That’s No White Male, That’s My Husband
Ellen Ladowsky explains why women will deliver the death blow to affirmative action.
The diminishing returns of affirmative action are particularly felt by young women entering the work force. By now the formal and informal barriers that once kept women out of many fields have come down. The white female college graduate is likely to face the same employment problems that have confronted her male classmates for the past decade: a limited number of slots, competition for promotions, and the denial of jobs because of “set-asides” for minority applicants.
Even in the instances when women are still hired to meet a quota, it is not always to redress perceived discrimination-quite the opposite. It can be a way of circumventing requirements for a minority candidate. A philosophy professor at a small, elite college told me that it is common practice for academic departments to hire women to meet affirmative action guidelines because, “We have trouble finding qualified minority candidates but it is easy to find a qualified woman.”. . .
Woman’s advancement in the workplace, then, seems indisputable. Yet should affirmative action get all the credit? Some researchers say no. “My own sense of the data,” says Frederick R. Lynch, “is that primarily it’s cultural change and enforcement of non-discrimination, not necessarily preferential treatment.”
The final undoing of affirmative action in women’s minds, however, may not stem from consideration of their own careers. Women know the men who have been victims of affirmative action’s reverse discrimination or men who consider themselves to be victims. They are their husbands, brothers, or sons. Non-working women-or women temporarily out of the workforce to raise children-count on their husbands’ salaries and promotions to support their families. “The angriest people [I interviewed] were the wives of men who had suffered reverse discrimination,” says Lynch.
This “stand by your man” factor may turn out to be the force that causes female voters to reject affirmative action-first in California, and then across the nation.
On the Backs of Women
Rael Jean Isaac shows how high-living union officials exploit women.
When New York power broker Charles Hughes traveled abroad, he took along his nearest and dearest. His entourage for a jaunt to Egypt, Prague, London, and Paris numbered fourteen family members. Hughes also threw legendary Christmas parties at swank New York hotels, which featured such Lucullan treats as roast suckling pig and sides of beef; there were rock bands, too, and one year Hughes hired a circus to entertain.
Hughes was a New York union boss. Unfortunately, his lifestyle was made possible by a little-noticed form of the abuse of women: exploitation of women in low-paying jobs by high-living union officials. Accused by New York City’s D.A.’s office of corruption, Hughes finally pleaded guilty, in April, to stealing $2 million from Local 372, which represents school cafeteria workers and crossing guards, the majority of whom are women. . . .
Clarice Wilson is the flip side of the Charles Hughes saga: A black, single mother-now a grandmother-Wilson has been a member of Local 983, which represents motor vehicle drivers, for eight years. As a civilian employee of the police department, she daily tours construction sites throughout the five boroughs looking for violations. Over the years Wilson’s dues have added up to around $3,500.
For the privilege of being represented by Hughes, a cafeteria worker making around $11,000 a year paid union dues of $600. Hughes’ local is one of fifty-six New York locals that make up New York’s District Council 37, which, in turn, is part of the powerful American Federation of State, City, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the nation’s second largest labor union.
What did she get for her money? When Wilson was required to work overtime without being paid for it, she sent an SOS to Local 983; the union did not even bother to respond. “All that was necessary was for the union to sit down with management one on one to rectify that,” she told me. “But when I’d call, it was always, ‘He’s not here. Can I take a message?’ and they never got back to me.” When she went to complain in person, there was nobody in the office but a secretary.
R. Gaull Silberman on a combustible subject
The issue of what sexual harassment is and what should be done about it has, from its beginning, been a combustible mixture of politics, law, and sex. Conceived by radical feminists in academia, the doctrine was legally born in a 1981 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulation which was reviewed by the Supreme Court four years later in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson. Clarence Thomas, then-chairman of the EEOC, and I had seen the nasty reality of sexual harassment in horrific cases brought to the commission. With women entering the workplace in greater and greater numbers, we thought it a matter of good public policy that the government defend the guidelines which provided necessary protection for working women.
To that end we urged the Reagan justice department to craft a brief which established crucial distinctions between sexual conduct and sexual harassment: only unwelcome sexual conduct should constitute sexual harassment. We argued that employers should not be liable for all sexual conduct in the workplace, especially when they had a well-publicized effective policy against sexual harassment. . . .
Looking back I realize how incredibly naive we were. We thought we were establishing important and sensible protections for working women. But the political agenda of the creators of the doctrine was to get the broadest definition of sexual harassment and employer liability and to use the law, that tool of the patriarchy, to deconstruct what they viewed as the traditional and subjugated role of women in the workplace, indeed in the whole of society. The Meritor decision was a decidedly mixed blessing for them. It did establish the legal theory but adopted sensible limitations. Some six years later the nation saw how a charge of sexual harassment could be used as a political weapon-ironically against Clarence Thomas, the person who was responsible for making it a legal reality.
Are We Nuts?
Helen Mathews Smith reports that public health officials continue to put sexual politics ahead of public safety, allowing the AIDS epidemic to rage and kill needlessly.
Education has not worked; neither have clean needles nor lectures on “safe sex.” We have condomized America, but after fourteen years the AIDS epidemic still rages out of control-not because of ignorance, but because narrow political interests have undermined the standards and traditions of the officials responsible for the nation’s health.
I met two of the victims of America’s failed war on AIDS at the Incarnation Children’s Center in New York City, an eighteen-bed AIDS hospice and clinic in Harlem. Isabel Argueta is a small woman with short dark hair, olive skin, and an oval face. Beside her was her three-year-old son, Jonathan-a frail looking boy wearing chocolate-colored shorts that came down almost to his ankles.
When Jonathan was eight months old, he became deathly ill with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), and it was only then that Argueta discovered that they were both HIV-positive. When she told Jonathan’s father, he packed his bags, moved in with another woman, and then left for Central America where he is now dying of AIDS. Argueta says Jonathan’s father was bisexual and involved with drugs, but she doesn’t think he was ever tested for HIV. If he was, he never told her about it. She insists that neither before nor during her pregnancy was she asked to take an HIV test. Like the vast majority of infected women in America, Argueta did not find out she was sick until someone in her family became ill. . . .
If they are diagnosed at birth, adds Dr. Stephen W. Nicholas, “HIV babies can have longer, higher-quality lives. For over a decade, I have witnessed grief-stricken mothers and fathers learn of their own HIV infections as their baby lay dying in their arms from a preventable pneumonia. Those opposed to testing pregnant women and infants say the stress of knowing the truth is too much for them. Is there less stress in seeing your three-month-old child die? How much more stress would you like?”
Would mandatory or routine testing bring an end to the epidemic? No one can know. But at the very least, lives would be saved, and public health policy would no longer represent a retreat from common decency and sense. The nation has a moral duty to care for those who are infected, but the infected also have a responsibility to those with whom they share their lives-and bodies. Public health officials once enforced that responsibility. They need to do it again.
Hands Off — You’re Under Arrest
Barbara Olson on how women are harmed-not protected-by current laws
When it comes to sexual harassment laws, most women simply don’t get it. Do women in the workplace really believe that expansive legal protections against “offensive” conduct that imposes unpredictable liability, huge monetary awards, and irreversible public embarrassment to our potential employers will bring about equality in the workplace?. . . .
Women will obtain equal opportunity in the workplace when gender-specific standards are eliminated-not enlarged. If we want to be treated as paid equals, then we must act as and believe we are equals. The prohibitions of sexual harassment must be limited to clearly defined actions that are proven by objective standards. Our tort laws should be applied to prosecute assaults, batteries, threats, stalkings, defamation, and even the occasional indecent exposure by our elected officials. The sexual harassment laws should protect employees against sex discrimination that brings about an actual job detriment as a result of sex.
The current feminist agenda to expand sexual harassment laws to cover all perceived wrongs in the workplace has backfired against women. Rather than trying to eliminate stereotypes, the standards of sexual harassment are based on them. It is time to demand equality in the law-even the laws that promise to protect women.
Equal Pay for Less Work
Karen Selick explains why lawyers on the Mommy Track should not be paid the same as those on the Partner Track.
There is something horrifying in the notion that women who bear children are doing it for the sake of society. It makes me think of Winston Smith, protagonist of George Orwell’s 1984, whose wife referred to the couple’s awkward attempts at procreation as “our duty to the party.” The implications of this attitude are far-reaching. If I disapprove of the way in which my future doctor and baker are being raised, do I have the right to intervene to protect my investment? If I think my neighbor is doing a bad job raising her first-born, do I have the right to prevent her from giving birth to a second child? If she is doing it for me, isn’t it logical that I should have a veto?
We can escape these nightmarish consequences only by recognizing that women who choose to raise children do so, not for society’s sake, but for their own-and, one hopes, their husbands’-sakes. As with every other option in life, they will have to weigh the costs and benefits of their decision. It may turn out, when we all cash in our chips, that the lawyers who didn’t docket 1,700 billable hours a year, who spent evenings and weekends at home rather than at the office and who treated law as a job rather than an all-consuming obsession, will have had much happier lives than those who did the opposite. We’ll never know; it’s impossible to compare degrees of happiness between different people. We can almost guarantee, however, that they won’t have earned as much money, or gained as much renown.
If the emotional rewards of motherhood are not sufficient compensation for the loss of income and prestige, women should not choose them. Above all, however, they should not choose the benefits of motherhood, and then demand that their legal colleagues-many of whom have themselves decided to forgo those benefits-compensate them for their losses.
Violence Against Taxpayers
Betsy Hart explains why the new $1.5 billion Violence Against Women Act won’t protect women from violent crime, but will subject them to an assault of “abuse experts.”
Buried in the $30 billion crime bill passed by Congress in August was more than $1.5 billion earmarked to fight violence against women. The “Violence Against Women Act,” as the provision is called, declared that “All persons within the United States shall have the right to be free from crimes motivated by gender [sic].” To this end, millions of dollars will be spent upon new hot lines, increased funding to counseling services and research organizations looking into domestic violence, training, and “sensitivity” programs to “educate” judges and court personnel in domestic abuse, even a pilot program to teach elementary school children about “domestic violence and violence among intimate partners.”
Motivating this massive expenditure were claims put forth by national advocacy groups, such as the Battered Women’s Justice Project and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, that “at least three to four million women each year are physically abused,” that “six out of 10 married couples have experienced violence” and “more than one third [of wives] are battered repeatedly every year.”
Judging by these figures, it would seem that violence against women, and domestic abuse in particular, are threats to society as grave and escalating as gangland murders. But the truth is, the number of sexual assaults actually fell last year from the year before-by as much as 20 percent, according to the latest National Crime Victimization Survey issued by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. (In 1993, a total of 485,000 sexual attacks were committed, including rape, attempted rape, and non-rape sexual assaults.) Federal statistics also show that women are 40 percent less likely than men to be victims of violent crime, and that domestic violence is not nearly the greatest source of violent crime facing women. In fact, lovers, husbands, and ex-husbands together account for about 18 percent of criminal attacks against women (husbands account for only 2 percent). Complete strangers, on the other hand, account for 44 percent. Marriage is actually a safe haven for a woman: a married woman who lives with her husband is almost one-fifth as likely as a single, separated, or divorced woman to be a victim of violent crime in general, and almost one-tenth as likely to be raped.
This is not to say that violence against women, particularly at the hands of men they know or love, is not a problem, nor even one worthy of national attention. Whatever sort of problem it is, however, will not be addressed by the Violence Against Women Act. There is probably not one woman in America who will be safer thanks to Congress’ munificence. Most of the money will be allocated to advocacy groups that generate distorted and hysterical statistics rather than to efforts that might really help women-and all crime victims-such as increasing police forces, building prisons, and jailing repeat offenders.