Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Biden’s Cabinet: What Representation Reflects

In the past, the members of an administration’s cabinet have often been nominated and confirmed to their position without general public’s awareness, and then proceeded to fulfill their duties without much amateur attention. Even Americans with political proclivities are most likely drawn to the more dramatic displays of partisan in-fighting and above-the-fold current events. Notwithstanding a lack of acute observation from their constiuency, the cabinet assignments result in many a movement within the inner machinations of American policy and procedure, and have potential to greatly effect the residual outcomes of a presidency. President Joe Biden’s final cabinet member was confirmed just last week, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. With the collision of the unparalleled diversity of the cabinet and a global pandemic that has caused unceasing economic and personal suffering in the country, President Biden’s picks are under unique scrutiny. While all of his cabinet members are notable individuals of impressive experience and often intellectual prestige, several seem poised to make particular impact. It is this pairing of rare representation and critical need that not only distinguishes this cabinet from past administrations’ but demands a certain attention to how the members influence the country through descriptive, substantive, and symbolic representation.

    These three categories of representation are helpful in understanding the impact of a minority in a formal position of leadership. According to political scientist Mona Lena Krook of Rutgers University, descriptive representation is “the characteristics of individuals elected to political office,” substantive representation is the articulation of policy concerns by specific office-holders” and symbolic representation is “the broader meanings and effects that the presence of different kinds of elected officials have for the public at large.” Biden’s cabinet is a would-be case study on these kinds of representation. 

   We see in nearly each of his appointees the power of these forms of representation. The new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge was the first female and Black representative of her Cleveland district now directing her attention to the challenges of urban development across the nation. Her experience in the House, as an attorney, and as a woman of color give her a set of learned skills that equip her in ways different than a counterpart of a different background would possess. As per the concept of descriptive representation, her presence as a black woman in the proceedings of the executive branch of the United States (home to many black women of urban communities) adds to the credibility of those processes. Similarly, Avril Haines is the first woman to be Director of National Intelligence. While deputy CIA director and deputy national security advisor, Haines has spent much of her career understanding and creating policy surrounding torture and drone strikes. With her expertise in the field and the identity of her gender, she represents not one but two demographics that are necessary for complete representation at this particular White House table. 

    Substantive representation is illustrated in the work we hope to see wrought by Miguel Cardona. Until becoming Secretary of Education, he was an education professional in the state of Connecticut, where he worked as an elementary teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent. He has earned his stripes as an educator and is consequently armed with the experience necessary to lead in the safe reopening of schools as the country seeks to regain normalcy. His decisions will be informed with practical knowledge and from first-hand accounts of success in the classroom. The Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra is Latino like Cardona, serving in the position after 25 years on the House Ways and Means Committee and as a member of one of the populations hardest hit by the pandemic. One of his primary roles will be to manage Covid-19 relief, and decisions that one hopes will be positively influenced by his awareness of fellow Latinx Americans, as he did when he helped pass the Affordable Care Act through Congress. 

    Symbolic representation has been the topic of much conversation surrounding newly-confirmed Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. She is the first Native American to serve in the position, which oversees Bureau of Indian Affairs, natural resources, and national parks. While her policy positions push her farther to the political left as compared to the other members of the cabinet and the president himself, Secretary Haaland’s historical and meaningful position is an inflection of the Biden administration’s attempt to create a diversified national leadership and consequently embody the entirety of the population. Her presence in this specific role is a step towards righting the wrongs and straightening the crookedness of the room in which the country has dwelt for too long. Our Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas joins the ranks of symbolic leadership as a Cuban American. During Obama’s tenure he was influential in the implementation of DACA and served as a director of Customs and Immigration, after being nominated as a US attorney in California (a notably immigration-heavy state). His familiarity with immigration policy and procedure in addition to his personal experience combines to demonstrate a purer form of representation in yet another area of government that has been afflicted by the coronavirus. 

    Because Biden’s picks reflect the diversity of our country while maintaining the prowess and competency these positions demand, the current cabinet appointments are the best kind of display of political theory: representation of all kinds. With symbolic representation in Secretary Haaland’s efforts to protect her ancestors’ lands, substantive representation in an elementary educator’s efforts that will impact every grade school in the country, and descriptive representation from Secretaries Fudge, Haines, Haaland, and several other women, we are poised to have an improved simulacrum of these United States. While it remains to be seen if their work will meet the high expectations of both political opponents and allies, it is a powerful image to see such diversity fill the seats of this preeminent decision-making body. 

(image courtesy of

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Women in, and out of, a pandemic workforce


The economic turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the lives of countless Americans. Unfortunately, the economic consequences of the pandemic have not been felt equally across all demographic groups. According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment report, women accounted for 100% of the job loss that occurred in December of 2020. As of February 1, 2021, women had lost approximately 5.4 million jobs due to the pandemic, 1 million more lost jobs than men. Inequities caused by the pandemic continue among those fortunate enough to still be employed. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey & Company, women with children under the age of ten were ten percentage points more likely to consider dropping out of the workforce in comparison to men. Mothers, senior-level women, and black women were also more likely to express feeling exhausted, burned out, and pressured to work more at work throughout the course of the pandemic. Additionally, women reported having a harder time paying bills and mortgages than men while also reporting a larger income decrease than men. The economic recession caused by COVID-19 has only exacerbated the existing gender gap between men and women in the workforce, generating greater inequality at every level. 

Arguably the main reason women have experienced greater job loss than men during the pandemic is due to different career types between men and women. Of the jobs lost due to economic closures, the majority have been low-wage, part-time, service, sales, and self-employed occupations. 

An opinion piece from The Wall Street Journal finds that in 2007, men accounted for 55% of the workforce that clocked more than 35 hours a week, and researchers Judy Dey and Catherine Hill find that ten years after graduation, only 61% of women work full-time compared to 81% of men. These statistics illustrate that women are significantly more likely to be employed in part-time work, a type of work hit hardest by the pandemic. One reason women may be steered towards this type of work is because of their additional role in the “invisible workforce” or “care economy” within the home. In “When Mom and Dad Share It All”, Lisa Belkin writes that in the average household, women work an average of 31 hours per week on household responsibilities compared to men’s mere 14 hours per week. The two-to-one housework difference expands to a five-to-one childcare difference. The pressure to act as the primary homemaker has extended from the earliest years of American history to the present-day. Though women have made significant strides in terms of the division of labor, the pandemic has halted this progress. Nearly 60 millionchildren and teens have experienced some sort of school closure or partial closure in the last year. Thus, many households had no choice but to have a parent leave the workforce in order to care for the children now constantly at home. 

A recent KFF survey finds that 51% of women with young children who quit a job during the pandemic did so because their child’s daycare or school closed. Additionally, 70% of part-time working mothers reported taking unpaid sick leave because their child’s daycare or school closed. Twelve percent of women have also reported taking on new caregiving responsibilities due to the pandemic. These results may help to explain why many women are experiencing heightened stress and exhaustion from their work in both the visible and invisible economies. Societal pressures towards homemaking can encourage women to choose part-time over full-time work, thus leading them to experience some of the highest consequences in a pandemic economy. 
        A significant number of women have lost their main source of income due to the pandemic. Some researchers have found that this job loss, reduction of hours, and unpaid time off have widened the already existing raw gender pay gap. Prior to the pandemic, women made approximately 82 cents for every dollar made by a man. New research finds that women laid off during the pandemic made approximately 79 cents for every dollar made by a man and now have lost this source of income. Women who experienced a pay cut rather than a layoff experienced larger pay gaps, making just 80 cents for every dollar made by a man. Data from the Pew Research Center finds that women were five percentage points more likely than men to struggle to pay bills, two percentage points more likely to struggle to pay rent or their mortgage, and three percentage points more likely to struggle to pay for medical care during the pandemic. Women were also ten percentage points more likely to receive government assistance during the last year. The existing raw gender pay gap has harmed the finances of men and women unequally during the pandemic. The pandemic has widened the raw gender pay gap for some working women. Other women lack the resources to stay afloat during an economic recession due to the intersection of unequal and gendered pay and job selection as discussed above. 

Already treated unequally in the workforce, women, and especially mothers and part-time workers, have disproportionately felt and dealt with the effects of the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. By understanding the invisible workforce and gender pay inequities, we can better understand why women have been hit the hardest. By gaining this understanding, we can hopefully move to address the gendered issues in the workforce in order to create a more fair and equitable society. 

Biden's Cabinet of Role Models

Women's representation in the political arena has long been subpar. Women are consistently in the minority in both elected and appointed positions. The lack of women in office has multiple causes, such as bad recruitment methods and gender bias against women campaigning, but the recent election of President Biden and Vice President Harris may succeed in addressing one cause, namely the lack of role models for young women.    

President Biden made many promises while campaigning in 2020, one of which was to have a very diverse cabinet, one that ‘looks like America’. Biden's nominations for his cabinet have so far proven to be both more diverse and have more overall experienced than either of his two predecessor's picks. President Biden has also made several historical firsts when it comes to his cabinet including the first openly gay secretary (Pete Buttigie), the first female secretary of the treasury (Janet Yellen), and the first ever Native American secretary (Deb Haaland). 

President Biden's cabinet breakdown compared to that of President Obama and President Trump according to NPR:

When recent events demonstrated the need for more protection and representation for Asian American women Senator Tammy Duckworth called out the lack of nominees of Asian American descent, and the Biden administration was quick to reassure the Senator. In the response the White House stated that President Biden would elevate Asian American voices, appoint an Asian American senior White House official "to represent the community," and secure confirmation for Asian American nominees. Demonstrating the administration's commitment to increasing the number of minorities in politics to act as role models, not just for women but for many traditionally underrepresented communities.  

The Role Model Effect

President Biden's cabinet choices are feeding into the role model effect in that the number of firsts he has created increased the level of attention that the media gives to the appointed female politicians. The more the media talks about women in politics the more likely young women are to have discussions at home about politics as a possible career path. It has been shown that when conversations in the home revolve around politics young women show an increased anticipation for political involvement.

Normally, to have a positive effect on young women's interest in politics female candidates have to prove their viability, women who have no chance of winning have less positive media coverage, and less news coverage overall. In the case of presidential appointments, the struggle to be a viable candidate is removed. The appointed women do not have to publicly face as many obstacles as women who run for office. Obstacles such as the double bind, where women are punished politically if they can not balance the aggression required to run with the need to appear traditionally feminine, that other women face while campaigning can discourage young women from becoming involved in politics. 

When women run for office, especially if it is a position not normally held by a woman there is likely to be an increase in news coverage, but to fully achieve the role model effect the success of the role model must seem attainable for others. The good thing about presidential appointments acting as role models is that the women in these appointed positions come from a diverse set of backgrounds that shows the next generation of female leaders that their interests can help them become successful in politics. Appointees like Avril Haines who has history in the intelligence community, Jennifer Granholm who has experience in the auto industry, and Deb Haaland who has history in earth-friendly business practices demonstrate that women can make it far in politics by combining their interests with public service without having to campaign or become lifelong politicians. 

It is impossible to tell what the effects of so many women in positions of power in the federal government will be. It is possible that some of these women will be replaced or will not perform well in their office. However, there has already been a lot of media coverage of the nomination and senate approval of President Biden's cabinet, and the high offices combined with the medias fascination with the breaking of glass ceilings means that there will be a lot of political conversations in the next few years that could convince many teenaged girls to pursue politics in the near future. 


Confronting Violence Towards Asian American Women

Hannah Forsyth

        Recently, as a country, we have witnessed a rise of hate crimes and racism towards Asian Americans. The rise in hate crimes is based in a misconception that Asian Americans are responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic and that they should “go back to where they come from.” Thousands of videos have been uploaded to the internet, depicting hateful rhetoric, actions, and even violence towards an entire community. These videos show Asian families being spat upon and mocked at restaurants and every day there appears to be a new story. Just this morning, a man kicked and stomped on a 65-year-old Filipino woman near Times Square, yelling, “You don’t belong here.”

These attacks come on the heels of 2020 when the “Black Lives Matter” protests arose out of outrage for racism towards Black people.

The recent events have sparked concern over racism towards Asian Americans and have left many calling for legal actions and change.

The conversation came to a head when on March 16, 2021, six Asian women were killed at three different massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia.  

Robert Aaron Long, age 21, was a frequent visitor to the massage parlors and he was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.  

He told the police he had a “sexual addiction” and acted in violence against the parlors out of vengeance and said that he wanted to eliminate his “temptation.”  While race was not his stated reasoning, it is hard to ignore the fact that the majority of the victims were Asian. This along with the other issues and violence across the country have put all Asian Americans on edge.

However, Asian American women are especially fearful, and these feelings are better understood when you understand the concept of intersectionality.

Intersectionality is a term that was created by Kimberle Crenshaw who said, “[intersectionality is] basically a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other” (Steinmetz).

She coined the term when she was reading about a discrimination lawsuit where Black women were not being hired or moving into leadership at a motor company. The defendants argued that there were women in leadership and people of color being hired on the assembly line. However, all the women in leadership were white and all the people of color were men. This story illustrates how the overlapping marginalization of being Black and a woman led to even more discrimination. 

Here the intersectionality at play is between being an Asian American and a woman.

Women are already viewed as submissive, weak, and sexualized objects, however for Asian American women, this stereotype runs even deeper. 

Migrants who work at massage parlors and spas are exploited as people with low income and immigrant status, making them extra high risk. “Our country’s wars and military operations through Asia and the Pacific Rim, have, over many years, reinforced sex trades and racialized sexual violence toward Asian women” (Hong).

            Jennifer Ho, wrote in CNN her experience as an Asian woman in America and said, “To be an Asian woman in America means you can’t just be what you are: a fully enfranchised human being. It means you are a blank screen on which others project their stories, especially, too often, their sexualized fantasies—because U.S. culture has long presented Asian women as sexualized objects for white male enjoyment” (Ho).

            This link between this killing of Asian American woman in massage parlors and intersectionality comes from a long history of Asian woman being exploited for sexual servitude in the United States. Being an Asian woman in America and working in a place called “Young Asian Massage”—as a few of the victims were—means that white men assume you are a sex worker when you are in fact a human being who is worthy of respect trying to make an honest living.

            Discrimination toward Asian Americans do not appear to be going away any time soon. From verbal harassment, to shunning, physical assault, workplace discrimination, and even gun violence, the trends only appear to being moving up.

            It is important to recognize that all racism and discrimination is bad and acknowledge that Asian American women are especially vulnerable right now due to the intersectionality between their race and gender.

            While history is not on their side, we have the opportunity to change their future, and in turn ours, for the better.

References for further reading and education:

Ho, Jennifer. "To Be an Asian Woman in America." CNN, 17 Mar. 2021.

Hong, Nicole, and Jonah E. Bromwich. "Asian-Americans Are Being Attacked. Why are Hate Crime Charges So Rare?" The New York Times, 30 Mar. 2021.

Steinmetz, Katy. "She Coined the Term 'Intersectionality' Over 30 Years Ago. Here's What it Means to Her Today." Time, 20 Feb. 2020.

Because Childcare Wasn't Enough—Women, the Wage Gap, and Eldercare

Research into the gender wage gap and underrepresentation of women in the workforce typically notes that women are the primary caretakers for children but overlooks another type of dependent—the elderly. 

The Wage Gap and Childcare

Much of the difference in wages has been attributed to women working fewer overall hours. A college-educated woman can earn more than most of her male peers, but having dependents typically prevents this. A study conducted by American Association for University Women showed that 40 percent of female graduates who became mothers were working part-time or out of work entirely within a decade. The same study found that this was true for only 2 percent of fathers.

An argument could be made that women who leave the workforce for their children could have chosen to not have kids or to have their partner stay at home. The issue is more complex than that, but even if women can choose whether or not they have children, they cannot choose whether or not they are children.

Two-thirds of all informal caregivers for the elderly are female, with care for parents typically falling to the eldest daughter. Even when men are partial caregivers, women still spend 50 percent more time proving care than their male counterparts. 

Problems Unique to Eldercare

Some women claim that with enough planning, women can have children and then a fulfilling career, but eldercare tends to happen later in life, and frequently comes as more of a surprise and a direct conflict with a career. Besides the inability to plan, eldercare comes with a number of other issues that childcare does not, including emotional burdens.

Watching the deterioration of a parent, who needs more care as time goes on is significantly different than watching children grow and become more independent. Women caring for their parents also receive less societal support, there are no baby showers, and family leave isn’t as common as traditional maternity leave. 

Costs of Eldercare

The physical, emotional, and time-related burdens of eldercare can lead to women reducing hours, passing on promotions, and even quitting or retiring completely

The related loss in income, which is approximately $40,000 higher than for a man, comes out of the caregiver's own retirement savings. Working reduced hours or retiring early means that these women have much lower pensions. The estimated total loss in wages and social security for the average caretaker is $324,044. On top of all this, eldercare has high direct costs, from medical bills to the obvious costs of another person in the home. 

Because women also live longer than men, what little these women have saved is not enough, and they end up becoming a burden for their own daughters, in a never-ending cycle.

Between the aging population in America and issues like COVID-19, eldercare is becoming a much more common issue for women. It can compound with childcare to lead to “sandwiched” women who are caught between caring for parents and children, it can affect women who planned to be childless for their career at either a specific time, or for their whole life, and regardless of other circumstances, it can lead to these same caregivers aging into poverty, so they can spend the only time in their lives when they aren't responsible for caring for someone else, unable to care for themselves.

What does female political recruitment and the Women’s NCAA Basketball Teams have in common?

Women’s Basketball within the NCAA is the latest organization to raise the cry for gender equality. On March 18th, University of Oregon’s Sedona Prince posted a video on TikTok showing the women’s weight room: six pairs of weights with half a dozen yoga mats next to it. She then showed a video of the men’s weight room which looked like a traditional Vasa or Planet Fitness. The TikTok video blew up on social media, sparking national outrage at the gender difference between the two teams. As of March 30th, the video has 44.7 thousand retweets on Twitter and 103 thousand shares on TikTok.  Other female basketball athletes were quick to add fuel to the gender-equality fire by posting pictures of the meal differences between the women’s (small pre-packaged meals) and men’s (hot buffet style) teams and the swag bags the women (mediocre) and men (overflowing) received. Those images, a variety of “budgetcuts” only imposed on the women’s teams, the small amount spent on advertising – despite the revenue the women's team is reportedly bringing in – and the fact that the NCAA specifically reserved and applies the term “March Madness” for the men’s teams, turned the video into an overnight explosion.

As I was researching the upset, I found that it very closely paralleled the female political recruitment process and even the female’s pass policy. I will admit that the NCAA women’s basketball and the female political recruitment process does not perfectly parallel one another; however, it does provide an interesting insight into what happens within female political recruitment and paints an interesting lens on the NCAA women’s basketball scandal that might be insightful moving towards better basketball gender equality. 

To understand how political female representation is possible, one must first look at how the recruitment process begins. Research shows that most women who achieve political office… tend to have family ties to prominent male politicians. In the same way, female athletes likely have a former-athlete family member who encourages the pursuit of a sport. Like the political pure recruits – those who responded that they had never thought seriously about running until someone else suggested it, young female athletes don’t consider playing at the collegiate or professional level until a mentor, coach, or scout suggests the option. Contrast this with male athletic counterparts who dream of playing pro from a young age. A study conducted in 2013 found that male student-athletes have developed higher perfectionist orientations in the sports realm than females because of their attainment for higher performance standards in a highly valued discipline. In other words, since there is a higher likelihood of a professional career after high school for males, they tend to dedicate more time and perfectionism than female athletes. 

Additional research found within the political recruitment pipeline shows that ordinary [female] Americans’ consideration of whether or not to pursue political offices relies much more heavily on their personal and family circumstances than previously found; [thus] ordinary women have greater need of support from their families, friends, and coworkers to balance the demands of candidacy with their other responsibilities. This support can be emotional, verbal, or even financial. Though the research was for female politicians, it applies to female athletes as well; one article wrote that most professional women basketball players, in order to make a sustainable income playing basketball, need to compete in numerous different national leagues, [creating] an extreme physical demand on the athletes by not having an off-season

The mechanisms of candidate section [can] often determine what kinds of women are elected and has a large impact on the change female politicians can create within office. Researchers found four possible scenarios that could happen if more women were elected into legislative chambers; only two were completely applicable to both female politicians and athletes, though the other two are interesting applications. 1) a rise in the number of women may influence men’s behavior in a feminist direction. 2) the increased presence of women may provoke a backlash among male legislators, who may employ tactics to obstruct women’s policy initiatives and keep them outside positions of power. I think these findings help paint a vivid lens of what could potentially happen if more advertising was spent to promote the women’s basketball team; simply change out the word legislators for NCAA officials and apply a mentality of college athlete to the two scenarios. In other words, either both male and female collegiate athletes would begin pushing for gender-equal treatment or the NCAA would try to block the push; because of the national attention and support this issue has gotten, an obstruction would not be a good political move.

Research found that the biggest way to have more female recruitment in the political pipeline was through a focus on “(1) increasing the supply of female candidates through active recruitment and (2) stoking demand for female representatives by emphasizing a norm of equality.” In much the same way, the number of collegiate female athletes can increase with a higher supply of younger student-athletes being mentored, coached, and encouraged to continue within the athletic pipeline, instead of stopping after high school. The same research found that when political parties recruited more women, it played an important role in increasing women’s representation. Similarly, the demand can be encouraged through social movements that petition for treatment equality between sexes – including advertising budgets, pay, facilities, and financial rewards for the winning schools (like the men’s team have).

In conclusion, both sports and politics are a highly masculinized space where women are still viewed as intruders whose presence disrupts the traditional order. While more needs to be done on the path to gender-equality, research has found that voters’ willingness to support female candidates has significantly increased over the last few decades which also reflects female sports viewership and support. The biggest way to promote change within the NCAA, politics, or anywhere else is through research conducted on traditional lawmaking actions: for women, unorthodox lawmaking has better results than traditional. It doesn’t matter if it’s incorporating language into an omnibus legislation or using social media to spark a worldwide movement, women in politics and in sports are changing the way gender equality is done in the world. 

Who Really Receives Care During a Pandemic? The Fight of the Disabled to Live

Covid-19 ravaged many disenfranchised minority communities, making headlines as it tore through tribal lands and Black communities. But one that is seriously overlooked during this pandemic, and has been for centuries through many world events, is that of the disabled community.

In June of 2020, a report was filed by the disability advocacy organization Inclusion London reports that those with disabilities have received, or have been told they would receive inferior health care when it comes to the Coronavirus. This is not a new practice and has been going on for decades around the world. In the early 20th century, an interest in Eugenics had taken over many societies, namely Germany, and disabled people were seen as freeloaders who were useless to society.  The Nazi party violently tried to rid their nation of those with disabilities through forced sterilization, then later “mercy killings” through lethal injections, mainly on children and young adults in care facilities. Eventually, the Nazis used the gas chamber in an attempt to complete their mission.

While this genocide of disabled people may not be as bad today, there are still obvious signs that disabled people are still seen as less than human, and their lives do not matter. One setting is in the medical field. It is reported that “in the U.S., several states including Tennessee, Washington, Kansas Pennsylvania and New York have issued protocols deprioritizing the treatment of disabled people in the event of scarce medical resources” (Forbes).  Alabama was compelled in April by the Office for Civil Rights to abandon its crisis management policy of “denying ventilator services to individuals based on the presence of intellectual disabilities, including ‘profound mental retardation’ and ‘moderate to severe dementia” (Forbes). These practices are highly illegal, not to mention horribly immoral, according to “Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities oblige Governments to take all 11 necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of Disabled people in situations of risk, including situations of humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.” Many disabled people are struggling to receive food, or life saving aid. More horrifically though, many doctors are pressuring them to sign DNRs against their will or without proper explanations. This abuse of an entire demographic needs to be more thoroughly examined.

Many demographics have struggled for recognition and equal rights. These problems can peak when multiple minority identities intersect. This is called intersectionality, and the Oxford dictionary defines it as, “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” Disability is also included as a social categorization, and it is important to understand exactly what disability means. Many have images of people with physical disabilities come to mind, others remember previous interactions with mentally disabled individuals. A healthier and better way of viewing disability is a societal imposition on people who have impairments, making it more difficult for people to do certain activities or interact with the world around them. They are disabled because society has chosen to cater to those with certain abilities over others. Think of what would be different if the world was more understanding and education on mental health issues, or even just more wheelchair accessible. More resources on intersectionality can be found in the book by Wade and Ferree, found here. They discuss more in depth about the interactions between class, race, gender, ability, attractiveness, sexual orientation, and more,

           When we think of intersectionality in the context of the medical field, the discrimination of different groups becomes clear. It is well known that women are often not believed by their doctors, but this problem is compounded when we notice that Black women are dying during childbirth at higher rates than other races. Native American men and women are being told that their symptoms are the result of alcoholism, despite not being alcoholics. Many overweight people are being told that their illnesses would be cured if they would lose weight, even though that is not the actual problem. Pair these problems above with being disabled. Doctors feel that they can illegally note DNRs on their disabled patients files when that is not the patient's wish, or the wish of their loved ones. This problem is emphasized when looking at disabled people of different races, genders, and socioeconomic groups. This is the type of genocide that takes hundreds of thousands of lives in a pandemic but is never openly talked about. If we are to continue building a better society, we need to expose the groups that are being overlooked, especially the disabled. 

Sources used:

Atlanta Shootings and Intersectionality

  Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Ga., the morning after a gunman shot and killed eight people at three separate locations.

Shootings in Atlanta

On March 16th, 2021, 21-year-old Georgian resident, Robert Aaron Long, went on a shooting rampage in the metropolitan vicinity of Atlanta. During his active shooting period, he went to three different spas and massage parlors and shot and killed eight different people with a gun that was bought legally earlier that day. Six of the eight people that were killed were Asian women. Robert Long claims, however, that these attacks were not racially charged and that he was not a racist. He claims that he was suffering from strong sexual temptation and that the only way to cure his sex addiction was to purge the earth of its temptations. His sex addiction was at odds with his strict evangelical Christian identity and so it took the form of violence on behalf of the people who he saw tempted him into his sex addiction. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Long visited massage parlors when he relapsed in the past, he thought that the main threat to his addiction was Asian women. Police were able to catch Robert Long the say of the shootings and arrest him, however, he is not being charged with a hate crime (NYTimes).

Principle of Intersectionality

I think that this story illustrates the concept of intersectionality and how broad beliefs in negative stereotypes can seriously harm a community. Melissa Harris-Perry writes the book Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America that details the stereotypes that black women face every day and how that negatively affects them (Sister Citizen). Intersectionality, which can also be defined as a combination, of race and gender and other characteristics can harm people of color. People and institutions boil down women of color to a couple of key characteristics and then define the whole race by those characteristics. The book focuses on the three main common stereotypes that many black women face both in the past and in the present, which are ‘Jezebel’, a hypersexualized woman, the ‘Mammy’, a domestic laborer that is in the role of a helper, and ‘Sapphire’, which covers the stereotype of the “angry/abrasive black woman”. The book shows that much of society and many institutions automatically label black women under one of these stereotypes after knowing them just a short while. Harris-Perry focuses her book on the issues that black women face because of stereotypes, however, as seen in the shootings in Atlanta, they are not the only race to suffer because of negative stereotypes.

How do the Shootings in Atlanta and Intersectionality Relate?


Asian women often face being hypersexualized and fetishized in the society of the United States. They are seen as exotic, dainty, and an “experience to be had” as opposed to western women (11 Alive). By reducing Asian women to a sexual stereotype, it dehumanizes them to members of society and they are no longer seen as active citizens, but rather seen as objects. It is through this mindset that Robert Aaron Long viewed the women working at the spas and massage parlors. He did not see them as equal members of society but rather labeled them as temptations that he needed to eliminate for the sake of himself and others (NPR link). Because of the negative stereotypes that surround Asian women, Long no longer saw them as fellow human beings, and thought of them as a problem that could be treated easier than dealing with his own issues. Long might claim that his shooting spree was not racially motivated because it was not motivated by hate for a specific race, however, at the very least, he internalized the stereotypes of Asian women, which allowed him to objectify the women as temptations to be excised. The intersectionality between race and gender and negative stereotypes can be dangerous for that community. Robert Aaron Long and the shootings in Atlanta prove this.

Gendered Income Inequality Meets Covid-19

Just as shocking as the Covid-19 pandemic is the associated economic recession and increased unemployment that has impacted livelihoods around the world. However, not all livelihoods are impacted equally. A series of studies on Covid-19’s effect on gender equality has found that women face a tougher economy than do men.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s jobs globally thanks to the Covid-19 crisis. Although women make up about two-fifths of the global labor force, they have endured more than half of the total job losses caused by Covid-19 (Madgavkar et al. 2020). Women also have a 7 percentage points higher likelihood of transitioning to work from home, a 5 percentage points higher likelihood of reducing their weekly work hours by more than 10, and a 3 percentage points higher likelihood of becoming unemployed since the start of the pandemic (Reichelt, Makovi, and Sargsyan 2020).

Why are women more adversely affected by the Covid-19 economic recession?

Two main reasons that women face a tougher Covid-19 economic situation than men are as follows: women tend to cluster in certain occupations that are more heavily impacted by the pandemic, and women are more likely to reduce their hours or leave their jobs due to increased childcare or elderly-care responsibilities.

The sectors in which women tend to work have been most negatively affected by the pandemic. Women hold more than the average share of positions in three of the four most affected industries—accommodations & food service, retail & wholesale trade, and arts, recreation & public administration (Madgavkar et al. 2020).

Furthermore, an estimated 740 million women around the world work in the “informal economy,” which is one of the first sectors to take a hit in times of economic uncertainty. The informal economy entails jobs that are unregulated or unmonitored by governments such as self-employment, jobs paid in cash, or small odd jobs and services. It is an integral sector of developing countries without big businesses. In these developing economies, 70 percent of women’s employment lies in informal work (Morse and Anderson 2020). In fact, 25 percent of self-employed women have lost their jobs, compared to 21 percent of men. This is particularly significant considering that a bulk of women of self-employed (UN Women 2020).

Aside from informal work, women are disproportionately represented in unpaid-care work, including childcare, elderly-care, cooking, and cleaning. As schools have closed and elderly relatives have either gotten sick or left their care homes, women’s domestic-care duties have skyrocketed. A pre-pandemic study by UN Women found that across 16 countries, women spent an average of 26 hours per week looking after children, while men spent an average of 20 hours a week on childcare. Since the start of the pandemic, these numbers have risen by 5.2 hours for women and 3.5 hours for men (Thornton). This shows that more women have to cut time from employment to care for their children at home.

While it is not clear the rate at which elderly-care has increased for women, women pre-pandemic carried out three times the amount of domestic care, including elderly care, than did men (Nesbitt-Ahmed and Subrahmanian 2020). Presumably the amount of elderly care responsibilities shouldered by women has increased during the pandemic. Furthermore, as elderly increase their caution and isolation thanks to Covid-19, the willingness of grandparents to help watch children has declined. A study in Germany found that the share of grandparents providing childcare for the grandchildren declined from 8.3 percent to 1.4 percent since the pandemic started (Dugarova 2020).

As women face greater responsibilities at home, their participation in the workforce declines. This is especially an issue for single mothers who do not have a spouse’s income to support their family through the pandemic. For example, a survey in Kenya and Sierra Leone indicated that female-headed households were more likely to have skipped a meal than male-headed households in 2020 (Levine et al.)        

What can be done?

To counteract the effect of Covid-19 on women, the McKinsey Global Institute found that action must be taken now rather than after the pandemic is over. It projected that in a “do nothing” scenario, gender parity in employment would decrease, and the global GDP in 2030 would be $1 trillion below what it would have been if Covid-19 affected male and female employment equally. On the other hand, taking action now would improve gender parity, which would increase the global GDP by $13 trillion by 2030 (Madgavkar et al. 2020). The chart below shows the economic impact of taking action now versus doing nothing.

It is evident that acting now would be better for both equality and economies, so what are some of the actions that policymakers and business leaders can take? Some actions include creating employer- or state-funded childcare, allowing flexible work schedules, focusing on stimulating female-owned enterprises, and promoting gender diversity in all industry sectors. Most importantly, governments and businesses can address the deep-seated gender stereotypes and gender roles that prevent women from leaving the home and entering the workplace. No matter the action taken, it is clear that action must be taken now for the sake of both women and the global economy.

--Cristiana Farnsworth