Women: Image and reality

As Women’s History Month gets under way, starting with International Women’s Day, March 8, women in the U.S. both celebrate and debate.

We have women as secretary of state and secretary of labor. Yet they are in one of the most anti-woman, anti-human administrations in our history.

Women have broken through “glass ceilings” and are chief executive officers of multinational corporations. But more women are living paycheck-to-paycheck or using grocery money to pay the gas and light bills than ever before.

While women can teach, conduct research and enact policy at Harvard, that doesn’t stop the prestigious university’s president from suggesting that women’s biology bars them from serious scientific and mathematical inquiry.

Sure, there are women superstars in many fields, but the status of women must be measured in the lives of working women, whether their collar is pink, white or blue, whether they pound a keyboard or pound the streets looking for work.

Assessing women’s status in the U.S. is a puzzle when image replaces reality and class and substance are left out of the picture.

When women look at the Bush administration, they don’t really care whether it’s Condoleezza Rice or a man who sends their family members to die or be maimed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Women don’t really care if it’s Elaine Chao or some guy throwing the lead block for corporate looting of schools, health care and Social Security.

Real advances for women have always come from “ordinary” women, most of whose names will never reach the history books, joining together and saying no to poverty and discrimination.

Women’s History Month allows 31 days to tell the truth about a thoroughly evil administration and a system that continues to work against women. It is an appropriate time to take a serious look at women’s reality, talk it over with co-workers, family and friends, decide to act together and stay together. There can be a revolution in the air. That is the reality.

Make 2005 a peace year

The urgency of curbing and reversing the administration’s war drive is growing day by day. Recent developments show that the broad campaign at home and abroad for peace is also gaining momentum. These developments need the support of the majority of Americans who now believe the war in Iraq was a mistake, and the growing millions who seek to turn our country toward a people’s foreign policy of peace, disarmament and international cooperation.

This week’s town hall meetings in Vermont, where about 50 towns voted to bring the troops home from Iraq, is a stunning illustration of this growing trend.

At its meeting in St. Louis last month, the United for Peace and Justice coalition of over 1,000 organizations focused on ending the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq and bringing the troops home now. Key plans include mass demonstrations on the March 19 second anniversary of the war, pressure on Congress, teach-ins on the negative role of the U.S. occupation, opposition to National Guard deployment in Iraq, support for the faith-based initiative Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq, and emphasis on the war’s cost to local communities.

Nor is Iraq the only front in today’s peace struggle. On Feb. 24, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin confirmed that “Canada will not take part in the proposed ballistic missile defense system.” True, Canada’s participation is not vital to “Star Wars.” But Martin’s announcement — reflecting the Canadian people’s overwhelming opposition — strikes a blow against this highly dangerous, costly, wasteful program to weaponize space.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The World Conference of Mayors for Peace, led by the mayors of those devastated cities, is campaigning to make the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference a springboard to end nuclear weapons by 2020. Backed by Abolition Now, a network of over 2,000 organizations in more than 90 countries, this campaign is endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and deserves support from every American community. The May 1 demonstration at the United Nations in New York will be a rallying point to end the war in Iraq and to abolish nuclear arms.

Another massive antiwar mobilization is planned at the UN on Sept. 10, when 160 heads of state will gather for the Millennium Conference on hunger and development.

Taken together, these developments can make 2005 a banner year for peace. But only if all who care about a peaceful and prosperous future link arms to make it so.