A long time advocate for women and girls, six years ago she founded The Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media, which works with the entertainment industry to increase the presence and reduce the stereotyping of female characters in media aimed at children. She was appointed to the commission two years ago by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and elected chair last month. Governor Jerry Brown in his budget proposal has recommended eliminating the commission, so we asked Calbuzzer Susan Rose to interview Davis about the controversy and her work on behalf of women.
Q: What difference has the state Commission on the Status of Women made in the lives of women?
A: The Commission has served as an important link between many communities and the government throughout its 47 year history, focusing on those who most need a voice—the working poor, those with limited English language ability, incarcerated women, and those with least access to state government and services. The Commission has partnered with numerous groups throughout California and held public hearings around the state, thus making state government both more accessible to these groups and benefiting state government by bringing these voices to Sacramento.
Reauthorizing the once-bipartisan Violence Against Women Act used to be a matter of Senate routine, but it has now gone the way of debt-ceiling negotiations — into the trenches of partisan warfare. Reading recent reports of the coming Capitol Hill showdown on the VAWA, you would either conclude that Republicans are broadening their assault on women, or Democrats have politicized the bill with various poison pills involving LGBT rights, immigration and Native American communities. What gets lost in both explanations is the merits of the actual changes.
While VAWA has not yet faced a full Senate vote, all Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted in February against reauthorization. Democrats are clearly trying to use this to capitalize on the recent interest in Republican misogyny, which, legislatively speaking, has become mainstreamed in the party. Sen. Dianne Feinstein asserted on the Senate floor last week that “This is one more step in the removal of rights for women.” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shot back Thursday, citing a Politico article to suggest Sen. Chuck Schumer “is sitting up at night trying to figure out a way to create an issue where there isn’t one … to help Democrats get reelected.”
State by state factsheets from the National Women's Law Center.
At the time of the Equal Pay Act's passage in 1963, women working full time, year-round were paid merely 59 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. Enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and related civil rights laws has helped to narrow the wage gap, but significant disparities remain and must be addressed.
Facing a double-digit deficit among female voters, likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has accused the White House of waging an economic "war on women." Since Obama took office in January 2009, he's charged, an amazing 92 percent of all job losses have been among women.
He's absolutely right. In the last 26 months, U.S. payrolls have shrunk by 740,000 jobs and of those, 683,000 belonged to women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But Romney should be careful with his talking point. All those women who lost work? About two-thirds of them were laid off from government jobs. And a lot of them lived in states governed by Republicans.
The Romney campaign is counting job losses that occurred literally the day Obama took office, which is a bit like blaming the fire fighter for not traveling back in time to stop the fire.
UN report Progress of the World’s Women outlines ten recommendations to make justice systems work for women. They are proven and achievable and, if implemented, they hold enormous potential to increase women’s access to justice and advance gender equality.
Within months of taking office, President Obama created the White House Council on Women and Girls with the explicit mandate to ensure that every agency, department, and office in our federal government – with the policies they draft, the programs they create, and the legislation they support – takes into account the needs and aspirations of American women and girls. Over the past three years, the Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to promote equality; enhance women’s economic security; and ensure that women have the opportunities they need and deserve at every stage of their lives, from obtaining training and education, to succeeding in the workforce and supporting their families, to retiring with dignity and security.
This report summarizes the presentations from a strategy forum co-hosted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and Arizona State University (ASU) in April 2010. Held in Phoenix, Arizona, during the week the Arizona State Legislature passed the controversial legislation SB 1070, the forum brought together researchers, activists, clergy, and other community stakeholders working with immigrant women, especially Latinas.
by Aleesha Durfee, Ph.D., Cynthia Hess, Ph.D. (March 2012)
Since 2009 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated that Plan B and other emergency contraceptives be available without a prescription to women age 17 and up. In reality, a new study suggests, a 17-year-old's access to these drugs can be uncertain.
In the study, two female research assistants at Boston University called every commercial pharmacy in five major cities and asked whether emergency contraception was available to them that day. If the answer was yes, they followed up with the question "If I'm 17, is that okay?"
At that point, 19% of the pharmacy workers told the young women that contraception would not be available to them. When researchers posing as doctors called the same pharmacies on behalf of a (fictional) 17-year-old patient, however, just 3% of pharmacies said the drugs weren't available.
Pharmacies, moreover, incorrectly reported the age guidelines for over-the-counter access to 43% of the "girls" and 39% of the "doctors," according to the study, which appears in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.
It's just 37 words, 37 plain and grammatically clunky words hiding inside a large education bill, 37 words that didn't seem to be a big deal at the time, 37 words that would change everything:
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
Those are the words of Title IX, a section of the Education Amendments signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on June 23, 1972. Not exactly "We hold these truths to be self-evident ... " but, then again, the Founding Fathers knew they were on to something back in 1776.
The Founding Mothers of Title IX were just looking for a more level playing field in academics. "We had no idea," says Bernice "Bunny" Sandler, who helped draft the legislation and now works as a senior scholar for the Women's Research and Education Institute in Washington, D.C. "We had no idea how bad the situation really was -- we didn't even use the word sex discrimination back then -- and we certainly had no sense of the revolution we were about to start."
You'll notice that not one of those 37 words is "athletics" or "sports," the very words that have come to be associated with Title IX. "The only thought I gave to sports when the bill was passed," Sandler says, "was, Oh, maybe now when a school holds its field day, there will be more activities for the girls."
They ended up having much more than a field day. The number of girls playing high school sports jumped from 294,015 in 1971-72 to 3,172,637 in 2009-10, an increase of 1079 percent. (The number of male high school athletes grew from 3,666,917 to 4,455,740 during that same period, an increase of 22 percent.) The number of women playing varsity sports in college rose from 29,972 in 1971-72 to 186,460 in 2009-10, a 622 percent increase that still leaves them behind the total of NCAA male athletes, whose population grew from 170,384 to 249,307 (46 percent) in that time frame.
Of course, the true significance of Title IX has been the accompanying increase in opportunities for women off the field -- a level of female empowerment so strong that Sandler calls the law "the most important step for gender equality since the 19th Amendment gave us the right to vote."
The Violence Against Women Act, a groundbreaking piece of legislation addressing domestic and sexual violence, was first enacted in 1994 and then reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. Among the measures the act has taken to protect victims and prevent abuse, the law strengthened the legal action taken against perpetrators of domestic violence and provided services, including rape crisis centers, hotlines, and community support programs, for its victims. Congress is now debating its reauthorization, as the law expired in September, and while it has received broad bipartisan support in the past it has recently come under political fire from some Republican lawmakers who object to provisions which Democrats have added to this year’s reauthorization. Critics specifically object to provisions which would expand the law’s coverage to illegal immigrants, homosexuals, and American Indians, who would have greater authority to persecute non-Indians who commit crimes against American Indian women. Republicans argue that these were purely political additions designed to induce GOP lawmakers to oppose an otherwise popular bill, giving Democrats more ammunition in their campaign argument that Republicans are “anti woman.” Furthermore, some conservative activists object to the law entirely, arguing that it does not cut down on—and might even increase—instances of domestic abuse while overextending the federal government’s jurisdiction. Should the Violence Against Women Act be reauthorized? Here is the Debate Club’s take: