Is it Time to talk about a Backlash against Women?

1561_A4_Email_Poster.inddNew Orleans    What is going on these days?  Seems like everywhere we turn there are attacks on women in what seems a backlash against the self-satisfied progress we had hoped we were making.

            The International Labor Organization finds that there is no country where women have achieved pay equity with men.  This includes even the Scandinavian countries, which start out pretty equal, but go the other way once women have children.

            Masked in the employment statistics for more women working are numbers like the fact that 40% of women in the United Kingdom are working part-time compared to only 12% of the men.  Furthermore in 2013 the wage gap for part-time women compared to part-time men was a whopping 36%.

            It almost seems to be a part of the standard features of our polarized political discourse in the US for there to be comments about female politicians that virtually rise to the level of human rights violations.   Needless to say part of this is the deeply held view of many conservatives that they, rather than women, should be regulating women’s reproductive choices and options.  Wendy Davis from Texas, Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri, and of course Hillary Clinton are all grist for the mill, and the fact that women’s organizations have turned the attacks into contributions, including a record $25 million this election cycle for Emily’s List, is frankly no comfort. 

            And, if you believe this toxicity doesn’t leech into the very bedrock of American political opinion then ignore the recent survey data that a majority of both men and women still believe men should be President and that men should be in charge of the 500 largest American corporations.  That’s not a glass ceiling.  That’s solid iron and steel welded firmly in place after all of these decades of social change.

            There are some fixes here, universal daycare being a major one, and more flexible work schedules being another one, but both run into difficulties in being tagged as “women’s options” rather than critical social programs for families and children, benefiting men as well.  Frequent studies find that ambition is equivalent in men and women, but simple changes in human relations departments are too often simply window dressing without real targets, according to KPMG and its recent reports.

            And, nothing disguises the flat out hate and opposition from an increasingly dug in set of men and some women who are waging what we might have hoped was a Custer’s Last Stand for a traditional role for women, but we are increasingly finding is more like an unending civil, guerrilla war, we still have not rooted out and won.



Privatization Everywhere in UK, and Monopoly Rising in USA

IMG_0832London   When privatization of public services is ubiquitous, it’s actually kind of scary, as I just witnessed in England and Scotland. 

            Catching a train from Edinburgh to London, I did a double take when I saw a pink Virgin train rolling down track 3 towards me as I waited to jump from Haymarket to the Waverly station in Edinburgh.  Once in the massive, old Victorian looking station at Waverly there seem to be a smorgasbord of different companies before I ended up plopping down into a seat on a train called East Coast thanks to the help of someone with First on their jacket and Robert on their nametag, all of which were various private companies I’m sure.   In London, I did a triple-take at seeing small garbage dumpsters, or bins as the locals call them, with Veola’s name all over them and that was true of a number of garbage trucks there as well.  Our union of course has an agreement with Veola as the private company managing the bus and ferry services in New Orleans making it not so much a small, as a scary, world of privatization gone wild.

            Of course the ideology is about competition on both sides of the water, and doubtlessly it rings equally hollow on each shore, but with differences.

            In London, when I was doing my first day of community organizer training I started to give an example of picking appropriate tactics tailored to the target and used the example of not hitting the meter reader with everything you have when you want to save that for the utility company.  The blank stares quickly educated me to the fact that even when it comes to utilities, they have choices in England between a half-dozen or more companies with correspondingly different prices.  Cell phone and internet service?  Yes, you guessed it, cheaper and of course much faster.  The slowest service my friends in Scotland were explaining is almost the fastest premium service for businesses in the US.

             A piece in the Times, I scanned quickly as I ran for Heathrow today, should be must reading for both weak kneed FCC and our straight backed Attorney General Eric Holder.  The reporter looked at the impact for consumers – wow, that’s radical already! – of the FCC rejecting the merger of T-Mobile and AT&T, and then ticked off the examples of how, following the rejection, T-Mobile has essentially turned the cellphone market upside down by cancelling 2-year mandatory contracts and pretty much anything else that has been a burr in the saddle of millions of consumers.  And the result?  Well, they are growing and for consumers it has forced prices to begin falling because, voila!, there’s real competition rather than monopoly pricing.  Finally, they are even “breaking the bundle” and separating phone from data services, which has been a personal bugaboo of mine for years now.

            Underlining the point, this is a shot across the bow at the arrogant, money walks, everyone else just talks, stance that Comcast has taken to snubbing its nose, and lobbyists, at any talk of the obvious monopoly it is expanding, by thumbing its nose at both the government and the consumers, with its effort to buy Times-Warner and strangle the internet and lock the door behind them.  

If it worked for cellphones, why not cable?