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After 28 Years, What Should We Keep and What Should We NIX?

Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law on June 23, 1972. Title IX most famously applies to women’s sports, but in fact the law is much broader than that:

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.

The U.S. Department of Education gives grants of financial assistance to schools and colleges. The Title IX regulation describes the conduct that violates Title IX. Examples of the types of discrimination that are covered under Title IX include sexual harassment, the failure to provide equal opportunity in athletics, and discrimination based on pregnancy.

On its 28th anniversary today, Title IX continues to elicit controversial opinions with regard to its extension from sports to science. Though extenders’ laudably recommend supporting women in a male-dominated field, the problem with legislative “support” is that it leads to twisted legal realities.

In school sports, Title IX has developed a controversial reputation for its creation of a de facto “quota” system. Just as true supporters of civil rights disdain quotas as racial basis for education, it makes little sense to impose equality on high school students at the expense of their choice.

Title IX supporters promote the legislation as permitting women to enter athletic fields formerly reserved exclusively for men. Dissenters argue that we should not cancel men’s sports if there is no female equivalent — if women are more interested in the arts, for example, it makes more sense to encourage participation there, rather than require young women to match the interests of their Y-chromosomed counterparts in the interest of quota metrics.

Feminism is, after all, about choice. Stated the New York Times in a 2008 article:

The members of Congress and women’s groups who have pushed for science to be “Title Nined” say there is evidence that women face discrimination in certain sciences, but the quality of that evidence is disputed. Critics say there is far better research showing that on average, women’s interest in some fields isn’t the same as men’s.

In this debate, neither side doubts that women can excel in all fields of science. In fact, their growing presence in former male bastions of science is a chief argument against the need for federal intervention.

American law is premised on protecting negative rights. This means that we are “free from” interference with our right to live as we please. If there is some outside force restricting our choice, legally we are entitled to ask for that force’s removal.

Yet if, as the NYT reports, women’s interest is lagging in pursuing scientific careers, there is no infringement. Feminism is about choice, not about forcing women into certain careers simply because there are few women already represented in those fields.

The Times goes on to quote psychologist Susan Pinker:

Now, you might think those preferences would be different if society didn’t discourage girls and women from pursuits like computer science and physics. But if you read “The Sexual Paradox,” Susan Pinker’s book about gender differences, you’ll find just the opposite problem.

Ms. Pinker, a clinical psychologist and columnist for The Globe and Mail in Canada (and sister of Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist), argues that the campaign for gender parity infantilizes women by assuming they don’t know what they want.

Women know what we want. Feminism is about feeling empowered to achieve whatever it is that we want. Feminism is not about imposing some mandated quota across fields, be they professional or athletic.



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Global Governance Requires Rule of Law, Even for Women

This week the United Nations approved the Islamic Republic of Iran’s bid to join its Commission on the Status of Women. To quote a particularly prescient observation: “When a country that stones women to death for adultery is chosen to serve in a leadership role on the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women, we know most of what we need to know about the U.N.”

Yes. That Iran. The very same Republic with a rich history of raping, stoning, and whipping women.

Reason magazine’s Tim Cavanaugh compiles media reactions. Says Cavanaugh:

I understand that all religions, in their all-too-slow surrender to enlightenment, have to deny, cover up, or otherwise disappear important sections of their retarded holy books. But Iran has forefronted its devotion to the literal foundations of its rapist religion. So it’s Iran, not the UN, that needs to recognize its choice. You can have liberal, rational modernity or you can try to bend the world government to your religious psychosis. But you can’t do both.

Iranian women themselves, too close to the storm to find humor in the UN’s ironic choice, protest this particularly egregious judgment error in global governance:

The letter refers to Iranian laws that gender-equality groups say discriminate against women. These include statutes relating to such matters as divorce, child custody, education, and the ability to choose a husband.
Women have been “arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of such laws,” the letter says. “The Iranian government will certainly use [CSW membership] to curtail the progress and advancement of women.”
Radio Farda spoke to Shadi Sadr, a women’s rights activist and one of the letter’s signatories. Sadr explained that for years the UN has asked Iran to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Iran, however, has refused to do so.
“Under such conditions, Iran’s attempt to join such an institution [as the CSW] is doomed to fail,” Sadr said.

Was the UN aiming at irony? The relevant portion of its press release suggests that every portion of the world should enjoy representation in this esteemed Commission, evidently regardless of whether the government actually promotes or even protects women:

Next, the Council elected 11 new members to fill an equal number of vacancies on the Commission on the Status of Women for four-year terms beginning at the first meeting of the Commission’s fifty-sixth session in 2011 and expiring at the close of its fifty-ninth session in 2015. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Zimbabwe were elected from the Group of African States; Iran and Thailand were elected from the Group of Asian States; Estonia and Georgia were elected from the Group of Eastern European States; Jamaica was elected from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States; and Belgium, Netherlands and Spain were elected from the Group of Western European and Other States.

Finally, Cavanaugh points out that many Western feminist groups have declined to make the case for Iranian women’s liberation. Perhaps these groups are afraid to step on the toes of cultures whose mores simply do not conform to our own, or perhaps women’s groups are simply afraid of incurring the same terrorist threats that South Park encountered with its controversial 200th episode.

Rather than attempt to persuade American feminists into making a Western case for protecting women from tyrannical governments, Cavanaugh reliles on the Quran to make the case for him:

While western feminists are declining to make the feminist case against Iran’s participation in the commission, I’d like to raise a Quranic objection. The commission’s website says it is “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.” That position is in direct violation of the Holy Quran, which was handed down by Charles Nelson Reilly Himself to the Prophet Muhummunah (PBUH). The holy book makes clear that one woman is equal to half a man in inheritance, in legal testimony, in financial matters, and even in capital murder cases. How can a self-declared Islamic Republic support an equality that goes against a holy book filled with commandments like this:

Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them.

Indeed. There are many good sovereignty-based arguments for countries who wish to work out governmental problems amongst themselves. But for world government to condone and in fact to promote such egregious treatment carries a powerful statement.

The United Nations has long been a flaccid protector of human rights. This move to endorse Iran’s horrific treatment of women further compromises the UN’s legitimacy, and speaks to the need for a principled, private revolution in favor of real human rights and, indeed, for women to protect the rights of women everywhere.

Cross-Posted at The New Agenda.

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In Marketing, All the Single Ladies are Notably Absent

Women were notably absent from the list of technology experts asked to review Apple’s new iPad. At first glance this might seem like a slight to women’s tech expertise. In fact, all the single ladies are the largest marketing demographic for growth in the United States, and the most actively-ignored demographic across the board.

As recently as 2009, marketing execs overlooked unmarried women entirely, favoring immigrants or the recently come-of-age Generation Y. But this Sex and the City-sized blind spot hurt demographers where it hurts: In the big ticket purchases.

Real estate trends do not directly inform technology purchase predictions. Still, nest egg investments indicate that single women are a demographic to be reckoned with.

Married couples still purchase 60% of homes, according to the National Association of Realtors, but that number has dropped in the past decade from 68%. Single women comprise the fastest growing market, now purchasing 21% of homes, up from 15% during the same period. Single men purchase 10%, up from 7%.

This marketing gap seems to represent an opportunity for differentiation in a competitive marketplace. Rather than capitalize on this eager crowd, marketing demographers express surprise when single women seek a cozy home that would have been out of their price range before last year’s market dip.

Political operatives similarly underestimate single women. In 2007 the women’s website Jezebel deemed “slutty” that broad demographic of single women whose political persuasions are wont to change with the tide. Yet single women single-handedly pushed Obama ahead of Hilary before the democrats’ presidential primary.

Why, then, would Mac not lean hard on unmarried ladies to test the iPad?

Perhaps for a company that wants its products to succeed, it’s time to admit they can hear these single women roar.

5 Tech Leaders' Takes on the iPad

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Breasts: Victims of Sexist Policy or Beneficiaries of New Research?

For decades doctors have urged women to get frequent mammograms starting in their forties. When it comes to breast cancer—the second deadliest cancer for women—doctors have always advised women that early detection saves.

Today the U.S Preventive Services Task Force, a panel within the Department of Health and Human Services, marked a sharp withdrawal in policy promoting breast cancer awareness. According to new Task Force recommendations, women don’t need mammograms until they’re into their fifties. Women should hold off on mammograms until they hit 50, and even then they should cut back from the previously-recommended two mammograms annually to just one exam every other year.

Wait, WHAT?! Isn’t this the same Task Force that sounded an urgent alarm just six months ago, when statistics showed a slight decline–only 1%–in annual mammograms among women in their forties?  The same Task Force that cried out that women in this age bracket were risking their lives if they forgo annual exams?

The downward trend, however slight, has breast cancer experts worried. Mammograms can enable physicians to diagnose the disease at early stages, often before a lump can be felt. “When breast cancer is detected early, it often can be treated before it has a chance to spread in the body and increase the risk of dying from the disease,” says Katherine Alley, medical director of the breast health program at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

The U.S Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts working under the Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that women older than 40 get a mammogram every one to two years. The task force finds the test most helpful for women between ages 50 and 69, for whom it says the evidence is strongest that screening lowers death rates from breast cancer. Other groups, including the American Medical Association, suggest a more rigorous schedule, saying the test should be done every year; insurers often pay for annual tests.

But experts say they are seeing gaps beyond two years in many cases. Carol Lee, chair of the American College of Radiology’s Breast Imaging Commission and a radiologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, says many women understand that they need to have a mammogram but don’t go back for repeat tests after the first one. In Bethesda, Alley said she has even heard anecdotal reports of breast cancer survivors forgoing recommended mammograms.

How could breasts have changed so much in six months? Or is it women in their forties who have changed? Ah, that’s right too—it was health care that changed. A mere six months after panicking over a mere one percent decline in mammograms among the forty-something set, today the Task Force issued an abrupt about-face:

“We’re not saying women shouldn’t get screened. Screening does save lives,” said Diana B. Petitti, vice chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which released the recommendations Monday in a paper being published in Tuesday’s Annals of Internal Medicine. “But we are recommending against routine screening. There are important and serious negatives or harms that need to be considered carefully.”

Several patient advocacy groups and many breast cancer experts welcomed the new guidelines, saying they represent a growing recognition that more testing, exams and treatment are not always beneficial and, in fact, can harm patients. Mammograms produce false-positive results in about 10 percent of cases, causing anxiety and often prompting women to undergo unnecessary follow-up tests, sometimes-disfiguring biopsies and unneeded treatment, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

But the American Cancer Society, the American College of Radiology and other experts condemned the change, saying the benefits of routine mammography have been clearly demonstrated and play a key role in reducing the number of mastectomies and the death toll from one of the most common cancers.
“Tens of thousands of lives are being saved by mammography screening, and these idiots want to do away with it,” said Daniel B. Kopans, a radiology professor at Harvard Medical School. “It’s crazy — unethical, really.”

No, ladies, neither breasts nor women have changed in the last six months. What’s changed is that the Department of Health and Human Services is an agent of an administration suddenly responsible for paying for these exams once ObamaCare passes.  This public health care omnibus claims it will shoulder the cost of preventative exams. Mammograms represent the quintessential “preventative exam.” But rather than pay for the care doctors have long urged women to demand for themselves, the government is simply pressuring health officials to redefine what women need.

Government-rationed health care will put a strain on resources like doctors and hospital space. Many providers will prove eager to avoid dealing with government-imposed conditions, red tape, and poor compensation rates. But rather than stand up and defend women’s efforts to protect themselves with preventative care, this government panel simply manipulates doctors’ advice to redefine what women need.  In fact, while more than half of the doctors behind these new recommendations are women, none are oncologists.  Nor is the Task Force a research organization; instead, it’s part of an agency under the Executive branch of the government, responsible for neither health nor research but rather implementing policy:

The USPSTF reviews the evidence, estimates the magnitude of benefits and harms for each preventative service, reaches consensus about the net benefit for each preventative service, and issues a recommendation.


At least we know what bias to expect.  This is not a group of doctors acting on behalf of one patient at a time.  It’s a group of policy-minded clinicians attempting to ration a tax-funded government pot among every American needing care.  Women in their forties may not be ObamaCare’s top priority.  But advising women to stop getting checked redefines reckless and brings to light insidious danger women face under the public option.

Evidently the Department of Health and Human Services knows which side of its bread is buttered under the new health care bill! This administration promised to prioritize life-saving preventative care.  Instead, less than two weeks after ObamaCare passed in the House, public health officials have begun rolling back decades worth of doctors’ wisdom.

So the elderly won’t be the first to get thrown under the public health care bus — it’s women.

At The New Agenda.

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