Wednesday, 26 February 2014

CWA (Concerned Women for America)

I chose the website CWA (Concerned Women for America) as a company who is devoted to women issues that originated in 1979 in San Diego, California.
Although the website claims that it is for women issues and fights for the feminist movement, I believe many would disagree with their interpretation of feminism because of the morals and beliefs the organisation promotes. The website states that their mission is “…for women and like-minded men, from all walks of life, to come together and protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens — first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society — thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation.” The website then goes on to state their seven core issues which cover the sanctity of life, defence of family, education, religious liberty, national sovereignty, sexual exploitation, and support for Israel.  
The founder and chairman of the organisation, Beverly LaHaye, refers to an interview on television between Barbara Walters and Betty Friedan; “Realizing that Friedan claimed to speak for the women of America, Beverly LaHaye was stirred to action. She knew the feminists’ anti-God, anti-family rhetoric did not represent her beliefs, nor those of the vast majority of women.” Judging by this quote, I think the views on issues that are expressed by this website would be perceived as highly debatable in reference to feminism.

The general perception of feminism is that it is for the women’s freedom and opportunities, not to further restrict and delegate which rights women are allowed to have, an example of this on the website is the debate amongst abortion, the website states “CWA supports the protection of all innocent human life from conception until natural death. We also support alternatives to abortion and healing for mothers suffering from the results of abortion.” Which clearly affects women’s rights of her body and what happens to her body. Thus, speaking from a typical feminist perspective I would adamantly disagree with the attitude that the CWA expresses towards women and women’s rights and would find them to be unsupportive of the feminist movement.

NOW - National Organisation for Women

Website -

"As the grassroots arm of the women’s movement, the National Organization for Women is dedicated to its multi-issue and multi-strategy approach to women’s rights. NOW is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States, with hundreds of thousands of contributing members and more than 500 local and campus affiliates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia." - NOW website. 

Founded in 1966, NOW have been actively aiming to bring equality for all women, and claims to be a leader, not a follower of public opinion. Co-founder Betty Friedan was one of the first women to create a backlash at the adverts at the time, which promoted the idea of women staying at home and working in the kitchen. She felt this domesticated way of life was not all there was for a woman to aim for, so she went on to create the "second-wave" of feminism as her way to demonstrate that a woman can aim to be whatever she pleases, and that women could do the jobs just as well as men could. 

NOW hold events and campaigns to highlight the issues they feel are in society. One of the big issues they discuss on the website is that of body image. Under the tab "Love your body", they discuss how there is a lot of pressure for women to look a certain way, and have a certain body type. They feel that this is ridiculous, and that these pressures in society cause a lot of harm to individuals who go to extreme lengths to reach these ideals. NOW promote the idea that the female body is beautiful in all forms, and aim to remove the pressures from society, most particularly in the media. 

NOW claim to be a multi-issue and multi-strategy organisation. They prioritise winning economic equality and equal rights for women, and hope to secure this by amendment to the U.S Constitution. They also aim to work on abortion rights, reproductive freedom and women's health issues, opposing racism and fighting bigotry against lesbians and gays; and ending violence against women.

The website is an interesting one, as it gives the option to donate to the foundation. The website includes a blog called "Say It Sister!", which I found interesting as I felt it encouraged a kind of sisterhood between all woman, uniting them all together under this cause. By giving this sense of community, it encourages more people to get involved with their campaigns, which therefore in turn means that they can accomplish more and have a larger voice in society and can make a bigger change. 

League of Women Voters of Indiana

The website I looked at is the site for a group called the League of Women Voters of Indiana. I chose an Idiana group because that state has some of the most restrictive birth control laws, which is an issue that affects women. They are an organisation who aim to encourage women to take part in politics in order to influence public policy. Although more women vote than men, in 2012 only 63.7% of the female population of voting age cast their vote in the election.This means that there is still a significant number of women who do not vote in America. By encouraging them to take part in what was once a male-dominated sphere, LWIN are advocating the views of First Wave Feminism, which was focused on getting women the right to vote and then making sure they did so.

One of the women's issues mentioned on the LWIN homepage is protection for unmarried couples and same-sex families. The inclusion of same-sex families implies that the group follows Third Wave Feminism, which accepts plurality and includes gay women in its ideals and concepts. Another issue they discuss on their homepage is birth control. The group is pro-choice and supports a woman's right to have control over her own body. The group is also concerned with child care and education, which could be seen as women's issues as they traditionally, as mothers, they have more of an interest in their child and the education that it gets. Child care is an issue important to women today as feminism has allowed women to be single mothers and/or to go back to work after having a child. Child care is one way to help women who have made that lifestyle choice.

However, some feminists, might disagree with some of the issues LWIN focuses on. By specifically singling out child care and education as policies that women would be interested in, the group is placing the role of women back into the home and in the role of provider for the child. The "Bills of Interest" provided for LWIN by the Indiana House and Senate do not include any bills on traditionally more male areas of politics, such as employment.

National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE)

American Studies Week 7 Blog: Feminism

Find, analyse and post any website or blog explicitly devoted to contemporary women issues in America. Analyse it from a feminist perspective.

The National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) is “a coalition of women and civil rights organizations” founded in 1979. Its purpose is to “close the wage gap that still exists between women, as well as people of colour, and men”. It claims that in 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was signed, women made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men, and that whilst census statistics released in 2013 reveal this gap has closed somewhat, with women’s earnings amounting to 76.5 % of men’s wages or 77 cents on average for every dollar, this shows that the aim of the Equal Pay Act has not been achieved. It attributes part of the disparity in wages to the preponderance of women in low-paying occupations, as well as factors like education and lack of experience in the work force. However, it also argues that the remaining gap  is also the result of continued discrimination towards women, claiming that studies “continue to show women earning less than men in the same occupations”. It also mentions that the wage gap is worse for women of colour. The most damning fact it cites, though, is probably from a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research showing that “if the pace of change in the annual earnings ratio continues at the same as it has since 1960, it will take another 45 years, until 2058, for men and women to reach parity”. To solve this problem, it suggests the following measures: 1) The Department of Labour should develop a tool to collect data regarding salaries etc, so that employers and employees can access information to end pay discrimination; 2) The Department of Labour should gather information to ensure employers receiving tax dollars are abiding by the law. The website offers free membership to those who want to join the NCPE, and also encourages its readers to visit various websites that deal with this issue. 
From a feminist perspective, if we are to believe the findings quoted in the website, the fact that wage disparity still exists despite several feminist waves and the civil rights movement of 1960s, must be unacceptable. To feminists, there is no reason to suppose that women are less competent than men. This contention can be supported by a 2007 gender gap study from the World Economic Forum (WEF) that suggests women are more likely to hold a university degree than men, whilst they also consistently outperform men in terms of academic achievements. A study by Olga Epitropokai, who holds a PhD and is an academic director at ALBA Graduate Business School in Greece, also reveals that women are equal in terms of intelligence to men, and that in the case of emotional intelligence and empathy, women are actually superior. According to Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor at the University of London, emotional intelligence can be linked to humility, and this has been suggested as a necessary quality for leaders as it is more likely that a venture would become great if the “executive blends genuine personal humility with intense professional will.” Scientific research has also suggested that women are more effective/transformational leaders, and in light of this, it is lamentable that a 1998 survey shows that there were only 2 FORTUNE 500 companies had female CEOs. 
All these findings suggest to feminists that women are at least as competent as men. In the face of this, they question why they still receive lower wages, and can only attribute this to discrimination, as noted by the NCPE. One relevant case is highlighted by Epitropokai who states that there is bias against working mothers, with employers viewing them as less competent, self-oriented and less-dedicated to their children than stay-at-home mothers, which is nonsense considering the earlier findings and because, as Premuzic highlighted, women are more empathetic, whilst it has also been shown that men are more likely to be arrogant and less caring. 
So from a feminist perspective it is wholly unacceptable that wage disparity still exists in this day and age. To them, women are just as competent and should be guaranteed their rights under the Equal Pay Act, being eligible for the benefits men receive. Even if women are more likely to drop out of a job than men, it doesn’t explain why wages cannot be equal. Some radical feminists may view the NCPE policy of “urging the Department of Labour” to take action as lukewarm, and would probably love to see the enforcement of the Equal Pay Act, which is federal law. Despite the obvious bias and questionable credibility of the sources I have presented, I still feel that there is a strong argument for women not to have to suffer wage disparity. It is ironic that a country claiming to be the “land of the opportunity” would deny the opportunity for personal growth on the grounds of gender, which in itself is a violation of civil rights. There is clearly no reason to deny women equal pay, if they are able to perform the job to a competent level. Finally, the fact that the problem still exists despite a federal law guaranteeing equal wages is plain odd, and as such in this case, I concur with the claim by feminists for equal wages for all workers.

Other Sources

Trust Women
The website I have chosen to look at is called Trust Women, an organization that campaigns to give women the option of abortions as well as parental and postnatal care. The project is focused mainly on the Midwest of America, where there is still a huge gap in what treatment can be provided due to various state laws: for example in Oklahoma, the law prohibits women from elective abortions (an abortion for any reason other than if the life of the mother is in danger.) Trust Women takes a “pro-choice” stance on abortion and aims to set up more clinics in America and share their vision of a country where women can “control their reproductive lives without burden.”
The trust was set up in dedication to the physician George Tiller, who worked for one of the only medical clinics nationwide to provide late term abortions. This made him a controversial figure in his home state of Kansas, leading to his assassination by Scott Roeder in 2009. The clinic asks any visitors to their site for donations to carry on the project in his name and support the funding of more clinics in this area of the US.
The organization has stirred debate in the states it has ventured into. In 2013, the group had to react against a planned protest and prayer vigil by Representative Tim Huelskamp and a group of anti-choice high school students in Kansas. There has also been lobbying against various anti-choice state legislatures for the past three years in Oklahoma and Kansas.

I support the views expressed on the Trust Women foundation. Abortion has long been a topic of serious debate but arguments against it fail to understand the human rights violation against women. For women to have full control of their bodies is critical to civil rights; if the government can force a woman to go ahead with an unwanted pregnancy then what is stopping them from enforcing contraception on them or sterilization? It is difficult to argue against the use of abortion when in the cases of rape and domestic violence, clinics like Trust Women are offering a safe alternative. The work done at these clinics are safe medical procedures, backed up by counseling and support groups to stop the increase of unwanted pregnancies. With the increase of these groups, I’m sure there would be a decrease in the need for them in this area over a period of time, altogether making better progress on the issue than any anti-choice groups have ever done.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

American Atheists

American Studies Blog: Religion
Find, post and analyse the website of any American faith group or denomination, eg Baptist, Catholic, Mormon, Amish, Unitarian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, etc. How does your chosen group sharpen the definition of American identity in terms of its particular faith? Remember, context matters – e.g, if you choose a denomination of Christianity, make clear what is specific about it.
            Founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair in 1963 in Austin, Texas, American Atheists is an organization that claims to fight “for the civil liberties of atheists and the total, absolute separation of government and religion”.  Its origins lie in the Murray v. Curlett court case, in which the organization’s founder took her son’s school to court alleging that he had suffered from harassment after declining to participate in state-mandated Bible readings. The website claims that the court ruled in favour of the Mrs Murray citing the First Amendment to the Constitution, after which the organization was formed. Now located in Cranford, New Jersey, it aims to achieve the aforementioned goals by means of distributing magazines, newsletters etc.
            Before we can describe how the organization sharpens the concept of American Identity in terms of Atheism, we need to understand how its members define the following two terms: Atheism and Materialism. In simple terms, they argue that Atheism is a “mental attitude, which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason…”.  Their concept of materialism, on the other hand, is less easy to grasp, as the website seems to claim that it encompasses several things.  However, they assert that as materialists they have “faith” in humankind and in their ability to transform world culture by their own efforts. They appear to hold that our potential for good and for more fulfilling cultural development is, for all practical purposes, unlimited.
With this in mind, we can see that one way in which this Atheist Organization sharpens American identity is by allying it to one of their core values: Materialism. There is no denying that today, American Culture and Identity is dominated by the ideals of Materialism and progress. This is evident in the country’s general predisposition to determine a person’s worth in terms of wealth, and of its desire to be a leader in all fields, e.g. the space program. By claiming that Atheism is synonymous with Materialism, it could be said that the organization is attempting to justify itself by seeking to persuade American citizens that its beliefs are the truest and most representative of the values that create America’s unique identity. The obvious criticism of this is to ask whether the cultural attitudes that reflect materialism are really beneficial, since works such as The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street seem to highlight its negative aspects. This in turn, could be used to question whether the American Atheists that endorse such values are truly good.
We can also clearly see that the organization uses the bedrock of American Identity, the Constitution, to justify its existence and its goals. This is made evident in its Aims and Principles, where it claims that it accepts the argument of “Thomas Jefferson that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was meant to create a “wall of separation” between state and church”, as well as highlighting the victory achieved by Mrs Murray. In addition, its advocacy of a complete and absolute separation of Church is something found not just in the Constitution, but also in the words and deeds of some of the country’s Presidents, most notably in Kennedy’s speech of 1960. So it could be said that the organization is sharpening this feature of American Identity by allying itself with the sentiments of Kennedy, who was not only President but a Catholic, implying that other people of similar faiths should not be able enforce their beliefs or condemn Atheists for their beliefs.
An argument that could be leveled at the organization is that despite their opposition to enforcing religious values, they themselves could be said to be aiming to enforce secular values, depending on how one interprets their website. Statements such as the one which states that their aim is to “develop and propagate a social philosophy in which humankind is central and must itself be the source of strength, progress and ideals for the well-being and happiness of humanity”, and their claim that they advocate “in all lawful ways for the maintenance of a thoroughly secular system of education available to all”, portrays an attitude that goes beyond their main concern of having their beliefs accepted and maintaining the separation of state and church.
Another question that can be asked of American Atheism is whether it should be considered to be a form of religion, as suggested in the BBC report. Despite the modern claim by religious organizations that they hold a set of beliefs in a creator and governor of Earth with supernatural powers, in a sense Atheism by rejecting the existence of a creator, is also concerning itself with the concept of God. In addition to this, we have a problem in trying to understand what the Founding Fathers meant by religion as stated in the Constitution. If we were to define religion simply as a set of beliefs, then by the definition of the Constitution, we could say it would be wrong for Atheists to advocate an education system consisting of secular beliefs.
Overall, we can say that there are several ways in which the American Atheists utilize American Identity to justify their beliefs and so sharpen that identity. As regards the criticisms that I have leveled at the organization, they might be considered somewhat far-fetched or even irrelevant, if we consider the 1971 court case, Lemon vs Kurtzman, as it claims that the Supreme Court has ruled that “an action was not an establishment if: 1. the statute (or practice) has a secular purpose.” Personally, considering myself to be an Agnostic, I can identify with several aspects of Atheism. As such I find it somewhat contradictory that such people, as seen in the article from the Telegraph, are criticized or prevented from expressing their beliefs, despite the country’s history of accepting diversity of belief, most clearly depicted in De Crevecoeur’s novel.


Main website -

       The Pennsylvania Amish in Lancaster County are the oldest and largest of all the Amish communities in the United States, arriving in 1720 and with a current population of 30,000. Although originally started in Europe, the Amish religion moved to the US in order to escape persecution for their beliefs. They are of the Anabaptist faith, which means they have made a conscious choice to accept God, and have made their beliefs evident in their lifestyle.

       The main identifying feature of the Amish, is their traditional beliefs and culture. Their main means of living is off the land, with a huge emphasis on farming and living naturally. They have strong views on humility, family and community, as well as separation from the modern world. They don't use electricity, as they feel this connects them to the outside world which will distract them from their faith. The Pennsylvania Amish however are willing to compromise with the modern world by using modern technology, as long as they don't disrupt family or community stability. Obedience and conformity are highly encouraged.

       The Pennsylvania Amish speak Pennsylvania Deutsch, which is mainly German. This means that their interaction with the outside world is further limited due to language barriers. The children learn English in the schools, but German is the main language for worship.

       The Pennsylvania Amish feel that individualism and pride threaten the harmony in which they live. In order to prevent this, they discourage personal bible studies, as individual interpretations may challenge the traditions they have. They all dress similarly and plainly, with the men wearing black suits with suspenders and a hat, either black or straw. Women wear plain, long, modest dresses with aprons. They wear their uncut hair swept up into a bun for practicality, covered by a prayer covering.



I have chosen to look at the religion of Scientology as it is one that I have heard many people discuss because of the controversy it causes and the mocking it receives; however it is one I am personally unaware of.
The website looks like a slick and modern organization that is welcoming to visitors. It has a page dedicated to the religion’s creator L. Ron Hubbard and pages inviting visitors to ask ‘what is Scientology?’ The video and text that comes with this explains that “Man is an immortal and spiritual being” and their goal is “spiritual enlightenment and freedom for all,” which sounds hugely positive but has no information on what makes this truly different from any other religion. The video explains that is the study of knowing and is something you do as well as believe in; following this are a long list of empowering words such as “practical solutions,” “inspiration” and “creativity” but still no explanation what they actually do.
After going on the next page, another video explains the charity work they supposedly do, with interviews with everyday scientologists saying how empowering helping others is. What links this back with American identity is the notion that everyone is born equal and deserves help from their fellow man in a very biblical kind of message.
It is not until a page called ‘what are the principles of Scientology?’ that is quite difficult to find, that I get a real idea of what they believe in. The video describes how Men are spirits and the body and mind are something we have, not something we are, and that our spirits will live longer than our bodies and minds.

I find the fact that Scientology is a 21st Century religion interesting as it has been built on the beliefs of one man, L. Ron Hubbard, and not on the actual practicing of the teachings like other religions have. This does fit in with America’s identity as being a “land of the free” where people can decide what it is that they choose to believe in, even if it is a New Age idea that has no evidence behind it. It reminds of sections in De Crevecoeur’s book where he describes settlers coming to America and working for themselves off the land. Scientology seems similar to me, as it suggests that people can invent their own religion and live by its rules if that is their choosing.

Rodef Shalom

I chose Rodef Shalom, which is a reformed Jewish community. The church is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has been a beacon in the Reform Jewish community for more than 150 years. The website states, “From the middle of the 19th century onward, our congregation has pushed for the modernisation of Jewish thought and practise.”

Rodef Shalom describe Reform Judaism; “As Jews, we remain Sons and Daughters of Abraham, but our encounters with other cultures have taught us much. Reflecting these realities, Reform Judaism asserts that a Judaism frozen in time is a static monolith, not a living foundation.” Thus, the religious community embraces modernity and adapts their religion, rather than taking the traditional route. This take on a modern approach is issued throughout the website as the religion is accepting of everyone, “We are proud that our congregational family includes men and women irrespective of age, marital or family status, faith tradition of origin, or financial means. We welcome the LGBT community, those with special needs, young professionals, and seniors. Interfaith families have a place with us as well.”

I think this American faith group sharpens the definition of American identity based on its particular faith because the religion celebrates diversity and takes a much more modern approach in terms of religion, which is  a definition of America and its identity as a diverse and modern country.


I have chosen to look at the American Catholic Church in the United States (ACCUS). It was founded in 1999 and based in Maryland. A major focus for ACCUS is that it is inclusive - on their about page they write that they reject "artificial barriers to the reception of the Sacraments based on marital status, sexuality or orientation". Similarly to the view of the first settlers in America that religion could now move away from dogma, ACCUS has moved away from strict rules about how people should live their lives - they go on to say that they teach their Catholic values "with respect for the human freedom and dignity". This echoes American preoccupation with freedom and individual choice. ACCUS even allow their clergy to marry. Although the ideas of freedom may be rooted in the founding fathers, ACCUS have also embraced the diversity of modern America. It seems to recognize that people have different lifestyles and so  has updated its teachings to include a view of a more modern, diverse America in which people get divorced, are gay and believe in equality between genders.

ACCUS has taken some steps to distance itself from the Roman Catholic church. This seems to be a reaction to abuse of children by some Roman Catholic clergymen. It shows a willingness to work with civil authorities by having it written into their policy that any suspicion of abuse has to be reported to the authorities and not handled within the church. This is an example of their more progressive nature than that Roman Catholic church and reveals that there may be some tension felt between the two groups. This speaks to a divisiveness within American religion, which can be seen such splintering within denominations. ACCUS go on to say that they are "not under the jurisdiction of the Pope or the Roman jurisdiction", which again ties into American concerns for freedom and self-governance.

ACCUS has churches spread across America, although only around the edges. There are no churches in the 'middle' states such as Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. This suggests that Americans in these states are perhaps more traditional and have not welcomed this denomination of Catholicism. This points to diversity within America.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Tulalip Tribes

American Studies Blog: Week 5

Find, post and analyse how the website of a Native American tribe presents their identity. 
Make sure to indicate details such as where the tribe is located, their history, their economic situation, health, wealth, numbers, etc.

            The Tulalip Tribes is a Native American tribal group located on the Tulalip Reservation close to Marysville in Washington State. Having first encountered Europeans in 1792, the reservation was established in 1855 when Governor Issac Stevens signed the Treaty of Point Elliot. According to its website, as of April 2004, the Tribes has 3611 active members living on the reservation. The tribal group itself consists of members from various smaller tribal groups such as the Snohomish and Snoqualmie etc., who are collectively known as the Salish people. The Salish people belong to the group of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest of America, and are known to have resided in the South and Central areas of that region. Personally I found this group of tribes interesting, as unlike the tribal groups such as the Cherokee and Seminole, who originally resided on the East Coast of America before being forced to relocate West, it is very likely that this group has resided in the same area since crossing the Bering Strait approximately 35,000 years ago.
            In their mission statement, the Tulalip tribes claim that “We govern ourselves” and that those living on the reservation are “one people”. From these statements it is natural to assume that the Tulalip tribes do not identify themselves as “American” and would not contemplate assimilating into American society. This assumption is reinforced by their clear display of affinity towards their “Native American Identity”. This can be seen in their efforts to preserve their culture through the way they educate their children, their desire to educate outsiders about their history and heritage, and their assertion that they are a “sovereign entity”. This notion that they form a “sovereign entity” and govern themselves can be interpreted as suggesting that the Tulalips consider themselves as independent of the U.S., and that they believe themselves to be in no way dependent on, or inferior to the U.S. as suggested by the Constitution.
Yet this is shown not to be the case when we look at the website in detail. It is interesting to note that the Tulalip Tribes consider a sovereign nation to be something that “exists either by means of divine allocation or federal government recognition” whilst claiming that “Sovereign entities are free from state imposed laws” but are “regulated by the federally imposed statutes”. This suggests that the Tulalip Tribes, to some extent, see themselves as belonging to the current political and social system of the United States. In addition, we can see that they have clearly embraced the opportunities presented by American society. For example, it is worth noting that they have built several casinos as well as a liquor shop and a village for tourism. They have also embraced the development of technology, and it is particularly interesting to see that they use websites and mobile apps as a means of preserving their culture, in conjunction with the traditional practices of the past. Thus we can infer that the Tulalip Tribes possess a certain level of desire to assimilate into American society, or perhaps better to benefit from its presence around them.
In terms of wealth, we can see that they appear to be doing very well in comparison to other tribes. As mentioned, they have built casinos and a village on the reservation from which they make an income. There is also a business park located in the village which they claim is a “popular destination for thousands of shoppers and provides a highly visible opportunity for businesses”. With regards to healthcare they state that in addition to Health and Dental Clinics, they also benefit from a chemical dependency recovery program and a pharmacy, which suggests that the level of care the inhabitants receive is no different from a normal American citizen, if not better. It also suggests, though, that they suffer from the problem of drug addiction that threatens other parts of American society.
In conclusion, we can see that the identity which the Tulalip Tribes present is a complex one. Whilst they clearly identify themselves as Native Americans and possess a strong affinity towards their past, it is also evident that they recognize and have a desire to be a part of American society, albeit under the condition that they remain a “sovereign entity”.