Entries by Debra Fitzpatrick

Under Trump, Women Matter More in Foreign Policy than Domestic

The Trump administration has made more legislative progress toward advancing women’s rights and well-being as a goal of U.S. foreign policy than the last two Democratic presidential administrations. This isn’t only surprising because of the partisan divide, but also because the Trump administration has cut foreign aid to women and left the position of U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues vacant. How can we make sense of the administration’s successes in this area when it has otherwise has shown little tangible policy progress in advancing women’s rights within the U.S. or elsewhere? The answer appears to reside in a growing, strong bipartisan consensus that women need to be equal agents of peace and security in American foreign policy. Both this important policy advance and the consensus behind it are clear in the recent passage of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 (WPSA).

Environmentalism’s Gender Problem

As the Trump administration moves in multiple ways to remake U.S. environmental policy, the Gender Policy Report’s Debra Fitzpatrick talked with Jennifer Bernstein about her recent piece “On Mother Earth and Earth Mothers: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem” that sparked an important conversation about feminism and environmentalism.

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Federal Assistance Does Not Help Poor Mothers Pay for Diapers

Being a mother is difficult—from childbirth to child care, women often bear the principal burden to provide basic necessities for their children. This becomes all the more challenging for poor women, who piece together their income with support from government social safety nets. Yet, one of the most basic necessities for mothers and their babies –diapers– are not covered by federal assistance programs. As these programs face spending cuts and the imposition of onerous work requirements—from the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut federal spending for Medicaid to House Republicans planning to cut SNAP benefits in the farm bill (Supplemental Assistance for Needy Families, also known as food stamps)—poor mothers must spend more money on food and housing, leaving even less available to pay for diapers.

#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.