MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS AND STATISTICS








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                                 YES, WOMEN CAN !

 

   Over the years, there have been a huge number of pompous statements made about what women can’t do. But the debate eventually evolves through a familiar, and reassuring pattern :

 

(1) “It’s impossible for ANY woman to do that, so don’t waste my time arguing about it.”

 

(2) “Sure, a FEW woman can do it, but they’re so unusual that it doesn’t really mean anything in regard to most women’s abilities.”  

 

(3) “Yes, women CAN do that, but they SHOULDN’T do it.”

 

(4) “Of course women can and should do that, and I’ve always said so. But what it’s impossible for ANY woman to do is _____, so don’t waste my time arguing about it.”

 

Repeat the process a few thousand times until equality is achieved.


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                   “BACKLASH”

 

If no one feels compelled to organize in opposition to your goals, you can’t be accomplishing anything meaningful as a political activist ! Had feminists been content to strive for mere symbolism, instead of full equality, no anti-feminist movement would exist, because we’d be no real threat to male privilege or power.

 

If women’s rights groups were just scattered bands of radicals, whose core philosophy was so far out of the mainstream that few women or men would ever take it seriously, opposition groups would be equally small. But the existence of a powerful backlash to the feminist movement actually provides vivid and daily proof of our power, influence and acceptance, and is an inevitable by-product of spectacular success.

 

As maddening as the barrage of anti-feminist rhetoric spewing forth on talk radio shows may be, it’s infinitely preferable to the silence of being ignored (as we were for many decades) or the second stage that every meaningful movement must pass through : condescending ridicule.

 

Slowly, but surely, as we scored one small victory after another, feminists began to gain too much influence to be ignored or considered a joke. The gloves began to come off, and the patriarchal establishment paid us the supreme compliment of making this an all-out brawl with what they obviously consider a serious opponent.

 

So, how’s the match going ? Well, assorted radio hosts, cable TV pundits and televangelists are still whining and attacking, but it’s been a long time since there was any doubt about whether we have made a major impact on society, and brought it significantly closer to its potential for total equality. Just a few examples to show who’s winning :

 

Imagine going back in time to visit a class of high school seniors in the late 50s or early 60s and asking the students to write down on a piece of paper what they plan on doing after graduation. A scenario which mentions anything other than “homemaker,” “teacher,” “nurse,” “secretary” or “librarian” would have been virtually certain to have been written by a male. Do the same experiment today, and no one would wager a dime on guessing the gender of the student who writes “go to the Naval Academy, then serve on a ship at sea,” or “teach physics at M.I.T.,” “run for Congress – then President,” “become a police officer,” “go to law school,” “become a cardiac surgeon,” or “drive an 18-wheeler.” The once radical idea that jobs should go to qualified people regardless of their gender long ago made the transition from a “feminist” value to an “American” value.

 

“Equal pay for equal work” has undergone a similar transition. Though the battle for complete pay equity continues, the “pay gap” has closed significantly, and not even the most chauvinistic politician would ever suggest or support dual pay scales for the same job, then justify it by saying that a man has a family to support, while the woman works only for personal satisfaction or “pin money.”

 

Even the old argument about whether a woman can successfully handle a challenging career while raising small children – an alleged “dilemma” that’s never been imposed on men  – met its long-overdue demise when conservatives enthusiastically supported Sarah Palin for Vice President, and apparently agreed that parenting, like breadwinning, is a role that can be equally shared.

 

Admittedly, objectionable images abound in the media, especially in regard to certain types of music videos, but they’re anomalies. No child or teen today could

watch an evening of network television without seeing women doing a full spectrum of jobs, living a wide range of lifestyles, and getting the respect of male peers at the same time.

 

The days when the only female faces seen on news broadcasts were sexy “weathergirls” or the token female reporter who did fluffy, inconsequential stories are long gone. The male and female anchor team is universal in local news, women regularly host the national networks’ evening newscasts, report on the most important stories of the day, and even have their own shows on the most-watched cable channels. As much as our opponents would like to see a return to the TV of the 1950s, where the nightly message was that “a woman’s place is in the home,” it isn’t going to happen.

 

The attack on reproductive rights – first launched in the 19th Century - continue to be vicious, unrelenting and powerful, and form the core of the “War on Women.” But it’s only because feminists have won such a broad spectrum of these rights that there is such a massive front to defend.

 

It’s natural to worry about the seeming complacency of those too young to have any memory of illegal abortion mills, or desperate attempts at self-abortions. But half a century ago feminists who had grown up in a time when there were no legal options for terminating a pregnancy still succeeded in bringing about major changes in abortion laws in many states even before the Supreme Court ruled abortion a Constitutional right in 1973. Considering the energy and dedication shown by those pioneer feminists to establish a right they had never known, imagine the vehemence of the backlash if abortion prohibitionists were to actually succeed in getting around “Roe” and depriving substantial numbers of women of access to a right they’d taken for granted through all of their reproductive years.

 

Next time you hear a particularly vicious attack on a feminist or feminist group, recognize what they’re really saying :  “I’m angry that you’ve done more in one generation to destroy the blessings of universal conformity to divinely mandated sex roles than all previous generations combined. I’m terrified that the concept of ‘equality’ is so inherently appealing and logical that the only way I can stop it is by distorting what it means and slandering those who strive for it, so the focus will be on the debaters, not the question being debated. And because if I say exactly what I mean, or reveal what kind of societal rules I would like to impose, I’d be relegated to the fringe of society, I’ll stick to pretending that I want to make only modest changes, or that my concern is for women, rather than preserving patriarchal, theocratic values.”

 

Never worry about how many people use the term “feminist” to describe themselves. People tend to define themselves by the way a label is presented in the media. Had the media spent several decades trashing the image of airline pilots instead of feminists, some people would say : “Yes, I like to fly airplanes, but I’m certainly not one of those ‘pilots.’ “ A feminist is – and always has been – anyone who favors legal, social, and political equality for men and women. Once that definition is presented to them, overwhelming majorities enthusiastically agree that it describes their views.

 

Equal opportunity is now such a basic part of American values that the term “feminist” may be well on the way to becoming as obsolete as “abolitionist” or “integrationist” due to there no longer being any real dispute over whether women are entitled to equal rights, it’s only how that’s defined, and the best means of achieving it that’s still a hot topic.

 

Though there are still many battles left to fight – some of them for a second time during the “backlash” phase of this long, slow, “two steps forward and one step back” dance toward equality – remember how many battles NEVER have to be re-fought.

 

Gender kept women out of law schools for generations, but now it’s no more relevant than eye color even when it comes to confirming Supreme Court Justices.

 

Women in the legislative branch of State and Federal Government may still be a minority, but they’ve achieved sufficient numbers to no longer be “outsiders” and enough seniority to have real influence. The trend is toward equal numbers, not back to the days when the few women in politics had little power, and could only get elected by being the widow of a popular incumbent.

 

Girls’ and women’s sports have been “mainstream” for decades, and when Title IX, which provides equal opportunity for male and female students, was attacked a number of years ago, attempts to dismantle it were smashed by a coalition of parents from across the political spectrum who saw the benefits athletics brought to their daughters. The confidence that accrues to girls and women who participate in sports will also increase the already existing “critical mass” of women in other traditionally “male only” activities and occupations, thus providing another generation of role models for girls in any field they may wish to pursue as adults.

 

Attitudes and laws regarding domestic violence and rape have undergone nothing less than a revolution, though there is still much work to be done, and vigilance is needed to be sure that the reforms already won are strictly adhered to. But there will be no retreat back to the days when spousal abuse was a “private matter” and a rape survivor faced a second assault in court.

 

Of course, despite all the victories and progress toward gender equality, its very symbol – the Equal Rights Amendment - remains unratified. But support for the E.R.A. was high even in the 1970s, when it not only had the approval of most men and women, but came so close to winning the 38 state ratifications needed that if just seven State Senators (3 in Nevada in 1975, 2 in North Carolina in 1977 and 2 in Florida in 1979) had switched their votes, it would have become part of the Constitution on May 24, 1979.

 

But the battle for the E.R.A. is far from over. Though Congress originally set a deadline of March 22, 1979 for ratification (later extended to June 30, 1982) there is no time limit on seeking equality.  Bills to recognize the 35 ratifications achieved between 1972 and 1977, and to do away with the time limits Congress set, have been introduced, as have bills to start the process over again with a new amendment. America in 2013 is a much different place from what it was when the E.R.A. was first introduced to Congress 90 years ago, and passed by Congress 41 years ago, so if we could come within seven votes of ratification in the 1970s, we can surely put it over the top now.

 

If any doubt should remain about the power of those who believe in equality to overcome those who celebrate bigotry, a look at the stunningly rapid decline of homophobia in the U.S. should be sufficient to inspire confidence. Well within a single lifetime, entrenched prejudices and stereotyped attitudes that date back millennia have been pushed out of the mainstream and into the fringe of American society. In just a few decades the battle went from repealing laws that criminalized homosexual activity to legalizing same-sex marriage and the right to openly serve in the military.

 

Just how much America had changed wasn’t really known until 2012. In that landmark year, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed, and voters in three states passed referenda establishing same-sex marriage, while those in a fourth state rejected a referendum that would have defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman. Though by no means is homophobia a thing of the past, its rapid collapse – after a massive campaign to defend it – should reassure anyone fighting against any other form of unjustified discrimination that it will one day implode as well.

 

Of course, the opposition can never be accused of a lack of dedication. As “True Believers” in the most literal sense, they will always be with us. But when it comes to dedication and persistence, we set the standard long ago, and as the ideological heirs of those early suffragists, we will always continue to do so.

 

Long ago, in Seneca Falls, New York, a small group of feminists with a big idea gathered to plan a strategy for achieving equality. One of their first resolutions was to try to secure the ballot for women. That one step took so long that of all those who attended that first meeting on July 19th & 20th, 1848, only Charlotte Woodward Pierce was still living when the Susan B. Anthony (nationwide woman suffrage) Amendment was certified as part of the Constitution on August 26, 1920.

 

From the beginning to the end of that struggle, the very same tactics so familiar to us today were being used by the ideological ancestors of today’s radical rightists. But even without equal access to education, basic legal rights, or the power of the ballot they sought, suffragists still achieved their worthy goal.

 

Today, with total equality rapidly approaching, the opposition fights more furiously than ever, with desperation surounding them, as they realize that many of the “traditional values” of a previous generation are seen by the newest one as simply outmoded prejudices. Their last chance to stop a train that’s been picking up momentum for 165 years is quickly slipping away.

 

Like the anti-suffragists who preceded them, today’s anti-feminists have no intention of slipping gently or quietly into obscurity and irrelevance, though they will. So when they win a temporary or partial victory, it should merely remind us that we have to keep fighting as hard as we can until OUR final victory. But the nature of inequality assumes that we will do exactly that.

 

We know that the human instinct to be free and equal is always more powerful in the long run than the desire of some to oppress and control. So even though we are an unimaginably long way from those pioneer feminists of 1848 who were denied even the most basic of rights, the sting of inequality in ANY form and in ANY degree is still such a daily insult and constant indignity to some that until the last vestige of it is removed we still feel impelled to fight against it with the same fury as those who began the battle at Seneca Falls. So unless human nature changes, the outcome of the battle for total equality is inevitable – presuming we still have the same day-by-day and for as long as it takes commitment as Charlotte Woodward Pierce !

 

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              STRENGTH (MALE VS. FEMALE)


"THEY" SAY:

Men are stronger than women.


WE SAY:

If men were stronger than women, the
weakest man would be stronger than the
strongest woman. Clearly this is not the
case. Variations in strength among people
of the SAME gender are far greater than
the differences between "average" people
of different genders. In fact, in regard to
ANY characteristic or ability which does
not define biological gender, a good deal
of overlap occurs, so everyone must still
be judged as a unique individual, not a
stereotype, and we should encourage positive
characteristics and abilities in ALL people.

If the myth-spreader is male, ask him if
HE can run a 26-mile marathon in under two
and a half hours*, lift a 414 pound** barbell
over his head and hold it there for several
seconds, or pass the extremely rigid physical
requirements of the Los Angeles and New York
Fire Departments***. Some women CAN, some
women HAVE.

Also point out that there are a lot of
variables which make it impossible to simply
compare "men" with "women." For instance,
old men aren't stronger than young women,
and health can also be critical. A 45 year old
non-smoking woman who works out vigorously,
and eats a low-fat diet could certainly give a
much better exhibition of strength than a
same-age male smoker who hasn't exercised
since high school gym class, and thinks putting
a few veggies on a super-deluxe pizza makes it
"health food."


FROM FACT TO FICTION TO
OPPRESSION IN TWO SHORT JUMPS

FACT:

Age, health, and physical conditioning
being equal, the upper body strength of the
average adult male is greater than that of
the average adult female.


ERRONEOUS CONCLUSION:

So, men are stronger than women.


OPPRESSIVE STEREOTYPE:

Therefore, strength is a "masculine"
characteristic, which should be praised in men
as proof of their masculinity, but criticized in
women as unfeminine, inappropriate and un-
natural. (Fortunately, we rarely hear this
nonsense in its old, raw form, but whenever
you hear the "Mars/Venus/Men Are Different
From Women" argument, be on the lookout for
an only slightly more subtle and sophisticated
version of this kind of sex stereotyping, and
a strategy to divide up all HUMAN emotions,
abilities, and tendencies into rigid "male" and
"female" characteristics and roles.)


MOTIVATIONS:

Stereotyping has remained quite popular
in all places and eras because it fulfills some
basic human needs. The world can seem like a
much less scary and confusing place if you can
learn everything you need to know about some-
one just by looking at them, and assume "those
people" are pretty much alike. It's simpler (but
much duller) to see a world populated by one
male and one female, each cloned 3.5 billion
times than one in which there are 7 billion
unique individuals whose strengths, weaknesses
and abilities were freely distributed by
nature without regard to gender.

Another advantage to sexist stereotyping
in regard to strength is that it enables all men
to bask in a kind of "affiliational glory." There's
little doubt that Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods,
Andre Agassi, and Barry Bonds could outplay
any female athlete in their respective sports.
So, since "I'm like them," thinks the middle-aged
male couch potato, "we" as men are physically
superior to women. (No, YOU aren't. If YOU, like
most of the other 99.9999% of American men
tried to compete with any of those gentlemen,
YOU would be far more humiliated than many
women athletes who could at least give them
a run for their money. Professional athletes
aren't representative of men OR women. They
are an elite unto themselves, and a male pro
athlete has far more in common with a female
pro athlete than with the average male. Namely,
world-class ATHLETIC ABILITY and a constant
dedication to the hard-knock world of actually
PLAYING - as opposed to WATCHING - sports
at the highest levels of competition.)


STRENGTH IS A HUMAN CHARACTERISTIC

So, in addition to recognizing that there
are many different kinds of strength (some
of which, such as endurance, and the ability
to handle stress and pain have a female
advantage) let's avoid simplistic stereo-
types and start celebrating strength in all
its varied forms in whomever it happens to
appear !

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NOTES

* In the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon, the fastest
woman came in seventh, and beat all but
six of the 13,092 men who ran in the race.
The fastest woman's time was 2:25:39, just
13 minutes and 27 seconds behind the male
winner, or about 30 seconds per mile.)


** At the 3rd World University Champion-
ships, Nov. 6 - 9, 2012, Suping Meng lifted
297 pounds over her head in a single
motion, and 414 pounds in two motions.


*** For a wealth of statistics on women fire-
fighters, go to:

http://www.i-women.org


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                "ABORTING BEETHOVEN"


    Since the Internet is "Valhalla for Hoaxes,"
providing even the tallest of tales with eternal
life thanks to websites and forwarding, it's no
surprise that the "Aborting Beethoven" myth
is still circulating. If you haven't seen it lately,
you will, and here it is in the basic form that
dates back at least 30 years :

    "If you were a doctor, and one of your
patients was a pregnant woman who already
had eight children, three of whom were deaf,
two blind, and one mentally retarded (or
insane), and she had syphilis, would you
recommend she have an abortion ? Yes ?
Congratulations. You just killed Beethoven."   

    Aside from the fact that Beethoven did, in
fact, have a mother, every detail is straight
out of Fantasyland.

    Ludwig (1770-1827) was the 3rd child of
8, not the 9th of 9, so the fable's credibility
collapses on that count alone. Not a single
shred of evidence has ever been noted by
his many biographers that any of his siblings
were blind, deaf, mentally challenged, or
insane, or that his mother had syphilis.

    Here are the facts, for use as needed :


        THE EIGHT CHILDREN OF
    MARIA MAGDALENA KEVERICH
                  (1746 - 1787)


1. A son, born in 1764, who died before his
first birthday of unknown causes, was the
only child of her first marriage to Johann
Leym in 1763. She was widowed in 1765.

2. LUDWIG MARIA (1769) was her first child
with Johann Van Beethoven (1740-1792)
whom she married in 1767. This Ludwig
died after six days. Cause not known.

3. LUDWIG (1770-1827) was the first of
three children to survive infancy. He lived
to age 56, and was quite healthy for the first
half of his life, but began to lose his hearing
at 28, and suffered chronic stomach and
intestinal problems after 30. The cause of
the composer's death is still debated. His
liver was severely damaged, but recently,
an analysis of his hair and bones showed
extremely high levels of lead, so this
could have contributed to - or even
caused - his years of illness, and death
as well.

4. KASPAR ANTON KARL (1774-1815) was
a musician who later became a clerk in the
Department of Finances, and was the only
one of the eight to have children of his own.
He died of tuberculosis at 41, as did his mother.

5. NIKLAUS JOHANN (1776-1848) was a
pharmacist who became a wealthy landowner
after getting a contract to supply the Austrian
army with pharmaceuticals in 1809. He died
of natural causes at age 72.

6. ANNA MARIA FRANCISCA (1779) died
after only six days. Cause not known.

7.  FRANZ GEORG (1781-1783) died at
the age of 18 months of unknown causes.

8.  MARIA MARGARETHA JOSEPHA (1786-
1787) died at 17 months. Cause not known.


    Considering the many diseases that
ravaged Europe at the time, and the fact
that this was many decades before medical
personnel would accept handwashing and
sterilizing of instruments as a necessity, it
should be no surprise that the death rate
in Beethoven's day was shockingly high.
(An AVERAGE infant mortality rate was
32.7%, and though poor Maria suffered
higher losses, her history was still within
the range of the typical, tragic reality
of life for that time and place.)
   
    Though the debate will still go on,
let's abort this ridiculous distraction
from the real issues by using hard facts
- verifiable in ANY book or website about
the man - and let old Ludwig rest in peace. 

                  **********

          PRINCIPAL SOURCES :

"The Beethoven Encyclopedia" by Paul
Nettl, Professor of Musicology at Indi-
ana University. (Citadel Press, Carol
Publishing Co., 1994)

"Beethoven : The Music and the Life"
by Lewis Lockwood (W.W. Norton & Co.,
2005)

"The Greatest Benefit to Mankind : A
Medical History of Humanity" by Roy
Porter (W.W. Norton & Co., 1999)

"Mad About Beethoven.com"
http://www.Madaboutbeethoven.com
(Click on "People and Places" & "Family")

"The Beethoven Family Trees"
http://www.lvbeethoven.com
(Click on the English icon, then
"Family Tree" then "Ludwig's Family
Tree" and "Karl's Family Tree")

"Family Group Descendant Tree"
http://pfitzinger.royaltylinks.com/gp2745.htm

"The Ludwig Van Beethoven Biography"
http://www.kunstderfuge.com/bios/beethoven.html

Argonne National Laboratory :
"Argonne Researchers Confirm Lead As Cause of
Beethoven's Illness"
http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/News/2005/news051206.html


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        "SEX SELECTION" ABORTIONS


                         "THEY" SAY:

     Feminists should be outraged by the
growing practice of selectively aborting fe-
males in many countries, condemn it, then
join us in trying to outlaw it here in the U.S.


                           WE SAY:

    Feminists are, and always have been,
outraged by patriarchal attitudes which
consider the birth of a boy a blessing to
be celebrated, and the birth of a girl a
tragedy to be mourned - or avoided. But
the problem isn't technology, or abortion :
it's sexism. So, the solution can't be found
in attacking amniocentesis, ultrasound, or
access to safe, legal abortion. Only in a
society where females have exactly the
same rights, opportunities and respect as
males will "sex selection" abortions cease.


    Any attempt to regress women's rights and
status by putting their reproductive lives
under the control of mostly male legislators
will delay, not speed that day.
 
     How, exactly, could only "sex selection"
abortions be prohibited ? Since women are
not now forced to tell the government their
reasons for this intensely personal decision,
is the first step to require ALL women to
state their justification for an abortion to
some official body before having the pro-
cedure performed, and would official inves-
tigations be mandatory in cases where de-
ception was suspected ? Or would there be
"sting operations" in which zealous anti-
abortionists work in cooperation with local,
state and federal authorities to try to "trap"
abortion providers and make life even more
difficult for the small number of doctors
who are currently standing up to the kinds
of intimidation (and in some cases terrorism)
that exists already ?

In fact, wouldn't the ultimate step in pro-
hibiting "sex selection" abortions be to
outlaw ALL abortions except for certain
"approved" circumstances with the burden
of proof on the woman to show a committee
that she qualifies for a state-approved
exemption ?


   What I find most offensive is that anyone

would use ONE form of sexism as part of

a campaign to institute ANOTHER form

of oppression against women by re-

criminalizing abortion, and force those

who decide to terminate a pregnancy

out of the hands of those in monitored,

licensed facilities and into the hands of

predatory, back-alley quacks.

 

   There is no problem for which the answer

must be to diminish women’s rights. But

many problems could be solved by expand-

ing them. When sons and daughters have

equal prestige and an equal chance of

success in all fields, there will be no reason

for anyone to prefer the birth of a boy to a

girl.

 

   When contraception is so safe, effective

and widely used that the unintended

pregnancy rate falls to the level of the

failure rate of the best methods, then –

and only then – will abortions diminish

to their lowest possible number. We’ve

been working toward that goal for many

years, and will continue to do so.

 

   Instead of opting for a prohibitionist

“quick fix” that won’t even work, and

would simply injure 21st century women

just as it did those in the 19th and early

20th centuries, let’s rededicate ourselves

to making sure that every future pregnancy

is a planned, welcome one in a world where

a full range of options is open to every child

born regardless of gender. In such a society,

a “sex selection” abortion would be as

bizarre an idea as an “eye color” abortion.