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‘Mama grizzlies’ threaten to reverse gains women have made over the years

As someone who has been committed for most of my personal and professional life to human rights and, particularly in recent years, to women’s rights, I feel the need to express my opinion about the current political scene and the discussion of issues affecting the lives and status of women.

I have been part of the continuing battle for women’s equality in the home, school, church, the workplace and political life for many years. I am one of the founders of the Center for the Women of New York, now in its 23rd year. I am startled by the sudden call by some female candidates who are calling for women to act as “mama grizzlies” and calling for legislation that would remove many of the gains we fought for and take us back to the last century.

We challenge all the candidates and, in particular, the new mama grizzlies to show real concern for their daughters and sisters by discussing additional issues.

What I do pay attention to is their votes and attitudes toward free mammograms, access to free exams for cervical cancer, paid time for family leave, pay equity, programs for education and awareness of domestic violence and sex trafficking. Does the candidate have a legislative record or position on covering women for contraceptive care and reproductive freedom? How about equalizing insurance coverage for hospital stays for birth deliveries with male unlimited coverage for viagra and prostate cancer?

I prefer to call on the “mama lions,” the women who fought for the right to vote and endured humiliation, jail with beatings and forced feeding just for standing outside of the White House and demonstrate for the right to vote. They were followed in the 1960s and ’70s by the real lions — Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Betty Freidan and Geraldine Ferraro — who fought for equal credit, reproductive rights and entrance into schools for professions, sports and all areas of our society.

Equally important, they formed the National Organization for Women, which led the fight that broke centuries-old barriers to women’s progress and spawned thousands of organizations dedicated to women’s equality in the United States and throughout the world.

There are still great areas of inequality in our country and the world. Domestic violence and sex trafficking are taking place all around us. Women are still earning only 78 percent of what men earn. These are difficult economic times with men and women sharing hardship equally.

We call upon all clear-thinking and concerned women and men to check carefully the statements and slogans of the candidates being loosed upon us and use our precious votes wisely.

Ann Juliano Jawin


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