National woes sap theenergy of Women’s March
The third Reno Women’s March happened in what should have been an optimistic climate.
Donald Trump, whose appointment to be president prompted the first march, seemed to be inching closer to a date with prosecutorial destiny. Since his appointment, the Women’s March and #MeToo movements have changed U.S. politics, elevating the priority given to issues with which women are identified.
But this year’s march took place after events that injured the credibility of the March, and the mood was more subdued than in previous years.
March national co-president Tamika Mallory, who was widowed and left a single mother when the father of her son was murdered, found support within the Nation of Islam and, as a result, has praised NOI leader Louis Farrakhan, who is a prominent anti-Semite. In addition, she has questioned the reliability of accusers of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who has been accused of sexual harassment, assault or rape by 12 women. Mallory has condemned racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia, but not in the language desired by her detractors. In addition, she has been accused of anti-Semitic statements, and a co-founder of the March has said she was forced out of the organization because she is Jewish.
Among those who stayed away from the Reno March this year was Patty Dickens, who told us, “After I attended—and thoroughly enjoyed—the first March, I saw a longtime friend, Ginnie Kersey, at Josef’s Bakery, and I asked her if she went. She said that she had wanted to go, but the organizers said pro-lifers were not welcome. I thought that was ridiculous. Then, last year, I read that some organizers were anti-Semitic. Some men I talked to said they didn’t feel welcome either.”
There were feminists who oppose abortion across the country who said they sought to oppose Trump through the March movement and felt excluded, too. Megan McCain gave voice to that complaint on The View.
Dickens said she saw a Facebook post by a friend that read “Reno includes all.” Nevertheless, the number of Reno marchers plainly was down from previous years, and the crowd on the plaza between city hall and the river was less densely packed than earlier.
Some marchers said they tried to tune out the difficulties of the national organization by focusing on local advances, such as a majority of women on the Nevada Supreme Court and both Nevada U.S. senators who are now women. One marcher carried a poster reading, “NEVADA 1st Female Majority LEGISLATURE in U.S. HISTORY!!”
Of public administrators in Nevada’s state government—agency directors, deputy directors, division administrators, deputy administrators—64 percent are women. Every member of the Nevada Public Utilities Commission is a woman.
At the top
There is only one elective state office in Nevada that has never been held by a woman—governor. That is thanks in part to the new incumbent, Steve Sisolak, who ran a brutal primary campaign against opponent Chris Giunghigliani, his colleague on the Clark County Commission. At one point in the primary, Sisolak called her—a former teacher—soft on child sexual predators.
In his first message to the Nevada Legislature three days before the March, Sisolak seemed to go out of his way to try to mend fences with women, introducing new women members of the legislature and presenting women who had achieved high office in the state—though he erred in introducing Sue Wagner as the state’s first woman lieutenant governor, an honor that actually went to Maude Frazier in 1962.
Sisolak also said, “As Governor, I am committed to adequately funding women’s health care. Currently, Nevada ranks last in the nation in the number of women who have a dedicated health care provider. We don’t fare much better when it comes to cervical cancer screenings or other forms of family planning. That’s going to change. And that’s why we’ll be allocating $3 million per year to provide more of these lifesaving services statewide—like the life of Reno-native Ann Mackey, who in her early 20s started to have health complications. So she scheduled an appointment at Planned Parenthood. During that visit, they found early signs of cervical cancer that had gone undetected. Today, 20 years later, Ann is doing well and is certain that Planned Parenthood saved her life.”
Paradoxically, one woman reader told us she was unhappy with Sisolak setting women’s health apart from health policy generally, which prompted us to check it out, and what we found was demonstrative of the deep-seated bias women face. We found that studies have shown that women’s health is treated differently by the medical community, and our use of treated here does not refer to medical treatment. Rather, we found reports that physicians are more likely to dismiss the health problems of women than men. For instance, women suffer chronic pain at double the rate of men, yet studies indicate their pain complaints are less likely to be taken seriously.
As for actual treatment, that is different, too.
“Young women were more likely to be told to lose weight, where the young men who were actually more overweight were more likely to be put on effective preventive therapy,” Streisand Women’s Heart Center medical director Dr. Noel Bairey Merz told NBC last year. “People are always sort of judging women according to their weight.”
Nor is it just physicians who approach women’s health that way. It is also the public. A report by the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said 39 percent of women who have a cardiac arrest in a public setting were given CPR, versus 45 percent of men, with the result that men were 23 percent more likely to survive.
The bias also affects medical research. Recently NIH-funded clinical trials gained a requirement to include female subjects. But clinical trials funded by commercial companies have no such requirement.
In laboratory research, male animals are usually used, so some drugs are not evaluated for their impact on women. A 2003 NIH report read in part, “[W]hile little is known about the effects of aspirin on heart disease in women, postmenopausal women, like men, have been encouraged to take aspirin daily. The effects of other widely used drugs, such as Valium, were never tested in randomized clinical trials with female subjects, although 2 million women per year consume this drug to control conditions such as anxiety, epilepsy, muscle spasms, and alcohol addiction.”
Planned Parenthood issued a statement on Sisolak’s message: “According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2014, Nevada only met 10 percent of the need for publicly funded family planning services. The Governor’s commitment to investing in family planning will go a long way in improving that.”
Assemblymember Ellen Spiegel has submitted a bill drafting request for a measure dealing with women’s health, but there are no details on what it would do.