The Widdershins

Activist/Feminist Wednesday: Great News from MadamaB’s Mailbox

Posted on: June 5, 2013

It’s a FeMailBox!

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is not a perfect public servant by any means. He is taking far too much time to tell the fracking industry to go jump in a (poisoned) lake, for example. But, he has been a leader on two issues I care very deeply about. The first was pushing equal marriage through the Senate (something both Spitzer and Paterson were unable to do), and the second is, well, you guessed it: WIMMINZ RIGHTS!

Yesterday in my Mailbox, I got this very exciting email entitled: “Governor Cuomo Introduces the Women’s Equality Act.”  The Act was supported by members of the Women’s Equality Coalition, and its ten main points are:

  • Achieve Pay Equity
  • Stop Sexual Harassment in All Workplaces
  • Allow for the Recovery of Attorneys’ Fees in Employment and Credit and Lending Case
  • Strengthen Human Trafficking Laws
  • Prohibit Employers from Denying Promotions or Hiring Based on Family Status
  • Prevent Landlords from Denying Housing to Qualified Tenants Based on Source of Rent Funds
  • Stop Housing Discrimination for Victims of Domestic Violence
  • Stop Pregnancy Discrimination Once and For All
  • Protect Victims of Domestic Violence by Strengthening Order-of-Protection Law
  • Protect a Woman’s Freedom of Choice

Some of these points seem wonky (like the one about sources of rent funds), and others are very simple to understand (“Achieve Pay Equity!” YESSSS!). The Gov wrote an Op-Ed in HuffPo that helps explain why he included the points he did.

Here is the reason for the one about denying housing to qualified tenants:

Fact: female-headed households in New York account for the vast majority of those on public assistance. However, under current law, a landlord can turn away a tenant if he does not approve of the applicant’s source of income. The Women’s Equality Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on lawful source of income, aiding women who receive public assistance in finding safe and decent housing for their families.

Knowing the heartlessness of landlords in New York City, and knowing that women are far more likely to be afflicted by poverty than men, I unfortunately find this state of affairs horrifying, but easy to believe. That women are living through the pain of not only being on public assistance, struggling to feed themselves and their families, but then being denied a safe place to live is a new injustice to add to a very long list.

Clearly it’s not new to Cuomo. It seems plain that the Governor has done his research and deeply understands not just the most obvious, but also some of the more hidden needs of women of all colors and income levels. It’s a good thing too, as women are becoming more and more important both to the economy and to those who aspire to public office.

Cuomo stated in the article in HuffPo, that he both was inspired by the legacy of Seneca Falls, New York, and ashamed by the fact that New York State has been losing contact with its roots as a progressive leader for women’s rights. Well, thanks to this legislation, we are taking a step in the right direction.

You’ll notice I’ve been talking about New York’s public servants a lot lately. I’m not doing this to say “neener neener, my state’s great!”, but rather to point out leadership where and when it occurs.  Leadership has such a ripple effect…you can hear it in the way people express themselves, in how the national conversation changes. You can see it in the types of bills legislators put forward, and in the growing strength and confidence of the male and female legislators who are working together to push back against institutionalized violence and discrimination towards women.

Last night Kirsten Gillibrand interviewed Sheryl Sandberg, COO of FaceBook and author of the amazing book on women’s equality in the workplace, “Lean In.” One of the great points Kirsten made was that Sheryl’s book had opened up many doors for women simply by taking the radical step of bringing hidden issues out into the open, and personalizing them through her own perspective as a very successful female leader.  Ms. Sandberg’s both vulnerable and powerful book has helped many men understand the issues that women face when trying to climb the corporate “jungle gym,” and has inspired companies to take various steps to improve the situations of the women who work for them. That’s leadership, folks.

A while back, Prolix asked, “What do you do?” I had a very hard time answering that question. It wasn’t because I didn’t know the answer, but as Sandberg writes in “Lean In,” women are very likely to disparage their own accomplishments and feel uncomfortable acknowledging their power. I am as prone to this as any woman, believe me.  But Sandberg also asks a great question – the one which prompted her to write the book in the first place: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” One of my biggest fears is appearing arrogant and self-aggrandizing. So here goes – I confidently (not arrogantly) proclaim that I enable people to work as a team and accomplish great things together. That is my mission, and I am both proud of what I do, and happy doing it!

Above all, the message of “Lean In” is that leadership is about taking risks and losing your fear. Albert Brooks made a similar argument in the film “Defending Your Life,” positing that overcoming fear was the only true path to spiritual enlightenment. Tellingly, his vision of a fearless, enlightened person was Meryl Streep, whom I believe…yes, I’m quite sure…is a wimminz. Gasp!

The movie was released in 1991. I think ol’ Albert was ahead of his time.

This is an open thread.

Defending Your Life: Fearful Albert Brooks tanks a salary negoation. Note to self: This is not how it’s done.

17 Responses to "Activist/Feminist Wednesday: Great News from MadamaB’s Mailbox"

Like Gay Marriage we may have to do this 1 state at a time. Until we take back the house in 2014 and this war on women nonsense stops once and for all.

That’s what I think too, Fuzzy. The ingrained bias against women is as deep, or deeper, than the bias against LGBT.

Once one state leads the way, another will follow, and then another.

@2: Both groups are perceived as weak, yet threatening, making bullying the obvious choice.

the good art of it is that taken to its extreme women will vote with their feet and leave those states that do not fall in line, meaning those deep red anti women states will be left with no women or very few women ensuring the number of “stupid bigoted men in the next generation is even smaller. Or one could hope.

One could hope indeed, Fuzzy. However, the same point I have been making for 6 years remains absolutely true according to both Gillibrand and Sandberg: Until we get equal representation in business and government, women will not have equality.

Having said that, we won’t get there without the support of men like Governor Cuomo. And, men like Frank Lautenberg, the venerable Senator from New Jersey who sponsored the ERA every year. Mr. Lautenberg passed away recently; his funeral is today. Hillary is one of the speakers.

Something along these lines came up over at Uppity’s place and Marsha Blackburn, rep. from Tenn was mentioned. She did not vote for either the Lily Ledbetter Act or the Paycheck Fairness Act saying that women “don’t want” equal pay laws.

I posited that since that was the case and the article says women earn 80.9% of what men earn, then she should allow Boehner to cut her Congressional pay by 19.10%.

MB said:

One of my biggest fears is appearing arrogant and self-aggrandizing. So here goes – I confidently proclaim that I enable people to work as a team and accomplish great things together. That is my mission, and I am both proud of what I do, and happy doing it!

Couple of things here: First, truth is never arrogant or self-aggrandizing. Believe me when I say this, in the tens of thousands of people with whom I have worked, the people who have the self-awareness and reflectivity to agonize over being arrogant or self-aggrandizing are never arrogant or self-aggrandizing.

Successful and fulfilling personal missions are always externally and outwardly focused — always about something bigger than themselves. Yours, through empowering and enabling others to do great things together, is indeed a noble one. You have every right to be proud just as we have every right to be proud of you for creating this space for all of us.

Thank you.

Thank you Prolix! Wise and humbling words indeed. 🙂

Fredster, that is priceless! How dare that ignorant beeyotch say something like that! Hope your teeth are feeling better.

MB@8: Eh, still sore where the shots when in and since it’s a temp crown I have, it’ll be soup tonight.

@9 – Soup – a very smart move. Chicken would be best!

I am just at the chapter in “Lean In” where Sandberg quotes Madeline Albright (“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.”). She goes further and says that women who publicly denigrate the needs of women are harming all women. It is not just a personal problem, it is a societal one at that point.

By extension, men lose out when women do not get equal pay for equal work. Households which include female wage earners (quite a large number these days) would have much more spending and saving power if women earned what men did for the same work.


You’ve got Andrea heading your way. Winds won’t be too bad, but lots of rain.

women who publicly denigrate the needs of women are harming all women.

Like good ole Marsha there! 👿

Ahn-dray-ah (in my best Miranda Priestly voice) where is my Starbucks Eggs and Salmon?

Fuzzy@13: LOL!!

until we activate storm watch and I am taken to my safe bunker I am not worried!

fuzzy@15: It sounds like all you’re gonna need is maybe just an umbrella and maybe hip boots.

I have to say this, though it will probably fall on deaf ears – the foundation for women’s equality is the ability for women to earn their own living. Nothing less will do.

Almost fifty years (48 to be exact) after a law was passed forbidding men from denying women the right to do this, women still are not allowed to.

One of the most significant erosions took place in 1991, with the Civil Rights “restoration” act, which gave victims of race, religion and nation origin unlimited damages. Women? Not so much – we were capped at $300,000, chump change for any lawyer. They simply stopped taking women’s cases. The EEOC imploded after Regan’s appointed head, Clarence Thomas (remember him?) took over and started arguing in favor of -employers-, most notoriously in EEOC vs. Sears.

If men wanted to hire women, no laws would have been required. They still don’t. Why is anyone looking elsewhere?

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