I resigned from my job yesterday as a matter of principle. I was given a letter to type by a senior secretary to the auditing firm that had recently been in our books. A woman headed up the team of accountants at our company for several weeks.
The letter was opened to “Gentlemen.” I changed it to “Greetings.” I was told that the letter must be redone because it was the policy of the company to use the salutation “Gentlemen.” I was told that management determined company policy, not uppity secretaries who didn’t know their place. I decided to resign and didn’t redo the letter.
I’m looking for another job, but I did raise quite a few eyebrows and, hopefully, someone’s consciousness.
President Lincoln’s General Orders No. 100, also known as the Lieber Code of 1863, set clear rules for engaging with enemy combatants. But the code also clarified how Union soldiers should treat civilians, and in particular women. Largely forgotten today, the Lieber Code established strict laws regarding an issue that was everywhere and nowhere in the consciousness of the Civil War: wartime rape.
Three articles under Section II declared that soldiers would “acknowledge and protect, in hostile countries occupied by them, religion and morality; strictly private property; the persons of the inhabitants, especially those of women” (Article 37); that “all robbery, all pillage or sacking, even after taking a place by main force, all rape, wounding, maiming, or killing of such inhabitants, are prohibited under the penalty of death” (Article 44); and that “crimes punishable by all penal codes, such as … rape, if committed by an American soldier in a hostile country against its inhabitants, are not only punishable as at home, but in all cases in which death is not inflicted the severer punishment shall be preferred” (Article 47).
Southern women’s wartime diaries, court marshal records, wartime general orders, military reports and letters written by women, soldiers, doctors, nurses and military chaplains leave little doubt that, as in most wars, rape and the threat of sexual violence figured large in the military campaigns that swept across the Southern landscape. Nonetheless, the Lieber Code made it possible for women to seek justice in military courts and eventually established the modern understanding of rape as a war crime.
In the mid-1980s, no European country provided legal recognition to gay and lesbian couples. A quarter-century later, 16 countries in the region had same-sex marriage or legal partnership laws in place. Eleven other countries, including Argentina and South Africa, have legalized same-sex marriage. In Mexico and Brazil, gay marriage is legal in at least some states. The countries with larger majorities in favor of gay marriage than in the U.S. include Uruguay, Argentina, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Spain. All this reflects rapidly changing global attitudes toward same-sex relationships more broadly.
Overturning DOMA is to overturn radicalism not conservatism, and restore the traditional balance between the federal government and the states on civil marriage. The feds have no role in this apart from recognizing whatever a state wants to do. Period. DOMA was a mixture of panic, misinformation, political opportunism … and yet another betrayal of conservatism by the fundamentalist wing of the GOP. Repealing it is the conservative thing to do.
We are still a young country, and many of our landmark civil rights decisions are fresh enough that the voices of their champions still echo, even as the world that preceded them becomes less and less familiar. We have yet to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, but a society that denied women the vote would seem to us now not unusual or old-fashioned but alien. I believe that in 2013 DOMA and opposition to marriage equality are vestiges of just such an unfamiliar society.
Americans have been at this sort of a crossroads often enough to recognize the right path. We understand that, while our laws may at times lag behind our best natures, in the end they catch up to our core values. One hundred fifty years ago, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln concluded a message to Congress by posing the very question we face today: “It is not ‘Can any of us imagine better?’ but ‘Can we all do better?’ ”
Under present conditions, the intense consciousness raising about the “rightness” of personal choices that worked so well in the early days of the women’s movement will end up escalating the divisive finger-pointing that stands in the way of political reform.
Our goal should be to develop work-life policies that enable people to put their gender values into practice. So let’s stop arguing about the hard choices women make and help more women and men avoid such hard choices. To do that, we must stop seeing work-family policy as a women’s issue and start seeing it as a human rights issue that affects parents, children, partners, singles and elders. Feminists should certainly support this campaign. But they don’t need to own it.
A female soldier in a combat zone is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. By official estimates from The Department of Defense, 19,000 violent sexual crimes occurred in the military in 2011 alone. Sexual assault is grossly under-reported in the military. In 2011, 3,191 assaults were reported when its likely that somewhere between 19,000 and 22,000 assaults occurred.
New York City’s controversial anti-Muslim subway ads get a fighting-free-speech-with-free-speech rebuttal from pro-tolerance group United Methodist Women, who raised $6,000 to match the anti-jihad group’s ad buy and secure media space for ”visual response.”