SOTU 2013 Reactions: Women Need the Protection Of Government Intervention

On Wednesday, I wrote a PolicyMic piece criticizing the Independent Women's Forum's (IWF) response to President Obama's State of the Union address. The organization responded to my post, which calls them out for wrongly claiming Obama's address misled women.

First of all, I would like to thank Ms. Sabrina Schaeffer on behalf of the IWF for acknowledging my remarks. I do appreciate the friction that comes with dissenting opinions, as I view each chance as a valuable learning opportunity for all parties involved.

That said, some points raised in the response are ones I do agree with and am well aware of — the one I’d like to pay attention to most, naturally, focuses on the central issue of discrimination that still does occur and which I did acknowledge plays only a partial role in a larger network of reasons, including particular fields dominated by men versus women and cultural biases.  

And as a matter of fact, I wrote a piece for my university’s paper in which I ran a vocally 50-50 split in speaking with sources who had not faced gender discrimination within the departments of the STEM fields and those who did. As a person well-invested in the field of journalism and getting all sides of the story out to the public, my concern is the side of the story that goes unspoken, undetected, and dangerously subtle for the women still battling that uphill struggle.

What my main priority was in my original piece was the fact that the original press release utilized severe wording and implications that the president is doing more harm than good with the Paycheck Fairness Act. That is a sentiment I (still) disagree with and felt that as the IWF feels that gender discrimination is an overstated issue, original the press release falls into the same vein.

While I do — wholeheartedly — agree that women have come a far way and will continue to do so well into the future without added assistance, the matter of the fact is that America still has roots and operates in an undeniably patriarchal society. There is a notion of post-feminism, which is centric on the visible accomplishments of women, such sexual freedom and consumerism, glorified by pop culture in shows such as Sex and the City. But what of its shadow?

Issues such as slut-shaming and victim blaming in cases of rape are still stooped in the guise of the male gaze and traumatize victims for not feeling as if they can’t speak up because such horrible actions to them are deserved. In those cases, the system has failed them and in certain cases — silenced them.

That is why safety nets are put into action by the government — for example the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and affirmative action for minorities. In the particular case we are discussing, it’s the Paycheck Fairness Act on the behalf of not only female, but also all employees as it entails transparency between men and women performing the same job, and working the same hours to eliminate any room for the case of one employer being overpaid over the other for any reason less than relating to job performance. As it has been often described, it is more or less a common sense deal for essentially evening up the field between all. 

As I understand the situation, the IWF feels that government intervention — this safety net, is unnecessary. That intervention would help encourage “frivolous lawsuits” (however, lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming, so I doubt they often frivolous when fully pursued) and “reinforce the idea that the workplace is hostile toward women.”

I believe government intervention is necessary because the workplace can be hostile and this is our measure to catch the cases that may otherwise slip in between the cracks.

To say that the IWF believes the government has no business in helping progress (not limit) the female agenda is a fair opinion — however, as my intention from my original piece was to denounce the press release that grossly misconstrued Obama’s intentions — which it did. While I do not expect for you to agree with me, I hope that you can at least see where I am coming from in terms of the counter-argument presented.

To end this response, I will link an op-ed from Newsweek that gives further insight into why the Paycheck Fairness Act is needed. It even calls attention to a piece Sommers has written for the New York Times on the topic.