What the new Council on Women and Girls can do to be radical and transformative

17 03 2009

The American Prospect has an article up by Courtney Martin, one of the feministing bloggers, called A Radical Vision for the Council on Women and Girls. She mentions several important things worth mentioning.

The council was created to address and support bourgeoisie women and their interests/issues, like afforded quality child care, family leave, and flexible work schedules. Meanwhile, women not pertaining to the upper-middle and upper classes and their needs/interests tend to get ignored. What about women who struggle daily living paycheck to paycheck?

As Martin writes:

We need to shift our priorities, and the White House Council on Women and Children can be the catalyst. There are some long-neglected issues that I’d like to challenge the council to take on, namely domestic sex trafficking, the HIV/AIDS infection rate among black women, and a federally funded, comprehensive sexual-education policy.

This is absolutely true – yes, family leave, affordable quality child care, and workplace flexibility are important issues. But gender/sexuality based violence, comprehensive sex ed, human trafficking/sexual slavery, affordable quality housing, HIV/AIDS and other STDs, should also rise to the forefront. These are legitimate issues that often get overlooked. It’s time to stop otherizing certain issues and thinking that they don’t happen as frequently in America, like child prostitution, violence against the LGBTQ community, etc.

She concludes:

What will make this proposed White House Council truly radical is if it doesn’t just serve the self-interest of the women with a seat at the table but the young women and struggling mothers who have been given the scraps of governmental goodwill for far too long. With these women as a top priority rather than an afterthought, this council could demonstrate effective cooperation among departments and agencies, acknowledge that you can’t look at gender without also considering class and race (and vice versa), and connect with grass-roots groups doing work on the ground, within their own communities. In short, it could be that transformative.

What could make the council truly groundbreaking and transformative is if it addresses the entire citizenship base, not just those at the upper echelons of society, if it acknowledges the existence, voices, concerns, and demands of disenfranchised women who are lower class or of color, if it acknowledges these women and the struggles they face in their daily lives and tries to work on ways to help them or improve their situations. Helping out those who are at the lower rungs of society will ultimately lift society up as a whole.


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