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John Salvi, who was convicted of killing two abortion clinic receptionists in December 1994, was found dead in his maximum-security prison cell on November 29. Authorities believe he committed suicide. He was found with a plastic bag tied around his head.
Salvi was serving two life sentences without parole. At his trial, his court-appointed lawyer had argued that he was insane, but the court rejected this argument. Despite claims by women's rights groups of a nationwide conspiracy to commit violence at abortion clinics, Salvi's prosecutors said he acted alone and no accomplices were charged.
MORPHINE, LETTERS TO CLEO, BUFFALO TOM’S BILL JANOVITZ, FUZZY AND GIGOLO AUNTS O PERFORM SAFE AND SOUND BENEFIT CONCERT TUESDAY, Oct. 29 AT WESTBETH THEATER
Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Dicky Barrett and Jen Trynin Will Co-Host Show Marks Upcoming CD Release on November 5
NEW YORK, Oct. 11, 1996- Morphine, Letters To Cleo, Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz, Fuzzy and Gigolo Aunts will perform a concert to mark the release of Safe and Sound: A Benefit in Response to the Brookline Clinic Violence, on Tuesday, October 29 at the Westbeth Theater in New York City. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dicky Barrett and Jen Trynin in will co-host the show. Safe and Sound (Big Rig/Mercury Records: release date: Nov. 5) is a CD compilation featuring tracks donated by l6 Boston-area artists, including Letters To Cleo, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Morphine, Tracy Bonham, Aimee Mann, Deluxx Folk Implosion and Juliana Hatfield The disc and the concert will benefit the National Clinic Access Project.
Safe and Sound began as a fundraising project established by Boston-area musicians in response to the shootings of Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols at two women's health care clinics in Brookline, Mass. on December 30, 1994. Shortly after the deaths of Lowney and Nichols, Safe and Sound organized nine sold-out benefit concerts. in February 1995, featuring 37 artists that played five nights in seven Boston clubs. The grassroots effort raised more than $38,000 and garnered national attention, including coverage from Rolling Stone, MTV, SPIN and other media outlets.
“We want to be a champion of human rights and defend women's access to health care and the ability to make a choice. As soon as abortion becomes illegal, women's health care will follow suit" said Letters To Cleo vocalist Kay Hanley who helped organize the Boston benefits. "Everyone should have the right to safe healthcare," added Mighty Mighty Bosstones guitarist Nate Albert. Big Rig is the Mighty Mighty Bosstones label.
The National Clinic Access Project is a division of the Feminist Majority Foundation and is the largest clinic access project in the nation, leading efforts to keep women's health clinics open in the face of violence and harassment by abortion opponents.
Today's announcement that the Food and Drug Administration has found mifepristone (formerly known as RU 486) "approvable" for early medical abortion represents a hard-won victory for the U.S. feminist movement, for the scientific and medical community, and, most importantly, for the women of this nation.
The FDA has put science ahead of politics. This milestone marks a giant step forward both in making mifepristone available to American women and in assuring the conduct of desperately needed research on the non-abortion indications of this life-saving medication.
The FDA has confirmed what women in Great Britain, France, and Sweden already know: Mifepristone is safe. It is effective. And, it's availability greatly benefits women.
For eight long years, the Feminist Majority Foundation has fought to bring mifepristone to the United States. We have worked to remove roadblock after roadblock to introduce this medical breakthrough into this country.
Again and again, the strength and breadth of support for mifepristone has dwarfed anti-abortion opposition. The Feminist Majority Foundation has delivered over 700,000 petitions to Roussel Uclaf and Hoechst AG urging release of the compound. We have organized meetings between the European pharmaceutical firms and delegations of feminist leaders and prominent scientists. We have won support for mifepristone from every major women's rights organization and medical and scientific association. Over 66% of women and men believe mifepristone should be available to women in the United States -- an unprecedentedlevel of support for a medication which is still not available.
The FDA's "approvable" rating -- which is the typical next step in the approval process -- moves us closer and closer to the introduction of mifepristone in the United States. With the continued vigilance of pro-choice organizations, we hope that final FDA approval will come quickly.
On Monday (4-8), Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers sent an unsolicited letter to University System Chancellor Stephen Portch directing him to eliminate affirmative action programs for minorities at each state college and university. One of the missions of the university system is to make public colleges accessible to minorities, Portch said in a statement. "We are committed to providing a level playing field ¼ aimed at ensuring that all Georgia students can come to our colleges and universities with and equal opportunity to succeed," Portch said. He did, however, indicate that he would consider the recommendation.
Rev. Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference denounced Bowers' move as "an unsolicited, unwarranted intrusion by an obviously ambitious politician into efforts of the academic community to be just and inclusive in its educational agenda" and said these "political games" were a "disservice to the state." The 34 states schools have 206,000 students enrolled, 25 percent of whom are black or Hispanic.
Over one hundred prominent women in the music and entertainment industries raised almost $19,000 for the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Clinic Defense Project at the annual Women's Health Luncheon 1996 held at Sony Music Studios. The gathering honored The Feminist Majority Foundation and Rock for Choice".
Hosted by Michele Anthony, Executive Vice President of Sony Music Entertainment, and by Rosemary Carroll, attorney, Gendler, Codikow, and Carroll, the event featured speakers Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Dr. Susan Wicklund, owner and medical director of Mountain Country Women's Clinic in Bozeman, Montana.
"The monies raised for the Feminist Majority Foundation, home to Rock for Choice, have enabled it to fund its National Clinic Defense Project," said Carroll, "which is dedicated to fighting anti-a bortion violence nationwide by training pro-choice volunteers, securing injunctions to prevent violence, and by monitoring and alerting federal and local law enforcement agencies to antiabortion violence."
Women in attendance included Sylvia Rhone, head of the record label Electra; Polly Anthony, chair of 550 Music; Judy McGrath of MTV; Brigitte Wright of Curtis Entertainment; Ina Meibach, entertainment lawyer; Staci Slater, manager of the band Presidents of the United States of America; Maggie Gurewitz, longtime Feminist Majority Foundation supporter; Barbara Krueger, feminist visual artist; Wendy Laister, manager of the band Aerosmith; Barbara Skydel of Premier Talent; Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro; and Donita Sparks, lead singer of L7.
Association For Women Journalists Releases Survey:
"Washington Reporters' Experiences And Perceptions:
Does Gender Matter?"
By FMF Special Correspondent Francine Haber, Colorado Woman News
On August 26, the opening of the Democratic National Convention, the Chicago chapter of the Association for Women Journalists released the results of its survey on differences between male and female reporters in Washington DC. The project "Washington Journalists' Experiences & Perceptions: Does Gender Matter?" was conducted by the Northwestern University Survey Laboratory.
Male and female journalists in Washington were found to work for the same kinds of news organizations, cover the same beats, feel the same about their supervisors, and write the same kinds of stories. Their profiles are similar in age, race, education. They are highly satisfied with their work and consider themselves well paid.
But women reporters are more likely to see gender as a powerful force affecting their careers. More women than men agreed that men reporters:
Are more likely to be recognized at press conferences, more likely to get information from government officials and lobbyists, and more likely to get leaks from sources.
Get easier assignments and are less qualified, when holding positions of authority, than their female counterparts.
Are less likely to be harassed by sources and are more likely to be sought for advice on coverage or for speaking engagements.
Have a different reporting style from that of women reporters.
On issues of gender and family, the survey shows that women have made different choices for their personal lives. Nearly half (45%) of the women reporters said they had never married, compared with less than one- quarter (22%) of the men. Nearly three-fourths of men reporters (72%) said they are now married, compared with 48% of women. Nearly two-thirds of women said they had no children. And, when reporters with children were asked how much a child hampered a reporter's career, women were almost twice as likely as men to say that a child hurt their career at least "a fair amount." Different standards apply, depending on the reporter's gender. "Men who leave work early on some afternoon or skip a day and use the honest excuse of a child's performance or a sick child or a ball game get the Alan Alda award for being a good parent," one male reporter said. "They're seen as a '90s dad, living the rhetoric. Women who do the same things are sometimes thought to be not as dedicated to the job."
Women reporters of the same age and experience as their male counterparts tend to be paid less on the job. For women, the midpoint for salary fell between $40,000 and $60,000. For men, the midpoint fell in the $60,000 to $80,000 range. "Although it appears women journalists in Washington have made some great strides, the gains have also come with a trade-off in their personal lives," said Susy Schultz, president of the Association for Women Journalists' Chicago chapter.
Following the release of the study, leading women journalists took part in a panel to discuss how their personal experiences reflected its findings. Molly Ivins, author and syndicated columnist; Star Jones, senior correspondent for Inside Edition; Carole Simpson, senior correspondent ABC News; Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio; Nancy J. Woodhull, executive director of the Media Studies Center; Eleanor Clift, contributing editor at Newsweek; Ellen Hume, commentator for CNN and PBS; and Susy Schultz of the Chicago Sun-Times were joined by Congresswomen Enid Greene of Utah and Barbara Kennelly of Connecticut. More women of diverse economic backgrounds should be brought into journalism, the panel agreed.
The Association for Women Journalists is dedicated to supporting women in journalism and promoting respectful treatment of women by the news media.
For more information contact the AWJ at (312) 321-2146.
Approximately 62,000 women between the ages of 50 - 79 have volunteered to participate in the first long-term study to seek ways to prevent health problems affecting post-menopausal women, including heart disease, colon and breast cancer, and osteoporosis. The project, which is predicted to cost $628 million, is being funded by the National Institute of Health. There will be 40 sites across the country and 10 will be dedicated to minority and low income groups. The project's organizers hope to find solutions that will lead to healthier and longer lives for women. Volunteers will be observed for 9 years, beginning 3 years after they start the program. Researchers will study the effects of diet on breast and colon cancer prevention and the use of calcium and vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis and colon cancer. They will also track the effects of hormone pills on the prevention of heart disease and osteoporosis.
6/28/1996 - Students Denied Confidentiality and Abortion Counseling, Access to Birth Control Information
Students in Prince William County, Maryland will be denied accessibility to abortion counseling on school property next fall, and if students discuss topics like pregnancy or drug abuse with school employees, their parents will be notified. This unanimous decision was made Wednesday evening (6-26) by the Prince William School Board. The members justified their decision to take away students’ right to confidentiality with the rationale that the parents had the right to know about their children's lives.
A number of officials expressed concern about the decision including the county's Health District Director and the Head of the Department of Social Services who believe that this decision may harm the health of the students because the students may be reluctant to seek help on critical issues. Social Services Director Ricardo Perez conveyed concern that the students will seek other, less reliable sources of information on abortion. Susan Lamontagne, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood's national office believes the measure will be an obstacle for students "...who are in trouble...it could increase the number of teenage pregnancies and the number of sexually transmitted diseases."
In an unrelated decision in Virginia, Fairfax County School Board members voted 11-1 Thursday (6-27) against a proposal to have classroom displays about birth control methods to which students are normally exposed through outdated documentaries. In May, an advisory committee overwhelmingly approved the displays, to be done only by a visiting public health nurse who could answer questions about birth control, but the committee reversed itself two weeks later amid questions about the proposal. School Board members said in Thursday’s decision that parents should be in charge of teaching their children about birth control methods. Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board approved a restructuring of health and biology classes for 9th and 10th graders and a series of health and sex education videos.
The government reported earlier this week that the teen birth rate had declined for a third straight year. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, for teenage girls aged 15-19, the birth rate of 59.6 births per 1,000 in 1993 has dropped to 58.9 per 1,000 in 1994. However, the 1994 rate was still higher than it was in the years between 1974 to 1989, according to health officials. This information was part of an annual health report on birth statistics to monitor maternal and infant health and to keep a record of general birth data in the United States. The report also said that there was a decline of pregnant women smoking and that 80 percent of mothers during their first trimester were receiving prenatal care. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala commented that the decline of the teen birth rate "is another piece of good news in the battle against teen pregnancy, but we still have a long way to go."
6/28/1996 - Senator Urges Research on Heart Disease in Women
Because studies on cardiovascular disease have traditionally been male-centered, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced legislation Thursday to increase spending on research on heart disease in women. The leading cause of death for women and men in the U.S., heart attacks kill 235,000 women each year, 49 percent of the 485,000 people who die from the condition every year, according to the American Heart Association. Boxer said, "For years women have been under-represented in studies conducted on heart disease and strokes," and added that doctors do not diagnose heart disease in women quickly enough.
Boxer’s bill would earmark $140 million beginning October 1 to the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for expansion of research and education programs on heart disease in women. The Department of Health and Human Service’s Office on Women’s Health, the organizer of the "Healthy Women 2000" conference, issued a statement saying, "Women have less aggressive diagnosis and treatment workups for heart disease than do men." Because the body sizes, percentages of body fat and metabolism rates of women differ from those of men, and because post-menopausal women have an increased risk of heart disease after they stop producing estrogen, doctors say more study is needed to treat female patients.
6/28/1996 - Rape Defined as War Crime by Tribunal
On Thursday (6-27), the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague announced the indictment of eight Bosnian Serb military and police officers in connection with the rapes of Muslim women in the war in Bosnia. After two years of investigations, the announcements mark the first time sexual assault has been considered separately as a war crime. A spokesman for the court noted the importance of the decision, saying it "illustrates the court’s strategy to focus on gender-related crimes and give them their proper place in the prosecution of war crimes." Postwar courts in the past have treated rape only as a secondary offense, tolerating it as part of general abusive behavior by a soldier. According to the New York Times, court officials said the indictment gives "organized rape and other sexual offenses their due place in international law as crimes against humanity."
Bosnian Serbs were the main perpetrators of using rape as a strategy to terrorize people, according to investigators of the European Union and Amnesty International who estimate that 20,000 Muslim women and girls were raped by Serbs in 1992. Many women and girls as young as 12 were detained in prison camps where they were forced to cook and clean for soldiers during the day and were gang raped every night over a period of several months. None of the eight Serbs accused of rapes committed between April 1992 and February 1993 has been arrested.
Also on Thursday, the tribunal began public hearings against Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadic and Ratko Mladic whom the prosecution is accusing of being responsible for the deaths, rapes and torture of thousands of Bosnian Serbs and "the ultimate crime of genocide."
Lars Bildman, Chief Executive of the Astra USA, has been fired following a suspension and an investigation of allegations of sexual harassment and embezzlement. Company officials said executives first learned about allegations of years of sexual harassment in April, and Bildman was suspended April 28 after 16 employees complained of sexual harassment. Bildman was accused of replacing married mothers and older women employees with "stunningly attractive" younger women and of pressuring female employees to have sex. C.G. Johansson, Executive Vice President of Swedish pharmaceutical giant Astra AB said the investigation was closed, but six former employees filed a federal lawsuit last month claiming that Astra executives created "an organized pattern of sexual harassment -- in order to satisfy their personal desires." Bildman and the company are being questioned about the complaints by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A lawyer for Astra said 12 former employees have settled sexual harassment suits against Astra.
The board voted unanimously to fire Bildman, and two other executives were fired after having been suspended on sexual harassment claims. Another executive, Anders Lonner who allegedly knew about the pattern of harassment but failed to make a report, also resigned.
In order to raise home ownership rates among women, the Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to give $250,000 to a coalition of groups to set up education and counseling programs for potential women home buyers. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros announced Wednesday that HUD will also make information about home ownership accessible to women on a toll-free telephone line to be publicized at home buying seminars this summer. HUD is implementing the measures with the goal of achieving home ownership of an all-time high of 67.5 percent by 2000. In 1995, 65.1 percent of all households owned homes, but only 49.5 percent of women-headed households had ownership of their homes.
At a news conference, Cisneros cited barriers to women looking to buy homes including the fact that mortgage lenders often dismiss women as not being credit-worthy or refuse to acknowledge alimony, child support and earnings from part-time jobs as income.
6/27/1996 - Congresswomen Call for Monitor on Mitsubishi
Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.) and three other Democratic Congresswomen met with officials at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Wednesday (6-26) to urge the EEOC to closely monitor Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. The EEOC has filed a sexual harassment case on behalf of hundreds of women employed at the Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Ill. The lawmakers expressed disappointment that Mitsubishi "doesn’t appear to be in any kind of settlement mode, instead a total denial mode," Schroeder said. Schroeder said some congresswoman who have spoken out against Mitsubishi have received phone calls from individuals telling them to end their involvement in the issue.
Meanwhile, National Organization for Women vice president Rosemary Dempsey met with a Mitsubishi official Wednesday in Tokyo and was optimistic about the organization’s campaign for a settlement of the case. Dempsey led a picket of the annual shareholders meeting Thursday (6-27), calling for a settlement and a commitment by the company to implement a program to increase opportunities for women and minorities.
Charging that Mitsubishi created a "hostile and abusive work environment" where female employees were fondled, grabbed and threatened with retaliation if they reported the incidents, the EEOC suit seeks back pay with interest and benefits. It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages up to $300,000 each for as many as 500 women.
Officials at Virginia Military Institute have said they may relinguish public funding and become a private institution rather than admit women, as the Supreme Court required in its 7-1 ruling Wednesday (6-26). The Citadel, the nation’s only other state-supported all-male military academy in South Carolina, has said it will obey the law.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that the all-male policy of the state-supported Virginia Military Institute violates women’s constitutional rights to equal protection. Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said, "One more male bastion bites the dust. At last, ‘separate but equal’ for women and girls in the military goes to the dust bin of history -- where it belongs." The Court ordered VMI to admit women because the separate program at the private Mary Baldwin College is not an equivalent education. However, the Court did not upgrade the level of scrutiny in sex discrimination cases to the same strict legal standard used in race bias cases, keeping the standard at mid-level and allowing government to treat men and women differently if the treatment is "substantially related to an important objective." The Clinton administration had asked for the scrutiny level to be raised to strict.
VMI and South Carolina’s The Citadel are the only all-male, state-supported military colleges in the U.S. VMI and Virginia were sued by the federal government in 1990 for unlawfully discriminating against women with VMI’s all-male policy in effect since the school was founded in 1839. The Supreme Court ruling overturns an earlier ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which held that the opportunities offered men and women need only be "substantively comparable" but not the same. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that "Virginia has not shown substantial equality in the separate educational opportunities" and that "Virginia’s remedy affords no cure at all for the opportunities and advantages withheld from women who want a VMI education and can make the grade."
The ruling is also expected to apply to the Citadel. Justice Clarence Thomas did not participate in the case because his son attends VMI, and Justice Antonin Scalia was the lone dissenter.
Suspending a new Virginia law which requires mothers seeking welfare benefits to identify the fathers of their children, a federal judge in Charlottesville ruled against allowing the state to cut off the benefits of two women challenging the law. Enforcement of the law against other women will continue, but the women’s lawyers feel U.S. District Judge James H. Michael Jr.’s temporary injunction against state welfare officials could be cited as a precedent in similar cases to come. According the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the group which brought the suit on behalf of the women, the judge’s language was strongly favorable to their clients although he did not make the case a class action representing all women whose benefits could be cut off under the law.
The state law, which went into effect July 1, 1995, requires mothers give first and last names of fathers as well as social security information or places of employment. Both women, who had given birth to their children years ago fully cooperated with social workers to determine the paternity of their children, including having blood tests done on former partners. Despite their efforts and their testimony in front of state judge that they did not know the names of the fathers of their children, the women did not meet state guidelines for welfare benefits.
In the continuing federal investigation of the sex slavery industry in Los Angeles, California, five Chinese nationals have been indicted on charges of conspiring to kidnap a 22-year-old Chinese woman and forcing her to serve as a prostitute at the brothels they managed. Federal investigator Michael J. Gennaco stated that three brothers, their uncle and the wife of the eldest brother allegedly tricked the young woman into immigrating to New York. With no financial or family support in the U.S., the young woman was forced to become a sex slave upon her arrival in 1994 and through 1996. The family is also accused of rape, battery, extortion and assault against the woman.
Wang Yong Tan, 21 and Troy Hong Yee will be arraigned July 1 in Los Angeles while their brother, Wang Yon Can, 26 will be arraigned July 8. The other two defendants, Wang Yong Ming and Li Ming Li have become fugitives.
6/26/1996 - Gender Gap Hurts Dole
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Robert Dole trails behind President Clinton with women in the polls. An ABC News poll shows Clinton leading Dole by 10 points among men and by 31 points among women voters. Political analysts conclude that Dole cannot win the presidency with such a large gender gap.
6/25/1996 - San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Opposes CCRI
Voting overwhelmingly in support of affirmative action, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce became the first major business in California to oppose the self-titled California Civil Rights Initiative, a ballot measure that would end affirmative action programs for women and minorities and gut sex discrimination law in the state. The chamber, which has 1,900 members including multinational corporations, businesses such as the Bank of America and Pac Bell, and small local businesses, is considered the largest and most influential business group to take a stand on the initiative.
6/25/1996 - Breast Cancer Risk High for Asian Women in U.S.
Although women Asian women in Asia have the lowest rates of breast cancer in the world, Asian women living in the U.S. have the same risk as white women. Regina Zeigler of the National Cancer Institute led a 1993 study on Asians and breast cancer and said Asian women coming to the U.S. are likely to give up a healthy diet for American processed foods, to exercise less and to undergo more stress integrating into a new culture. Thus, their chances of getting breast cancer increase by over 80 percent within the first decade they live in the U.S.
Language barriers and cultural taboos about self exams also keep the women from getting help or becoming aware a problem. The American Cancer Society in San Francisco serves a large Asian population and has produced videos in four Asian languages and English using Asian models to instruct women on self-exam procedures. The city’s Department of Health publishes literature in several dialects and is fully bilingual. There are also many breast cancer support groups in the city geared toward Chinese women.
6/1/1996 - FREEDOM SUMMER‘96 KICKS OFF
WHAT: Press Conference
WHEN: Wednesday, June 5, 1996 at 10:00am
WHERE: Los Angeles: NCJW Auditorium
543 North Fairfax
WHO: Freedom Summer ‘96 Student Volunteers, Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority
Following in the historic footsteps of their parents’ generation, college students from more than 54 campuses nationwide and in California arrived June 1, 1996 for Freedom Summer ‘96 -- a massive grassroots voter education and registration campaign to defeat the deceptive California "Civil Rights" Initiative (CCRI).
This first wave of students will be followed July 1 by a second wave and August 15 by a third. The press conference follows a five-day intensive training of the students, before deployment statewide.
Editor’s Note: Freedom Summer ‘96 is a joint project of the Feminist Majority and the NO on CCRI Campaign. Interviews with Ms. Smeal and Freedom Summer ‘96 organizers and participants are available upon request.
24-year old Colgate graduate and Freedom Summer ‘96 Campaign Coordinator Justine Andronicci explained "The students will spend the summer alerting voters -- especially women -- to CCRI’s sneak attack on California’s equal rights amendment. We intend to expose the deceipt of the California "Civil Rights" Initiative: when California voters learn it’s not about civil rights, but destroys sex discrimination laws and affirmative action programs for women and people of color, they’ll vote against it."
"We are thrilled so many young women have decided to commit their summers to the fight to save women’s rights and civil rights," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. "Women will not be cut out of California’s constitution or the debate over affirmative action."
With over seven hundred college students signed-up to participate throughout the summer, Freedom Summer ‘96 is the largest young feminist mobilization for women’s rights in the history of the United States. Students will be trained in everything from grass roots organizing to voter registration to campaign basics to leadership techniques. Following the five-day training, student teams will be deployed in high priority areas throughout the state. Students will be joined throughout the training by 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer participants.
5/31/1996 - Gender Biases Prompt Men to Avoid Parental Leave
Despite the passage of the 1993 federal Family and Medical Leave Act, few fathers are taking advantage of the mandated 12 or fewer weeks of unpaid parental leave offered by companies with more than 50 employees. While economics contributes to some of these cases, especially given the still-existing wage gap between men and women, fear plays a large part in fathers' reluctance to trade work for full-time childcare.
The recent book "Father Courage: What Happens When Men Put Family First" discusses cases of fathers who were refused or discouraged from taking advantage of available parental leave policies. Author Suzanne Braun Levine, a former editor of Ms. Magazine, shows that many supervisors are sending "the message that men who take leave are not very manly." A 1997 work by sociologist Arlie Hoschchild, "The Time Bind," also reveals a fear among working fathers to take paternal leave. Both works cite fear of discrimination from supervisors and co-workers, and often report that fathers who take leave are accused of being "fags."
James M. Strass, a Manhattan lawyer, says he declined parental leave, fearing that "his co-workers would question his machismo." He cited the sexist stereotype that women, and women only, must be the family caretakers. The American Civil Liberties Union has argued on behalf of fathers who were discouraged from or fired for requesting parental leave. In one case, a Maryland state trooper was told "'God made women to breast-feed babies, and men can't fulfill that role.'"
Yesterday, the British Medical Association (BMA) released a report calling for broad changes in media portrayals of beauty and "ideal" body type. The report argues that "the media's obsession with stick-thin supermodels was contributing to the rise in the number of young women suffering from eating disorders." The BMA calls for a realistic range of body shapes in the media, an emphasis on healthier eating, education on the dangers of poor nutrition and dieting for young women, and a separation between the idea of a healthy body and the stick-thin image of women currently praised in the media.
The BMA notes that eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of factors including genetics, family history, and socio-cultural factors. BMA Professor Vivienne Nathanson stressed the need to change those factors that we can influence, namely the socio-cultural messages about beauty and body type. The report highlights the alarming "gap between the ideal body shape and reality." The BMA reports that seven million British women and one million British men suffer from eating disorders; the American Anorexia/Bulimia Association (AABA) estimates five percent of adolescent and adult American women and one percent of American men suffer from eating disorders. AABA also reports that 1,000 American women die each year of anorexia nervosa.
5/30/1996 - Honduran Girl Exposes Sweatshop Abuses
At a news conference held Wednesday (5-28) on Capitol Hill, a fifteen-year-old girl told of abuses in a sweatshop in her native Honduras that made clothing for retail giant Wal-Mart's Kathlie Lee Gifford line of clothing. Wendy Diaz said about 100 minors as young as 12 years old worked 13 hours a day for a wage of 31 cents an hour in the factory. She spoke of verbal and physical abuse by employers toward the children, as well as sexual harassment and intimidation to keep them working until 6:30 a.m. at times. Diaz said the Global Fashions company tried to force pregnant women to quit in order to avoid paying maternity leave, forcing the women to stand for 12 hours in the heat of the pressing room. Workers were only allowed two trips to the bathroom all day, and were fired if they tried to organize a union, Diaz said.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) commented on rampant abuses of child labor laws and called for U.S. companies to certify that their products were created without child or exploited labor by adopting the use of a "No Sweat" label. Diaz said U.S. contractors visited the sweatshop several times, checking only on the quality of the work but never talking to the workers. Diaz, who quit her job at the factory two weeks ago, spoke on behalf of her co-workers and called for better wages, an end to verbal and physical abuse by employers, and the opportunity to attend night school and to organize to protect their rights as workers.