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1/10/1997 - Ellen Producers Working on Outing Episode
Producers for the television show Ellen have confirmed that they are working on a show revealing that the main character, Ellen, is a lesbian. The producers have not, however, made a final determination as to whether or not that show will air. Jamie Tarses, president of ABC entertainment, said on January 8, 1997 that it's "wait-and-see" on whether ABC will air the episode. Tarses told reporters at the semiannual Television Critics Association meeting that, "We are very seriously considering about going in the direction that everyone's speculating on." The show will go off the air in March and April and will return in May.
1/10/1997 - Virginia State Senator Claims Men in Military Training Can't Keep themselves from Sexually Harassing Women
Warren E. Barry, a 63-year-old Republican Fairfax, Virginia Senator has claimed that the Virginia Military Institute should not admit women because the coexistence of women and women in the military inevitably results in sexual harassment. Barry also commented that admitting the women will overburden courts already flooded with sexual harassment suits. Senator Janet Howell, a Democratic Senator from Fairfax responded to Barry’s comments by saying that, "It's hard not to be offended when someone insults your gender and they try to limit your potential...the [teenage Senate pages] are coming up to me and saying they couldn't believe he said what he did." Former State Senator Emilie F. Miller pointed out that only 30% of graduates from military institutes go on to careers in the Armed Services and said, "The only barrier is the intellectual one, which is, men are scared that when women go in there, they are going to best them intellectually."
Two women Citadel cadets and their families who alleged that the women were hazed during their first semester at the South Carolina school met with a federal judge on January 8, 1997. Federal Judge C. Weston Houck is overseeing the integration of four women cadets into the formerly all-male Citadel met privately with the women and families to discuss security if they return to the school. He assured them that, "We will be able to put into place some reasonable measures to make sure it's likely they won't come to harm."
New research, conducted in Denmark, shows that women who have early-term abortions are not more likely to get breast cancer than women who do not have abortions. In the largest study of the relationship between abortion and breast cancer to date, a study, published in the January 8, 1997 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, reviewed all cases of breast cancer and abortion in Denmark among 1.5 million women born between 1935 and 1978. Early studies conflicted on whether or not abortions led to a risk of breast cancer. Those that did find a correlation were often criticized, however, because they relied on women disclosing their medical histories. Women who had already been diagnosed with breast cancer were more likely to disclose having had an abortion in the past. Therefore, the number of women who had abortions and breast cancer might seem artificially higher than those women who had breast cancer and did not have abortions. The Denmark study avoided such a discrepancy because all persons in Denmark receive medical identification numbers and have records with their entire medical history on them. Thus, the researchers went through files which accurately reflected all women's medical histories.
One of the eleven cadets suspended in alleged hazing against two female cadets at the Citadel has admitted to the harassment. The male cadet admitted to throwing fingernail polish remover on two of the four female cadets; the polish remover is a flammable substance and the women claim that their clothes were also set on fire. The cadet also admitted to threatening to cut one of the women's "heart out" if he ever saw her off campus. The FBI, school officials and South Carolina state police are all continuing their investigation of the hazing allegations. The two women, who have not reported being harassed, have corroborated some of the details of the other women's allegations.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who had earlier accepted an invitation to speak at a Delaware Boy and Girl's Club youth banquet, has withdrawn his offer to speak after the NAACP threatened to protest the speech. The NAACP issued a statement that Thomas was not a good role model for the youth, citing his opposition to affirmative action and other civil rights for people of color.
Madeleine Albright became the first woman on January 9, 1996 to go before a Senate Confirmation hearing to become U.S. Secretary of State. Secretary of State Warren Christopher introduced Albright by praising her as a "magnificent choice...master of the one-liner...[and]...Her contention that 'at times Warren Christopher seems almost lifelike.'" Albright emphasized that her priorities included human rights world-wide, an effective United Nations, and the continued involvement of the United States in world affairs. She commented, "We must be more than an audience, more even than actors. We must be the authors of the history of our age." Albright also pledged full cooperation with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Albright is expected to easily gain confirmation, perhaps as early as January 20.
1/8/1997 - Women Break Barriers in Japanese Workforce
Soon, a Japanese sport dominated by men for over 1,000 years will open up to women athletes. The sport is sumo wrestling, and women's entrance is an indicator of the move Japanese women are making into many different facets of Japanese work life. Most recently, Naomi Sakuma, 23, became the first woman to make it onto the floor of the Tokyo Securities Exchange as a trader and Kyoko Shimura became the first woman in more than 1,000 years to perform the sacred Knife Ceremony, relating to sushi, at the Hashirimizu temple. Japanese women are entering blue-collar jobs in increasing numbers; the Ministry of General Affairs states that women now fill approximately 30% of these jobs, representing an 11% increase in the last decade. Women in white-collar jobs, who have grown increasingly frustrated by an institutionalized glass ceiling, have left the corporate world to become entrepreneurs or specialists. However, Japanese women continue to face lower wages and continued expectations that they quit before they reach thirty so that they can marry and raise a family, forcing them into lower-paying track jobs.
Maribeth Graybill, a former art history professor at the University of California at Berkeley, has received a settlement of $113,000 after being denied tenure, allegedly because of her gender. The U.S. Department of Justice pursued the case on her behalf. Assistant Attorney General Deval L. Patrick commented that the settlement, "paints a clear picture for all employers that the Justice Department will not tolerate discrimination." UC Berkeley officials denied wrong-doing, citing their desire to avoid a lengthy trial as the reason for the settlement. In 1990, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had found sufficient evidence to warrant a sex bias suit and forwarded it to the Justice Department. Graybill, who is now a tenured professor at Swarthmore College, commented, "The impact of this ruling takes on special significance because it is the last in a series of cases brought by women against Berkeley, and every one of us won in one way or another."
Recently, the UC Berkeley has settled other sex bias suits. Margaretta M. Lovell won tenure at the art history department in 1992; Eleanor Swift won tenure at Boalt Hall Law School in 1989; Jenny Harrison was awarded tenure in the math department in 1993; and Marcy Wang won a $1 million settlement after claiming bias against her because she is an Asian woman.
The Catalyst Group has announced that it has awarded Allstate and Avon its annual prizes given to companies which work on the advancement of women. Paul Allaire, a member of the Catalyst board and the CEO of Xerox Corp. commented, "To win the Catalyst Award is to lead the nation in taking advantage of the rich talent now available." The Group looks at companies' senior management commitment to the advancement of women and their originality in meeting these criteria. Allstate Insurance accomplished these goals by setting and reaching diversity goals and by evaluating workers six months after they have taken diversity training. Women comprise 19% of corporate officers at Allstate compared to the 10% they comprise, on average, at the 500 largest U.S. Companies. Avon Mexico actively searches for qualified women in Mexico and reviews all employees annually to search for talent and track women's progress within the company. Women now make up 31% of top managers in Avon, as compared with 26% in 1993. Avon Mexico also supports breast cancer research, women's sports and cultural activities involving women outside of the company.
The awards will be presented by John F. Smith, chairperson of General Motors Corp., at a March 25, 1997 dinner.
Hearing arguments January 7, the U.S. Supreme Court concentrated most of its questioning in the United States vs. Laniersexual assault case on the "under the cover of law" aspect of the dispute. The question before the court is whether federal prosecutors can use a law which states that those working "under the cover of law" cannot harm someone else's bodily integrity to try sexual assault cases, i.e. does "bodily harm" include sexual assault. The law is most often used in civil rights trials to protect prisoners from abusive prison guards. Most recently, it was used to try police who abused Rodney King in Los Angeles. The Court spent most of its time, however, questioning the Justice Department as to whether or not Judge Lanier was acting in his official capacity as a judge when he assaulted the women, a point necessary to meet the law's "under the cover of law" requirement.
Judge Lanier had been convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison under the federal law after eight women accused him of assaulting them, in his chambers. Some women worked for him, and others had cases pending before him in his court at the time they were assaulted. One also alleged oral rape. Lanier was tried in federal court because his close connections to state prosecutors (of which his brother was one) and his family's strong political connections prevented an unbiased trial on the state level. An appeals court overturned his conviction on the grounds that sexual assault was not covered by the federal law's "bodily integrity" requirement. The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a ruling by this summer.
1/7/1997 - Women Make Slow Progress in Russian Politics
The traditional role of women as the family's backbone continues to dominate Russian society. Nonetheless, women are beginning to enter into the political and career-track doors as the country reshapes itself. Irina Khakamada, a rarity in that she is a female member of the Russian parliament and a political party leader, recently commented, "Politics is not a fair game, and gender is a great obstacle. But Russia is doomed to success. It will definitely, eventually, start accepting the values of the civilized world if it wants to avoid isolation." Another woman moving up Russia's political ranks, Galina Starovitova also commented that progress will be slow. "The current price of participation is just too high [for women]. For most of us, it is still a choice between a career and a family, because men here still expect their wives to cook dinner for them, and the 20 hour days of a politician do not allow that," Starovitova said. In the 450-seat Duma, there are 44 women (10%); in the 189-member upper house, only one woman serves (.5%); most recently, Yeltsin has not appointed any women to his top level posts.
A recent law enacted to curb the continuing spread of domestic violence has begun to affect police officers. The law makes it a crime for anyone convicted of domestic violence to carry a gun. Many officers who had been convicted of such a crime have been reassigned to desk positions which do not require the use of a gun. While some police groups and officers have criticized the law, many others continue to support the law as necessary for the protection of abuse victims. Dallas Police Chief Ben Click commented, "I don't want people on this police department that don't have the maturity or self-control that is necessary to do this job." Jan Langbeing, also of Dallas, who works with domestic abuse victims commented, "If my husband hits me, and I call the police, it doesn't affect his job at all. If my husband is a police officer and I know that they would also by involved, maybe I wouldn't make the call, maybe I'd stay in that violent home just a little bit longer.
In the past five years, Sports Illustrated's women readership has increased by fifteen percent and now constitutes more than five million women. To meet the demand of the new readers and of a society which is increasingly interested in women's athletics, Sports Illustrated will issue a female version of its popular sports magazine in April. It will print two editions in 1997 and decide based on response how many to issue in 1998 and beyond. The magazine will target the "Title IX Generation" - women who have grown up with legislation requiring that males and females they have equal access to sports in schools receiving federal funding. The magazine will cover the personalities and issues in female athletics.
An official familiar with the case of the woman who says she was raped by Dallas Cowboys Michael Irvin and Erik Williams told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that she had bruises consistent with rape. The doctors who examined her found bruises on the woman's back and thighs and found "vaginal bruising that's not consistent with voluntary sex." Police are still investigating the allegations
The rate of abortions in the United States in 1994 was the lowest reported since 1976. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has tracked abortions since 1972, reported that in 1994 21 of every 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 had an abortion. In 1976 there were 312 abortions per 1,000 live births; in 1994 there were 321 abortions per 1,000 births in the U.S. The Center did not cite causes for the apparent decline, but other groups have stated that the causes include: an increase of women between the ages of 35 and 44 who are less fertile; increased availability and effectiveness of birth control, resulting in fewer unwanted pregnancies; and reduced access to abortions.
The Citadel's interim president Clifton Poole announced on January 3 that the school would welcome a Congressional probe into allegations that female cadets were hazed. U.S. Representative Steve Buyer (R-IN) had raised the possibility of a Congressional probe after cadets Jeannie Mentavlos and Kim Messer reported being severely hazed by male cadets. The two women reportedly would like to return to classes for their second semesters, but they have not yet made a final decision.
On the evening of January 5, The Citadel's governing board voted unanimously to appoint John S. Grinalds to serve as the school's President. Grinalds is a retired Marine major general and West Point graduate who has most recently served as the headmaster for an all-male, non-military boarding school. Grinalds is a Rhodes Scholar with degrees from Oxford University and the Harvard Business School. Commenting on the hazing allegations, Grinalds said, "I'm not that concerned about the immediate problems the Citadel has. We can fix those. The answers to the problems are within the corps of cadets and the faculty and The Citadel will be able to address those and make it through this transition."
A study released in the fall of 1996 has found that during the 1994 genocide which left more than 500,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda dead, attackers also raped hundreds of thousands of women. Some were impregnated, some infected with AIDS, and others were sexually mutilated. The Rwandan government and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, however, has yet to charge a single war criminal with rape. Rene Degni-Segui, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Rwanda concluded in a 1996 report that rape was used as a partner to genocide. Member of the Hutu militia and soldiers of the Rwandan Armed Forces systematically raped women, "Rape was the rule and its absence the exception," stated the report. The study found that at the very least 250,000 cases of rape occurred during the genocide. Another report, issued by the New York-based Human Rights Watch/Africa, criticized the Rwanda Tribunal for failing to bring rape indictments. The new lead prosecutor for the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals, Louise Arbour, has vowed that rape prosecutions will occur, "It is definitely on the agenda. Maybe we haven't been sufficiently directed, but we have taken initiatives." Though international aid has poured $572 million into Rwanda to help victims, little of that money has been used to help women who comprise approximately 70 percent of the population.
1/6/1997 - Clemency Granted to Nine Battered Kentucky Women Raises Awareness of Domestic Violence in Legislature
In December 1995, then-Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones granted clemency to nine women convicted of murdering their abusive husbands and to a tenth woman convicted of manslaughter in the death of her husband (See Related Story). The clemency allowed the women to be paroled before they had served half of their prison sentences; subsequently the ten women were paroled. A year later, the parole board has released information on all of the women's current statuses. Seven of the women have steady jobs, one is enrolled in a vocational rehabilitation program and two others are receiving social security disability benefits. None of the women have violated any terms of their parole.
The women's release and their subsequent progress drew statewide attention to a law enacted to help victims of domestic abuse. The law holds that victims of domestic violence should have a special hearing to decide sentencing and parole. Despite the law, the ten women were never awarded such a hearing. When the Governor commuted their sentences, their supporters claimed that he did what others should have done for the women earlier, Kentucky Parole Board Chairwoman Helen Howard-Hughes commented, "I think the one thing we found was it was in the statutes, but a lot of people were not aware of it." Since the women's release, the General Assembly has passed a series of laws to help victims of domestic violence. For example, health and legal professionals are now required to receive training on domestic violence.
1/3/1997 - PBS Airs Abortion Pill Documentary
On January 3rd PBS will air, "The Abortion Pill". This documentary reviews the history of RU486 and the fight to introduce it into the United States. It looks at both sides of the issue in the continuing debate on abortion and the use of RU486. The show provides interviews with medical doctors, the producers of RU486, women who have taken the pill and activists on both sides of the issue.
Check your local program guide for air time information.
1/3/1997 - Supreme Court to Consider Constitutionality of Federal Law Used to Prosecute Sexual Harassment Claims
On January 7th, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in United States vs. Lanier and consider the constitutionality of using a Reconstruction-era federal statue for prosecuting state and local officials. The case involves Tennessee Judge David W. Lanier who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexually assaulting five women who worked at the courthouse, including forcing them to engage in oral sex with him,. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction, however, because federal prosecutors used a federal statute originally intended to protect African-Americans from local government brutality during the Reconstruction era.
Federal prosecutors have used the statute to bring to justice state and local officials who have victimized citizens but who are not generally prosecuted because of their ties to their states’ criminal law system. As a case in point, Lanier is a judge, the brother of the local prosecutors and his family has dominated Democratic party politics in the area for decades. The federal law states that it is a crime for anyone acting under the "color of law" to deny someone his or her "rights [as] protected by the Constitution." Federal prosecutors have used interpreted this Civil Rights Law to cover sexual assault because women have a right to bodily integrity. They have also used the law extensively in prosecuting prison guards who abuse prisoners. The Appeals Court ruled that, because the Supreme Court has not interpreted the law to cover such abuses, federal prosecutors cannot try persons under it because they cannot extend or create criminal law. U.S. Solicitor General Walter Dellinger commented in response that, "it is clear beyond all doubt that an intentional sexual assault by a state official, lacking any conceivable justification, is a deprivation of liberty without due process of the law, and therefore may be prosecuted under Section 242 as a willful violation of rights protected by the Constitution."
A working group established in 1995 by the National Women’s Council of Ireland and funded by the Department of Justice has recommended eighty-four reforms to the Minster of Justice in dealing with violent crimes against women. Minister of Justice Mrs. Owen has pledged that some of the recommendations will go into effect immediately. Some of these reforms include giving rape victims their own teams in court and keeping them appraised of each step in the legal process. The report found that, "men’s violence against women and children is at crisis levels" in Ireland. It also found that too little attention is focused on the violence women face in the home (most of the legal and media attention is focused on "stranger danger"), only ten to fifteen percent of domestic abuse if reported. And, while half of rapes are reported, the conviction rate remains small.
A thirteen-year-old girl, suspended from a Pikeville, Kentucky school for wearing black lipstick, is back at school, sans lipstick, but is filing suit against the school. School officials suspended Karla Chapman on November 13th for wearing lipstick which caused a "distraction" to other students. She was suspended for three days and was then turned away three times when she came back to school wearing the lipstick. She is currently being transferred to a school where wearing black lipstick will not make her a student in bad standing. The American Civil Liberties Union has helped Chapman file a lawsuit which claims that the school’s dress code is too vague.
1/3/1997 - Women Slowly Making Progress in Workplace
A new study conducted by the Population Reference Bureau has found that women have made slow progress toward achieving equity with men in the workplace. The study found that between 1970 and 1995 the share of women 25 to 54 who work outside the home climbed from 50 percent to 76 percent. Women have also continued to increase their numbers among college graduates. In 1993, among whites, women earned 54 percent of bachelors degrees and 44 percent of doctoral degrees in 1994. Among African-Americans, women earned 63 percent of bachelor degrees and 55 percent of doctoral degrees in 1994. The study also found, however, that women continue to remain responsible for the majority of housework, even as their hours at work are increasing. Women also continue to face a large wage gap.
1/2/1997 - Oklahoma Abortion Clinic Bombed
Two bombs were thrown inside of a Tulsa, Oklahoma abortion clinic on New Year's Day. No staff or patients were injured because the clinic had been closed for the holiday; the clinic did sustain minor smoke and fire damage. Sherri Finik, director of the Reproductive Services Clinic said that the clinic has added motion sensors to its security system and will remain open. The police are investigating and have not yet identified any suspects.
A twenty-three year-old woman has accused Dallas Cowboy players Michael Irvin and Erik Williams of sexually assaulting her at Williams' home in Dallas. The woman claims that Irvin held a gun to her head while Williams and another man raped her. Irvin is already on probation after pleading no contest to a cocaine possession charge.