Tag Archive: Gender

Antiquated and Sexist Laws

France has received a great deal of unwanted attention in recent weeks after the French government finally revoked an antiquated law banning women in the French capital from wearing pants. The ban had been in place since 1800 following the French Revolution when women were demanding to wear pants pursuant to a movement for equal rights. In response, the law was enacted so that women were required to receive special permission from the police to “dress as men” in Paris. One commentator explains the purpose of the law: “[B]anning women from trouser-wearing was thus an effective way of banning them from the rank and file of the revolution–and of keeping them, basically, in their place.” Some exceptions were later allowed so women could ride bicycles or horses. In 1946, the ban remained on the books even after women were declared equal to men in the French Constitution. However, the law has been completely unenforced in recent decades. Nevertheless, France’s Minister for Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, officially lifted the ban on January 31, 2013. In a statement, Vallaud-Belkacem wrote: “This ordinance is incompatible with the principles of equality between women and men, which are listed in the Constitution, and in France’s European commitments.”

Antiquated and sexist laws are not unique to France. Indeed, there have been many unenforced sexist laws on the books throughout the United States. For example, New Jersey finally revoked three archaic and sexist laws in 2011. One of the repealed laws required a man and woman to wait at least 72 hours to get married unless the man was arrested for “bastardy, rape, fornication or of having had carnal knowledge of an unmarried female, and the accused person consents to marry such female.” The New Jersey Law Revision Commission aptly described the statutes as “a demeaning relic.” Perhaps the Star-Ledger Editorial Board sums up the situation best: “[L]aw should be a living document that reflects the times, our beliefs and our values. And when we don’t like what the words say about us, we should change them…”

Women in Combat: Marine Infantry Units’ Skepticism

On January 24, 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the current administration would end the Pentagon’s policy banning women from combat roles thus allowing women to be placed in positions with more direct exposure to combat with enemy forces. Women serving in the armed forces are currently not allowed to serve in units that are “tasked with direct combat.

The Marine Corps has acknowledged that women have ended up on the front lines of combat in more recent modern conflicts such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Women that have served in supply units and military police units are often those women who experience combat on the front lines with the Marines. In fact, there have been over 150 instances where brave women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan while serving in support roles.

While the Marine Corps has acknowledged the role that women have played in various conflicts, some infantry unit members are skeptical of how women would perform in these traditionally male only units and are worried that these positions, which will be open to women, may close if women cannot meet the physical demands of combat. Male and women Marines surveyed also have concerns about sexual harassment and the risk that women would be targets of the enemy, possibly becoming POWs.

In spite of this skepticism, numerous women in military service argue that they are mentally and physically just as capable as men are to perform in combat roles. Some women in the armed forces have raised the fact that they already serve in combat roles but they are not recognized for it and lack the proper training that men service members receive before entering combat zones.

Clearly controversies are going to continue to arise over the decision allowing women to be placed in combat units and other branches of the military will likely express their support and concerns over the recent policy change.

Archdiocese of Philadelphia: No Girls Allowed

Caroline Pla is a 5-foot-3 sixth grader who loves the sport of football. She has been playing football since kindergarten and has been playing tackle football with the Catholic Youth Organization since the fifth grade.

Recently the Archdiocese of Philadelphia enforced its “boys only” policy for football, which sent Caroline to the sideline. With two games played in Caroline’s second season, Jason Budd, the deputy secretary for Catholic education for the Archdiocese contacted Caroline’s coach notifying him that since football is a full-contact sport, Caroline could no longer compete.

Caroline’s coach, Chip Ross, was very disappointed and insisted that Caroline was able to compete with the boys and had proven herself as an “All-Star” guard and a defensive end. Caroline’s father stated, “Girls playing football is not something new” and that children should be allowed to pursue their passions, whether that is theater or football.

In an effort to not disrupt the team during the season, Caroline’s parents pleaded with the Archdiocese to let her finish the season, which resulted in her being able to do so. Although she could finish the season, Caroline said, “I’m just really mad that we (girls) don’t get the same opportunity as boys, just because we’re not a boy.” Caroline added, “not only am I not going to be able to play, but girls from all over are not going to be able to sign up, and that’s not fair.”

The Archdiocese argued that the decision to implement the policy and not allow girls to play full-contact sports was for the safety of Caroline and other girls. The Archdiocese stated, “Traditionally, football is a boys only sport due to its full contact nature, and that most parents and players have preferred this but that some now disagree.” In an attempt to re-evaluate the current policy not allowing girls to participate in full-contact sports, an Archdiocesan panel of coaches, pastors, parents and experts in sports medicine will evaluate the current policy.

While the Archdiocese of Philadelphia policy banning girls from participating in full-contact sports serves as their attempt to protect girls like Caroline, opponents of the policy believe it limits the opportunities of girls to participate in activities that are of interest to them.

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