On Equality and Maturity

I think that one sign of maturity is the ability to say “You’re right” even when you don’t think the other person really is right. So to the ability to remain silent when you know there is no purpose for your words. I’ve sometimes said things I regret saying, later to reflect and realize that there was really no reason for me to say those things, even if I was absolutely correct in my statements. I’m working on that skill, but it’s hard.

So, I write. And you listen. And you can tell me I’m wrong if you want. But there’s no point in me telling others they’re wrong, because they don’t care.

Today on facebook, a friend posted this article:

“Even though it’s legal, I still can’t marry my girlfriend”

The article is about a lesbian in a long term relationship with another woman. The author lives in California, where the prohibition on same-sex marriages has recently been abolished by the U.S. Supreme Court, and therefore, couples of the same sex are now legally entitled to marry.

She writes that she still can’t marry her girlfriend, because he girlfriend lives in Alaska. Her girlfriend lives in Alaska because she can’t get a job in California. She can’t get a job in California because she is a convicted felon. According to the author, the girlfriend committed the felony a long time ago, served her time, and is now a “changed woman”. Still, employers are unwilling to give her the chance, and therefore, she felt compelled to accept the only job offer that came her way, a position in Alaska.

The article then goes on to talk about the inadequacies and hardships convicted felons face, and also, in the same breath, that White Men arguing for Equality just don’t get it, they don’t face the same hardships that Black Women face, and therefore, the White Men who are celebrating the fail of PROP 8 and DOMA should really not be celebrating, because we still haven’t yet achieved equality.

I take issue with bringing up the two issues in the same article. Same-sex marriage rights really have nothing to do with rights, or lack thereof, of convicted felons. I acknowledge that the author is right about the [unfair] hardships convicted felons face. Still, don’t blame the White Gay Men for that. They lobbied for equality in marriage, but they haven’t lobbied for equality for felons because that’s not their job! I don’t deny that maybe some changes should be made in the way rehabilitated convicted felons are treated in this country, but don’t rain on the parade of the gays. Like one commenter on the article succinctly said, “It’s like saying to someone saving the whales: ‘Well, that’s all well and good, but you’re a bastard for ignoring the seals!’ “.

I could have written this as a response to my friend’s post (or a shorter version of this. Maybe just copied that line above.) But I chose not to, because this friend is not very receptive to ideas that she doesn’t agree with. She doesn’t just debate, she gets personally offended. I didn’t want to start an argument with her, and I didn’t want to offend her. So, I remained silent. But the thoughts were still inside, and I had to get them out, so I spilled them here. Hope you enjoyed!

And, if you disagree, I welcome dialoge.

Women at Work

In the July 11th &18th edition of The New Yorker, Ken Auletta wrote a profile of Facebook’s female C.O.O., Sheryl Sandberg. The piece was a rather typical woman-in-the-headlines profile, highlighting her career path and using some strongly worded quotations to exemplify her view on women in the workplace (she describes her ideal world as one in which “a world where half of homes are run by men, especially raising children, and half our institutions are run by women, especially armies.”)

She exemplifies mainstream feminism. She was educated at top schools, worked her way up on the corporate ladder, got to the top of one company (Google) and then moved to the top of another (Facebook). The article also is an excellent feminist piece. The article spans 9 pages online, only 2 of which talk about balancing work/home life, challenges of being a female executive, and sexist encounters she’s had to deal with. The rest of the 7 pages talk about her business strategy, her career and company goals, and her work ethic. It’s a truly inspiring piece, and I encourage you all to read it.

Unfortunately, some people didn’t like the article. This person wrote in complaining that while Sheryl is blessed to be able to afford full time child care (which, by the way, she tries not to rely on too much. She and her husband have a deal that at least one, if not both, parent will be home every night to have dinner with the kids) not every family is able to do so, and that results in women being forced to stay home with the children. The author of the letter to the editor blamed California for it’s lack of providing state-funded child care facilities.

Apparently, she was referring to the proposal by Arnold Schwarzenegger to cut $1.2 billion of state funding for childcare facilities. The proposal caused so much uproar that the actual cuts ended up being only $256 million.

Certainly, the state cutting $256 million in any sort of funding is going to cause hardship to the citizens. But this is not a feminist argument. The author of the letter claims that there are “systematic probems that inhibit women’s ability to achieve leadership positions equal to those of men”, and cites the California budget cuts as one such problem.

The budget cuts are not systematic, anti-feminist problems. The budget cuts do not automatically mean that women can not achieve positions equal to those of men. They may mean, however, that families will have to reevaluate the cost of child care, and if it financially responsible for both parents to work. Many families will come to a decision that the cost of childcare is more than what a second income would provide, and therefore only one parent should work.

This DOES NOT mean that women will or should be the ones leaving their jobs. It does not mean that men will or should do that either. It means that families will have to evaluate who is going to stay home, and who is going to work. This should be a conversation that does not start with the assumtion that the women will stay home.

This is exactly what Sandberg was saying in her quote above. Half the men will be taking care of children, and have the women will be working and running armies. Feminism does not mean all women and all men work at all jobs. It simply, in it’s most basic sense, means that women and men are equal and should be treated as such. And that’s achievable by every person in every socioeconomic class in every state.

True Social Welfare

The long anticipated post on social welfare is here.

Working in an office which deals with cases of inner city child abuse and neglect on a daily basis has given me a completely new perspective on this issue of social welfare.

I have some pretty conservative leanings politically. I have always been a high achiever, and tend to have similar expectations for the rest of the world. A little unfair, yes, but so be it. If you want to eat, you have to work. Almost everyone in America has the ability to go to work. You’re a little disabled? Ok, get a job that your disability won’t hinder. You’re not the smartest key in the shed? Get a job that doesn’t require brains. You can’t stay sober enough to get to work everyday? You don’t get paid. Harsh, yes. Unfair, no.

However, there are certain aspects of social welfare which are really, truly, social welfare. I say that in comparison to what I call “personal welfare”. If one person can’t afford to eat and the State gives him food, that’s not for the good of society, thats for the good of a single person. Even if the state gives out thousands of benefits to thousands of recipients, these are all essentially lots of gifts that benefit lots of people individually.

Truly social welfare is different. It benefits society as a whole.

Every day, I interact with parents that have been accused of child abuse or neglect. One of the fundamentals in the field of domestic violence is “the cycle of violence”, essentially, an abused person is exposed to abuse for so long that they think that is how everyone acts, and they, in response, abuse others. Almost ALL of the parents that come into our office accused of abuse/neglect are already in the system as children of abuse. It’s a whole cycle. I probably have one client a week come in because they voluntarily put their child in foster care. These people live in a culture where many of their peers are in “the system” and they thinks its a completely responsible way to live. Find a guy who wants to have sex with you, get pregnant, stay with the guy even though he cheats on you/beats you/forces you to do things you don’t want because he says you’re pretty and that makes you feel good, get overwhelmed with being in highschool, having a baby, and dealing with your abusive boyfriend, decide you don’t want your baby being exposed to the bum baby-daddy, put the child in foster care, party, get clean, attempt to get your child out of foster care. Repeat.

The financial strain on our government from all this is infinite. The police officers that respond to the domestic violence calls, the State’s Attorneys and Public Defenders, the judges hired solely for child abuse cases, the foster parents, the medical care for foster children…the list in endless.

In many ways, the strain on our government budgets would actually be alleviated by providing birth control, sex-ed, health clinics, therapeutic centers, and state-funded education to underprivileged populations. Now, this may not be “fair” to the hard working people that actually pay for these things (and don’t be fooled by the recent law that requires no co-pay for birth control, you actually just pay more for your insurance premiums), but it benefits them as well. Crime is reduced. Taxes are reduced. More educated, achieving citizens are produced which in turn work and benefit their communities.

And that is TRUE social welfare.