Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Women's Equality Day at the Democratic National Convention

Yesterday, August 26, was Women's Equality Day, commemorating the 88th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote in the United States. At the Democratic National Convention, women were all over a program which included near-miss presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius, Arizona governor Janet Napolitano (whom I can't help but confuse with Concrete Blonde singer Johnette Napolitano), and equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter. Despite the preponderance of powerful, successful women and their heartfelt speechifying, there was plenty of evidence that equal rights for women aren't yet a reality.

Lilly Ledbetter at DNC

Ledbetter's case is particularly discouraging. Over 20 years of solid, hard work at Goodyear Tire, she was consistently paid less than male peers for the same work. Upon discovering the discrepancy, she filed a suit which she won at the District Court level, but lost on Supreme Court appeal. The Supreme Court decision that equal pay lawsuits must be filed within 6 months of the offense, not the discovery of the offense, essentially protects all employers from liability for discriminatory practices. Employees are prohibited from knowing what their peers are paid, so how can they know about discrepancies in time to file a lawsuit? This case was one of the very worst examples of how the Bush presidency has destroyed the Judicial branch. A House bill to rectify this egregious pandering to corporate interests was killed in the Senate. Congratulations ladies (and men - anyone can suffer discrimination), you officially have no recourse.

Kathleen Sebelius at DNC

Another disgusting example of entrenched sexism was provided by the commentary surrounding Sebelius' speech. A few weeks back, Kathleen Sebelius was the subject of much speculation as a possible Vice Presidential candidate on the Obama ticket. On broadcasts today, it was accepted as given that she could not have been selected because the choice of another woman would offend Hillary Clinton and her supporters. This is probably true, and if so it is genuinely appalling and reactionary behavior by so-called feminists. To promote the stereotype that women won't support other women in the professional realm, and that there can only be one token woman in a leadership position in any organization, is entirely counterproductive. Between this and the P.U.M.A. morons, die-hard Clinton supporters are poised to set women's rights back by decades. News flash - equal rights sometimes means an equal right to come in second, not preferential treatment when it suits you and equality the rest of the time. These self-righteous and spiteful characters definitely fall into the "won't you just die already?" category.

Hillary Rodham Clinton at the DNC

Finally, it bears noting that Bill Clinton - with his peevish, over-macho posturing with respect to Barack Obama - continues not to do his wife any favors politically. She spent decades grooming and nurturing him into the highest office in the land, stood by him when his megalomaniacal sexual deviancy got him in heaps of trouble, and this is how she is repaid. Why she and her class act of a daughter haven't kicked him to the curb is beyond me.

At least one ongoing thorn in my side seems to have resolved. It never ceased to bug me throughout the primaries when commentators would refer to Candidate Clinton as "Hillary" while referring to Candidate Obama as "Obama." It's not as though we were going to suddenly confuse her with Bill - and using her first name was a means for her opponents to undermine her seriousness as a viable candidate. She fell prey to that one herself, emphasizing "Hillary" in a strange attempt to disassociate herself from her churlish husband. It didn't help her cause.

Anyway, it appears that Obama supporters have belatedly leveled that playing field, as throughout the day I heard him referred to quite casually as "Barack." Oh, for a glimmer of post-gendered hope!


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