As someone who has been committed for most of my personal and professional life to human rights and particularly, in recent years, to women’s rights, I feel the need to express my opinion about the current political scene and the discussion of issues affecting the life and status of women.
I have been part of the continuing battle for women’s equality in the home, school, church, workplace and political life for many years. I am one of the founders of the Center for the Women of New York, now in its 23rd year.
I am startled by the sudden call by some women candidates who want women to act as “Momma Grizzlies” and calling for legislation that would remove many of the gains we fought for and take us back to the last century!
A recent experience, at a Walkathon for the benefit of a renovation fund for our building at Fort Totten, political candidates of both major parties stopped by to introduce themselves and gave us their support.
One of the candidates spoke about his strong support for women. He told us, as if to prove his solid commitment to women, he had donated to the march for the elimination of breast cancer.
While it was commendable that he was concerned about the problem of breast cancer, he had no other actions to show that he was aware and supported any other issues that are vital to women!
This exchange highlighted what I have recently seen as an attempt to court women’s votes by repeating the candidate’s concern with eliminating breast cancer. I ate a candidate’s commitment to breast cancer the same as for lung cancer, prostate cancer, etc.
We challenge all the candidates and in particular, the new “Momma Grizzlies,” to show real concern for their daughters and sisters by discussing additional issues.
What I do pay attention to is their votes and attitudes toward free mammograms, access to free exams for cervical cancer, paid time for family leave, pay equity, programs for education and awareness of domestic violence and sex trafficking.
Does the candidate have a legislative record or position on covering women for contraceptive care and reproductive freedom? How about equalizing insurance coverage for hospital stays for birth deliveries with male unlimited coverage for Viagra and prostate cancer!
I prefer to call on the “Momma Lions,” the women who fought for the right to vote and endured humiliation, jail with beatings and forced feeding just for standing outside of the White House and demonstrating for the right to vote.
Followed in the 60s and 70s by the real “lions” for their rights and demand to vote, followed the Gloria Steinems, the Bella Abzugs, Betty Freidans and Geraldine Ferraros who fought for equal credit, reproductive rights, entrance into schools for professions, sports and all areas of our society.
Equally important they formed the National Organization for Women, which led the fight that broke century’s old barriers to women’s progress and spawned thousands of organizations dedicated to women’s equality in the United States and throughout the world!
There are still great areas of inequality in our country and in the world. Domestic violence and sex trafficking is taking place all around us. Women are still earning only 78 percent of what men earn. These are difficult economic times with men and women sharing hardship equally.
We call upon all clear thinking and concerned women and men to check carefully the statements and slogans of the candidates being loosed upon us and use our precious vote wisely.
Ann Juliano Jawin is the chair and founder of The Center for the Women of New York