Sunday, August 26, 2012

Women Can Ask For Help And Still Help Themselves

Since the elections are coming up within a few months, Obama’s campaign ads are becoming more visible in popular media. One concerning Mitt Romney and his stances on abortion has created predictable controversy with the right wing alleging it “victimizes women” among other things. A lot of the vitriol comes in the form of antiquated stances on abortion rights and also claims that “Obamacare” is infringing on religious liberty by making religious organizations, but not churches specifically, fund contraception. I briefly mentioned this two months ago in “Where Religion andPolitics Should Not Cross” and “Catholics, Contraception and Conscience”, both of which made the point that contraception is not a license to have sex without any sense of discipline or self control and it shouldn’t be encouraged merely for the pleasure of others. Viewed as preventative healthcare, it is within the Affordable Health Care Act’s structure to cover it under insurance plans. Women are still in a state in inequality, particularly with men and women stuck in a backwards thinking paradigm where females are regarded as subservient, and in order to advance forward, abortion rights must be enforced more effectively. There may not be a literal war on women, but the “fairer sex” is still treated as if they need to be coddled, instead of given the same standing as a man in terms of reproductive health, which includes both contraception and abortion as medical practices. And it is a scary time to be a woman, even if the president doesn’t hold full sway over legislation. The influence the executive branch has cannot be denied and the effect of peoples’ votes in terms of partisan politics cannot be overstated. If Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win the election, women are in danger of having all their advancements be set back almost half a century if the Republicans have their way, and they have a slight numerical advantage in Congress, not to mention the Supreme Court. So the fight against these anti abortion agendas is that much more difficult with the branches of government stacked against women’s rights. Men should recognize this problem and seek to find a solution, which does not mean treating women as delicate flowers or anything, since they go through far more difficulty than men do psychologically and socially, let alone biologically. They deserve a bit more recognition and fairness in politics than they appear to get.

First off, you aren’t victimizing women in the literal sense when you say they are under attack in some sense by political campaigns. If you observe that they are victims of something else, that is different than making them your victim. There might be a claim of painting women as victims, but this is demonstrably different than an explicit claim of Democrats and social liberals “victimizing” women in their abortion rights policymaking. This is not to say that women are asking for special treatment with insurance coverage of contraception, since it could be equally justified for insurance providers to cover male contraception, since they can be argued to be preventative healthcare.  Romney is admittedly out of touch with women, due in part to his upbringing as a conservative Mormon, but also because he’s a man. I’m also guilty of being out of touch with women, not being one myself. But I can at least empathize or sympathize in trying to aid them in gaining what I’d call reproductive equality under the law, which was gained in part through Roe v. Wade, but not entirely. To claim the Obama campaign is creating an artificial status of victimhood is still flawed, since any examples of sex selective abortion procedures, women who suffer psychological repercussions from abortions or even women who have died from abortion procedures are far and above exceptions to the rule, Abortions are far safer when they are regulated and can be prevented by sex education and proper birth control application through the same entity that does abortions which constitute only about 3% of their services.

Planned Parenthood seems to be one of the larger targets in the proverbial “war on females” as I’d say, even though women and females are distinguished by age. The claim from conservatives is that they are encouraging sex, which then leads to pregnancy, which then necessitates their abortion services and thus is creating a circle of exploitation. First off, to reiterate, statistics suggest that a minute amount of PP’s services are abortion related. The rest are various forms of contraception, mammograms, pap smears and other preventative measures to guard against STDs, various female cancers that can spread if not checked and generally maintain reproductive health. But Planned Parenthood isn’t creating a cycle if they are encouraging both a happy and responsible sex life, which would prevent unwanted pregnancies, which would also lower the rate of abortions they’d have to perform. And women are not being portrayed as sexualized objects merely because they admit they have a sex life and want to have safety measures concerning pregnancy, STDs, etc. Quite the contrary, women would be at least partly desexualized when their value is severed from their reproductive functions. Illegalizing abortion or making reproductive health and rights not a primary aspect of policy would reduce women to breeders in that they are not expected to be able to choose not to have children or delay childrearing until they are more financially or emotionally prepared. Ultimately the argument that the GOP and conservatives either don’t understand women or don’t understand the sexist and misogynist positions of social conservatism is only bolstered by recent revelations about their platform and the major figures of the party supporting anti choice and anti woman legislation in practice, even if they say the  principles are the opposite.

Men shouldn’t try to argue that this is special treatment for women, since women are biologically the only members of our species to have children, so giving them a basic legal right to abortion is not any different than men choosing to get a vasectomy, though it is admittedly a bit more extreme than birth control for men that does exist; it kills sperm through a layer of material in the male genitals that allows for urination and the like. Women are not simply their uteruses and are definitely not mere domestics meant to serve men by any means. Women deserve equality in career pay; supposedly they are still only paid 75 cents to the dollar compared to the other sex. Women also deserve basic equal career opportunities: as long as they are qualified, the fact that they have breasts and a vagina should not factor in unless it’s particularly relevant to the job (i.e. a Chippendale’s dancer) Men have more status in this society than they realize. The Bible favors them in terms of marriage, since they can divorce with some grounds and women cannot. Then there’s the obvious problem of men being able to walk alone without much fear of being sexually assaulted, while women are still harassed to this day and have to walk in groups so as not to be molested or, worse, raped. Both men and women should feel remotely safe from sexual assault in this modern age.

It’s fair to say that perhaps government sponsorship of contraception could create the wrong impression at first, but it’s not as if males aren’t getting special treatment from culture, as established prior, so women getting support from the government to advance their reproductive rights evens out the playing field. Now women could conceivably be more self sufficient in other areas when they can maintain a responsible and regulated sex life, severing them from the expectation that they will just be housewives and raise children while men continue to be breadwinners. This sexist and outdated idea only persists because there is a mutual agreement to that setup in a marriage and/or family. Because of this, women become repressed and generally stifled from the potential they have. There isn’t a reason to stratify jobs based on sex or gender unless it’s a prerequisite from the start (see my Chippendales example or consider a Playboy Bunny as a counterexample). The capacities men and women have for jobs are as generally equal as job skills tend to be considered, so that shouldn’t be the issue. Women’s reproductive rights and health have been sacrificed for too long for the convenience, prejudice or ignorance of men. It’s time to make a change. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Separating Product and Politics

GLBT rights remain prominent in both politics and culture. A few weeks ago, I discussed the appropriateness of supporting political positions as a company in “You Can’t Boycott the Gay Away” and it seems that the reverse applies as well; you can’t support a company to make the gay go away. Chick-fil-a was already in the news a few years ago when it was revealed they give millions of dollars to anti gay companies like the Family Research Council. But this year, their president, Dan Cathy, brought the company into the spotlight again when he stated that his company was founded on “Biblical principles” and supported the “traditional family”. This brought a great deal of hostility towards and protests across the country at Chick-fil-A, ranging from mayors saying they won’t allow new CFA restaurants in their cities to people planning gay kiss-ins at the establishments. But Mike Huckabee, former presidential candidate in the 2008 race, supported a counter protest in the form of a “buycott” where people would eat at CFA to support their opposition to gay marriage. This doesn’t really seem to have worked, since the company is losing popularity overall in their brand recognition in the last month or so. And even if CFA manages to keep its profits at an even keel, I imagine they will lose a great deal of patrons and likely close a few locations where profits aren’t maintained, keeping their main locations in places where it maintains popularity with a conservative demographic, such as where it started in the Southeast. But is it really appropriate to always protest or boycott a group merely because they don’t agree with your politics? Can you distinguish between the policies a company supports and the product they sell you or are they too overlapped when it comes to where the money used to pay for it goes to? And should corporations really be involved in politics or should they focus on making profit in their ventures?

First off, this shouldn’t be argued to be about first amendment rights. Like the Oreo thing, it is within a company’s rights to say they support a certain political position. The limits of the first amendment are primarily to hate speech, which hasn’t been uttered as far as I’m aware by Dan Cathy. Even his ridiculous claim that we’re “inviting God’s judgment” by trying to achieve marriage equality is not illegal, since it’s a claim that has no real basis in fact like Westboro Baptist Church’s similar warnings. Terrible things happen to America as much as they happen to other nations, so God’s judgment is all over the place by that sketchy logic. CFA has every right to take a stand on this issue, but at the same time, there is such a thing as too much involvement. Companies can become too invested and literally start to campaign through their funds by donating to political organizations. This fundamentally undermines the initial purpose of a democratic government. When companies get involved, they take away the real value of the individual votes, because they’re campaigning with much more money behind them and it’s voluntary for different reasons. Asking for funds is one thing common in election season, but restaurants or the like get consistent cash flow, which makes their situation more ideal to take advantage of the lack of limits in other political contexts.  The Supreme court has made it law, from what I understand, that corporations cannot donate more than a certain amount to presidential or other such candidate based campaigns, but say nothing concerning such things as legislation in general. The Family Research Council, one of CFA’s recipients of funds, was against Congress condemning a bill in Uganda that would have made it legal to kill homosexuals, though they tried to divert the blame from them directly by saying they were trying to avoid “normalization of homosexuality across the world”. That same organization has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. These facts alone should be enough to make you think about calling CFA out on that blemish of their otherwise spotless record. What is ultimately at stake here is not whether CFA is going to go out of business, since a free market of both business and ideas necessitates that we have both crappy or subpar food and beliefs. If someone thinks that gays shouldn’t get the same rights as straight people, that’s their prerogative. But when you start trying to legislate those beliefs in reality, that’s where you stop being free under the constitution to do so. The same applies to companies. The goal should not be to protest, boycott or support CFA because of their political stance on gay marriage, but petition them to stop funding hate groups and stay out of politics as much as possible, if not entirely.

Chick-fil-A has stated that they intend to leave the policies of same sex marriage to the government and political arena. If this is the case, then I hope that they also cease their funding to people who are involved in politics. The National Organization for Marriage advocated a boycott of General Mills and Starbucks; plus I believe Million Moms suggested the same for Oreo. The vast majority of companies either 1) aren’t involved or 2) try to do it covertly, as CFA seems to have done in the past and may continue to in the future. Any company should maintain neutrality in this issue, especially when it comes to funding. They can take a position in the nominal sense, but to actively try to advance it through their profits is potentially unconstitutional, if not just insensible. Why waste funds trying to do what the people should be allowed to do without interference from entities that are not individual persons? It’s one thing for explicitly political groups to get donations from individual citizens, but private companies should concentrate on maximizing profit and marketing the items or services in question they provide. It’s just practical common sense.

To separate politics and product completely in terms of being a consumer misses the point, but as a producer, it is essential to doing good and efficient business. Policies and legislation are unnecessary to selling chicken sandwiches, or any other product, food related or otherwise. Just market the items through various media and progress from there. So this is a double edged conclusion. On the one hand, a consumer shouldn’t try to separate product and politics, since they can be interrelated. CFA can be argued to sponsor discrimination, so you shouldn’t go there. But you also should be able to separate the company’s employees from the policies their higher ups, like Dan Cathy support. They may not support that, but they still work there regardless. And for producers, the goal of entrepreneurial enterprises and franchises is to make money, not to use that money for purposes other than making money. Charitable organizations may be an exception, but to advance a partisan agenda is not what you should do with the money you get from people of all political persuasions. Keep your money either to charity or consumer interests and I think everything would become a little better in terms of political campaigns and their natural flow. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.