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Current and former female employees of the Marin Municipal Water District in San Francisco won $635,000 from their employer in a sexual harassment case. After the two women who filed the suit get a portion of the money, the rest will go to about 75 other women. The women charged their managers with discriminating and harassing behavior, particularly after the women complained about certain incidents. In one instance, men showed the females a copy of Penthouse magazine. On many other occasions, men subjected them to sexually demeaning profanities and demoted or denied the women better jobs when they complained.
8/8/1997 - Surfers Ride Wave of Gender Equality
For the first time in surfing history, a female pro surfer was allowed to compete with the men. Three-time world champion Lisa Anderson competed this week at the U.S. Open of Surfing, held in California, in both the men's and women's divisions. Although Anderson failed to qualify for the men's final, she believes that competing against the men will allow her to improve her skills and will pave the way for other female surfers.
8/8/1997 - Packwood Returns
The disgraced former Oregon Senator Bob Packwood has returned to work in Washington as a lobbyist on tax reform, the tobacco industry, and the balanced budget amendment. Packwood resigned his seat in the Senate less than two years ago amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
"In American politics today, you can achieve rehabilitation very quickly," said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.
Although the number of women police officers in major cities has increased, smaller towns lag far behind. Women officers comprise about 15% of the nation's largest departments, up from three percent 20 years ago. Advocacy groups and lawsuits have pressured the larger cities to make this change but have not challenged small cities. Thus, suburban police chiefs have little incentive to let go of tradition and urge women to apply for openings. These chiefs, however, argue that the low number of women officers is not their fault. They argue that most women do not apply for police work, so most of the jobs go to men.
A few smaller departments have made efforts to encourage female applicants. In New Haven, Conn., recruiters advertise job openings in women's groups' newsletters and hand out fliers in day care centers. This tactic worked well for Officer Jennifer Raymond, who applied for her job after seeing a flier which said New Haven wanted female officers.
According to Penny Harrington, the director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women and Policing in Los Angeles, recruiting female officers not only helps women, but the communities which the departments serve. "Citizens' complaints go down because women tend to be better communicators," she said. "They try to solve problems rather than make an arrest and go away."
8/7/1997 - Abortion Fraud Charge Dropped
Lincoln County prosecutors dropped Medicaid fraud charges against a Nebraska woman who had a state-funded abortion last fall because the charges were "no longer appropriate." Nebraska Medicaid pays for abortions in cases of rape or incest, but requires that victims report the incident to police. The woman told authorities that she had been raped in a park by a stranger when she was actually raped in a hotel room by a man she had met two days before. She did not tell police officers this because she feared they would not believe she had been raped.
"Our system still finds it difficult for women to be taken seriously especially when the rapist is well known to the victim" said Judith Cross, Nebraska's chair of the state Commission on the Status of Women.
Lactation consultants report that women are still reluctant to continue breast-feeding their infants after they return to work. Although technology such as portable breast milk machines has made expressing milk easier than ever, many women are too embarrassed to bring up the subject with their employers, and many employers are reluctant to make adequat breastfeeding facilities available. Employers are urged to make it easy for mothers to express milk while at work, since it could reduce health care costs and time taken off by parents of sick children, since breast-fed babies are often healthier than their bottle-fed counterparts.
8/6/1997 - California Parental Consent Law Struck Down
The California Supreme Court struck down the state’s parental consent law on Tuesday, August 5. Lawyers argued that the law, which required minors to obtain permission to get an abortion from either a parent or a judge, violated minors’ privacy rights. The court upheld the law last year but, with the departure of two judges supporting the law, agreed to reexamine the case this year. Members of the medical community, assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, had sued to have the law overturned. More than 20 other states have similar laws on the books, and a dozen more require parental notification. Federal courts have tended to uphold the constitutionality of such laws. In California, the 1987 law has not been enforced for the most part while tied up in court.
The California Supreme Court voted 4-3 against the parental consent law, citing a teenager’s right to privacy. “I would not go so far as to say that this will set a legal trend, but other states many look to the analysis that the California Supreme Court did here,” said Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. Antiabortion activists claim they will try to put the parental consent law in voters’ hands in 2000 as an amendment to the California state constitution.
8/6/1997 - Congress Restricts Abortions
The 105th Congress passed several restrictions on abortion this year. On June 5, the House adopted an amendment to the State Department Authorization bill which bans funding for overseas organizations that use their own money to promote or perform abortions. The U.S. is already prohibited from making direct contributions to overseas abortions. Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), who sponsored the amendment, plans to propose a similar one to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. Both Houses voted to keep a ban on abortions in overseas military hospitals in place, even if the women want to pay for the procedures themselves. On July 22, the Senate adopted an amendment that, for the third year, would prevent federal employee health plans from paying for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the woman. Congress this year reauthorized the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions except in the cases mentioned above. This amendment would also apply to the children’s health initiatives in both Budget Reconciliation bills. The Senate passed a bill May 20 that would outlaw D&X procedures, but the House has not yet voted on it.
A Richmond federal appeals court ruled on August 5 that seven white male police officers could sue their supervisor for making derogatory comments about women and blacks and for creating a hostile work environment. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision overruled an earlier court decision throwing out the lawsuit because the men were not the targets of the insults. The officers have accused their supervisor of making disparaging remarks to and about female and black members of the police force for a two-month interval in 1993. They sued in 1995 after their complaint to a precinct captain resulted in no action against the supervisor.
Female employees’ allegations of "inappropriate office behavior" led to Rear Admiral Robert S. Cole's removal from the command post at Norfolk-based Atlantic Fleet shore facilities. Women working in Cole's office alleged that Cole kissed them on the cheek or held them, creating an uncomfortable office environment. There are also allegations that Cole had an "excessively familiar relationship" with a female subordinate, according to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
Admiral J. Paul Reason, commander-in-chief of the Atlantic fleet, cited the reasons for Cole's dismissal as "a loss in confidence in his judgment and ability to command."
Girls in Fairfax County are protesting that the county provides more and better facilities for its baseball teams than for its softball teams. Softball coaches complained at a County Board of Supervisors meeting that the recreation department provides 109 baseball fields but only 10 softball fields. Boys comprise the majority of the county’s 31,000 youth baseball players, but there are about 15,000 girl softball players. Supervisors voted 8-0 to remedy the inequality by constructing two new softball fields and creating a committee to investigate the problem.
8/5/1997 - Chilean Feminists Work to Change Divorce Law
A bill legalizing divorce may soon be debated in the Chile legislature. Chilean feminists have long argued that the century-old ban on divorce prevents battered women from leaving violent spouses. The nation, under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and extreme conservatism of the former military government, has outlawed divorce since the 1880's. Physician Jimean Letelier, who left her husband after enduring their violent marriage for 16 years, said, "I can't divorce him. The law doesn't allow it. No matter what I try to do, I will always belong to him....It makes me sick." While Chile permits legal separation, the process is time-consuming and expensive. Even if couples obtain legal separations, they cannot marry again. In addition to hurting abused women, the law has actually increased the number of Chilean couples who live together out of wedlock and raised the birth rate of illegitimate children to almost 40%, the highest in Latin America. Chilean society stigmatizes these children and gives them a lower social status by prohibiting them from becoming military officers or holding high police positions.
Political analysts believe that a divorce law would pass in the lower house of Congress, but the Senate, which includes eight "designated" legislators appointed by the military, presents more of an obstacle. These senators, however, are likely to lose their offices in the December election, so the bill will probably pass by early next year. .
Lilith Fair Musicians Joan Osbourne and Sarah McLachlan were successful in their efforts to convince officials at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion to revoke their policy barring those advocating "controversial issues" from setting up booths at the venue. After Osbourne and McLachlan threatened a future boycott of the pavilion unless officials permitted Planned Parenthood set up an information booth, the booth was reinstated. Planned Parenthood has had a booth at every other Lilith Fair concert.
8/5/1997 - Lieutenant Defends "Private Life" at Hearing
Lieutenant Crista Davis defended her right to a "private life" yesterday at a public hearing on the charges resulting from her affair with a married Air Force Academy instructor. She denied wrongdoing and asked that the military not judge her on the basis of her personal correspondence with the instructor. Davis, who is black, has accused the Air Force of prosecuting her because she has filed sex and race discrimination complaints against several officers. The Air Force denies this accusation.
At the Ninth Assembly meeting from July 8 to 16 in Africa, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) denounced discrimination against women in nations and churches. General Secretary Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko pointed out that domestic violence and sexual harassment prove women still face disadvantages in society. In his own church, he said women's representation was still inadequate despite the LWF's focus on affirmative action for women. Rev. Noko suggested that the LWF Assembly, the highest decision-making body in the federation, come to an agreement on ways to increase the number of women in church leadership and at the local level.
A Japanese court decided on July 31 in favor of a woman who divorced her husband after he demanded she make him breakfast, iron his clothes and clean the house even though she works full time. The husband filed a lawsuit demanding $38,000 from his wife because he claimed she did not abide by their marriage agreement. The Tokyo District Court rejected the husband's suit but asked the wife to return her wedding rings, which she had already done, and a cash gift of $8,000. Women's groups applauded the case, which they see as a symbol of the increasing resistance among Japanese women to obeying their traditional husbands.
On August 1, 1997, Janet Travell passed away at the age of 95. Dr. Travell was the first woman to hold the White House post of physician, caring for President John F. Kennedy and his family. Her appointment caused controversy among Washington elites since she was the first non-military personnel to hold the position since the 1920's.
Dr. Travell graduated from Wellesley College and Cornell University's medical school. She specialized in pain treatment, which helped her to develop innovative techniques to treat John F. Kennedy's back pain. President Kennedy described Dr. Travell as a "medical genius," and others described her as a woman with "a patrician dignity and a fey sense of humor." In addition to serving on President Kennedy's staff, Dr. Travell was a professor at George Washington University, and was the author of "Office Hours Day and Night," and "Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual."
Dr. Travell died in Northampton, Massachusetts of congestive heart failure. Her survivors include two daughters, Virginia B. Wilson of Northampton and Janet Powell Pinci of Milan; six grandchildren; and five great grandchildren.
8/4/1997 - Web Site Harasses High School Girls
A web site which rated the looks of girls about to enter a high school in the northern California community of Palo Alto "crossed the line of appropriateness, good taste and even sexual harassment as defined by the California Education Code," according to Irv Rollins, the district's assistant superintendent. A woman alerted the school about the site, and the school notified Geocities, the site's Internet provider. Geocities removed the page because it violated "hate speech" guidelines. Palo Alto school officials do not know who authored the site, and they are not investigating it because the site creators did not break any laws. If students designed the page on school time and on school premises, the school would expel them for sexual harassment.
Despite the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, military discharges for gay men and lesbians reached their highest point of 850 in 1996. Since May, the Pentagon has been reviewing the policy, which permits gay men and lesbians to serve in the armed forces as long as they do not reveal their sexual orientation or engage in sexual activity. The policy also prohibits the military from questioning service members about their orientation; however, gay men and lesbians have charged military commanders with asking people about their orientation and instigating "witch hunts" against gay men and lesbians. Defense Department spokeswoman Monica Aloisio explained the Pentagon's review focuses on the enforcement of the policy, not the policy itself.
8/4/1997 - WNBA Continues to Soar
Halfway through its inaugural season, the success of the Women's National Basketball Association continues to exceed even the most optimistic of expectations. Attendance across the league has averaged close to 9,000 fans--twice what most experts predicted. The Phoenix Mercury and the New York Liberty draw an average of 13,300 and 11,400, respectively. A majority of these fans are women, young girls, and families.
"We worked hard to appeal to the youth, family, and female market," said Valerie Ackerman, president of the league, "and it's our objective to maintain those demographics to the extent we can."
Although the WNBA's success can be attributed in part to its strong corporate backing -- NBC, ESPN, and Lifetime each broadcast games, and Coca-Cola, Nike, and American Express are sponsors -- fans say the atmosphere of the games is completely different from that of the NBA. Players sign autographs after every game and male break dancers have replaced the cheerleaders.
Most importantly, female fans have said that they appreciate the opportunities the new league offers them and their daughters. "I grew up at a time when it was easier to be a hand surgeon than a professional basketball players," said Dr. Susan Scott, the New York Liberty's team doctor. "This has never been a valid goal until now. And when children see what's possible, they reach for it."
Ever since she vetoed her state's ban on D&X abortions, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman has been plagued by a small but vocal group of protesters. Whitman, a moderate Republican, vetoed the ban because it did not include provisions to protect the woman's life. Although pollsters predict that her conservative views on other issues will help her defeat Democrat state Senator Jim McGreevey this fall, Gov. Whitman does admit that her abortion stance could pose a problem with grassroots Republicans.
7/31/1997 - Groups Protest Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan
Women's rights and human rights activists, led by the Feminist Majority, protested the Taliban's policies of gender apartheid in Afghanistan in noontime pickets on Wednesday, July 30 at the Pakistani and Afghan embassies. Approximately 80 people protested, representing groups such as the Feminist Majority, NOW, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
"The strong turnout showed that women's and human rights organizations are taking a stand on this important issue. We will not stand silently by as our sisters in Afghanistan become victims of inhumane gender apartheid," stated Negar Katirai, a Feminist Majority intern who helped coordinate the demonstration.
The Taliban conquered Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, in September 1996 and immediately declared an end to women's human rights there. Women are no longer allowed to work or attend school, and have been beaten for not wearing Islamic dress, a full-length. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the only nations to have given the Taliban official recognition.
7/31/1997 - Army Delays Release of Sexual Harassment Reports
The Army has delayed the release of two reports on sexual harassment which it had previously scheduled to make public on July 31. Secretary of the Army Togo West claims he wants to keep reports confidential until the service forms an "action plan" to present to Congress. A military and civilian panel conducted one study and the Army's inspector general directed the other after investigators discovered male drill sergeants at Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground training camp sexually assaulted female recruits. Officials say the findings criticize the Army for mishandling the integration of women, especially in training. Areas the Army has dealt with inadequately include proper screening of prospective drill sergeants and teaching trainees how to halt unwanted advances. Another study, this one chaired by former senator Nancy Kassebaum Baker, will be released in December. This investigation may lead Congress to vote on legislation ordering the Army to return to segregated training.
Hours after a news conference publicizing Wendy Lawrence as the next astronaut to stay on the Mir space station, NASA announced on July 31 that it dropped her from the mission. Despite her year of training, Lawson cannot go through with the mission because of her height. At 5-foot-3, she does not meet Russia's space agency's height standards even though she was cleared to return last summer when the requirements were modified. Too small to fit into the Russian spacesuits used for spacewalks, she cannot conduct emergency repairs, made necessary by Mir's collision last month. NASA officials claim that the former candidate's sex had nothing to do with the decision to replace her, but John Pike, a space expert at the Federation of American Scientists, disagrees. He believes not wanting to put a woman in an increasingly dangerous environment contributed to the space agency's action.
7/31/1997 - D&X Abortions to Continue in Alaska
Alaska Superior Court Judge John Reese issued a temporary injunction blocking a ban on D&X abortions late Wednesday, July 30. The ban was scheduled to go into effect the following day, but a group of abortion rights supporters sued last week to overturn it, arguing that the statute violated women's privacy rights. A law requiring that girls under 17 obtain parental permission before getting an abortion remained scheduled to go into effect Thursday, July 31.