Emma Watson For President of the World

Emma Watson’s speech earlier this week at the United Nations on gender equality gave me chills – and I didn’t even watch the video of it. Merely reading the text of her speech made me feel so inspired and empowered, and it also prompted me to do a little more investigating on the economic, political, and sociological treatment of women around the world.

“The more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” Emma noted. “If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”

She almost rebranded the term “feminism,” and pondered why it has taken on such a derogatory meaning in the past. She literally could not have said it any better.

“[M]y recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word,” she said. “Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive. Why is the word such an uncomfortable one?”

Emma challenged society’s weariness of feminism with the following statement, which just blew me away because it was so incredibly articulate:

“These rights I consider to be human rights but I am one of the lucky ones. My life is a sheer privilege because my parents didn’t love me less because I was born a daughter. My school did not limit me because I was a girl. My mentors didn’t assume I would go less far because I might give birth to a child one day. These influencers were the gender equality ambassadors that made who I am today. They may not know it, but they are the inadvertent feminists who are. And we need more of those.  And if you still hate the word—it is not the word that is important but the idea and the ambition behind it. Because not all women have been afforded the same rights that I have. In fact, statistically, very few have been.”

Gender inequality goes beyond the mere idea of feminism. When men and women are not treated equally, society as a whole suffers. The UN has published tons of statistics on women’s rights and roles worldwide.

  • Women make up only 1/5 of the available legislative/parliamentary seats around the globe. Only 9 women serve as Head of State (out of almost 200 countries), while 15 serve as Head of Government.
  • The wage differential between women and men varies from country to country. In some countries, women make nearly 1/3 less than men, while in others they make 10 percent less than men. Either way, that’s definitely not equal pay for equal work.
  • “Women farmers tend to produce 20 to 30 per cent less than their male counterparts because they have less access to vital inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and tools.”
    • However, if women were given equal access to these inputs, agricultural output would rise 4 percent, which would in turn decrease the number of hungry people around the globe by nearly 20 percent.
  • Women are four times more likely to be the target of intimidation tactics in political elections.
  • Women make up only 10 percent of police forces around the world. However, research shows that women are much more likely to report sexual assaults in areas where there is a greater presence of women in the police force.

There are a handful of treaties spelling out women’s rights, ranging from the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to the 2000 UN Security Council Resolution (technically not a treaty, but noteworthy nonetheless) on Women, Peace and Security. Time and time again, these documents have recognized women’s rights to be treated equal, but have also recognized that women and children are more likely to be denied these rights – particularly in times of conflict.

Part of the reason why I’m so impressed with Emma’s words is that I’m fairly certain she wrote them herself. If it was another actress or singer, I am almost certain (based on my own experience in the foreign policy field) that they would have had a team from the UN, a government agency, or an NGO actually draft it. But Emma is an Ivy-League educated, A-Levels butt kicker, and she has always proved herself to be incredibly articulate and passionate about human rights.

I know Emma’s British, but can we please make her head of a high-level government office in charge of gender issues? Although I suppose asking her to work for the UN is best – she can spread her brilliance around the globe and help ladies everywhere.

If you haven’t had a chance to hear or read the speech in full, check out the video here and the text here.

Charting Millennials

I was going through all the tweets I’ve favorited over the past several months, and I noticed a recurring theme: charts and graphs that relate to millennials. I think I favorited or retweeted them with the intention of sharing of them on here, but then I forgot about them. * cue sad violin * However, my propensity to be forgetful works out well, because now I can provide y’all with a compendium of charts. #checkitout

FIRST, the number of young-uns that identify themselves as Republicans shocked Harvard researchers earlier this spring. Apparently this is a bad thing for Democrats who are running in the 2014 midterm elections. policy-mic-political-id

And then there’s this: skeptical Millennials are skeptical of everything.


 

SECOND, the National Low Income Housing Coalition put together a chart of how many hours a person working a minimum-wage job would have to work in order to be able to afford rent in their state. What I learned from this chart: you need to work 69 more hours per week in New York than you would in Ohio in order to keep a roof over your head (the rent is too damn high!).

 


 

THIRD, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month that today’s teenagers are less likely to be employed than ever. While nearly 60 percent of teens in the 1980s held summer jobs, only about 35 percent have held summer jobs in the 2010s. However, researchers don’t think the economy is the reason behind this dramatic decrease. They attribute the drop to the increasing number of students enrolling in summer courses in high school and college. This is one of many charts that are based on the results of the extensive study that I found particularly interesting: kids from more financially well-off families are more likely to have a summer job than their less well-off peers.

 


 

FOURTH, National Public Radio and the Harvard School of Public Health teamed up to conduct an elaborate study on what various age groups across America are stressed about. This chart is just a snippet of all the data they collected, but it’s interesting that our generation in particular is incredibly frazzled about our overall responsibilities.

 


 

FIFTH, the American government’s Census Bureau created a set of insanely beautiful and elaborate graphics explaining what career fields particular college majors actually end up working in. As FactTank at the Pew Research Center explained, the thicker the line, the greater the share of people in the particular job field. If you visit the actual Census Bureau website, you can filter out certain groups to see where they ended up (for example, women who majored in a STEM field versus men who did the same).

 


 

LASTLY, in a news story that surprised ABSOLUTELY NO ONE, student loans are rising. The Brookings Institution released this fancy graph, and I honestly have no idea how to interpret it, but it looks both cool and depressing, so here you go. Check out details about the graph here.

The 40-Year-Old Millennial Sympathizer

It’s no secret that Millennials get a bad rap – especially among folks in the post-Baby Boomer generation. This is why it was especially refreshing to run across a 40-something’s “apology” in the New York Times for his generation’s tendency to rag on us.

Op-Ed columnist Frank Bruni writes,

Among Americans age 40 and older, there’s a pastime more popular than football, Candy Crush or HBO.

It’s bashing millennials.

Oh, the hours of fun we have, marveling at their self-fascination and gaping at their sense of entitlement! It’s been an especially spirited romp lately, as a new batch of them graduate from college and gambol toward our cubicles, prompting us to wonder afresh about the havoc they’ll wreak on our world.

We have a hell of a lot of nerve, considering the havoc we’ve wrought on theirs.

Bruni’s article is a poignant piece on the many different ways our generation has been shafted, and he remarks what a shame it is that no one is doing anything to fix it. Here are some of my favorite excerpts and points from his piece:

  • He notes we’re not spending enough public funds and resources on supporting America’s youth. Quoting a former Nebraska governor, who said, “If we’re trying to figure out how to advance the next generation’s future, we need to be spending more on the next generation, and we’re spending it on yesterday’s generation. I am not the future. My 12-year-old son is. But if you look at the spending, you’d think I’m the future.”
  • “Employment figures… confirm a much higher rate of joblessness among Americans ages 18 to 29 than among the whole population.”
  • The government’s regulation of carbon emissions is nowhere near strict enough. In half a century, it will lead to disastrous consequences.

We conveniently overlook how much more they’ve had to pay for college than we did, the loans they’ve racked up and the fact that nothing explains their employment difficulties better than a generally crummy economy, which certainly isn’t their fault.

Millennials are by no means untouchable angels who can do no wrong. We are far too addicted to social media, we often demand and expect far too much, and we have a tendency to be rather self-absorbed. But that’s not all we are.

We are also the most educated generation in history, we are more adept at accepting change, and we are more connected to people all over the world than ever before.

Every generation has its quirks and its flaws. Millennials aren’t some unique generation that suddenly its elders disapprove of. It’s rather unfair that the generations that came before us (X and the Baby Boomers) are so quick to judge us – especially when those generations were placed under the same scrutiny and condemnation only a few decades ago.

Weekly(ish) Retweet Roundup

Here are my summaries of some of the news stories I retweeted this week. Featuring: the French “ban” on checking work e-mails, the “Gone Girl” trailer, ‘New Girl”s Max Greenfield’s thoughts on ‘Scandal,’ and how millennials are screwing up their finances.

France Didn’t Ban People From Checking Work E-mail After 6 p.m. This is Why it Should Have | via The Washington Post

There were false reports last week that France had passed a law banning the checking of work e-mails after 6 p.m. Turns out that the “policy” was actually only part of an agreement between some labor unions and companies. However, the author of this article points out that France already has a shorter work week than many other countries – only 35 hours per week. This actually makes French workers more productive, less stressed, and less tired. Um, maybe us Americans should start doing this too?

Ben Affleck May or May Not Have Killed His Wife in David Fincher’s ‘Gone Girl’ | via Slate

We finally got to see the trailer for the movie adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s mystery thriller “Gone Girl” this week, and every news outlet was abuzz. The trailer flies from one scene to the next – and doesn’t really offer too much background on the story. If I had never read the book, I probably wouldn’t even be bothered to watch the movie after seeing this trailer. Nevertheless, I’m still really excited about this film, and I think it’s so neat that Flynn actually re-wrote the last third of the screenplay so that even readers of the book won’t know what to expect.

Save Young People From Themselves | via The New York Times

New studies show that millennials are less inclined to save money for retirement – and they are less inclined to invest it in the stock market. That’s not really a surprise, considering how financially-scarred we are.

Less than half of people under the age of 25 who are eligible for 401(k)s take advantage of them. About 60 percent of people between 25 and 34 have 401(k)s. After watching the stock market plummet in 2008, most millennials have chosen to keep half of their retirement portfolios in cash (apparently this is a bad thing – for us and the rest of America).

Even the Stars of ‘New Girl’ Love ‘Scandal’ | via Max Greenfield’s Twitter

Weekly Retweet Roundup

Here are some summaries of articles I retweeted this week that I thought were pretty interesting, along with a few of my own thoughts on them. This might turn into a weekly post if I can keep up with it.

Tweet Post Logo“The Russians Are Coming” | via Foreign Policy

The author spews out 10 reasons why we shouldn’t believe Vladamir Putin’s promise to President Obama that he is not going to invade the Ukraine. Most of the reasons seem to revolve around the author’s belief that the Obama Administration is at fault, i.e., Putin revels in embarrassing the administration, the foreign policy circles in the United States have publicly stated either that Russia is not violating international law (this is an argument I strongly disagree with; Russia’s actions are a flagrant violation of international law and the laws of war – a full blog post on that is coming soon), and the U.S. government continues to sit and watch Russia’s incursion on Crimea unfold.

However, the author does not shy away from Russia’s responsibility for its untrustworthiness. He notes that Russia has consistently lied about what is going on in Crimea, as well as its own involvement in other international crises, such as the war raging in Syria.

Ax These Terms From Your Legal Writing | via ABA Journal

Did you know that courts in both England and the United States have addressed the question of whether the term “and/or” is a word? Well, they have, according to this article. And they have unanimously answered in the negative.  The Illinois Appellate Court went so far as to describe “and/or” as a “freakish fad” that is “an accuracy-destroying symbol.” So, in other words, it’s too vague for legal writing.

Other words that courts have either declared vague or at least open to several specific interpretations include “herein,” “deem,” “provided that,” “said,” and “same.”

Go figure.

 Is the Contraception Mandate Doomed? | via Slate

As you may know, Hobby Lobby filed a religious freedom claim asserting that it should not be required to provide health care coverage for specific contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Hobby Lobby is not refusing to provide for contraceptives altogether, but rather, is refusing to pay for specific contraceptives that its owners believe can cause abortions. This article explains how the case arose, and what exactly happened during the oral arguments presented before the Supreme Court of the United States earlier this week. It’s a fascinating read, and the author cuts through the legalese so that you can really grasp what the case is truly about.

Mr. Affleck goes to Washington

ImageForeign Policy broke the story earlier this week that actor/director/Mr. Jennifer Garner/honorary-Ivy-Leaguer Ben Affleck is scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Congo on Wednesday.

And while young staffers and interns are positively brimming with excitement, not everyone is thrilled that Affleck is going to be walking the hallowed halls of the Senate office buildings.

He’s part of the worldly-actor trio (which includes George Clooney and Matt Damon) who have garnered (pun intended) a great deal of attention for humanitarian issues. Critics think that celebrities advocating on the Hill are a mere distraction and a ploy for politicians to stroke their own egos by summoning Hollywood’s biggest and best.

There are two major factors that critics are pointing to when dismissing Affleck’s legitimacy as an expert witness on the Congo. 1) He’s an actor, and 2) he directed a movie – Argo – that misrepresented the role that foreign governments played in helping six American diplomats escape from Iran unharmed during the hostage crisis.

First of all, just because you’re an actor doesn’t mean you’re an uneducated dimwit. Affleck may not have graduated from college, but he’s been publicly discussing issues related to the Congo for years. He even co-founded the Eastern Congo Initiative, an American non-profit that tackles humanitarian issues in the Congo, back in 2010. The ECI not only advocates on behalf of people from that region, but also supplies grants to local organizations to help victims of sexual violence, to help provide children with healthcare, and to facilitate peace amongst communities.

Second of all, Argo wasn’t a documentary. It was a scripted movie, and Affleck didn’t even write the script. While it was wrong for him to not at least draw attention to the fact that certain key facts were changed for the sake of storytelling, it’s not a reason to discredit him from talking about a foreign policy issue ever again.

Affleck’s creation and support of ECI doesn’t make him the leading expert on the Congo by any means. There are scholars and practitioners who’ve been studying this conflict day in and day out for several years. And those experts will be testifying before the Committee, too. They can call out Affleck if he says something wrong or stupid. The Committee isn’t just going to take what Affleck says and blindly follow his policy suggestions. His testimony, along with the other expert witnesses’ testimonies, will be taken into consideration.  Continue reading

The Constitutionality of NYC’s New Public School Calendar

Yes, I'm well aware that this is not a photo of the Bill of Rights.

Yes, I’m well aware that this is not a photo of the Bill of Rights.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday that he supports a state bill calling for the closure of the city’s public schools on at least two Muslim holidays. He was not willing to say whether the bill will be amended to cover other religious groups’ holy days.

The bill is a positive move toward acceptance of Muslims and their religious traditions. It shows that the New York legislature recognizes the city’s large Muslim population, and also respects its religious beliefs. If this bill does pass, it will be a small step in the direction of recognizing major religious holidays apart from Christmas.

However, as wonderful as the sentiment behind the bill is, the change to the school calendar gives rise to a legal question: is it constitutional for a public school system (meaning one that is run and funded by the government) to designate certain religious days as official public holidays, but not designate other religious days as such?

The background

Before answering that question, a brief explanation of the bill’s history and purpose is in order. Mayor de Blasio’s comments during a radio interview came just one month after the bill was introduced in the New York State Senate, and they have been lauded by the city’s Muslim community.

The bill states that its purpose is “[t]o designate as school holidays in the New York City School District the first days of the Muslim holidays of Eid Ul-Fitr and Eid Ul-Adha, to allow Muslim students, teachers and staff to celebrate these important holidays.”

de Blasio hinted that the holidays will not be added to the public school calendar immediately, but he has hopes that they will be soon.

“The goal is to get there,” he said. “I’ve said repeatedly —it will take time. It is complicated in terms of logistics of school calendar and budget, but it’s something I want to get done in a reasonable time frame.”

He also mentioned that schools would be closed to mark the Chinese New Year, as well as the Lunar New Year, which are two holidays that the original bill does not address.

So, is it constitutional or not? 

Here’s a lawyer-ly answer for you: it depends. We (being the general public) don’t have all the facts surrounding the senate’s decision. There is some evidence that the bill satisfies the some (but not all) of the criteria set forth by the Supreme Court for these types of “establishment clause” cases. If the policy stays the way it is, a judge will likely rule it unconstitutional. In order for this policy to be upheld, the state must change the policy so that schools are closed on other minority religions’ holy days.

Just as a refresher, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stipulates that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This portion of the First Amendment is split into two clauses. The first is known as the “establishment clause,” while the second is known as the “free exercise clause.”

If someone was to challenge the new school calendar, the challenge would likely be framed as an establishment clause issue. This means that the challenge would be scrutinized based on the requirements of the Supreme-Court-created Lemon test.* The test, which was developed in the mid-20th century case Lemon v. Kurtzman, requires that for a state law, regulation, or policy to adhere to the establishment clause, 1) it must have a secular legislative purpose, 2) its principle or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion, and 3) it must not foster excessive government entanglement with religion.

The state would have the burden of proving that the three Lemon factors are met. There is a strong argument to be made that the bill satisfies the first Lemon factor, but the possibility that the state can satisfy the other two Lemon factors is slim. Continue reading