E.J. Graff

A Reading Assortment for 11/11/11

Occupy Harvard's signs say "We want a university for the 99 percent!" Umm, where I come from, we call those "state schools." #justsaying The U.S. Census reports that half of working women have no paid maternity leave. And guess whose jobs are least likely to offer paid leave? The 50 percent who need it most. Hope Yen's article for the AP includes this: Lower-educated mothers are nearly four times more likely than college graduates to be denied paid maternity benefits. That’s the widest gap over the past 50 years. Women with no more than a high-school diploma saw drop-offs in paid-leave benefits from the early 2000s to the period covering 2006 to 2008, which includes the first year of the recession.... The analysis highlights the patchwork of work-family arrangements in the U.S., which lacks a federal policy on paid parental leave, unlike most other countries. There’s a longer-term trend of widening U.S. income inequality caused by slowing wage growth at the middle- and lower-income...

Penn State, Sexual Assault, and the Abuse of Power

A lot has confused me about the outrage about Penn State's apparent cover-up of its former assistant coach's serial molestation and assault of children. Football is lousy with entitled rapists. No, I'm not saying that all football players rape. But I am saying that we hear football-rapist stories regularly. Most women know someone who was (or were themselves) groped, date-raped, or sexually assaulted by a high school or college football player who thought he owned whatever walked by. Consider what commentator Michele Weldon wrote in the Chicago Tribune : In late October, a Texas youth football coach in Abilene was arrested on charges of sexual assault with a child and two counts of indecency with a child. This past summer, a Rhode Island youth football coach was arrested on sexual assault and child molestation charges. A few weeks after that, an Omaha, Neb., youth football league organizer was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a girl. A youth soccer coach from a south...

In Which DOMA Crumbles Just a Little Bit More

Has anyone been trying to keep score at home on the many attacks on the Defense of Marriage Act ? There are so many different ways it could fall. Today’s news came from the Senate, where the Judiciary Committee voted in favor of Sen. Feinstein’s Respect for Marriage Act, referring it to the full body. The RMA would repeal DOMA, thereby enabling same-sex couples who are legally married in their home states would be treated as married by the federal government as well. (Six U.S. states and the District of Columbia currently marry same-sex couples; see the map here .) That means, for instance, that my wife would stop paying thousands of dollars in federal taxes for listing me on her health insurance; a New Hampshire man married to a Brazilian, say, could sponsor his foreign-born husband for legal residency or citizenship. The discussion in the committee was short, nothing like the full theater of the July 20 hearing on the bill, in which everyone said the same things as they did back...

God's Calling Again

Need some diversion, besides “oops”? Check this out: God calls Katha Pollitt and tries to talk her into running for president. With Perry and Cain self-destructing, each in his own special way, might she have a shot?

Sexual Assault Versus Harassment

So now there's a fifth allegation against Herman Cain—and we can see exactly why women have been loath to come forward and be dragged through the mud. I don't know what Cain did or did not in fact do to Sharon Bialek, or Karen Kraushaar, or to the other three women who've decided to protect their sanity and jobs by keeping their names private. I am sure that some dedicated reporters are doing their best to double-check the accusations—and since attorney Lin Wood is implicitly threatening the news media with the possibility of libel lawsuits, you can be sure that litigation-averse major media outlets will triple-check to see that every fact is sourced, checked, nailed down, and lawyered up before you see it in print or pixel. But all that aside, one misunderstanding of Sharon Bialek's allegations startled me. Let's review the allegation, as reported in The New York Times : In her statement to the press, Ms. Bialek said that she had been fired at the association after about a year...

Are They Orphans?

Beware of overseas orphanages seeking donations. If you're not careful, you may become the victim of an orphanage scam—in which a savvy entrepreneur in a poor country hustles up some children so that he or she can ask developed-world humanitarians for money for the children's support. In some of the notorious cases , the orphanage director pockets the money while the children are left to starve or sold for sex. Few people know that they may be underwriting kidnapping or other modes of defrauding local families out of their children. In other cases, the traffickers put the children—who are neither abandoned nor orphaned—up for international adoption, which can bring in astonishing fees. One version of the orphanage scam has just been uncovered in India by the Esther Benjamins Memorial Foundation. Several years ago, a now-infamous child-trafficker traveled through Nepal's Humla province, asking families to pay him to take their children to boarding schools in Kathmandu. Instead,...

The Kids Aren't All Right

Don’t miss The Washington Monthly ’s article Taxing the Kindness of Strangers , in which a couple of bleeding-heart, middle-class liberals take in a foster care child—and discover the exhaustion and humiliations of trying to get the services the child needs. In a way that we never really anticipated, welcoming Sophia into our home led us into the wilderness of red tape and frustration navigated every day by low-income parents who struggle to raise children with the critical help of government programs … It’s a major bureaucratic process to remove a child from her home and family. The state insures the child, pays for daycare, investigates the claims of abuse, and retains legal custody, but it cannot actually put a baby to bed at night. And so, on the other side of this most intimate public-private partnership are usually people like us, left alone with a stranger’s child and a garbage bag full of clothes and wondering what’s going to happen next. And what happens next depends, to a...

Good Night, Sweet Prince

The tooth fairy visited our house recently, which made me remember the time—many years ago, when tooth redemption brought only a quarter—that the tooth fairy kept forgetting to claim the tooth under my pillow. After a week, I put a sign on my bedroom door: TOOTH STOP! The next morning, I had my quarter, and a signed note. The tooth fairy explained that he had an extraordinarily large territory that included the Indian Ocean, and apologized for having been delayed by recent monsoons. The note was signed “Prince Oberon.” Of course I recognized the handwriting; I was eight, and by then I knew who the tooth fairy really was. But the note’s full delight didn’t really hit me until, in college, I read Midsummer Night’s Dream and laughed out loud. I loved that about my father: Playfulness that I would only fully appreciate years later. He was ordinary and extraordinary, like everyone: a Korean war vet who went to grad school on the GI bill, a mathematician who helped the Air Force's prime...

Herman Cain and the Problem of Serial Harassers

What is it that turns a person into a serial predator? Is there something about power that makes some men think they can take whatever they want, or are there men who just don't recognize women as human? Make no mistake: Real sexual harassment is predation. My rule has long been that if I hear one allegation, I wait to hear the evidence—might be true, might be false. If I hear two serious allegations in which women took the risk of bringing the charge publicly, I assume there are more. Someone smart at the Associated Press must know that rule, because their reporters have turned up a third allegation of sexual harassment against Herman Cain: A third woman considered filing a workplace complaint against Herman Cain over what she deemed aggressive and unwanted behavior when she and Cain, now a Republican presidential candidate, worked together during the late 1990s, the woman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. She said the behavior included a private invitation to his corporate...

How Far We Haven't Come, Episode #1707

Remember "The End of Men," the concept that the future belongs to women, because women are more prepared for today's economy? Well, it hasn't hit us yet. Even when women are better educated, men earn more, at least in most parts of the workforce. As Motoko Rich reports at The New York Times , Even with the same college and professional degrees, men earn more than women . And among so-called creative class workers like architects, teachers, artists, engineers, bankers and journalists, men earn much more than women , even though more women hold such jobs. It’s similar at the bottom end of the scale. According to a report issued Thursday by the United States Government Accountability Office, a higher proportion of women finish high school than men, a milestone that is a minimum requirement for any job mobility. Women — especially younger women — are also completing bachelor’s degrees at higher rates than men. Yet they represent a higher proportion of low-wage workers, defined in the...

How Far We've Come, Episode #407

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Back in the mesozoic era of LGBT rights—probably about 1985 or so—I remember reporting for a local gay newsweekly on a young woman in a less-than-affluent Boston suburb who was demonized for trying to take her girlfriend to the prom. She struck me as a little unstable and troubled, as anyone would have had to be to risk the harassment and death threats that hounded her. And even though I was the snotty anti-prom type during my high school years (see under: poet ) and went with my best friend to a Greek Orthodox Easter midnight mass instead of my high school's prom, I was in awe that this teenager would take that on. I hope that my impression was wrong, and that she ultimately fared well. I thought of her when I saw this item on a California lesbian couple at Patrick Henry high school, where the crowd cheered insanely as they crowned the pair homecoming king and queen. Neither one appears especially butch, but those titles were the only ones available. They're absolutely adorable, just...

Does David Brooks Understand Market Economics?

In his weekly back-and-forth with Gail Collins at The New York Times " Opinionator" blog this week, David Brooks finds a backhanded way to blame a woman for being forced out of a job by her supervisor's sexual advances. He doesn't seem to realize that his comment blames anyone who asks for compensation for an employer's negligence or harm: David Brooks: Now we turn to ethical issues. My first question, and this is a genuine question, concerns the victims. Let’s detach ourselves from the specifics of the Cain case and consider a general question: If you are the victim of sexual harassment, and you agree to remain silent in exchange for a five-figure payoff, should any moral taint attach to you? In the old days, somebody who allowed a predator to continue his hunting in exchange for money would certainly be considered a sinner. I’m reluctant to judge people in these circumstances, but I’m inclined to agree. Am I missing something? Well, yes, he is...

Are You Pink- or Blue-Brained?

(Flickr/TZA)
Think that single-sex education is a sensible idea, since boys and girls learn so differently? Think again. In Slate recently, neuroscientist Lise Eliot , who researches child brain development, and social psychology professor Rebecca Bigler explained their recently published peer-reviewed article in Science , which examines an “overwhelming body of research on the topic.” They had three main findings: “Decades of research on academic outcomes from around the world has failed to demonstrate an advantage to single-sex schooling, in spite of popular belief to the contrary.” “Thousands of studies comparing brain and behavioral function between adult men and women have found small to insignificant differences, and even smaller differences between boys and girls.” “Single-sex schooling facilitates social stereotypes and prejudice in children.” If facts, not ideology, have any hope of carrying the day, this article should be essential reading in the Mars/Venus-at-school debates. Part of the...

Has Occupy Wall Street Affected Anything?

Peter Dreier at HuffPo has a cool graph showing how often the word “inequality” appeared in news coverage between October 2010 and October 2011. Guess what happens right about, oh, September 17 ? (Hat tip to Mother Jones ).

Anti-Abortion and Pro-Choice?

(Flickr/ClinicEscort)
Last week, I asked: So what if I hadn’t been born? In response, Rachael Larimore at Slate kindly took up my offer to discuss, as she puts it, “the lightest of topics”: abortion . You will not be surprised to learn that we differ on some core points. First, she believes that embryos are human beings. Here she writes: … this photo of a 10-week-old embryo clearly shows limbs and eyes and organs and a brain. It might look like an imagined Roswell-esque alien, but if it’s not human, I don’t know what is. Rachael, I disagree. I see an embryo, the size of a pinkie, that couldn’t survive even in the most intensive NICU. It doesn’t have a working brain, internal organs, or lungs that could function under any circumstances. It’s a mush of rapidly dividing cells with enormous potential to be a human, if nothing intervenes, like a miscarriage or a D&C. But to me, that uninhabited scrunch of cells is no more human than an acorn is an oak tree. And so I don’t agree that “it’s barbaric to kill 1...

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