Sarah Roessler, ’16
Gun control, gay marriage, feminism, birth control — lately it seems impossible to talk about the news without touching on one of these highly controversial issues. We are living in a divided nation. Not only do these topics spark passion from the common United States citizen, they are also currently being debated by our law makers — and these debates are getting heated. A simple look at the headlines of the past week illustrates the hot topics in our nation.
Ever since the dreadful Newtown school shooting, the debate over gun control has been louder and more controversial than ever. The Washington Post reported on the most recent advancements of gun legislation. Even though the National Rifle Association (NRA) had a few setbacks post-Newtown — new gun limits in Maryland, New York, Colorado, and Connecticut — the NRA is now gaining strength. Originally it seemed as though stricter gun legislation would be a possibility, but now this hope is waning for gun control advocates. The NRA is supporting a background check bill that will actually make it easier for people with mental health problems to obtain guns. This bill is getting the better of many gun control supporters, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who initially signed the bill, not realizing all of its implications. The Women in Leadership team had the opportunity to meet with the Connecticut Senator about the Newtown district while in Washington D.C.; her determination made it clear this debate will continue.
In the past week it was impossible to escape the coverage from the Supreme Court’s marriage equality hearings. The court is ruling on two cases about same-sex marriage: “whether California’s Proposition 8 (which voters approved in 2008 to outlaw gay marriage) and the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as heterosexual and requires the federal government to deny benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow same-sex unions) are constitutional.” The rulings will no doubt set a precedent, and the American public is full of opinions — if you didn’t know what the red square with the pink equals sign meant before, you do now. An opinion piece from the Huffington Post compared this issue to the old debate of interracial marriage, suggesting that the Supreme Court might rule that states decide their own terms for same-sex marriage.
Then we have feminism, which has experienced a resurgence in the headlines since Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, hit the shelves. As a member of the Women in Leadership team, we have devoted much time to discussing this book. Sandberg certainly has her critics, but there is no doubt that her book is sparking another wave of feminism. The Week illustrated the need for this wave with an article about Presidents Obama’s comments when introducing the California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, at a fundraiser. The President mentioned many of Harris’s shining qualities, but also referred to her as, “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country.” While Obama surely meant no harm by the comment, it set social media ablaze and made Harris’s looks a topic of national interest. When is that last time this happened for a male Attorney General?
Another topic relating to women in society is that of birth control. The Week also posted an article about Federal Judge Edward R. Korman’s recent ruling that the government must “make the most common form of the morning-after pill, Plan B One-Step, available over-the-counter to women of all ages.” Currently, the pill is only available to women over the age of sixteen. The most interesting part of this decision is that while most scientific organizations are in favor of this decision, one of the main opponents has been President Obama. Although the president was very critical of the Republican Party’s view of birth control while campaigning, he is delaying this ruling from becoming law.
All of this in just one week, not to mention all that’s going on in North Korea as of late: what does all of this controversy mean for our country? Perhaps it’s a good thing — increased political participation is certainly positive. A more negative view points to further polarization in America. So what do we do? We read, we debate, we research, but most importantly, we listen. And maybe if we do enough of that, we will get the results that we are after.