Wednesday, November 9, 2011

THE PRICE WE PAY FOR OUR DENIAL

If you have kept up with my blogs over the past two years (and are familiar with my book and website), you know my subject is always women and the many problems women face in our culture.As a male friend pointed out to me recently, promoting women as valued citizens with desirable skills has been my life’s work.

Sexism is the most visible problem women have; and as author Barbara Berg says, sexism is alive and well in today’s world. Sexism can include little boys and females of all ages, as we can see in today’s news stories.

The November 8 online edition of The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet spells it out because there is a common thread between three of the five leading stories. Certain people (here it is women and little boys) are publicly viewed and treated as objects of male sexual satisfaction. The bonus for those males seeking sexual gratification is that no one wants to face the truth. Many turn the other way.

The stunning revelation in these stories is that cultural attitudes routinely will permit the sexual objectification of certain humans.

For instance, the story of Joe Paterno’s “moral failure” as a leader concerns his “negligence in an alleged sex-abuse scandal” involving one of his coaches. As Paterno recently said, he did what he was “supposed to.” Rather than removing the offender from power, he followed cultural rules of denial and allowed an alleged sexual predator to molest little boys for years. 

We cannot excuse Paterno’s self-serving inaction but we must look at the truth as it is:  Our society encourages us to turn the other way when someone important is involved.  Paterno was highly valuable as a coach so he reportedly did all he was supposed to do at the time to stop the abuses of his assistant coach. 

Now we know his “moral failure” as a leader may have helped him win many football games but what about those little boys who were abused by his own staffer? What is more important to our society, winning football teams or the well-being of our male children?

Another lead story about Herman Cain, presidential hopeful, demonstrates what working women have known since they finally were allowed to be educated and to enter the workplace to support themselves and families. One woman accuses Cain of soliciting sex in exchange for a job. Other women have reported his sexual advances. 

The problem is these women have waited years, decades perhaps, before reporting any of this. That makes it possible this is a political move to destroy his credibility. But it is also possible these women knew no one would believe them in the past.

Frankly we have no way of knowing truth from lies in Cain’s case, but we do know two things: 

Women (and Catholic children) have failed to report sexual abuse until recent years because they were not believed or were further abused by their abusers if they talked. Every working woman knows in her heart that those sex-for-jobs tradeoffs were made by many people over the years, including men.

Second, we all know that these abused children or women were not believed because no one wanted to face the truth. It was whispered and rumored about such things (including abortions and love affairs) but never was it publicly reported or proven.

Herman Cain’s current crisis is just one more reminder that there are no heroes, no matter how directly they appeal to those who truly want to believe there are people in politics that don’t just sound good but are highly capable of delivering the promises.

Finally, there is Berlusconi…..another womanizer bites the dust because of a huge debt crisis.  Who knows?  His country, Italy, may have accepted his deviant ways from the Roman Church based there since time began if the economy had boomed instead of dying….and if the truth had not come out about priestly sex abuse.

The bottom line of all the above is that our society has permitted people (mostly males) to learn directly or through osmosis that they can get away with these things or else be held perfectly harmless. Everyone has been trained, programmed, and excused from facing the truth about sex abuse (and other types of abuse) because we are still looking for heroes who win and the perfect human leader.

There is no such thing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Paranoia About Powerful Women

What is it about women candidates/leaders that scares so many people? Why do these paranoia-prone commentators or writers think it serves an intellectual purpose to tear down and ridicule women?

This week's news featured many examples of the way successful women are characterized in the media by people who think it is humorous to poke fun at any woman at all.

Consider these statements by Joe McGinnis in his critique of Sarah Palin in The Slatest:

Palin's candidacy in 2008 was necessary because the "nation needed a laugh."As mayor, Palin hired a male "to do her work for her." (What is most interesting about hiring a male to do her work is that no one can name any male elected official who does not have at least a team of women taking care of his work.) Palin's candidacy in 2012 "might have been the greatest threat our republic has ever faced."

If that isn't enough ridicule to satisfy those who despise Palin, McGinnis also claimed now is the time "for grownups to get on with the serious business of 2011."   The final insult is the worst: McGinnis mentioned the Civil War as history's competing threatening event with Palin's potential candidacy in 2012.

McGinnis is unconsciously displaying his absolute fear of women candidates by his description of Sarah Palin. What he actually is reporting here is the ridiculous attitude toward women as inferior humans established in the earliest days of history by Greek philosophers and religious icons. As a result, there is a lack of accurate information and an absence of perspective about women's abilities today.

McGinnis may have followed historical protocol in his article (and book) about Sarah Palin. For those who have studied history, it is plainly relevant that women were left out of the official historical report because they were seen as inferior to men. Sexist and misogynistic comments are currently expected by a public still wondering if women can cut the mustard and lead. Proving their competency has not been easy when they are ridiculed and expected to never rock the boat. But look at those who have succeeded anyway, in spite of the odds, such as Hillary Clinton.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Women Leaders Are Here To Stay!

An old adage about women may be what the world needs to remember right now:

God first created the universe, and rested.  God then created man, and rested.  He then created woman--and since then neither God nor man has rested.

Sometime back in the late 1970s, soon after the second wave of the women's movement was underway, pollster Louis Harris publicly observed that women who run for political office "mean business and they are here to stay."  Harris was not just being a prognosticator because he knew from his surveying that women were serious about balancing the universe of the sexes in the political world.

Today we see the major changes that have taken place since the late 1970s but the world continues to be out of balance. Women in the ministry continue to be lower in rank than the men and are routinely blocked by the stained glass ceiling. The numbers are far better now for women in elective offices in the U.S. and the number of women leaders in the corporate world is amazing. None of us will ever forget the consensus of the World Economic Forum a few years ago:  If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Brothers & Sisters they would still be around.

This blog today is the first in a series of reports on the progress of women in politics, business, and religion.
We live in a different world now than what was present in the late 1970s when Louis Harris made his pronouncement about women meaning business. We still mean business and have come a long way since I spoke to the United Methodist Women in January 1979 in Little Rock, Arkansas. My remarks were geared toward how it is to be a woman in politics but the questions these women asked at the end of my speech were significant. The interest shown and the attention they gave to women running for office was stunning. I was the only statewide female candidate at the time and few women even considered entering the political world.

My remarks in 1979 summed up the way it was for women in politics 21 years before the millennium changed. Briefly, I reported that females have been taught to avoid all situations in which they can be accused of being unladylike. Women stepping out of culturally assigned roles are considered aggressive, not assertive; hysterical rather than angry; strident instead of determined.  Any female who provokes the powerful is called rude and unladylike; if she answers press questions truthfully she is accused of talking too much.

In general, any woman stepping out of predetermined cultural roles was considered either a nut or "too ambitious" during most of the last few decades (before that few women were allowed in the game). As I pointed out to the Methodist women, I gained a lot of votes because I was a female but I lost a lot of votes because of my gender. Women just were not taken seriously at the time (and many are not today).

Is all the above still true in 2011? You may be surprised how much of the revelations above are still the basis of many people's opinions of female candidates. As presidential contenders, Hillary Clinton has borne the brunt of the harshest criticism to date but Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman are not far behind. Nancy Pelosi continues to be blamed for everything that has gone wrong even though she is no longer Speaker.

The series of blogs coming up here will include women's issues, women's rights, women's history, women in politics, women leaders, women in business, women in religion, and women's roles in our society. All these concepts will be explained in ways that will give the historical cultural background on women's roles in today's world.

An illustrative metaphor about the way females are customarily viewed (based on historical treatment and beliefs) can be found in the recent shock from J.C. Penney's tee shirt for girls:

I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.
 
Instead of blaming Penney's for encouraging girls to pay more attention to their looks than their brains, just remember that this is one of those cultural curses on women that have come down throughout history.

Note:  This is my first blog since the end of March and Gerry Ferraro's untimely death because many things have interfered with my writings. Now I am fully prepared and have arranged the time in my life to keep up with the things I love, including the blogs.




Sunday, March 27, 2011

GERALDINE FERRARO'S LEGACY OF HOPE

On July 4, 1984 I was one of 23 elected and appointed women leaders who called on Senator Walter Mondale (Dem. MN) in Minneapolis-St. Paul hoping to convince him to choose a woman as his vice-presidential nominee.

We did not ask for a particular woman but we did speak strongly in favor of a woman vice-president. The rest is history since he chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate.

The women involved in meeting with Mondale were strong and experienced believers in women’s leadership capabilities, recognizing the potential women offer for more balance in the political world. Mondale's selection of Ferraro a week later gave us hope for the future of women leaders but it took 27 years for it to happen once again.

Gerry Ferraro has always been known for her candor, something that is not always appreciated by politicians and many cultural leaders. It seems that the “family secrets” are supposed to remain just that: secret. Sensitive issues, especially sexism and racism, are taboo because society has worn blinders on those subjects for centuries on end.

In 2008 when Gerry commented that Obama’s candidacy was historic, she was immediately attacked as a racist. Here is how she responded (and it is an outstanding example of her no-nonsense candor):

"Why is his candidacy historic? Can you give me another reason why it is an historic campaign? Why are we afraid to say this? I am absolutely stunned by this whole thing. I’m not saying he isn’t qualified, never did I say that. He is very smart. He has experience issues, but if George Bush can learn to run the country, so can this guy."

What is significant in her statement is that she pointed out many times in the last 27 years that her selection as the vice-presidential nominee by Mondale was based on her being female.

Lynn Sherr, former ABC News correspondent and author, writes in The Daily Beast March 26 about Gerry’s comments election night when the Mondale candidacy carried only his home state of Minnesota:

"The days of discrimination are numbered," she said. "American women will never be second-class citizens again."

Ferraro’s wisdom about her candidacy is revealed in her New York Times obituary today. She wrote a letter to the Times about her place in history in 1988 by pointing out that she would not have been selected by Mondale if she had not been a female. On the political realities of 1984, she candidly addressed the Reagan factor by saying that he had been at the height of his popularity, the economy was moving again, inflation and interest rates were down. The final clincher:

"Throwing Ronald Reagan out of office…..(at that time)….would have required God on the ticket…and She was not available."

Even today, in 2011, the United States remains one of only three major countries without ever having a woman at the helm (the others are Italy and Japan).

It is time to correct this long-standing problem by remembering Geraldine Ferraro's legacy to women and to the world.

Note: Many years have passed and I do not remember all the people at the Mondale meeting but I do remember Lt. Gov. Marlene Johnson (MN), Judy Goldsmith, president of NOW, and Bob Bechtel, Democratic party consultant and Fox News consultant, like Gerry.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Road We Have Traveled

The weekend of March 19-20, 2011, is a big one in several ways.

First, the biggest full moon in 18 years is set for Saturday March 19, a moon that portends to create highly emotional events.

Second, the Spring Equinox is Sunday, March 20, an event that signifies rebirth and new beginnings.

During times like these, crashing economies, failing banks, earthquakes, nuclear holocaust possibilities, tsunamis, and manmade wars in the Middle East warn us that we have not gone down the good road to success, peace, and prosperity for quite a while.

Instead, we have gone down the road of imbalance in all things. Three millennia of all male leadership in business, politics and religion with rapidly occurring personal, spiritual and physical conflicts are an indication we need drastic change.

The best possible change includes balancing leadership between the sexes. When the World Economic Forum strongly suggests more women are needed in leadership positions, there is hope that balance between the sexes will finally be achieved.

Women's History Month generates more interest every year about the achievements of women throughout history. People are hungry to know more about what women can do and actively seek out the information. We have come a long way since the 1970s when women finally began to be written back into the historical saga.

On a personal note, my sister Dottie sent a May 7, 1972 clipping from the Arkansas Gazette recently that is one of the best historical reports on just how women were trained and viewed before the equality race became a necessity.

The Gazette society page featured the 1972 Junior League of Little Rock provisionals with photos of all 36 women, two of whom were still single. Each married woman is named by their married names in the article and cutlines. I was named "Mrs. Charles D. Hughes" instead of my name Julia Rumph Hughes.

In case you do not get the meaning of this, all women at the time were considered appendages and accessories to their husbands, not individuals with their own talents and skills. Our value was found only in how we accommodated everyone except our personal selves. We women did not value ourselves in a relationship with husbands at all: we valued the needs of the husband as we were taught to do. We were there for the benefit of husband and family only.

Today we women value our ideas, goals, and dreams. That valuation is the difference between the 1970s and today after years of fighting for equality in all things.

In 2008 Hillary Clinton faced the brunt of that valuation of her personal being as an accommodation and accessory only in relation to her husband.

As a result of this 2008 slapdown by both men and women in her own party, she has become a world leader extraordinaire where everyone recognizes her as her own person, not an appendage.

Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor in their recent book Traveling with Pomegranates have coined a perfect description of Hillary Clinton that reveals what she has done for the world of women:

"Women who bear the weight of opposition"..."create a shelter for the rest of us."

When you are in doubt about what we must do as women to promote peace and prosperity in this world of ours, remember the Hillary shelter.

Monday, February 21, 2011

WOMEN'S HISTORY AS CONTEXT FOR OUR FUTURE

February is coming to an end, spring is close at hand, and change is all around us. One of those changes is an increase in the number of speaking engagements I am receiving and am so delighted to accept.

I will be posting my upcoming appearances on my blog calendar (under construction) as both a reminder to me and to my friends who follow my words in print and from the rostrum. By the first of March my calendar will appear on this blog on a regular basis and I will increase my blogging days.

I am now working on a second book about women, history and leadership. A special Facebook fan page will feature excerpts from both books plus my published speeches being currently featured in textbooks and other venues.

Today's subject is about the abusive treatment of women. We are seeing in the news today an increase in the attacks, both personal and political, on women. Note that these events are breaking through the consciousness of all women as threats to personal well-being and as reminders of what females suffered in history.

Never forget that history until the 20th century completely ignored women as unimportant to world progress. Due to socially enforced illiteracy, women produced few written records in history. Records produced were written by males, about males, and regarding male achievement.

Women’s role in history was strictly limited to being support structures for men’s deeds and misdeeds. Suffrage changed all that. (See blogs of September 28 and December 4, 2010, www.juliahughesjones.com)

Congress apparently wants to ignore women’s progress begun in 1920. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina leads a group holding up legislation that honors the history of women and suffragists. All that is being asked of Congress, as required by law, is a vote to permit the establishment of the American Women’s History Museum on the national mall.

DeMint says there is no need for a women's history museum. Since the money has already been raised by private sources, his opposition is not because of a request for financing.

Why do we need a museum honoring American women in history and the present day? Here is a good reference point to help readers decide:

To say women have been ignored in history is inadequate.

To point out that women in America were the property of men, with no rights as human beings, in the 1600s is a shocking reminder of our historic “inferior” status.

To remember that women in 2008 had gained the personal status of being able to run for president (Hillary Clinton) or vice president (Sarah Palin) indicates just how far women have come in more than four centuries on this continent.

To recognize in 2011 that Nancy Pelosi served (2006-2011) as the first woman Speaker of the House but was not honored with her photo on the covers of the two leading newsmagazines Time and Newsweek is a major setback for women because all other Speakers, even those removed for corruption, in recent times have been featured on those covers.

Even if you are the opposite political party from Pelosi, or just plain do not like her, remember that she was not corrupt and was not removed from office other than by partisan power change. There is no reason for her to have been omitted from the journalistic recognition awarded to male Speakers….except, that is, if the strong belief that women are inferior to men still exists in journalism. (Note: My late husband was an editor in Little Rock never believed women are inferior. He and Hillary Clinton each claimed the other to be their "favorite political spouse.")

If you wish to see this privately funded, not taxpayer funded, museum showcasing the history of American women, please go to www.nwhm.org and sign the petition calling on Congress to act on stalled legislation.

Don’t sign if you believe women are inferior to men.