Monday, April 16, 2012

Welcome to Tennessee — Try Not To Be a Woman While You’re Here

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 12:15 PM

The last few weeks have seen Tennessee on several “worst-of” lists for women. The popular iVillage ranked us No. 40 among the “worst states for women” — for our lower rates of college degree completion, lower earnings, low levels of representation of women in state government, poor health, attacks on women’s rights, and other factors.

This week, Forbes named Knoxville, Tenn. (home of Stacey Campfield), No. 3 in its list of Most Unfair Cities To Be a Working Woman because of disparities in pay between men and women.

And I missed this last month, but the blogger at Lavender and Cheese writes about another embarrassing finding that got basically no media attention here: Black women die more from breast cancer than white women, and that’s more true in Memphis, Tenn., than in any of the nation’s other largest cities. In Memphis, a black woman is more than twice as likely to die as a white woman.

As that blogger explains:

We know what these numbers mean: black women are not getting the same access to cancer treatment that white women are. This is not a genetics problem; it’s a care problem, it’s an education problem, and it’s a socioeconomic problem.

And it’s exactly this kind of care inequality that the healthcare reform bill is supposed to alleviate.

The fact that this study has gone unreported and apparently unnoticed in Tennessee has to be a result of two things: laziness and cowardice.

I was born and raised in Tennessee. I chose to come back here after college. Like B, I absolutely love things about this state, from the big beauty of the landscape to smaller pleasures of local businesses and institutions and people. It’s not all about politics — but our politics are seriously messed up here right now.

We have Democrats in power who can’t bring themselves to denounce a state rep when he publicly threatened to “stomp” any transgender woman he encounters. We have bills specifically trying to shame and intimidate women getting legal abortions and their providers, transformed into a bill to limit access in another dishonest way.

We have serious economic problems and disparities, a long list of problems that are getting us on other people’s “worst of” lists that we could tackle. Meanwhile, our state legislators are focused on saggy pants, making sure it’s OK for creationism to be discussed seriously in science classes, and pushing the racism and classism of trying to drug-test all welfare recipients. And our Governor, Republican Bill Haslam, had the nerve to blame the media for covering this nonsense, instead of doing his job as a leader and taking on the state legislators for introducing and pushing said nonsense.

Welcome to Tennessee. Although we need you here, if you’re a woman, or poor, or not white and straight and cis and Christian, or you have a decent handle on science, you might want to pass on through, unless you have a lot of energy and patience for the fight. At least for now.

This post originally appeared on Women's Health News.

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