Women Have The Right To Vote

Voting is a right, written on the back of a strong woman

It’s only (as well as an excruciating) 92 days until the next big election. Early voting starts in Minnesota in half that time–on Friday, September 26th. There are still primaries in many states shaping up down-ballot races, including those critical local and state races that have a huge impact on people’s day to day.

At the risk of jumping in like Captain Obvious, it’s important to remember that women–you know a little bit more than half of the U.S. population–weren’t able to cast a vote in the U.S. until 1920.

So, for those 114,642,000 U.S. citizens of voting age who are women, per the Census, as you contemplate casting your ballot, contemplate what it took to gain your right to  vote.

Things You Maybe Didn’t Know About Women’s Suffrage

Worldwide, women weren’t always included in voters rolls.

  • Switzerland was the last Western republic to grant women’s suffrage in 1971. I guess their neutrality wasn’t all that neutral. Other late adopters of women’s rights to vote in Europe were Spain 1931, France 1944, Italy in 1946, and Greece in 1952.
  • Some countries were early to the table regarding women’s vote. Their idea was that people vote, and that women were people, ipso facto women voted. Crazy, no? Examples include Austria and Estonia and Poland. While these countries were not early democracies, at least when they let people vote, they included women.

Back to the U.S., there were pockets of women’s suffrage before the 19th Amendment.

  • New Jersey got it right. At first, anyway. The New Jersey constitution of 1776 enfranchised all adult inhabitants who were property owners. Laws from 1790 and 1797 referred to voters as “he or she,” and women regularly voted. But in 1807 they passed a law that took that right away from women. Why??!?
  • In December of 1869, the Wyoming Territory approved the first law in United States explicitly granting women the right to vote. Yay!
  • Another western state, Colorado, did it in 1893. This was super awesome because the change came via referendum. This means that the men in Colorado were excellent early allies and voted for their sisters, mothers, wives and friends to join them in political decision-making. The referendum passed with 55% of the vote. Double yay!!

Wanted: Constitutional Amendment for all U.S. Citizens (where ALL includes women)

  • The push for universal women’s suffrage had it’s birth in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention in upstate New York. Activists–primarily women–began a seven decades effort to secure the right to vote.
  • The 19th Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1878 and the language was modeled after the 15th Amendment. It was pretty simple.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

  • Hard to think that it was controversial, right? You’d be incorrect there. It took forty-one years to get Congress to approve the amendment and send it to the states for ratification.
  •  It was ratified by the requisite number of states one year later, with Tennessee’s ratification being the final vote needed to amend the Constitution and provide women a voice in government.
  • Here’s a scary one. Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina did not ratify the 19th Amendment until 1969-1971. Mississippi was the laggard, finally voting “Yes” in 1984. You read that right. Women could still vote, mind you. They just didn’t approve.

The Struggle Was (and is) Real

  • Suffragists adopted a “feminine” dress to appear less threatening. They frequently wore white to symbolize their purity. No reason to scare people off. I guess.
  • Women have been helping each other all along the way. Susan B. Anthony would babysit Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s children while Stanton wrote suffrage speeches and petitions for Anthony. Sisterhood teamwork!
  • Mom’s rule. The story goes that a Tennessee legislator was pressured by his mom to change his No vote to Yes. His was the last vote needed. She told him to do the right thing. That’s lobbying from the heart. Everyone, go thank your mother, just on general principle.
  • The Census estimates there’s 302,800 women in the U.S. who were born before the 19th Amendment was ratified. Bless them, one and all!
  •  Many African American women were active in the woman suffrage movement–even though they were not always welcomed by some white activists. Look up Ida B. Wells. Let me help you. Her work on women’s suffrage, and her brave anti-lynching activism, made her a hero to social justice. And white women need to take heed of sisters of color, they are there fighting the good fight on many fronts!

Folks, and especially women, who think that voting isn’t important, just think about the women and men who helped ensure the right to vote. It was important then, and it’s still important now.

Make sure you register to vote. Then make sure your voice is heard. Cast your ballot.

Mourning In America

Detail from William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Pietà, 1876, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Mary is so sad. She lost her son.

Women with loss. Loss of a child. A boy, a man, a son, a girl, a woman, a daughter.  A Gold Star mother saying these words, “I became a Gold Star mother,” into a microphone. To millions of people. And tucked deep inside her story of bravery at the unspeakable, she thinks, “Keep your star.” It’s an exclusive club. Nobody wants to join.

Wailing women. Weeping. Pounding their chests. Grabbing their heads. Pulling out clumps of hair. Faces wrenched. Clenching jaws and grinding teeth, trying desperately to hold back the bellows of grief. Of their worst moment. Of falling to the ground with horror. Of being unable to breathe. Of minds going blank, no thoughts, no feelings, nothing, because the alternative is that this is real.

Women of grace. Standing there. Alone. Together. Some with anger. Many with anger. Some struggling to find meaning. Others taking the mantle of meaning. Sharing their heartache, despair, agony and anguish. Pleading with us to see them. To acknowledge their children. To imagine their pain. To warn us. All searching for peace.

There are no words. But I am so sorry for your loss.


No Honor In Killing

an egg with a bunch of cracks and an ineffective bandaid across a few of them.

This is going to be a short, hot post. Because I am boiling.

Stupid headline in Rolling Stone reads:

Pakistan’s “Kim Kardashian” Murdered by Brother in “Honor Killing”

WTF is an honor killing? Why the hell even use that term? Is it to make it foreign and exotic? Like this is something that people do in other countries, in the calling of other religions?


Yes, this murder is heinous. Yes, it is totally out of line. No, he has no right to control her. And there is no right he has to kill her.


  • One in four women, yeah one of the four women at that brunch table next to you, will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime.
  • Young women are most likely to be beat up or killed at the hands of a partner or former partner. Ages 20-24 are the worst. Hide your daughters.
  • One-third, yup, one in three, women murdered are murdered by a partner or ex-partner.
  • From 2003-2012, 65% of female victims were targeted by someone they knew; only 34% of male violent crime victims knew their attackers.
  • More than 320,000–yes three hundred and twenty THOUSAND–women each year are abused by a partner.
  • Men use rape to control women. 45% of women in physically abusive relationships are raped during the relationship.
  • Do you know that men who kill women they know are treated more leniently than stranger murder, like facing fewer charges of first-degree murder? It’s called the intimacy discount in Canada.

Before you go #NotAllMen on me, I know that. So what.

This is about control. It’s not about honor. We need to fix our language at home and abroad. It’s not a quaint custom of a foreign land. It’s what happens every day.

Yes, every day there are three (3!!!!) women killed by a current or former male partner in the U.S.

So stop acting like it’s the other. It’s fcuking us. And what the hell are we doing about it?

PSA: If you or someone you know is in danger call 911, a local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.

The Trials of Sartorial Splendor

I didn’t wear a uniform to school when I was a kid. Nonetheless, there were things that we did and did not wear. But, like with many cultural norms, this changed over time. A bit because of shifts in fashion and a bit because of evolving mores.

I wanted to keep up with the changes. I didn’t want to be left behind the other kids. My mother was not as sanguine.

“Doc,” she said, “there are things you wear to school and there are things you wear to play. There’s a reason. You go to school to learn, not to play.”

I disagreed and adjusted my wardrobe. I was shocked to see that I did not get 100% on my spelling test that week. It was the first time. Ever. I went back to wearing my school clothes.

I have often thought about that lesson from decades ago, when I see people going to work wearing what I could only call playclothes. The people that I am referring to are women. In offices. In Washington, D.C.  In the summer, they dress like this:

Before you jump all over me and call me an old fashioned upholder of the patriarchy, hear me out.

The Spouse is an excellent negotiator. He bargained for agreements that kept the union brothers and sisters afloat and extended their jurisdictions. The first time the big-shot attorney was coming down from New York, I told The Spouse to get a new suit. He objected. His well-worn suit would serve him well.

I told him that he didn’t need to look less than the man he would sit across from, that it put him on a more equal footing, that someone might notice his hand-me-down-suit. He bought a power tie, too.

Then there was the story I heard about a Cabinet Secretary that was invited to the President’s ranch for a Cabinet retreat. The secretary was not from Texas and was unsure what to wear. He usually wore wingtips. He could not interpret business ranchwear. He sent his assistant to the department store. She returned with three different pairs of boots. The powerful secretary and his most trusted senior staff reviewed the choices so that the Secretary would look like he belonged.

You NEVER EVER EVER see a man in an office, in Washington, D.C., dressed like this. Unless it’s the kid of the boss.

It’s not about being free. It’s not about slut-shaming. It’s not about there being a uniform or there not being a uniform.

BECAUSE THERE IS A UNIFORM!!  Sorry kids. It’s just how it is.

Men in offices wear a fairly standard uniform of dark suits and button down shirts and ties. The variations can include separates–jackets and pants–but almost always include a tie. Other modifications can be a tan suit, which didn’t go over well for the President, or seersucker suits for the truly affected gentlemen. This is most acceptable for Congressmen from the South. Many many many many men do not like to wear ties. I have heard them express this dislike. Some will carry the dreaded knot in their bag to wrap and tie them at the last minute. This is also followed at the end of the day with an immediate removal of said tie.

Now, the uniform is not uniform. Here in D.C., we are known for our dull sense of conservative fashion. Ties are not removed, even at happy hour. In Silicon Valley, you better not wear a suit. Depending on your industry, it will be different, too. You don’t see someone dressed preppily pouring shots in your favorite dive bar. You don’t see someone who works on the Hill in jeans when Congress is in session.

The uniform is a symbol of your role and of your corporate/job culture. It’s what you wear to signify that you are at work and that you are serious.

So, you want to be taken seriously? Then make sure that what you are wearing does not get more attention than what you are doing. Be neat. Be clean. But dress like your peers.

If you are a woman and you work in a D.C. office, wear your work uniform. It’s not about “covering up,” it’s about looking the part. The Doc is not a fashion blogger and would not be so bold as to provide guidance, but this might help.

Oh, and when you go to the White House, wear shoes. The guys do.

Addicted to Palin

Okay. I said it. It’s the first step. I admit that I have a problem.

I have been thinking about Sarah Palin, reading about Sarah Palin, watching video about Sarah Palin, following convention coverage about Sarah Palin, wrestling with my feelings about Sarah Palin, and trying to figure out what I think about this polarizing newly minted political rockstar.

I can’t get her out of my mind, because I am having a hard time making a decision about her and what to think about her.

There is no doubt in my mind that Sarah Palin is qualified to be Vice President.

The qualifications for the vice presidency are the same as those for the presidency. The vice president must be a native-born American of at least 35 years of age who has resided in the United States for at least 14 years. — Encarta

This means that I, too, am qualified to be Vice President–or President for that matter.

In my obsessive reading, some folks are saying that they have alot in common with Gov. Palin, and since they do NOT think that they are qualified for the job, therefore SHE isn’t qualified. Others are happy to have somebody who is “just like me,” who will understand and respond to their needs. Next I find myself thinking about why I believe that Brack Obama is qualified to be President.

This gets me thinking about serendipity and timing. Before Obama became a 2008 Presidential candidate, I was wishing that he would wait until the next round. But sometimes circumstances thrust you into a position and you have to grab for the ring. It might not be presented again. And I think that I need to apply that same standard to Palin.

But what about her family?, I was thinking. How could Palin be a mother to babies, young children and teens while being Vice President?

What wrong thinking.

I always thought that I tried hard not to judge other parents and their decisions–whether mom should work or stay home, what role does dad play, is quality time better than quantity time, prudes versus permissives, milk versus ice tea? In our family the mom went back to work when the babies were 9 and 8 weeks old–and still nursed both until they were two. The dad worked part time for the first few years and did main duty. The mom took a new job that entailed alot of domestic travel 4 months before the youngest was born–and she dragged the baby from coast to coast. His first hotel was in Boston at 10 weeks. Good mom? Bad mom? Sometimes. Okay, I think Palin is a fine parent. Her kids look happy (and gorgeous!) and I bet they will survive her parenting and become productive adults. As I pray my kids will survive my own parenting.

But what does parenting have to do with being a “heartbeat away from the Presidency” anyway? Nothing. But the heartbeat away from the Presidency thing is pretty important.

So, I think that Palin is qualified enough. And I think that, as Obama has forcefully and genuinely said, her family needs to be off limits. So that leads me to where I should have been from the beginning–what do I think about her as a potential president, because that’s the job she is going for?

I definitely think that she is a shrewd and formidable politician. She has worked hard and appears to spit nails and bring down the hammer on foes. Her rise to the governor’s mansion in Juneau is something to be respected and admired. Politics is a tough game, and a young upstart from a small town making it to the top of the heap in Alaska is nothing to shake a stick at. Go Sarah Barracuda!

So now I am returning to her convention speech–what tells me most about who she is and what kind of president she might be, because that’s all we got. And this is the source that makes me most uncomfortable about Sarah Palin, and a McCain-Palin presidency.

The speech–well delivered by a confident, accessible, smiling candidate–helped to draw a clear distinction between the choice we have in November. And it isn’t about Palin, specifically, but about what her ticket stands for.

Change for them means making a U-turn and going back to the 50’s. The speech was very backwards looking, to the “good ole days” of some idyllic and perhaps mythical small town America. Where people are homogeneous (but not homos), where nostalgia and the familiar trump intellectual curiosity, and where we need to run back to the cocoon rather than boldly face the challenges of health care, the environment, education and globalization.

Backwards to when diplomacy means that the U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A. (chant it with me like its 1980) plays nuclear games of chicken with our enemies, and globalization means that everyone oversees wants an American car and the imports from Japan are cheesy.

Where small towns are filled with honest, sincere dignified people who are somehow immune to a failing economy, the mortgage crisis, and the false prospect that cutting taxes for the wealthiest will make us all better off, even if that leaves state coffers empty without money for infrastructure projects and public safety (can you say levies?) and with gimmicks to improve education.

When the natural resources of this great planet were seen as infinite, and frontier settlers were the masters, taking whatever they wanted and moving on when the land was depleted or destroyed because it was their right. In contrast to the people already in this country that the settlers displaced. People who were stewards for the land, the water, the air, the animals and plants.

I watched Gov. Palin’s speech–and within the context of the Republican Convention–felt like she saw the best times were behind us. Simpler times. Times that needed to be protected from the future.

And her reiteration of wedge issues in the guise of small town values–guns, abortion, creationism–sets up the old “us against them” no-compromise zone. I appreciated Sen. McCain talking about reaching out across differences to make changes during his acceptance speech, but he really didn’t advocate anything new. And, if his running mate and others making speeches have their way (as they did with his choice for VP), his calls for pragmatic compromise to resolve tough issues will likely disappear.

I used to work in an academic environment with decisions made by “consensus.” What that meant in practice was that anyone could stop an idea by crapping on it. It was a huge challenge to get anything done, make change, see things in a new way, innovate or invent. It was status quo all the time, because there was always someone who knew they could stop change and keep their fiefdoms intact.

So it’s really not about Sarah Palin, who is truly a remarkable person on many levels. I don’t need to think about her, although she helped me to reconcile some ideas that were vexing me.

It’s about the fact that on most issues I absolutely and fundamentally disagree with Sarah Palin and her running mate. And all the distractions that have been fed up by the 24/7 news personalities and Democratic and Republican spinmeisters are just that. Distractions.

So yes, I have been thinking alot about Sarah Palin. And I think that now, I am on the road to recovery.

A Tale of Two Thomases

It was the worst of Thomas, and it was the best of times.

The worst, (Justice) Clarence Thomas, once again smearing Anita Hill in an attempt to hustle his book and polish his rep. The best, Ms. Hill reclaiming her dignity.

The worst, (basketball executive and former playa) Isaiah Thomas saying that while it’s always wrong for a white man to refer to a black woman as a “bitch” or a “ho”, it is no such restriction on a black man. The best, the Knicks and Mr. I. Thomas getting socked for $11.6 million in damages for sexual harrasment.

Orlando Patterson wrote a thoughtful piece in the NYT in the context of the Jena 6 case (and OJ, again), in which he says

…something that has been swept under the rug for too long in black America: the crisis in relations between men and women of all classes and, as a result, the catastrophic state of black family life, especially among the poor….a fact of life for too many black women who must daily confront indignity and abuse in hip-hop misogyny and everyday conversation. What is done with words is merely the verbal end of a continuum of abuse that too often ends with beatings and spousal homicide.

Gentlemen do not talk to ladies like the two Thomases did, or like Don Imus has. We need to expect better of our men. All of the time.

Fighting Words

Don Imus has been pushed off of the table. Along with the me-too media furies, and, of course, the tsk-tsk over that “rap music language.”

But as the dust settles there are still some very accomplished young women at Rutgers–and all across the country–who will be degraded tomorrow. Some simply because they are women, and some simply because they are women of color.

Three weeks ago, before the Rutgers/Imus/CBS media frenzy, the 12-year old relayed a conversation at his small school. One of his friends, a 13-year-old African-American boy, asked another of their friends, the only African American girl in her middle-school grade, “Why don’t you act black?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, you’re not like a bitch or a ho’,” he replied.

The following day, I saw the two moms of these kids talking in the parking lot. I wondered if they were talking about their kids’ exchange. And I wondered if they had a solution. They walked away with their arms around each other. Embracing each other as they were fighting against crappy images, self-hate, and words that, as they are repeated, take stronger hold over our thinkings. Or so I imagined.

And today I wonder, was the girl reminded about her classmate’s question in the wake Imus’ crass remarks? Did this honor student, musician, on her way to high school girl with her first contact lenses uncovering her beautiful eyes, see herself in the sad faces of the basketball players during their press conference?