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Welcome to the Dearborn, MI Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW)!

AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research. Founded in 1881, AAUW is open to graduates with an associate or higher degree from an accredited college or university, as well as students currently enrolled in college.  Dues support the operations of the Dearborn-Michigan branch, founded in 1933, as well as the state and national organizations.

One Teacher’s Risk Taking

martha-cothrenimagesA few years ago, Martha Cothren, social studies teacher at Robinson H.S. in Little Rock did something unusual on the first day of school.

She removed all the desks from her classroom. When the first students of the day arrived, they discovered there was no place to sit, other than the floor. Ms. Cothren challenged them. “You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.”

The kids offered ideas: Their grades? Their behavior? Their homework? Assessment tests? As succeeding classes arrived and departed, the answer eluded the students. After lunch, news crews arrived to report about the wacky instructor who had removed her students’ desks.

During the final period on that first day of instruction as puzzled students sat on the floor, Ms, Cothren stated, “Throughout the day, no one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.”

She went to the classroom door and opened it.

Twenty-seven U.S. Veterans marched into that social studies classroom. Each was carrying a student desk. The vets arranged them in precise rows and then stood alongside the wall. It began to dawn on the students that those vets had earned rights they had not even imagined.

Ms. Cothren clarified, “You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. These vets paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.”

A year later Ms. Cothren was awarded Teacher of the Year in Arkansas. Her father had been a prisoner of war in WWII which clearly shaped her teaching of the history of that conflict, as well as the Vietnam War. She wrote her own textbook for the course.

At her high school, students organized a Vietnam Veterans Recognition Week which included an official “Thank You Ceremony” to honor those who have served our nation. During that week-long event, vets from WWII and the Korean War participated as well. As vets shared their memories, students created a videotape archive to preserve their singular stories. Students continue to send care packages and write letters to military personnel.

As I revisited this story today, I was reminded of Lisa Lark, teacher at Edsel Ford High School, who made such an interesting presentation on Vietnam vets when Beverly Reiter served as our branch-program vice president.

I also was reminded of how much we will miss having Laura Marko as a member of our branch. Sadly for Dearborn, this summer she and her husband made the choice to move out of state for economic reasons. Laura was vital to our growing understanding of sexual assaults in the military and other veterans’ issues as well.

As another-new school year begins, we can only hope that in the Dearborn Public Schools there are similarly vital teachers taking risks in classrooms. Long-term memory is embedded in the brain’s limbic system. The limbic system becomes the brain’s most efficient repository of memory via the power of emotional impact!

Happy Anniversary!

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Today is the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. That’s the one that granted women the right to vote. Suffrage, the right to vote in public elections, is the word that sums it up.

Women finally had their say. Women finally had official voices. Women finally had a say in the direction of public matters. Women had been enfranchised!

With the power of the ballot, women could more effectively try to shape the outcome of referendums. Many still felt torn by duty to spouse and family, but they could finally help decide things via the ballot box.

The march of women through American history is still fraught. A survey of 18 American history textbooks found that only 10% of the individuals studied are women. America has 2,400 national-historic landmarks. Less than 8% deal with the accomplishments of women. Among the 217 statues in the nation’s Capitol Building, 13 represent women.

Little wonder that the scholar, Carolyn Heilbrun believes, “Women in the past have a dreadful tendency to disappear in a cloud of anonymity and silence.”

In 1919, after years of contentious battles and maneuvering, the House of Representatives finally passed the 19th Amendment by a vote of 304 to 89. The Senate followed with a vote of 56 to 25.

Thirty-six states were then needed to ratify. Happily, the stolid Midwest provided the first three states to do so, specifically Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. In August of 1920, Tennessee, the 36th state, came through! On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the adoption of the Amendment.

Other states agreed to ratify as the years and decades passed. The last state to ratify was Mississippi. It did so on March 22, 1984! Better late than never?

 

 

Social and Sexual Contexts

images-2images-1Taking risks is complex. The risks of sharing sexually transmitted diseases has been thoroughly documented. Now studies have investigated how sexually adventurous women are affected socially, emotionally and mentally.

 
Women who engaged in risky sexual behavior while traveling told a researcher that they felt freed from a sexual double standard at home, and hoped to “feel like a man by having a one-night stand — no emotional strings attached.” For others, “sexual activity has to be related to feelings and some degree of attachment,” says Liza Berdychevsky, assistant professor at the University of Illinois. She has interviewed women to gain understanding of their perceptions and motivations for sexual experimentation.  Some tourist destinations and experiences promote “an altered sense of reality … while minimizing perceptions of risk and long-term consequences. Sometimes that introspection leads to beneficial experiences. Some learn a lesson, how to reject, how to be more empowered, how to be more vocal or how to insist on contraception.”

 
Although the immortality and invincibility that young people experience often leads to ignoring consequences, senior citizens have adopted simular experimental behaviors, especially within retirement communities. During the last decade, AIDS cases among senior citizens have soared. Due to Viagra and similar drugs, older Americans are increasingly sexually active. Sadly, many older women who’ve passed menopause don’t use protection because they know they can’t get pregnant. They do get STDs in large numbers though.

 

Poor Women & Their Kids Suffer Inequalities

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The number of families living on less than $2 per person/per day has doubled since 1996. Sadly, it has tripled for families headed by a lone woman! (source: National Poverty Center)

Women are more likely than men to have a minimum-wage job, and women are more likely to be raising a family alone.

After measuring factors such as education, health and material well-being, UNICEF found the United States ranked 23 out of 24 nations in the deleterious effects poverty has upon the nation’s neediest children when compared to children in median income homes.

 

Most American Women

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This excerpt is  lifted directly from a review that appeared in The New York Times:
The breast milk of the writer Florence Williams contains a striking level of perchlorate, a key component of rocket fuel. Her mammary glands are no different from those of most American women. Breast-feeding still passes many good things from mother to baby:  vitamins, minerals and “a solid hedge of extras to help ward off a lifetime of diseases.”   But the practice also typically transfers “paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluids, wood preservatives, toilet deodorizers, cosmetic additives, gasoline by-products, rocket fuel, termite poisons, fungicides” and varieties of flame retardants, one of which, Penta-BDE, was banned by the European Union because of its chronic toxicity to humans.

Consider reading: BREASTS: A Natural and Unnatural History  by Florence Williams,
W. W. Norton & Company. $25.95.

Nice Work if You Can Get It!

meme_lazy_polar_bearA typical American worker works about 240 days every year with relief during two weeks of vacation and federal holidays.

 
However, that is certainly NOT the case for our elected representatives and senators in D.C.  They average one-hundred days less, or twenty-fewer weeks at work! They show up for work a mere 55% of the days that American workers do. Does this help explain why this 113th Congress gets so little accomplished?

 

  • In 2014, the House is scheduled to be in session for 133 days.
  • In 2012, the House was in session for 153 days.
  • In 2010 the House was in session 128 days.
  • In 2008, the House was in session 119 days.
  • In 2006, the House was in session 104 days.

Differ, Dissent and Dispute

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg diagnosed with pancreatic cancer
Before becoming a judge, she was a prominent women’s rights litigator, overcoming obstacles related to her gender. Before that, she had attended Harvard Law School as one of nine women in a class of more than 500! She graduated from Columbia Law School, then was turned down by law firms and was refused judicial clerk-ships because she was a woman. When she became a professor at Rutgers School of Law, she was told she would be paid less than her male colleagues because her lawyer husband had a good job! Later she became the first-tenured-female professor at Columbia Law School. Today, she is a justice of the United States Supreme Court.

She still works with men, five of whom still do not understand the challenges women face while trying to achieve equity and equality. Last week at a speaking engagement, she said the court has never fully embraced “the ability of women to decide for themselves what their destiny will be.”

Legal scholars argue that the court has recently discouraged women with rulings in cases involving equal pay, medical leaves, abortion and contraception. In July, 2014, the court’s three-female members delivered a spirited dissent.

Regarding the role of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, Ginsburg has not minced words. She once dissented that his rulings regarding sexual freedom and motherhood reflect “ancient notions about women’s place in the family.” The South Carolina Law Review claims that “Justice Kennedy relies on traditional and paternalistic gender stereotypes about nontraditional fathers, idealized mothers and second-guessing women’s decisions.”

In women’s-rights cases, Justice Ginsburg has issued a series of honed dissents. She believes the Supreme Court made a grave error in its Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed some employers to refuse to pay for insurance coverage for contraception based upon religious objections. “There was no way to read that decision narrowly.” She feels it opens the door to job discrimination against women. Her analogy is instructive: “What of the employer whose religious faith teaches that it’s sinful to employ a single woman without her father’s consent or a married woman without her husband’s consent?”

Summarizing dissent from the bench is rare and signals fervent disagreement. Typically, Ginsburg’s oral dissents have concerned women’s rights.

In 2007, the only female justice at that time, Justice Ginsburg issued her dissent from the bench in an abortion case and labeled Justice Kennedy’s worldview alarming. A month later, she issued a second oral dissent in another 5-to-4 decision, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., this one protesting what she called the majority’s cramped interpretation of time limits for filing sex discrimination suits. Later, Congress  overturned the ruling.

In 2012, she again dissented in Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland, a 5-to-4 decision limiting the availability of medical leaves. Justice Kennedy saw no “widespread evidence of sex discrimination or sex stereotyping in the administration of sick leave,” while Justice Ginsburg said from the bench that the decision made it harder for women “to live balanced lives, at home and in gainful employment.”

“At the same time,” she added, “we live in a society that now seems more receptive to gay rights than women’s rights generally, so it is disheartening but not surprising to see that reflected in decisions like Hobby Lobby, which failed to see the link between contraception access and women’s equality.”

She asserts male colleagues sometimes do not hear a woman’s voice, including her own.
Between 2006 and 2009, after the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and before the appointment of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Ginsburg was the lone woman on the court, a situation she said she found isolating and disturbing. Now, with the addition of Justice Elena Kagan in 2010, there are three women. They often vote together.

Last month the three dissented from an order that allowed Wheaton College, a Christian institution in Illinois, to forego using a federal form to claim an exemption from a contraception coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act.  Justice Sotomayor wrote the dissent, which accused the majority of failing to protect “women’s well-being.” A law professor at Georgetown University, Nan Hunter, labeled the dissent noteworthy. “For many American women it was no surprise that it was those three justices who felt strongly enough to cry foul.”

Information for this entry is sourced from “As Gays Prevail in Supreme Court, Women See Setbacks” by Adam Liptak in the New York Times.

Chaos into Calm

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Rebels in Ukraine

Taliban taking Afghanistan

Sunni versus Shiite in Iraq

Islamist militants in Mali

Famine in Somalia

Militias in Libya

Israeli-Palestinian conflicts

Ebola in Guinea

Nukes in Iran

Drug lords in Central America

Typhoons in Korea

Airplanes falling out of the sky

Fires, Floods, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Lightning Strikes

“Making suffering loom larger, by globalizing it, may spur people to feel they ought to care more. It also invites them to feel that the sufferings and misfortunes are too vast, too irrevocable, too epic to be much changed by an local, political intervention.” — Susan Sontag

That sums up why organizations like AAUW work so effectively. They provide people who continue to care with one attainable mission that makes common sense. We know, that over time and with concerted effort we can achieve our goal to “advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.”

Educate a Girl; Change the World

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The Battle Creek branch of AAUW is planning to screen
Girl Rising, a docu-drama from Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins.

Millions of girls in the world today face barriers to education that boys do not. This film focuses upon nine-ordinary girls, all of whom live in the developing world, as they confront challenges and overcome odds to pursue the dream of being educated. Witness the strength of their human spirit and the power of education to make societal change. You’ll be glad you did!
WHEN: Tuesday August 12, 2014
WHERE: 2500 West Columbia Avenue, Battle Creek, MI
TIME: 7:30 p.m.
COST: $11.00

RSVP in advance by “purchasing” tickets. (Your credit card will not be charged until there are enough reservations to assure screening the film. Once enough tickets have been reserved, you will receive an e-mail from Gathr Films prompting you to print your tickets. Then, and only then, your credit card will be charged.)

Please visit: <https://gathr.us/screening/reserve/8455> to reserve your ticket.

Watch the trailer at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJsvklXhYaE> You’ll want to see the film.

Contact Jenny Andrews, AAUW-Battle Creek Branch President at (269) 967-1374 or via email <jenadesigns@comcast.net> if you have questions or concerns.

Global Equity Versus Global Iniquity

More than 1,300 women from 85 countries recentlyGWS_2014_parissummitthing1 met recently  in France for the 24th Global Summit of Women — “Women: Redesigning Economies, Societies”.

 
While recognizing that three major forces shape culture — business, politics and religion — speakers coalesced around key understandings:

 

  •  Research proves that Gender Equity creates significant economic and social benefits.
  • Efforts to re-tool women to think and act like men are misdirected.
  • Girls must be encouraged then educated to withstand negative cultural messages.
  • Gender Violence (whether genital cutting, using rape as a tool to subjugate victims in war zones, sexual trafficking, domestic violence, religious rationalizations) must cease! Sexual violence is a global plague that can be eradicated.
  • Change happens only when collective power activates. Making societal change is enormously difficult. It needs a shift of collective consciousness to occur.

 

So, how can businesses, political movements and religious groups be changed in an effort to reshape cultures?

  • Individuals must understand that these societal shifts are for the betterment of their daughters, their sons, their grandchildren.
  • Men must engage in the struggle. They must do so for their mothers, their aunts, their wives, their sisters, their children. As men step us as allies, they will model for others how to ameliorate gender inequity. They will reach out to engage their fathers, uncles husbands, brothers, male bosses and colleagues. Otherwise women activists will remain confined in restrictive echo chambers of discourse. Men must be persuaded to help make change, for peer pressure is a potent force.
  • Companies not committed to gender parity must be perceived as obsolete. NAMING and SHAMING companies mired in the good-old-boys, locker-room level of leadership can help too. If masses of stockholders began to dis-invest, change could be swift. Check out “Pax World Funds” as a place to begin.

 

In her book, POWERING UP! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders, Anne Doyle wrote a chapter called, “What Do Men Have To Do With It?” Her answer is: “they have EVERYTHING to do with girls and women becoming equal global citizens. From stopping sexual violence — against girls, women, boys and other men — to tackling gender inequity and prying open leadership locker room doors, men’s active engagement is essential. Why? For two major reasons: 1) Men still hold over 80% of the decision-making positions all over the world and 2) Men will follow other men and respond to peer pressure from other males. Look for those men. They are all around you. Start a conversation.”