Tag Archives: Voter ID

The F Word

Feminism.  Is this still a dirty word in the modern age?  Many women (and men) I know who hold the tenets of the women’s rights movement dear are still uncomfortable being saddled with the title of ‘Feminist’, laden as the term is, with many still ascribing it to angry women who just don’t like men.

This of course could not be further from the truth: women who fall under the banner are variously in relationships with men, are mothers to sons, and have fathers and brothers they love. It is not about ‘us versus them’, it is about rights, and equal and fair treatment regardless of gender, creed, colour, race, religion or sexuality is one we should all have without having to ask.  The definition of Feminism, in fact, is “an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women”.

Unfortunately, although we have come a very long way, there is further to go.  Women are still under represented in almost all professions, and even in occupations where we have a long history of representation there is still a dearth of women at the top.  This holds true in all levels of Government including – as reported in The Guardian – The House of Commons:

“The House of Commons has 650 MPs. Of these 650, there are 504 male MPs, so women are seriously underrepresented.”

There are many who would draw a parallel between the rights of women in the Western world and that of their counterparts in other countries.  You need only look at the case of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teen activist who was recently shot in the head for daring to demand that she be allowed an education, to see where the difference lies.  However, equality is not a contest, and just because other women face tougher challenges that does not mean we should accept being treated as a minority in a country where women make up 51% of the population.  Rather we should be blazing a trail for these women, and supporting them in their struggles while still challenging inequality wherever we find it.  Also, we in the West are not as enlightened as we think. Only this week I read two articles that concerned women’s rights issues, and both gave me pause.

Firstly I read Rebecca Watson‘s excellent article “It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too” in The Slate.  When she opted to speak publicly about Feminism and her first-hand experience of sexism in her professional field she was treated to a hate campaign that would have sent many into a hole never to return.  One suspects this was the intention.

My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page. Twitter accounts were made in my name and used to tweet horrible things to celebrities and my friends.

What was particularly disturbing about her article was how brazen her critics were and are, not even thinking to anonymise threats and attacks.  This in itself shows that the problem is endemic, and the fact that women are being ostracised for daring to speak out about such treatment frankly beggars belief.

The second article was in The Guardian, written by Jill Filipovic and with the stand-out title “The real Republican rape platform“.  This was nothing short of terrifying as it showcased some incredibly disturbing comments made by both men and women in the Republican Party ahead of the US elections.  Whatever your views on abortion, most will find it shocking.  Being that I am pro-choice, I was gobsmacked.  Let us begin with Richard Mourdock:

“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

Familiar as I am with the pervasiveness of right-wing Christianity in American politics, some of the quotes in Filipovic’s article still made me check the date on the article.  Was this written in the 1950s?  Nope, definitely 2012.  Despite senior Republicans disowning these remarks, Indiana senatorial candidate Mourdock has as yet refused to retract them – though he did make an ‘apology’ of sorts (no doubt with an arm twisted up his back) for “any interpretation other than what I intended”.  I consoled myself with the fact that this opinion was coming from a man, someone for whom women’s rights are not important, and also with the fact that even Romney and his ilk wanted to distance themselves from his views.  Surely he is a lone voice?  Sadly no.  Cue a quote from the Tea Party’s Sharron Angle, a female Republican senate candidate who believes abortion should be outlawed, even in the case of rape and/or incest:

“she insisted that a young girl raped by her father should know that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Much good can come from a horrific situation like that, Angle added. Lemons can be made into lemonade.”

Much good can come from a horrific situation like that.  That is her true belief.  Understandably this statement has made a lot of people very angry. Add these comments to those of “legitimate rape” exponent Todd Akin, Roger Rivard who tells us “Some girls rape easy“, and those of Douglas Henry who believes that “Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was” and you begin to feel that the whole world has disappeared through some kind of time portal to the dark ages, where women were chattel and had no say over their body or choices.  How much more enlightened then is our Western world compared to that of our Middle-Eastern sisters?

Thankfully, in this dialogue almost entirely dominated by men (according to 4th Estate 81% of people quoted about abortion in election news stories between November 2011 and May 2012 were male) some opposition voices have come to the fore.  President Obama, when asked by Jay Leno for his thoughts on the ‘rape debate’, replied:

“Rape is rape – it is a crime – and so these various distinctions about rape don’t make too much sense to me, don’t make any sense to me. The second thing this underscores though is this exactly why you don’t want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women’s healthcare”

Lena Dunham and Tina Fey have also spoken strongly on the issue, with the former recording a video endorsement for Obama and the latter speaking at the center for reproductive rights:

“if I have to listen to one more gray-faced man with a $2 haircut explain to me what rape is, I’m going to lose my mind.”

Lesley Gore has re-recorded her 1964 hit “You Don’t Own Me” to encourage women to get out and vote at the US elections on 6th November.  It shows a variety of women singing along followed by some shocking facts about Republican plans to remove funding from Planned Parenthood, shut down all family planning services and repeal affordable care – all actions that would primarily impact women.  This attempt to remove any prospect of choice, along with the means to prevent unwanted pregnancies, is a workaround as the Republicans know they can’t just outlaw abortion overnight.  That’s right, the Pro Life lobby are so Pro Life that they don’t even want you to have safe sex!  Aren’t we overpopulated enough as it is?! They even want women to have to disclose to their employer their reasons for being on birth control, an idea which if it ever became law (perish the thought) would surely discourage women from taking precautions.  Will these measures prevent unmarried couples having sex?  Hell no, but at least they will suffer the STIs, unwanted pregnancies and stigma that they clearly deserve…

On an election theme, CNN also published an article (and quickly retracted it) stating that women who are ovulating are more likely to vote Liberal as they will be feeling ‘sexier’.  Yes that’s right, rather than staying home and having all that sinful sex you are still able to safely have (and if the Republicans win you’d better make the most of it), the hot-to-trot ladies will be off to the polls to cast a lustful vote for the incumbent President.  The article, referred to as “craptastically craptastic” on the Daily Kos, is utterly ridiculous – however I do urge you to read it as it really does beggar belief.  It does, however, attempt some balance by asking the opinion of Susan Carroll (professor of political science and women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University) who, unsurprisingly, is not convinced:

“There is absolutely no reason to expect that women’s hormones affect how they vote any more than there is a reason to suggest that variations in testosterone levels are responsible for variations in the debate performances of Obama and Romney”

Carroll sees the research as following in the tradition of :

“the long and troubling history of using women’s hormones as an excuse to exclude them from politics and other societal opportunities…It was long thought that a woman shouldn’t be president of the U.S. because, God forbid, an international crisis might happen during her period!”

So, in a nutshell, if you think that Feminism has no real relevance for those of us in the First World, I beg you to reconsider.  The articles I have cited are but a few of those I read or consulted whilst writing this post, and the sheer volume of polarising pap in the run up to the US elections should give anyone, regardless of their political persuasion, pause for thought.  The attitudes and opinions expressed certainly bring a few F words to mind, but surprisingly Feminism is not top of the list.

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Since posting this I have come across an ‘Ad’ from Todd Akin where a rape survivor endorses him.  You can watch it here.  Presumably as she got pregnant she was not “legitimately raped”…

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Let My People Vote 2012

As election fever hots up in the US of A the Republican attempt at vote manipulation has begun in earnest. 

For those of us this side of the pond, American politics may not seem to be of that much importance or interest to we Brits, dealing as we are with our own financial pressures and revelations of serious corruption in the wake of the independant Hillsborough report.  For those who have any interest whatsoever in freedom or fairness, however, it does and should concern you.  At this very moment a concerted effort is being made to deny basic voting rights to scores of American citizens, primarily because they fall into the groups most likely to vote Democrat.  This insidious push to topple Obama by unscrupulous means has been well documented, however still has the power to shock and awe.

 Five short days ago, on 17th Sept, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was caught on camera branding almost half of Americans as ‘victims’ and intimating that he does not care about those people.  The video can be found at: http://www.motherjones.com.  The gaffe, which he has thus far poorly defended, is taken from a recent address he made to Republican donors, where he is heard describing almost half of Americans as “people who pay no income tax” and are “dependent upon government.”

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax…My job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Romney has not apologised for these comments, although he has conceded they were not elegantly stated, but the worrying element is not purely that this man could potentially be the next leader of the ‘free world’.  What is of greater concern are the tactics that have been employed in order to ensure that these “victims”, who by his own admission he cares not a jot for, are being blocked from their inalienable right to vote by introducing a new voter ID system that is intended to prevent them.

In a surprisingly guileless admission in June of this year, Mike Turzai (the Pennsylvania state House Republican leader) stated:

“Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it’s done. First pro-life legislation – abortion facility regulations – in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” 

Feel free to draw your own conclusions by watching the video of said statement here, although in all honesty the intention is not really in dispute.

Essentially the new voter ID rules mean that those who do not have a driving license or, hilariously, a firearms license, are all but exempt from voting.  This is allegedly to prevent voter fraud, but the real fraud is in the targeting of this policy as it disenfranchises the core Democrat voters – namely people who are poor, elderly, young, disabled, and/or non-white.  Sarah Silverman, who was the spokeswoman for the Jewish Council for Education and Research’s ‘The Great Schlep‘ at the last election has again starred in an entertaining and educational short film detailing the underhand tactics of this latest attempt at winning by obstruction rather than via support – watch it here.  Unfortunately there is little anyone can do about this new system as it is now in place and will be the one used for the November elections, however what the citizens of America certainly can do is ensure they have secured the right ID to make sure their vote will count, and with any luck block the election of Romney and his undemocratic party once more.

The following is taken from the website www.letmypeoplevote2012.com:5 things you should know about voter id laws

  1. These are not bipartisan efforts. They are initiated by Republicans, passed by Republicans, and signed into law by Republicans. The State House Majority Leader in PA asserted that these voter restrictions would allow Mitt Romney to win the state.

  2. The voters most likely to be burdened by these new voting restrictions are Democrats. Consider which voters don’t have ID. Among seniors and young voters, 18% don’t have valid ID. Among African Americans, 25% don’t have valid ID.

  3. Restrictions on voting, like poll taxes and “literacy” tests, have a long history. They are used by one party to prevent supporters of another party from voting.

  4. If someone were trying to steal an election, in person voter fraud, where a voter pretends to be someone they are not at the polls, is the last method anyone would chose. Absentee ballot stuffing is much easier. But more Republicans vote by absentee ballot. So no new restrictions on absentee voting.

  5. The Brennan Center has estimated that as many as 3.2 million citizens could find it harder to vote because of new voter ID laws.