and dogs are used to guard the home. Because of Barreto’s troubling belief in extreme masculinity, it comes to no surprise that during his political crusade there were two laws that he wanted to implement:

1. Men should not be held responsible for paying child support to their ex-wives, or give their ex-wives any amount of income to sustain them.

2. Adultery should not be punishable for men, but should be punishable for women.

These are just a couple of the gender-offensive laws Barreto proposed if he were to be elected for a position in which he fortunately did not win, but received an astonishing 8,000 votes. It is hard to believe that excessively sexist beliefs like this still exist and that many Colombian women continue to abide by Machos’ rules out of fear. Even though there are laws that protect these women, the fear of physical and psychological abuse keeps these women silent. According to Sonia Bernal, a lawyer and advocate of women’s rights in Colombia, this type of machismo originates from mothers who raise their children to have this mentality. Bernal says that mothers teach their sons that women should be hit in order for them to obey and that young girls are not autonomous beings, but are dependents of men. Barreto would agree with this child-rearing practice when he asserts that women should be hit in order to learn not to commit the same mistake again. Watching this news report was shocking because ignorant ideologies like these are what aid the continued violence towards women.

The Man Box

By Devon White

In a recent TED video, Tony Porter discusses what it means — for men, women, sons, and daughters —when the social pressure of masculinity confines men.

“Growing up as a boy, we were taught that men had to be tough, had to be strong, had to be courageous, dominating — no pain, no emotions, with the exception of anger — and definitely no fear — that men are in charge, which means women are not; that men lead, and you should just follow and do what we say; that men are superior, women are inferior; that men are strong, women are weak; that women are of less value —property of men — and objects, particularly sexual objects” (“Tony Porter: A call to men“).

Porter gives these common socializations the moniker “The Man Box,” which contains all of the stereotypical, hyper-masculinized ways in which men are expected to behave and how those same expectations say volumes about how little our society values women and femininity. In this revealing speech, Porter shares a personal discussion that he had with a young athlete about how it would hypothetically feel if his football coach compared his playing skill to that of a girl in front of his teammates. The athlete responded that, “It would destroy me.” Porter draws a clear conclusion that if being compared to a girl would destroy this young man, what does it say about how our society views women’s worth?

In order for men to be active feminists, we must look inside ourselves to understand how our male privilege impacts how we value the women in our lives. Men need to peer inside of Porter’s “Man Box” and deconstruct the trappings of masculinity and the role it plays in women’s equity.

You can watch the entire TED video here. (Trigger warning: at about the 9-minute mark, there is a story about a sexual assault.)

“TEDWomen-Tony Porter: A call to men.” Tony Porter: A call to men | Video on TED.com. Web. 23 Apr 2011.

No Wage Gap?

Equal Pay Day 2011

By Patsy Campos

Equal Pay Day was last Tuesday, April 12th. The Women’s Center, UMKC Career Services, The Department of Labor, and the EEOC co-sponsored the tabling event.  Equal Pay Day symbolizes the amount of work women have to do to earn as much as men did the year before.  However, a Wall Street Journal article asserts that, “there is no male-female wage gap” and that women actually earn about 8% more than men.  A  study done in 2010, conducted by the research firm Reach Advisors, included childless 22 to 30 year olds in their study and concluded that women earned 8% more than men.  Is this a reliable study if it generalizes families and young people? 

According to The Department of Labor’s Time Use survey, men work 8.75 hours a day while women work 8.01 hours a day and that also accounts for the pay difference since men are working 9% more than women.  There is also a correlating tendency for women to work in low-risk jobs which include greater flexibility and less dangerous working conditions.  In contrast, men are more likely to work in more physically demanding and dangerous jobs.  Men are willing to deal with these hazards to make more money, but some people may still not be convinced.  The next time you analyze the gender wage gap, it is important to make sure that you also consider the variety of factors (i.e. gender, education, parenthood and job climate) which incorporate into wage differences.

National Equal Pay Day

By Patsy Campos

The purpose of Equal Pay Day on April 12th is to bring national awareness about the pay gap between men and women. Today’s date symbolizes the amount of work women have to do in 2011 in order to make the same pay as men in 2010. The average pay gap is not getting close enough. Women make $0.79 cents out of every dollar men make. The amount of education and experience are factors that can hinder a woman from making equal pay as men. According to the National Organization for Women (NOW), “even men working in female-dominated occupations tend to earn more than women working in those same occupations.” Despite this, there are still critics who think women should make less because of women’s family obligations while the opposite holds true for men.

There will be an Equal Pay Day table today, April 12th, from 11 am – 1 pm in Royall Hall. The table is sponsored by UMKC Women’s Center and UMKC Career Services. There will be information available about Equal Pay Day and about women in careers. There will also be an employer from Commerce Bank offering an employer’s perspective on pay issues and how women should approach negotiating pay. Join us today to spread the word about Equal Pay Day and find out ways to close the gender pay gap because income equity makes good cents!

For more information, contact the Women’s Center at umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu or 816.235.1638.

Who Does She Think She Is?

"Following Chicken George," by Nedra Bonds

By Arzie Umali

Last night about 150 people gathered at the Event Space at JavaPort in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District for a private opening of the group art exhibit Who Does She Think She Is?  Artists, patrons, supporters and friends of the UMKC Women’s Center enjoyed live music by local musician Elaine McMillian, spoken word performances by Cheri Woods and “MissConception” and dance performances by the group Assemblé.  They also got a sneak preview of the exhibit that officially opens tonight for First Fridays and features artwork by 26 local female artists.

The exhibit is part of the UMKC Women’s Center’s Her Art Project, a series of programs that strive to bring equity to women who work in all disciplines of artistic expression. By asking the question Who Does She Think She Is? the art exhibit hopes to recognize women for their artistic achievements and to  raise awareness to the unique challenges that women face as they try to meet the demands of family, careers, and artistic fulfillment.  Other Her Art Project events taking place in the month of April include a panel discussion about balancing work and life with creative careers at the KC Public Library on April 12 and an Artist Salon addressing the state of women in the arts in Kansas City on April 27.  More information about these programs and the Her Art Project can be found on the Her Art Project Website

Please support Kansas City’s women artists by stopping by the First Friday opening tonight at the Event Space at JavaPort, 208 W. 19th St. from 6 – 9 pm. If you can’t make it tonight, the exhibit will be up through May 13 with another First Friday opening on May 6.

Sexist Solutions

By Maritza Gordillo

Image c/o Flickr.com

Officials in Frederick County, Maryland were voting on a possible elimination in local funds for the well-known Head Start program for children who come from low-income families. This proposal raised worries and frustration for parents, but parents were not only worried because of the cut in funds, but also furious with the sexist solutions and remarks made by some elected officials. Paul Smith and Kirby Delauter, both commissioners in Frederick County, suggested that women should stay home and take care of children instead of sending them to school, thus saving money. Smith says, “My wife stayed home at significant sacrifice during those early years because she knew she had to be with those kids at that critical age.” Delauter agreed with Smith, stating, “My wife, college educated, could go out and get a very good job, she gave that up for 18 years so she could stay home with our kids.”

Many argue that the commissioners’ comments and suggestions were very sexist and ignorant because a woman has just as much right to get an education and have a career as men do. Maybe these individuals were privileged to sustain their families on a single income and have their wives stay at home if that was their choice, but for Smith to assert that, “the mother’s role is primarily in the home…,” does not mean he can generalize and assume that every mother is mandated to be a house wife. Smith and Delauter fail to consider women who live on a single income and do not have the luxury of staying at home with their kids. Why do many people assume that mothers should forego their careers to stay at home and be the primary caregiver of the family?

It’s Here…Feminist Coming Out Day 2011!

By Caleb Files

Today is Feminist Coming Out Day (FCOD), which is also the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. The UMKC Women’s Center has had the opportunity to team with the National FCOD Team to bring this event to UMKC. The student staff presented this event to the campus community in the form of tabling this past week. Maritza and I got T-shirts and buttons, the digital camera and Women’s Center paraphernalia together and set out to let the campus know that Feminists are everywhere! The responses were mixed, from those who were totally against the idea to the two males who approached the table with enthusiasm and asked how they could purchase their “kick-a** shirts.” It was very interesting to me to see some women who completely agreed with all of our talking points yet when we asked them if they would self-identify as a feminist their response was one of negativity. These women seem to have strong religious values, which could be one of the reasons they were so scared to self-identify. However, there are indeed religious feminists and non-religious women who don’t identify as feminists.

It was great to see the outpouring of support by students and staff alike. Students were interested and Staff were excited to see our campus advocating a topic that they considered “outside of the box” and “daring” for us to approach on campus. If you would like to participate you still have time! The UMKC Women’s Center will be promoting this event throughout the month and we still have FCOD T-shirts available for sale. Feel free to send your picture and a small blurb of why you are a feminist to our e-mail: umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu.