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Part Four: The Gender of Justice

The more women demand equality the least safe we become. The 1967 bullhorn over the segregation of 'want ads' in the New York Times quickly morphed into a rallying cry for autonomy on the steps of the United States Supreme Court. By 1973, Roe v Wade was handed down and the E.R.A (Equal Right Amendment) passed legislation. In the midst of the battle everyone went home. Confident they had won, the volume came down and women's liberation became a distant reverberation of a housewife's fever dream.


Women believed they had finally conquered man. Yet the journey for states to ratify the E.R.A hit an unexpected wall, built by a woman, Phyllis Schlafly. Phyllis may not have filled the classroom history books like Steinem and Friedan, but she certainly had a lasting impact on women's rights. A loud whisper in a room held by men, she continued to voice her rhetoric and distaste for the ideal of equality between men and women.


At the National Women's Conference in Houston Texas, November of 1977, Phyllis was asked about federal dollars being used to establish shelters for battered women, her response spoke volumes. Insisting that giving a wife who has been beaten a vacation at the taxpayers' expense isn't going to solve her problem.[1] Though a self-proclaimed Catholic Conservative she insisted the woman only needed a divorce lawyer.


Her anti-feminist campaign not only stalled the Equal Rights Amendment but had long reaching effects on social policy and conservative politics until her death. She vehemently opposed The Domestic Violence Against Women Act, insisting it promotes the breakup of marriages, divorce, and hatred of men.[2]


From physical abuse to violent rape, Domestic Violence is real. It's a very real nightmare that millions of women live in every day. What do you do when your rapist isn't a stranger, but the man lying in your bed every night, the one you swore to love in sickness and health. The man whom you can't wake from. When your husband is your attacker, who can a woman turn to?


Phyllis Schlafly once insisted "by getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don't think you can call it rape."[3] Schlafly wasn't alone. Spousal rape exemption clauses can be traced back to the 17th century jurist Matthew Hale, in which he proclaimed a man cannot commit rape upon his lawful wife, as the marital contract itself established consent. This common interpretation affected women's lives for centuries. In thirty-eight states the exemption would include unmarried men, who cohabitated with a woman.[1]


The first state to repeal such an exclusion was Nebraska in 1976.[2] Many states followed in some form, but it would take until 1993 before Oklahoma and North Carolina joined the ranks. Repealing spousal exemptions weren't all they promised to be, as many went a step further in creating a difference between rape and spousal rape. Allowing the punishment for spousal rape to be less harsh, not much changed for women.[3] As recent as 2002, only 24 states had completely abolished marital rape exemptions.


Assault against women has many forms, and sexual is only one. The beating of one's wife was often viewed as a private domestic issue. Going back only 60 years, states like New York referred domestic violence cases from criminal court to family court, where only civil procedures could apply.


Yet four years later, a change to New York Domestic Relation Law included physical abuse. A beating, as a form of cruel and inhumane punishment by a spouse, finally became valid grounds for a divorce. However, the 1966 ruling required the plaintiff to establish a sufficient number of beatings had taken place. What was considered 'sufficient' remained evasive when the Court of Appeals held that two beatings did not constitute enough reason for divorce. The court would also question the validity of such a claim, if the woman continued to cohabitate following an act of cruelty.[4] Any woman that stayed, clearly enjoyed a beating or was making it all up for attention. A woman with limited resources, would be required to flee her home and in many cases for a predetermined amount of time, before a judge would grant her a divorce on such claims.


Getting a divorce is only one barrier for a woman seeking safety. When Francine Hughes divorced her abusive husband in 1971, he refused to leave and continued to reside with her and their children. In March of 1977, after yet another physical altercation, she poured gasoline near the bed he was passed out in and lit it. Charged with murder, the court set a groundbreaking precedent when she was acquitted on grounds of 'temporary insanity'.[5]


As though in her last breath, Phyllis Schlafly's final book The Conservative Case for Trump, released in 2016 the day after her passing, she attempts to sway the minds of the masses once again by proclaiming more government interference in things she found repulsive, would equal less restrictions and a more comfortable life for conservative Christians like herself.


In 2023, we can be certain the Phyllis' of the world are still here, still fighting and still rebelling against the majority, in the hopes of a minority rule. In the wake of the Dobbs[4] decision, we must not falter in our step nor retreat in a perceived defeat. We must rise, as never before, and lift those behind us as we climb. Our daughters are watching.

[1] https://digitalcommons.law.ggu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1248&context=ggulrev

[2] https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/sop.2009.52.4.505#:~:text=Despite%20this%20resistance%2C%20in%201976,eliminating%20their%20spousal%20rape%20exemptions.

[3] https://msmagazine.com/2021/10/13/can-your-husband-rape-you-california-law-spousal-rape-exemption/

[4] https://scholarship.law.stjohns.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1207&context=jcred

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/francine-hughes-wilson-whose-burning-bed-became-a-tv-film-dies-at-69/2017/03/31/a1799db8-161c-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html

[1] https://www.tampabay.com/archive/1999/07/29/delicious-irony-the-now-cookbook/

[2] https://www.berkshireeagle.com/archives/only-the-favored-get-equal-rights/article_eb479b03-5fbe-5f5e-b688-4d63c29e50fa.html

[3] https://www.biography.com/activists/phyllis-schlafly

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dobbs_v._Jackson_Women%27s_Health_Organization#:~:text=The%20majority%20held%20that%20abortion,to%20regulate%20access%20to%20abortion.

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A Brief Note on The Gender of Justice

Part Two:


If women could not be kept under man's control, then they must be punished more extensively than a man. The 1913 Muncy Act of Pennsylvania dictated a mandatory and exclusive sentencing provision for women convicted of a crime, to be imprisoned for more time than a man convicted of the same crime. Most women received indeterminate sentencing under this rule, that led to the long-term incarceration of women.


The constitutionality of the Muncy Act wasn't called into question until 1966 when Jane Daniels was charged with burglary, aggravated robbery, carrying a concealed deadly weapon and possession of a firearm. She was convicted and Judge Stern sentenced her to 1–4 years in prison on May 3, 1966. However, on June 3, he vacated his own sentence and resentenced her under the Muncy Act to an indefinite term of imprisonment.


She appealed, claiming a violation of the 14th Amendment, under the equal protection clause. The Muncy Act definitively provided a distinction between males and females when it came to sentencing, but the appellate court did not agree, and her appeal was denied.



Ironically The Muncy Act was repealed in1968, due to its violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.[2]

As we recognize the benefits, historical significance, and impact of women in our communities, across our nation and in the world at large, may we also remember the long, often winding, and difficult road it has been and continues to be, toward freedom.


[1] https://casetext.com/case/com-v-daniels-59

[2] https://law.justia.com/cases/pennsylvania/supreme-court/1968/430-pa-642-0.html

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Words Matter

Revisiting a year no one could have imagined and contemplating things completely unexpected, I find the world presently in a past somehow forgotten. Squandered in the vernacular of an obsolete time, it is difficult to articulate what is new and what is old.


2020 has been an ongoing demonstration of all things iniquitous. The abhorrence seeping into the crevices, cloaking everything in its darkness, while the insidious turmoil pervading our lives leaves us gasping for oxygen in a world without air.


Abruptly uprooted, lives are rearranged as the masses flail about searching for a life raft, unaware we were never drowning in the first place. Storms come and go, after all its the only way for life to push itself forward and further from the shores of sameness.


Standing on the beach may be the perfect backdrop for partaking in colorful beverages adorned with umbrellas, but it quickly becomes indolent as our idle spirits crave the unknown beyond the horizon. Imbalance crashing upon the rocky coast, the world searches for the beacon in a darkness it never saw coming. In the cacophony of chaos, purpose is often lost in translation. The mightiest of all weapons, dialogue becomes the penetrating fusillade, cutting the hardest of stones and melting the softest of hearts.


Though few things can reach beyond turmoil and unrest, it is our words that travel the furthest. Across the globe, mankind wrapped itself in the banners of righteousness, demanding justice, the call to arms and claims of superiority echoing forth the long simmering animosity generated through our ancestors and passed on as though part of our DNA.


Through our ability to express thoughts and ideals, language can become the catalyst to affect change or the keepers of stagnation. Philosophers once walked upon the land, stringing together manifestations of wisdom, imparting ideologies and explanations of the unanswered questions enveloping the universe. Feeding the hunger inside each of us to make sense of the unexplainable.


I suspect their contributions were not appreciated until long after their stories ended. From the tongue of Socrates, to Voltaire and Diogenes, it is clear people turned a silenced ear toward the truths they did not wish to hear. Basking in a self-imposed ignorance, humans throughout history gravitate near the hamster wheel. Predictability chosen over fear, the longing for improvement cast aside in favor of placation.


Advancements in technology rapidly feed false narratives, confusing the masses, and leaving truth behind, lying in a heap at the foot of a dumpster we call the internet. The world literally at our fingertips, words became the accomplice in the dumbing down of a society previously hungry for knowledge.


Whether it is wise words, words of comfort, or words to live by, we often find ourselves seeking retribution, explanations, and absolution. Politics to religion, life's many mysteries drum loudly in each of us. From a long walk to purgatory, to a difficult climb to heaven, we lean on prose to ease our discontentment.


The dichotomy of values and morals crowding the airwaves, leaving the very essence of what it means to be human in the middle of a revolution between troglodyte and millennial. Sacrificing truth and lies equally to the hyperbole of the day.


Standing alongside our convictions, rising against the social media machine of false information, we found the words to bring us together while apart. A trying and bizarre year on a multitude of levels, 2020 found inspiration in surprising and unusual ways.


Watching speech equally build up and tear down a society, it was redundantly clear that what we say matters. The volley of political correctness against basic kindness set the stage for a long overdue intermission. The entire world forced into a simultaneous timeout; reflection could no longer be avoided.


The upheaval and torment loudly broadcast in every medium possible, words alone could not deter the longing for equality nor the ideology of freedom's existence. The reverberation of the loudest voices in the room could not break the spirit of the human need to be with humans.


Through the fog of divisiveness, and the solitude of isolation we sought togetherness. Creativity pouring into the heartbeat of the living, progress infiltrating our veins, we became experts at Zoom and video chat apps, devouring them like the nectar of life. Streaming concerts, movies, talk show interviews and Tik Tok content, we found joy and laughter cracking open the night.


Homeschool fails and victories led to long overdue appreciation for the teachers raising our children. Job loss and boredom led to new innovations and entrepreneurship. Single-minded survival fell away to unprecedented gratitude for the frontline workers willingly sacrificing everything for strangers. Hoarding basic necessities no longer vital as the term 'essential' shifted our realities.


Our families, neighbors, and our planet became points of deliberation as we each considered what was truly important. Suddenly acutely aware of the mass waste and disposability around us, we became a collaboration of revisionist. Learning and relearning to take only what we need and leave the rest.


Lifting us out of perdition, our generosity and humanity will again lead us to the resurrection as we mend friendships and familial ties. Moving the world forward steadily, our resilience will take precedence over battles fought and never won. Holding tight to hope's hand we search for common ground in a shared unprecedented loss.


Regardless of the presumed rhetoric, humans will always be more alike than different. We will inevitably rise from the proverbial ashes and set upon a pristine path of righteousness. Coated in a semblance of the familiar, we will again prompt history to repeat itself while proclaiming it all fresh and new.


Standing on the cusp of tomorrow, marinating in yesterday, we continue to do the same things over and over, all the while expecting a different outcome. Humans become the hamster as time writes a history, we will one day erase, declaring its many falsehoods to hide our shame.


In this time of contemplation may we strive for compassion over cruelty and love over hate. Mindful of their impact, may we choose our words carefully. Commencing upon the coming year, may we find gentleness in our reflection and thoughtfulness in our humanity. Benevolent in our mercy and generous in our understanding, may we each walk with grace by our side, goodness in our intentions, and decency in our hearts.


As 2020 comes to a close and the dust of dissent settles, may we use our words to rejoice in our freedoms, protect one another, and implement the promise of brighter days along this ever winding road.

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A Woman Like Me

I grew up in a world where most people looked like me. I watched the world change while women evolved and did extraordinary things. These women also looked like me.

I admired Barbara Walters sitting next to Hugh Downs co-anchoring the news and looked forward to her numerous one on one interviews for the infamous Barbara Walters Specials. Geraldine Ferraro was the selected VP choice of Walter Mondale while I was in high school. The excitement around the historic moment left me disappointed that I wasn't old enough to vote, and equally frustrated when they lost.

Seeing women doing the same jobs as men, I felt empowered and believed through them, that I too could do anything.

Growing up during the ending run of the second wave feminist movement, my young and naïve mind believed we had won. We had won some long hard-fought battle against the patriarchy and women were finally equal, after all the television and magazine world seemed to be packed full of brilliant, strong & intelligent women rattling the cages of oppression and ringing in feminism.

Gloria Steinman was a household name, and Ms. magazine was often found on our coffee table. Comedian's like Lily Tomlin and Joan Rivers were in the mainstream, Dolly Parton left Porter Wagoner and struck out on her own to an unprecedented success. Stevie Nicks was leading Fleetwood Mac in sold out venues, Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court and Madeleine Albright became Secretary of State. While these women were few and far between, I believed nothing was impossible.

These women weren't my heroes, they were my possible and they all looked like me.

I was a white kid living in the projects, on the outskirts of hope and opportunity, and I always knew I could and would get out. The young women of color around me, didn't have this multitude of successful women that looked like them. They didn't have this ingrained expectation of success to fill their pores with possibilities and triumph.

It's not that women of color haven't done extraordinary things or found insurmountable success throughout the history of the world, they indeed have. Unfortunately, you have to look hard to find them. Stories written down, yet not repeated get lost in the winds of change. History tends to linger in the stories that are told and taught in our schools, our movie theaters, around our dinner tables and on the nightly news.

If the stories of Harriet Tubman, Madame C.J. Walker, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vauhn, Mary Jackson, and Shirley Chisholm aren't taught to the next generation, they disappear into the background noise and someone calls it progress.

While poet Maya Angelou's autobiography, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings', spoke to all women and young girls, her oration of 'On the Pulse of Morning', during President Clinton's inauguration was unprecedented, and little black and brown girls were paying attention.

Oprah Winfrey rose to the top with the admiration of most women. Like many others, her story and success weren't without hard work and sacrifice, and she soon became a long-awaited example that success doesn't have to be measured by color or gender alone.

Tarana Burke hatched the #metoo hashtag to show young survivors of sexual assault they were not alone. It has grown to a national movement for women of all colors and socioeconomic position, the fact a black woman sits at the helm isn't lost on black and brown girls, who are disproportionately affected by sexual violence.

From memoir writer to editor, New York Time's bestseller Roxane Gay has not gone unnoticed among women eagerly searching for representation in the often pale waters of publishing success.

The rise of film maker Ava Duvernay for her incredible work behind 'When They See Us', and Pulitzer winning journalism of Nikole Hannah-Jones for her groundbreaking '1619 Project', women of color are finding true to life inspiration in women like them.

The nomination and successful election of America's first female Vice President has broken a multitude of barriers simultaneously. Kamala Harris isn't just the first female, she's the first black, the first Indian, the first bi-racial Vice President of the United States. While this is exciting for all women, for little black and brown girls looking for role models that look like them, it's so much more.

Representation matters. Seeing yourself in others doesn't just sew empathy or understanding, it can weave ambition and determination into your DNA. It can mirror a future never imagined.

Held up high, by the many women who have carved a path in the hardest of stone, Kamala is that mirror. Every little girl and young woman, from every walk of life and every color can now see themselves where they once never dared to dream.


A Woman Like Me also posted to medium.com


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The Muddy Waters of a Right to Life

America was leading the way in eugenics long before Adolf Hitler came to power. The forced sterilization and refusal to provide access to safe, legal contraception is just another dark layer of America's continued war on women, hidden in the shadows of the past. 

Follow the link for 'Op-Eds' to read my latest or copy/paste the link below.



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