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‘Gloria – A Life’ Sparks Mix of Emotions

By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY

I’ve got 24 hours to do something outrageous.

I’m not sure what it will be – suburban life leans toward the safe side of things. But I’m committed. I’ve been assured the world will be a better place if I do one thing today in the name of social justice and activism.

The challenge came at the end of a “talk back” at the conclusion of the play Gloria – A Life in New York City. I attended Saturday’s matinee with about 35 members of NOW’s Connecticut chapter.

The play tells the story of women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, from her heartbreaking childhood caring for her mentally ill mother in Toledo, Ohio, to her rise as editor and co-founder of Ms. magazine in 1971.

Along the way, it traces Gloria’s years at Smith College (about 80 Smith students were at Saturday’s show) and her budding career in journalism, which included “A Bunny’s Tale,” her expose of her 11 days as a Playboy bunny in New York in 1963. Patricia Kalember, who plays Gloria, has done her homework. In addition to being a dead-ringer with her over-sized aviator glasses, streaked hair and slim frame, she embodies Steinem’s attitude and wit.

When she entered the stage in an all black outfit, I did a double take. For a minute, I thought it might be Steinem, who lives in New York, making a cameo. During the talk-back, Kalember clarified Steinem’s position on many subjects, taking exception when an audience member said she hated all men.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say you hate all men. I think you hate what’s happening now,” she said. “Never give up. As Gloria would say, ‘Be a Hopeaholic.'”

I rarely go to New York City or plays, which made this trip a treat. Chapter president Cindy Boynton said she planned the road trip because she loves Steinem, and wants to offer a broad range of activities for NOW members.

“Not everyone wants to march at a women’s rights rally,” said Cindy, who has feminist lectures, knitting circles, happy hours and wellness programs in the works. “Some people want to be involved in NOW in other ways.”

Cindy said she’s offering activities that women feel comfortable attending alone. The vast majority of women attending the play and January’s bus trip to the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., went alone.

I like that NOW is offering these activities because it’s allowing me to break out of my routine and explore things that my husband has no interest in. I invited him to the play – a few men accompanied their wives – but he politely declined. Ordinarily, I might be nervous going my myself, but it’s fun traveling with the NOW group.

Our charter bus dropped us off at the Daryl Roth Theatre, a colorful theater-in-the-round that feels a little like sitting inside a kaleidoscope, and gave us a few hours to grab a bite  before heading home. We opted for Pete’s Tavern, a New York landmark with walls peppered with signed photos of famous guests. We sat under portraits of Soupy Sales, Peter Graves, Claire Danes, Bill Hader and my favorite, Johnny Depp.

I planned to attend the play solo when Cindy told me that there were a few extra tickets. I asked my 17-year-old daughter Maura to go and she agreed to join me. She made it clear that she had no plans of actually conversing with me on the bus, scrambling to find her wireless headphones on Friday night.

That was fine with me. As the family’s chief driver, I look forward to these bus trips for chilling out and reading, maybe even looking out the window. One of the most disappointing days of my life was a train trip to NYC with my son when he was nine. I was looking forward to doing nothing while he spent two hours talking non-stop about Pokémon and Digimon. I thought I’d lose my mind.

But spending time with my girl is special because it’s so rare. I still remember my devastation when I asked her to go roller skating a few years ago and she brushed me off.

“Why don’t you just go yourself?” she said.

She likes her space, so much that I often have to remind her that I live in our house too. She finds me annoying, and has no problem telling me how she feels. She often leaves the room as soon as I enter, but texts me from school. I don’t get it.

I’d be offended if I hadn’t gone through the same thing with her 21-year-old brother from age 13 to 19 in one of the world’s longest rebellious stages. He had no use for me, and often let me know it. It’s a good thing I’m not easily offended.

We sat across the aisle on the bus and next to each other in the theater. I gave her the aisle seat and was gratified that she paid attention and got the funny parts of the play.

When I asked her what her favorite scene was, she said: “the crazy Russian lady with the hat.”

“You mean Bella Abzug?” I said. “She was a Jewish Congresswoman from New York.” I can see her assuming Abzug was Russian, but the actor’s Bronx accent was spot on. I don’t know how she confused the two, but I’ll give her credit for singling out Bella. With her trademark hat and outsize personality, she was known as “Battling Bella” and was larger than life.

I smiled throughout the play, maybe channeling the energy of the ensemble cast in the intimate theater. Many audience members were emotional and wept, but I couldn’t stop smiling. Perhaps it was my glee about being in NYC instead of Marie Kondo-ing my pantry back in Guilford.

Or maybe it was my joy about how far women have come under Steinem and other leaders of the women’s movement. I grew up in the late ’60s and ’70s when women were burning bras, breaking down barriers in the workplace and championing the sexual revolution.

I attended an all women’s college to further my education – not to grab a ring by spring – and kept my maiden name after I married. Though I insisted it was for professional reasons, it was personal: I didn’t think it was fair that women had to give up their surnames upon marriage. OK, that’s my first sort of outrageous act. I’ve never admitted that to anyone before. I kept my name for most of my marriage because I felt like it. And I have Gloria to thank.

I didn’t know any professional women while I was growing up – all of the mothers in my neighborhood left their jobs in their 20s to get married and raise families. But my generation was different, and we aspired for more. Most colleges went co-ed, and friends went to medical, law and graduate schools, and managed to build careers along with families. A lot changed in about 25 years.

Times were changing very, very quickly. And while there were growing pains along the way, the world is a much different place today than it was when I was born in 1958. Girls are raised to chase their dreams instead of boys. And while many women feel defeated by the current political climate in Washington, Gloria-A Life reminds us just how far we’ve come.

The play made me smile, reminding me that change is possible if you’re patient, persistent and believe. At 84, Gloria hasn’t given up, and neither should we.
Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Connecticut chapter’s blog. You can follow her blog at thegsandwich.wordpress.com.

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Several pro-choice bills coming up this legislative session

Photo from CT News Junkie

By Lauren Pizzoferrato

For the 46th Anniversary of Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, the CT Coalition for Choice held a press conference announcing proposed pro-choice legislation for this legislative session.

The bills, which have not all been assigned numbers yet, are:

  • Requiring insurance to cover abortions with no copay
  • Prevent Crisis Pregnancy Centers from deceptive advertising on a state level
  • Allow patients to opt out of the policy holder of their insurance from receiving the Explanation of Benefits, in order to protect their privacy
  • Reimburse Doulas through Medicaid
  • Reimburse Certified Nurse Midwives at the same rate as Ob/Gyns for medical services related to delivery
  • A nondiscrimination act to prevent employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their reproductive healthcare choices

You can watch a video of the press conference from NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut’s Facebook page. The event was also covered by the CT Mirror and CT News Junkie.

If any of the above bills strike you as particularly important or would/could have directly affected your life, you may have the opportunity to have your voice heard.

Connecticut NOW will inform you if and when these bills make it to the stage where they have a public hearing. This is the step before they are voted on by your local legislators in the House and Senate. Sometimes hearings happen without much notice, so it is wise to start thinking now about how you would state your support for a specific bill. If you can’t make it to the public hearing in person, you can submit written testimony. Sharing a personal story, and then listing the reasons why you support the bill, can be very effective.

The email address to send testimony and the deadline change from bill to bill. Connecticut NOW will communicate this information to you.

Click here for the Connecticut General Assembly’s guide to the testimony process. It doesn’t mention that you can submit written testimony without speaking at the public hearing, but that is always an option.

Lauren Pizzoferrato is Connecticut NOW’s representative on the CT Coalition for Choice.

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HerView: The Women of al-Am’ari

By Margaux MacColl

Night time brings chaos to the al-Am’ari refugee camp.

Almost every night, Israeli security forces storm beneath the white, key-emblazoned arch, guns in hand. They navigate the cramped alleys and enter Palestinian homes, sometimes by force. There have been been reports of soldiers waking families by gunpoint.

The al-Am’ari camp is located in city of Ramallah, located in the West Bank.

B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, reported that between February 24 to March 23, Israeli security forces “made at least 49 raids on towns and villages” in the Ramallah District where al-Am’ari is located. During these raids, they arrested at least 73 Palestinians, including 18 minors. Most, if not all, were men.

Men in the refugee camps can get arrested for almost anything, from opening fire to throwing stones.This is a result of Israel’s use of “administrative detention,” which, according to B’Tselem, is a method the government uses “to incarcerate Palestinians who have not been convicted of anything for years on end.”

Administrative detention gives the military commander of the West Bank the power to arrest individuals for up to six months (with an option to renew their sentence for another six months at the end) without telling them what they’re being charged for.

Therefore, al-Ama’ri exists in a state of constant fluctuation. The nightly raids result in Palestinian men being taken from their families and put in jail for months, even years, at a time.

In the wake of these arrests, the women of al-Am’ari remain.

The sign-in camp.

When a man is taken to Israeli prison, the women of al-Am’ari gather in his absence.

“If one of the sons is arrested, all the mothers will go to sit with her. She will be crying. We sit to comfort her,” Im Nidal said. “If one of their sons is being released, we will go and have a party. We continue to visit her just to comfort her.”

Two-year-old Nidal was forced out of her family’s village near Jaffa in 1948. She has lived in al-Am’ari ever since, raising her many sons in the camp. At least five of her sons have been to Israeli jail.

Although it’s one of the smallest camps in the West Bank with about 6,100 refugees, the population has more than doubled since its establishment in 1949. The boundaries of the camp cannot change, so the homes continue to grow shakily upward as the residents continue to have large families.

When the men in the camp are arrested, there is a vacuum within these households, and the community as a whole, that needs to be filled.

Wendy Pearlman, a professor at Northwestern University who has written extensively on the Palestinian movement, said that conflict can “sometimes leave a space for women when the men begin, in some ways, disappearing from the scene.”

“If the father’s no longer there,” she said. “Then the mother is the ‘head’ of the household. Economically, socially, emotionally and so forth.”

Nidal’s granddaughter, Rema, is a perfect example of a Palestinian woman growing beyond traditional roles. She’s currently enrolled at Al-Quds Open University in Jordan studying business management.

“Many have come to ask for Rema’s hand to get married,” Rema’s father, Emad Katriya, said. He rejects the men for now, telling them that “it’s very important that my daughter continues her education.”

Emad Katriya, father of Rema, standing in the living room of his home.

In fact, all of the Nidal’s granddaughters are getting an education. While the girls in the camp are typically married off in their teenage years, there is a growing trend to educate their daughters before marriage. This serves as form of security. If something goes wrong, the daughter is still able to find a job.

Rema has used her classes to good use, starting a business where the al-Am’ari women make small purses to sell to visitors of the camp. The proceeds go to widows to help them sustain themselves financially.

Rema selling purses made by al-Am’ari women to visitors of the camp.

All of this— Rema’s business, Nidal comforting women as their husbands go to prison— are crucial to keeping the community of al-Am’ari intact. They are crucial to creating a liveable life within unimaginable circumstances.

Pearlman said that women’s roles in resisting the occupation are often “overlooked because they’re less visible.”

“But if you think of protest widely, and especially when protest becomes so widespread– becomes not just events on the street, but an entire system of life, of people rebelling,” Pearlman said. “Women as members of societies, as backbones of families and as part of the economy, are vital in that.”

She described women’s act of surviving as “a different kind of protest.”

Walking through the al-Am’ari camp, there is photo of a man in a suit hanging on the wall. It is a memorial for a man who was shot by Israeli security forces; he is wearing a suit because he was killed a month before his wedding.

His fiance lives on in the camp, alongside thousands of other women in the same struggle, the same ceaseless protest against an occupation that started before some of them were born. Their survival, their women’s clubs, their sewing and embroidery, their strain to keep their families unified, could be considered a protest in itself. It is a protest they did not choose; it is a protest they are forced to live.

When asked if she would like to return to her village near Jaffa, Nidal sighed.

“I wish, I wish, I wish.”

Margaux MacColl of Westport is a journalism student at Northwestern University. If you have a journalistic story or essay that you’d like Connecticut NOW to consider to post on our blog, please email the manuscript to president@now-ct.org.
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Lunch Ladies Serve More Than Food

Tricks of the trade: This is how a lunch lady packs for a day on her feet.

By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY

I took my son back to college for second semester.

The sight of his bags always chokes me up, but I’m better than a few years ago when his departure made me an emotional wreck. I know he’ll be back with his dirty laundry. Besides, there’s a chopped salad waiting for me once we get to campus.

We have this little deal: I drive him 100 miles to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA., if he agrees to get a chopped salad with me at the Hogan Campus Center. It’s a pretty even trade: he gets a free ride and I get a salad before the 90-minute drive home.

One of the things I’ve noticed is his rapport with the women who prepare and serve our salads. They know him on a first-name basis – no real surprise there – and have a genuine interest in him and what he’s doing. As a mom, this is very reassuring. The more people we have looking out for our kids, the better.

I didn’t think much about it until I hung out with a bonafide lunch lady last weekend. After spending a day with Barbara Paight, I’m convinced lunch ladies are the unsung heroes of school systems.

Barbara Paight upon our arrival for the Women’s March on Washington.

They’re on the front lines with kids every day, providing meals so they can go into the classroom with full bellies and learn. They see the kids every day, and can tell when they’re upset, anxious or a little off because they’re not eating. They see who’s eating alone, on the fringes or causing trouble. If they’re not part of school “teams” watching for troubled students, they should be.

I first met Barbara about 30 years ago at my first reporting job at a small newspaper. Barbara was on the business end while I was on the news side, but we had something in common: we both met our husbands at the newspaper. I guess it wasn’t a bad deal: we’re both still married to the same guys.

We moved on from that paper, which closed several years ago. Barbara worked office jobs until her elderly parents got sick, and she stayed home to care for them. After they died, Barbara heard about an opening for a cafeteria worker at a public school, and applied for the job. Today, she splits her time between a high school and a grammar school. At 65, she’s on her feet all day and logs 10,000 steps without trying, but she wouldn’t change a thing.

“I love being a lunch lady,” Barbara says. “I love the kids, and I look forward to seeing them everyday. They’re what keep me going.”

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I connected with Barbara last weekend at the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., where we both represented the Connecticut chapter of NOW. After wrapping me in a bear hug during a rest stop at the Delaware line, Barbara invited me to join her and her friend Dom for the day. I knew they’d be lively companions because they talked the entire way down while the rest of us tried to sleep.

If the tote bag she brought for the trip is any indication, Barbara is ideal for her job. Bananas, tangerines, crackers and mozzarella sticks were neatly packed in a square clear plastic tote that she carried cross-body style. She also carried a couple of bags of baked potato chips in her hands in case anyone needed a snack.

As a mom, I’m usually the one responsible for feeding my family, so it was a relief having someone else in charge of food. When I couldn’t open a mozzarella stick at the end of a long day, Barbara took it and showed me how to open it by grabbing the long end. I’ve never really known how to open them, even when my kids were little, so I appreciated the lesson.

I know some kitchen workers can be testy and mean, but I think it takes a special person to work in a school or college cafeteria. You must love kids and food, in that order, and you must tolerate deadlines, chaos and noise on a daily basis. I couldn’t do the job – the cacophony of the cafeteria would drive me insane – but I’m grateful that Barbara and others have found their calling.

Like many women who put their careers on hold to care for children, spouses or aging parents, Barbara’s priorities shifted when she re-entered the workforce. After a career as an office worker, she wanted something that would tap into her role as a natural nurturer. Her job as a lunch lady plays up to her strengths, which is why I think she finds it so rewarding. I think the longer you work, the more important it is to love what you’re doing.

I wish every kid could have a lunch lady like Barbara because she cares about the kids. She said that she can often tell when students are upset when they lose their appetite and stop buying lunch. She said she’s often aware when kids are going through tough times when they can’t afford breakfast or lunch. She’s genuinely sad when she learns that a student will be transferred because he’s too disruptive.

She’s keenly aware of the ups and downs of the kids she serves. I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful that some schools have workers on the front lines who take the time to notice and care. And if they’re not required to contact guidance officials when they suspect something is off, I think they should be.

Barbara told me she often uses her role to build rapport and put kids at ease. When a new child entered the district and was uncomfortable, she told him that she was once the new kid and understood how he felt.

“I was the first class to go to this school and I’m 65 now,” she told him. She said the boy got quite a laugh over the fact that she was the same age as the school. She said she’s glad she could break the ice for him and he’s a lot more relaxed now.

As we walked toward Freedom Square for the march, I asked Barbara why she was marching again for the second time since 2017.

“I’ve got four granddaughters,” she said simply. “I’m doing this for them.”

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Connecticut chapter of NOW’s blog.

 

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Notes from the Women’s March

By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY

It’s 6:35 p.m., and I just hopped on a charter bus after spending the day at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. I’m freezing, and so is everyone else. It feels like we just came in from a blizzard. In Siberia.
Our bus driver is 35 minutes late, leaving us shivering in the shadow of the Washington Monument. We hug each other to stay warm. We sing “The Wheels On the Bus.” Toward the end, our fearless leader Cindy Boynton leads us in the Hokey Pokey. Hey, desperate times.
We get to our right leg in when the bus pulls up, and we storm it. We can’t get in fast enough. We must be the last protesters to leave town. We’ve never seen so many charter buses that weren’t ours in our life.
It’s the kind of bone-chilling cold that won’t leave. I can’t get warm. Every bone and joint in my body aches, and I can’t get my sneakers back on. I’m tired, but can’t sleep. Remind me why I signed up for this again.
Just kidding. I’m here because of the Women’s Movement, something greater than myself. I’m unhappy with this country and its direction under President Trump. I’m here because I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and now I’m even wearing a button proclaiming it on my purple ski jacket.
I’m here because I have a 17-year-old daughter and nieces whom I adore, and I want to show them I’m not afraid to stand up – or even chant – to fight for what’s right. I’ve been silent and complacent for too long. At 60, it’s my first protest march. What took me so long?

Lots of provisions.
Our arrival in Freedom Square. Cindy holds the ERA sign with Barbara (in blue coat) and Dom.
We marked our arrival at 7:45 a.m. with a group shot.

Then and NOW: the banner in 1977 and 2019.
A pup with a sign: Trump is not a good boy.

 

New Haven Harbor at 1:45 a.m.

The day – or should I say night? – begins at 1:45 a.m. when we board the bus in New Haven. An hour into the ride, I’m still trying to find a comfortable sleeping position. I’m grateful to have two seats to myself, but still. This is awful.
What made me think I’d sleep on the bus? The last time I was on a bus I was in college and could sleep anywhere. I finally notch a few fitful hours, but give up at the Delaware line and spring for a Starbucks’ Grande at 5:30 a.m. Ready or not, here we come.

When we pull up at 7:45 a.m. in front of the Washington Monument, the woman behind me cracks an eyelid and says, “I need to find a Dunkin’ Donuts ASAP.” When I tell her that we’ll need to get off the bus and kill time before the 10 a.m. rally in Freedom Square, she cringes.

“You mean the bus isn’t staying here?” she asks. “That’s not really something I want to hear.”
No one in our group of 34 – I’m number 11 – wants to kill time, but we’re upbeat and pumped. Most of us don’t know each other, but we become fast friends and even snag a huge table at a coffee shop. Score!

Though this year’s march is panned for disorganization and division among women’s groups, protesters in pussy hats and carrying signs with clever slogans converge on Freedom Square. What we lack in organization and numbers we make up in creativity and endurance. At 4 p.m., about 100 protesters are still in the square, holding hands singing and dancing in circles.

Everything and anything is protest sign fodder: The Wall. Women’s reproductive rights. The ERA. Mueller. Trump’s tweets. Trump’s tiny hands. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman at the center of the Kavanaugh hearings.
But my favorite’s a handmade sign in black Sharpie: “UGH, Where do I even start?”

And then the miracle: NOW leaders ask members of the Connecticut NOW chapter to carry an historic banner advocating the adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment during the march. Cindy told us about the banner, but we had no idea we’d get the chance to hold or carry it. It’s thrilling being so up close and personal to history.

The giant green banner was last unfurled during a protest march in 1977 – a year after I graduated from high school. Do I want to be part of history carrying one of the wooden poles supporting it during the march? You betcha.
As we march the banner through the streets, I feel like one of those Chinese dragon dancers. With one exception: the Chinese dancers work in unison and appear to know what they’re doing. Getting everyone to hold a gigantic banner at the right height and width is harder than it looks. And other groups with banners are cutting in front of us, trying to steal our thunder.

It’s hard staying in step and keeping the banner level and readable. It’s difficult to keep the poles at the same height. It’s challenging to maintain our positions as pole holders because others want our poles.

A lot of other people want to be part of history, and repeatedly offer to take the poles. My buddy Barbara Paight even loses her spot when a woman takes her pole and gives Barbara her protest signs to carry. Barbara isn’t happy, but doesn’t know what to say.

“What are you doing?” I ask Barbara, a former co-worker I met 30 years ago at my first newspaper job. “Just tell her that you’re going to hold the banner because your friends are doing it. Get your pole back woman.”

Barbara is much calmer and generous than I am, even giving me a cozy hand-knit scarf from around her neck as we wait for the bus. But she wants to hold the banner, and I’m proud when she stands up for herself.

“Look, my friends are carrying the banner so I’m doing it too,” she says. “You can take over for me in a little while.”

The woman gives Barbara the pole, instead running interference for her as we work through the crowd. The banner grabs its share of attention from march participants, who crane their necks to read it and snap photos of us hoisting it skyward. But ultimately, all good things must end, particularly during a march with more stops than starts.

“Anyone want to carry this banner?” I ask after about 90 minutes. A woman takes my place, and soon Barbara, her friend Dom and I get to the outskirts to capture the scene. How many people are here? Maybe 100,000. Nothing like the 2017 march when more than 1 million people showed up, but a good crowd of true believers.

Some highlights:

We arrive back in New Haven around 1:15 a.m., and I head for my car caked in snow and ice. I forgot my ice scraper, and am convinced I’ll be sitting here for 20 minutes while the car thaws, but I turn on the wipers and it’s just slush.

No one else is on the road, and I follow a plow that clears the way home for me.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and contributor to the Connecticut chapter of NOW’s blog.

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‘What’s for dinner?’ It’s a question that causes #RBG and this writer to reflect on the related stereotypes.

It was a sold-out theater for Connecticut NOW’s advance screening of “On the Basis of Sex” last night.

By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY

The “kids” are still home from college, so a few of our son’s friends and their families gathered the other night to catch up.

It was a low-key affair on a weeknight to accommodate everyone’s schedule. Our host’s Christmas tree and decorations were still up and a fire burned in the family room fireplace, lending a cozy feel to the evening. A cat perched on a sofa arm, and wine was consumed before and during dinner. So much for the January Experiment, a new book advocating abstaining from alcohol during the month of January.

So nothing that extraordinary except one thing: the main course was prepared entirely by my son’s friend, a college senior. Let me clarify that. When the dinner was slated for a Monday night and his mom had to work all day, he also shopped and prepped the meal too.

I have college-age nieces who love to cook and food shop, or “source” as they say, and have been turning out incredible meals for years. But the boys? Not so much. And though I’ve over-parented my son in many areas, I’ve failed miserably in the cooking department.

He expects me to cook every night. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. Breaking down gender-specific roles like cooking and care-taking was at the core of the early women’s rights movement. The new movie “On the Basis of Sex”  spotlights the issue, telling the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s fight to change a tax law that prohibited a man from taking a caretaker’s tax credit.

The case ultimately resulted in overturning 178 laws that discriminated on the basis of sex and were declared unconstitutional.

While prepping the landmark case with her husband Marty, Ginsburg notes that the tax law is antiquated and discriminatory because it assumes only women are caretakers and eligible for the deduction.

“Our client is a man. We can’t lose sight of that. Men are also harmed by these stereotypes,” Marty tells Ruth. “Boys are told they’re not supposed to be nurses, or teachers . . . ”

“Or cook for their families,” Ruth says.

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                          A rare sight: my son grinding spices for the Thanksgiving turkey.

I’m not sure what RBG would think of my parenting skills when it comes to raising a modern man, but I suspect she wouldn’t be pleased. She divided household and parenting chores with Marty in the mid-50s when most women stayed home and raised families while their husbands went off to work. She’d probably be shocked that in 2019, some boys (and men) still expect and assume women will do all the cooking.

I know I could have done a better job, and I hope it’s not too late. In about 18 months, my son will graduate from college and will probably (hopefully) be living on his own. He needs to know how to cook. Everyone needs to know this important life skill.

I bounced this off some women I know with older children. They said I should chill out, noting cooking is something kids tend to gravitate to like any other hobby. Some also said they enjoy being the sole cook in their household, noting they enjoy having control of meal planning and what they eat.

They have a point, I suppose, but it’s nice to have a meal prepared for you once in awhile, and not have the burden of cooking every day. It’s nice when other people pick up the slack, freeing you up to do other things in the early evening.

I started out with the best of intentions. When my son was little, he sat on a kitchen stool or counter and “helped” me. One of our favorite annual traditions was making homemade sugar cookies, cutting them into different shapes for Christmas. After they cooled, we covered them in colorful frosting and doused them in various shades of sprinkles.

But our kitchen time diminished as he grew up and became interested in sports and video games (I know. X-Box was another huge mistake). He wasn’t interested in cooking, so we didn’t do it. I forgot that like a lot of things in life, such as cleaning and laundry, it’s important for parents to lead the way and demand participation.

A little background:

When we first got married, my husband cooked. He was 30, and had been living on his own for about seven years. He knew how to cook a limited menu – chili, tacos,  hotdogs, Shake & Bake chicken and spaghetti with sauce – and cooked a few times a week. We were both working full time, so it made sense and was fair to divide cooking chores.

Things changed when he went to law school, and began commuting an hour to and from campus. He had less time and inclination to cook and was swamped with studying, so I picked up the slack. Eventually, I began doing most of the cooking, which was OK because I was a better cook. In exchange, he did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. It seemed like an even exchange because I hate cleaning the kitchen.

Cooking fell entirely on me when I decided to stay home with my kids about 20 years ago. Splitting household chores becomes impractical when one person is working at least 60 hours a week and carrying the full burden of the family’s finances. It wasn’t practical for him to cook when he was arriving home between 7 and 7:30 every night.

My evolution into chief cook was gradual, sort of like the weight that accumulates around your hips after age 50. Slowly and steadily, I took on the role of primary cook while he became the main breadwinner. I remained a freelance writer, but my “career” was not how I’d envisioned things back at my liberal arts women’s college.

I take comfort in the fact that some of my most liberal and full-time working friends are also the primary, um only, cooks in their house. Their husbands wait until they walk in the door late at night and ask, “What’s for dinner?” too. But I hoped I’d do better with my son, raising a guy who knows his way around the kitchen.

I didn’t realize my oversight until my friend’s son cooked steak and roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, even asking everyone how we’d like our steak cooked. When I suggested that my son make a similar meal for us, he waved me off.

“He just threw a couple of steaks on the grill,” he said. “What’s the big deal?”

You could say I spoiled my kids, but that doesn’t fully explain it. Our 17-year-old daughter cooks and bakes, and has been doing so for years. Some of it is necessity: she’s the most finicky eater I’ve ever met, and often doesn’t want to eat what I’m making. But sometimes she thrills me and makes enough zucchini noodles and sauce for all of us, and it’s such a relief to have a night off.

Our son has no interest in cooking, unless ramen noodles, canned soup and microwave popcorn count. He’s never been terribly interested in food, even as a baby. I used to call my mom in tears when I’d make and throw out 21 meals every week during his first two years of life. I’m not entirely sure how he’s gotten to be the size he is, but I guess he got some nutrients along the way.

It’s only with hindsight that I realize I dropped the ball. If I could do things over, I’d spend less time at my son’s tennis matches, and more time with him in the kitchen. I’d teach him knife skills, how to marinate meat, how to make a hearty soup and how to bake a potato so it doesn’t come out like a rock. I’d teach him how to pick out eggplants (always pick the lightest ones for the fewest seeds), how to grill fish and how to bake and frost cupcakes.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. He’s only a college junior, so I still have time to show him the ropes. And somehow, I think RBG would approve.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a regular contributor to the Connecticut NOW blog.

 

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Despite Dem majority, we need to stay vigilant about reproductive rights

By Lauren Pizzoferrato

As a result of November’s election, Connecticut’s 2019 Legislative Session opens today with a majority of Democrats in both the state House and Senate who support reproductive rights.

Despite this, legislative action on the federal level has the potential to limit reproductive choice in Connecticut. This month, the Trump administration is expected to release another domestic gag rule that could cause Title X providers like Connecticut’s Planned Parenthood of Southern New England to lose millions of federal dollars because they provide abortion. If these dollars become available, the expectation is that misleading crisis pregnancy centers like those that exist in Hartford, New Haven, Meriden, Bridgeport and throughout Connecticut will begin to vie for them.

Also of huge concern is the Trump administration proposal for separate insurance for abortion coverage—something that Access Health CT, Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act exchange, has protested.

Here in Connecticut on the state level, bills that would limit a woman’s access to reproductive choice–taking away a women’s ability to control of her own health and body—have also already been introduced into the General Assembly.

All of us who believe in reproductive health and freedom must remain aware and vigilant to protect our state from attacks within Connecticut, and from the federal government. Both in the U.S. Congress and Connecticut General Assembly, we have a majority of legislators who support reproductive rights and will fight for progressive legislation. We need to continuously reach out to them, urging them to stand firm when it comes to women’s health and reproductive freedom, and thanking them when they speak out on our behalf.

Connecticut NOW will keep you informed on when proposed bills that the CT Coalition for Choice is following need your voice, and for you to reach out to your legislators.

Lauren Pizzoferrato serves as Connecticut NOW’s liaison to the CT Coalition for Choice.

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Sneak Peek: On the Basis of Sex


UPDATE at 1:40 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10: We are sold out!

By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY

I apparently have a lot of friends who want to go to the movies with me.

After I posted “Alone Time” https://thegsandwich.wordpress.com/ about my first foray to the movies by myself to see A Star Is Born, some friends lamented that I didn’t invite them to join me.

“The next time you’re going to the movies, call me. I love to go to movies and I’ll go with you,” a friend told me last night. Other friends indicated disappointment that I didn’t call them before heading out on my own.

So just in case anyone’s interested, I’m going to see a sneak preview of On the Basis of Sex Thursday evening at the Cinemark North Haven. The Connecticut chapter of the National Organization of Women bought out a 50-seat theater, and some tickets are still available. The $22 cost covers your ticket and a small donation to NOW. The film starts at 6:45 p.m.

If you want to come, please join us. There are still seats, but they’re going fast.

The film portrays a period in Ginsburg’s life where she juggled Harvard Law School with parenting her 3-year-old daughter and caring for her cancer-stricken husband. It stars Felicity Jones as Ginsburg and Armie Hammer as her loving husband Marty, who was also in Harvard Law at the time.

I saw a preview before The Mule, and it looks as intriguing as you’d expect. RBG is a trailblazer and a woman before her time, staking out a career in the 1950s in the male dominated field of law. She became the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court when named by President Clinton in 1993.

I’m eager to see this movie, particularly with a group of women who are advocates for women’s rights. Ginsburg paved the way for all of us, and remains an inspiration today at age 85.

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and contributor to the Connecticut chapter of NOW’s blog.

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Wraps Comfort Domestic Violence Victims

Just a few days after the launch of the With-You Wrap, this beautiful wrap arrived at Connecticut NOW chapter president Cindy Wolfe Boynton’s home.

By CAROLYN MILAZZO MURPHY

I’m the world’s worst knitter, and don’t even get me started on crocheting.

I admire women who knit at their kids’ basketball games or boring municipal meetings, expertly looping yarn over their knitting needles, but it’s Greek to me. My crafty mom tried to teach me to knit when I was about 13 and I just couldn’t get it. This was hard to accept for someone who prides herself on having excellent hand-eye coordination.

Knitting and crocheting are skills to be treasured and shared. Besides being able to make afghans, sweaters, scarves and mittens to provide warmth, handmade creations reflect a personal touch and creative spirit missing in today’s world of mass produced everything.

An article in Handmade Business summed it up this way:

“When you make something, you leave a part of yourself in it. When you are finished creating, you take pride in the work partly because you see yourself in it. When you buy something someone else made, you yourself are reflected in that purchase. Whether it’s the color, the texture, the shape, or just the mood you happen to be in, an item that has been crafted as an expression of the creative spirit person who made it is treasured and valued far beyond an item that was made for worldly mass consumption.”

The Connecticut chapter of NOW is calling on all knitters and crocheters, hoping their creations can infuse comfort, support and hope into the growing number of women and kids who are victims of domestic violence. The chapter has launched the “With-You Wrap,” a project to provide shawls to domestic violence victims so they never feel alone.

Just four days after the official Jan. 1st launch, the first wrap arrived on chapter president Cindy Boynton’s doorstep. Organizers hope to provide wraps to about 1,200 domestic violence victims in shelters across the state.

I love this project for a few reasons. It shows domestic violence victims, who often feel alone, afraid and abandoned, that someone is thinking about them. It also underscores the importance of the personal touch – one woman reaching out to another to provide comfort and hope for better days.

The number of women and children affected by domestic abuse in Connecticut is staggering. An estimated 38,000 victims of domestic violence turned to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) and its 18 member organizations for counseling, shelter, court-based advocacy, and other essential services in 2018.

Boynton, who is an avid knitter, came up with the idea for the project. Inspired in part by prayer shawls worn by the sick, Cindy thought wraps would be a way of showing victims that someone cares. The project launched on Jan. 1, and already is gaining momentum from some knitting groups around the state.

Knitters and crocheters can be as creative as they wish, but are being asked to follow a few basic guidelines. The first is to create a rectangular shawl with some kind of purple yarn. The second is to include “3” into your design, whether it be that you use 3 different colors of yarn, cast on stitches that are a multiple of 3, or something different. (For a complete set of guidelines, click here http://now-ct.org/get-involved/knit-or-crochet-a-with-you-wrap/?fbclid=IwAR2Z7gM2aUXIs9gKOLf7qutlaVL9G-KTOfnGbnggIE1cOdHucUASgVG0UyM.

This project reminds me of a homemade cookie program I participated in during a vacation to Hilton Head Island, S.C., last spring. After listening to a representative of the Kairos Prison Project explain he needed about 30,000 homemade cookies for an upcoming weekend in South Carolina’s prisons, my family decided to do our part.

I liked the idea because in addition to making the cookies, you were asked to pray that your efforts would make a difference in the lives of inmates and everyone who came in contact with them, including their families and prison officials. Our three-dozen cookies didn’t look like much, but you never know the impact that one tiny gesture will have on another person.

I rode my bike with our cookies in my wire basket and dropped them off in the church vestibule. I admit I was a bit disheartened when I noticed some people had tossed Oreos and Chips Ahoy into the donation bin. That wasn’t exactly what the organizers had in mind.

I have no idea if the cookies helped a prisoner, but they helped us. We made them as a family with good intentions. Sometimes, the only thing that we can possibly do for other people is show them that we care, and that they’re not alone in this world. 

Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is a freelance writer and a blog contributor to the Connecticut chapter of NOW.

 

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Attend an advance, private screening of On the Basis of Sex

Advance tickets needed, and only a limited number available.

The Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women will host a special, private screening of the already-acclaimed “On the Basis of Sex” on Thursday, January 10 – the day before it opens nationwide!

Doors will open at 6:45 p.m. for the 7:15 p.m. show at the North Haven Cinemark, 550 Universal Drive, North Haven.

The film tells the inspiring and spirited true story of young lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as she teams with her husband Marty to bring a groundbreaking case before the U.S. Court of Appeals and overturn a century of gender discrimination. The film’s 2018 premiere coincides with Justice Ginsburg’s 25th anniversary on the Supreme Court. Ticket price of $22 includes a donation toward Connecticut NOW’s scholarship fund, which each summer pays the FULL TUITION for 1-2 Connecticut women to attend the Women’s Campaign School at Yale.

Tickets are limited and need to be purchased in advance!

Join us for the chance to see On the Basis of Sex before everyone else, PLUS the great feeling of knowing that your purchase will help increase the number and influence of Connecticut women in politics!

Any questions, please email president@now-ct.org.

Click here to make your secure payment and to reserve your seat.

 

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