29 August 2008

Sara Gould Checks in From Denver on 'The Memo'

On Wednesday I went to a session sponsored by the Women's Media Center and Women's eNews, two non-partisan organizations using the occasion of the Democratic National Convention for a discussion with elected women. Women's eNews has prepared The Memo, a Special Report on the Status of U.S. Women and delivered it to all Members of Congress. The Memo [PDF] covers six central concerns: wages, barriers to employment, poverty, reproductive freedom, violence, and homophobia. I was delighted that six U.S. Congresswomen participated in this session, expounding on their views of the lack of progress that women have made in recent years in relation to these issues, and shining a spotlight on some current legislative efforts to make change.

Let's start with equal pay, apparently the impossible dream for women. Representative Rosa L. DeLauro [CT, 3rd] focused on the pay gap, now at 77 cents on the dollar earned by men. For women of color, of course, the pay gap is much larger. DeLauro reported on the Paycheck Fairness Act that was passed by the House of Representatives on July 31st and is now up for consideration in the U.S. Senate.

Moving to violence against women, Representative Loretta Sanchez [CA, 47th] told us about the horrific violence against women soldiers in Iraq being perpetrated by their "fellow" soldiers. About 19% of the soldiers serving in Iraq are women, and to date some 900 rape cases have been filed by military women against military men.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore [WI, 4th] was eloquent on issues related to women and poverty, focusing particularly on non-payment of child support.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky [IL, 9th] reinforced the need for all of us to remain vigilant on issues of reproductive justice. Did you know that there is a "conscience clause" under consideration that would allow pharmacists who disagree with a woman's right to contraception not to fill a prescription?

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney [NY, 14th] showcased her book "Rumors of Our Progress Have Been Greatly Exaggerated" to illustrate all of the ways that women's rights have been rolled back in recent years and remain under attack.

And finally, Congresswoman Lois Capps [CA, 23rd] co-chair of the bi-partisan caucus for women's issues, spoke about LGBT issues. She also reported that the caucus, at 75 members, is the largest caucus in the Congress.

Each of our elected representatives was asked for their view of the role that the media plays in reporting on women's issues. To a woman, they stressed the need for the media to develop a taste for reporting on solutions and not only on problems. Women's advocates at every level are proposing viable solutions to many issues faced by women and their families, but the media seems to look only for stories that focus on the problems.

Sara K. Gould
President and CEO
Ms. Foundation for Women

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