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Celebrating Sandra Fluke … and Other Women Who Have Made a Difference

SIMON SAYS - During Women’s History Month we should be celebrating women’s contributions, not assaulting them with caustic and mean spirited insults.

Like many, I am just sickened by the conduct of a National radio personality who believes in assaulting women on reproductive issues by calling them “sluts.”  I’m disgusted by a local Los Angeles radio personality team of two men calling Whitney Houston a “crack ho.”  It’s unfortunate that these misogynist and caustic remarks have over shadowed the news and accomplishments of women this month. Rather than tearing women down with crude remarks, let’s recognize a few women who may not be household names, but their acts touch our hearts, restore our faith in the youth, and have led to significant reforms in pay equity laws. How far will a mother’s love for her children go? Well for one Indiana mother her life was secondary to protecting her children.  Stephanie Decker shielded her children earlier this month during a horrific tornado which left her without two legs and leveled her house.  Ms. Decker protected her two young children as any mama bear would protect her cubs.  When interviewed she displays nothing but gratitude that she is alive and that her children are not injured. Ms. Decker showed enormous bravery and courage, reminding us how strong the human spirit is to survive despite all odds.

We should be grateful for the young Georgetown Law School student, Sandra Fluke who spoke up in front of a Congressional committee and courageously shared the inequity of costs associated with contraception. Instead she’s called a “slut”.  Her attack is followed by an all-out war against Planned Parenthood, an organization that is the only link to health care for millions of men and women in this country. What’s wrong with these so called pundits and radio commentators?  

We should also be grateful that women like Lilly Ledbetter exist and are not afraid to stand up to what’s wrong; no matter how many years later the injustice occurred. Thanks to Lilly, a woman who never sought public attention, we have a piece of legislation that ensures women can fight for pay equity when under-compensated for the same jobs they perform as their male counterparts.

Ms. Ledbetter is credited with aiding to craft the first piece of real legislation President Barack Obama signed which helps ensure that workers discriminated on the basis of gender have a fair chance to sue their employers. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is named after a courageous woman who was paid less than her male co-workers at an Alabama tire factory. Ledbetter did not set out to be an activist; she did not even involve herself in politics much. But after the Supreme Court ruled against her, she decided it was time to start.

In 1979, Lilly was hired at the Alabama Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and worked as an overnight supervisor for nearly two decades. During her career at Goodyear, Ledbetter suffered sexual harassment and day-to-day discrimination. She testified before Congress in 2007 that a supervisor once asked for sexual favors in return for good job performance evaluations. After Ledbetter complained about the supervisor to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), he was reassigned, but Ledbetter said she felt isolated at work and experienced a long-term pattern of discrimination.

Here’s how the story goes.  Shortly before she was due to retire in 1998, an anonymous co-worker slipped a note into her mailbox at work comparing her pay against that of three other male counterparts. Ledbetter was making $3,727 per month, while men doing the same job were paid $4,286 to $5,236 per month. Ledbetter filed a complaint with the EEOC and was then assigned to lift heavy tires, which she felt was retribution.

Ms. Ledbetter sued Goodyear, which claimed it paid Ledbetter less than other male workers because she was not a good worker. A jury awarded Ledbetter about $3.3 million, but the amount was later reduced to around $300,000. Subsequently, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that Ledbetter was not entitled to compensation because she filed her claim more than 180 days after receiving her first discriminatory paycheck.

The new bill changes the Civil Rights Act so that workers can sue up to 180 days after receiving any discriminatory paycheck.

This quote from Lilly sums up the strength women have shown when fighting unimaginable battles and still come up standing taller than ever:

"I told my pastor when I die, I want him to be able to say at my funeral that
I made a difference."

I’d say Ms. Ledbetter more than made a difference. During March and frankly every month, we should celebrate the advancements and sacrifices women make for themselves, their family and to create change.  I salute Stephanie Decker, Sandra Fluke, and Lilly Ledbetter for making us remember the power of our voices and inner strength.  

(Robyn Ritter Simon is a CityWatch contributor and a Board member with the National Women’s Political Caucus, LA Westside chapter. The organization aims to see 50/50 by 2020, a goal of gender parity by the year 2020. NWPC works to ensure more prochoice women are elected or appointed to public office. To learn more about their projects visit -cw

Tags: National Women’s Political Caucus, Robyn Ritter Simon, Women’s History Month, celebrating women, Sandra Fluke, Stephanie Decker, Lilly Ledbetter

Vol 10 Issue 25
Pub: Mar 27, 2012