Friday, September 21, 2012
This is an easy one: Pick a hand (perhaps your dominant one) and then vigorously and rapidly hit the palm of that hand with the fingers of the same hand. Presto! One hand clapping.
The sound is a muted clapping sound.
The New York Times writes about a new life expectancy study:
Researchers have long documented that the most educated Americans were making the biggest gains in life expectancy, but now they say mortality data show that life spans for some of the least educated Americans are actually contracting. Four studies in recent years identified modest declines, but a new one that looks separately at Americans lacking a high school diploma found disturbingly sharp drops in life expectancy for whites in this group. Experts not involved in the new research said its findings were persuasive.
The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.
The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008, said S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead investigator on the study, published last month in Health Affairs. By 2008, life expectancy for black women without a high school diploma had surpassed that of white women of the same education level, the study found.
White men lacking a high school diploma lost three years of life. Life expectancy for both blacks and Hispanics of the same education level rose, the data showed. But blacks over all do not live as long as whites, while Hispanics live longer than both whites and blacks.
“We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling,” said John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, who was not involved in the new study.
The five-year decline for white women rivals the catastrophic seven-year drop for Russian men in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity in London.
The actual abstract of the study sounds either a lot less informative or indicates that the study was about wider questions than the life expectancy changes of whites without high school education:
It has long been known that despite well-documented improvements in longevity for most Americans, alarming disparities persist among racial groups and between the well-educated and those with less education. In this article we update estimates of the impact of race and education on past and present life expectancy, examine trends in disparities from 1990 through 2008, and place observed disparities in the context of a rapidly aging society that is emerging at a time of optimism about the next revolution in longevity. We found that in 2008 US adult men and women with fewer than twelve years of education had life expectancies not much better than those of all adults in the 1950s and 1960s. When race and education are combined, the disparity is even more striking. In 2008 white US men and women with 16 years or more of schooling had life expectancies far greater than black Americans with fewer than 12 years of education—14.2 years more for white men than black men, and 10.3 years more for white women than black women. These gaps have widened over time and have led to at least two “Americas,” if not multiple others, in terms of life expectancy, demarcated by level of education and racial-group membership. The message for policy makers is clear: implement educational enhancements at young, middle, and older ages for people of all races, to reduce the large gap in health and longevity that persists today.
Looks to me as if the study was about the overall correlation of race and education with life expectancy figures? But perhaps not. I would have to buy the article to know for certain.
Then there's the comparison to the catastrophic seven-year drop for Russian men in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It's a valid comparison if limited to just sudden drops in life expectancy, it's not valid at all if we think of the numbers of people affected: all Russian men vs. white women without high school education in the US.
That's probably nitpicking. My guess is that the NYT reports on the drops among white women without high school diplomas because the change is novel, whereas we have long known about the different life expectancies of blacks and whites on the one hand and the correlation of education with life expectancy on the other hand.
So what is the reason for the drop in life expectancies among whites without high school diplomas?
...researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.
Color me puzzled here. I'd look for changes in behavior and also in access to health insurance, keeping in mind that blacks and Hispanics (which could contain both blacks and whites) at the same level of education found their life expectancies rising.
Have white women without high school diplomas taken up smoking later than the other groups? Are overdoses of prescription drugs a relatively new thing among this group? Did poorer whites use to have better access to health insurance in the past?
What matters here are recent changes, of all types, not the absolute levels of past life expectancy, and what matters most are changes which cause death at young ages. This is because the life expectancy measure weighs those deaths more, given the larger number of lost years when a young person dies.
It could also be that the group this article discusses has changed from the past:
The decline among the least educated non-Hispanic whites, who make up a shrinking share of the population, widened an already troubling gap. The latest estimate shows life expectancy for white women without a high school diploma was 73.5 years, compared with 83.9 years for white women with a college degree or more. For white men, the gap was even bigger: 67.5 years for the least educated white men compared with 80.4 for those with a college degree or better.
Suppose that the group "white people without a high school diploma" has shrunk not only in proportion to the overall population but in proportion to all whites. If that's the case, it could be that past studies of similarly defined groups had more people with higher life expectancies in them, but that the most recent group does not, perhaps because education has become more accessible, filtering away first those with minimal risk factors?
Under this scenario the drop in the average life expectancy of that group would in some ways be a statistical artifact.
Duh. Not a topic I should have tackled...
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Audrey Farber at PolicyMic will be covering the state of abortion rights in all the fifty states during the forty-seven days left to the election. The first article is available today and covers Maine and New Hampshire.
This is a great idea, to put all the stuff into one series of posts.
Offered to us by Rush Limbaugh:
Limbaugh quickly refers to some Italian study which seems to argue that the size of the average penis has shrunk 10% in the last fifty years. I get a bit dizzy trying to figure out how they did that study and how they guarantee comparability to such a very old piece of research. Would the original researchers be around so that their notes can be checked? How they took the measurements and so on?
Never mind. I might dig up the study if I have time. But Limbaugh uses it as an opportunity to blame us feminazis for any male shrinkage!
So wonderful. We are immensely powerful, without ever appearing in the mainstream media or the corridors of power and without having much money, either. All men need is a glimpse of a feminazi, and look what happens! In fact, we are responsible for most evil things. I recall being blamed for the 9/11 atrocities, for juvenile delinquency, for the destruction of traditional families, for women drinking alcohol, for latchkey children, for boys' troubles at school and also the end of the Western civilizations! Now add to that the ability to shrink penises.
I'm sure Rush is just cracking jokes here. We all know that he is as different from a misogynist as Coke is from Pepsi.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
And greetings, leeches, cuckoo birds and other types of moochers. Also, greetings to upstanding Murkans who never depend on anyone else. (Waves at the one hermit in the deep woods.)
Mary Matalin thinks that Americans can be divided into makers and takers, producers and parasites:
Conservative commentator Mary Matalin hailed Mitt Romney's "47 percent" line on CNN as good news for Republicans.This is damage control after Romney's unfortunate words about nearly half of all Americans. But sometimes less control would be better, don't you think?
"There are makers and takers, there are producers and there are parasites," she said. "Americans can distinguish between those who have produced and paid in through no fault of their own and because of Obama's horrible policies who cannot get a job or are underemployed. That's what the campaign is about."
Are there human parasites (not you, my sweet readers!)? Of course there are, just as there are all sorts of nasty people out there, and some of those who depend on the welfare system may be parasites. Other parasites depend on their families or on their trust funds and so on. Note that my definition of a "parasite" in this context would be someone who is physically and mentally capable of work, has no other obligations, but prefers living on others to working.
Such people exist. They are not limited to the group "poor," and in no social class are they the majority. We can adjust the welfare system to make it harder for parasites to thrive. It's tougher to adjust the support systems of the very rich for the same purpose.
Ezra Klein writes about something related: Responsibility:
Still, for my money, the worst of Romney’s comments were these: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
The problem is that he doesn’t seem to realize how difficult it is to focus on college when you’re also working full time, how much planning it takes to reliably commute to work without a car, or the agonizing choices faced by families in which both parents work and a child falls ill. The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it.
In their book “Poor Economics,” the poverty researchers Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo try to explain why the poor around the world so often make decisions that befuddle the rich.
Their answer, in part, is this: The poor use up an enormous amount of their mental energy just getting by. They’re not dumber or lazier or more interested in being dependent on the government. They’re just cognitively exhausted:
“Our real advantage comes from the many things that we take as given. We live in houses where clean water gets piped in -- we do not need to remember to add Chlorin to the water supply every morning. The sewage goes away on its own -- we do not actually know how. We can (mostly) trust our doctors to do the best they can and can trust the public health system to figure out what we should and should not do. ... And perhaps most important, most of us do not have to worry where our next meal will come from. In other words, we rarely need to draw upon our limited endowment of self-control and decisiveness, while the poor are constantly being required to do so.”
That quote from Banerjee and Duflo sounds more applicable to poverty in developing countries than in the industrialized west. But I came across a Finnish article yesterday (in Finnish, sorry), about a newly poor family, and their concerns are somewhat similar though less urgent.
For example, grocery stores have banned aisles, products which cannot be bought at all because of their price. Buying a cheap bottle of wine for the adults is out of the question because its price equals the family's food budget for the week. Socializing is also out of the question because having people for a meal is far too expensive and because going out once a week would eat up that same food budget.
And the writer discusses that very same cognitive fatigue: Always having to compare prices, always cutting out all the fun in preference to potatoes-next-week-too, always worrying about the next bill or how to pay for the children's school books. Finally, asking for government help is necessary, because of the children's needs. The writer states that she hated doing so, and it looks to me as if the family tried to go it alone for a long time, given the Finnish welfare system.
None of this means that all poor people are saints, just like rich people are unlikely to qualify for that august position. The point I'm trying to make is that being born on the third base doesn't make one a home-run king in the economic baseball games, and those who are not even allowed into the game may not be leeches, parasites or moochers if they fail to score a run.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
I bet it doesn't sound so far-fetched to those who have never been to any European country. But Mitt's attempt to tar that continent with the brush he already used on about half of Americans is still great fun to analyze!
“There’s a tape that just came out today with the president saying he likes redistribution,” Romney said during the eight-minute interview. “I disagree.”
The former Massachusetts governor was referring to an audio clip posted on YouTube and disseminated by the Drudge Report. The 96-second clip, identified only as coming from an Oct. 19, 1998, conference at Loyola University, features the distinctive voice of Obama, who was an Illinois state senator in 1998. The context is unclear, but it appears to be his concluding remarks after a talk about government policy and the “working poor.”
In the brief clip, Obama says at one point, “We’re all in this thing together, leave nobody behind.” Then he says, “My suggestion would be the trick … is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pull resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”
Romney seized on the clip to deflect attention from his headline-grabbing statements about Obama voters and victimization, and to demonstrate his deep philosophical differences with the president.
“I think a society based upon a government-centered nation, where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that’s the wrong course for America,” he said. “I believe the right course for America is one where government steps up to help those that are in need; we are a compassionate people, but then we let people build their own lives, create enterprises….The right course for America is to create growth, create wealth, not to redistribute wealth.”
Smells of desperation to me, Mitt does. But this is the bit I want to write about:
Later, he pressed the argument that the country is on the wrong track with Obama, but that a significant portion of the electorate is on the same page with the president.
“The president is borrowing about a trillion more than we’re taking in every year. It’s a pathway that looks more European than American, in my view, and it’s one that I know some Americans are drawn to,” Romney said. “I think they’re wrong.”
So income redistribution is wrong. That certainly would include American tax-payers bailing out banksters with large investment accounts? American tax-payers bailing out large corporations? Farm subsidies? Publicly funded education?
The concept of "income redistribution" can be a tricky one. What Romney means, ultimately, is that Medicaid (the health care fund for certain limited groups of the poor) is wrong because it redistributes income from those who are not poor to those who are poor, without the latter paying for it, at least at time they need to use it. What Romney means, ultimately, is that almost all social spending is suspect because all of it does redistribute income. So does taxation which is either progressive or regressive, and so do countless other government programs, whether they intend to redistribute income or not.
Even something like the mortgage deduction which is popular among middle class Americans redistributes income because those who rent usually don't get a similar housing deduction, and those who own houses are, on average, wealthier, than those who rent but get a bigger deduction from their taxes.
I get that Romney doesn't speak of the many kinds of income redistribution which might benefit his base and I also get the fact that I'm playing very loose on the definitions here. But income redistribution happens with governments. Romney wants the income redistributed upwards, not downwards.
What about those Europeans then? Well, Europe is a continent, not a country, and different countries in it have different policies. Most (if not all) European countries offer health care in the bundle one gets from paying one's taxes. Most (if not all) European countries offer at least partial funding of higher education (for those who qualify) in those taxes. Essentially all other industrialized countries require that workers get an annual leave of some length. The United States does not. In many European countries the vacation is from four weeks up to six weeks and it is paid in some form.
Most European countries offer paid parental leave. Many offer subsidized public daycare to those who qualify by income. Sounds like a surrender-monkey paradise to me. You might call all this (and the child benefits which many countries also offer parents with small children) income redistribution, but that misses the point. It's not a system of leeches sucking on the big governments. Most everyone gets something from the government, in exchange for those taxes and over one's lifetime.
Incidentally, the United States has a more unequal income distribution than all those surrender monkey countries! But all this is because Mitt and others like him believe that Americans prefer not to have annual vacations or subsidies for college education or parental leave or publicly funded health care for all.
There. I didn't intend to rant like that and I do not argue that European countries are wonderful paradises. One pays for those services. But one pays for them through the markets, too, and the poorer one is, the less markets will help.
It's also true that Spain and Greece have their hands full of severe economic crises. But those were not created by the welfare systems of the respective countries. They came about because of the deranged financial markets and supra-national political games and, yes, income redistribution between countries based on very shady rules and gambles. Besides, globalization has created a market where pensioners' funds in Norway now suffer because of the bundling of bad mortgages with some good ones here in the land of the free, and globalization has created a situation where those countries who pay their workers in chicken food and damage the environment can "win" the international games.
Closer to home, remember all those charts about the US states which give more to the government than they get back? Remember how it is the red states who benefit from net income transfers and the blue states who are net payers to the system? I don't think Mitt wants that system changed!
Which means that "income redistribution" is in the eye of the beholder.
The Values Voter Summit is about voters whose values apply to other people's behavior, pretty much. Or that's my humble opinion, because most of them are concerned about gays and lesbians and the atrocious immodesty of women.
Think Progress discussed the most recent Values Voter Summit last week:
Literature being handed out at the Values Voter Summit on Friday attacks women for being “immodest” and extolled them to “go home and put some clothes on!”
In flyers and brochures on display at Values Voters, the social conservative conference where Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan spoke, an organization called Modesty Matters criticized women for dressing “immodestly” at church, and blamed women for causing men to stare lustfully at them.
Women must “embrace MODESTY in dress and behavior,” one of the handouts read. Women dressed immodestly in church are “an insult to a holy God,” another said.
Ouch. I wonder what the church ladies are wearing, to cause such a fuss. Something ankle revealing?
Just kidding. This reminded me so much about the extreme Islamic prescription for women's dress and a similar praise of modesty in women. As the Think Progress mentions, this is explained by men being so very visual!
Could blinders help? Or just not looking? That's sorta what I do when something I could see might upset me. I turn my divine gaze away. Worth trying.
Perhaps that is far too simple. But what are the studies which prove that men are visual and that women are not visual? Those studies might exist, of course. Still, I smell an excuse here, the idea that women are ultimately the ones responsible for that snake of lust rising inside the men's ... chests.
Finally, we learn this from our Voters With Values:
- From the “True Woman Manifesto”: “All women, whether married of single, are to model femininity in their various relationships, by exhibiting a distinctive modesty, responsiveness, and gentleness of spirit.”
Translated into our reality, women must be submissive and not seen until needed. When that happens, they have to go along with whatever is wanted from them.
Monday, September 17, 2012
In a private fund-raiser, presidential candidate Mittens Romney said this:
There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.
Romney went on: "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
You can hear him say it on the Mother Jones site.
Let me see who might be on that list of the little piglets at the teats of the big government sow. Given that corporations are people, too, how about these guys: Boeing and Time Warner? According to an MSNBC story both of these firms managed to pay zero federal income tax during at least some years in the last ten. Many other corporate behemoths paid teeny-weeny federal income taxes. That's because they are moochers.
And what about all those victims Romney mentions? Like almost half of all Americans? Well, quite a few of them are retired people or students. Others are poor enough not to have to pay federal income taxes. Yet others are middle class but use the child deduction or education deductions and end up with no federal income tax liability. Most of these people pay other taxes, of course.
How did we create all these moochers, anyway? It turns out a lot to do with Republican (and some Democratic) tax policies. Republicans want to give tax breaks to the very rich, but they can't quite get away with just rewarding that group, so the tax breaks must be extended down the income pyramid. And the consequence is that lots of people then no longer pay federal income taxes at all. Because that was the only way to cut the federal income taxes for the wealthiest tax-payers. But as Leonhardt points out, even many in the poorest 20% of earners pay various other federal taxes, such as payroll taxes. This means that Romney's target group does not consist of people dependent on the government, for the most part, and it does not consist of people who pay no taxes and just receive, receive and receive.
But you knew all that already, my erudite and charming readers.
Digby has two good pictures of the actual situation of those who pay no federal income tax. One is a table which spells out the characteristics of all the affected groups, another is a map which shows us where most of the "moochers" are located. You can guess what that map shows.
OK. Now I really want to see Romney's tax forms for the last twenty years or so. Was he ever a moocher?
Facts (or their absence) is not really the interesting bit about Romney's statement. It's the idea that almost all Americans are dependent on the government, regard themselves as victims and want to be fed and housed like baby birds but for life. But then people who are born with trust funds are in the very same basic situation, right?
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Some time ago I complained about the loss of a recipe. I found it! It was in my own archives, of all things...
Here it is
This is a recipe I used to make a lot at one time. If you like spicy cookies with a dryish texture (good with coffee), you might like these. My apologies for the gram measures. The deciliters are acceptable substitutes and easier to convert into cup measures, and butter packages usually come with markings which let you convert the grams into ounces.
200 grams of butter or margarine
175 grams (2dl) of sugar
1 tablespoon of molasses
3 teaspoons of ground cardamom
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of baking soda
400 grams (6dl) of flour
What to do:
Beat the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add the molasses and the egg. Mix. Stir the rest of the ingredients together and sieve them into the butter-sugar mixture. Mix everything together.
Make small balls out of the batter and put them on prepared baking pans. When the pan is full, take a fork, dip it in flour, and use it to both flatten the balls and mark them with the fork. You need to keep dipping the fork in flour or otherwise it sticks. Repeat as many times as you need.
Bake at 200 centigrades (400 Fahrenheit). Preheat the oven first. Check after ten minutes. I like them rather burnt. Should make about 80.
Note: If you use freshly ground cardamom or cinnamon, adjust the amounts downwards unless you like truly spicy cookies/biscuits.
Carol Hanisch (birthdate unknown) is best known for coming up with the idea to have a feminist protest of the 1968 Miss America pageant (which first brought feminist concerns to the attention of the mainstream media) and for writing The Personal Is Political, which was published in 1969 and coined the phrase. In this paper she argues that women and other oppressed people should stop blaming themselves for their problems and realize that those problems are often caused by oppression and have political solutions. You can read The Personal Is Political in its entirety here.
Del Martin (1921-2008) is best known as an LGBT rights activist, but she also fought for women’s rights. She was active in the National Organization for Women, and wrote Battered Wives, showing how institutionalized misogyny contributed to domestic violence. In 1970 she wrote If That’s All There Is, an indictment of the sexism in the LGBT rights movement. It can be read in its entirety here.
Adrienne Rich (1929 –2012) was an American poet, and essayist, called "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century", and was credited with bringing "the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse.”
In her 1980 essay Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence, Rich, herself a lesbian, posits that many women are forced into heterosexuality through women's dependence on men for money and status, violence, denial of knowledge about lesbianism, and so forth. She further declares that sexual repression of women has also stifled women’s creativity and economic advancement through rendering them dependent on men.
Whether one agrees with all this or not, this is an important document in the history of feminism, and its concept has been accepted and embraced in many college classes and by human rights activists. As one example of its scope, the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women, held in Brussels, March 4-8, 1976, named compulsory heterosexuality (in the form of discrimination against and persecution of lesbians) as a "crime against women."The essay can be read in its entirety here.
Linda Nochlin (born 1931) Linda Nochlin is an art historian, professor and writer, best known for her 1971 essay Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?
In this essay, which has become very influential in the field of art history, she argues that general social expectations against women seriously pursuing art, restrictions on educating women at art academies, and "the entire romantic, elitist, individual-glorifying, and monograph-producing substructure upon which the profession of art history is based" have worked against women becoming great artists.
She also argues that the idea of a lone great artist is somewhat exaggerated, as many have been supported by the help of assistants, patrons, schooling, etc, and have not simply created works of genius alone and unprovoked. You can read the essay in its entirety here.
Anne Koedt (born 1941) is best known as the author of The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, first published in 1970. In this essay, building on the work of Masters and Virginia Johnson’s Human Sexual Response Koedt advocated new sexual techniques mutually conducive to orgasm and urged women to insist on their own sexual satisfaction. She noted that penis-in-vagina sex (as opposed to oral sex, etc) that does not involve clitoris stimulation often results in women not having orgasms, and encouraged women to consider sex without their pleasure to be as unthinkable as sex without his penis being touched or him having an orgasm, an idea which mainstream society still has not adopted. The essay can be read in its entirety here.
Robin Morgan (born 1941) was a child actor and writer. She edited the 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful, which has been widely credited with helping to start the general women's movement in the US, and was cited by the New York Public Library as "One of the 100 most influential Books of the 20th Century.” It was one of the first widely available anthologies of second-wave feminism. Also in 1970, she wrote Goodbye to All That in reaction to the misogyny of the male-dominated left, in particular a magazine called Rat. The essay gained notoriety in the press for naming sexist liberal men and institutions. It can be read in its entirety here.
Rabbi Rachel Adler (born 1943) is a professor and theologian, ordained as a rabbi in May 2012.In 1971 she published The Jew Who Wasn’t There:Halacha and the Jewish Woman, in which she argued that halacha (Jewish religious law) ignored and oppressed women. This essay was considered by historian Paula Hyman as one of the founding influences of the Jewish feminist movement. It can be read in its entirety here.
Carol P. Christ (born 1944) is a teacher and author. Her speech Why Women Need the Goddess was presented as the keynote address to an audience of over 500 at the "Great Goddess Re-emerging" conference at the University of Santa Cruz in the spring of 1978, and was first published later that year. It has since been widely reprinted. In this speech she argues in favor of the concept of there having been an ancient religion of a supreme Goddess. The speech can be read in its entirety here.
Alice Walker (born 1944) is an author and activist. In 1974 she wrote In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: The Creativity of Black Women in the South in which she argued that black women’s artistic and literary gifts had been suppressed, and that there was a hidden history of oppressed black women artists. This essay can be read in its entirety here: http://www.msmagazine.com/spring2002/walker.asp
Her 1975 nonfiction article In Search of Zora Neale Hurston, published in Ms. magazine, helped revive interest in the work of Zora Neale Hurston (a feminist author best known for Their Eyes Were Watching God), who inspired some of Walker's writing and subject matter. In the article told of her journey to central Florida, where Hurston lived, hoping to find anyone who knew her and thus fill in the missing details of her life. When she arrived, Walker realized that few had heard of Hurston or read her works, nor had they properly honored her after she died. Posing as her niece, Walker made her way to Hurston’s weed-covered grave and purchased a headstone with the engraving: “A Genius of the South, 1901 – 1960. Novelist, Folklorist, Anthropologist”. This article is widely available in English but is not available online.
Ezrat Nashim (founded 1971) was a Jewish feminist group. The name refers to the women’s section in a traditional synagogue, but also can mean "women's help."
In 1972 they took the issue of equality for women to the 1972 convention of Conservative Judaism’s Rabbinical Assembly, presenting a document on 14 March that was titled Jewish Women Call for a Change. The rabbis received the document in their convention packets, but Ezrat Nashim also presented it during a meeting with the rabbis' wives. The document demanded that women be accepted as witnesses before Jewish law, be considered as bound to perform all mitzvot (commandments),, be allowed full participation in religious observances, have equal rights in marriage and be allowed to initiate divorce, be counted in the minyan (religious quorum), and be permitted to assume positions of leadership in the synagogue and within the general Jewish community.
Historian Paula Hyman, who was a member of Ezrat Nashim, wrote that: "We recognized that the subordinate status of women was linked to their exemption from positive time-bound mitzvot, and we therefore accepted increased obligation as the corollary of equality.” Eleven years later, in October 1983, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the main educational institution of the Conservative movement, announced its decision to accept women into the Rabbinical School. Hyman took part in the vote as a member of the JTS faculty.
Today, women are ordained as rabbis and cantors, and can read from the Torah in front of the congregation and be counted in the minyan, have full participation in religious observances, and be accepted as witnesses before Jewish law, in all types of Judaism except Orthodox Judaism. However, women are still not allowed to initiate divorce in Conservative as well as Orthodox Judaism, and are not considered as bound to perform all mitzvot by the Orthodox. But women have assumed positions of leadership in the synagogue and within the general Jewish community within all types of Judaism.
The Combahee River Collective (founded 1974)was a black feminist lesbian group. Their name commemorated an action at Combahee River planned and led by Harriet Tubman in 1863, which freed more than 750 slaves and is the only military campaign in American history planned and led by a woman.
In 1977 they publishedA Black Feminist Statement, a key document in the history of contemporary black feminism and the development of the concepts of identity as used among political organizers and social theorists. It describes the importance of black feminism, the difficulties in organizing black feminists, the realities of interlocking oppressions, and racism in the mainstream women’s movement. The essay can be read in its entirety here.
By the way, for anyone interested in my earlier series A Literary Canon of Women Writers, parts eleven and twelve, covering the nineteenth century, can be found here organized in chronological order by the author’s date of birth:http://www.thenewagenda.net/2012/08/05/women-writers-of-the-nineteenth-century/