February 1, 2009

(h/t Heather)

Where did Michelle Bernard come from, and why on earth would anyone ask her opinion on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which President Obama signed into law last week?

The first question is easier to answer. Bernard is President of the deceptively-named Independent Women's Forum, a thinktank that is neither "Independent" (Prominent members include Kate O'Beirne, Nancy Pfotenhauer, Lynne Cheney and the Podhoretz boys' wife and mother, Midge Decter. Funding comes from organizations like the Castle Rock Foundation and the Scaife Foundation. Sound independent to you?) nor particularly interested in furthering the welfare of women. In fact, some of their declared stances are against gender equality, like Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act. A curious case of self-loathing that must be given an inordinate amount of airtime, don't you think?

And who better to ask to speak on monopolize a segment on a bill that simply gives women the right to sue if they discover--years after they've been hired--that they have been working for less money for the same job than their male counterparts, as Lilly Ledbetter discovered. Naturally, Bernard and the IWF do not support the Ledbetter Act. How dare women think they should be entitled to equality, those silly little things?

What happened is…the case was overturned at the Supreme Court on a technicality. Instead of being forced to bring a lawsuit that alleges discrimination within a 100 days…180 days, women now have a longer period of time to do that. The problem with the legislation that was signed yesterday is we don’t know what the unintended consequences are going to be. Number one, it tells women that you’re a victim. Number two, we don’t know what the burdens are going to be that are going to be put on employers. Will employers all of the sudden say if I…maybe I should hire less women…fewer women in the workplace because they might sue me 20, 30, 40 years from now. Insurance is going to go up. What is the negative impact that this could possibly have on women, and for that reason, the Independent Women’s Forum and the Independent Women’s Voice does not think that this is a great day in America for women.

Holy cow, my blood pressure is rising just re-typing that drivel. First, it teaches women to be victims? Once again the wrong-headedness of conservative logic rears its ugly head. This law now acknowledges women who have already been victimized by sexist employers and cheated out of fair wages. Those unexpected consequences, Michelle, will be employers--those ones afraid of lawsuits 20, 30, 40 years from now (which you realize means they have been cheating their female employees out of fair wages for that time)--actually abiding by the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Chris Matthews, bless his clueless little heart, confuses issues by getting into an area that Bernard feels more comfortable--the issue of fair pay. As far as Bernard is concerned, anyone who goes into female-dominated professions like teaching or nursing should just suck it up, because that revered "free market" has spoken and their jobs just don't merit higher wages. I'm completely serious and she's seriously deranged.

The problem with that is that is a red herring. People say that this is about equal pay, that women earn 77 cents on the dollar for every dollar that a man earns and it’s just not necessarily true. If you really go in and do an analysis, there are a lot of reasons—sex discrimination does exist, we’re not saying it doesn’t exist – but there are a lot of reasons why women might earn less. If you decide you’re going to work for a non-profit instead of working for a Fortune 500, you’re going to earn less money. If you come out of the work force for 10, 15, 20 years to raise your kids, you’re going to earn less money. That’s not sex discrimination. So to say that this bill is a champion of women’s rights and the federal government is looking out for women, it’s completely incorrect. It’s just not true and we do our daughters a disservice and our sons truly a disservice when we say that this is great legislation.

Oh Michelle, you self-loathing, lying, hypocritical disinformation specialist. It IS true that women earn .77 to men's $1, and it's not because they opt for working at a non-profit. It's for the same job. Helps if you actually read the studies, Michelle, instead of asserting "facts" from your posterior region. That's a disservice to anyone who watches your punditry. As Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood says, every woman who has ever worked in America has run into sex discrimination. Richards is the daughter of Ann Richards, and I only wish that she had inherited her mother's silver tongue to show Bernard for the fool she is.

In fact, as I was bouncing ideas off the site team for this post, some of the women volunteered their own experiences:

I defended a female co-worker who some wanted to drum out of the machine shop before ever working a day there by making the comparison to older male co-workers who had bad backs since they didn't have the sense to protect them over the years, and got them to leave her alone and give her the same chance as they had. They seemed shocked when she handled the heavy tools every bit as well as the men did even though she was skinny as a rail.


And I've watched grown men complain that women were going to destroy their world because they could not have their Playboy centerfolds hanging up in the shops and get mad that they could not take a piss anywhere the mood suited them because some woman was going to possibly see them. Heaven forbid how they ever survived at home without peeing in the kitchen sink if they really had to go.


I had men openly tell me that I took their son's job, that I had no business working in a power house, that I was nuts, and that I would fail, and I had a union in place to protect me unlike so many others who I'm sure have gone through similar things in male dominated fields. I'm quite sure Michelle Bernard has never had to face any of those types of realities. She's a disgrace to women who want to be treated equally in the work place.


I, too, have had experience with (a) prejudice in the workplace and (b) the benefits of a union, in my case, the Teamsters. The first instance was many, many years ago when I was a college student by day and a key-punch operator by night, and those in IT will know just how long ago that was. All the key punch operators were women. All the techs and programmers in the other room were men. They were paid nearly double per hour than what we gals made - it was not a union shop. I knew one of the guys was planning to quit, because we went to college together, took many of the same classes. So, with his help and advice, I took some extra courses to earn the same certificate in operations as he had, and learned fortran and basic just to sweeten the pot (we are talking the Jurassic age of computers, here). My qualifications for the job could not have been better. But when I applied, I was turned down - flat out - because I was a woman and it required 'a male brain'. More than that, two weeks later I was fired from my key punch position... because I had the audacity to even apply for a better job within the company. Might have given the other women 'ideas'.

And there were more stories...stories that mirror my own experiences with discrimination in the workplace as well. The truth is that most women have had these experiences and as even Tweety--not exactly known for his feminism--wonders how anyone could object to the inherent fairness of the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

But then again, Michelle Bernard isn't just anybody, is she?

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