Hobby Lobby’s new hobby for discrimination

Today I was on Facebook and this came up on my newsfeed:
photo 1
I realized this picture looked familiar, so I went to another friend’s Facebook and found this:
photo 3

Curious, I began to look for more pictures by googling “stand with Hobby Lobby” and found many similar memes. What I realized is that the main argument is one for religious freedom and against the persecution of Christian businesses. However, I’m not sure that this argument is actually valid, or if this argument is merely being used as a vehicle to rile up public support for Hobby Lobby.

First, let’s get some background information on the issue. Last year, Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit contesting the regulations in the ACA that require companies to provide coverage for emergency contraceptives in their health insurance. This case has gone to the Supreme Court, as the corporation is now claiming religious persecution. The family that owns Hobby Lobby, headed by founder and billionaire David Greene, believes that their religious beliefs “forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices,” and are arguing that the regulations violate their right to religious freedom. This is the first major case against the newly enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and will definitely set the precedent for any future conflicts.

Media perception has been mixed. While news outlets the likes of Salon claim that this case is simply a Republican agenda setting strategy, social media has run rampant with support pleading people to “stand up for religious freedom” with memes the likes of the ones above.

In my opinion, the social media response begs the question of whether or not this is what the Republican Party wanted. This “popular public support” of an anti-ACA issue could be just what the party needs to help take down the Affordable Care Act (despite a new poll showing support from most Americans). Conversely, even if agenda setting wasn’t the initial intentions of Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit, this case can still be used as a vehicle to carry an agenda by the Republican party.

But is there any proof of this? By going straight to the source—the media—it seems pretty clear that this may well be the case. Many members of the Republican Party are openly supporting Hobby Lobby and its fight; from Congressmen going on record to Fox News’ public support, the opinion among the party is undeniable. There is no denying where the party stands on this issue, and polls show that there is no denying where conservatives stand on the Affordable Care Act.

The connections are clear. The Republican Party supports Hobby Lobby, and the Republican Party is using the news media and social media to show their support. This public derision of the ACA has substantially affected the opinions of the public who identify as conservatives. Absent of facts, the party has been using scare tactics to take down and discredit the Affordable Care Act (albeit the someone rocky launch of the ACA didn’t help to assuage anyone’s fears). What’s more, by refusing to provide emergency contraceptives, Hobby Lobby is effectively discriminating against its female employees, all the while the Republican Party is supporting them.

By promoting this through social media—such as asking fans to “share for support” and “like if you support religious freedom”—conservative interest groups are amassing a large audience. Considering that this audience is based in social media, it’s safe to assume that their followers’ support is based more on fear-mongering from the groups (“they’re gonna take your rights away!!!”) than from an interest in the facts. The internet has a tendency to give stories a life of their own, and these groups, at the behest of the Republican party, have given this story legs to run rampant all over social media.

From Huff Post: 8 Hollywood Women Who Have Called Out Industry Sexism

This is a very interesting article to read:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/25/sexism-in-hollywood-women-problem-inequality_n_4867219.html

Often we forget that media includes movies. The perception of women in film is almost just as important as in news media. We are constantly being influenced by the things we see, including in fiction. Read the article above and see what a few actresses have to say about it!

Non-anonymous: Rape victim stands up against a fraternity by suing the whole lot

Last semester at Wesleyan College, a freshman girl went to a pledge strip show party at the school’s Pi Upsilon house. During the party, she was raped as several onlookers stood by and watched.

Today, she is bypassing the bureaucratic tape by taking them all to civil court. Cabri Chamberlin, now a sophomore, has filed a lawsuit against her assailant and 11 other members of the fraternity.

In a previous post, I discussed how rape cases like these aren’t taken seriously enough on college campuses. Chamberlin has gone past that by going past criminal legislation and taking it straight to civil court.

Even if the boys don’t get jail time, a civil case means that they will still have to face what they have done. They may not be tried by a criminal court, but as this case goes further I am sure that the court of public opinion will vilify them appropriately.

The way Chamberlin is handling this situation is extremely brave and presents cases like this in a new light. She requested to have her name released to the media. By putting herself out there in this way she has effectively gained control of the way this case will be perceived. Chamberlin set her own frame when she stood up and described how much this experience has “altered her life” and expressed her ultimate desire to use the lawsuit to “create changes that protects others.”

Because she got in front of the situation, it will be very difficult for anyone to dispute her credibility or for the boys to defend their actions. Wesleyan has already released a statement expressing their sincere regrets about what happened to Chamberlin; had she not been so forthcoming about her situation, the college may not have been either.

Chamberlin may not realize exactly how important this lawsuit, and the subsequent media attention, is for changing the perception of rape cases on college campuses. Indiscretions can’t be swept under the rug when brave girls like her take action beforehand.

Article about the case:
http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/14/justice/wesleyan-university-rape-lawsuit/index.html?c=us&page=0

Women who don’t believe in equal pay?

This article from the Huffington Post today came out about Cari Christman’s comments on the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act. She is the head of RedState Women, a Texas-based PAC focused on “rallying women for GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott.”

In the video, she essentially says that women are “too busy” trying to create families and get a higher education to fight for equal pay. This message supports Greg Abbot’s stance on equal pay since, according to his competitor Wendy Davis, he fought vehemently against it during his tenure as Texas Attorney General.

I for one am not comfortable with what this message communicates. First of all, Christman denounces the legislation as “rhetoric” that offers no solutions, but isn’t able to come up with any viable solutions herself. Secondly, I’m extremely uncomfortable with a PAC dedicated to conservative women that does not believe in equal pay legislation. What are they trying to say about conservative women, or about women in general? This does not bode well to the rest of Abbott’s campaign, because I’m not sure how well this will play out among conservative career women.

Any thoughts?

To read the article, click on the above link or go here:
Head Of GOP Women’s PAC Flubs Equal Pay Question
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/17/head-of-gop-womens-pac-fl_n_4978650.html

Chelsea Handler tells off Piers Morgan

I’m sure a lot of people have seen this already, but just in case you haven’t it’s definitely worth the watch. Though Chelsea Handler is pretty sassy throughout the entire video, about two minutes in she takes it upon herself to tell Piers Morgan exactly why his show is coming to an end: he doesn’t pay enough attention to his guests.

After watching this video I must say that in the battle of wits, it’s:
Handler: 1
Morgan: 0

That being said, are we truly surprised that Piers Morgan is a mediocre interviewer? Taking Larry King’s place is a canyon-leap from judging America’s Got Talent. Also, that this interview is getting so much attention, despite everything going on in New York, Ukraine and the Malaysian airline, is pretty indicative of what the media prioritizes. On the other hand, if we weren’t so interested then this wouldn’t have made so many front pages.

I’m also interested in seeing how this might eventually implicate Chelsea Handler. Handler has been fighting off critics her entire career for her brash honesty. Being called a bitch isn’t news to her. But what if a man went on Morgan’s show and did the same thing? Would it be funny, or harsh? For Chelsea it will likely be portrayed as the latter.

Oscars with a poli-fem twist

The award season typically comes with a lot of discussion in the media and in the speeches given by the winners. This year at the Oscars, which arguably the most prestigious award in film, many a speech was given that nodded at current social and political. As this is a highly publicized event televised around the world, a platform like this is a good one for getting a message across.

From Bono’s song about Mandela, Ordinary Love, to the wins achieved by the historically relevant films 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club, there was certainly a lot to reflect upon. One of my favorite, aside from Jared Leto’s phenomenal acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, was Cate Blanchett’s acceptance speech for Best Actress for her work in Blue Jasmine.

In it, she address the typical notion that successful films with women in dominant roles are rare, saying that notion is “foolish” and assuring the audiences that “in fact, they earn money” (which in fact resulted in a nice applause). You can watch it here.

Though it may have gained a little controversy because she thanked Woody Allen, I am still impressed that she used her win to address such a pressing issue on such a large format.

Shattering the perception of women on birth control

News is all about perception. For women, a few topics immediately come to mind when it comes to what shapes perception, not the least of which is birth control. Including birth control in health insurance has become a controversial subject since the dawn of ObamaCare. One of the main concerns is that providing free birth control will encourage promiscuous behavior and do little to prevent abortions. This reflects on the restraints women have when it comes to media perception; too often are we defined by birth control, abortions and other things men are not vilified for. According to this study, that’s a misleading idea. Check it out:

Women Don’t Have More Sexual Partners When They Use Birth Control — But Why Do We Care?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-duberman/birth-control-risky-sexual-behavior_b_4920363.html

A Feminist Mix for International Women’s Day

A little late, but in honor of International Women’s Day

The WordPress.com Blog

This past Saturday was International Women’s Day, a day to inspire girls and celebrate women’s achievements and, in many countries, an official holiday.

There are many fascinating feminists using WordPress.com to share thoughts on sex, gender, and equality — here are a few of our quirky favorites.

Nursing Clio

On the collaborative blog Nursing Clio — named for Clio, the muse of history — a cast of writers explores issues of gender and medicine, focusing on the ways medicine has historically been used to reinforce sex and gender inequality.

nursing clio

Depending on the day, you might read a dissection of a 1968 Disney-produced film on birth control, an analysis of why women’s ski jumping wasn’t allowed in the Olympics until the Sochi games this year, or an exploration of environmental factors linked to intersex babies.

We also enjoy their tagline, “Because the personal is historical” — a…

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Accountability Now: Title IX is not taken seriously enough on campuses

Do you know what Title IX is? Unfortunately, most college students do not. Title IX is a part of the Education Amendments of 1972, federal legislation regarding higher education, which prohibits sexual discrimination on campuses. This includes sexual harassment and violence, and is not gender-exclusive.

Now, read this article about the rising problems involving sexual harassment on college campuses. Colleges are blatantly ignoring legislation, and because most students aren’t even aware that this legislation exists, it goes unnoticed.

The first problem is that many students don’t know how to define sexual harassment/discrimination. Letters like the Gullet Report, an email sent to members of the Kappa Sigma fraternity at USC describing the life of a “Cocksman,” clearly violates sexual discrimination laws. This repugnant letter, describing in detail the ratings of women and how they should be treated based on the size of their “gullet,” (you really don’t want to know) completely objectifies women; furthermore, because it is representative of a fraternity chapter, it gives Kappa Sigma a bad reputation.

The consequences of their actions are a startling example of a violation of Title IX. Like most scandals similar to this, the main objective of the clean up was to deflect and deter, rather than punish and set an example for the boys’ actions. In an effort to pass the buck, USC’s Interfraternity Council denounced the boys actions, but decided to use the letter as a “reminder to students about the positive and negative powers of social media.” Kappa Sigma National announced that they will pursue the matter “as far as they can,” but resolved that the email may have been “an attempt by another organization to sully Kappa Sigma’s name.” The USC chapter of Kappa Sigma is still going strong.

The next problem is the intimidation that comes with reporting. This, like many other cases, was washed away an left inadequately accounted for. Because these actions are not taken seriously, this makes victims reluctant to come forward. Most of these cases involve women, making it harder for men to report.

The numbers are clear. According to Campus Safety Magazine, more than half of sexual assault victims tell no one of their experience. Between 20 and 25 percent of women will have experience a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault while they’re in college while around 4 percent of men have reported being “forced against their will” (One in Four USA). Of these assaults, only around 16 percent result in prison sentences. There are many more numbers like this, none of which exactly bode to a healthy environment for victims.

The third, and perhaps the most important, problem is the sense of entitlement among men and the cultural norms set that fosters this type of environment. Our culture permits men to feel superior to women, allows men to think rape is a joke and sends out the message that the girl (or boy) is “asking for it.” Instead of holding the perpetrator accountable, the victim is accused of not wearing enough clothes or being too drunk. This translates to the media’s standards and subsequently to the standards of the college. This makes legislation like Title IX extremely ineffective because it is seldom taken seriously.

What’s more is that cases involving Title IX violations are rarely covered in the media. Sure, there are some cases that are given news coverage, but none of them get any juice or have had any real affect on decreasing the number of unreported cases. These cases are almost treated as “a dime a dozen”; the general idea is “it’s a shame, but there isn’t too much we can do about it, boys will be boys.” With media coverage comes a push for legislative action. Because in sexual assault cases on college campuses, the court of public opinion is almost just as important as the court of law. If the public opinion is not taken seriously by college officials—or if the public opinion foster’s rape culture among campuses—then there is no expectation of this legislation to actually make an impact, for legal action to occur or for the victims to get the justice they deserve.

To solve this problem, not only does the media need to give priority coverage to sexual assault cases on college campuses, but college officials need to take accountability for what happens on their campuses. This means not just sweeping cases under the rug, not making assumptions about the victims, and taking seriously the guidelines laid out by Title IX. In addition, students need to made aware of Title IX so they know exactly what to expect of their college. In this situation, awareness is key on all fronts.