Friday, August 26, 2011

womens suffrage

Today we celebrate the anniversary of American female suffrage where women won the right to vote in 1920.

In Congress only 17% of its members are women. Between 1923 and 2011, only 28 women have chaired congressional committees, and only 45 women of color have ever served in Congress — just one in the Senate.

Women on average still make only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, according to the National Women's Law Center. This pay disparity is worst for women of color, who earn only 61 cents if they are African American and 52 cents if they are Latina.

At Wal-Mart - the nation's biggest employer - women make up about 70% of hourly workers but only about 30% of managers. Although women outnumber men on college campuses, the upper echelons remain male-dominated.

Time magazine's data showed that married women with children still do more work at home than their husbands, and full-time employed moms with children under age 6 spend more hours on household chores than any other group. When it comes to support for child-rearing, a few states and cities have taken the initiative to implement their own policies, the vast majority of mothers (and fathers) have no right to paid time off to care for a newborn baby. Many workers do not even have a right to take unpaid leave, because the federal Family and Medical Leave Act applies only to relatively long-term workers in workplaces with 50 or more employees, leaving out small businesses, new employees and workers who have put in fewer than 1,250 hours at that job.

Fertility control is now legal, but women's reproductive freedom is under intense attack. The 2011 legislative session saw a record number of anti-choice bills introduced — and passed into law. In just six months, state legislatures passed 80 laws to restrict access to abortion. State legislatures also have made deep cuts to family planning budgets, which has the perverse result of increasing unintended pregnancies. The Hyde Amendment bans federal Medicaid coverage of abortion, and only 15 states pay for abortion care with their own revenue. This means that low-income women in most of the country can have an abortion only if they can afford to pay for it out of pocket, making the right to abortion an empty promise for millions of women.

In socialism women will not be forced to choose between children and paid employment or to work out unhappy compromises between the two. Children will no longer be seen as the sole responsibility of the mother or even of both parents, but of the community as a whole. Women, if they wish, will be relieved of having to care for small children twenty-four hours a day, freeing them to pursue other interests as well as being mothers. Men too, freed from the tyrannical demands of wage-slavery, will be better placed to participate equally in the raising of children. Those men and women who care for children in socialist society will do so because they want to. Socialism will have no need for marriage in the sense of the property relation which, in essence, it is. Men and women will not be bound together by pre-determined roles and notions of what is or is not 'natural', or out of economic necessity. Rather they will be free to enter into relationships which are suited to the emotional needs of the particular individuals concerned. A non-sexist, socialist society is not a dream or an unattainable utopia but could begin to be a reality now if there were a majority of people who wanted it and were prepared to take the kind of political action necessary to achieve it.

Socialism will include the liberation of women as part of its project of human emancipation. A political organisation whose object is socialism cannot permit sexism within its ranks on the grounds that nothing can be done now and that the problem will be resolved 'after the revolution'. For a political organisation to be credible, it must embody the attitudes, values and practices that it seeks to institute in society at large. The Socialist Party's Declaration of Principles drafted in 1904 has the following clause:
"... the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex."

SOYMB can only end with the words of the poet Tennyson:

“The woman’s cause is man’s: they rise or sink
Together, dwarf’d or godlike, bond or free”;

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