18 November 2010

Three pieces of bad news for women this week

It's been an unhappy week in women's news at the Glomarization homestead.

First, though the lame-duck Senate had nothing to lose, they killed the Paycheck Fairness Act anyway. It wouldn't have made anything newly illegal, but it would have uncapped punitive and compensatory damages against employers who were proven to engage in sex-based wage discrimination, and it would have limited the number of excuses legal defenses an employer could use in a lawsuit. When I say "uncapped compensatory damages," that means just what it sounds like it means: if you prove that you were underpaid because of sex discrimination on account of you're a woman, you may not necessarily win back all the pay that you were otherwise rightfully owed, because there's a cap on compensatory damages. Never mind that there should or should not be a cap on extra, punitive awards over and above the actual deficit in what you were owed -- but as the law is, you can't always get even what the employer should have been fairly writing on your paycheck. This bill would have fixed that unfairness in the damages equation. Here's some context: there have been equal pay laws in place in England since 1970 and France since 1972, but here in the U.S. all the real or imaginary extensions to the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment expired in 1982, three-state strategy notwithstanding.

Second, there's a serial woman-killer on the loose in Kensington. Over on Phawker, Jeff Deeney calls a spade a spade and says that the police are letting the women have their just deserts for getting addicted and then streetwalking to pay for it. And if that isn't a reasonable social solution to the problem, then what is? Oh, yeah: drug addiction prevention and treatment, equal pay for equal work, and, you know, investigating and prosecuting sex crimes, no matter who the victims are.

And finally, in South Africa, the kind of thing that's at the bottom of the slippery slope of societal devaluing of women. At the top, paying women less than men for doing the same work; in the middle, not bothering to go after the rapists and killers of prostitutes; at the bottom: criminal charges of underage sex against a 15-year-old girl who was gang-raped at school (BBC). This is the one where the boys spiked her drink and then other kids videoed the attack with their mobile phones. Within hours, the video was on sale on the Internet, but only after the teachers had had a chance to view it and laugh at it.

Is it Friday yet? Is it time for armed all-women rebellion yet?

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