Boys and Girls Together

Last week’s supreme court decision that the religious beliefs of corporations trump the rights of actual people who happen to be women was written by five men too old to have spent a lot of time dealing with women as equals.

Chief Justice Roberts, at 59, is the youngest of that group, meaning that even he went to law school before the gender balance among law students became roughly equal. In addition, the chief justice and Justice Scalia both went to all-boy Catholic high schools (all five of these justices are Roman Catholics).

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it is only on the current supreme court (in which a third of the justices are women) that they have worked in a job where women are a significant presence.

After I read of the childish behavior of the young men at this year’s Texas Boys State – a program sponsored by the American Legion intended to prepare boys for future leadership roles by doing a mock legislature – I got to thinking that segregating boys from girls in such activities (there is also a Girls’ State) is part of our problem.

While the boys were running on a platform of “cold beer and titties” and coming up with draconian laws on abortion and single motherhood, the girls legalized same sex marriage, addressed rape on college campuses, and debated the minimum wage. That is, the girls took the program much more seriously.

But everyone else took the boys’ program seriously: 30 state legislators visited Boys State, according to the Burnt Orange Report, but none visited Girls’ State. It’s clear to me that most people assume our future leaders are coming from among those boys, despite the fact that the two Democrats running for governor and lieutenant governor of Texas are both women.

Given that we have a Texas Legislature dominated by men, and one that has run roughshod over women’s rights, Leticia Van de Puttewe need to change this leadership program to encourage boys and girls interested in political futures to work together and respect each other.

During Sen. Wendy Davis’s filibuster over absurd anti-abortion legislation last year, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte – now running for lieutenant governor – made a statement on the floor that demonstrates just how good-old-boy male the Texas Legislature is:

At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?

There is one good argument for segregated programs: girls must take on leadership roles. In integrated ones, as in co-ed schools, girls are often shunted aside. They tend to do the real work, but they do it behind the scenes. But the solution to this problem is to encourage the girls in the integrated programs, rather than to separate them.

As long as the programs for boys are taken more seriously – and they will be any time there are “separate but equal” programs – there will be serious sexism in our political world.

As more and more women go into politics, push to break the glass ceilings in business, look for more opportunities in science and engineering, and generally demand to be taken seriously, it’s vital that we teach boys and girls how to work together starting at an early age.

By the way, according to Wikipedia, Justice Alito, who wrote the corporate religion decision, went to Boys State.



Boys and Girls Together — 22 Comments

  1. Nancy–Junior State of America (the organization my daughter was part of for two years) is a year-round student-led organization where kids form “governments” (Becca was a senator for the Golden Gate Region) and have four to six congresses a year. It’s co-ed, with very active female participants. It’s great–except when it’s not: it was discovered that some boys in the leadership of another region had formed a secret cabal dedicated to reducing girls’ participation, and “taking over” the leadership and the region. The good news is, once this was outed, the leaders of all the regions got together to put a stop to it. But this instinct to reduce and ridicule female participation seems to run in some politically-minded males, even when they interact with females on a daily basis.

    Still, I’d take JSA over boys’ state any day.

    • Yes, I’m sure that there are still problems with some men even when they have grown up working with women. But it is nice to see that it got stopped, which is probably in part a result of the fact that the girls were there, too. JSA does sound much better than the Boys State program.

  2. That’s horrifying.

    Which is one more reason one of my oldest and dearest friends, and other of her friends, and family are trying to research somewhere else to live than Texas. They’re just sick of this stuff, and they’ve been working so hard and so long to turn the tide around in the state, but they’re worn out.

    In the meantime — waving from El Paso and Marfa! Arrived in the first late this afternoon (evening my time), and heading for Marfa on Monday.

    Love, c.

    • Ooh, Marfa. My favorite part of Texas, especially in the summer. It’s always cooler in those mountains (it cools off at night, making the daytime temps more bearable). Be sure to check out the bookstore as well as the art galleries and to eat at the Food Shark (it’s a food truck) as well as at almost any of the restaurants there. And to drive up to Fort Davis to the observatory and to take the drive down to Terlingua along the Rio Grande.

      Texas drives me nuts. I’m a fifth generation Texan (on both sides of my family), but I’m lost all patience with Anglo Texas mythology and the politics makes me want to tear out my hair. I understand why your friends are looking to leave. But there are still some lovely places in the state, and Marfa is one of them.

          • College Station. Once my relatives suggested visiting the model White House they have there. It is 3/4 size of the real one. I said, “I live in Washington DC.”

            • OK. College Station is not what I would call the best part of Texas. Furthermore, it’s crawling with Aggies. The only good thing about Aggies is that you can use them as the example in jokes about people doing very stupid things, since it’s a choice to go to Texas A&M. I’m trying to think of somewhere interesting you can reach in a short drive from College Station, but am drawing a blank.

              And I suppose they built a model of the White House there to copy Austin, since the state capitol building is a smaller version of the national one.

      • My husband’s family on the maternal side are Texans. I’ve put in a lot of time in Texas for various reasons, most them work related in one way or another, as is this trip.

        El Pasa, Juárez and Ball Room Marfa are showing us in every way how glad Las Vidas Perfectas crew and performers are here, and doing everything to make the performances shine.

        Moreover, the third of 2014’s supermoons is this weekend. Where better to experience that than up here? Last night already, the moon was huge, white and gleaming, floating above el paso del norte.

        I lived in New Mexico for a long time.

        I love the southwest — it’s got my favorite climate.

        Love, C.

        • Las Vidas Perfectas sounds fascinating. I wish I could be there to see it.

          I love the southwest, too. Though at the moment I’m in Oakland and I love the climate here. Cool weather in July: too wonderful.

          • It would be lovely to meet you any time, and particularly so would it have been lovely in these circumstances. You’d really enjoy talking with the video team, a young husband and wife, who are splendid in their craft, invention and creativity.

            Love, .c

    • We took our kids to Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains several times as kids. It’s the Texas of dreams–what most people imagine, I think.

  3. “… beliefs of corporations trump the rights of actual people …”. Now, it’s the corporation that’s meant to pay. Does it trump the rights of “actual people” if someone decrees “actual people” must not go up to a bank and demand money pistol in hand? I mean – everyone needs money, right? Fertility is not a disease. as such it has nothing to do with health care. At least not more than elective cosmetic surgery which is equally not covered. I would go even further and say that these “normal people” who use contraceptives actually take money away from e.g. insured devout Catholics and even that is in my opinion unconstitutional. A Hobby Lobby case was not even warranted! But, would you agree that nutrition is fundamental to one’s health? And that it is even more fundamental to EVERYBODY’S health than contraceptives? Then why is food not paid out of mandatory health care, I wonder?

    • Your comment is rather confusing, but I gather you don’t think women’s reproductive health should be covered by health insurance. I completely disagree. And since we have a system in which the bulk of health insurance is provided by employers, women’s reproductive health needs — including contraception — should be covered by that insurance. We are not a theocracy and the religious beliefs of some should not govern the rest of us.

      Like many people, I would prefer a single-payer program similar to Medicare run by the federal government. Since the government under our Constitution cannot be a religious institution, this issue should not come up. But until we can adopt a more reasonable plan than employer-provided insurance (with some affordable options for those who can’t get insurance through work), the employers must not discriminate against their female employees. Period.

      Your religion should not trump my rights. That’s the whole point of the First Amendment.

  4. “Your religion should not trump my rights. That’s the whole point of the First Amendment.”


    Moreover something like 20% of women need one or another form of birth control method, not for contraception, but for other grave and serious medical conditions, that may well kill her, if not treated. And in fact, for a significant percentage of women, pregnancy and / or childbirth will kill her.

    So lets not pretend that women have no right to reproductive care, which includes contraception which also includes abortions.

  5. “Then why is food not paid out of mandatory health care, I wonder?”

    Whenever somebody comes along and says that the subject of an essay is not very important and that *this other topic over here* is what really should be talked about, that’s called “derailing” and is The Sign of the Troll.

    One could answer the question (though it’s the wrong question) but that would fulfill the troll’s ambition.