Feminism? Or Good Social Policy?

I am quite concerned about the apparent confusion in the mainstream media between “feminism” and women’s rights and affirmative action. As a consequence media coverage of women’s rights seems narrowly focused on issues that concern upper middle class women – for example progress in appointing more women to high status positions (for example the increase in women doctors, lawyers, judges, CEOs, etc).

In my mind true feminism seeks to address universal issues that affect all women regardless of social or economic status – as well as all children – as women (as mothers) are the natural advocates for children who are too young to advocate for themselves. Obviously there are differing perspectives in defining these universal issues. In the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand many issues once viewed as “feminist” are now seen as sound social policy benefiting the welfare of society as a whole.

The Example of Other Developed Countries

In fact over the last few decades most industrialized countries (the US being a notable exception) have enacted a raft of reproductive rights legislation – based on the premise that it’s cheaper to intervene early in life than pay for 20-30 years of medical costs and disability benefits (or 20-30 years of incarceration) for neglected or abused children who go on to develop chronic medical or mental health problems or an antisocial personality.

This trend relates largely to increasing evidence that the intrauterine milieu and first three years of life are the ultimate determinant of an adult’s health status, IQ and emotional well being.

The Growing Science of Epigenetics

While the early Freudians used to make similar claims about unfavourable “psychological” influences on infants and young children, it is now clear the effect is biological rather than psychological. That it relates to “epigenetics” – a term referring to changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than the underlying DNA sequence. Numerous studies show that environmental stress and hormones (particularly stress hormones) can cause genetic code to be transcripted (into proteins and enzymes) in such a way that negatively affects an individual’s immune response or even predisposes them to become mentally ill.

For some reason, even though most of these studies originate in the US, our own country seems to lag far behind other developed countries in translating these studies into public policy.

The highest on my list of urgent policies our own elected officials need to address are

  • Stronger pay equity legislation – despite 1963 federal legislation outlawing pay discrimination based on sex, full time female workers between 18-64 still earn around 80 percent of male workers with comparable qualifications and job descriptions.
  • Adequate and affordable prenatal care and nutritional support for all women regardless of income
  • Safe, affordable pregnancy termination for all women unable to carry a pregnancy to term for health or psychological reasons (my grandfather turned his portrait of Richard Nixon to the wall when the Republicans scratched this item from their party platform – he saw this as a way to save billions of dollars in welfare benefits).
  • Quality, affordable childcare for all single parents of young children who wish to work or pursue education or training.
  • A decent caregiver allowance for single parents of pre-school children to 1) allow women to leave abusive marriages without dooming themselves and their children to poverty and 2) reward single women (and men) for dedicating themselves to the oldest, hardest, most socially relevant profession in human history: namely childrearing. The cost of a six year caregiver allowance is ridiculously cheap when compared to the phenomenal cost of processing neglected and abused teenagers and young adults through the criminal justice system.
  • Tougher prosecution of domestic and other violence against women
  • Reform of rape laws to ensure accused rapists receive a fair trial without re-victimizing their victims.

MomsRising.org

A reader has turned me onto MomsRising.org, a four year old organization that lobbies for a “more family friendly.” America – and for many of the above policies. Unfortunately at present they are squandering their hard earned political capital on ObamaCare – which is nothing more than a corporate welfare plan for insurance and drug companies. A nearly identical law in Massachusetts has been an absolute disaster.

In the US insurance companies are colossal unregulated finance companies (look at AIG – one of the major recipients of TARP money). They derive their profits from taking the premiums you pay them and investing them. They have no business whatsoever inserting themselves into the doctor-patient relationship. We are not talking about mortgages and home foreclosures here. If you or your doctor do anything that might possibly lose them money, they foreclose on you! (more and good background links at http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com)

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