Wednesday, December 4, 2013

WHAT IS 'THE MODERN VILLAGE'?

The roles of mothers and fathers have changed dramatically in the past three decades.

In 1975, when I was ten, my father went to work while my mother stayed home to take care of my two brothers, our big suburban house and me.  This arrangement was pretty standard practice from house to house in our neighborhood.

Today, when I look around my own suburban town I see a very different dynamic.  More women are going to work to support themselves and their families.  More and more men are taking an active role in the daily care of their children, some staying home altogether.  Today, the title of “head of household” is more likely to rotate based on need and ability, rather than gender.

In addition, the families around me are being created, combined, and reconfigured in a multitude of ways, including through adoption or remarriage. Today’s families are a splendid mix of cultural backgrounds, of religious and racial complexity, and of educational, political and economic diversity.

What’s been gained seems obvious — greater freedom and satisfaction for everyone.

But what’s been lost is not so easy to recognize.

In the decade since I became a parent, and made it my business to talk to and about parents, I’ve observed a common problem: families don’t feel truly connected to their communities.

It used to be that your community came with the three-bedroom house you bought.  Your Village came with your backyard, or front stoop, and that village often included grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  By virtue of location, one could assume that you and your neighbors shared a certain set of values, block by socio-economic block.  There was daily and weekly contact with your neighbors, too, and kids played together in the street without adult mediation.

Now, it’s not unusual to live many miles away from where you were born and raised. Or for your siblings, parents or extended family to have moved far from you. Now, when mom and dad need a break there’s no relief in sight that doesn’t come with a fee.

Community building is hard work

Particularly when the previous, traditional points of community contact — the school yard, grocery
store, church or temple — won’t do anymore, because both mom and dad are working, or because five kids on any given block attend five different schools and a multitude of different after-school activities. It’s hard to feel connected when your next-door neighbors are having very different, daily experiences. Even getting your entire family together in the same place at the same time, more than one night a week, seems impossible!

These increased choices as to how and where we live and where our kids attend school are changing the very nature of our villages.

An increase of choices in how and where we work has changed our village, too.

Many moms and dads now work from home, and it is their children that do the commuting. But even working from home is no guarantee that you’ll know your neighbors because it’s often a single, solitary affair punctuated by trips to Staples or the post office, in your car.

The way our children make friends has changed, too, often having to accommodate a working parent’s schedule.  My friend’s children became my daughter’s friends in large part because that’s whom I chose to spend my free time with. Because we didn’t live on the same block, or even around the corner she couldn’t simply go outside to find her friends; it was up to her Dad and I to nurture her friendships. This included lots of drop-offs and pick-ups, long play-dates and sleepovers.

It narrowed the number of friendships my daughter could make on her own, and required a deeper commitment on our part, and on the part of the other parents, to make it work.

Building your Modern Village

Without immediate family around, or the ready-made community of yesterday, contemporary parents need to build their villages from scratch.

Parents must foster friendships with other parents and families, some who will become surrogate family members, and they also need the help of babysitters, teachers, tutors and therapists. Making these connections requires time, energy and research. Turning these connections  — which are part employer-employee and part familial — into your sustainable network requires an entirely new set of skills.

I created The Modern Village to teach and share these skills with parents and caregivers.

Our programs feature the best local and national experts in the parenting space. They offer parents, and caregivers, the information, tools and strategies needed to successfully build and navigate our increasingly complex, modern villages.

Program topics include:

• how to create strong relationships with your caregiver
• how to help your son or daughter manage their anxiety
• the best habits for healthy technology consumption
• the importance of speech and language development for learning and living well
• how to navigate separation, divorce and remarriage
• how to increase your and your kids' scientific literacy

and much, much more.

Our overarching mission is to increase the social and emotional health of today’s families. Presently workshops are being offered in the NYMetro area, with podcasts, webinars and  live-streamed classes coming in 2014.

Visit our website for more details and a description of all our classes.

— Lisa Duggan

Friday, June 7, 2013

MAMMAS, DON’T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE UNHAPPY, REPRESSED COWBOYS by Angelo Andreatos


Becoming a parent forces you to examine your deeply held beliefs; it can also force you to confront your deeply held prejudices. 

We want to teach our children tolerance and love, but what if we suspect they might be gay — can we practice what we preach?

ANGELO ANDREATOS wants to have a word or two with all parents in the hopes of saving everyone a lot of heartache.

This article was originally published in the May 2006 issue of The MotherHood magazine. It is reprinted here with loving permission from the author.


************************

WHAT IF you start noticing that your son always washes his hands, or desperately wants to soon after getting them dirty? What if all the men of your family gather talking in one room, but your boy always winds up in another room, with the women? What if your ten year-old son asks if it’s okay to love his friend Kennie? What if your son goes to the football game with his older male cousin and, when the girls in the stands form a kickline, he joins in and kicks just as high (or even higher) than the girls? And he has a blast doing it, because he’s too young to be conscious of gender issues?

What if you suspect your child is going “over the rainbow”? Could your love follow?

What is it like to have a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child? My mother told me when I was quite young: “Mommy and Daddy will always love you, no matter what — you can come to us with anything and it’ll be ok.” And: “There isn’t anything you could ever say to us that would make us stop loving you.”

I first came to grips with being gay about twenty-four years ago. I started dating my first boyfriend when I was twenty-two, although I didn’t verbalize my sexuality to my family for several more years. But I brought my boyfriend to their house anyway. I was proud of him, proud of me. I was happy to be bitten by the love bug. When I did come out it was dramatic — like when Scarlet pulls the carrot out of the ground and declares, “I swear I’ll never be hungry again!” (Or was it something about birthing babies?) In any event, I was Scarlet, and it definitely was a scene.

Since then I’ve been told by these same parents, the people who are supposed to love me the most in the world, that (a) I’m abnormal, and (b) my partner is not on an equal level to my sister’s husband. In fact, on several occasions they have described Stephen — my partner of fourteen years — as a “friend of the family.”

In my mother’s eyes there is a pre-gay Angelo, and he’s only a memory to be conjured up when reminiscing about loved ones who have moved onto the next world — the world of the dead.  My parents, and possibly my sister too, mourn the death of “the straight Angelo”.

Does my family really believe there is a pre-gay Angelo? 

I’ve come to realize that if parents have spent any time at all with their child – even one day – they will know that their child is gay long before the child figures it out. Whether or not the parents choose to accept that reality will determine how much pain everyone will feel — how much therapy & Edy’s ice cream will be needed.

What if my parents had chosen to accept the fact that I was gay? What if I had the chance to tell them how they should have treated me when I came out to them, and how they should treat me today? Perhaps the tears my parents and I cried don’t have to be in vain, and will serve you. Perhaps there don’t have to be so many tears — perhaps none at all.

Well, this article is my chance. So here goes:

Don’t love us any less. That’s my plea.

Don’t grieve for yourself, or your child. Love your child no differently than you did before you realized they were gay. All children need these things to grow: unconditional love, respect, acceptance and support. The unconditional part is most crucial.

A child’s need for unconditional love is just as basic as the need for food and water.

Love your child.

Never treat your gay child differently than you do your other children. Instruct your other children not to change the way they treat their gay sibling. Tell all of your children that as long as they live under your roof, you’ll put up with no less. And while you’re at it, let your extended family know that you will not tolerate any mistreatment of your child. Your child’s emotional health should be more important than what anyone else thinks.

Just love your child.

I know you mean well, but don’t pressure your boys to play baseball, or football, or hockey, if they don’t want to play. It’s not the end of the world for you, or them. Support them in participating in any school activity or civic organization that they do like.

Remember that your child is not sick and does not need to see a shrink. If you’re having a problem dealing with your child’s sexuality, take yourself to a therapist.

However, you may ask your son or daughter if they would like to see a therapist. Not because they’re crazy, but as a means of support in navigating a cruel and biased world. Explore with your child the many support groups that exist, like The Gay/Straight Alliance and P-Flag: Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays. (See list below for additional resources.)


Explain that they need to start forming their own support networks. When they come out to the world, they might start losing friends. Let them know that you will always be there for them. Mean it.

Love your child.

Stay strong, be a role model for your entire family. It’s not easy growing up with very few positive gay role models, although there are more today than ever before. But love from one’s parents will always mean more than anything a role model can provide. And you could wind up being a role model for another friend or family member facing a similar situation.

Parents, family members — you did not make your child gay.

Your child is not gay to spite you or the rest of your family. Which brings me to my final point, on the question of choice. As a gay man the only choice I’ve ever had was the choice between accepting my sexual orientation and denying it. And to deny it would have been tragic and suicidal. I could have gotten married — fought over who was going to wear the dress, had 2.5 children — and totally screwed up everyone’s life.

Parents: love your children. Proudly, whole-heartedly.

Tell them to hold their head up high and think no less of themselves because of their sexuality.

It’s not going to be easy. But what’s the alternative? To lose your son or daughter, forever?

Just love your child.

************************


FINDING SUPPORT IN YOUR COMMUNITY
There are many local and national support groups for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens and families. Following is a partial list.

These groups were found on The New Jersey Coalition for Gay & Lesbian Youth website.
To find support groups in your area, we recommend searching under “gay support groups + city name".


Gay and Lesbian Political Action and Support Group offers an opportunity for individuals in isolated areas to be politically active and establish support groups where they are needed.
 
NJ Lesbian and Gay Coalition offer resources for LGBT youth. Helpline numbers, housing information, legal resources, physical health agencies, etc. are incorporated in this site. Call 732-828-6772.

HiTOPS is a New Jersey organization that offers health services and group support resources for people ages 13 to 26. They developed two support groups called “First & Third” and “PFLAG” for the LGBTQ youth and their loved ones.

Hetrick Martin Institute, Newark is based on the services for LGBTQ youth operated for over 30 years by the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York City. Offering counseling and crisis management, health and wellness programming, academic enrichment, job readiness and arts and cultural programming, HMI has implemented its first out-of-state direct service program.

The Pride Center of New Jersey offers numerous social, supportive, educational, entertaining, and fun events and groups for the LGBTIQQ community every month.
 
Garden State Equality is an organization dedicated to bringing same-sex marriage equality to New Jersey. It is the organizer of campaigns, primarily to get the legislature to pass a marriage equality bill and to accumulate enough votes in the legislature to override a gubernatorial veto.

NJ Gay Life gives a listing of local events happening throughout New Jersey to connect the LGBTQ community members. Also this website provides an online directory of New Jersey businesses as well as a support group calendar that is organized by issues and geographic locations.
 
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is a national non-profit organization located in Washington, DC. The non-profit provides support for the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends. It offers support, online information, events and programs, as well as scholarships and advocacy opportunities.

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is dedicated to make sure that students in schools are being respected regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and/or expression. The network strives to create school settings that valued differences for a more powerful and diverse community.

Equality Federation is a national alliance of state-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organizations.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
 advocates on behalf of GLBT Americans, mobilizes grassroots actions in diverse communities, invests strategically to elect fair-minded individuals to office and educates the public about GLBT issues.

Outreach to At-Risk Youth (OTARY): The OTARY program is designed to prevent crime/juvenile delinquency and deter gang involvement by providing enhanced recreation, vocational, educational, outreach and/or supportive services to youth ages 13 to 18, with the option to serve youth until age 21.  The programs are located in communities with demonstrated high crime and gang violence. These programs have a proven track record of making a difference in the lives of youth, including “at-risk” youth.  The programs are open to youth regardless of their involvement with DCF.


In New York City:
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center
208 West 13th St.
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 620-7310
Deaf and hearing impaired callers can reach the Center through the NY State Relay Service: (800) 662-1220 (TDD/TTY) (800) 421-1220 (voice) Email: info@gaycenter.org
Web: http://www.gaycenter.org

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

LESSONS OF A RED-HEADED WARRIOR by Lisa Duggan


This essay originally appeared in Issue #4, 2006, The MotherHood Magazine.  


Saturday morning, 1978.  


My brother Tony and I sit at the kitchen table eating bowl after bowl of sugary cereal. We are reading every superhero comic book in his vast collection. I am careful not to bend back the covers as we pass the books back and forth over the table. 

Suddenly in my hands is a comic I’ve never seen before. I stare in disbelief at the cover of Red Sonja #1. A fierce looking red-headed female warrior in a chainmail bikini. Big hips, bigger breasts and a sword raised triumphantly to the sky. While Tony is engrossed in a new storyline, I sneak Red Sonja inside my bathrobe and slip quietly down the hallway to my bedroom.

I lock the door, take off all my clothes and stare in the mirror, comparing my newly forming body to her picture on the cover. I’m thirteen and pleased to see that puberty is drawing my curves along the same lines as those in the book. I look in my closet for something resembling a chainmail bikini. I don’t yet have a collection of bras, but now need them, and getting dressed is a problem. As I’m pulling every piece of clothing I own out of my closet, I experience a defining moment of womanhood: for the first time I declare in disgust: “I have nothing to wear!


Today my battles with clothing are largely relegated to getting a three and a half year-old dressed in time for pre-school. “I’m ready Mommy!” she declares, standing before me in badly stained pink pants, clashing orange-striped t-shirt and ballet slippers on the wrong feet. “I am so pretty!” We’re late (again) and I pause before I start to correct her. So what if she’s wearing slippers and it’s raining? So what if her hair is combed only in the front and clumps together in a large knot in the back of her little head? She’s making choices and learning to care for herself. 

Will I be able to sustain my tolerance for a mismatched, knotty-haired appearance when she’s older? The question disturbs me. I know that choosing how to dress is an important and powerful act of self- determination for girls. I can encourage Alice to be proud of her body just as it is and tell her that it doesn’t really matter what she looks like — but can I say it with any conviction?

Fitting into the right clothes in the right size has been a life-long source of anxiety for me. Puberty directed my brothers to eat my parents out of house and home and at 5’10” and 6’2” they pleasantly fulfilled the notion of growing boys. But the rapid changes in my body were welcomed less enthusiastically. An increase in flesh meant hips and breasts. Although I was not overweight as a young teenager, my brothers’ repertoire of nicknames for me included “fatty,” “hippo,” “thunder thighs,” and “Orca” — as in “Orca The Whale”. My mother began each morning with a scrutiny of my attire and a furiously whispered admonishment to “Go put on a bra!” Everyone seemed uncomfortable with my new form and so I was, too.

When puberty bestows growth and mass on boys, it denotes power and strength. But for women it’s the opposite. A girl’s increase in flesh signals fertility and a new level of vulnerability. It also invites new standards by which she’ll be judged in her particular class & culture. Although 90 percent of the kids on my block were of Italian heritage, we played to the same you-can-never-be-too-thin American aesthetic as the rest of the country. My post-pubescent body might have conformed nicely to the historical standards for women in Italy, but on my block I simply had a fat ass.



Throughout history two things have always been true: (1) being born female was the single most determining factor of your life and (2) your beauty and your virtue would be the most important commodities you possessed. An intact virtue ensured a good marriage and a good marriage could elevate the entire family, so everyone was invested in its protection. Clothing was an important clue to the state of a woman’s virginity. Proper women did not put their wares on display.

Beauty was more of a crapshoot as there was not much to be done if a girl was con- sidered plain or ugly. A woman’s beauty was her only source of power, income and exchange so it had to conform to the demands of the market. The body was the commodity and the woman had better measure up or she’d be “left on the shelf.” Or returned to the discount rack.



In our part of the world, this is no longer true. So why was the size and shape of my butt such an issue at thirteen and why is it still an issue today?


Women are no longer dependent upon well-made marital alliances for their for- tunes, so beauty and virtue have simply become fashionable accessories. But our individual and group consciousness has yet to catch up with this new reality. We continue to perpetuate the fairy tale that Beauty is the key to a woman’s fortune every time we read Cinderella or Snow White to our children.


Collectively, we have internalized the ideal that Beauty=Success, so no matter the level of academic or economic achieve- ment, a woman can still manage to feel like a failure.
I am convinced that this awful double message has contributed to the rise in the number of diagnosed eating disorders today. Perhaps women are playing out the battle between accepting or rejecting that message right in their own flesh — a corporeal Eff-you to society’s imposed standards for them.


Which brings me back to my heroine, Red Sonja.


Red Sonja wasn’t using that incredibly drawn body of hers to advance in the world. She was using her brains and her brawn. She possessed the only two acces- sories a woman truly needs — armor and a sword. Her sword and the ability to wield it made the issue of her looks a moot point. With it, she determined for herself the entire course of her life — her level of income (she was a mercenary) and if and when she would procreate. That sword was her bank account and birth control in one instrument.


Red Sonja made a lasting impression on me but I still work hard to eradicate this notion of an Absolute Beauty Value from my own head. I’m going to have to show Alice rather than tell her that beauty comes in all forms. Perhaps the best place to start is with my own body. Embrace my backside just as it is.


I’ll also read stories to her that include real heroines who go to school and work hard to achieve their goals. Not stories about women who lie passively in glass boxes waiting for their lives to begin when royalty arrives.


I’ll tell her too that, unfortunately, there are still many places in the world where being born a woman is a cruelly limiting factor. Perhaps she and I can spread the word about Red Sonja in service to them. Or send them swords.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

NO MORE OP-EDS BY MARIE ANTOINETTE, PLEASE by Lisa Duggan

Ann Slaughter's June piece in the Atlantic entitled by the editors as "Why Women Still Can't Have it All" — undoubtedly to appease the PageView Gods — has generated more Google Juice than Kim Kardashian's love life.

But I'm not going to let that stop me from weighing in:

****************
My thoughts' on Ann Slaughter, and "Having it All":

One could summarize Slaughter's piece as her "Is that all there is?" moment, the mid-career crisis written about, talked of, and divorced over for, by men for centuries. Her "Cat's in the Cradle" swan-song. And in choosing that view, we can see Ann's turning point as an achievement — women now experiencing the same existential low-point reached by countless fathers before her, who only lifted their heads up from their desks as the kids were leaving for college.

I don't begrudge Ann her insight — but writing from that POV when stepping down from a government position, a JOB — in a time when hundreds of thousands of Americans remain unemployed for 2+ years, and/or facing foreclosure — is, in the least, in poor form.
Ms. Slaughter's caveat to privilege is inappropriate, here. She had the opportunity to see her personal struggle as the same, collective struggle of working mothers and fathers everywhere — and moreover, to recognize that she had both the power and responsibility to advance positive change for all families, at a high level.

Enough Op-Eds from Marie Antoinette. No more crying in our champagne glasses. Let's work on the problem of redesigning our public institutions and policies to reflect the change in our culture. Women work. Men work. Children need care. The era of guaranteed, unpaid childcare done by women is OVER. None of us will advance — not as individuals in pursuit of success, or this country as a world leader — until we acknowledge that reality and do something to address it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

MOTHERS SPEAK OUT! Mother's Day Declaration 2012



Mother's Day Declaration 2012

THIS SUNDAY, MAY 13, 2012 — Mother's Day in the United States — women everywhere will simultaneously post this letter to their blogs, websites and Facebook pages, to honor the work of Mothers around the world.

YOU ARE INVITED TO ADD YOUR VOICE. To join our Mother's Day Blog-In simply,

1. Visit our Facebook Page, Mothers Speak Out, and add your name and links to your site, work or organization in the comments. (http://www.facebook.com/MothersSpeakOut?ref=tn_tnmn C)
  
2. Copy & paste this letter on your blog, Facebook or Google+ page.

3. Tweet, share and post the link to your letter using the hashtag #MothersSpeakOut

* * * * * * * 

Together, Mothers Are Powerful. 

Last month’s furor over the remarks of political pundits and candidate’s wives launched a flurry of conversation among mothers.

Mothers have a voice of their own to add to the discussion. Authors, activists and others have been writing and identifying the issues raised this political season for decades, and women have been listening, again and again.

It’s time for mothers’ own voices to be heard.

We are a bi-partisan coalition of women’s organizations, experts, and writers who have diligently worked on bringing mother’s issues into the mainstream political discussion.

Some of us are advocates, and some are community organizations. Many of us are authors and experts about mothers’ lives as well.  All of us recognize the value of a mother's contribution to her family, both the paid and unpaid work that women do.

Our message is simple: all mothers need more support.

This Mother’s Day we want to get the word out about our ideas, our work, and our priorities. We offer the following list to provide resources for real information and places for women to gather for intelligent discourse on the many problems — and solutions — to the issues facing mothers and families.

We offer this list as an alternative to the tired and cliched coverage of mothers in the mainstream media.

Please join your voice with ours this Mother's Day. Together, Mothers are powerful!

* * * * *

ANN CRITTENDEN
Author, The Price of Motherhood
Co-founder “MOTHER: Mothers Ought to Have Equal Rights”

DEBRA LEVY
Past President, Mothers & More






Friday, April 13, 2012

WHO ARE YOU CALLING A SLUT? What the War on Women Really Means by Lisa Duggan


“It's as if the racists, misogynists and anti-Semites woke up when Obama was elected and felt they were being left behind.” @CarolynEdgar

The news cycle moves so fast these days it’s all a woman can do to keep up with the latest outrage. (Just Google Romney, Ann.)  It’s only April, but in this year alone there’s been a string of attacks on state and federal reproductive policies, and on the medical sovereignty of women that makes the Salem Witch trials look like schoolyard bullying. Without conscious effort on my part the individual attacks often get combined in my psyche into one giant, ominous matzoh-ball aimed at my sanity and my civil liberties, and so I have to deliberately stop and focus on one story to make sense of what’s really happening.

Today, I’m thinking about Sandra Fluke. Remember her?

Way back on February 29, Rush Limbaugh used his pulpit to call Ms. Fluke a slut — for three consecutive days — because Sandra wanted to testify before Congress about the medical necessity of contraception, and to argue for its inclusion in all healthcare plans. When I was Sandra Fluke’s age, I doubt that I possessed the emotional fortitude necessary to withstand a nationally broadcast scrutiny of my sex life. I have the deepest admiration for her, and for any woman able to hold their ground so gracefully, under such heavy fire.

But I didn’t picket Rush Limbaugh’s studio, or the headquarters of his four remaining advertisers, after his three-day diatribe. Frankly, what Mr. Limbaugh thinks about who should pay for contraception is inconsequential. Talk show hosts do not set public policy.  However, who the United States Senate thinks should pay for contraception is most definitely my business and so I turned my attention to Washington DC, and to the legislation that prompted the hearing, The Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act. Sponsored in the House by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (HR 1179) and in the Senate by Roy Blunt (S 1467), it became simply known as “The Blunt Amendment.”

When you read the amendment you quickly come to understand that Roy and his boys were not serious about their own proposal. The ridiculously broad and porous language used, especially in lines 20-24 (pasted here), ensured that this legislation would never pass:

“[T]o ensure that health care stakeholders retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions, without fear of being penalized or discriminated against under PPACA*.”

*The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.

Note the omission of a qualifier to identify the ‘health care stakeholders’. Religious institutions are not singled out, so the statement must be taken to mean everyone who provides, purchases, or enrolls. Do you really think that Mr. Blunt, et al, intended to give all ‘health care stakeholders’ —aka every employer in the country — broad license to interpret whether a health care plan was “consistent with their moral convictions”? Can you imagine the number of lawsuits this would inspire? As the Honorable Justice Scalia made clear, the Supreme Court simply doesn’t have that kind of time. More importantly, since the PPACA already allows for a conscience clause for employers of religious schools, hospitals, churches and synagogues, no additional amendment was needed to protect religious institutions.

So, what exactly was the purpose of the Blunt Amendment?


* * * * *



This is a critical election year and the GOP is in a sorry state. They struggled to produce one unifying and credible candidate that didn’t appear insane. Hence, Romney as the nominee, begrudgingly picked last for the GOP soccer team. The political and economic power in this country is shifting — has shifted — away from entitled, institutionalized white, male privilege. President Obama’s election was the most potent symbol of that change. Gays and minorities, including women, are enjoying greater and greater political voice and the administration in place, the one seeking a second term, is helping to further that shift. The only choice the GOP has is to dig their heels in deeper, to provoke and mobilize the only voters they know they can count on — the scared, increasingly marginalized and culturally and economically irrelevant demographic of white, 44-68 year-old Christian men.

The Blunt Amendment was not an attack on contraception, nor was it written in defense of religious institutions. The Blunt Amendment was a political stunt, designed to create this powerful image: one of an administration led by a secretly Muslim, socialist President, attacking the religious freedom of a decidedly Christian constituency (sorry Rabbi, but you were the token on that panel).  It’s called “engaging your base”, and the GOP are the frickin’ Masters of the Universe when it comes to doing it. We all thought it was ridiculous, and were rightfully enraged, when not a single woman was invited to speak at a hearing on birth control. But quite frankly, Sandra Fluke was not invited to that panel because she would have ruined the GOP’s ‘money shot’.

* * * * *

I don’t blame anyone for believing that the collective attacks on women and reproductive rights around the country, or the glaring omission of women at a congressional hearing on birth control, represents a GOP War on Women — but I think we’re all missing the point here. The true sentiment behind these attacks is more unsettling. The Republicans have made an important calculation in a critical election year and it is this: 

The political capital of women is so insignificant, that we will gladly risk losing the female vote in order to keep our base engaged, and increase their rank.

The Republicans don’t think you’re a dirty slut — the reality is that they don’t think you matter at all. If insulting their own wives will win back the White House, they’ll gladly eat out for a year.  If criminalizing miscarriage and attacking birth control is going to ensure votes, they’ll support those laws.  If questioning the sexual mores of a young college student angers women, but gains them more dollars and votes, they will go for it.  

After all, it’s not like women can, or will, do anything about it.

According to Emerge America, the US ranks 84th in the world for women in elected office. We lag behind Mexico, China, and Pakistan and 80 other countries. The most recent reporting counts 324 super PACs — and none of them are called “The Super -Duper Powerful Women’s PAC”. Women are not a feared voting block, they have no majority voice in the Senate or the House, and with only 3% of women reporting for duty in the c-Suites of the Fortune 500, no collective economic power to influence politics.

By the way, it appears as if the Democrats hold this view, too. If they believed otherwise they might have defended Ms. Fluke more vociferously. Or, at all. Or had spoken up, by now, against campaigns targeting reproductive rights currently happening in over a dozen states.  If the Democrats truly give a damn about women, families and the poor, as they have long claimed to do, they would be building their entire election platform around defending against these attacks.

Thanks to an often-repeated statistic — mostly in newspaper articles around major holidays — we know that women control 85% of the consumer dollars spent in this country.

When are we going to control 85% of the vote?