Entries by Debra Fitzpatrick

#MeToo and the Failure of Law

The #MeToo movement has revealed a lot about American society: although the crime rates have generally decreased over the past 30 years, intimate and sexual violence continue to plague the U.S. Some men still clearly feel entitled to treat women as property, their bodies a vehicle for men’s power and pleasure. For me, the most striking thing about the outpouring of #MeToo stories is that these stories represent thousands and thousands of people who did not pursue legal remedies—people who did not come forward with their experiences of physical and sexual harassment and abuse until a social movement made taking some kind of action seem possible. Despite 40 years of law reform, law has neither changed the cultural acceptability of sexual and intimate partner violence nor deterred that violence in any meaningful way.  Many people still don’t see the legal system as a viable option for addressing violence.  The rise of #MeToo is about the failure of the law.

Why Shaming Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence Harms Survivors

A judge ordering a shaming sentence for a perpetrator of intimate partner violence (IPV) may seem rational. Perpetrators commonly belittle, humiliate, and disgrace their partners within a larger pattern of physical abuse, and survivors often report feeling an abiding sense of shame as a result. Thus, humiliating a perpetrator may seem particularly apropos. Judicially imposed shaming sentences also appear to serve the criminal system’s retributive goals, sending a clear public message of intolerance for abusive behavior. These sentences may further be meant to rehabilitate, assuming that moral education flows from public humiliation. But even if these stigmatizing sentences have some legitimate purpose, any benefit is outweighed by the fact that they undermine the goals of violence reduction and survivor safety. Shaming perpetrators makes their victims more vulnerable, not less.

Finding Feminist Common Ground in US-Turkish Relations

Recently-confirmed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted back in 2016 that Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey was a “totalitarian Islamist dictatorship”. Things have gone further south in recent months, mainly due to stark policy differences between the two governments on the Kurds in Northern Syria, along the Turkish border. Specifically, the U.S. continues to arm the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) in Northern Syria despite Turkey’s protests. Moreover, relations have been aggravated by the United States’ refusal to extradite the Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of plotting the failed coup in July 2016. And relations hit a new low in fall 2017, when the arrest of two local U.S. Consulate employees in Istanbul caused a dueling visa ban between the two countries that lasted for two months. U.S.-Turkish relations have many points of tension, but developments in the border region of Antakya may provide some common ground. These developments show a radically different side of Turkey not often represented in the U.S. media. At the grassroots, women activists from the ethno-religious Arab Alawite minority group are pushing for a more inclusive, secularist, egalitarian nation.

Race, Gender and Homelessness

As the Trump Administration rolls back Obama era protections against housing discrimination and proposes cuts in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by 18.3 percent as well as elimination of community development block grant programs entirely, Congress pushes back with historically high HUD funding levels in its latest budget deal. Against this backdrop, the Gender Policy Report talked with Heading Home Hennepin’s Lisa Thornquist and Humphrey School Faculty member Maria Hanratty about the face of homelessness and how federal housing and safety net policy intersects with their work at the local level to end homelessness.


Equal Pay for Equal Work: Employer Accountability is Essential

Equal Pay Day – April 10, 2018 – is the approximate date in the New Year to which the average US woman must work to make what the average US man earned at the end of 2017. Of course, for African American, American Indian and Latina women this day comes around much later in the year. As we mark this day each year, it drives home the persistence of the gender pay gap and the failure of our current laws to address it. What policy changes are necessary to achieve the intuitive and popular goal of “equal pay for equal work?”