Friday, January 16, 2015

Short Friday Posts 1/16/2015: On Female Circumcision, The End of Vagina Monologues (?) And Paid Sick Leave as Giveaways

1.  This is a very moving first-person essay on female circumcision or genital mutilation, depending on which term you prefer.

2.  Mount Holyoke College no longer performs Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues which had been an annual tradition.  The reason?  Focusing on vaginas is not inclusive:

...the argument is premised on the idea that a) not all women have vaginas, and b) some men do have vaginas, because some trans individuals identify and live as a different gender than they were born without getting genital reconstructive surgery. Ergo, a trans women is a woman, full stop, but she may have a penis. A trans man is a man, full stop, but he may have a vagina. Fine. I get that. I'm cool with that. And, regardless, it doesn't matter if I'm cool with it, because how other people define their genders/bodies/sexualities is none of my concern. If you are a woman without a vagina, neat; there is totally room for all of our experiences in this great big, crazy world.

Yet I am a woman with a vagina, and this becomes an area of my concern when people start saying that I shouldn't reference or acknowlege that—that it's in fact bad and intolerant so 20th century to even speak about it. The fact that some trans women don't have vaginas doesn't negate the fact that the vast majority of women do. And now, in the name of feminism, "female-validating talk about vaginas is now forbidden," as one anonymous writer on a Mount Holyoke messageboard put it. "That's so misogynistic under the guise of ‘progress.'"

That's a topic which will certainly get you into pretzel arguments!  I'm not at all certain that any trans man could get cis men convinced that talking about penises is not acceptable when it comes to defining men.

I agree with the author of that Reason piece in that talking about vaginas is in one sense pretty inclusive (as the vast, vast majority of women do happen to have them and as most of the oppression and control of women is based on those women having vaginas), while not talking about vaginas is pretty much patriarchy as it used to be (should you wish to use that word), whatever the good intentions are.

This is one example where views of oppressions appear to clash, and the reason is the lack of nuances.  It's not necessary for the word "vagina" to be erased for trans women to be covered by the term "women" or for feminism to stretch large enough to cover the needs of both cis women and trans women.  

The global debate on women's reproductive issues is pretty undeveloped, by the way.  We are nowhere near the time when talk about vaginas would somehow no longer be needed in the non-pornographic sense.  The pornographers will go on talking about vaginas in any case.

3.  On Fox News, Stuart Varney defines paid sick leave and parental leave as giveaways.*  Both he and the interviewer focus on who is to pay for such leave.  Varney says it's taxpayers for the parental leave proposal for federal workers and employers for the general proposal of one week of paid sick leave for all workers.

The framing is that the audience of the program consists of those who pay for this, not those who both pay for this and receive the benefits.  But surely the audience of Fox News also consists of those tax payers who cover the corporate takeaways?  Who pay more taxes because of the many and various deductions corporations are entitled to?

In any case the actual burden of paying some labor-related cost is divided between the employers and employees in differing proportions depending on the characteristics of the relevant labor market.

As the linked story explains, other developed countries in fact do have those horrible giveaways.  The US is competing unfairly, one might say, by refusing to have the same types of benefits which are regarded as normal elsewhere.

I like to think of benefits of this sort as just a part of the total compensation package.  Many jobs have retirement benefits, right?  They are ultimately just like wages.  The difference with paid sick leave, say, is that it somewhat reduces the risks the employees face because of causes such as illness.  And as the Media Matters article points out, it's often the poorest of workers who have the least of this type of insurance.

The Fox people worry about people taking the sick leave even when they are not sick, as a form of extra vacation time.  There's a fairly easy way to limit that tendency, and that is to require a note from a health care professional for the money to be paid.  That's what other countries do, I think.
*Added later:  An interview worth reading in this context.