Why do I say “No” to Carly Fiorina, even though I want a woman President?

Why am I not jumping with joy that a woman is finally among the long list of Republican contenders for the 2016 Presidency? The woman is Carly Fiorina, who was in the lower tier in the first Republican debate in August and was ushered into the first tier with the top boys in the second debate organized by CNN. She proved to be the right match for Donald Trump, making him wilt with her sharp tongue and business chic. Even though here was a woman who was smart, bold, fluent, at ease with her knowledge and public speaking skill, and made Trump look a few inches shorter by the end of the debate, I did not leap up to place her as my number 1 choice.

She peddled the same bad narrative about Planned Parenthood; yes, that story about Planned Parenthood engaging in fetal tissue donation, as seen in the secretly made, dubious video showing a fetus that was breathing and kicking. How could such a savvy businesswoman buy into false depictions and deliver them as facts in a debate? What’s more, a few days later, she accused politicians of being laissez faire with facts, unlike business people who are held accountable for their facts. Really? Is she describing herself, now a politician, as irresponsible about facts?!

I am wary of Fiorina’s neoliberal policies, especially as seen in her tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She sacked a huge number of employees—all of them were mere numbers to her; not faces, with real lives. They were collateral damage in her effort to save the firm. But her measures bore ill results—HP stocks plummeted and it merged with Compaq. In this era of CEOs running schools, are we now heading into the era of CEOs, not simply having a stake in the government, but now occupying and leading the country?

Even if I suspend my prejudice against CEOs running our country, Fiorina will not support any of the causes that will help and advance women’s lives. She does not believe in women’s right to choose abortion; she supports the unborn fetus over the mother; she does not believe women should have paid maternity leave; she is against (undocumented) immigrant women, even if they are part of the economic lifeline of this country, but she supports the Dream Act; she detests all the women’s causes that Hillary Clinton supports; she does not support Obamacare; she does not believe in expanding Medicare; she says she has fought for equal pay for women in her company, but this contradicts her sacking of 30,000 workers from HP.

And her views on foreign policy are frightening; she does not support the Iran nuclear deal; she wants to keep GITMO open; she advocates a strong military presence in the Middle East.

Does she think of the lives of women in the areas where she wants the U.S. military to be present?

Do I want Carly to be President because she is a woman? No, thank you. She may be a woman but she does not give a fig for women’s causes. Sadly, what we see is a woman who has internalized the whole hyper-patriarchal, capitalist ideology.

(Image Credit: carlyfiorina.org)

Misogyny and Racism among Republican Contenders for the 2016 Presidency


The current competition among several Republican candidates to win the Republican ticket for the 2016 Presidency is overwhelmingly centered on statements and promises to support policies that are misogynistic.

Candidate Donald Trump is gaining popularity among the Republican voters for his stance on immigration. He vows to deport the children, even if they are American citizens, born to “illegal immigrants.” Apart from this notion being unconstitutional, it exposes an immigration restriction that used to be applied more than a century ago–the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, “which severely restricted the entry of unmarried Asian women [my emphasis] into the United States as part of an effort to limit the growing Asian and Asian American population” (Gurr 30). Other Republican candidates, like Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, are in agreement with Trump, although Jeb Bush has picked Asians over Mexicans as his voodoo doll.

In giving credence to the belief in ousting children of illegal immigrants, Republican candidates are enhancing the population control practices that have been historically enacted on poor and non white populations.

The most recent battle is being waged to defund Planned Parenthood, an old battle that has now become frenzied and vicious. The gradual erasure of Planned Parenthood from many states attests to the gradual diminishment of health care for women who are particularly disadvantaged—rural women, poor women, teenagers, women of color. While the Republicans have built up arguments about Planned Parenthood’s evil, like their trade in “baby organs” (fetal tissue), based on evidence collected by decoy clients, the facts remain glossed over and unheeded: Abortion is a vital service PP offers, but is not federally funded and is a tiny percentage of the care that Planned Parenthood offers women, from prenatal care to breast cancer screening and HIV tests.

Also, much talked about in the news is Trump’s crass treatment of Fox’s news anchor, Megyn Kelly. In critiquing Trump, one finds oneself supporting an equally misogynistic and neoliberal institution, Fox News. Interestingly enough, during the first Republican debate, Megyn calling out Trump’s misogynistic name calling of women made her a target of Trump’s humiliating riposte—he questioned her intelligence and her work as a journalist. And she was not spared the name calling either; on social media, Trump continued his war days after his first fracas, and called her a “bimbo.”

While many have rallied to Megyn’s support (due to her privilege of being an anchor on Fox, her youth, her whiteness, and her class), there was no protest or walk out when Jorge Ramos, a top Latino journalist, was summarily kicked out by security when he tried asking Trump a question about his proposed immigration policy! Here we see, along with misogyny, a deep and fertile racism, (the two often go together), but a section of the populace is eager to overlook these events as harmless, pure theater.

These recent events bear a dangerous echo to the beginning of the Nazi era and Hitler, with Mein Kampf as the bible that would build a country based on exclusions through genocide of the unwanted. If Americans select a President who will enact policies that are racist and misogynist and do away with press freedoms, we can begin to believe that we have lost our basic human and civil rights. We need to be angry, stay alert, and organize more than ever.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images / Fusion)

Women are attacked in the mirror of reproduction, and where is the outrage?

 

I often hear women in France wondering how it is possible that women’s access to abortion or to safe delivery is so outrageously compromised and mostly a source of revenue rather than inalienable rights in the United States. The current political landscape might help them, and us, understand.

Once again women and their bodies occupy the center stage of the presidential elections in the United States. While the last attempt to defund Planned Parenthood failed to pass, there were still too many votes in favor. The issue continues to obsess the GOP candidates and allows them to stigmatize women. They used the usual recipe to fabricate a scandal, this time targeting Planned Parenthood. They made deceptive images in order to emotionally manipulate a large portion of the population, brush aside the truth and reality, and focus on the anti women’s reproductive rights credo. The videos were assembled to manufacture false images of the use of “for-money tissues” coming from aborted embryos; ironically these accusations came from the candidates who defend profiteering at any cost. Actually, women who had had an abortion donated tissues for research on diseases such as Parkinson, Alzheimer, or orphan diseases, but does it really matter? The press was reluctant to explain the scam.

Planned Parenthood provides health care to women. One out of five have had recourse to their services because nothing exists for them in a for-profit medical system. This is not only about abortion. Across the United States, pregnant women are also mistreated: sent to prison, denied basic rights, and having no labor protection and no legally supported maternity leave.

It seems that nothing can impede the United States Republican candidates from bawling out injurious slurs toward minorities and women, while keeping silent about the reality of the violence of their economic views. But this time the farce is grotesque as well as threatening. As witnessed by the first GOP debate, the current US conservative battle for the primaries sheds light on the debacle of “democratic” debates in the cradle of neoliberal conservatism.

I asked in France what if the shocking Sarkozy or the heinous Le Pen had said something similar to launch their campaigns. Most said that this would not be accepted, not that there is no anti immigration sentiments. They said it would have triggered more mockery as well as indignation. Additionally, the response coming from the numerous associations that work on immigration rights and immigrant women’s rights would have been strong and irrefutable and accompanied with legal actions.

The question of reproductive rights is also shaped differently as deliveries and abortions are free, and pregnant women’s labor rights are still guaranteed in France as well as in many other countries, and the commitment to these rights, in France and across Europe, is robust, and again a vast range of associations is watching.

For example, when the conservative Spanish Prime Minister attempted to reduce reproductive rights in Spain, women and men from all over Europe went to the streets in support of Spanish women’s rights, thanks to these very associations, and forced the withdrawal of the bill.

However, women’s rights have been threatened in relation to the restructuring of the European Union, as we saw in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and France. This signifies another form of violence against women’s bodies, taking the oppressed body, the migrant’s body, hostage.

In the United States, the threat of these attacks against women persists in a distractive form. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore has explained, energy is going to be spent fighting each scandalous initiative while the source of the problem will be kept blurred. The debt economy that works with violence, stigmatizing women and people of color and/or lower social status, is forgotten in these debates.

Women are particularly targeted. Many women in the United States, including in my own family, have struggled during pregnancy to keep employment, to have pregnancy health particularities respected, to keep 100 % of their salary, or to pay for delivery.

Where is the outrage? Where are the images of the united colors of precarity, of women living precariously?

The neoliberal order bathes in this spectacle, and the reality of life disappears. Let’s keep in mind that the state of the status of women and women’s reproductive rights mirrors the fate of most of the population.

 

 

(Photo Credit 1: Javier Barbancho / Reuters / Landov / AlJazeera)

(Photo Credit 2: Marlon Headen of Headen Photography / RH Reality Check)

War on Workers? “Ladies First!”

A teach-in about the War on Workers took place recently in Washington, DC.

“The war”’ was described and analyzed by four panelists and a moderator. The moderator was male. Three of the panelists were males.  The one woman came from the National Education Association.  The panel discussed at some length the state of union activities in the U.S. given the struggles in Wisconsin and other areas of the country. Then the panel took questions.

I asked about gender politics, about the relation between the attacks on the funding of women’s resources, such as reproductive health, the general attack on collective bargaining rights from the State, and what labor unions were doing about it.  When Scott Walker and friends decided to eliminate collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin’s public sector workers, they only did it to female-dominated fields like teachers and nurses, but not to male-dominated ones like police and firefighters.

The panel did not answer my question.  But all four men did look to their right at the woman at the end of the table.  One of them then said, in a loud voice, “Ladies first!”

The response from the NEA representative was that women’s rights were something that unions had fought for as part of the broader labor movement, and that these attacks from the right were typical reactionary nonsense.  There was no discussion on what labor unions were doing to address this intersection between gender and the labor movement.

Needless to say, this response did not satisfy me.  But then I realized—the panel had relayed the philosophy that haunts women in the workforce, from the local to the global, from unions to the State: Ladies first!

Politicians can’t use the necessary vocabulary when discussing reproductive health, but a congressman can viciously tell lies about Planned Parenthood and alter records to get away with it.  The House of Representatives tried with all of its might to redefine the definition of rape to include a stipulation of whether the act is “forcible” or not, all for the sake of denying women access to safe abortions.  In the words of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the proposed bill was “a violent act against women.”  Meanwhile, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia claimed that the Constitution does not grant the same protections to women or the LGBTQ community as it does to other groups.

What is the logic behind who should be eliminated from the State’s dialogue, whether it’s in debate or in established law?  Ladies first!

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the poster-child for attacking teachers’ unions, whether he is stumping or berating individual teachers.  The rhetoric involves insults and putting dissenters “in their place,” as well as comments that sexualize State actions against teachers’ unions.  In the same period, Christie told the press to “take the bat out” against a female state senator, prompting two other women politicians from New Jersey to criticize his comments as advocating violence against women.  Earlier in the same year, Christie vetoed a bill that would have provided funding for women’s health and family planning through an expansion of Medicaid programs because of New Jersey’s budget crisis. Christie has blamed this budget crisis on teachers’ unions as a scapegoat to pass austerity measures, even though his administration “forgot” to apply for federal educational funding.

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker’s administration’s attempt to take away collective bargaining rights from public-sector workers has targeted women workers.  Other austerity measures being debated cut funding from women’s reproductive health services.  All of this austerity against women is in the service of a budget crisis that isn’t even real.

When the austerity State decides to cut funding for social services and get rid of basic workplace rights, which population does it look to?  Ladies first!

After the panel was over, the one woman panelist came up to me and said that although many high-ranking officials of the NEA are women, she and others in the organization never thought of the attacks on collective bargaining as a “women’s issue.”  Often women’s rights in reproductive health and in the workplace are painted as two separate issues, but they are not.

The panel’s response reproduced the same narrative.  And this narrative of women as secondary to the “movement” as a whole, brings up a final question:

When a progressive movement needs to react to the State’s austerity measures, what representation is conveniently forgotten in the overall narrative?

“Ladies first!”

It’s time to move beyond the chivalrous, neoliberal logics of “Ladies first!” and talk about, teach, and organize for all workers’ power and rights, equally and at the same time.

 

(Photo Credit: Workers World)