Gender & Sexuality

Our Customers Don't Want a Pregnant Waitress

Fox Searchlight

Having a family shouldn’t cost you your job. It does, again and again—especially if you’re female. Which is one of the reasons women’s pay still isn’t equal.

Homophobia in Sports and Changing Hearts

49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, celebrating his newfound respect for gay people. (AP photo by Paul Spinelli)

Almost all of us, at some time in our youth, had the experience of saying something that turned out to be way more inappropriate than we thought it was, whereupon people turned to us and said, "Dude. Not cool." In most cases, it concerned something we just hadn't thought that much about, and it often occurs when you move from one milieu to another with different mores and ideas, like going from high school to college. Or existing in a world of football players and suddenly finding yourself quoted in the media on a sociopolitical topic because your team is in the Super Bowl, which is what happened to San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver.

When it happens in your dorm room, someone will explain to you why the joke you made or the term you used was out of line, and you'll probably say, "Huh—I hadn't thought about it that way, but OK." And armed with that knowledge, you'll adapt to your new surroundings and the changing times. But Culliver found himself in hot water when he was on a radio program and got asked if there were any gay players on his team. "We don't have any gay guys on the team," he said. "They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff." Culliver was apparently unaware that he plays in San Francisco, and by the next day, his team management had condemned him and forced him to issue a rather amusing apology. "The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel," he said. "It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience."

The Worst State for Women?

North Dakota joins the list of states reversing decades of gains in gender equality.

Flickr/ ggolan

North Dakota joins the list of states working hard to reverse decades of gains in gender equality.

Leave Julia Alone!

Obama campaign

In early May, shortly after the peak of the GOP's war-on-women problem, the Obama campaign released a simple online infographic that inspired outrage from conservative commentators. Titled "The Life of Julia," the slideshow followed a hypothetical woman named Julia throughout various stages of her life in order to compare Obama's policies to the ones proposed by Mitt Romney. At age three, toddler Julia plays with a bead maze and enjoys the benefits of Head Start under Obama's America, while the infographic warns that Romney would cut Head Start by 20 percent. By age 27 the adult Julia is a web designer—a knowing wink to the young urban hipsterati loathed by conservatives—whose birth control is covered by her health insurance thanks to Obamacare's reforms, but would have lost those if Romney had his way.

Breaking the Military’s Brass Ceiling

Leon Panetta's decision to end the women in combat ban was the right one, and long overdue.

AP Photo, File

At a meeting of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission in March 2010, someone asked then-Marine Corps Commandant James T. Conway whether it was possible for a woman to ever be promoted to his position. He had to think about it for a little bit. Not from the usual career path of "combat arms," he said, because those were closed to women; maybe a female pilot could be eligible. Then he added that he didn't think anything would change "because I don’t think our women want it to change."

The Peak of Her Game

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

With due respect to Barack Obama, his second inaugural address—containing not a single phrase likely to end up chiseled in stone, but a tactical masterpiece in its GOP-marginalizing, progressive redefinition of what the traffic will bear—wasn't the best political TV of the week. The best political TV of the week was Hillary Clinton's testimony in front of the Senate and then House Foreign Relations Committees on Wednesday. After licking their chops for weeks at the prospect, Republicans eyeing 2016—specifically, potential contenders Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, both of whom were among her quizzers—may be wondering why they didn't play it safe and summon Beyonce to grill her about lip-synching our furshlugginer national anthem instead.

Equal Opportunity Soldiers On

Flickr/Beverly & Pack/U.S. Army

You know what repealing "don't ask, don't tell" did to change the military, right?  

Nothing, absolutely nothing. It acknowledged what was already true: lesbians and gay men were doing their jobs, just like everyone else. With the repeal, of course, thousands of people were freer to breathe easily, but nothing else changed.

Workers, Not Babysitters

There's still a long way to go to ensure domestic workers have the same protections as other workers, but progress is coming. 

Flickr/brk in bklyn

Some very welcome news may break soon for the domestic workforce: the White House appears to be close to announcing a rule change to the Federal Labor Standards Act, finally including home health aides—those who bathe, nurse, toilet, and care for the elderly and disabled in their homes—in its protections. It may sound out of another century, and it is, but home health care workers had been excluded from federal overtime and minimum wage protections through a companionship exemption. It was designed to leave out only those who provided company, but had become so widely interpreted as to encompass a vital, booming workforce.

Women to Serve In Combat Units

Flick/U.S. Marine Corps

Today, acting on the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that he is lifting the ban, in place since 1994, on women serving in combat roles in the United States military. One has to wonder how much longer this would have taken had we not had the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but the reality on the ground—that women have been fighting and dying alongside their male colleagues for the last decade—made this almost inevitable. What changes now is that women can serve in units like infantry that are designated as combat units.

I'm sure some conservatives are going to start hemming and hawing about how the lack of upper body strength among your average lady-type means this will accelerate the wussification of the U.S. military, and how it was just inevitable under Barack Obama's plan to destroy America. No doubt we'll hear that from Rush Limbaugh, who probably couldn't do a push-up if there was a capital gains tax cut waiting at the top of it.

Freedom to Choose, Freedom to Marry

Is sex evil unless it leads directly to babies? Is marriage only legitimate if it fosters offspring, or is it also for intimacy? The U.S. Supreme Court issued three decisions between June 7, 1965 and Jan. 22, 1973 that collectively give the answer: No. Roe, the last of them, can be thought of as the exclamation mark. As we reflect on the 40th anniversary of that decision, there's another group that has Roe to thank for the rights it enjoys today: LGBT Americans.

Mississippi's Last Abortion Provider

Flickr/kbrookes

Twelve years ago, Dr. Willie Parker was at home listening to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” sermon. Parker had heard the words many times before. But this time, he found himself focusing on King’s interpretation of the Bible story of the “good Samaritan,” who stopped to help a man who had been left for dead by robbers. Though others had passed the man by, the Samaritan stopped, King explained, because he didn’t think about the harm that might befall him if he did. Instead, he asked what might happen to the dying man if he did not.

The Demographics of Abortion: It's Not What You Think

Why does the ’70s-era image of the white, middle-class teenager as the typical abortion patient persist?

AP Photo

In the 40 years since Roe v. Wade, quite a bit has changed about the abortion debate. Evangelicals have taken the helm of the anti-choice movement, once dominated by Catholics. The movement has shifted strategies repeatedly—from stoking moral outrage and blocking abortion clinics to feigning concern for women’s health and, most recently, passing innocuous-sounding building regulations aimed at eliminating access to abortion.

Looking Back at Pro-Choice's Battles

AP Photo/Nick Ut

It's been 40 years since the Supreme Court's landmark decision over a woman's right to choose in Roe v. Wade. How has the landscape over the issue of abortion and the politics of reproductive health changed since? Here's a round-up of our best coverage over the past decade on the changing climate, both in public opinion and in legislatures inside the beltway and out, over abortion.

The Line between Roe and Wade

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Forty years after the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to abortion in the Fourth Amendment on behalf of “Jane Roe”—a 25-year-old single mother in Texas named Norma McCorvey—America is as  unsettled as ever on the issue. This is for two reasons that, by their nature, are at odds with each other. The first is that abortion is a metaphysical enigma to which neither wisdom nor experience provides a definitive answer; we’re therefore left to fashion an imperfect political response to a question that’s fundamentally spiritual.

What's Left of Roe

Barack Obama's re-election might make the landmark decision safe for now, but its meaning has eroded over the years.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, file)

Since the ruling was handed down 40 years ago today, Roe v. Wade—which held that the constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy included a woman's right to choose to have an abortion—has been subject to an ongoing legal and political assault. This assault has not succeeded in getting the decision overturned. But it has caused the scope of the opinion to become narrower in ways that have disproportionately affected the rights of women of color, poor women, and women in isolated, rural areas. The re-election of Barack Obama might make Roe safe for the time being, but it is worth taking stock of how its meaning is being eroded and what the future battles would be.

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