Sunday, July 6, 2014

Taking It Out of Neutral

During the past week, the media has carried a lot of news and opinion pieces about the recent Supreme Court decision which basically states that corporations could be counted as individuals and therefore have the right to practice their own brands of religion. This particular case involved a large, for-profit corporation claiming to be a cozy Christian  "Mom and Pop" business and therefore had the right to deny contraceptive care to its female employees. Interestingly, the company is fine with covering viagra and vasectomies for its viril men while insisting that its women's vaginas remain virginal.

All alliteration aside (although fun!) it does seem that the country has taken a few dangerous precedent-setting steps backward. And although the court's vote was decided by a narrow 5-4 margin, it is noteworthy that all three of the women justices (and one brave man) voted in the negative. 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was especially eloquent when, in her dissent, she wrote, "Suppose an employer's sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage? Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be 'perceived as favoring one religion over another,' the very 'risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude."

No matter what side of the argument one might land on, I do believe that one vital thing should be agreed upon. This is a women's issue. It should be decided by women. The three women on the court made their objections eloquently clear. So why are five men deciding?

Maybe the Supreme Court should change the makeup of its members depending upon the case set before it. If it is a women's issue, (especially reproductive in nature) let the women decide. If male-pattern baldness is on the table, let the men decide (right, Mr. Scalia?) If it a racial or ethnic issue, let the panel have those representatives in its stable. How about a rotating set of justices to suit the occasion?

Oh, and while we are at it, can we possibly resist the urge to assume the white male system of everything is the accepted baseline from which all other things spring? In my kids' high school, the sports mascot is the Viking. The boys teams are all just "the Vikings" while the girls teams are "the Lady Vikings." In professional golf, its the PGA and the LPGA (yep, the L is for Ladies). And when was the last time a news article described a male politician's hair and wardrobe?


In her opinion piece for The Huffington Post entitled Let's Stop Neutralizing Men, author Valerie Alexander speaks to this nearly invisible topic.

"The issue of establishing women's achievements as "women's" but allowing the male position to be the assumed baseline goes far beyond sports. When Sonia Sotomayor was being confirmed for the Supreme Court, members of Congress repeatedly asked her (repeatedly) if, as a Latina, she would be able to remain neutral. I don't recall ever in the history of confirmation hearings, anyone asking, "As a white male, do you think you'll be able to remain neutral when deciding issues of law?" Given some recent decisions, maybe they should have!

We have to stop assuming that the male position is objective, unbiased, nonpartisan, with no need to be qualified as male. All one has to do is notice that the (mostly) rich, white men in charge have done nothing to punish the (entirely) rich, white men who crashed our economy -- and in fact, took steps to ensure that their financial advantages be maintained -- to see that men are anything but objective when it comes to assessing the achievements and crimes of other men, who happen to look exactly like them."

I don't usually get overly political in this forum, but chose to make an exception this time. I am glad to live at a time and in a country where individual freedom and personal rights are deemed vital. As a woman and especially as the mother of three daughters, I felt the need to speak.

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