Though we just inaugurated the new president, it feels as if we just threw away our barf bags after his less-than-glorious election. With a mandate-less president and a sharply divided Congress, we women need to watch our elected officials carefully. As a former member of Congress, I know what it feels like to be watched, so I can tell you the best way to apply pressure. Gather like-minded friends and form a monitoring cabal. Think up a creative name for the group. And make sure young women are represented. Remember, we never would have gotten the vote if younger women hadn't taken up the cause.
Here are some watchdog techniques:
*If your elected officials aren't to your liking, meet with them as a group and give them a chance to "court" you. All federal representatives have offices in their local districts and all are interested in expanding their base. But since they don't read brain waves, you'll have to tell them why you didn't support them. This is crucial because "I never knew this was important to you" is a politician's favorite excuse.
*Even if your candidate won, she or he still needs reminding that your continued support is based on kept promises.
*If your attempts to meet are thwarted, write letters to the editor relating your experience. Run an ad with the politician's picture, offering a reward for anyone who can supply information on the whereabouts of this person. You'll be called troublemakers—a badge that you should wear proudly.
*Whenever an issue comes up that you care about, alert your elected representatives. If they vote incorrectly, print up flyers describing the issue and telling people how their legislator voted. Send a copy to that legislator and say that you posted hundreds all over the district. Extending tentacles into the community is a politician's worst nightmare, and most will want to know how to stop you.
Now, which issues should we be watchdogging? With everyone sprinting toward the center, many of our concerns are going to be far to the left of anything this president and Congress can deal with. Given the realities of this political climate, first we need to preserve some rights—like Roe v. Wade, affirmative action, Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act—that we've already won. Use all the techniques I mentioned to hold the line on this woman-friendly legislation.
In a less deadlock-prone environment, I might have proposed lobbying for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, but now that seems like a fruitless gesture. Instead, work toward the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. With women still making only about 76 cents to a man's dollar, it's a no-brainer. And while we're talking about wages, how about pushing for the government to give more contracts to the growing number of women-owned businesses?
Get your legislators to improve women's health care. In August 2000, the National Women's Law Center and other groups released a report called "Making the Grade on Women's Health." Eight states and the District of Columbia failed, 42 states got an Unsatisfactory, and not one got a Satisfactory. Policymakers, meanwhile, deal mostly with our reproductive organs, even though heart disease, for example, is the number one killer of women.
Just think of all the votes Congress has taken on abortion, teen abstinence, the abortion pill, and family planning, while Viagra has almost no FDA restrictions and is covered by many insurance programs. Wouldn't you think they could connect the dots between Viagra and family planning? So, here's your homework assignment. On February 15, the new administration is deciding whether to release funding for international family-planning programs. Congress has consistently refused to support any international programs that fund abortions. This is how politicians have it both ways: they tell the left they voted for international family planning, and they tell the right they r
1/23/2015 #HeForShe Campaign Launches Pilot Effort Aimed at Institutional Equality - The United Nations' gender equality campaign #HeForShe has launched a new program called IMPACT 10X10X10.
United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, together with UN Women Executive DirectorPhumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, introduced the one-year pilot effort aimed at encouraging corporations, universities, and governments to play an active role in enhancing women's empowerment and equality in Davos, Switzerland today at the World Economic Forum.
"Women need to be equal participants in our homes, societies, in our governments, and in our workplaces," Watson said.
First introduced in September, HeForShe is a solidarity movement that calls on men and boys to confront gender inequalities that face women and girls globally. . . .
1/22/2015 BREAKING: House to Vote on Abortion Coverage Ban - After they were forced to scrap plans for a 20-week abortion ban, House Republican leaders decided late last night to instead ram through a vote today on a different extreme anti-abortion bill.
House Republicans are now pushing HR 7, a bill promoted as a ban on federal funding of abortion that would actually prevent women from using their own money to purchase health insurance that includes abortion care. . . .
1/22/2015 House Cancels Abortion Ban After GOP Congresswomen Drop Support - House Republicans cancelled plans to vote on a 20-week ban on abortion after Republican Congresswomen removed their names publicly as co-sponsors of the bill.
The vote on the unconstitutional 20-week ban had originally been scheduled for today, the anniversary of Roe v. . . .