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History > 2013 > USA > Women rights (I)



Arkansas Adopts

a Ban on Abortions After 12 Weeks


March 6, 2013
The New York Times


Arkansas adopted what is by far the country’s most restrictive ban on abortion on Wednesday — at 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by abdominal ultrasound.

The law, the sharpest challenge yet to Roe v. Wade, was passed by the newly Republican-controlled legislature over the veto of Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, who called it “blatantly unconstitutional.” The State Senate voted Tuesday to override his veto and the House followed suit on Wednesday, with several Democrats joining the Republican majority.

The law contradicts the limit established by Supreme Court decisions, which give women a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy, and abortion rights groups promised a quick lawsuit to block it. Even some anti-abortion leaders called the measure a futile gesture.

Adoption of the law, called the Human Heartbeat Protection Act, is the first statewide victory for a restless emerging faction within the anti-abortion movement that has lost patience with the incremental whittling away at abortion rights — a strategy used by groups like National Right to Life and the Catholic Church while they wait for a more sympathetic Supreme Court.

“When is enough enough?” asked the bill’s sponsor in the legislature, Senator Jason Rapert, a Republican, who compared the more than 50 million abortions in the United States since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. “It’s time to take a stand.”

But abortion rights groups and many legal experts, including some in the anti-abortion movement, say the law so deeply contradicts existing constitutional doctrine that it may quickly be voided.

“The 12-week ban actually bars abortion within the first trimester,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. “It has no chance of surviving a court challenge.”

The center and the American Civil Liberties Union have vowed to bring a case in federal court, aiming to head off the law before it takes effect, 90 days after the legislature adjourns in the next month or so.

Senator Rapert, who cited strong backing for his bill from conservative evangelical groups like the Arkansas Family Council, hopes the law will start a groundswell of support. “We crafted a bill that apparently has the ability to stand the test in courts and change abortion policy in our nation coast to coast,” he said in an interview this week.

But so far, more radical measures elsewhere have fallen short. In Mississippi a so-called personhood amendment lost at the polls, while in Ohio a “fetal heartbeat” bill resembling that in Arkansas was defeated in the legislature, in part because it was opposed by one of the state’s leading anti-abortion groups, Ohio Right to Life.

Those proposals have caused soul-searching and dissension within some of the largest anti-abortion groups, with many traditional leaders expressing skepticism or opposition to such sweeping challenges to constitutional law until a more conservative Supreme Court seems ready to scrap the legacy of Roe v. Wade.

Much like Tea Party activists, who have caused exasperation among Republican leaders with demands to slash budgets almost indiscriminately, the abortion rebels feel there is little to lose by pushing for aggressive curbs and testing the courts. But other anti-abortion leaders say that strategy, exemplified by the Arkansas law, is likely to backfire, causing courts to endorse the current limits and wasting resources that could bring real, if smaller, gains.

“As much as we would like to protect the unborn at that point, it is futile and it won’t save any babies,” said James Bopp Jr., a prominent anti-abortion lawyer who opposed the Arkansas law. Mr. Bopp, who lives in Indiana, is general counsel of National Right to Life.

He said that lower courts are virtually certain to affirm existing Supreme Court rulings and, like many other legal experts, he predicted that the Supreme Court was very unlikely to agree to hear such a case.

Mr. Rapert originally proposed setting the Arkansas ban even earlier, at about six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. But the nascent fetal heartbeat can be detected at that point only by using intrusive technology like a trans-vaginal ultrasound.

Wary of the national firestorm that erupted last year after Virginia tried to require the intrusive procedure, Mr. Rapert and his allies revised the bill to specify that a fetal heartbeat should be detected by abdominal ultrasound or other external methods, which are not feasible at six weeks.

The strategy of incrementally narrowing abortion rights has yielded results, especially since 2010, when Republicans gained control of many more states. Measures have been adopted by the dozens in the past few years, including waiting periods, parental consent for minors, ultrasound requirements and stringent regulations aimed at making it harder for abortion clinics to operate.

In Mississippi, a rule requiring doctors performing abortions to have visiting privileges at local hospitals threatens to close down the state’s only remaining abortion clinic, which relies on traveling doctors. A court decision on the measure is expected any day.

Ten states have pushed time limits for abortions down to 20 weeks into pregnancy on the theory, disputed by most medical experts, that a fetus can feel pain by then. Such laws have wider support in the anti-abortion movement. Arkansas adopted a 20-week ban over the governor’s veto last week, and most who supported it went on to vote for Mr. Rapert’s more stringent bill as well.

The 20-week laws also violate the existing standard of fetal viability. They are under legal challenge in Arizona and Georgia, and on Wednesday, a federal judge ruled the 20-week ban in Idaho to be unconstitutional, Reuters reported. But the laws are in effect in seven other states. Very few abortions take place so late in pregnancy, and those are often for serious medical reasons that may be permitted in any case.

By contrast, a 12-week ban would affect an estimated 12 percent to 15 percent of abortions nationwide, said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager with the Guttmacher Institute, a research group in Washington that supports abortion rights. In Arkansas in 2011, 4,033 abortions were performed; 815 of them, or 20 percent, were at 12 weeks or more after the last menstrual period, according to state data. How many of these later procedures involved medical emergencies or cases of rape or incest — exceptions allowed under the new law — is not known.

The state currently has only one clinic, in Little Rock, that performs surgical abortions; a second, run by Planned Parenthood, offers medicinal abortions, which are done only within the first eight weeks of pregnancy.

The final approval of the bill on Wednesday was a surprisingly unemotional event, with the House consideration of the override taking only moments — less time than it took just before to recognize a college volleyball team.

With the outcome, at 55 votes to 33, a foregone conclusion in a state that has turned steadily to the right in recent years, two House Republican leaders spoke briefly in favor of the bill, and not a single legislator spoke against it.

Representative Ann V. Clemmer, the bill’s House sponsor, called it “a statement consistent with what Arkansas voters want.”

“It will be tested,” she said. “I’m O.K. with that. That’s the job of the courts.”

Abortion rights advocates, however, watched the legislation with chagrin.

“It sets Arkansas back several decades in the eyes of the nation and the world,” said Rita Sklar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. “It shows an utter disregard for women and their ability to make important personal decisions about their own reproductive health.”


Steve Barnes contributed reporting.

    Arkansas Adopts a Ban on Abortions After 12 Weeks, NYT, 6.3.2013,






In Arduous Officer Course,

Women Offer Clues to Their Future in Infantry


February 17, 2013
The New York Times


Last fall, two newly minted female lieutenants joined about 100 men in Quantico, Va., for one of the most grueling experiences that soldiers not in war can experience: the Marine Corps’ Infantry Officer Course.

During the 86-day course, candidates haul heavy packs and even heavier weapons up and down steep hills, execute ambushes and endure bitter cold, hunger and exhaustion. Uncertainty abounds: they do not know their next task, or even how long they will have to perform it. At I.O.C., calm leadership under duress is more important than physical strength, although strength is essential.

One of the women — the first to enter the course — was dropped on the first day with about two dozen men during a notoriously strenuous endurance test. But the second woman lasted deep into the second week, when a stress fracture in her leg forced her to quit.

“She was tough,” Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, said of the woman, who is now at flight school. “She wasn’t going to quit.”

General Amos hopes that the experiences of those women, and others to come, will provide crucial clues about the future of women in the infantry, a possibility allowed by the recent lifting of the 1994 ban on women in direct combat units.

For the Marine Corps, probably more than any other military service, gender integration is a difficult affair. Not only is the corps the most male of the services, with women making up only about 7 percent of its ranks, but it is also a bastion of the infantry. Nearly one in five Marines are “grunts,” proud of their iconic history of bloody ground battles, from Belleau Wood to Iwo Jima to Chosin Reservoir to Falluja.

Not surprisingly, the idea of women in the infantry draws sharp questions from many active-duty Marines and veterans, who express concerns that standards will be diluted for women.

In an interview, General Amos acknowledged hearing those worries and insisted that the corps would not lower its standards. To guarantee that, he plans to use the course, which Marines consider the gold standard of infantry training, to study the performance of potential female infantry officers and then use that data to develop requirements for enlisted infantry Marines.

In March, two Naval Academy graduates will become the second set of women to enter the course. Over the coming years, General Amos is counting on dozens more female volunteers to provide him with enough information to decide whether women can make it in the infantry. The outcome, he says, is far from certain.

“I think there is absolutely no reason to think our females can’t be tankers, or be amtrackers, or be artillery Marines,” he said, referring to tracked amphibious assault vehicles. “The infantry is different.”

General Amos said that if too few women were able, or willing, to join the infantry, he or his successor might ask the secretary of defense to keep the infantry closed to women. The deadline for that request is January 2016.

“You could reach the point where you say, ‘It’s not worth it,’ ” General Amos said. “The numbers are so infinitesimally small, it’s not worth it.”

Advocates for women in the military would almost certainly protest any effort to keep the Marines infantry male only. Those advocates acknowledge the harshness of infantry life: carrying heavy loads on foot for long distances and enduring spartan environments are requisite. But they say that properly trained women will make it through I.O.C. and, eventually, whatever program the corps creates for screening and training enlisted infantrywomen.

Even if very few women pass I.O.C., enlisted women should still be allowed to join male-led infantry units, said Greg Jacob, a former Marine officer who is the policy director for the Service Women’s Action Network, an advocacy group.

“Leadership is leadership,” Mr. Jacob said. “You don’t need a female leader to lead female Marines.”

General Amos, a fighter pilot, opposes doing that, saying enlisted female Marines will do best if they have female officers as mentors. “I’m not going to bring in 18-year-old females and put them in an infantry battalion when I’ve got no female officers,” he said. “I can’t do that.”

In the coming months, the most pressing task for all of the armed services will be establishing gender-neutral requirements for every combat job, known as military occupational specialties. Of the 340 job categories in the Marine Corps, 32 had been closed to women under the 1994 ban.

The Marine Corps has set out a two-tiered process for creating those requirements: one short-term for armor, artillery, combat engineering and low-altitude air defense units, and a longer-term one for the infantry.

For noninfantry combat units, Marine commanders will be expected to establish requirements for every job by June. For example, artillery crews, working in pairs, must be able to lift and load shells weighing about 100 pounds. Tank crew members must be able to lift 40-pound shells using arm strength alone, because of the vehicle’s tight quarters.

Those requirements will become the basis for physical tests intended to screen men and women for particular jobs. It is possible that the tests already administered to all Marines annually — the physical fitness test and the combat fitness test — will be deemed adequate for determining physical ability for some jobs. But where those tests are not adequate, the corps will develop additional ones.

The corps will also begin using a new physical fitness test next January that will require all Marines, male and female, to do a minimum of three pull-ups and, for Marines under the age of 27, 50 crunches in two minutes. The three-mile run time will be scored by gender.

Marine officials say that the 15 women who volunteered to use the new fitness test this year all passed with maximum scores for pull-ups, doing eight or more. For men, 20 pull-ups are needed for a maximum score.

General Amos said he hoped that tests for the noninfantry combat units would be in place by the end of this year, potentially allowing women who are finishing boot camp early next year to move into some combat units.

“I’m really pretty bullish on this thing,” he said.

The infantry will take longer. The Marine Corps produces only about 110 female officers a year, and so far, only four have volunteered for I.O.C. General Amos said he would need many more volunteers to draw conclusions.

Given the heavy dose of infantry life that all officers experience in their initial training, he said he was unsurprised that women were not knocking down the door to enter I.O.C.

“By the time you’ve spent six months of this, picking ticks off of every part of your body, freezing cold, smelling like a goat and eating M.R.E.’s, you may go, ‘Well, this infantry stuff isn’t for me,’ ” he said, referring to packaged military meals. “So we don’t have a lot of volunteers.”

    In Arduous Officer Course, Women Offer Clues to Their Future in Infantry, NYT, 17.2.2013,






Why Gender Equality Stalled


February 16, 2013
The New York Times


THIS week is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s international best seller, “The Feminine Mystique,” which has been widely credited with igniting the women’s movement of the 1960s. Readers who return to this feminist classic today are often puzzled by the absence of concrete political proposals to change the status of women. But “The Feminine Mystique” had the impact it did because it focused on transforming women’s personal consciousness.

In 1963, most Americans did not yet believe that gender equality was possible or even desirable. Conventional wisdom held that a woman could not pursue a career and still be a fulfilled wife or successful mother. Normal women, psychiatrists proclaimed, renounced all aspirations outside the home to meet their feminine need for dependence. In 1962, more than two-thirds of the women surveyed by University of Michigan researchers agreed that most important family decisions “should be made by the man of the house.”

It was in this context that Friedan set out to transform the attitudes of women. Arguing that “the personal is political,” feminists urged women to challenge the assumption, at work and at home, that women should always be the ones who make the coffee, watch over the children, pick up after men and serve the meals.

Over the next 30 years this emphasis on equalizing gender roles at home as well as at work produced a revolutionary transformation in Americans’ attitudes. It was not instant. As late as 1977, two-thirds of Americans believed that it was “much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.” By 1994, two-thirds of Americans rejected this notion.

But during the second half of the 1990s and first few years of the 2000s, the equality revolution seemed to stall. Between 1994 and 2004, the percentage of Americans preferring the male breadwinner/female homemaker family model actually rose to 40 percent from 34 percent. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of full-time working mothers who said they would prefer to work part time increased to 60 percent from 48 percent. In 1997, a quarter of stay-at-home mothers said full-time work would be ideal. By 2007, only 16 percent of stay-at-home mothers wanted to work full time.

Women’s labor-force participation in the United States also leveled off in the second half of the 1990s, in contrast to its continued increase in most other countries. Gender desegregation of college majors and occupations slowed. And although single mothers continued to increase their hours of paid labor, there was a significant jump in the percentage of married women, especially married women with infants, who left the labor force. By 2004, a smaller percentage of married women with children under 3 were in the labor force than in 1993.

SOME people began to argue that feminism was not about furthering the equal involvement of men and women at home and work but simply about giving women the right to choose between pursuing a career and devoting themselves to full-time motherhood. A new emphasis on intensive mothering and attachment parenting helped justify the latter choice.

Anti-feminists welcomed this shift as a sign that most Americans did not want to push gender equality too far. And feminists, worried that they were seeing a resurgence of traditional gender roles and beliefs, embarked on a new round of consciousness-raising. Books with titles like “The Feminine Mistake” and “Get to Work” warned of the stiff penalties women paid for dropping out of the labor force, even for relatively brief periods. Cultural critics questioned the “Perfect Madness” of intensive mothering and helicopter parenting, noting the problems that resulted when, as Ms. Friedan had remarked about “housewifery,” mothering “expands to fill the time available.”

One study cautioned that nearly 30 percent of opt-out moms who wanted to rejoin the labor force were unable to do so, and of those who did return, only 40 percent landed full-time professional jobs. In “The Price of Motherhood,” the journalist Ann Crittenden estimated that the typical college-educated woman lost more than $1 million dollars in lifetime earnings and forgone retirement benefits after she opted out.

Other feminists worried that the equation of feminism with an individual woman’s choice to opt out of the work force undermined the movement’s commitment to a larger vision of gender equity and justice. Joan Williams, the founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, argued that defining feminism as giving mothers the choice to stay home assumes that their partners have the responsibility to support them, and thus denies choice to fathers. The political theorist Lori Marso noted that emphasizing personal choice ignores the millions of women without a partner who can support them.

These are all important points. But they can sound pretty abstract to men and women who are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to arranging their work and family lives. For more than two decades the demands and hours of work have been intensifying. Yet progress in adopting family-friendly work practices and social policies has proceeded at a glacial pace.

Today the main barriers to further progress toward gender equity no longer lie in people’s personal attitudes and relationships. Instead, structural impediments prevent people from acting on their egalitarian values, forcing men and women into personal accommodations and rationalizations that do not reflect their preferences. The gender revolution is not in a stall. It has hit a wall.

In today’s political climate, it’s startling to remember that 80 years ago, in 1933, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to establish a 30-hour workweek. The bill failed in the House, but five years later the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 gave Americans a statutory 40-hour workweek. By the 1960s, American workers spent less time on the job than their counterparts in Europe and Japan.

Between 1990 and 2000, however, average annual work hours for employed Americans increased. By 2000, the United States had outstripped Japan — the former leader of the work pack — in the hours devoted to paid work. Today, almost 40 percent of men in professional jobs work 50 or more hours a week, as do almost a quarter of men in middle-income occupations. Individuals in lower-income and less-skilled jobs work fewer hours, but they are more likely to experience frequent changes in shifts, mandatory overtime on short notice, and nonstandard hours. And many low-income workers are forced to work two jobs to get by. When we look at dual-earner couples, the workload becomes even more daunting. As of 2000, the average dual-earner couple worked a combined 82 hours a week, while almost 15 percent of married couples had a joint workweek of 100 hours or more.

Astonishingly, despite the increased workload of families, and even though 70 percent of American children now live in households where every adult in the home is employed, in the past 20 years the United States has not passed any major federal initiative to help workers accommodate their family and work demands. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 guaranteed covered workers up to 12 weeks unpaid leave after a child’s birth or adoption or in case of a family illness. Although only about half the total work force was eligible, it seemed a promising start. But aside from the belated requirement of the new Affordable Care Act that nursing mothers be given a private space at work to pump breast milk, the F.M.L.A. turned out to be the inadequate end.

Meanwhile, since 1990 other nations with comparable resources have implemented a comprehensive agenda of “work-family reconciliation” acts. As a result, when the United States’ work-family policies are compared with those of countries at similar levels of economic and political development, the United States comes in dead last.

Out of nearly 200 countries studied by Jody Heymann, dean of the school of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, and her team of researchers for their new book, “Children’s Chances,” 180 now offer guaranteed paid leave to new mothers, and 81 offer paid leave to fathers. They found that 175 mandate paid annual leave for workers, and 162 limit the maximum length of the workweek. The United States offers none of these protections.

A 1997 European Union directive prohibits employers from paying part-time workers lower hourly rates than full-time workers, excluding them from pension plans or limiting paid leaves to full-time workers. By contrast, American workers who reduce hours for family reasons typically lose their benefits and take an hourly wage cut.

Is it any surprise that American workers express higher levels of work-family conflict than workers in any of our European counterparts? Or that women’s labor-force participation has been overtaken? In 1990, the United States ranked sixth in female labor participation among 22 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is made up of most of the globe’s wealthier countries. By 2010, according to an economic research paper by Cornell researchers Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, released last month, we had fallen to 17th place, with about 30 percent of that decline a direct result of our failure to keep pace with other countries’ family-friendly work policies. American women have not abandoned the desire to combine work and family. Far from it. According to the Pew Research Center, in 1997, 56 percent of women ages 18 to 34 and 26 percent of middle-aged and older women said that, in addition to having a family, being successful in a high-paying career or profession was “very important” or “one of the most important things” in their lives. By 2011, fully two-thirds of the younger women and 42 percent of the older ones expressed that sentiment.

Nor have men given up the ideal of gender equity. A 2011 study by the Center for Work and Family at Boston College found that 65 percent of the fathers they interviewed felt that mothers and fathers should provide equal amounts of caregiving for their children. And in a 2010 Pew poll, 72 percent of both women and men between 18 and 29 agreed that the best marriage is one in which husband and wife both work and both take care of the house.

BUT when people are caught between the hard place of bad working conditions and the rock wall of politicians’ resistance to family-friendly reforms, it is hard to live up to such aspirations. The Boston College study found that only 30 percent of the fathers who wanted to share child care equally with their wives actually did so, a gap that helps explain why American men today report higher levels of work-family conflict than women. Under the circumstances, how likely is it that the young adults surveyed by Pew will meet their goal of sharing breadwinning and caregiving?

The answer is suggested by the findings of the New York University sociologist Kathleen Gerson in the interviews she did for her 2010 book, “The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family.” Eighty percent of the women and 70 percent of the men Ms. Gerson interviewed said they wanted an egalitarian relationship that allowed them to share breadwinning and family care. But when asked what they would do if this was not possible, they described a variety of “fallback” positions. While most of the women wanted to continue paid employment, the majority of men said that if they could not achieve their egalitarian ideal they expected their partner to assume primary responsibility for parenting so they could focus on work.

And that is how it usually works out. When family and work obligations collide, mothers remain much more likely than fathers to cut back or drop out of work. But unlike the situation in the 1960s, this is not because most people believe this is the preferable order of things. Rather, it is often a reasonable response to the fact that our political and economic institutions lag way behind our personal ideals.

Women are still paid less than men at every educational level and in every job category. They are less likely than men to hold jobs that offer flexibility or family-friendly benefits. When they become mothers, they face more scrutiny and prejudice on the job than fathers do.

So, especially when women are married to men who work long hours, it often seems to both partners that they have no choice. Female professionals are twice as likely to quit work as other married mothers when their husbands work 50 hours or more a week and more than three times more likely to quit when their husbands work 60 hours or more.

The sociologist Pamela Stone studied a group of mothers who had made these decisions. Typically, she found, they phrased their decision in terms of a preference. But when they explained their “decision-making process,” it became clear that most had made the “choice” to quit work only as a last resort — when they could not get the flexible hours or part-time work they wanted, when their husbands would not or could not cut back their hours, and when they began to feel that their employers were hostile to their concerns. Under those conditions, Professor Stone notes, what was really a workplace problem for families became a private problem for women.

This is where the political gets really personal. When people are forced to behave in ways that contradict their ideals, they often undergo what sociologists call a “values stretch” — watering down their original expectations and goals to accommodate the things they have to do to get by. This behavior is especially likely if holding on to the original values would exacerbate tensions in the relationships they depend on.

In their years of helping couples make the transition from partners to parents, the psychologists Philip and Carolyn Cowan have found that tensions increase when a couple backslide into more traditional roles than they originally desired. The woman resents that she is not getting the shared child care she expected and envies her husband’s social networks outside the home. The husband feels hurt that his wife isn’t more grateful for the sacrifices he is making by working more hours so she can stay home. When you can’t change what’s bothering you, one typical response is to convince yourself that it doesn’t actually bother you. So couples often create a family myth about why they made these choices, why it has turned out for the best, and why they are still equal in their hearts even if they are not sharing the kind of life they first envisioned.

Under present conditions, the intense consciousness raising about the “rightness” of personal choices that worked so well in the early days of the women’s movement will end up escalating the divisive finger-pointing that stands in the way of political reform.

Our goal should be to develop work-life policies that enable people to put their gender values into practice. So let’s stop arguing about the hard choices women make and help more women and men avoid such hard choices. To do that, we must stop seeing work-family policy as a women’s issue and start seeing it as a human rights issue that affects parents, children, partners, singles and elders. Feminists should certainly support this campaign. But they don’t need to own it.


Stephanie Coontz is a professor of family history

at Evergreen State College

and the author of “A Strange Stirring:

The Feminine Mystique and American Women

at the Dawn of the 1960s.”

    Why Gender Equality Stalled, NYT, 16.2.2013,






Geraldine Rhoads Dies at 98;

Edited Woman’s Day


January 30, 2013
The New York Times


Geraldine Rhoads, who in 16 years as editor in chief of Woman’s Day magazine guided it toward covering the women’s movement while still embracing its tradition of homespun advice, died at her home in Manhattan on Saturday, three days before her 99th birthday.

Her longtime friend Jeannie McCloskey confirmed the death.

Miss Rhoads (she preferred the old courtesy title to Ms.) was editor of Woman’s Day from 1966 to 1982, during the heyday of the so-called Seven Sisters, a group of national women’s magazines that also counted Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s, Better Homes and Gardens, and Redbook. During her tenure, Woman’s Day’s circulation grew to more than eight million, from about five million.

“It was a period of enormous change in women’s lives,” Jane Chesnutt, who was Woman’s Day’s editor from 1991 to 2009, said on Monday. The magazine was then at the forefront of issues like domestic violence — “ahead of the law on that issue,” she said — and women’s health.

“In the mid-’70s, under Gerry’s leadership, we wrote about lumpectomy as an alternative to radical mastectomies,” Ms. Chesnutt said.

That was a significant shift from the days in which women’s magazines featured only recipes, needlework and proper etiquette.

Woman’s Day was first published in 1931 as a menu sheet handed out to shoppers at grocery stores owned by the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. By 1937, it was a magazine priced at 2 cents a copy and sold only at A.&P. stores. Today, five owners later, Woman’s Day is published by Hearst Magazines and has a circulation of about 3.25 million.

Ellen Levine, who is editorial director of Hearst Magazines and was Miss Rhoads’s immediate successor at Woman’s Day, called Miss Rhoads’s editorship “a balancing act.”

“She had an eye and ear for what was going to matter for women,” Ms. Levine said, “particularly in the health area, in money management for women, stories about women’s emotional needs. And she managed to get that on pages between the stories on hobbies and recipes.”

Still, Miss Rhoads never disavowed traditional homemaking advice. In 1988, with Edna Paradis, she wrote “The Woman’s Day Help Book: The Complete How-to for the Busy Housekeeper.”

Geraldine Emeline Rhoads was born in Philadelphia on Jan. 29, 1914, the only child of Lawrence and Alice Fegley Rhoads. Her father was a teacher at a boarding school. Miss Rhoads never married, and no immediate family members survive her.

Miss Rhoads graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1935, where she had been editor of the College News and the Lantern, a literary magazine. After answering a classified ad, she was hired as an editor by a start-up magazine in New York, The Woman. She held editing positions at Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s and other women’s magazines before being named editor in chief and vice president of Woman’s Day.

“Gerry was especially proud,” Ms. Chesnutt said, “of the fact that Woman’s Day was, and still is, the only one of the Seven Sisters that was never edited by a man.”

    Geraldine Rhoads Dies at 98; Edited Woman’s Day, NYT, 30.1.2013,






She’s (Rarely) the Boss


January 26, 2013
The New York Times


DAVOS, Switzerland

IT’S the annual conclave of the presumed powerful, the World Economic Forum in Davos, with the wealthy flying in on private jets to discuss issues like global poverty. As always, it’s a sea of men. This year, female participation is 17 percent.

Perhaps that’s not surprising, considering that global business and political leaders are overwhelmingly male. In America, only 17 percent of American Fortune 500 board seats are held by women, a mere 3 percent of board chairs are women — and women are barely represented in President Obama’s cabinet.

Indeed, I’m guessing that the average boardroom doesn’t have much better gender equality than a team of cave hunters attacking a woolly mammoth 30,000 years ago.

So what gives? A provocative answer comes from Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, who has written a smart book due out in March that attributes the gender gap, in part, to chauvinism and corporate obstacles — but also, in part, to women who don’t aggressively pursue opportunities.

“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in,” Sandberg writes in the book, called “Lean In.”

“We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives, the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve. We continue to do the majority of the housework and child care. We compromise our career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet.”

Sandberg and I discussed the issue on a panel here in Davos, and I think that there is something real and important in what she says. When I lecture at universities, the first questions are invariably asked by a man — even at a women’s college. When I point at someone in a crowd to ask a question, the women in the area almost always look at each other hesitantly — and any man in the vicinity jumps up and asks his question.

A McKinsey survey published in April found that 36 percent of male employees at major companies aspired to be top executives, compared with 18 percent of the women. A study of Carnegie Mellon M.B.A. graduates in 2003 found that 57 percent of the men, but only 7 percent of the women, tried to negotiate a higher initial salary offer.

Sandberg, one of the most prominent women in corporate America, is not known as a shrinking violet. She confesses that when she was in elementary school, she trained her younger brother and sister to follow her around, listen to her give speeches and periodically shout: “Right!”

Yet she acknowledges that she has harbored many insecurities, sometimes shedding tears at the office, as well as doubts about her juggling of work and family.

When she joined Facebook as its No. 2, she was initially willing to accept the first offer from Mark Zuckerberg, the founder. She writes that her husband and brother-in-law hounded her to demand more, so she did — and got a better deal.

“I am hoping that each woman will set her own goals and reach for them with gusto,” Sandberg writes. “And I am hoping that each man will do his part to support women in the workplace and in the home, also with gusto.”

Yet I wish that there could be two versions of Sandberg’s book. One marketed to young women would encourage them to be more assertive. One marketed to men (and women already in leadership) would emphasize the need for structural changes to accommodate women and families.

Is Sandberg blaming the victim? I don’t think so, but I also don’t want to relax the pressure on employers to do a much better job of recruiting and promoting women.

Nature and social mores together make motherhood more all-consuming than fatherhood, yet the modern job was built for a distracted father. That’s not great for dads and can be just about impossible for moms — at least those who don’t have great wealth or extraordinary spouses.

Sandberg famously leaves the office at 5:30 most days to be with her kids, but not many women (or men) would dare try that.

Some people believe that women are more nurturing bosses, or that they offer more support to women below them. I’m skeptical. Women can be jerks as much as men.

But we need more women in leadership positions for another reason: considerable evidence suggests that more diverse groups reach better decisions. Corporations should promote women not just out of fairness, but also because it helps them perform better. Lehman Brothers might still be around today if it were Lehman Brothers & Sisters.

So, yes, let’s encourage young women to “lean in,” but let’s also change the workplace so that when they do lean in and assert themselves, we’re directly behind them shouting: “Right!”

    She’s (Rarely) the Boss, NYT, 26.1.2013,






Women in the Battlefield


January 24, 2013
The New York Times


The Pentagon’s decision to end its ban on women in combat is a triumph for equality and common sense. By opening infantry, artillery and other battlefield jobs to all qualified service members regardless of sex, the military is showing that categorical discrimination has no place in a society that honors fairness and equal opportunity.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who overturned the ban this week, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who unanimously urged him to do it, deserve praise for bringing military policy in line with reality. Women have been in the thick of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. More than 280,000 have been deployed there, thousands have been injured and more than 150 killed. With the rule abolished, such service and sacrifice will no longer be unofficial and unrecognized.

It is encouraging that the push for change came from the top, from leaders who said integration was no bar to a stronger, better military. The Pentagon also was facing pressure from lawsuits, including one brought last November on behalf of four service women and the Service Women’s Action Network, an advocacy group, claiming that gender-based discrimination was unconstitutional and unfairly harmed their careers.

One plaintiff, Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar, an Air National Guard helicopter pilot who was shot down and wounded in Afghanistan, said she could not seek combat leadership positions because, in the Pentagon’s view, she had not officially seen combat. Major Hegar is only one of untold thousands of women whose career paths have been sharply limited by that gap in their résumés.

When the new policy is fully in place, we hope many more women will apply for jobs that they wouldn’t have considered, in certain schools, leadership courses and in those branches of service — namely the Army and Marine Corps — where their opportunities have been most proscribed. The result will be more diversity, from a deeper pool of talent, and thus a stronger, better military.

There will also be grumbling. When the news broke Wednesday afternoon, military news sites like Army Times and Marine Corps Times lit up with comments, some ranging from laughably sexist to reprehensible. “They shouldn’t be bused in from the field every 3 days for a shower while the guys stay out for 45 days,” said one commenter. “The castration of the U.S. Army continues,” said another. “God help us all.”

Some right-wing commentators rehashed false stereotypes that women couldn’t hack it, and warned that women would be captured and raped and men would get shot trying to protect them instead of killing the enemy. These lurid hypotheticals deny the reality that military women face far greater danger of sexual assault and harassment from their fellow troops — a crisis that the Pentagon has slowly been addressing, and that full combat integration should help to remedy. Adding women to the leadership corps will foster a healthier military culture freed from testosterone-soaked abuse and scandal.

Many in the military already understand that many women can do combat jobs as well as men, if not better, but none have the chance to prove it. “Fully support,” one Army Times commenter wrote of the new policy, “as long as the training and the physical standards for such positions remain what they need to be to accomplish the mission and make every team member able to provide support and cover for their teammates.”

    Women in the Battlefield, NYT, 24.1.2013,






Is Delhi So Different From Steubenville?


January 12, 2013
The New York Times


IN India, a 23-year-old student takes a bus home from a movie and is gang-raped and assaulted so viciously that she dies two weeks later.

In Liberia, in West Africa, an aid group called More Than Me rescues a 10-year-old orphan who has been trading oral sex for clean water to survive.

In Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players are accused of repeatedly raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl who was either drunk or rendered helpless by a date-rape drug and was apparently lugged like a sack of potatoes from party to party.

And in Washington, our members of Congress show their concern for sexual violence by failing to renew the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law first passed in 1994 that has now expired.

Gender violence is one of the world’s most common human rights abuses. Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. The World Health Organization has found that domestic and sexual violence affects 30 to 60 percent of women in most countries.

In some places, rape is endemic: in South Africa, a survey found that 37 percent of men reported that they had raped a woman. In others, rape is institutionalized as sex trafficking. Everywhere, rape often puts the victim on trial: in one poll, 68 percent of Indian judges said that “provocative attire” amounts to “an invitation to rape.”

Americans watched the events after the Delhi gang rape with a whiff of condescension at the barbarity there, but domestic violence and sex trafficking remain a vast problem across the United States.

One obstacle is that violence against women tends to be invisible and thus not a priority. In Delhi, of 635 rape cases reported in the first 11 months of last year, only one ended in conviction. That creates an incentive for rapists to continue to rape, but in any case that reported number of rapes is delusional. They don’t include the systematized rape of sex trafficking. India has, by my reckoning, more women and girls trafficked into modern slavery than any country in the world. (China has more prostitutes, but they are more likely to sell sex by choice.)

On my last trip to India, I tagged along on a raid on a brothel in Kolkata, organized by the International Justice Mission. In my column at the time, I focused on a 15-year-old and a 10-year-old imprisoned in the brothel, and mentioned a 17-year-old only in passing because I didn’t know her story.

My assistant at The Times, Natalie Kitroeff, recently visited India and tracked down that young woman. It turns out that she had been trafficked as well — she was apparently drugged at a teahouse and woke up in the brothel. She said she was then forced to have sex with customers and beaten when she protested. She was never allowed outside and was never paid. What do you call what happened to those girls but slavery?

Yet prosecutors and the police often shrug — or worse. Dr. Shershah Syed, a former president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan, once told me: “When I treat a rape victim, I always advise her not to go to the police. Because if she does, the police might just rape her again.”

In the United States, the case in Steubenville has become controversial partly because of the brutishness that the young men have been accused of, but also because of concerns that the authorities protected the football team. Some people in both Delhi and Steubenville rushed to blame the victim, suggesting that she was at fault for taking a bus or going to a party. They need to think: What if that were me?

The United States could help change the way the world confronts these issues. On a remote crossing of the Nepal-India border, I once met an Indian police officer who said, a bit forlornly, that he was stationed there to look for terrorists and pirated movies. He wasn’t finding any, but India posted him there to show that it was serious about American concerns regarding terrorism and intellectual property. Meanwhile, that officer ignored the steady flow of teenage Nepali girls crossing in front of him on their way to Indian brothels, because modern slavery was not perceived as an American priority.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has done a superb job trying to put these issues on the global agenda, and I hope President Obama and Senator John Kerry will continue her efforts. But Congress has been pathetic. Not only did it fail to renew the Violence Against Women Act, but it has also stalled on the global version, the International Violence Against Women Act, which would name and shame foreign countries that tolerate gender violence.

Congress even failed to renew the landmark legislation against human trafficking, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The obstacles were different in each case, but involved political polarization and paralysis. Can members of Congress not muster a stand on modern slavery?

(Hmm. I now understand better the results of a new survey from Public Policy Polling showing that Congress, with 9 percent approval, is less popular than cockroaches, traffic jams, lice or Genghis Khan.)

Skeptics fret that sexual violence is ingrained into us, making the problem hopeless. But just look at modern American history, for the rising status of women has led to substantial drops in rates of reported rape and domestic violence. Few people realize it, but Justice Department statistics suggest that the incidence of rape has fallen by three-quarters over the last four decades.

Likewise, the rate at which American women are assaulted by their domestic partners has fallen by more than half in the last two decades. That reflects a revolution in attitudes. Steven Pinker, in his book “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” notes that only half of Americans polled in 1987 said that it was always wrong for a man to beat his wife with a belt or a stick; a decade later, 86 percent said it was always wrong.

But the progress worldwide is far too slow. Let’s hope that India makes such violence a national priority. And maybe the rest of the world, especially our backward Congress, will appreciate that the problem isn’t just India’s but also our own.

    Is Delhi So Different From Steubenville?, NYT, 12.1.2013,




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