Paula Xanthopoulou speaks at Bolivian Women's Political Caucus summit in La Paz (9-03) Paula's
Soapbox
Letters to the Editor, Op-Eds, Emails, Etcetera...

Letter published in the Miami Herald -- July 31, 2017

'MAVERICK' SENATORS

The election of women of both parties to Congress is critical for many reasons, yet too many of us feel constantly compelled go tooth and nail against women of the opposing party in districts not even our own no matter what the circumstances.

We simply need more women in Congress (now a disgraceful 19.8 percent, ranked about 100 in the world).

This was dramatically proven just last week by Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, strong and compassionate public servants who stood up to their party in the face of threats. They voted No on the series of outrageous anti-healthcare bills.

Many women might not be sending them campaign contributions today, but at the very least we should all say "Thank you!"

Paula Xanthopoulou, Miami



Letter published in the Miami Herald -- December 17, 2013

Mandela fought for women, too

In the many tributes to Nelson Mandela, one of his signature political achievements has not been mentioned or discussed enough. He worked tirelessly for the empowerment of women on many levels and stated: "As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure."

In 1994, he established Aug. 9 as Women's Day, a national holiday. Many more initiatives for gender equality followed, including comprehensive constitutional guarantees. South Africa is currently eighth in the world for electing women. Meanwhile, the United States is 79th, tied with Albania.

Paula Xanthopoulou, Miami


Letter published in the Miami Herald, Dec. 10, 2012

Is this progress?

Some reports on the 2012 general election have referred to the record number of women who will be in the 113th Congress, where so many important decisions are made. Twenty women will be seated in the Senate, while 78 will be seated in the House. The total number of women in Congress will amount to 18.3 percent or 1.7 percent more than the backsliding 2010 results. There are still 16 "taxation without representation" states that send no women to Washington, and that's taking into consideration three states -- Alaska, Louisiana and Nebraska -- that have a woman senator, but no women in the House.

Lest we forget, the United States is 82nd in the world for electing women. It's time to take a real-world, non-partisan look at why that is and how women have progressed in so many other countries if we are ever to have a true voice in Congress.

Paula Xanthopoulou, Miami


Letter to the Editor for August 26, 2011

Today is Women's Equality Day, but too many people think it's just a day to celebrate women winning the right to vote. There's much more to it than that!

The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, but the purpose as proscribed in a 1971 Congressional Resolution was to shed light on the fact that women did not have equal rights: ``Whereas, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and.." In 1970, women had organized a "Women's Strike for Equality" which ignited demonstrations and rallies in 90 cities/towns in 40 states -- an event memorialized in that same Congressional resolution.

235 years after independence from the British Empire and 40 years after the establishment of Women's Equality Day, women still do not have equal rights under the U.S. Constitution and hold a measly 16.8% of seats in Congress. 20 states send NO women to Washington, and 4 states (Iowa, Mississippi, Vermont and Delaware) have never sent a woman to Congress. The U.S.A. is 70th in the world for electing women, or #91 if you count the ties.

This is not only disgraceful, but most people simply do not know the truth about the political status of women in this country. It is incumbent upon the media to inform the public of the above realities often enough to make little-known facts common knowledge - especially in the coming months during which primaries for seats in Congress will be held leading up to the General Election in November, 2012. It is equally important that the media treat women candidates fairly. Women make up more than 50% of the population across the country, and equal representation is central to democracy.

Some have wondered if our government would be in the mess it's in if there were more women in Congress -- not mention that three male members have resigned in recent months because of sexual misconduct. Gender balance could go a long way towards righting the ship of government and restoring trust. We have little to lose and much to gain by joining most of the world in making equal representation a real priority instead of a throw-away slogan.

Paula Xanthopoulou


Published on Paula's Blog (6-27-11)

Dems trot out the ERA once again -- so what?

The Democrats' answer to the Supreme Court decision denying a class action suit by women against Wallmart was to re-introduce the ERA. I have to say, "So what?"

The ERA has been introduced in every Congress since 1923. We are reminded that the Dems have had many chances since then when holding majorities to make something happen, like 2009-2010 for example. Every year it is the same ol' same 'ol -- a PR push, photo ops, and then silence.

I love Rep. Carolyn Maloney, but her list of co-sponsors has grown shorter and shorter over the years. And Senator Edward Kennedy did mostly nothing each time he filed the companion startover bill now picked up by Senator Robert Menendez. Last year we were told that all the energy was sucked up by health care. There is always some excuse.

Why doesn't everyone get behind Rep. Tammy Baldwin's bill to lift the deadline set in 1977 allowing only five more years for 3 more states to ratify. Some states that did not ratify by 1982 -- like Illinois (May 2003, when Barack Obama was a State Senator), Florida (2003-11), Arkansas, Missouri -- have been trying in recent years with nothing to show for it. How difficult would it be to pass a bill in Congress now and start over?

Word on the Hill is that the 3-state approach won't fly legally -- but with the precedent of the Madison Amendment (passed more than 200 years later) it's worth a try and would certainly fire up the conversation!

Do the Dems really want a conversation about Equal Rights for women? Or will the next months be all about re-electing Barack Obama...

The Democrats -- even without a Majority, but with potential GOP allies doing what's right if there is ever a vote -- need to put their money where their mouths are. But don't hold your breath...They don't put their money where their mouths are to elect more women to Congress either.


August 26, 2010
Letter published in the Miami Herald (8-26-10)

RE: ERA is still necessary to guarantee women equality

The conclusion reached in Colleen Wright's Aug. 21 Speakup column, ERA not really necessary, but it couldn't hurt falls painfully short. Should we be mollified by a statement like: ``For the most part women are already protected in society?'' Or should we be keenly aware that every law that protects women on any level can be repealed or amended at any time, efforts to weaken Title IX being a good example.

The Equal Rights Amendment would inscribe equality into the highest law of the land, not simply ``affirm'' it. This is the core of the issue, no matter how our legislators in Tallahassee dance around it. ``Factors'' are not disqualifying facts, just lame excuses not to ratify the ERA.

Lack of equal rights at that highest legal level is why attorney Gloria Allred -- who has fought many discrimination cases -- is fasting. She understands how the law ultimately undercuts equality for women and forces us to file repetitive, expensive lawsuits to right the many wrongs still being perpetrated.

Why must we continue to endure such debilitating injustice? Focusing on the lack of equal rights for women is actually the original purpose of Women's Equality Day this Thursday, as proclaimed by Congress in 1970; the day was never meant just to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

Hats off to Allred for continuing the legacy of Alice Paul, famed suffragist who fasted in jail for the right to vote and then went on to author the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923. Would Paul want to see us sitting around celebrating something so long overdue or moving forward to make full equality a reality?

That is what every woman in this country should not only wish for, but fight for. Instead, we are constantly being deluded into believing that everything is just fine the way it is.

That hurts!

PAULA XANTHOPOULOU, Miami


April 9, 2010
Letter published in the Miami Herald (4-9-10)

RE: State lawmakers should debate ERA

The March 28 story GOP ideology driving Republican-led Legislature's agenda makes good points about the poisoning of public policy for political gain.

But it failed to mention that for the ninth straight year the House refused to even hear or workshop the bill for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. And the Senate did no better.

The litany of lame excuses continues, and leadership continues to protect its members from having to vote on this matter. The issue of equal rights for women deserves to be heard and debated in public. Don't eight million Florida women count?

Our elected officials must be held accountable for their callous, discriminatory position on what should be a nonpartisan issue of human rights.

The bills may not go anywhere this session, but if a legislator's name is not on either HCR 8003 or SCR 1192, that's a No vote against women in my book.

It's 2010 -- no more stonewalling on equal rights.

PAULA XANTHOPOULOU, Miami


August 26, 2009
Op-Ed posted in the Miami Herald (8-25-09)

BY PAULA XANTHOPOULOU

If I hear of one more Women's Equality Day just celebrating suffrage, I am going to have to scream.

Not that we shouldn't commemorate with deep humility and gratitude the gallant fight waged by suffragettes like Alice Paul to win the right to vote. Ratification of the 19th Amendment came at last on Aug. 26, 1920. But Women's Equality Day is not just about voting. It was established in 1971 at the behest of newly elected Congresswoman Bella Abzug of New York. While symbolically designating the date as Aug. 26, the resolution accentuated the fact that women were still, fifty years later, fighting for full equality:

``WHereas, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and

``Whereas, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex; and

``Whereas, the women of the United States have designated Aug. 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and

``Whereas, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

``Now, therefore, be it resolved, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that Aug. 26 of each year is designated as ``Women's Equality Day,'' and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women's rights took place.''

``That day in 1970'' referred to the ``Women's Strike for Equality,'' organized on Aug. 26 by the National Organization for Women. Women nationwide joined together to demand equal opportunities in employment, education, etc. It was the largest protest for equal rights for women in U.S. history. Demonstrations and rallies took place across the country in 90 cities/towns in 40 states, and 50,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City. The continued fight for equality was duly noted and memorialized.

It should also be noted that Alice Paul did not exactly let the grass grow under her feet following her grueling suffragette years. She authored the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and proposed it on the 75th anniversary of the first women's rights Convention of Seneca Falls in 1848. The ERA was subsequently introduced in every Congress from 1923 through passage in 1972 and then from 1982 until today, where it languishes uncomfortably after the biannual, pro-forma hoopla of the filings and the photo-ops have faded. Paul died in 1977 after fighting the good fight for 50 more years, but not seeing her dream of equality fulfilled. Meanwhile, U.S. women are still not equal under the U.S Constitution in 2009.

The ERA is seen by some -- from closeted sexists and weak sisters, to politicians always with something more important to do -- as anachronistic and unnecessary. But is it?

In an article written for the Harvard Women's Law Journal in 1976, now Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg clearly demonstrates that our Founding Fathers never intended to provide for equal rights. ``Without the Equal Rights Amendment,'' she wrote, ``the judiciary will continue to be plagued with a succession of cases challenging laws and official practices that belong in history's scrap heap.'' Thus women continue to be unfairly saddled with the burden of proof of discrimination, including expensive lawsuits.

Any piecemeal anti-discrimination gains on any level, moreover, can be taken away in a heartbeat. Just think about what Title IX did for girls/women in sports and the scary chatter about repeal. Just think about what could women do for common good with all the time and money spent on fighting against discrimination. Maybe that's the point: keeping women down and out of other endeavors, while we keep slogging away for equality.

Paul's ERA bill was passed once by Congress in 1972, but not ratified -- coming up three states short when the time frame was capped and ran out in 1982. Now because of passage of the Madison Amendment (Congressional Pay Amendment) 203 years after being first filed, ratification by three more states could lead to passage of the ERA as well. That is for Congress and potentially the courts to decide; it should not negate our efforts to do the right thing and ratify this constitutional amendment once-and-for-all. Equal Rights for women -- nearly 52 percent of the U.S. population -- is a nonpartisan issue and a moral imperative. And Florida is one of those states that did not ratify the ERA back then and keeps on not doing so now.

Florida voters -- by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent -- approved a similar amendment to the Florida Constitution in 1998 when they approved Revision 9. Therefore, ratification of the federal ERA would be fully consistent with the will of the voters of Florida. ERA bills reintroduced in the Florida Legislature every year since 2003, however, have gone nowhere -- not given even one committee reading in the state House in seven years.

Just because Barack Obama was elected president does not mean racism is dead. And just because Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House and Hillary Clinton ran for president does not mean that sexism is dead, either. Yes, there have been many great individual achievements by women, duly noted and celebrated. But we ignore some very basic and appalling facts: The United States is tied with Turkmenistan at 68th in the world for electing women to parliaments, assemblies and congresses. Women hold about 17 percent of seats in the U.S. Congress 233 years after the country's independence.

If you think there is no correlation between lack of anything remotely resembling parity in Congress and no equal rights for women under the Constitution, please think again. We used to hope for 50/50 by 2020, but that will never happen. Women, moreover, seem to lack the political will to push that agenda as their counterparts have done in so many other countries. And where are women's voices in the congressional healthcare reform debate, when 19 states have no women in either house of Congress? Meanwhile, a NASA debate centers around landing astronauts on the moon again in 2020. What is wrong with this picture?

Women's Equality Day is a day for rededication, not simply celebration. We should encourage every citizen to vote. It is conveniently feel-good to see the glass half full and walk away. But, in fact, the glass is still half empty. As my late friend Gene Boyer would say, ``Forward!'' This is about the future, not the past.

(Paula Xanthopoulou is a former president of the National Women's Political Caucus of Florida and a member of the Miami-Dade Commission for Women.)


March 9, 2008
Letter published in the New York Times (3-9-08)

"The Primary Season Is Embracing Sports Images" (March 2) confirms my belief that in the historic 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, sexism has trumped racism.

The photo of Barack Obama in his high school basketball uniform and mention of his continued basketball activities not only underscore his popularity with white men, but plays right into it. Noted similarities to superstar athletes Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, and James Blake set up an interesting comparison, but the premise of superstar qualities transcending sports into politics is troublesome on several levels -- not the least of which is compounding our infatuation with celebrities. Moreover, all the examples are men. Had Hillary Clinton had some sort of athletic prowess, the inferences would hardly have been complimentary. Baking cookies wouldn't have helped, either.

Paula Xanthopoulou
Miami, Florida


August 13, 2007
Letter published in the Miami Herald (8-13-07)

RE: Elect more women

I hope that readers note Andres Oppenheimer's Aug. 9 column, As for women in politics, U.S. is far behind. It shed much-needed light on issues that should make every American cringe. One of the main reasons that women are so underrepresented and do not have equal rights under the U.S. Constitution is that most people are unaware of these mind-boggling inequities.

Americans must hold our political leaders accountable.

The election of a woman U.S. president will not solve the problem of gross underrepresentation for women in Congress -- 16.3 percent. In Chile, which elected Michele Bachelet president, women hold only 15 percent of the seats, and there is a growing movement for gender quotas targeting political-party candidate lists. Party rules make it easy to perpetuate the slow pace of electing more women, and that is true in the United States as well.

Political leaders may give lip service to sharing power with women, but they will not voluntarily take concrete steps that may result in themselves losing power. Women and their allies must develop the political will to force the issue, as has happened in so many other countries.

Paula Xanthopoulou
Miami


August 20, 2006
Letter published in the Miami Herald (8-20-06)

RE: "Candidates should pick woman as running mate"

Some of us will be waiting to see if either Democrat candidate for Florida Governor will show real leadership by selecting a woman running mate now or later. Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Toni Jennings lieutenant governor when Frank Brogan resigned and then indicated that he would support her if she ran for Governor. That was a pretty decent tip of the hat to more than half of our state's population.

Some months ago, I asked both Democrat candidates, Rod Smith and Jim Davis, if they were seriously considering women for No.2. Both of them said yes. Since then, however, I have heard nothing more except the occasional token mention of Kathy Fernandez Rundle. Meanwhile, the U.S. languishes at 67th in the world for electing women.

As a lifelong Democrat, I likely will vote for the Democrat nominee. But I will not lift a finger to do anything more unless he puts a woman on the ticket. It is imperative that women demand more from our political leaders instead of automatically working for their election with nothing to show for it in terms of more seats at the table. Lip service is no longer good enough. The status quo is unacceptable.

Paula Xanthopoulou
Miami


November 29, 2005
Letter published in the Miami Herald (11-22-05)

RE: "South Florida pushes for Latin Senator"

Thank you for mentioning that New Jersey Governor-elect Senator Jon Corzine is considering a woman for appointment to his U.S. Senate seat. NJ does not have one woman in Congress, even though it is the ninth most populous state

Women elected Jon Corzine on November 8th. Now they should ask why the Democratic Party says incessantly to us, "You're critical in the election," and then does next to nothing to elect MORE women in the quest for equal representation in Congress, where women hold a measly 15.2% of the seats. If women's votes are so critical, here is the situation to show that the party is there for women.

It's nice that South Florida Hispanics feel they have a friend in NJ Democrat Congressman Bob Menendez. But that has absolutely nothing to do with representation in the U.S. Senate for the people of New Jersey. Jon Corzine should elevate State Senator Nia Gil to his seat, and the Democratic Party should pull out all the stops to keep her there.

Paula Xanthopoulou, Miami


November 14, 2005
Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

Your follow-up coverage of the NJ governor's race has been prodigious, including Doug Forrester's excuses for his second statewide loss and the role of ex-wives in election campaigns. Under the category of replacements for NJ Governor-elect Jon Corzine's US Senate seat, however, you have not addressed the possibility of a woman being appointed -- even though your neighboring NJ has NOT ONE WOMAN in either the US House or Congress. This means that 51.5 % of that state's population or about 4.4 million women have absolutely no voice in Congress!

On Friday, Senator Corzine told The Trenton News that he was indeed considering State Senator Nia Gill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nia_Gill) as his replacement -- not just Good Ol' Boys Acting Governor Richard Codey or five sitting congressmen as previously reported. Senator Corzine has called Senator Gill an "extraordinarily capable woman." Appointment of a woman like Senator Gill would be a huge step forward for both the women of New Jersey and equal representation. Let's applaud Senator Corzine for his out-of-the box thinking and urge him to move forward with appointing a woman for his U.S. Senate seat.

Sincerely,
Paula Xanthopoulou


September 7, 2005
Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

RE: "Exploiting the Gender Gap" (9-5-05)

Re-reading Mr. Farrell's apologia for why women make less money in certain cases, I am struck by the continuing focus on women who have made it -- be it small business owners, rising political stars, or successful women in any field. What about the untold millions of women who struggle daily to make ends meet under discriminatory pay and labor practices?

We should, of course, be happy about the quality of life lived by women who have succeeded against many odds and/or are not obsessively ambitious like many of their male counterparts -- even though I wonder if those women accept Mr. Farrell's too neat premise. But we should also be extremely unhappy about the untold millions of women who still toil under unfair conditions and often no contracts or health insurance. I invite Mr. Farrell to start collecting data on the status of women farm workers, for example, who are systematically paid less than men for the same work and then have their toilets shut down if they dare to complain. Where exactly is their "opportunity?"

It's time to reflect on the importance of equal pay and equal rights for women across-the-board -- to focus not on the relatively few success stories, but on the majority of women in this country who need both just to have a just a decent quality of life. Some of the Hurricane Katrina images and stories are proof-positive that these are serious issues that go way beyond FEMA and compartmentalized theories about a gender gap.


August 23, 2005 -- Email to List

Waiting for Godot & Women's Equality Day

Friday, August 26, is the 85th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage. As we await President G.W. Bush's Women's Equality Day Proclamation, we have to wonder, "Does he really not get it, or is the current administration just playing both ends against the middle?"

Last year's proclamation extolled women's suffrage and accomplishments of women in many fields -- without mentioning that Women's Equality Day was established to also remind us that women in this country do not yet have equal rights: "In 1971, newly elected Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced a resolution proclaiming the date Women's Equality Day and linking the commemoration to 'the continued fight for equal rights'." (WomensENews)

Our president then went on to extol the newly-established rights of women in Afghanistan and Iraq to vote, and to also explain that the provisional Iraqi constitution prohibited discrimination based upon gender and also guaranteed women 25% of the seats in the provisional National Assembly. He further proclaimed, "As we look into the future, we celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of women in America and throughout the world and renew our commitment to equality for
all women, both at home and abroad."

Unfortunately we are now unsure what the future holds for Iraqi women, who did win 30.1% of the seats in the January elections. Meanwhile, someone should remind our president that women do not have equal rights here at home. And according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union we are 60th in the world for electing women to congresses, parliaments, or national assemblies (http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm). So much for the "world's greatest democracy."

Does the American public comprehend that men and women are fighting and dying in Iraq for rights that their mothers, sisters, and daughters do not have? Do we honestly believe that U.S. women - THE MAJORITY, NOT A MINORITY -- are full partners in democracy when we hold a measly 15% of the seats in the U.S. Congress and are pretty much stuck there? Have U.S. women used their hard-won right to vote to their advantage these past 85 years, or to the advantage of others?

On Friday, please tell everyone you know that Women's Equality Day is about a lot more than voting and the wonderful accomplishments of a few. It means that 229 years after Independence, U.S. women are not protected by our own constitution -- something our president would rather sweep under his mantra of global democratization, so it's doubtful he'll come clean this year either. His brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, has just flat out declined* to issue any sort of proclamation on the 85th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage. Don't count on the media to talk about this national disgrace either...

On Women's Equality Day, who will tell the truth about the status of women in the United States of America?

*After declining to issue a proclamation, he finally did -- most likely under the pressure of those who read his answer on the Internet and then called or wrote him.


March 7, 2005
Letter to the Editor of the New York Times

RE: "Anti-Abortion Democrat Runs" (3/5)

"Anti-Abortion Democrat Runs" (3/5) says it all regarding the Democratic Party's ongoing failure to advance women in high elective office. When push came to shoving Ms. Barbara Hafner out of the PA US Senate race, the convenient foil was an issue important to many women Democrats who power their party with sweat equity and dollars. Will all the Democrats that narrowly gave John Kerry Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes actually give up their beliefs for their party, and/or will bunches of Republicans actually vote for a pro-life Democrat over their powerful incumbent just because his name is Casey?

To add insult to injury, EMILY's List -- which was founded almost 20 years ago to support the election of Democrat pro-Choice women, but has lately evolved into a veritable appendage of the Democratic Party -- had nothing to say and apparently not much say in the matter either. The good ol'boys prevailed once again, with the help of our disempowering 2-party system.

Perhaps the New York Times could delve more deeply into these important issues -- to help explain why the United States is 57th in the world in electing women to Congress/Parliament, while we fight to insure equal rights for women in Iraq. Women make up a measly 14.8% of the US Congress 229 years after independence. Can we really continue to call ourselves the world's greatest democracy without equal representation for women?

Paula Xanthopoulou
Miami, Florida


February 16, 2005
To the Editor of the New York Times:

RE "For Democrats, Rethinking Abortion Runs Risks" (2-16-05):

A big tent approach can help us see that diverse, valid abortion beliefs are held by members of both parties. That does not mean, however, that a woman's basic right to choose should be sacrificed for the sake of partisan political maneuvers du jour. Does anyone really want to go back to the days of coat hangers and life-threatened wives, sisters, and daughters?

Choice is simply not the biggest issue in this country, even for most women, but we continue to perpetuate the ongoing civil war that accentuates the extremes on both sides of a very personal issue. If the Palestinians and Israelis can call a truce, so should we -- so we can focus on healthcare, social security, national security, and, yes, electing more women so we can have real democracy right here at home!

Indeed, groups like Emily's List should consider lifting the pro-Choice litmus test for supporting candidates so we can unite more women around more candidates -- or else there will NEVER be equal representation in this country or equality of any kind. Women everywhere should support Barbara Hafer for the US Senate because she is well-qualified on many levels and there are only 14 women in the US Senate -- and because we cannot allow the good ol'boys of either party to keep pushing good
women out of the running for seats in the US Congress, whatever the excuse.

Paula Xanthopoulou
Miami, Florida


June 7, 2004
To the Editor of the New York Times:

The graphic of eight.men accompanying the article yesterday on "hopeful" Kerry running-mates says it all. Is that the face of the Democratic Party? What about Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congresswoman Jane Harman, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, General Claudia Kennedy, Senator Mary Landrieu, Governor Janet Napolitano, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Governor Jean Shaheen, Donna Shalala, or Governor Kathleen Sibelius? If a women is not selected for the Democratic ticket, Senator Kerry should at minimum pledge to follow the example of the new Spanish Prime Minister, who recently appointed women to 50% of the seats in his Cabinet. Why not???

The United States is tied with Andorra at 14.3 %for 58th place in the world for electing women to Congress/Parliament. Rwanda (48.8%) recently passed Sweden (45.3) for #1, and Spain (36%) is tied with Cuba for #7. Some countries have already had women presidents and prime ministers. And the women of Iraq are now entitled to 25% of the seats in Parliament. What is wrong with this picture?

We need more than lip service from our political party leaders to level the political playing field. They all want women (52% of the population) to vote in record numbers this fall, and then what? Having a voice at the ballot box is one thing eighty years after women in the US got the right to vote -- but it is simply no substitute for a fair share of seats at the decision-making tables.

Paula Xanthopoulou
President, National Women's Political Caucus of Florida
Miami, Florida

NOTE: Source of figures as of April, 2004: Inter-Parliamentary Union


What about electing women and equal rights?
Miami-Dade Women's Chamber of Commerce Newsletter (March-April 2004)

The recent HBO movie "Iron-Jawed Angels" told the amazing story of Alice Paul & Co fighting for women's suffrage. They were treated with brutal disdain by President Woodrow Wilson until his stance became politically unviable in the face of an unbend-ing drive for the right to vote. One man then made the difference in Congress, changing his vote to "Yes!" because his mother told him to. True story.

The producers of that enlightening film were onto something by setting modern day music to a story dated around 1920. If you closed your eyes and listened to the dialogue, you might have had the same chilling thought that I had: some things have not changed much for women's rights and how we are treated since then!

Indeed, since 1923 the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution ("Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex" -- authored by Alice Paul and the National Women's Party) has been filed in Congress every year. At one point (1972), it did pass in Congress but then fell three states short for ratification -- one being Florida. No matter what you hear, the bottom line is that women do not have equal rights in this country. Period.

Thus every year we must troop to Tallahassee to beg for too many things we should be entitled to like health care equity and equal pay - and stand up against those who would take away some of rights we do have. Nothing is sacred, and any small gain is up for grabs on every level at any time until we get constitutional protection. How does that feel?

Women, moreover, make up only 13.6 percent of Congress - while we make up nearly 52 percent of the population and about 54-60 percent of registered voters. We are ranked 59th in the world for electing women to Congress or higher. At the unfocused and too-bending rate we are going, it will take 342 years for women to have their fair share of seats at the table in Congress, where the ERA and so much other legislation affecting our lives is considered or not considered.

The link between equal rights and women in decision-making, not just support roles in politics and government is unmistakably clear. Until we elect more progressive women to Congress and to every level of government, we will not have equality in this country - take that to the bank.

By Paula Xanthopoulou, Legislative Chair



Applaud Braun
Letter to the Editor of the Miami Herald published 2-5-04

In her Feb. 1 column, The former candidate is free to back a white guy, E.R. Shipp relegated Carol Moseley Braun's efforts to issues of race only. Shipp wondered if Braun -- who has spent 25 years in public service and had gotten on more state primary ballots than any woman in history -- entered the race to ''offer a better hairdo'' than Al Sharpton.

Shipp should have a chat with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, D.C.'s nonvoting delegate to Congress, who wrote of Braun's candidacy: ''American women should be at the head of a line of men and women applauding the courage of Carol Moseley Braun.'' Shipp might consider supporting the cause of real political power for women and blacks by praising political pathfinders like Braun rather than rushing to bury them.

PAULA XANTHOPOULOU
President, National Women's Political Caucus of Florida
Miami



2004 -- Conventional wisdom and party politics, bah humbug!

"Anybody but George Bush!" sounds a lot like "Anybody but Jeb Bush!" -- and you know where that got us.

In 2002 a woman named Janet Reno ran for Governor of Florida. They said she could not win because of Waco, Elian, and Parkinson's Disease..."Anybody but Jeb Bush!" Over months that became a self-fulfilling prophecy supported by too many women who followed along. I dare say, if more women had stuck with Janet Reno -- both because she was qualified AND because we need to seize political power for women when the opportunity presents itself --she might well be governor of Florida today.

In 2004 a woman named Carol Moseley Braun (www.carolforpresident.com) is running for President of the United States. They say she can't win because she is underfunded, yada-yada-yada..."Anybody but George Bush!" Hey, wait a minute!

Ambassador Braun is already a winner, bringing us and our issues to the table along with her unique credentials and grounded, forward-thinking ideas for our country. She has already made history by getting on the ballot in more primary states than Margaret Chase Smith or Shirley Chisholm (including Florida, March 9th!) -- and is actively campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina as we speak.

Carol Moseley Braun has changed the nature of presidential politics and refuses to go along with the negativity that has come out of better-funded campaigns. Everywhere she goes, she impresses real voters and gets respect in spite of false accusations that have dogged her unfairly for too long. Moreover, her reason for running creates both a path and a positive illusion for future women presidential candidates: "I had served in state government, county government, the US Senate, and as an ambassador -- so it seemed logical to run for president, why not?" Amen, sister!

If women really want to change the political dynamic, we must make waves and ride them as far as they will take us. Some women (and men!) get it and are supporting Ambassador Braun with dollars to keep her going as far as she can go. Too many women have stuck with the Democrat establishment, rushing to line up behind a potpourri of men candidates -- can those guys all win??? -- like there is no tomorrow. This could about supporting other candidates for valid reasons, but I'll bet that it's largely about a negative illusion of our place in the political firmament. I dare say, if women everywhere who are tired of lip-service and being second-class citizens wake up and vote for Carol Moseley Braun, she will be President -- and do as good a job as anybody else.

Just think about it -- conventional wisdom and party politics notwithstanding.

Happy New Year!
Paula X
January 6, 2004



ERA should be our next priority
Letter to the Editor of the Suns-Sentinel, published 7-6-03

The National Women's Political Caucus of Florida hails the historic [Supreme Court] decision and all who have worked so hard over the years on these civil rights issues, especially Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and its legal staff of women: Ruth Harlow, legal director and lead counsel on the case, and Patricia Logue and Susan Sommer. On CNN Ms. Harlow saluted the court's courage in reversing Bowers vs. Hardwick -- and in the face of extreme reactions against the decision -- suggested that the court is simply catching up with the American public, that 82 percent of Americans believe, in essence, that adults should have the right of privacy without fear of discriminatory legislation to the contrary.

Time for the laws of the land to catch up with other 21st century mainstream beliefs like Equal Rights for Women -- supported by 96 percent of Americans.

Onward and upward!

PAULA XANTHOPOULOU
President, National Women's Political Caucus of Florida


The Honorable Governor Jeb Bush
The Capitol
VIA FAX (850) 487-0801
VIA EMAIL: Jeb@myflorida.com; Jeb@jeb.org

RE: ERA bills H615 and S1166

Dear Governor Bush:

As a multi-party organization for the advancement of women in government, we were shocked and dismayed at your insensitive and uninformed comments regarding the Equal Rights Amendment bills that have been filed with bi-partisan support this session.

If there is no need for the ERA, why then do we have to file bills annually in Florida to fight piecemeal – consistently to no avail! -- for basic rights like equal pay and health care equity?

Some women have made gains, but that sort of argument against the ERA will not sit well with the many young women who have been raped and humiliated at the US Air Force Academy in recent years. As we speak, 250,000 women are serving in the armed forces.

Nine of ten Americans believe that women should have equal rights – making the ERA not only vitally necessary, but a mainstream concept supported by most women and men. Even former FL Speaker of the House Ralph Haben regrets his vote years ago against the ERA and just two days ago outside the doors of the Capitol publicly pronounced his own arguments then a personal embarrassment.

Governor Bush, next time you see your daughter, wife, or mother -- please look them straight in the eye and tell them that even though you love them , you just don’t believe that they should be equal to men under the Constitution of the United States.

Sincerely,
Paula Xanthopoulou
President, National Women's Political Caucus of Florida


2003 -- No more waiting for Godot, or any other guy!

The past year had it's plusses and minuses for progressive women in Florida.

On the plus side, many women realized that only by working together can we build a true political power base and achieve equality. In a tough election year we had some wonderful success stories to go along with our disappointments. We made real progress in getting our act together.

On the minus side, some of us did not stick by the precept that political power is there for the taking if we help each together -- opting instead to play the game by other rules/priorities. Indeed there is much to gain and little to lose by being focused and aggressive in our pursuit of equal representation. But first we have to stop worrying about being "good girls".

Women make up about 51 percent of the population, but only 13.5 percent of Congress. 24 percent of the state legislature is not good enough either. Too many county commissions have no women. Our issues will never be adequately addressed until we elect many more progressive women at all levels of government to advance them -- pure and simple.

In the coming year:

  • Let's work together much more, realizing that sometimes we have to give something up for the greater good.
  • Let's NOT permit personal differences or empty promises to hold us back.
  • Let's stop talking only to each other and effectively engage many more women in the political process.
  • Let's move from labor-intensive, ineffectual actions to smart strategies for success.
  • Let's make creative communication a priority and the media our new best friend.
  • Let's NOT do all the work for anyone not willing to give us our fair share of seats at the table.
  • Let's aim on all fronts to put women in positions of power.
  • LET'S TAKE CHARGE!

Onward & upward in 2003 -- no more waiting for Godot, or any other guy!


Letter to the Editor of the Miami Herald published 11-14-02
IN RESPONSE -- Attack ads are unacceptable

Thank you for your Nov. 11 editorial "Election reform sidetracked" denouncing big money and the overwhelming use of attack ads in political campaigns, which when used against women usually are patronizing and often sexist. Such tactics keep good candidates out of public service, especially women who are loathe to answer back in the same way. This is bad for government and the cause of equal representation.

Campaign-finance reform alone won't be enough to bring truth to political advertising. Candidates themselves must be held accountable for unfair tactics, if not by law, then by public opinion. Attack ads should be unacceptable.

PAULA XANTHOPOULOU
President, National Women's Political Caucus of Florida


Letter to the Editor of the Sun-Sentinel, published 9-21-02

Our endorsed candidate for governor, Janet Reno, has pledged to help the nominee in any way she could. She was running to serve all Floridians.

The National Women's Political Caucus of Florida will continue to support and work for the election of progressive women at all levels of government throughout the state -- toward the establishment of political parity and changing the way Tallahassee does business. There are great women running in the upcoming general election.

Paula Xanthopoulou
President, National Women's Political Caucus of Florida



Letter to the Editor of the Sun-Sentinel published 1-24-02
"Elect a woman for governor"

Lots of people give lip service to electing more women. Who is doing something specific to rectify the gross under-representation of women in government? The 13.5 percent women in Congress and 24 percent in the Florida Legislature is unacceptable.

For the first time, two women are running for governor. Janet Reno and Lois Frankel are brilliant women with distinguished public-service records and ardent rank-and-file supporters.

But are they getting any respect? Why is so much credence still being given -- by some leaders of the Florida Democratic Party and now the Florida Education Association -- to a man with zero public-service record and who started out with zero name recognition? Is this the same old effort to systematically supplant good women candidates? It's time to look at who is best qualified, put our collective shoulder to the wheel, and elect the first woman governor of Florida.

Paula Xanthopoulou
President, National Women's Political Caucus of Florida


Message to the NWPC/FL 30th Anniversary Convention -- December 1, 2001

Dear NWPC/FL Members and Friends,

Today we celebrate 30 years of involving women in the political process, seeking equal rights, and fighting discrimination of all kinds. Even as we face adversity in these troubled times, we honor the democratic process by continuing it -- and strongly renewing our commitment to the goals and purposes of the National Women's Political Caucus of Florida, a multi-party organization dedicated to electing pro-Choice Women at all levels of government.

Women make up 13.5 percent of the US Congress and 24 percent of the Florida Legislature -- and in 26 of Florida's 67 counties there are no sitting woman commissioners. This is totally unacceptable!

This coming election cycle is ripe with opportunity for us to make a quantum leap in electing women who will fight for women's issues. Two women - State Representative/ Minority Leader Lois Frankel and former US Attorney General/Founding Member Janet Reno -- are running for Governor at the same time, a first in Florida history. There are 23 empty seats up for grabs in the Legislature and two new Congressional seats. The eyes of the Nation will be on Florida in November 2002. We must seize the moment to elect pro-Choice women in record numbers.

To that end, NWPC/FL is a founding partner of the Florida "W" Project, a non-partisan organizing effort under the auspices of the Florida Women's Consortium. The Project's primary purpose is to inform, mobilize, and organize women to participate in the electoral process as candidates and supporters. Most of all, the Project is a coalition of organizations representing 450,000 members aiming to coordinate extant affiliates and pooled resources for the election of good women all across Florida. We are poised to make a significant impact in all 67 counties between now and November 5, 2002.

The bottom line is that there is much work to be done. Separately we cannot make enough progress. Together we can rearrange the Florida political landscape once-and-for-all. More women in government is not just a matter of justice or a numbers game. Our fair share of seats at the table will change the way government does business and enhance the quality of life for all Floridians.

Our cause is undeniably just. One for all, and all for one!

Sincerely,
Paula Xanthopoulou
NWPC/FL President


Letter to the Editor
(published Tallahassee Democrat 5-21, Naples News 5-22,
St. Pete Times 5-24, and Miami Herald 5-24)

Women throughout Florida should be thrilled and energized! The landscape of Florida politics has changed forever.

For the first time, a woman, former US Attorney General Janet Reno, has created a national "buzz" about running for Governor and is considered by many to be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Moreover, two other well-regarded women -- Betty Castor (formerly both Commissioner of Education and President of USF) and Lois Frankel (fearless Minority Leader this past legislative session) -- have also been considering a run. There are plenty of capable women in Florida who are either elected officials or considering running for office.

The high profile aspirations of Castor, Frankel and Reno (a founding member of NWPC/FL) will make it easier for other women to take the plunge and become public servants. As more women get into the political pipeline and make their mark, they will become state legislators, Congresswomen, Senators, and Cabinet members. But they need and deserve the full-throttled support of women along the way.

So thank you to Betty Castor, Lois Frankel and Janet Reno for blazing the trail once again. One of them may well be our next Governor. Our time has come!

Sincerely,
Paula Xanthopoulou, President
National Women's Political Caucus of Florida


Party Affiliation Doesn't Matter...
(published as Op-Ed in Sun-Sentinel 5-21)

Party affiliation doesn't matter when it comes to standing up to discrimination against women in politics or anything else. Woe, moreover, to the once or future woman elected official who doesn't think that discrimination against one of her own does not directly impact her.

Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift, a pro-Choice Republican, was ordered to bed last week some ten days before giving birth to twins. Governor Swift chose to hold her weekly, largely ceremonial Governor's Council meeting by speakerphone. Instead of applauding her efforts to carry on business as usual, several of the eight Council members (all Democrats by-the-way!) chose to attack. Some -- like potential gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Wm Galvin and senior member Edward O'Brien, father of the up-and-coming state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien - wanted the meeting held in the Governor's hospital room where she was having contractions every six to eight minutes. They wondered if the conference call was unconstitutional.

(No one mentioned how FDR was the greatest president of the Twentieth Century while confined to wheel chair or how Massachusetts Favorite Son John F. Kennedy concealed various serious health problems from the public while vigorously dispensing his duties or that Ronald Reagan took long naps while serving in the White House. Should we mention that Dick Cheney cheerfully races about running the country while subject to heart failure at any moment?)

But Ms. Shannon O'Brien herself -calling for every effort to accommodate her Republican boss -- would have none of this disgraceful, partisan subterfuge. Neither would Council Member Mary Ellen Manning, who called the attacks "anti-family, anti-female and anti-worker." Attorney General Tom Reilly, also a Democrat, saw no problem with the Governor's course of action.

FL State Senator Debbie Wasserman-Schultz also rose to the occasion. The Broward County Democrat (and member of the Gwen Cherry chapter of NWPC/FL) graced MSNBC's "News with Brian Williams" show last Friday evening and laid it on the line. That a woman elected official may need to do things differently on occasion because of her gender should make a difference only if she does not meet her public responsibilities. Wasserman-Schultz -- who gave birth to twins while serving in the FL House - suggested that the people should judge based on performance, same as they judge men. In her case, the Weston lawmaker had her twins, did her job, and was subsequently elected to the Senate!

Wasserman-Schultz gets it. Women elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, are subject to discrimination because of their gender from the time they become candidates and especially when they rise in the ranks. Women elected officials must stick together against attacks on Jane Swift and on the many related issues like paid Family Leave for birth and adoptions (which Wasserman-Schultz championed in Tallahassee this year to no avail). Women in general must learn to close ranks around women candidates and elected officials alike - unless they are incompetent, corrupt or otherwise not with the program. Until we really commit ourselves to doing that, we will not get the necessary numbers of women running for office or elected. Until we really commit to women first, there will be no political parity. And the US will remain in the two percent of all countries that have Family Leave but do not pay for it.

Let's start with Massachusetts. Party affiliation doesn't matter - not as much as genuinely pro-women and pro-family government.

-- Paula Xanthopoulou, President, NWPC/FL (May, 2001)


$$$$$ Talks and You Get What You Pay For!

$$$$$ talks! Until we raise significant dollars, we will not have the results we seek -- putting many more pro-Choice women into the political pipeline so we can elect more Congresswomen and the first woman Governor of Florida! We must reorder our priorities and focus on fundraising if we truly aim to succeed. Like it or not, there is no other way. Volunteering is certainly wonderful, campaign finance reform is crucial for women and minorities, etc. -- but right now XXX amount of dollars is needed for every political campaign, the actual amount depending on where and how high the office. To compete with the boys, we must raise money like the boys.

Now -- I often hear, "Women can't pay" or Women can't afford it" in regards to contributions, political events, and even annual dues. This is very disturbing. While we seek equal pay and economic parity, should we marginalize ourselves by pleading poverty? Saying that we are not able to pay may not prove a point so much as it serves to dig a deeper hole for ourselves.

Perhaps there are not yet as many women who can consistently write checks over $1000. But there are plenty of women who can write checks from $100-500, if not more $500 being the maximum total amount by law that each individual can contribute to a campaign). Maybe we just haven't learned to do so: to prioritize our goals and decide what we can give away -- rather than buy extra pairs of shoes or more clothes, or eat lunch every day in restaurants, or just plain not economize when we can. Do men all have so much more money, or have they figured out how to use what they have to develop socio-political clout? Women with jobs and an even modest salaries can write checks to support their political goals if they decide
that this is a priority...

The fundraising issue must be tackled head on if we are to win political parity and not remain on the proverbial sidelines. Please do think about this and about how much pro-Choice women candidates -- who share our beliefs and are putting themselves on the line to run for office -- need our financial support. Our political organizations also need your financial support beyond dues in order to do what you expect them to do.

When women run, women tend to win, but there are no freebies. You get what you pay for!

-- Paula Xanthopoulou, President, NWPC/FL (March, 2001)

             Return to Homepage
        ©2017 Paula Xanthopoulou