Monthly Archives: February 2014

4 posts

2013 Legislative Task Forces

2013 was truly the year of the task force! During the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly commissioned a number of task forces to study issues that impact various populations of women. The subject matter of these task forces include family medical leave insurance, retirement security, trafficking in persons, civil restraining orders, family violence, alimony and the care and custody of minors. Each task force will publish their findings and recommendations on their website during the first couple of months of 2014. We have compiled an excel spreadsheet to track the information coming from each of these task forces: CT NOW 2013 Task Force Information WSV. Happy reading!

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Can you name a female jazz musician from the ’30s? I couldn’t.

My mom and I were lucky enough to see a new film called “Girls in the Band” this past Friday night at Real Art Ways in Hartford. The film itself is phenomenal, with wicked old film clips and photographs from the ‘30s and ‘40s, and great recent interviews with the women it was profiling.

 

The film struck a chord with me because in some ways, it is about me. I was astonished to realize while watching the film that unfortunately not much has changed since these women were my age; 60-70 years ago. They faced unfathomable sexism just trying to pursue their dream of playing in jazz bands during the ‘30s and ‘40s. Some of these women even faced racism.

 

In most of my jazz experiences I have either been the only female in the band, or been lucky enough to have one or two other women there as well. I have almost always been the only female horn player, especially trombone.

 

I was telling my mom as we drove home that during the film it hit me that I have experienced sexism at almost every gig, especially jazz, that I have ever done.  I recognize this sounds weird. Like how could I have not known? But I never put two and two together until watching this film and seeing that the same comments these women got are the same comments I still get in 2014. “Wow, that’s a pretty big instrument. Sure you can handle it?” “The horn is your size, I bet you can’t make a good sound out of it.”

 

I always just smile, partially because I am shy, and partially because I have an even better comeback than words. My sound. My sound, I am lucky enough, is really good. I just let them laugh to themselves that a “girl” is playing bass trombone, and sometimes tuba, until I play my first LOUD low note. I have noticed that after a first-time gig I never get the same comments. Hrothgar, my beloved bass trombone, has never let me down on that.

 

The ladies in the film commented multiple times that they were told to “smile at the ladies” and they thought this was laughable because “How am I supposed to smile with a horn in my mouth?!” When I play, I hope that kids, and especially young girls can see and hear me, and see that this is possible. I never thought it wasn’t. There was an extremely talented young lady who was a few years ahead of me in high school who played the bass trombone in the top jazz band before I got there. So to me, having a female bass trombone player was basically the norm.

 

While I’m lucky that it was the norm to have female bass trombone players where I was growing up, it is distressing to come to terms with the fact that sexism is still apparent in the music world, especially jazz. I can’t get over it that the same things are still said to and about women as they were said in the ‘30s and ‘40s.

 

This film is an important film because it has a strong feminist message (!), and the history of these women is never told. I took many music history classes for my jazz trombone degree and never ONCE heard about the women mentioned in this film. That’s wrong because these women were EXTREMELY talented. It was so amazing to see bits of film from their day of them soloing. Their stories need to be told.

 

The culture of only telling the men’s jazz history will need to change in order to show women in jazz that they truly are equal. Maybe then men will feel less comfortable making comments about our size, or our ability just because we are women. I welcome that day.

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February 9-15 Weekly News Round Up

A round up of current news stories on the state and national level, with a focus on feminist issues

By Tess Koenigsmark

Over 120,000 people have signed up for healthcare through Connecticut’s exchange.

A Wall Street Journal columnist promotes rape culture. Why do newspapers continue to give guys like these a podium? Oh, right, the rape culture thing.

Connecticut Representative Mae Flexer is proposing that a bill creating new requirements for how Connecticut colleges and universities handle sexual assault also includes financial penalties for colleges that fail to comply. Flexer argues that many of the new regulations being proposed are already a part of college policies, but aren’t enforced consistently.

New York Times Magazine runs an article about Texas gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis with the sexist headline “Can Wendy Have It All?”  If you’re not sure why this is an issue, try to remember the last time someone asked if a man could have it all.

A lack of state funding for residential services leaves adults with developmental disabilities without any state support until their parents’ death. Tragic and infuriating.

A spokesperson for TEDWOMEN, a version of TED Talks that focuses on women’s rights issues, told feminist writer Jessica Valenti that their conference didn’t include talks about abortion because it didn’t fit the theme of  “wider issues of justice, inequality and human rights.” Silly feminists, thinking that women dying all over the world because of a lack of safe abortion care is a human rights issue! After justifiable outrage ensued, TED claimed Valenti’s article was based on “rumor” and was a “misrepresentation.” This turned out to be a not so great strategy, considering Valenti had the conversation with their spokesperson in writing.

The recently released The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink, reveals the gendered nature of poverty in the U.S.

The recent Connecticut gun control legislation prohibits people who are admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care voluntarily or through a court order from owning a firearm for six months. What lawmakers didn’t realize at the time of the bill’s passage is that this leaves out a significant chunk of people admitted for such care – those admitted under their physicians’ orders. This has reignited  debate over the mental health restrictions, with mental health advocates arguing the law contributes to stigma.

A great piece from Latino USA, an NPR show, on the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers. Warning: slut shaming ahead.

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Jan 27 – Feb 2 Weekly News Round Up

A round up of current news stories on the state and national level, with a focus on feminist issues

 By Tess Koenigsmark

Last Tuesday the House of Representatives passed HR7, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion bill. The bill would bar insurance plans sold through the healthcare exchanges from providing abortion coverage, and ban abortion coverage for servicewomen. It will never pass in the Senate, making it yet another opportunity for House GOP members to say angry things about abortion instead of focusing on real problems. The great response from pro-choice members of Congress was the only thing that kept this story from being entirely depressing.

In the wake of Title IX complaints at the University of Connecticut, lawmakers are proposing legislation to improve how Connecticut colleges and universities handle sexual assaults.

While progressives may not have gotten everything they wanted from Obama’s State of the Union address (*coughs* reproductive rights), we can all agree that it was pretty awesome to hear the president speak about pay inequality and workplace policies that disadvantage women. “It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode,” may have been the most quotable line of the evening.

Additionally, check out the Connecticut delegation’s guests to the State of the Union. Good choices all around.

A Connecticut woman has filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the senior living center she works for denied her wife health benefits. Although same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, it’s not in Tennessee, where Brookdale Senior Living is based. This rationalization is still being used by many employers to deny same-sex spouses benefits, although it’s certainly a less credible argument since the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down in June. Not to mention, it seems like a pretty bad PR move for a health care company to deny its employees health benefits. *Update*

As more hospitals consider becoming for-profit institutions, Connecticut legislators want to tighten regulations for changes to hospital ownership.

The National Women’s Law Center has filed complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Health and Human Services against four health insurance companies that they claim are charging women more than men for the same coverage. Known as “gender rating”, the practice was outlawed by the Affordable Care Act.

Dylan Farrow has written an open letter in the New York Times addressing how her adoptive father, Woody Allen, sexually abused her as a child. This is important, and you should read it.

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