Tom Douglas backs away from surcharge at restaurants to pay for higher minimum wage        
Seattle’s high-profile restaurateur Tom Douglas has quickly ended a 2 percent “wage equality surcharge” he had added to bills to pay for the higher minimum wage that went into effect in Seattle on Wednesday. “You spoke and I’ve listened. Since posting my comments on 3/31 I have had many people tell me that they would
          Evening the Playing Field: CA’s New Fair Pay Act        

The lack of wage equality amongst genders has been well-documented for some time and, as you may have noticed, has become a staple of candidates’ speeches in election years. And rightly so, for even in 2013 women earned 84 cents … Continue reading

The post Evening the Playing Field: CA’s New Fair Pay Act appeared first on CA Employee Rights Lawyer.

          March is Women's History Month...Let’s Celebrate Women Like Patricia Arquette Who are Advocates of Women's Rights        
Technically, Women’s History Month was created to pay tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planethave proved invaluable to society. But I think the celebration should also salute women who are advocates of Women’s Rights.  
Equal Rights Amendment: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex” – these words are the heart of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In 1923, Alice Paul, a women’s rights activist whose suffragist campaign culminated in passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, wrote the ERA. Congress passed the amendment in 1972 and sent it on to the states for ratification. In 1982, it came closest to being ratified when thirty-five of the thirty-eight states required for inclusion in the Constitution passed it. The amendment has been reintroduced into (and defeated by) every Congress since then. In the 113th Congress (2013 – 2015), the ERA was reintroduced as H.J. Res 56 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who continues to call for the prohibition of “denying or abridging equal rights under law by the United States or any State on account of sex” as it was originally proposed in 1923.

Equal Pay Act: On June 10, 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, into law. The EPA “prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions.” Administered and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EPAattempts to fulfill the aspiration of equal pay for equal work and reduce the gender pay gap.

Notwithstanding the EPA, in 2013, the gender pay gap (unadjusted), or “a measure of unequal pay for women compared to men,” is still prevalent and persistent in the U.S. When the EPA was signed in 1963, women earned on average 59% of what men were paid – that is, 59 cents for every dollar men made. Fast forward 50 years: women earn on average 77% of what men are paid, or 77 cents for every dollar men make. That is an increase of less than 4 cents per decade.  A recent analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on the trajectory of the gender pay gap from 1960-2012 is an excellent illustration of how progress in shrinking the gap has stalled since 2002. While many blatantly sexist discriminatory practices in the workplace might have dissipated or transmutated over the years, unequal pay has not.

Fair Pay Act of 2013: Introduced on Jan 29, 2013 in the 113th Congress, 2013–2015. Status: Died in a previous Congress and was not enacted.  The Act sought to end wage discrimination against those who work in female- or minority-dominated jobs by establishing equal pay for equivalent work; it would have prohibited wage discrimination based on sex, race, or national origin. The Fair Pay Act made exceptions for different wages based on seniority, merit, or quantity/quality of work and contains an exemption for small businesses.

The gender pay gap affects all women, though it has never affected all women equally. According to a study that compared cross-racial/ethnic gender pay differentials in 2012, the median weekly earnings of women of all racial/ethnic groups were less than that of their male counterparts: 12% less among Hispanic or Latino/a, 10% less among African Americans, 19% less among Whites, and 27% less among Asian Americans. The median weekly wages of white men are higher than all others, as can be seen in this chart.

Brava to Patricia Arquette for raising awareness about this issue during the Academy Awards!  She had the floor. It was her moment. She had just won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and she was giving her acceptance speech. She had less than one minute to thank her body of people but instead of focusing exclusively on her “Thank You’s”, she put on her activist hat and brought up the issue of wage and gender inequality.  Here’s what she said:

“Jesus. Thank you to the Academy, to my beautiful, powerful nominees to...[portion omitted] heroes, volunteers and experts who help me bring ecological sanitation to the developing world with
To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

After she left the stage, later that evening she said to the press, "Equal means equal. The truth of it is the older an actress gets, the less money she makes. It’s inexcusable that we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and yet…we don’t have equal rights for women in America. It’s time for all the women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve fought for, to fight for us now.”  

To those of you who criticized Patricia Arquette’s speech and post-show comments, Shame On You!

She was not complaining about her life and she was not being “anti-intersectional” [intersectionality is a concept often used in critical theories to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another].  This was not a keynote speech on feminism and gender like the one Emma Watson presented at the U.N. headquarters in New York this past September.  Patricia Arquette earned her public platform at the Oscars and she CHOSE to speak up on behalf of ALL WOMEN, irrespective of color, sexual orientation, economic status, etc.  And those of you who referred to her as a “wealthy woman wearing an expensive designer gown” instead of a “crusader” and analyzed her statements more deeply than a Shakespeare sonnet, shame on you even more! Come on know what she meant!

Yes, she read her speech from a scribbled note and her post-show words may not have been as eloquent as they could have been but her message was clear. In order to end wage and gender inequality, everyone needs to be involved to make a change, including men, boys, women, girls, both genders!  Patricia Arquette was not excluding or critiquing anyone. She was simply asking all individuals in our country, particularly those people who are part of groups who have likewise experienced inequality, to fight for wage and gender equality.

I guess it’s true that no good deed goes unpunished.

We need to stop holding equal rights advocates to an impossible standard of inclusiveness that is not applied to other social movements. Society’s expectation that when a woman like Patricia Arquette speaks about an issue of inequality that she herself has experienced, she must be speaking about the experience of all women, puts these women in a double bind that would have us not speak out at all.

Instead of tearing down women who raise awareness about important issues, let’s add more voices and perspectives to the conversation.

Respectfully submitted,
Lidia Szczepanowski, Esq.

Everything Lidia, Incorporated

          Strange Fruit #108: "Emigrados" Brings the Universality of Immigrant Experiences to the Stage        
This week we meet Haydee Canovas, the director of a Spanish-language play called "Emigrados," running March 12-21 in Louisville. Part of the theater of the absurd tradition, the play observes two immigrant men, in a basement, on New Year's eve, and explores their relationship. While the actors in this production are both Mexican, the script itself doesn't specify a country of origin for its characters - nor does it tell us the country they're currently in. Canovas says this allows the play to comment on the experiences immigrants have in common. "Immigration is a universal theme," she says. "It's been happening since the beginning of time. If somebody doesn't feel safe where they're living, they're going to preserve themselves and their family, and they're going to move to a place that's safer." We talked to Canovas about the theater company she co-founded, Teatro Tercera Llamada, and their mission. She says not only is it theater with a social conscious, but, "theater that Latinos are experiencing." (For information about "Emigrados," which will be presented with English supertitles, click here: If you're interested in getting involved with Teatro Tercera Llamada, contact them at 502-386-4866 or We're also joined this week by Marion Dries, whose voice you may recognize from our sister station, WFPL. Marion is a bookworm with lots of connections to the world of LGBTQ publishing houses, so she'll be joining us periodically with book reviews and author interviews. This week we hear a snippet of her conversation with KL Rhavernsfyre (hear the full interview here: And in Juicy Fruit, it's been a bad week for white women. Patricia Arquette used her backstage Oscars interview to suggest that LGBTQ and people of color owe their support to the wage equality movement. Giuliana Rancic of E! Network's "Fashion Police" implied that dreadlocks smell like patchouli oil and weed. And a news anchor from Ohio said Lady Gaga plays "jigaboo music."

          Unintended Consequences of Healthcare Decentralization        

All economic policies have unintended consequences. The decentralization of healthcare finance and policy proposed by congressional Republicans is no exception.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) pending in the Senate would sharply shift responsibility for healthcare toward the states. Some of the biggest changes would come in Medicaid. would sharply cut federal spending, leaving states with the choice of responding by increasing their own contributions to maintain current enrollments, or by reducing coverage. Aside from Medicaid, they would gain the right to redefine the essential services insurance must cover, to experiment with high risk pools, and to change policies toward pre-existing conditions.

A group of GOP senators skeptical of the BCRA have offered a different proposal that would permit even greater diversity in state healthcare policy. The Patient Freedom Act sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) would give states three choices: Keep the existing framework of the ACA with most of its federal subsidies, sign up for a new market-oriented system centered on direct contributions to health savings accounts for each individual, or design a new system of their own, with federal approval.

The decentralization is intended to bring an upsurge of innovation, leading to a more flexible, more customer-centered system that better meets the needs of the diverse populations of various regions of the country. As AEI Visiting Scholar Joel Zinberg puts it, the BCRA would “make it far more likely that Obamacare’s section 1332 “innovation waivers” can become effective tools for state-based experimentation and reforms to improve insurance coverage.” He notes that the BCRA would lift restrictions that have inhibited waiver applications, streamline the application process and create a $2 billion fund to motivate states to apply for innovation waivers.

For the sake of argument, let’s take the promised upside at face value. Even so, increased state-to-state diversity in healthcare policy and increased state responsibility for funding have their downsides, too. They would strain the resources of many states, undermine labor mobility, and weaken key macroeconomic stabilization mechanisms. These unintended consequences, too, need to be part of the healthcare debate.

Constraints on states’ ability to respond to changes in federal policy

Republicans insist that the BCRA would not actually cut Medicaid spending. Instead, they claim that states will step in to fill the gap as the growth of federal spending slows. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, speaking on CBS’ Face the Nation, put it this way:

No one loses coverage. What we are going to do, gradually over seven years is transition from the 90 percent federal share that Obamacare created and transition that to where the federal government is still paying a majority, but the states are kicking in their fair share, an amount equivalent to what they pay for all the other categories of eligibility.

The problem is that not all states would have the capacity to respond constructively to the obligations and opportunities the BCRA would hand them. A new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation examines five groups of factors that affect states’ ability to respond to federal Medicaid cuts and caps: 

  • Medicaid policy choices, including expansion, eligibility, and reimbursement rates
  • Demographics, including poverty rates, age, and urban-rural mix
  • Health status of the state population, including disabilities, mental health problems, and opioid death rates
  • Budget and revenue issues, including personal income, tax policies, and current levels of per capita spending
  • Healthcarecost factors, including levels of per capita healthcare spending, insurance premiums, health shortage areas, and Medicaid provider participation.
All states would face some problems in responding to the proposed changes in federal policy, and nearly two-thirds of them have serious exposures to more than one risk factor. Eleven states rank in the top five for five or more risk factors (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia). The study notes that states with multiple risk factors would face difficult choices making program cuts or filling gaps in federal funding without reducing the quality of care to some residents, and even greater problems in coping with future needs, new therapies, or adverse demographic changes.

As Niskanen Center’s Sam Hammondpoints out in a recent post, the evolution of Canada’s healthcare system provides some parallels. Canada’s system, too, is a joint federal-provincial program, with the federal government now covering 23 percent of costs. A 1997 reform changed an earlier subsidy formula to a block grant system much like that now favored by Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Hammond’s conclusion is that some of the hoped-for benefits of provincial control did emerge, but those gains were tempered by a tendency of provinces to react to budget constraints by cutting services and reducing provider reimbursements. The latter reaction raises a particular red flag, since critics already complain that Medicaid reimbursement rates are too low.

In short, although the BCRA does not require states to cut Medicaid coverage, it seems likely that there will be cuts in many states. Even a sympathetic observer like Zinberg concedes it is “doubtful that innovation can offset decreased federal funds without cuts to Medicaid benefits and enrollment.”

Impacts on labor mobility

Labor mobility--the ability of people to change jobs to match their skills with the changing needs of employers—is a key to the efficiency of the labor market. Writing for Liberty Street Economics, the blog of the New York Fed, Fatih Karahan and Darius Li maintain that

[T}he willingness of the U.S. workforce to move is a factor behind the greater dynamism of the U.S. labor market compared to Europe. While Europeans tend to be more reluctant to move to distant places within their respective countries, the idea of moving across state borders for a job has been woven into the fabric of the American Dream.

However, as Karahan and Li note, interstate mobility in the U.S. labor market has fallen substantially in recent decades. A part of the reduction is due to aging of the work force, since older workers have always moved less often, but their calculations suggest that only 20 percent of the decrease in mobility can be traced to demographic factors. The gap between the red line, which shows how much mobility would have dropped due to age-adjustment alone, and the blue line, which shows the actual mobility trend, must be due to something else.

Karahan and Li, along with other teams like one led by  Raven Molloyof the Federal Reserve Board, have considered many possible causes of declining labor mobility, including indirect effects of demographic change, better employer-worker relations, greater wage equality, changes in job training policies and decreasing social trust. Despite their efforts, a large part of the decline in mobility remains unexplained.

Institutional changes are important, too. Although considerations like some of the decline in labor mobility may have benign causes, such as better employer-worker relations, less benign causes are at work, too. There is a consensus that institutional changes that discourage interstate moves in search of better jobs reduce labor market efficiency. 

Elsewhere I have pointed to the rise in occupational licensing and job-lockcaused by employer-sponsored health insurance as examples of this phenomenon. Increased state-to-state diversity in Medicaid and other healthcare programs would have similar effects. The greater the diversity, the greater the risk that a move to a new state would lead to a reduction in coverage or an increase in its cost. Even with adequate access to health care in the new state, a new resident might encounter gaps in coverage, waiting periods, or burdensome administrative requirements. 

The problems of interstate moves already encountered under Medicaid illustrate the issues. The American Eldercare Research Organization characterizes transfers of Medicaid from state to state as “difficult, but not impossible.” As the organization’s website explains,

Much to the surprise and dismay of many, Medicaid coverage and benefits cannot be simply switched from one state to another. While Medicaid is often thought of as a federal program, each state is given the flexibility to set their own eligibility requirements. Therefore, each state evaluates its applicants independently from each other state. Those wishing to transfer their coverage must re-apply for Medicaid in the new state.

Further complicating matters is the fact that someone cannot be eligible for Medicaid in two states at the same time. Therefore, in order to apply for Medicaid in a new state, the individual must first close out their Medicaid.

You might think Medicaid would be irrelevant to anyone with good enough job prospects to make it worth moving to a new state, but that is not really true. Households with incomes well above the standard Medicaid cut-off can be affected if they have a special-needs child receiving community-based care under a Medicaid waiver. A similar situation faces workers with elderly relatives who receive community-based care that allows them to live at home.

Policies regarding waivers and community-based care differ already differ from state to state than standard Medicare. explains the situation in as follows: 

The waiting period to get onto a waiver program, can be many years, and varies by state. Unfortunately, waiver eligibility does not transfer from state to state. This is a huge problem for families who wish to move to another state. It also unfairly distributes the federally matched dollars among states because each state determines its own budget.

Giving states even more flexibility in crafting their healthcare policies would expose even more workers to similar barriers to interstate job moves.

Macroeconomic consequences of healthcare federalism

The macroeconomics of business cycles might seem a long way from healthcare policy, but, as in the case of labor mobility, there is a connection. The connection lies in the unintended effects of healthcare decentralization on countercyclical fiscal policy.

Countercyclical policy means the use of tax cuts or spending increases to stimulate the economy during a recession, and tax increases or spending cuts to hold the lid on during a boom. Sometimes that means using active stimulus measures, like the Bush administration’s tax cuts in the spring of 2008 or Obama’s stimulus package in early 2009. However, the federal budget contains powerful automatic stabilizersthat work to smooth business cycles even when no active measures are taken.

The most important automatic stabilizers are decreases in personal and business taxes that occur when incomes fall during a recession, and increases in spending on unemployment compensation and other social benefits that occur when large numbers of people lose their jobs. Medicaid is one of those automatic stabilizers. A 2009 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that an increase in the unemployment rate from its 2007 level of 4.6 percent to 10 percent would add more than 5 million people to the roles of Medicare and related children’s health programs.

Moving responsibility for Medicaid and other health programs from the federal to the state level, as Republican healthcare reforms propose doing, would undermine Medicaid’s effectiveness as an automatic stabilizer. The reason is that state finances are subject to balanced budget rules. Except to the extent they are cushioned by rainy day funds, state expenditures on noncapital items are constrained by tax receipts. During a recession, when tax revenues fall, expenditures must be cut, too--fewer teachers in the schools, fewer rangers in the parks, and fewer home health assistants for the elderly and disabled. Such cuts are procyclical—they add momentum to an economic downturn rather than moderating it.

The problem of procyclical state spending is made worse by the fact that recessions always hit some states harder than others. For example, the following chart shows that during the downturn of 2007 to 2009, job losses in Nevada were more than twice the U.S. average, with Arizona and Florida close behind. Meanwhile, Alaska and North Dakota actually gained jobs.

Does it really matter? Yes, as we can see by comparing the United States with the European Union. Individual member states of the EU face balanced budget constraints, as do the 50 states of the United States, but the central budget of the EU accounts for only 2 percent of all government spending, with member states and local governments responsible for the other 98 percent. In the United States, the ratio is about 70/30.

As a result, the problem of procyclical policy in member states is even worse. During the global financial crisis, the most affected states of the EU were forced to undertake harsh austerity programs that pushed unemployment rates up and kept them high for years. In the more fiscally centralized United States, the unemployment rate reached its peak and began to decline much earlier. (For a detailed case study of how this worked out in Greece, see this slideshow.)

The decentralizations of healthcare policy embodied in the BCRA would not, by themselves, turn Nevada into Greece, nor would they drag U.S. macroeconomic performance down to the level of the EU. They would, however, be a clear step in the wrong direction. 

The bottom line

Federalism has its place. Not all public policy decisions should be made in Washington. There are valid reasons to leave many areas of policy to the 50 states. Peoples’ needs and preferences vary from one state to another, and states can often act as laboratories to test innovations that later become more widely established. Healthcare policy is no exception.

However, as we have argued here, decentralization of healthcare policy and finance also has a down side. In states that are less equipped to handle their newfound freedoms and responsibilities, we would expect some people to experience a decrease in healthcare quality and access. Another unintended consequence of decentralization would be a decrease in interstate mobility and a loss of labor market efficiency. Still another would be a weakening of the automatic fiscal stabilizers than help the economy weather recessions and an increase in the already wide degree to which the economic downturns affect individual states.

In short, the law of unintended consequences operates in health care, too. Failing to acknowledge those consequences will not make them go away.

A version of this post previously appeared at

          Period pains: how the menstrual taboo is being challenged        


This article is a preview from the Summer 2017 edition of New Humanist. You can find out more and subscribe here.

Few people suffer from debilitating pain without anyone knowing about it. Yet I have, and I do. There’s a small ridge along my scalp which traces the stitches I received as a teenager when I passed out from period pain, hitting my head on the hard stone floor of the school’s physics laboratory. My monthly pain can still curl me into a ball, although these days I manage it well with delicately timed doses of ibuprofen. I do this quietly, without anyone knowing. And I maintain this silence because, of course, that’s how society prefers its menstruating women. Faces flush at the mere sight of a tampon. Nobody wants to be the one to tell the girl about the red stain on the back of her dress.

This culture of shame and embarrassment, though, may now be lifting. After thousands of years of being thickly lacquered in euphemism, we’re finally becoming free to talk about periods. The ancient menstrual taboo is being powerfully challenged by women all across the world.

In June 2016 sanitary towel brand Bodyform broke with advertising industry convention by using actual blood, not blue liquid, in their commercials. “No blood should hold us back,” proclaimed the strapline. Adverts for sanitary towels had until then oddly skirted around what they’re actually designed for. It was a small change, but an important one. Women’s health activists and NGOs have long highlighted the damage the menstrual taboo does to young women in the developing world who can’t access adequate sanitary protection and hygienic toilets. Some skip school as a result. Recently, it emerged that some girls in the UK miss school because they can’t afford tampons or pads.

What began as a marginal human rights issue has since broadened, transforming into a global movement demanding more openness about menstruation. At its heart is a simple question: why does mention of a woman’s period bother so many quite so much? Why can’t we be honest about something this mundane?

Historically, it’s hard to pin down when the menstrual taboo emerged. It’s certainly old enough to be enshrined in the major religions. “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening,” says Leviticus. Taking their cue from this passage, Orthodox Jews refer to a menstruating woman as “niddah”, meaning separated. She’s considered too impure to have sex as long as seven days after her period is over.

Were there practical benefits to the ancients of forcing women into isolation during their periods – for hygiene or medical reasons, or to allow women to rest? Perhaps. Other theories suggest that the taboo may have emerged to spare men their fear of menstrual blood. In many religions, a menstruating woman is not just cursed, she defiles others by her very presence. Menstruating women are advised by some not to partake of Holy Communion. Certain Islamic scholars say they shouldn’t enter a mosque or even pray.

Some academics have interpreted the menstrual taboo as a way to discriminate against women and enforce patriarchal control over their sexuality. Among the Dogon people of Mali, women who follow the traditional religion are expected to cloister themselves in menstrual huts during their periods. Research by anthropologist Beverly Strassman at the University of Michigan has shown that men may be using these huts to covertly track their wives’ fertility to ensure their children are really their own. What’s clear is that countless layers of shame and secrecy have been applied to periods over many centuries and that at least some of it is in the interests of men.

* * *

Lifting the curse is now a feminist issue. In India, where the taboo is particularly entrenched, a woman on her period isn’t supposed to enter a Hindu temple. According to research into menstrual myths by Suneela Garg and Tanu Anand of Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi, the origins for this can be found in the Vedas, Hinduism’s ancient scriptures. The belief is that menstrual flow is the manifestation of guilt felt by the god Indra after killing Vritra, the demon of drought. “Further, in the Hindu faith, women are prohibited from participating in normal life while menstruating. She must be ‘purified’ before she is allowed to return to her family and day to day chores of her life,” write Garg and Anand. In rural areas, menstruating girls avoid kitchens because they’re thought too unclean to handle food.

This disgust with menstruation can have terrible consequences. In Nepal in December 2016, a 15-year-old girl died after being banished to a badly ventilated shed during her period. She was victim of an old Hindu tradition known as chhaupadi, practised in rural areas in the west of the country, which forces women into seclusion, often in cattle sheds alongside the animals.

But women are fighting back. In 2015 when one Hindu temple in the state of Kerala announced a blanket ban on all women of menstruating age, young Indians launched an angry campaign on social media. The #HappyToBleed hashtag was daubed on sanitary towels alongside #SmashPatriarchy and #BreakTheTaboo.

Across the world, menstrual activists are unashamedly displaying their bloodstained clothes on Instagram and campaigning against taxes on tampons and sanitary towels. Faced with the decision of whether to skip the 2015 London Marathon because she was on her period, 26-year-old Kiran Gandhi took the bold choice of not only running but allowing her blood to flow freely. “It is oppressive to make someone not talk about their own body,” she told Cosmopolitan magazine, which featured photographs of her after the marathon, her leggings stained. “I really can’t think of anything that’s the equivalent for men, and for this reason, I believe it’s a sexist situation.”

The following summer, Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui admitted to state broadcaster CCTV that she hadn’t performed at her peak in one race because she was on her period. Her honesty won global support. It followed a decision by some Chinese provinces to allow women time off work for severe period pain, joining other countries in the region that already do this, including Japan and South Korea.

This unparalleled frankness has also helped confront misogynistic stereotypes about how women behave when they’re on their periods. Which woman hasn’t been hurled the insult that her strong views might be the effects of pre-menstrual tension?

When Donald Trump told American television audiences that Fox News host Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” during a Republican debate she was hosting during his bid for the Presidency, the internet erupted in a firestorm of anger (he clarified his comment later by claiming he meant her nose, not her vagina). American artist Sarah Levy took to her paintbrush, rendering Trump’s angry face mid-speech in her own menstrual blood.

Where society leads, business often follows. For the multi-billion-pound tampon and towel industry, this shift in attitudes marks a sea change in how products can be marketed. It’s not just large brands like Bodyform taking advantage. The entrepreneurs behind THINX – which claims to be the world’s first period-proof underwear – affirm that their business is a political endeavour. “I want to be the taboo queen for the nether regions,” co-founder Miki Agrawal told Business Insider magazine. The company blog talks openly about periods as you might expect, but also about Gloria Steinem and wage equality.

Improving sanitary protection has transcended from being a matter of a woman’s comfort and hygiene to one of power and equality. It’s easy to be cynical when feminism gets exploited by business, but in this case the products available to women really are improving. Menstrual cups, tampons and pads have been revamped, and in some cases given glamorous makeovers. With these new products, the embarrassment around periods recedes even further.

At the same time, different versions of low-cost sanitary protection have been developed in India and Uganda to better meet the needs of women who otherwise resort to using rags, newspapers or ashes. In China last year, a company began work on the country’s first domestic tampon brand. Cracking through the menstrual taboo has had the practical effect of directly improving how women live.

* * *

As for period pain, this too is getting some long-awaited attention from medical researchers. The silent relegation of menstruation to the margins for most of history rendered it one of the least understood medical issues. Even now, science has a fairly weak understanding of why women suffer period pain and pre-menstrual tension, and even fewer answers for how to manage it. A professor of reproductive health at University College London, John Guillebaud, told reporters at online magazine Quartz in 2016 that cramps can be almost as painful as having a heart attack. Yet, by his own admission, medics have failed to give the problem the prominence it deserves.

As more women enter the life sciences and medicine (in the UK, female undergraduates are in the majority in medical schools), this is changing. A study published in September 2016, for example, looked into the role of inflammation in premenstrual syndrome and uncovered new ways in which women could be treated for it in the future. Two of the study’s three authors were female.

Medical research is improved when women are more involved, not only as researchers and doctors, but also as vocal patients. Science and medicine have often failed women in the past, largely because men dominated research and set the parameters for what was investigated. Periods are a perfect case in point. It’s no surprise that menstruation was ignored for so long when men didn’t experience it. Until a few years ago, it was routine for women not to be included in clinical studies for new drugs. Thanks to years of dedicated activism, this is no longer the case.

I’m still holding out for the miracle pill that will someday eliminate my period pain. Until then, I feel happier in knowing that this doesn’t have to be my silent burden any more – not when so many women across the world are bleeding without shame.

Angela Saini's new book, "Inferior: How Science got Women Wrong – and the New Research that's Rewriting the Story" is published by Fourth Estate

          White Supremacy Can Make You Poor        
Although I decided to skip watching this year's Oscars, I couldn't avoid following the event vicariously through Twitter. At some point in the evening, the narrative unfolding on my timeline became a show in its own right, color commentary of a train wreck happening in slow-motion. Twitter's responses to Sean Penn and Patricia Arquette were so satisfying that I decided not to blog about the Oscars. But one story from that evening did not die and took on a life of its own. This is the story of how feminists should talk about feminism. Even before the Oscars concluded, interested parties tweeted graphs of the wage gap disaggregated by race and gender. These folks insisted upon the need for an intersectional feminism, one that acknowledged how race, gender identity, and sexual orientation complicate monolithic (usually white heterosexual) critiques of power. Other parties, while acknowledging Arquette's poor choice of words, tended to support Arquette and worried that her argument about the sexist origins of the gender wage gap was lost amid the intersectional criticism. Sexism and patriarchy absolutely sustain the gender wage gap. In this blog, I argue that the origin of the gender wage gap also owes to racism and white supremacy, a story that makes ignoring or deferring the relevance of intersectionality that much more perilous.

Not all wages are material. In Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism, Derrick Bell reminds us of the psychological wage paid to every poor white person in America, the social assurance that despite the hardships of poverty, poor white people will never be at the bottom of the well, that there will always be black faces looking back up at them. Bell's short story "The Space Traders" imagines a scenario where space aliens visit the US and offer Americans untold wealth, limitless energy, and an end to pollution in exchange for every black person in the country. (A video dramatization of the story offers a quick introduction.) In the story, the President decides to hold a national referendum on the offer, and various pro/con factions organize to state their cases. Business leaders ally against the trade because of how institutional racism lines their pockets, also realizing what else enables their hegemony.
Though seldom acknowledging the fact, most business leaders understood that blacks were crucial in stabilizing the economy with its ever-increasing disparity between the incomes of rich and poor. They recognized that potentially turbulent unrest among those on the bottom was deflected by the continuing efforts of poorer whites to ensure that they, at least, remained ahead of blacks. If blacks were removed from the society, working- and middle-class whites--deprived of their racial distraction--might look upward toward the top of the societal well and realize that they as well as the blacks below them suffered because of the gross disparities in opportunities and income.
Simply, the belief in white supremacy among enough poor white people is what keeps the class status quo in place in America.

As many readers of my blog already know, using race to ameliorate the tensions of class division is an idea as old as, well, the idea of race itself. Our modern-day conception of "race," a heritable identity associated with our skin color that defines our social value, was invented in colonial Virginia. This conjuring did not happen overnight, but between the arrival of the first Africans at Jamestown in 1619 and the early 18th century, the dominant meanings of "white" skin (free labor) and "black" skin (slave) had become established. In The Invention of the White Race: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America, Theodore Allen traces this process through the development of public policy in Virginia. For example, in 1660, servants "of what christian nation soever" had their bond servitude
limited to a period of five years. By 1705, the colony provided "Freedom Dues" for released "christian white" limited-term bond laborers. These included "to every male servant, ten bushels of corn, thirty shillings of money (or the equivalent in goods), a gun worth at least twenty shillings; and to every woman servant, fifteen bushels of corn, forty shillings in money (or the equivalent in goods)." However humble, these dues helped to establish a class of white settler whose social potential was superior to that of enslaved and free black people but also would never threaten the interests of landowning elites. It would be white people, after all, who coined the pejorative term "cracker," a term whose usage in America depended on the hierarchy of rich white people, poor white people, and all black people.

In "White Poverty," bell hooks describes her experiences as a southern black girl living among other black people, poor white people, and the class of people who her community called "white trash." hooks argues that public debates over poverty fail to drive home the important point that most poor people in the US are white. "It serves white supremacist capitalist patriarchal ruling class interests to mask this reality," hooks explains. "Hence, the almost invisibility of the white poor in mass media." Media coverage of poor Americans paints the color of poverty as black or brown (partly because rates of poverty are higher among black people and Latinos), obscuring the visibility of millions of poor white people. (Former Congressperson Ron Paul recently suggested that the Congressional Black Caucus was anti-war because its members wanted the funds for food stamps. In fact, 40% of food stamps recipients are white.) hooks makes this point not to recenter the needs of white people--Arquette's controversial rhetorical move--but to show how ignoring white people in this way furthers white supremacy. The class divide among white people is not seen as a social issue because of the low public awareness of white poverty, and even when poor whites are profiled, their poverty is not seen as a problem having to do with white supremacy. White supremacy escapes notice as a concern having to do with white poverty.

When we don't consider how racism and white supremacy have kept wages low for white people, then when we do question the gender wage gap, sexism and patriarchy are the only structural factors in play. My argument is different from that which faults Arquette for not mentioning that racism and white supremacy have kept women of color at the bottom of the gender wage scale. I wholeheartedly agree with this criticism. But I am adding that the persistence of white supremacy participates in robbing all women, including white women, of a higher wage. If intersectionality doesn't register for any other reason, it should do so because of material self-interest. (Granted, material gain is only one form of self-interest for white people; the psychological wage of racial superiority may in fact be the Pearl of Great Price for many.) When poor white people do not ally with poor people of color because of white supremacy, then racism artificially suppresses wages for all poor people.

The truth of the matter is that such an alliance can help all workers who are women--and did. Following the Oscars, Patricia Arquette turned to Twitter to defend herself from her detractors and to recommit to her original position. At this point, many feminists withdrew the benefit of the doubt and went after Arquette. One of my favorites belongs to Brittany Cooper, a professor at Rutgers who is "going on strike" because of the burden of explaining intersectionality that falls upon black women. But the best response rang out 140 characters at a time. Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund, took to Twitter to rebut Arquette's claims. Her lesson is so important that I represent it here in its entirety.

Here is an example of black people helping a white woman fight for gender wage equity by challenging a core construct of a patriarchal society: the professional penalty a woman pays for being a mother. One reason the gender wage gap persists is because women must work part-time or even cut short their careers because they are expected to be the primary caregivers for their children. Black people and white people fought together against structural sexism here. And won.

As a Chinese American man, cis and straight, I know that I don't have as much skin in this game as women of any race or sexual orientation. When we're talking about wage equity, Chinese American men as a group are doing just fine for themselves. But what concerned me about talk of the gender wage gap was that the reach of white supremacy was either denied or seen as targeting only people of color. For example, this article smugly mocks transgender discourse in order to chide those critical of Arquette. And this one falsely claims that intersectionality puts feminists in a double bind. In the end, it was Arquette herself causing the most confusion. In her tweets following the Oscars, Arquette mentioned growing up in poverty and becoming a single mother at a young age. One tweet even tried to flip the script.

If any readers are still unsure why some are so angered by Arquette's words, the first reason was her demand for the labor of LGBTQ people and people of color (sometimes one and the same!) in a fight for wage equity that did not seem to include them. But the tweet above, made after those statements, demonstrated no growing self-awareness. By asking why one does not fight for "ALL" women, Arquette seems to accuse LGBTQ people of some kind of minority tribalism that threatens wage equity for all. Let's be clear here. LGBTQ people and people of color are not why we have the problem of a gender wage gap. The bond that people of color have with one another is not the problem. A major problem is the bond that white people have with one another on the basis of their whiteness, whether they ask for it or not. Let's not mystify the origins of that bond of white supremacy even further, especially not with an issue as important as gender wage equity.

          Rock, Paper, Scissors: A Guide to the New Victim Politics        

This article was originally published on Feb. 26, 2015, and is presented here for Campus Week 2017.

For all of 15 minutes last weekend, Patricia Arquette was a progressive hero. Arquette, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar Sunday evening for her role in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, used the final few seconds of her acceptance speech to deliver a stirring plea for female equality. “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights—it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America,” Arquette declared, to enthusiastic cries of approval and passionate finger-pointing from fellow celebrities Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep.

Continue reading "Rock, Paper, Scissors: A Guide to the New Victim Politics" at...


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the filmmaker Alejandro G. Inarritu was at a creative crossroads several years ago when he decided to make "Birdman," a story of a man on a similar journey. On Sunday, Inarritu reached the Hollywood promised land when his film proved the big winner at the Academy Awards. "Birdman," a visually inventive look at a washed-up movie actor seeking redemption on the Broadway stage, took best picture, director, cinematography and original screenplay prizes at the Dolby Theatre ceremony. The honors capped Inarritu's odyssey from arthouse outsider to film-world royalty, and also struck a national blow of sorts. Like last year's director winner Alfonso Cuaron and repeat cinematography victor Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, Inarritu was born south of the border. "I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico," Inarritu said after his film won best picture. "I pray that we can find and build a government that we deserve." And it works. The Bluetooth doctor Its ed "Scanadu Scout-- after Xanadu, an ancient city of great splendor and scientific progress, made famous by English poet S. T.
Of Mexican immigrants in the U.S., he added, "I pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect as the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation." Presided over by Neil Patrick Harris and possessing a frequent political charge, the 87th Oscars saw Academy voters spread the love. Each of the seven movies that lost best picture received at least one award, led by Wes Anderson's offbeat "The Grand Budapest Hotel's" four wins, all in technical categories. Damien Chazelle's music-school drama "Whiplash" scored three statuettes, including supporting actor for J.K. Simmons as a hard-driving teacher and the prestigious editing prize, an upset over "Boyhood." Indeed, the Richard Linklater coming-of-age drama that was a front-runner for much of the season came away with only one prize, for Patricia Arquette's supporting actress role as a quietly strong mother. Shot over 12 years, the movie was a smash emerging from last year's Sundance Film Festival and won many critics prizes at the end of 2014, but recently lost momentum.
The night moved along with few surprises until about halfway through, when "Big Hero 6" staged an upset over favorite "How To Train Your Dragon 2" in the animated feature category, proving the durability of movies from Disney-Pixar. The win was the studio's seventh in the last eight years. Acting categories largely followed pundits' forecasts. Actress honors went to Julianne Moore for her role as an Alzheimer's-afflicted patient in "Still Alice," a widely predicted result, as were Simmons and Arquette. The lead actor prize for Eddie Redmayne as physicist Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything" was also an expected turn. Like other recent best picture winners such as "The Artist," "Birdman" focuses on show business personalities, while its stylized world existed far from the modern political arena. While the more topical films were largely shut out of the podium � Clint Eastwood's Iraq war smash "American Sniper" and Ava DuVernay's Civil Rights tale "Selma" landed only one award apiece � social issues dominated the evening. The musicians Common and John Legend, receiving the "Selma" prize for the original song "Glory," made the most of their moment. At a House Democratic retreat in Philadelphia late last month, Biden urged Democrats to ?double down? on the president and embrace him. On Thursday in Iowa, which holds the first caucus of the presidential nominating process, Biden said the stakes are high heading into 2016, as the policies laid out by Republican and Democratic presidential candidates will determine whether the middle class will reclaim its place in America or not. Republican ?trickle-down? policies will help those who are already comfortable and keep the middle class from growing, Biden said.
"This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now it's a symbol for change," Common said of the famed Edmund Pettus crossing in Selma, Ala., which is the film's emotional center. "The sprit of this bridge connects the kid from the South Side of Chicago dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy." Meanwhile, speaking after her Edward Snowden film "Citizenfour" won the prize for documentary, director Laura Poitras noted that Snowden and the movie sought to "expose a threat [not only] to our privacy but to our democracy itself," as she was flanked by investigative reporter and film subject Glenn Greenwald, as well as Snowden's girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. And Arquette, who had shown few political stripes in her numerous acceptance speeches this season, noted the importance of "ecological sanitation the developing world" before finishing with a flourish: "To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation we have fought for everybody else's equal rights," she said. "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America." The speech prompted a rousing response from the audience, including Meryl Streep, who was seen nearly jumping from her seat pointing in spirited agreement. ? Chahrour described her fellow student as having a ?bubbly personality? and someone who frequently went out in Raleigh to feed the less. Chahrour said the Muslim-American community is on edge at the school. ?It could have been any one of us.
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          Global Gender Gap Ranking 2015        

The Index benchmarks national gender gaps (total of 145 countries) on economic, political, education and health criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for *
effective comparisons across regions and income groups \*ft
Other select countries
(7) Iceland (?) Morway (3) Finland
Qy Sweden (J) Ireland:
(?) Rwanda (7) Philippines 7T) Switzerland 9) Slovenia 10} New Zealand
Source.: The Global Gender Gap Report 2015 KBK Infographics
ranked 85 out of 145 countries. The Global Gender Gap Index is constructed on the basis of the gap between men and women in each country across four sub-indices, namely, economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. On each of the sub-indices, India fares poorly with the exception of political empowerment. The jump in overall rankings over the previous year is largely because the percentage of women in ministerial positions has more than doubled from nine percent in 2014 to 22 percent in 2015.
According to the report released on November 19, 2015, India has improved across most sub-indices, and, in fact, is the region’s most-improved country on political empowerment. Nevertheless, it has regressed on economic participation and opportunity and is the world’s least-improved country on the health and survival sub-index. On the sub-index of economic participation and opportunity which measures the gap between men and women in labour force participation, remuneration and advancement, India ranks 139 out of 145 countries. Among the BRICS members, South Africa has. improved its labour force participation gap by 18 percent, while India has widened its gap by seven percent. On this index, India ranks behind even Saudi Arabia. India’s poor performance on the index is largely due to a decrease in wage equality for similar work and less female labour force participation. This poor score places the country third-lowest in the region. On educational attainment, which is estimated by calculating the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education, India ranks 125, behind countries such as Gambia, Tajikistan and Nepal. Similarly, on health and survival India fares poorly. It ranks 143, well behind countries like Pakistan, Liberia and Mozambique. A country’s performance on this index is calculated by estimating the difference between women’s and men’s health through the sex ratio at birth and the gap between their life expectancy.
According to the report, while India’s performance on educational attainment, and health and survival scores have improved, the country ranks third-lowest in the region and third-lowest in the world on both sub-indices. On political empowerment, India ranks higher at nine largely due to the sharp increase in women in ministerial positions.


          Activist Gloria Steinem Talks Wage Equality, Trump vs Bernie And Love vs Romance        
Gloria Steinem spoke of the "feminine role," the need for equal wages, Bernie Sanders as a "protest candidate" and Donald Trump as a "successful conman."
          After the Women's March, New Rules, New Energy, and a Renewed Focus on Education        
Not long ago, a group of women education bloggers from around the country shared their thoughts on what it means to be, raise and educate women in the age of Trump.

The dialogue stimulated more responses from members of the Education Post network who share their renewed passion for connecting with other women across lines of difference and for ensuring all our children’s educational rights are protected. So we’ve compiled the second round of discussion into a follow-up blog post.

Listen in:

ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson, Chicago’s west suburbs; blogger, Education Post

Last month, 6 million women followed the instructions of our feminist Queen Beyoncé and got “in formation” in cities around the United States, standing in unity for the rights of all women. Pussy hats everywhere, posters, mothers/daughters/grandmothers, all united to make one statement: Women are not going to be silent while our rights are being trampled.

But now what? Well, the bad news is that women, of all races, ethnicities, and all political beliefs, are under attack. But that is also the good news. We are ALL being attacked, so there is no need for us to attack one another!

Here are my rules on how women should proceed after the march:

1. No more White fragility and no more White women’s tears.

Dear white women;

Not hurting your feelings with our truths as women of color takes up too much of our energy. No more criticism sandwiches—two affirmations with one criticism in the middle. Learning from constructive criticism is part of the work. People will let you know about your privilege and your mistakes. Deal with it.

2. Feminism is for everyone. We may look different, but everyone is in.

There are a lot of ideas out there about who is a feminist and who isn’t. Take this great debate: Beyoncé vs. bell hooks. Is Beyoncé really a feminist? This is another giant time suck that saps our energy for the real fights before us.

If someone is working towards the equality of women, let them do that. This isn’t the time to say who’s really a feminist and who’s not. Our circle is open.

3. No slut-shaming or prudent praising.

We’re not here to talk about who is dressing appropriately. We’re not here to attack Melania Trump about nude modeling. We’re not here to praise Michelle Obama for dressing conservatively. If you are an adult making adult decisions about your life, you are a woman. You are a grown woman who can wear whatever you want. Our dress and our extracurricular activities are irrelevant to our worthiness. Whether you are married or how you got your children is irrelevant to feminism. Mind your business.

4. Conserve your energy. Pick a battle or two and give your full energy and talent there.

There is a March for Science coming up in on Earth Day in April. I won’t be there. I care, but that’s not my area! I can’t work on it all. My areas would be immigration and educational opportunities for young women. I’m a mother, so I’m working a lot with younger girls. On MLK Day this year, I organized a free screening of “Hidden Figures” that brought out 300 mothers and daughters. That’s the kind of thing I can work on.

5. Network. Bbe sure to connect women who have similar interests or are doing similar actions together.

Thanks to social media, we are in an unprecedented age for networking. That needs to happen more intentionally. For example, criminal justice is not my area, but I know women who are working with women in prisons, on re-entry and on stopping mass incarcerations. I try to connect them to each other.

6. No mom shaming. Over. Home, work, helicopter, free-range, whatever mom.

We don't have time for nonsensical arguments. Every type of mom is getting her butt kicked. If there’s a type of mom you don’t like, just leave them alone! We’re all trying our hardest. Let’s try to assume every form of mothering is valid. Again, find your tribe and your issues and work on those.

7. Self-care.

This probably should be number one. If you aren't healthy, then you can't help anyone else. Take your meds, get enough sleep, don't binge on jelly beans every time #45 does or says something stupid.

8. Remember, study and honor our foremothers.

Use their strategies, strength, and spirit to guide you through this fight. My grandmother, Saretha, had a fifth-grade education and had to pick cotton in the segregated South in the face of health challenges. She passed, but I feel her spirit with me. Knowing the stories of our mothers and grandmothers—knowing our legacies—is vital in doing the work today. They were no smarter, no braver than we are now. They were just willing to do it.

9. Intersectionality is 101.

When fighting for women's rights, you must include the rights of all women. Wage equality is one, but violence towards trans women is another, immigration and breaking up of families, are all part of the women's agenda.

10. Have lots of face time with the women in your life and community.

You shouldn’t be getting your ideas about humanity solely from the Internet. Organizing, protesting, strategizing around issues are important, but so is having coffee or a drink after work. So are play dates and Beyoncé Lemonade binges. Connecting with women in real life is soul medicine.

Katelyn Silva, Providence; blogger, Education Post

This was my first march and I wasn’t missing it. I drove by myself from Rhode Island to D.C., where I stayed with a doctor passionate about protecting women’s reproductive rights. Joining us was a social worker from Seattle who a year earlier had battled not one cancer, but two. She’s 34. The Affordable Care Act saved her life. Rounding out our foursome was a New Yorker who works for a non-profit that resettles refugee families in the United States and around the world. Clearly, the Trump administration had left her deeply shaken.

I marched because I am a feminist. I wear that moniker with pride. I understand “feminism” is fraught for some because the movement has not been as inclusive as it should be. However, the basics of the definition of a feminist are simple in my view. A feminist is someone who believes a woman is deserving of the same rights and opportunities as a man. Period.

There is nothing controversial about every woman—and man—accepting the label “feminist” happily. In its purest form, it denigrates no one, and includes everyone.

I marched for my daughter. I marched for yours, too, even if you didn’t feel you wanted me to. I also marched for your sons. Because a world where women are treated fairly is a better world for everyone, not just socially, but economically.

I bristle at the suggestion that marchers were lewd, aggressive, or profane. Give me 500,000 to 1 million people, and I can surely find you an outlier or two to flash on the evening news. In fact, what moved me the most about my experience in D.C. was the decency of it all.

Everyone was so darn nice. The sheer number of human beings all in one place, not just peacefully co-existing, but harmoniously helping one another, was one of the most moving elements of the day. When you spend eight to 10 hours shoulder-to-shoulder with other bodies who are tired, thirsty, and probably have to pee, you don’t expect all the lovely niceties. You don’t expect the crowds to part with sympathy when a woman yells she has to throw up and three people to bring her water, or the constant smiling. Yet they were there. It was a life-giving experience, even for an introvert like myself.

Did the Women’s March have its flaws? Of course. Will it solve all of America’s problems? Of course not. I’m too old to think anything is perfect. But if we allow perfect to be the enemy of the good, we will never have progress.

What the Women’s March did accomplish, however, matters. It may have been the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history. That’s remarkable. It showed the world that many American women (and men) are not taking the Trump administration lying down. It sparked a flame that I’m betting isn’t going out anytime soon.

Valentina Korkes, Ann Arbor, Chief of Staff, Education Post

Since Election Day, I’ve really struggled with both my role in our “new” world and with the role that education plays in it. Education was far from a hot topic throughout the campaign and didn’t garner much attention after the election was over until closer to Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearings.

What did gain attention, however, were a number of issues near and dear to my heart -- immigration, reproductive rights, civil rights, the environment -- all for very good reason. The president made it his mission during his first week in office to show the American people that he is intent on fulfilling all of his campaign promises.

Let me tell you, I was ready to jump ship. I was ready to go finish to law school and become an immigration attorney. I signed up for every reproductive rights job bank there is. I joined every newsletter, email and text notification, and Facebook group out there in the hopes that I’d find a position that would allow be to be a part of the resistance full-time.

I talked to my parents, my colleagues, my mentors -- pretty much anyone who would listen, honestly -- and tried to learn what it’s like to be against every single thing that the current president stands for. And even though these are folks who have been around through a few Republican presidencies, they didn’t have much advice for me. The Bushes and Reagan don’t really hold a candle to Trump.

But eventually, after all that time and effort, I finally realized: education might not Trump’s #1 priority, but he’s going to come around to it eventually -- and in fact, he’s already making some moves on it. His words and actions are already having an impact on our students. I want to be here to resist anything I find unacceptable.

When he comes for refugee students, I’ll be ready. When he comes for sex education, I’ll be ready. When he comes for on-campus rape, discipline, the Office of Civil Rights, LGBTQ students, disabled students, I’ll be ready.
          Why Marx was both right and wrong        
Note: This article does not include any "capitalism is good/communism is bad" aphorisms and it is not intended for any political discussions. What follows is merely an economic exposition.

When the name of Karl Marx enters a conversation, our minds spring to themes of collective societies, USSR-style governments and hard-headed dictators. What we seldom remember though is that Karl Marx was an economist and one of his most famous contributions (and the one on which he based the Communist Manifesto) was his, interpretation and expansion of the thoughts of David Ricardo and Adam Smith on the Labour Theory of Value.

Quoting another blogger, the labour theory of value simply states that "... the "value" of a commodity is determined by the "socially necessary labour time" embodied in it ("socially necessary" to avoid the nonsensical idea that somebody who makes something slowly will contribute more value than somebody who makes the same thing, but faster)." It should be noted here, that this theory has never been a theory of prices as (under Marx's explanation) even though prices might fluctuate, the overall value in the economy will remain the same. Deriving from this, Marx expounded the notion of the "tendency of the rate of profit to fall", again building on the work of previous economists, who noticed that the rate of return of capital invested in industrial production declined over time.

Marx concluded that in order for the rate of profit to continue to be as high as before, "capitalists" had to employ other approaches, notably to exploit the labour force under their employment. This, in Marx's opinion, led to frequent crises in the capitalist system, which were caused by labourer's revolting against the low wages brought on by employers who tried to earn more.

As already stated two paragraphs ago, what makes a product more valuable is the "socially necessary labour time" embodied in it. This simply means that the reason why air conditioners are more expensive than simple pens is that it takes longer to manufacture them. I doubt anyone could actually disagree with that; yet, what is more interesting is what comes next. In order to see where the exploitation of labour comes in, we have to distinguish between two points of view: one where the labourer is his own master and whatever he produces he can sell and another where the labourer is an employee. If what the labourer can possibly earn in the first case can be more than the amount earned in the second, the we can say that we have exploitation.

Let's start with the following scenario: average Joe can produce X amount of good G, with an estimated value of V (notice we are not talking about prices here). This amount is what Joe is contributing to the economy. Now suppose that capitalist C offers Joe the following plan: he will work the same time as before and earn the same amount of income, but the capitalist will offer Joe some capital (think of it as a machine assisting in the creation of good G), and Joe will be expected to produce amount Y (Y>X). The difference between Y and X, multiplied by the price, is the capitalist's profit (we will consider that the rate of capital here is constant*).

Given that Joe's job is rather unstable (just like any other self-employed person in the world he does not know whether he will be able to sell all the goods he manufactures), having a stable income is much more preferable (the fact that his wage will be the same as before means that he is not losing any purchasing power). Now, since less effort than before is given into making the same amount of goods, according to the labour theory of value, the value of a unit of good would decline. Yet, would the overall value of goods also decline? The answer here is that it depends: if Y*V2>X*V1 (with V1 indicating the original value and V2 the value after the capitalist offered some capital) then it would not. Thus, if the increase in amount of production, induced by the addition of capital multiplied by the new (reduced) individual value is greater than the original then the economy is better off than before.

Why should the capitalist care about increasing value in the economy one might ask. The simple answer is because it increases his profit. His profit is Y*V2-W (with W being the wage he pays Joe), meaning that the higher the value, the higher his profits, given that Joe's wages are constant. This is simply increased return on labour and not on capital (we considered that to be constant before). How would the capitalist, in real life, know that it is good to perform that action: simply, trial and error. If the price more than expected and he cannot make a profit then he just shuts things down, or reduces wages.

Obviously, the rate of return on capital cannot be same, not through time and neither through sectors. For example, the rate of return was huge in the DVD rental industry in the early 2000's, and has taken a nosedive since. Yet, it had nothing to do with labour nor capital. It had everything to do with shifting preferences (from DVDs to pirated movies or Video on Demand). In addition, diminishing returns also imply that adding more and more capital cannot really help you to increase your rate of profit; most of the time they actually decrease it.

Returning to our discussion, Marx was right: wages might fall and capitalists do earn of what their employees produce. Yet, Marx was wrong on that capitalists have to make misers off their employees to earn a constant rate of return (we, of course, do not argue that regulation is very useful in protecting some form of worker exploitation): they just have to find new ways of being more productive or, even better, generating more demand for their goods. 

The falling rate of profit actually has a meaning of its own: it shows you whether people are actually enjoying your product or if you are going to have a full-blown disaster. If we consider the falling rate of profit then we have to define what it stands for: just commenting that it falls means nothing. It falls either because you are doing something wrong or because you are obsolete. In either case, shutting down a business is much preferable to continuing its operation just for the sake of keeping some people employed at a lower wage. It is also better for the employees, even though earnings new skills to keep them marketable may be hard.

*A little bit of math: A production function of the Y=K^(1-a) means that we have constant returns to capital of the rate r=(1-a)*K^(-a). Then, if we add labour, we have the Y=L^a*K^(1-a) form, meaning that we add a*L^(a-1) return to the previous, without the return from capital changing. What the capitalist offers is a wage equal to the marginal product of labour, i.e. w=a*L^(a-1). Yet, if the worker's earnings from before were less than w, then the capitalist can profit from that as well.


Third in an occasional series of columns based on interviews with major candidates for governor of California


    Gavin Newsom has a reported net worth of more than $10 million, an ownership interest in more than a dozen businesses from wineries to hotels and a steadfast, almost lifelong friendship with plutocrat Gordon Getty.

          Yet he’s running for governor (and has led the polls since he declared for the office well over a year ago) as an advocate of poor people.

          “I care deeply about the issue that will define our time – not just wage equality but wealth equality,” the lieutenant governor and former seven-year San Francisco mayor, said in an interview. “I don’t think people are talking about this nearly enough. I know this: It’s not just government that has to work on this; businesses have a role to play, not just as consumers of talent but also as developers of talent, including much better apprenticeships in many areas where they don’t now exist.”

          There’s little doubt wealth equality will be a major focus in the 2018 campaign, as Newsom and Democratic rivals like former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang all say they want the state and businesses here to do far more for areas with high poverty and unemployment.

          “It’s not just the Central Valley, which unquestionably has problems,” Newsom said. “We have areas of extremely low wealth even in high-come places like Silicon Valley and parts of Los Angeles not far from Beverly Hills and Bel-Air. I’m thinking of places like East Palo Alto and East Los Angeles. And I’m pleased that other Democrats are also talking about some of this. We need to do things to close those gaps, even where they don’t get much publicity.”

          Newsom, thus, looks at California, America and the world and sometimes sees things others don’t. That’s likely not because he’s dyslexic, although that is one reason he rarely reads speeches, preferring to wing it without a script. (Aiding dyslexic children has long been one of his pet causes.)

          “If there’s one thing I’d like people to say about me after I leave office, if I’m elected, it would be something like ‘He looked around corners,’” Newsom said, his way of hoping to be remembered as future-oriented and able to see societal and business trends very early.

          Also, where current Gov. Jerry Brown steadfastly stonewalls questions about the well-documented corruption in some state agencies, Newsom wants to change a few state processes in an attempt to eliminate as much corruption as possible.

          He noted one recent state auditor’s report showing billions of dollars yearly worth of state contracts are awarded without competitive bids, an obvious risk for corruption.

          “We have to reimagine the procurement process for the state,” Newsom said. “Gov. Brown has said reform is overrated. I say it’s underrated.”

          Newsom also feels sure that if elected, he will be remembered as far from timid. He certainly showed daring while mayor of his home town. He’s probably best remembered there for ordering city hall officials to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. “We changed the whole trajectory of the debate on that subject, and look how far it has come,” he said.

          But he’s even prouder of the HealthySF program that makes health insurance available to all uninsured residents of the city, without regard to their immigration status. “You can get an insurance card and get care and you pay on the basis of income,” he said. “It’s unique in America. It puts San Francisco in a better position than anyplace else to survive the Donald Trump-driven health insurance crisis that may be coming.”

          Newsom does not expect his brief 2007 affair with the wife of a close friend and top aide to be much of an issue, in part because it’s far in the past and also because Villaraigosa (like Trump and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger) also has a past, prominent affair on his record.

          Nor does he focus much on polls, which indicate he’s led the field for months, but lately show him losing some ground. “Polls mean absolutely nothing to me,” he said, still acknowledging his campaign will eventually conduct private surveys. “I go everywhere in the state and get my messages from seeing people and listening to them.”

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to

          Gender gap - a universal and global phenomenon - let's join forces to bridge this gap #LeadOnCa        

Last week I had the privileged and honor of rubbing shoulders with 5000 women leaders and listen to and benefit from the wisdom and expertise of over 100 inspiring women speakers of the calibre of Hillary Clinton, Brene Brown, Diane von Furstenberg, Candy Chang, Kara Swisher, Rosalind Hudnell, Jessica Herrin, Jill Abramson and many more.

Wondering who had such an amazing convening power? I’m talking about Watermark’s inaugural Lead On Conference for Women which took place on 24 February in Santa Clara (Silicon Valley). The event offered connection, information and inspiration, motivation and momentum to help us women discover what we want—and go get it!

As a development worker one of our many goals is to bridge the gender gap in developing countries and to design and implement development interventions that empower women and foster gender equality and equity.

In the agricultural sector, FAO estimates that “if women had equal access to productive inputs such as improved seeds and fertilizers, yields from their fields would increase by 20 to 30 per cent. This would boost total agricultural output by up to 4 per cent in developing countries, reducing the number of hungry people globally by 12 to 17 per cent, or 100 million to 150 million people.” 

For me this event presented a unique opportunity to learn from the achievements and accomplishments of these successful and inspiring women so that I could take these nuggets and explore the feasibility of replicating their achievements in development related interventions, thus giving a voice to the voiceless and contributing to make a dent in the glass ceiling.

During the course of the day, as I was listening to keynote speakers and attending the various sessions, two things came as a great surprise to me:

  • magnitude of the gender gap in the United States 
  • realization that gender inequality is something universal - dare I call it a global illness

Back in 2013, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report entitled Women, Work, and the Economy: Macroeconomic Gains from Gender Equity estimated that the global economy has missed out on 27 percent of GDP growth per capita due to the gender gap in the labor market.

The report estimated that “having an equal number of women to men in their labor force could increase economic growth by 5 percent in the U.S. and as much as 34 percent in Egypt. While Japan deals with an aging and shrinking workforce, women could fill the gap and boost the economy by almost 10 percent.”

"There is ample evidence that when women are able to develop their full labor market potential, there can be significant macroeconomic gains," the report says.

Hillary Clinton reminded us that “in developed countries like the U.S., closing the participation gap would result in an 8 to 10 percent of an increase in gross domestic product over the next 15 to 20 years, and In less developed countries, it could be 30 to 40 percent and around the world, GDP would grow by nearly 12 percent by 2030.”

And a recent Harvard Business Review estimates that “If women in the United States, Japan, and Egypt were employed at the same rates as men, the GDPs of those countries would be higher by 5%, 9%, and 34%, respectively.”

All of this came two days after Oscar winning best supporting actress Patricia Arquette used the Academy Award ceremony as a platform for her crie-de-coeur to raise awareness about gender inequality.

"It is our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America," she said.

According to the US Census Bureau, for every dollar a man makes, a woman earns just 78 cents for doing the same job. It is estimated that in the US, women earn 18 percent less a week than men.  And one of the most shocking statistics is the fact that in the United States  there there are only 24 women CEOs in 500 S&P companies.

With this backdrop, the 5000 participants at the LeadOn Conference while sharing their experiences committed to harness their respective power to bring about change and reverse the gender inequality trend.

Getting up close and personal with my mentors
Being in the proximity of a born leader is always a thrill, and it is much more so, if  this born leader is a woman and even more so if it is Hillary Clinton.

In the heart of the male dominated Silicon Valley, Madam Clinton reminded the high-tech industry that limiting women’s participation in the industry means curtailing prosperity and innovation.

“Gender equality is not just a nice thing to do…..Where women are included you are more likely to have democracy.”

“We can literally count on one hand the number of women who have actually been able to come here and turn their dreams into billion-dollar businesses,” Clinton said. “We’re going backwards in a field that is supposed to be all about moving forward”. 

“Today women receive only 18 percent of computer science degrees, whereas in the 1980s women took home 38 percent of those degrees. Our economy seems to be operating like it’s 1955.”

She called on female technology executives to do more to help women. "As women, let us do more to help all women lead on and lead. What you do doesn't have to be dramatic. You don't have to run for office. Although if you do more power to you.”

“[If] we want to find our balance again, we have to figure out how to make this new economy work for everyone,” she said.

Shifting gears and in sharing her work with the Clinton Foundation, I was about to jump out of my skin, when Madam Clinton shared the example of the how the use of mobile telephony has empowered the women of self-employed women association (SEWA) in India, as my organization, IFAD, has been working with and financing SEWA’s activities. 

At the end of a 33 minute inspiring talk, for which she received a standing ovation, Madam Clinton sat for a 34 minute interview with the almighty Kara Swisher. Swisher did a remarkable job and Secretary Clinton was truly a star in playing ball with her. Sit back, relax and watch this masterpiece.

What I learnt
Feeling the great energy and power in presence of 5000 inspirational ladies who stride to make a difference in people’s life, I learnt that it is a privilege to be a woman, I learnt and that as a woman we need to be bold to grow.

As the day progressed, we were challenged to explore when was the last time we acknowledged the strengths, power and potential of women around us? When was the last time we mentored a woman? When was the last time we encouraged people to speak up and reward them for their ideas? When was the last time we valued ourselves as a woman? When was the last time that we changed course when we felt under-valued?

As leaders we were reminded that our job is to set a vision. We were also reminded not to be harsh on ourselves, to seize all opportunities to learn, grow, do something different and walk through new doors.

We were reminded to learn from failures,  not to take failures personally and not be afraid of failing. Janine Driver in her inspirational talk made us commit “This year is about me. I shall develop, decide and deliver”. 

Thank you Watermark, the 100+ speakers and the 5000 inspiring participants for teaching me to lead on with confidence. It was truly an honor and privilege to be part of your family, rub shoulders with you and learn from you.

We shall LEADON.

          Inspiring Girls to Explore STEM: Girls Inc. Celebrates Engineers Week         

Over the past few decades, an increasing number of young women have begun successful careers in science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM fields. Yet, women remain vastly underrepresented in many STEM careers. For example, while 32% of physicians today are women, just 14% of engineers are women. During National Engineers Week, which takes place February 21-27, we celebrate Girl Day to raise awareness of this issue and introduce girls to the field of engineering.

The absence of women in engineering has been credited to a lack of female engineering role models, misconceptions of what it’s like to be an engineer, and young women having fewer technical problem solving opportunities than men. Together, these factors contribute to many girls feeling less confident in their math and science abilities, which can eventually lead to girls both dropping out of or avoiding STEM degrees completely. This issue has grown in such severity that just this month President Obama introduced a new initiative to help young girls and minorities build skills in STEM fields.

Today, many communities are dealing with pressing, complex issues. To solve these issues, we must build a strong, diverse workforce inclusive of our best and brightest young people. Engineers are our world’s problem solvers. They creatively use their skills in science and mathematics to design solutions that benefit us all. Engineers work in a variety of places, from hospitals to construction sites, inventing new technology, designing a building, or managing an entire company. For engineers, the possibilities of success are truly endless.

For girls, a career in STEM can present them the opportunity to change the world. It is also a step in the right direction towards achieving wage equality. The wage gap for women in STEM fields is 86 cents of a man’s earnings, compared to 78 cents for all careers combined. The difference in salary can lead to women losing hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lifetime. As more women enter career fields like engineering, our communities and world improve for the better.

Girls Inc. is working to introduce more girls to STEM through hands-on, minds-on programs and experiences that build their skills and confidence in math and science. In an exciting and supportive environment, girls put those skills to the test through critical problem solving, seeing STEM play out in real life. In addition, girls have the opportunity to build relationships with trusting mentors, who act as role models and encourage them to pursue careers in fields they would have not otherwise considered.

As we celebrate National Engineers Week, consider how you can encourage the girls in your life to pursue STEM fields such as engineering. In doing so, together, we can ensure our future workforce benefits from the talents and perspectives of the brightest girls and young women our community offers.

           "I guess every girl goes through a photography phase..."*        
And some end up better than others...

That is the case of Janine Niépce. In a superlative effort to discover the best of French culture, I have been researching the work of this amazing woman who lived between 1921 and 2007. Being herself a distant relative of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, one of the fathers of photography, her graduation in Art History at the Sorbonne comes as no surprise.

While she was at uni, she contributed to the French Resistance by developing films and she also took part in the liberation of Paris. That was 1944.

She was one of the first photo-journalists in France and a privileged witness to the changes in French culture in the second half of the 20th century. Her photography career, influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson, started in 1946 and after portraying the life in France, from 1963 her photography took her to far away places, including Japan, US or India.

She covered May 1968 events dressed like a foreign tourist, pure genius!  A self-confessed feminist, in the 1970s she focused on the women's liberation movement and the battle for the freedom of contraception, abortion and wage equality. Her pictures portrayed the evolution of women's role in society for 50 years and not only are they a great source of inspiration, but also of visual information.

In 1981 she was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and in 1985 became a Knight of the Legion d'Honor.

*(Quote from "Lost in Translation", Sofia Coppola, 2003)

          April 14 - Pamelya Herndon of Southwest Womens Law Center on Wage Equality        

The often-quoted figure that women earn 74 cents to a man’s dollar is even lower for Hispanic women, African Americans and other minorities around the country and here in New Mexico. In fact it goes against an Equal Pay law implemented in New Mexico in 2013. Today marks Equal Pay day, the day that symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

          Wage Equality        

What are we teaching our young women about equality and wage equality?  This is the question I’m left asking after hearing about the “Should I Stay or Should I Go” segment on Kyle and Jackie O on September 24th. I don’t listen to the radio much, so I’m grateful to my hubbie for sharing the […]

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