Saturday, February 23, 2008

Public Intellectuals--Are they simply after fame or justice?

Ralph Emerson said it best. “The public intellectual is the world's eye. And he communicates his ideas to the world, not just to fellow intellectuals.” Emerson A public intellectual, in my mind, is not necessarily someone who has graduated from a prestigious school and has simply decided to speak his mind on whatever topic he deems to be important. A public intellectual is an all around individual, who discusses the needs of the average individual; he/she is an individual who tries to bring about change for the public. She is not an individual who's goal are to sell you many books as possible, but to bring about enlightenment to the masses. Emerson states, “ the intellect is a person who embodies all dimensions of human potential and actuality-- the farmer, the professor, the engineer, the priest, the scholar, the statesman, the soldier, the artist. Emerson So from my understanding, a public intellectual needs to present him/herself as an individual who is knowledgeable about issues concerning the poor, the middle class and the wealthy; an individual who knows what is important to people and what needs to be done.

Defining what a public intellectual is can be very controversial. When I think of public intellectuals I think of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King. When I read articles stating that Ann Coulter is among the top 100 public intellectuals, I think to myself, “Are we really out of influential individuals that we have resorted to putting a sexist, bigot, racist woman on the list.” We all remember Ann Coulter's comment against presidential candidate John Edwards. She states, “ I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word “faggot.” Coulter Another favorite incident occured, right here, on the USC campus. I watched her speech inside Annenberg School of Communication. I remember her implying we should nuke every country that gets in our way, similarly to how we “shut up the Japs.” Now if this isn't wan intellectual speaking, than I dont know who else would be classified as one? I mean come on!

The way I look at it, society needs to praise those individuals who want to bring about peace and harmony. All Ann Coulter represents is dividing up the country against those who are “true Americans” and those who are not. Who is she to divide up millions of people just because of what they believe in? She doesn't propagate change. She doesn't represent average individuals like myself. She doesn't stand up for my rights as a female. She doesn't believe in my right to vote as a female. I'm sorry, but, no matter how many books she has sold, she is not a public intellectual. Ann Coulter is simply out there to make money. Just because she worked for the Senate Judiciary doesn't mean squat if she's ignorant of concerns for the common folks like me. I don't despise her because she is conservative, I despise her because she is useless.

Observing the other side of the ideological perspective, we find Michael Moore. Now he may not have gone to Cornell, but he seems to be more intelligent than someone who simply blurts whatever idiotic thing comes to their mind. Michael Moore, to me, is an individual who tries to reach out to the public. With his documentary Sicko, he uncovered insurance issues that pertain to more than half of this country. He even received an Oscar nomination for it. Moore He took a chance. He made a film. He criticized the elite for not taking drastic measures. He discussed a topic that was important to the public. That's a public intellectual!

Personally, I can't give you a specific reason why some are regarded as public intellectuals, while others are not. What are the specific topics that need to be discussed in order to attract the attention of the public? Is it the issue of health insurance? Is it the issue of education? Is it the issue of poverty? What I perceive to be important might seem irrelevant to the next individual. The public intellectual needs to tackle issues that a majority of individuals can relate to. And I don't want an intellect commenting on some meaningless celebrity who has been caught driving under the influence, or which type of perfume attracts the male figure. Some topics should just be left alone. I don't care if you've discovered the perfect way to apply lip liner so your lips look full. I care about someone who is going to discuss my personal rights, my health coverage, education, the safety of my home and so forth. Another issue that conerns me is just because you've received a BA does not give you the authority to call yourself a public intellectual. Don't go around writing a book on how to save the Middle East, if you don't even know what countries belong in the Middle East.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Religion and Politics

Society has mistaken religion with faith. The way I distinguish religion is by attributing it to a church or institution. However, faith is an entirely different matter of subject. Someone who has faith does not necessarily mean they are religious. Faith is one's beliefs of values, morales, of how they look at their surroundings, and how they see themselves as playing a role in a very diverse world. When government and state's discuss separation of church and state, I believe there is a misrepresentation. This should simply mean that the Church should not have the authority to interfere with state business and vice versa. However, we all know that they both go hand in hand. Gandhi said, "Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is."
Church vs State

One needs to realize while there might be a separation between church and state, there will never be a separation between faith and politics. One's faith, not necessarily meaning they are Christian or Muslim, determines their morales, their beliefs and how they look at government. There are many Christians who are anti abortion and there are many Christians who are pro choice. We cannot directly say that the Christian Church has influence on the state in regards to abortion laws. Taking the Catholic Church as an example, the church might condone abortion, but the state is not going to change it's status just to abide by the Church Institution's perspective.

When I hear people saying religion and politics should not interfere I always wonder what kind of a nation that would look like. Don't misunderstand me, I don't want my church making up laws, but I'm just skeptical of whether there will be enough people to ignore what the Church states. Growing up, being taught right from wrong, my parents never said, "As a Christian, you should do this and that." The religious affiliation was never even a factor. It was my faith in humanity that played a role. It was my faith as a moral individual do to right upon others, not because my church told me, but because of what I believed in.

The way I look at it is that most religions preach the same ideals; justice, freedom, respect towards one another, honor and loyalty. And in some sense, I want a government that is moral, that offers freedom to everyone, that offers loyalty to its citizens and so forth; not because they are Christian or Muslim or whatever, but because they are citizens of the United States. One noteworthy quote that President Bush stated was, "I believe in an Almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That's what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace. "

The quote in itself, whether he believes it or not, is essentially significant into our understanding of how religion and faith will always be present in our society. I don't find it necessarily a bad thing when religion is used in trying to bring peace, but when religion is used to justify violence, then that's when everything becomes tricky Not one religion advocates killing. Some might say that the fundamental Islamists advocate that, but we must also not forget the Christians who were responsible for the many lynchings of African American individuals. We cannot, as intellectuals, generalize these actions by hungry driven individuals to the entire religion.

Noam Chomsky comes to my mind when reading about news articles that tend to generalize everything by one incident. In his "Clash of Civilizations” thesis on the power of religion he states that "religion is the central motivating factor in political tensions today."
Chomsky It is a sad outcome where religion, the power of faith, the power of peace, the power of eternal happiness brings suffering to many people of all shades of colors. Whether one wants to admit it or not, religion plays a vital role in politics. It plays a vital role in war policies, it affects our economy, it effects every single one of us. Now I would want religion to be present to solve problems, not to create them. Am I being too optimistic for asking a favor like that?

While wanting religion to be present in solving every day problems, I definitely do not want it to force its rules and regulations on me. The liberals in essence are accurate in fearing that the Christian Right might interfere with their usual powers if they obtain higher power. In Stephen Mack's article, ClericIntellectual, Peter Beinart states,

"what liberals are saying is that the Christian Right sees politics through
the prism of theology, and there’s something dangerous in that. And
they’re right. It’s fine if religion influences your moral values. But, when
you make public arguments, you have to ground them—as much as
possible --in reason and evidence, things that are accessible to people of
different religions, or no religion at all. Otherwise you can’t persuade
other people, and they can’t persuade you. In a diverse democracy, there
must be a common political language, and that language can’t be

In essence, it is a necessity to keep religion and politics separate. Having one specific religious institution in control is going to isolate the rest of the community. There needs to be a separation of church and state. While I am not saying individuals in power should not be associated with a specific religion, they should NOT endorse their own religion over the other. They should NOT infer that their personal religion is superior compared to the rest. They should NOT create domestic or intetnational policies issuing attacks on other religions. They should NOT take away women's rights just because their religion condones abortion. Religion and state are two different sects. They should not interfere. They can coexist but should never intertwine.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Single Mother Who Became President

Michelle Bachelet had to endure torture, exile, imprisonment, and her father's death in prison but was still able to become the first female President of Chile. Her father, Alberto Bachelet was an Air Force General working under Salvador Allende's administration when he was imprisoned after a coup in 1973 by Augusto Pinochet. The struggle and pain that her family had to endure, is one of many during that decade.

Despite the trauma of many thousands like her, she stood and said in front of millions, "Because I was the victim of hate, I've consecrated my life to turning hate into understanding, tolerance, and why not say it -- love." While it may be hard to forget, she said it is better to reconcile than to fight anger with anger.

Michelle Bachelet is a woman who has climbed up the ladder without a man by her side. She is a single mother. She is the President of Chile. She's a pediatrician. She's a socialist. And she was the former Minister of of Health and Defense. Without even being the president, she was already an accomplished individual. Running for president, was her ultimate fight and she definitely won that battle. Despite Latin American countries being known for their machismo attitudes, she won a historic battle. And when she won, she knew that she had to provide that equal opportunity for many struggling women.

Immediately after being swarn in, she divided her cabinet equally. She vowed to have woman in central decision making roles and her top 20 was equally divided between men and women. Her election, was not only one that signified that women were making their presence known but that Latin America was going through a change. With the presidency of Evo Morales, an Indian in Bolivia, a Revolutionary fighter in Venezuela being Hugo Chavez, a worker Luis de Silva of Brazil, a single mother, Michele Bachelete of Chile showed that it was a drastic time of change and renewal in some sense for Latin America.
Fighting for Women's Representatives

Michelle Bachelet wouldn't have imagined, being captured and exiled in her home country, that one day she would become the President of the same country where she was exiled from. On top of that having her opponent Sebastian Pinera stating, "he wanted to pay homage to all those millions and millions of women who with much strength and tenacity have finally achieved the place and the situation they deserve in our society" was a sweeter reward

Thus seeing the progression of women in top ruling positions around the world, Chile and Germany for example, one wonders whether the United States will have that opportunity anytime soon. Hillary Clinton is fighting for that historic triumph right now. And one wonders, if she wins, will it be because America was ready to see a women's perspective or she simply was the "suitable" candidate compared to the others? And if she loses, will it be because America would vote for less qualified candidates rather than seeing a woman in charge or that she was too rough around the edges?

No matter what the outcome is, if other once military dominant dictatorship countries are able to have female presidents, then it is time for the United States to have one soon; whether it be Hillary or not.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Breaking Down Doors: An Introduction to Women's Work

For centuries, women have been expected to fulfill the ideal role of both perfect wife and mother, and this meant putting the family first before their own needs. If for whatever reason, a woman acted out of the norm--- chose to speak her mind, chose to work outside the home--- then her husband was criticized for not handling her properly. Throughout the history of man, women have stayed home and taken care of the family and home with rarely any assistance from the husband. Since he was the breadwinner, it gave him the perception that bringing home the money was sufficient work, that it was all the work he had to do. It was left to the mother, the wife, to feed, clean and clothe the children. If a mother chose to not pay attention to her family, she was ostracized. This still holds true for today. The mother is criticized for not placing the needs of the family first far more often and severely than is the father. For example, if there is a newborn in the family, and the mother chooses to go back to work immediately after its birth, she is told by society that she's not doing her real job. Society doesn't criticize the father for leaving a newborn child to attend work; he is, in fact, applauded for considering the financial needs of his family An argument has been set forth that since women can breastfeed, they must---for the health and proper development of the child--- stay home during the early stages of childhood. Thus, the woman is placed in the difficult position of having to balance the multiple roles expected of her with the roles she wants to carry out for herself.

Though women have acquired the legal right to work, there is still plenty of sexism in the workforce. On average, women get paid .75 cents to a dollar less that men make for doing the same type of work. Women are also encouraged to take up the stereotypical jobs such as secretarial, clerical, nursing, childcare, social work, elementary teaching and so forth. Many statistics also show that women are staying away from the maths and sciences. The business world also lacks strong female figures; while there are plenty of secretaries and assistants working for major corporations, the number of female CEOs and women in power are few. These statistics demonstrate the unfortunate condition facing the women who do fight to work outside the home.

When a woman chooses a career, she also considers the effects it would have on her family life. While the"wife's presence in the labor force means higher income," the jobs women do take illustrate their concern for making time for the family (Duker). This doesn't encourage them to go after high-paying, high-demand jobs. Most women take on a typical 9-5 office workday so that they can be home to cook dinner, do the laundry and oversee the children's homework; they come home to a second shift. But household work is not compensated. Mama's apple pies do not have any value. At first, the thought of a woman leaving her family to go and find a job elsewhere was unfathomable. But the fight for women's rights was not to be deterred; it was just as much about economics as it was about making a stand. "In a sample of Irish Roman-Catholic families with at least one child of elementary-school age, we have shown that both in the working class and in the middle class the working wife exerts more influence in family decision-making than the non working wife" (Heer). Because they had a source of income, women began to fight for the chance to have a say about how the money was used in the home. This paved the way for the notion of equality within the home. But a job hinted at financial independence and many men felt threatened by the idea.

Being able to go into work
hasn't been an easy fight for women to win.Through
times of necessity, they were called upon to work and women have taken advantage of these periods in our history. During times of war, women were called in to complete the tasks that men were normally assigned to. A common advertising appeal was made by Rosy the Riveter; you could do it, you can help with the war, she declared! And they did. When the male population was off to war, women began to work in industrial plants, the manufacturing factories and small businesses. They worked in mill stations and developed weapons through long strenuous hours. Women had to endure bodily injuries, emotional trauma, and even the risk of death at the work place. Meanwhile, they still had to go home and put food on the table. Working both inside and outside the home is not a 21st century phenomenon; women
have done it for
decades. Unfortunately, when the male population came back, women's jobs were taken away. It was a priority for the male to have a job, to maintain the idea of a male breadwinner. But women enjoyed having that temporary feeling of power and when it was taken away from them, there was conflict. "Dominance of the wife may be assumed to be a deviant patter" (Heer).However, once women experienced that sense of freedom, there was no going back.

They began to take on stereotypical jobs. There has been an established ideology of what jobs are suitable for working mothers and what aren't. Being a secretary of a business is logically suitable. Being a businesswoman, meanwhile, will take too much time away from her family, and thus was not a logical path for a mother. Women should be nurses, and not doctors; they surely could not be on call 24-7. What about her family?

It wouldn't hurt to have the husband support his wife through her struggles to find independence. Even though that might sound ironic, the husband plays a crucial role in helping the wife advance. If the husband is willing to compromise with the duties that are related to the household than the wife has a better chance of become successful. If a husband is hesitant to support the wife, she might not want to follow through with her intuitions. The male population is very important in the success of women. They essentially have to power to help their wives succeed. If a husband and wife are very supportive of each other, able to come up with solutions to their problems, then there shouldn't be a problem of both of them succeeding together. There truly is no need for competition. Both spouses working is beneficial for the entire family.

There are those who like their wives to have a mind of their own. With the help of the husband, women can find freedom and happiness---and a happy woman is a happy wife and mother! With the support of the husband, the wife feels as though she has backup and can venture into new fields. If the husband does not want to help, then she has to worry about who's going to cook, who's going to clean the house, who's going to take care of the children and so forth. An article published in The American Physiological Society, illustrates the amount of commitment it takes between the husband and wife for both their careers to become successful. One male cardiothoracic surgeon described, "the difficulties he had in balancing his work with family, but stated that it was in fact his wife that was always there to take care of family responsibilities" ( should not need permission from their husbands to work, but they surely need their support.

In reality, not all husbands are going to support their wives working. If the husband is not supportive of having the wife in the work field, it does not signify that she should give up. There are husbands who want their wives to only be housewives, to only care about the well being of the family. Most of these men are concerned about how society would view them if they allowed their wives to work. They don't want to give the impression that they need the extra financial help, that they are in such a dire economic state that the wife must forsake her kids to go out and work. While stay-at-home dads are increasing in number, they are still viewed as "deadbeat dads" rather than noble husbands. But society should not criticize those men who choose to stay at home while the wife works. Instead they should be praised more, since a women's job is never ending. All men need to stay at home, jobless, for at least a month to realize just how much work
is put into the household without any form of compensation.

A significant number of women believe that women must stay at home and place the family before themselves. While it is admirable for a woman to choose stay at home, taking for her family, it should not be the norm, it should not be expected of all. If there are women who want to stay home instead of achieving success at the workforce, then it is their choice. But there must be a choice! If there is a choice, then women who choose to not follow that pattern will not be stigmatized as much. They should be allowed to choose whichever lifestyle they want without having to be compared to those who chose the family over the career. For example, society shouldn't say a housewife is more respected than a working woman. They shouldn't say it is more suitable for a mother to be a nurse rather than a doctor. They shouldn't say that men being the breadwinners should be a priority. All should be given the equal opportunity and the equal compensation.

But given equal opportunity does not guarantee equal representation. While technically women can apply for the "male" dominant jobs, it does not guarantee that they will be equally chosen. Some businesses claim they do not discriminate, but statistics prove otherwise. The issue of time commitment and maternity leave play vital roles in hiring woman. The notion that woman might have children, entails that they would need to take time off from work. This ultimately suggests that they will have to be paid for a specific amount of time without any work It is logical that companies wouldn't want to hire women; it is not beneficial economically. So we must ask how we can change this reality. Perhaps tax-breaks should be given to those businesses that hire women significantly more than their rivals. Perhaps governments should provide a majority of the maternity-leave compensation. Perhaps this would level the playing field a bit.

Women with families and their husbands fall under 3 categories: women who work with the support of the husband, women who work with the disapproval of the husband and women who do not work. In a study of the marital disagreements of wives, it was estimated that "the wife with the approving husband group does not perceive conflict more frequently than either of the other two groups in any area, and presents it less frequently in six areas, increases the importance of our findings"(Gianopulos). Thus a support system within the marriage is very essential. Having both the wife and the husband working might not necessarily mean it is easier, but having the support and strong friendship of each other can make a stressful situation of balancing family life and careers a bit less painful.

Simply t
aking a case study, one can see how much the support of each spouse contribute to both marital and familial success. A successful woman by the name of
Christin Carter-Su,is a professor of physiology and a mother of two. She says to become a successful mother/career person, the following needs to be established within a relationship, "choosing a mate carefully, getting lots of outside household help, building a strong support network, forming friendships with other working families, forgetting about domestic perfection and delegating" Each family establishes guidelines for themselves that allows them to juggle work and family.

Other research has also been administered to see if there is a way to have it all for working women. Research done by David, I, Soybel Md. an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School analyzes the percentages of females entering the medical field and not necessarily staying at the level or those who have changed their occupation to registered nursing. He states that about half the entering class in medical school are women. He notes that while it is arduous on the women to find ways to manage both lifestyles, he says men are in the same realm as well. Recently male residents have been "taking paternity leaves, something that was not offered 20 years ago" are changing; the male population is realizing that they need to support their wives, their daughters, their mothers in their pursuits of happiness and independence. Dr. David Soybel says, " You might be able to do it all, but not all at the same time." It is essentially a balance of work and family life. No one said it would be easy, but it is possible.

Through the progression of time, more and more working women will take on higher positions. In 2006, only 10 fortune 500 companies were run by women. Some of these included companies like Avon, Ebay, Sara Lee In 2007,there was at least 10 female-headed companies in the top 50 stakes of the 500 listed; they included Xerox, Ebay and PepsiCo.

There have been many advancements on the issue of working women. However, a little progress made does not imply that progress is achieved. There is a present trend of more and more female college students pursuing doctorates in hopes of higher paying jobs. Society is observing changes. In an article entitled, “Effects of the Employment of Mothers on Parental Power Relations and the Division of Household Tasks, the author writes, “the employment of mothers may be seen as part of a general trend toward a decrease in the differentiation of sex roles (Wladis). Other variables that might be included in this trend are: increased participation of fathers in routine household tasks, a change in power relations from male dominance toward husband-wife equality, and corresponding changes in ideology about sex roles in the family (Wladis).

In reality, the struggle to maintain a happy and balanced career and family life will take many decades for women. We have seen some changes made, but we must still demand to utilize the rights we have so long fought for. Women should not sacrifice a fulfilling career in order to maintain peaceful relations within the home and companies should not favor male workers for economic reasons. Once we have the support of our husbands, fathers and governments, then we will see progress---real progress---made. Then we will have made it.


Duker, Jacob M. Housewife and Working-Wife Families: A Housing Comparison Land Economics, Vol. 46, No. 2. (May, 1970), pp. 138-145.

Gianopulos, Artie and Howard E. Mitchell. Marital Disagreement in Working Wife Marriages as a Function of Husband's Attitude toward Wife's Employment Marriage and Family Living, Vol. 19, No. 4. (Nov., 1957), pp. 373-378.

Heer, David. M. Dominance and the Working Wife Social Forces, Vol. 36, No. 4. (May, 1958), pp. 341-347.

Heer, David. M. Husband and Wife Perceptions of Family Power Structure Marriage and Family Living, Vol. 24, No. 1. (Feb., 1962), pp. 65-67.

Hoffman, Lois Wladis. Effects of the Employment of Mothers on Parental Power Relations and the Division of Household Tasks Marriage and Family Living, Vol. 22, No. 1. (Feb., 1960), pp. 27-35.

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