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Have women really taken equal rights too far?

Re: Today's feminist movement has outlasted its usefulness, by Sally Quinn, Jan. 24.

Today's feminist movement has outlasted its usefulness? Really? Does Quinn truly believe that women have taken equal rights too far? Is she satisfied with 2 percent female representation in the U.S. Senate, 11 percent representation on the U.S. Supreme Court and 15 percent representation in the president's Cabinet? Is she satisfied that there has never been a woman president and will not likely be one in the near future? Is she satisfied with women earning less than men for the same job, being passed over for promotions and then coming home to do 90 percent of the housework?

I suspect Quinn may not be completely satisfied with the status quo, but she is scared to death of being labeled a "feminist." No wonder _ according to her, feminism is "anti-male, anti-child, anti-family, anti-feminine." This is an old and much overused charge which is simply untrue. Feminism is pro equal rights and equal opportunity, not anti any of these things she mentioned, and it does not try to tell any woman how to live her life.

Women struggling for equal rights have been the subject of these kind of spurious charges for literally centuries. More disturbing than this, however, is the hypocrisy demonstrated by Quinn and women like her. She says feminism " has nothing to do with us." Is she serious? If Quinn has ever voted, she is a feminist. If she has attended college, she is a feminist. If she holds any property in her own name, she is a feminist. If she has a job outside the home (which obviously she does), she is a feminist. If she expects to receive the same pay as a man would for that job, she is a feminist. The list goes on.

The rights that women have today did not just fall out of the sky; they were fought for very hard by people who had to put up with the same kind of ignorant criticism that Quinn has the nerve to offer. It is unfortunate that so many women are willing to exercise all the rights gained by past feminists, but they are not willing to take any of the risks.

Zoe Wilfong, Tampa

I enjoyed Anna Quindlen's column, A leadership vacuum? Let women fill it. I have always felt a woman would make an excellent president of the United States. Not because I am one, but because they have the qualifications to do a good job. Women raise children, run households, handle finances, all while holding down full-time jobs outside the home. It is a proven fact women can handle stress much better than a man. Remember the saying, "Behind every great man is a great woman." So if anyone wants to finance my campaign, I'll be glad to throw my hat in the ring.

J. C. Quimby, Seminole

Re: Who's kidding whom here?, Feb. 5, by Patricia McLaughlin.

So, now we have "bra suits."

Sexual harassment at the office is rampant, with women already being blamed (by some) for incurring such harassment by dressing "provocatively," in revealing clothing. Now, we are encouraged to wear clothing that is even more revealing than what we have previously been told is appropriate office wear, such as see-through blouses, slit skirts, miniskirts, et al.

Our society seems a bit confused on the subject. On one hand, we insist that our workplaces be free of sexual harassment; on the other hand, we design, sell, and encourage women to wear "business" clothing that is anything but businesslike.

McLaughlin asks, in her article, if there is a reason behind the lack of comparable clothing for businessmen. I would answer that there is not one reason, but two. First, businessmen take themselves seriously, and would most likely burst into hoots of laughter at the thought of wearing boxer-short-revealing suit pants to work in the morning. Second, many of these same business men (including those in the fashion industry) are threatened by the proficiency of their female colleagues, and are looking for any excuse to avoid taking these women seriously.

I would ask that women consider these reasons as they dress for work in the morning. Wearing such clothing to the office _ indeed, to any public place _ is like providing the ammunition for the guns that will later be turned on us.

Lynn L. Stratton, Tampa

Re: Embattled USF vice president steps down, Feb. 1.

As I read the Times article on the resignation of USF's Vice President Walbolt, I wondered why universities are allowed to conduct criminal investigations without the benefit of local police. University police units do not have the proper equipment or expertise to conduct criminal investigations, yet they occur every day.

Across the country, students are raising a public outcry complaining that university officials do not take rape and sexual assault charges seriously and strongly discourage women from reporting incidents to the police. They prefer to handle the problem "in house" by a student conduct board, thus keeping the public from a true understanding of crime on campus and demands of accountability. Rape is not a discipline problem; it is a felony crime and should be investigated as such by the proper authorities.

Yet, as I continued reading the paper, I was reminded of why victims of rape and sexual assault haven't fared too well outside the university setting either. First was the article relating William Kennedy Smith's attorney Roy Black's speech to the New York Bar (Smith's dates subject to jokes, Feb. 1). He joked that the trial disclosed the sexual proficiency of Smith, serving to enhance his popularity with dates. He then referred to one witness as a "blond, high maintenance bimbo" whom he would "enjoy trashing" (did he mean on the stand?). His comments are highly sexist and inappropriate, regardless of the guilt or innocence of his client.

Then there was T. K. Wetherell's suggestion that a female reporter "needed a date" (Speaker's unabashed jokes leave some critics frowning, Feb. 1). This harkened back to the age-old axiom that a sexual experience with a man calms a woman's inappropriately-projected anger toward innocent men. When called on the comment, Wetherell had the gall to state that he didn't mean to be "sexist," making him either a liar or an idiot. Any politician knows the power and political impact of language. If he truly doesn't understand the inherent sexism in his comment, then he cannot possibly claim to represent or respect half the population in his district.

With men like these placed in positions of power and influence, is it any wonder why sexism still abounds in this country? Until attitudes at all levels of society change, rape and sexual assault _ much less sexual harassment _ will remain under-reported crimes. What woman wants to put herself through further harassment following a traumatic attack? The practice of "boys-will-be-boys" justice must end, for it puts women at risk and allows men to be released from the responsibility or consequence of inappropriate and criminal behavior.

Brenda Carpenter, St. Petersburg

I've had to remind myself lately that women are a vital source of the strength and integrity of our nation. Somewhere, between the hot dog sellers on the corner and the ridicule of Gennifer Flowers, I've developed an attitude of defense for womanhood.

Certainly, we as women have attained rights over the years. We even have the name "Jockey" stamped on our underwear. Yes, we've come a long way _ or have we?

The media have been swift and relentless in reporting the sordid affairs of celebrities. Whether the accusations are just or unjust is uncertain. What is for certain is that too much time is spent drawing attention to sexual exploitation.

Recently, I watched the media literally laugh at Gennifer Flowers in a televised news conference. Captured in the humor, Flowers laughed at the demoralizing questions. I think this is insulting, not only to women, but to all the intelligent people who witnessed this broadcast. I hope those who took part in this "comedy" can stop laughing long enough to pay tribute to the majority of women who have and continue to work and struggle to bring honor to the entire female sex.

Can the news reporters and photographers afford to place equal focus on even a few women who combine their divine gifts of talent and inner beauty for the benefit of self and community? If the crew needs direction, I'll gladly lead them to homes, churches, schools, colleges, business firms, local government offices and cemeteries. I will also donate to the camera crew a tripod that can adjust to photograph above the shoulders.

In the meantime, I'd like to remind some women that we are vital and unique. We have now the opportunity to achieve and follow our dreams. We don't have to prove ourselves with body measurements. We are measured by our ability to think and make decisions.

So, pull up your "Jockeys," ladies, and join with the rest of us. Let's meet at the neighborhood deli for hot dogs. Let's use our minds and bodies to enrich our lives. Let's join together to bring peace, strength and honor to our families, communities and our nation.

Patti Fisher, St. Petersburg

Another view

Re: Jennifer L. Stevenson's Throwing the book at men, Feb. 1.

Even as a woman, I fail to see the big deal of an "all men's club." Not allowing women into these clubs is not discrimination _ it's simply therapeutic. Men go to these clubs to relax, discuss business, sports, or whatever without the opposite sex there to annoy them. Is my "no men allowed" fitness club discriminating? Nope. I joined that club to not be bothered by the opposite sex. I haven't seen one man trying to force my fitness club to allow him membership. There exist clubs where both sexes may join; why not go there? Why do women such as Gay Culverhouse feel the need to join these particular clubs anyway? To prove something to society? To themselves, perhaps? Why go somewhere where you're clearly not wanted? If men feel the need to be with their own gender for a few hours a day, let them! They are not harming anybody, so why do such women bother them? Are these women so insecure with themselves that they feel the need to force themselves upon something that is not enterable? (And shouldn't be enterable.)

Perhaps I pose more questions than answers, but one thing is very clear: They don't want you there! Accept it and get on with your life.

Joanne Metropolis, Clearwater

Winning and losing

Re: Why Tyson lost and Smith won, Feb. 12.

Did it ever occur to Anne V. Hull, Sheryl James or Thomas French that perhaps our justice system works and that Tyson lost because he was guilty and Smith won because he was not guilty?

Judith C. Piotter, Largo

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