“You Can’t Just Come Over Here and Hire a Contractor”

Rachel Rose Hartman, White House Correspondent for Yahoo News, describes the hurdles of attempting to breastfeed at the White House. While The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that all businesses with more than 50 employees provide dedicated lactation rooms, this poses a conundrum when employees are stationed at non-company-owned facilities.

I tried to resist the bathroom-as-lactation-room as long as I could that first day. But when I couldn’t stand it anymore (read: pain from engorgement, leaking and discomfort) I gave in.

I checked out my options. Neither of the two single-stall restrooms had a chair or a place to sit other than a lid-less toilet seat, which was the first disappointment. There was no countertop where I could set up my equipment. I had no idea how I would make this work.

But I gave it a shot.

Do you ever think of this as a frivolous problem? Read Hartman’s article.

Radical Woman of the Day: Lindy Boggs

On this day in 1916 was born Lindy Boggs, first woman elected to the United States Congress by the state of Louisiana. When a plane carrying her husband, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, disappeared over Alaska in 1972, she ran for his seat in a special election and won.

Boggs won re-election for a full term in 1974 and was re-elected another seven times, serving from 1973 to 1991. In her most closely-contested race, against Rob Couhig in 1980, she won 63.8%–36.2%; in all other contested races she garnered over 80% of the vote. A white member of Sigma Gamma Rho, a traditionally African-American sorority, she ran unopposed in her last four races, which took place after her district lines had been redrawn to give it an African-American majority.

Boggs served as the permanent chairwoman of the 1976 Democratic National Convention, making her the first woman to chair a major party convention. In 1994, she was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame, and in 1997 President Bill Clinton appointed her U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See.

This past Friday was International Women’s Day, and this interactive chart will show you when each country in the world granted women the right to vote and to run for office, and when it elected its first woman. Just click a category and drag the slider back and forth; it’s really fun. Also, clicking an individual country on the map will show you more specific information.

Via Feministing.

"How Do I Report the Government to the Government?"

Trigger Warning for Rape/Sexual Violence

The testimonies filed to a Nairobi court last week are difficult to read. A woman is raped in front of her daughter, first by police and then by looters. A student is dragged into the bush and has his foreskin cut off. A terrified woman hides under her bed as attackers scale her roof but they find her, beat her, then three men rape her.

These horrific stories constitute a tiny fraction of the sexual violence that exploded amid the post-election chaos in 2007 and early 2008. There are no definitive figures on how many women and men were sexually abused, but activists estimate at least 3,000 women were raped, with at least 60% of the reported gang rapes attributed to the security forces. No one has been convicted.

The eight stories filed to the high court on 20 February are also chilling because on 4 March, Kenyans will go to the polls to choose a president, MPs, senators and county representatives. Campaigners fear a repeat of sexual atrocities if violence erupts.

I’m going to give away the ending because you’ve heard it before: you have to change the culture, starting with male superiority over women.

Politician Stripped of Title After Lewd Comment to Female Intern

After a 17-year-old intern from the Connecticut Science Center testified in a Connecticut House budget hearing that working at the Center had helped her overcome her fear of snakes, Rep. Ernest Hewett somehow thought it would be okay to tell her, “If you’re bashful, I got a snake sitting under my desk here.” As a result, Speaker of the House J. Brendan Sharkey has demoted Hewett from his position as deputy speaker and its accompanying pay bump.

Hewett has since issued a non-apology of sorts, but he also gave an interview to the Hartford Courant that only reinforces the impression of gross sexism:

“I purposely will not have female interns. My intern now is a male. I want to keep it like that. I’ve had female interns in the past that sit in my office all day. I thought it was totally weird and I didn’t want another. As a matter of fact, I went four, maybe six years without having an intern at all because of stuff like that. I have a male intern, the last two I’ve had were male.”

He went on to say that he could not choose to hire only male interns, but would prefer not to be assigned females, because “that way that keeps me good and that keeps everybody else good.”

So all you have to do to keep Hewett from treating women poorly is keep women away from him. Noted.

Indian Government Pledges £125m to Improve Women's Safety

Activists immediately dismissed the measures as “tokenism”.

“The government clearly felt they had to do something but the money is grossly inadequate. It works out at a few rupees for each woman in the country” Ranjana Kumari, director of the Delhi-based Centre for Social Research, told the Guardian.

Kumari, who is also a member of the National Commission for Empowerment of Women, added: “We have been asking for money to properly implement laws on domestic violence and to improve our terrible record on maternal mortality but there was nothing.”

£125m does sound pretty paltry, but breaking it down by rupees per woman is a pretty poor way to communicate that fact. If India has to spend a significant amount of money on each individual woman in the country in order to make it a safer place, they’ll go bankrupt. Couldn’t Kumari have provided research indicating the amount of money needed to effect change and compared it with the £125m figure?

The Crime That Crosses Class and Color Lines

Former prosecutor Rikki Klieman argues for prosecuting perpetrators of domestic abuse even when the victims refuse to testify:

These women do not like being beaten, and I literally recoil whenever I hear others blame them for staying. Their situations are complex and present a societal issue, not simply an emotional one. They literally cannot leave because they have been traumatized for months or years. They are completely vulnerable, having lost self-esteem even if they have successful employment or publicly appear as if everything is fine, particularly when both the man and the woman are otherwise reputable. Victims live in denial, blaming alcohol, drugs or gambling–anything but their abuser. Even if not in denial, they live in that deep valley of hope that things will get better, that they will work it out, that they can make things be what they were before, that he will change. They live cloaked in shame, feeling guilty that it is their own fault.

There are certainly other categories of crime that government will prosecute even without the participation of the victim, aren’t there? This seems like a good candidate for inclusion on that list.

Radical Woman of the Day: Jeannette Rankin

On this day in 1917 Jeanette Pickering Rankin was sworn in as the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, representing Montana. Already a suffragist who had participated in successful campaigns to bring women the vote in Washington and Montana, she took office in Congress at a time when many women in the United States were still disenfranchised.

One of Rankin’s first major acts in Congress was voting against the United States’ participation in World War I. A lifelong pacifist, she was one of only 50 representatives who voted against the war resolution, saying, “I felt the first time the first woman had a chance to say no to war she should say it.” During her later second term in office, Rankin also voted against the country’s entrance into World War II, and in this case she stood alone amongst the entire Congress and had to call congressional police for an escort when an angry mob followed her home after the vote.

Rankin held a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Montana and briefly attended the New York School of Philanthropy. She left her property in Georgia to be used for helping “mature, unemployed women workers”, and her surviving friends used the money from her estate to found the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund, which has given away over $1.8 million in scholarships for women’s education. A statue of her stands in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

On Indian Land, Criminals Can Get Away With Almost Anything

One of the sticking points on the Violence Against Women Act over the last few months has been the extension of jurisdiction for Native American tribal governments to crimes committed on reservations by non-Indians. This article by Sierra Crane-Murdoch for The Atlantic illustrates some of the challenges officials face when confronting crime on tribal land.

In 1978, the Supreme Court case Oliphant v. Suquamish stripped tribes of the right to arrest and prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes on Indian land. If both victim and perpetrator are non-Indian, a county or state officer must make the arrest. If the perpetrator is non-Indian and the victim an enrolled member, only a federally certified agent has that right. If the opposite is true, a tribal officer can make the arrest, but the case still goes to federal court.

Even if both parties are tribal members, a U.S. attorney often assumes the case, since tribal courts lack the authority to sentence defendants to more than three years in prison. The harshest enforcement tool a tribal officer can legally wield over a non-Indian is a traffic ticket.

Trigger warning for rape on the full article, but it’s worth reading up on the complexities of this problem, which the U.S. government has essentially constructed for itself.

Saudi Arabia King Swears in First Women on Shura Council

Although the council is appointed, not elected, and serves only as an advisory board with no legislative power, I’d still call this good news.

The monarch, seen as a proponent of gradual reform, has also granted women the right to vote and stand in the next municipal elections, scheduled for 2015.

Some Saudi clerics have criticised allowing women onto the Shura Council, saying it was against Sharia (Islamic law).

The king said he had consulted religious scholars, who had approved the move, before he made the appointments in January.

I’d love a world where Saudi Arabian women don’t need the permission of religious leaders to participate in government, but I’ll take what I can get, and it looks like King Abdullah will, too.

Via the Feminist Majority Foundation blog.