Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

In honor of Equal Pay Day, I’ve decided to share the response I received from Senator Angus King about equal pay, specifically the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries, and require employers to prove pay gaps are necessary for the business, tied to job performance, and not related to gender. All good things in my book. Senator King disagrees.

Because I have to have the last word, I’m responding to his response. My comments are in [blue brackets].

Dear Amy,

Thank you for being in touch with me about the Paycheck Fairness Act. [Your’e welcome!] While I fully support the goal of achieving gender pay equity [whoo-hoo!], I am not sure that this bill is the best approach we can take to solving this problem. Congress and the President already passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 [I know; I’m so proud], which I believe strikes the correct balance between ensuring women’s rights to challenge wage discrimination and the ability of business owners to avoid excessive regulatory burdens [excessive regulatory burdens? Like paying me the same amount of money as an equally qualified man who does the same work?]. We should work within the current legal framework, which already provides women with the opportunity to win compensation for discriminatory wage practices [only if they know the discriminatory practices exist], to close the gender pay gap.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as modified by the Equal Pay Act of 1963, employers are prohibited from paying women lower wages than men who are working in positions with the same responsibilities and necessary skills [and we’re still making less than 80 cents to the dollar, so there’s room for improvement]. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, workers are allowed to file lawsuits against wage-discriminating employers within 180 days of their most recent affected paycheck. This means that under current law, women already have the latitude to contest wage discrimination at any point during their employment when their pay has been unfairly limited or reduced in comparison to their male co-workers [again, only if you know the wage discrimination is occurring. That’s not something employers advertise in the break room].

The Paycheck Fairness Act presumes that these current protections are not enough. First, the Act would tighten the definition of what constitutes an allowable pay differential. Second, the Act would open the door for class-action lawsuits based on gender pay gaps, exposing employers to significant additional risks beyond the individual lawsuits they may already face [as they should if they are screwing over women]. Third, there would be added wage reporting requirements. I believe that these provisions place too much of a burden on employers without providing significant further protections for women in the workforce. This is why I cannot support the Paycheck Fairness Act as currently drafted. [So…..do you have a counter-proposal? Or do you think everything’s working fine right now?]

Once again, thank you for being in touch with me. I really appreciate hearing the concerns and insights of my constituents as I join with the rest of my Senate colleagues in addressing the issues vital to our nation. Please feel free to contact me in the future on other matters that I can bring to the Senate’s attention [I think we both know I will].

Best Regards,
United States Senator

So there you have it folks. Happy Equal Pay Day.


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I began writing this back in the fall. Then I got busy with social movements, like keeping same-day voter registration in Maine, and I didn’t pay as much attention to the Occupy stuff. Now, Time Magazine has named the protestor its Person of the Year and the issue arrived in my mailbox this week. Most of the story is about the protests in the Middle East, as it should be. Those people are protestors. They helped overthrow brutal dictatorships. Camping in parks doesn’t count as protesting in my book.

The Occupier interviewed for the Time article says he got involved because he was frustrated by how little the Obama Administration had accomplished. I think you all know my thoughts on that one, but just in case, check out What the Heck Has Obama Done So Far? But it gets better. While the occupier was disappointed with the other occupiers, he acknowledged “there are jerks in every organization no matter how ‘pure’ the organization.” If only he and his compatriots recognized that governments are also organizations.

Here are my thoughts from October:

I’ve had mixed feelings about the #occupy protests. The occupiers seems like the Tea Party of the left to me: they are !ANGRY! but it’s unclear exactly what they are !ANGRY! about: wall street malfeasance? Corporate greed? Wealth distribution? Capitalism? Corporations in general? The Citizens United “corporations are people” decision? All of the above?

I agree with Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee that the occupiers lack “a focused agenda: this is what we want and these are the strategies we are going to use to get what we want.” One simple strategy is to vote, but apparently you’re not voting. More about that later.

Jen Schmidt had a great piece on Boston.com: We are the 99 Percent, Too—But We Don’t Agree with Occupy. She highlighted three major concerns:

  1. Hypocrisy–best summed up by this sentence: “Your point about hating the uber-wealthy corporation is lost when it finishes with a small “Sent from my iPhone” sign off.”
  2. The Lack of Awareness—there are 7 billion people in this world and the 99% of America are a hell of a lot better off than the 99% elsewhere.
  3. The Missing Message–I’m a political organizer; message is key, yet the occupiers don’t have one. They have a list of complaints, but I’m looking for more. “Without a goal, without a stance, and without an end, your means mean nothing. Awareness is great, but as you aim for tangible action and demand accountability from those you protest, the need for a unified message increases.”

However, I’d say my number one complaint is the likely overlap between the occupiers and the people who don’t vote. From 2008 to 2010 there was:

  • a 60% decline in voters under the age of 24
  • a 50% decline in voters ages 25-29
  • a 40% decline in African-American voters
  • a 30% decline in Hispanic voters
  • a 33% decline in voters with incomes under $30K

By contrast, the 65+ and up crowd (the core of the Tea Party) declined by less than 1 percent, and the mostly white voters making more than $200K (aka the 1% the occupiers are complaining about) declined only 5% (Voting, Not OWS, Will Save America). 

Why are we in this mess? Cause decisions are made by those who show up. The other side showed up. Too many of you couldn’t be bothered. Life is unfair, the political system sucks, too much inequality. Valid complaints. But I’m less inclined to listen to you when you can’t be bothered to raise your hand every year.

Put another way, “go and participate in the process instead of screaming about why you have no voice.”

You want a revolution? Start by being an informed and educated citizen. Then vote. Vote, vote, vote. Vote in every election. Midterms count. So do primaries. Don’t like the candidates? Run for office yourself. Recruit candidates who share more of your values (you’ll never get an exact match, unless you run yourself and remember that perfect is the enemy of good). Volunteer for the candidates and campaigns you prefer. And vote. Hopefully you’re getting how important voting is. The civil rights leaders did. More from Frank Viviano:

“Half a century ago, Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez understood that genuine change could only be achieved through long-term, patient struggle – and that the prize, in King’s famous words, was full access to the nation’s key institutions, notably the ballot box and the governing seats it fills.

“The leaders and foot soldiers of the civil rights era fought with unflagging commitment, and King himself was martyred, in a two-decade campaign for the voting privileges that 2010 abstainers dismissed as unworthy of an hour’s time on a single Tuesday in November. The Wall Street demonstrators are now debating an even broader boycott of the 2012 presidential election.”

Protect your right to voteit’s not as secure as you think. And don’t even think of boycotting 2012.

I found this gem at the end of the Time piece: “Aftermaths are never as splendid as uprisings. Solidarity has a short half-life. Democracy is messy and hard, and votes may not go your way. Freedom doesn’t appear all at once.” Guess what? Politics works the same way.

Decisions are made by those who show up. Class dismissed.

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October 16 marked the 95th anniversary of Planned Parenthood. I’d like to take this opportunity to celebrate all that Planned Parenthood nonprofit health care providers have done, and continue to do, for women and families.Planned Parenthood works every day to prevent unintended pregnancies and keep women healthy. More than 90 percent of the services Planned Parenthood health centers provide are preventive — lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and prevention and treatment of STDs— and this is care that many women would not be able to receive if not for Planned Parenthood. In fact, one in five American women has relied on Planned Parenthood for accessible, quality health care — and I’m one of them.

I’ve used Planned Parenthood for my primary care, and when my health insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of the HPV vaccine that prevents 75% of cervical cancer cases, Planned Parenthood was there for me. The health clinic in Topsham gave me the vaccination at an affordable cost for me. This isn’t unusual—Planned Parenthood has a sliding fee scale so no one is denied health care because of his or her inability to pay.

I rely on Planned Parenthood for accessible, affordable health care and for accurate and unbiased information. Because they’ve always been there for me when I needed them, I want to wish Planned Parenthood a Happy 95th, and many, many more!

ETA: My letter was published on Tuesday.

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The Four Word Review: Girls persevere despite Taliban

The Grade: A-

Makes Me Want to Read: more about Afghanistan and women’s rights there

My Thoughts: I’m drawn to books about Afghanistan and as a feminist and former women’s studies student, a book about sisters secretly running their own business to survive Taliban-era Kabul is written for me.

After the Taliban take Kabul in 1996, Kamila Sidiqi’s parents are forced to flee to the north. Her father was in the military under previous regimes and the family fears for his life if he remains in Kabul. However, travel is extremely dangerous and it is thought to be safer for the children to remain in Kabul. At this point Kamila is maybe 20 years old and is now responsible for her four younger sisters and her younger brother. She asks her older sister to teach her how to sew so that she and her younger sisters can begin a dressmaking business. Under Taliban edicts, women are essentially prisoners in their own homes. The girls are desperate for work and Kamila correctly believes that the dressmaking business will give them a purpose, and provide much needed income for the family.

Thus begins a small, family-owned business that soon grows to include more than 30 women as well as school to train women to be seamstresses. The Sidiqi home becomes a haven for the young women of the Khair Khana neighborhood of Kabul. Comments one young woman after her first day, “It’s not even like being in Kabul City…It feels like a place where there’s no Taliban at all, and no fighting. There are just all these women working together and talking and sharing stories. It’s wonderful.”

Kamila not only creates a thriving business, she creates a community, each desperately needed in late 1990’s Kabul. The horrors of life under the Taliban are addressed, but The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is not as graphic as A Thousand Splendid Suns. Suns is a wonderful book–a friend of mine from Afghanistan recommended it, telling me it was a very good depiction of life under the Taliban, and I’ve no doubt this is true. But because it describes such horrific events in great detail, I would hesitate in giving it to my younger cousins. In both books, I found myself murmuring to the characters, “Just hold on. Three more years. Two more years. Just get to September 2001. Help is coming.”

Help is coming, but Kamila also helps herself. She takes risks, she provides for her family and her community, she teaches the next generation and she never gives up. In short, she is inspiring and I’m so glad Lemmon has told her story. Kamila is a wonderful example to all of us of the power of an individual, the importance of hard work and optimism–I would give her story to my younger cousins in an instant.

On her last reporting trip to Afghanistan in 2009, Lemmon met with one of Kamila’s brothers, who thanked her profusely for telling his sister’s story:

I realized that Kamila’s brother understood better than I did why, at this moment, telling his sister’s story matters so much. Brave young women complete heroic acts every day, with no one bearing witness. This was a chance to even the ledger, to share on small story that made the difference between starvation and survival for the families whose lives it changed. I wanted to pull the curtain back for readers on a place foreigners know more for its rocket attacks and roadside bombs than its countless quiet feats of courage. And to introduce them to the young women like Kamila Sidiqi who will go on. No matter what (229).

I’ve already been affected by Kamila in a small way: with my mother’s assistance, I’ve been making wedding gifts for friends who are getting married at the end of the month, and a blanket for a friend expecting her first child, a daughter, in September.

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Hi, folks:

So I stumbled upon this opinion article [Male Sex Abuse and Female Naivete] by Dan Rottenberg from the Broad Street Review and frankly, it seriously pissed me off. What follows is an open letter to the Broad Street Review addressing some of my concerns. I know that it is waay too long for publication in full, but I wanted to throw the whole thing out there in case any of you felt the same way — or didn’t, and wanted to discuss!

Dear Mr. Rottenberg:

I’d like the opportunity to respond to your article “Male Sex Abuse and Female Naiveté,” and while I do not hope to change your opinion, I would feel negligent if I didn’t submit an alternate point of view.

I am a twenty-five year old female who has lived for well over a decade in the possession of a pair of terrific, ample breasts. They are mine, and I’m quite attached to them. They are as much a part of me as my smile, my eyes, my personality, or my fabulously sexy brain, and I wouldn’t change them for the world.

I am also making a living in this city as a costume designer. I think about clothes – a lot. I am able to pay my rent based upon careful analysis of how our choice of clothing helps define us as people. In regards to my own wardrobe, I attempt to always flatter my figure, feel comfortable, and look my best for any given occasion. Occasionally, this might emphasize my cleavage. Shockingly, I have never been the victim of a sexual assault.

In part, I attribute this to the company I keep. I am blessed with a lovely assortment of male friends, all of whom, to the best of my knowledge, are in possession of a penis. I have never once felt the same way about their genitalia as you seem to: that it should be equated with a loaded gun, and that the sight of my wanton legs, thighs, or cleavage will cause it to unexpectedly go off. In my professional acquaintance, I have worked with a number of directors, producers, and designers who are male, and never once have I been the victim of a sexual assault by attending late-night production meetings in their home. Frankly, I think I can speak for them when I say that were I to arrive prepared for the possibility of sexual intercourse in addition to the roster of script rewrites or fabric discussions on the agenda, they would be perplexed and horrified. I am continuously blessed by the trusted male friendships in my life, and cannot envision a world in which I cut out 50% of my companions by virtue of the fact that the “male animal craves drama about as much as food, shelter, and clothing.” How sad that you have such little regard for your own gender!

Look, questionable fashion choices are out there, as anyone who has ever attempted to walk through Old City on a Saturday night will attest. But what teenage girl hasn’t added “questionable fashion choices” to her roster of growth and experimentation? I’d venture to say that debuting that first outfit that makes you feel slim and sexy is up there with The Prom and The First Kiss as hallmarks of adolescence.

Perhaps, as you say, “it is usually easier to change your own behavior than someone else’s.” Easier. Well, perhaps. But better? Rather than deprive women of the right to their own choices of wardrobe, I would challenge men everywhere to think and act like decent human beings [emphasis added]. (Most of the ones I know do).

I am not so naïve as to deny the existence of all humans’ potential for evil. Terrible things happen to good people, every minute of every day. But to assume that your “precautions” must be taken – to never accept a job as a masseuse! To never trust a man! – is a view of humanity so bleak that I cannot possibly accept it as truth. I believe in the possibility of all people to strive towards a more civilized society. The most timely advice I have in regards to curbing sexual assaults? Gentlemen: it’s simple. Don’t sexually assault us.



Katherine Fritz

South Philadelphia

June 8th, 2011

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As one of your constituents, I would like you to know that I strongly support LD 386 An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Working Group Concerning Domestic Violence and Firearms. LD 386 would allow a law enforcement officer to seize the firearms of someone arrested for domestic violence crimes, like stalking, assault or violating a protection order, and hold these weapons until further order of a court.

According to the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel’s 2010 report, 65% of the homicides that occurred in 2008 were cases of domestic violence. Of the 16 homicides the panel reviewed, more than half of the victims were killed with a firearm, the most common weapon. The panel made the following observation about the legal system: “The Panel observes that defendants who are on bail after being charged with serious criminal conduct may continue to pose a threat to their victim(s).”

With specific regard to firearms, “The Panel observes that the presence of a firearm in a home with domestic violence poses increased risk of a fatal injury to all household members, including victims and perpetrators.”

Since firearms in homes with domestic violence pose increased risks of fatal injury, since defendants on bail continued to pose a threat to their victims and since firearms are the most common weapon used in domestic violence homicides, I believe it is sound public policy to allow law enforcement officers to temporarily seize the firearms in certain cases of domestic abuse.

I hope you will support this bill.

For those who are interested, there will be a public hearing on this bill on Friday March 25 at 10:00 in Room 436 of the State House. Here is a list of the members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. If you click on their names, you can email them  and ask them to support this bill.

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The first International Women’s Day was observed by Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, 1911.  International Women’s Day was conceived in 1910 at the second annual International Conference of Working Women, held in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Over 100 women from 17 countries unanimously agreed to an International Women’s Day to be used to advocate for their demands, including women’s rights to work, vote, receive training, and hold public office. 

In 1913, March 8 was named International Women’s Day and it has remained so for nearly 100 years.  International Women’s Day has become a global day of recognition and celebration.  International Women’s Day is a national holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

International Women’s Day encourages people to think globally and act locally by doing their part to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

In celebration, The Global Fund for Women has listed the Top Ten Wins for Women’s Movements in 2010. Their list includes the creation of UN Women, a 34% drop in maternal deaths worldwide and the first use of CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) in a rape case in the Philippines.
But our work isn’t done, as Daniel Craig (James Bond) and Judi Dench (M) point out in their video for the EQUALS Project. You can see it on youtube here.
The sensationalist take is “James Bond in drag!” How exciting! How funny to see Daniel Craig in a dress! But the real power of the video is Judi Dench’s narration: After reeling off the data (70 million girls denied education, 60 million sexually assaulted on their way to school, 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence) she asks, “So, are we equals? Until the answer is yes, we must never stop asking.” I’ve watched the video at least a half dozen times and I still get a little chill.
Never stop asking, and never stop fighting for equality either. To that end, Equality Now (a fabulous organization working for the protection and promotion of women’s human rights around the world) has compiled a list of 100 Steps to Equality for the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. The top action is opposing the Afghan government’s plan to take over women’s shelters. The list also includes actions on female genital mutilation, child marriage and anti-trafficking laws.
According to Equality Now: “Through this eclectic list and global snapshot, we have tried to summarize the harsh realities of women’s lives entangled in myriad forms of violence and discrimination everywhere. To combat these abuses that affect women and girls’ lives, individuals and groups in the smallest corners of the world are fighting back and urging their governments and societies to end human violations against women and girls. Our responsibility is to support these efforts, in whichever way we can: call, write a letter or send an email to the powers that can effect change; or a send a check to groups on the ground or to Equality Now. The power of one individual to take action is critical; but together, we are key in making this world a better and safer place for everyone.”
Happy International Women’s Day everyone.

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