Elizabeth Rowe vs. Boston Symphony Orchestra: A fight for Equal Pay, A Win for Feminism


Elizabeth Rowe vs. Boston Symphony Orchestra

In mid-February, Elizabeth Rowe, the principal flutist at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, one of the “big five,” settled her landmark equal-pay lawsuit against that august organization according to documents filed at Suffolk County Superior Court. The classic dictionary definition of feminism is equality between men and women, and their entitlement to equal rights and opportunities, but this was not the case. Last July, Rowe sued the Orchestra, founded in 1881, citing that there was a disparity between her paycheck and that of a comparable musician—principal oboist John Ferrillo. The lawsuit stated that the Boston Symphony Orchestra was in violation of the Massachusetts Equal Pay Law.

“Rowe alleged she had met various times with BSO management since being hired in 2004 to talk about the wage gap but never reached an agreement,” WBUR reported. “According to the BSO’s 2016 tax filings, Rowe made 75 percent of Ferrillo’s annual salary, which was $286,621. The lawsuit had asked for more than $200,000 in back pay.” The case went into mediation in December. Rowe’s lawyer, Elizabeth Rodgers, told WBUR radio that the situation as of Valentine’s Day has been resolved amicably. And while the results are confidential, Rowe will continue to work for the orchestra. Every fight counts.

2020 Election and Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment, a major factor in the midterm 2016 elections, is already influencing the campaigns that elected officials are running for 2020. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the top tier Democrat candidates, hired a staffer that is a re-certified human resources administrator, to keep abreast of current workplace practices, according to Buzzfeed. Further, nine of the ten Presidential hopefuls who have unveiled exploratory committees of full-on runs, have said that they will be prioritizing “protections against sexual harassment and misconduct much more than those in the past.”

Title IX

The Pacific Standard does a good job in explaining the conflict surrounding Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss’s changes to Title IX. Title IX is the 1972 law that banned any discrimination based on sex in any federally-funded college program. Pacific Standard looked at both sides of the issue. The article cites Jeannie Suk Gerson’s New Yorker piece that was critical of the excesses of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights during the Obama Administration. "DeVos' proposals are a mixed bag of measures that, on the whole, threaten to make it more difficult for victims of sexual discrimination to seek justice,” writes James McWilliams. “The most controversial stipulations aim to narrow the definition of sexual assault, restrict Title IX cases to those occurring on campus, and limit the university officials authorized to act on assault allegations."

All-white All-Male MSNBC 2020 Graphic

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With its progressive primetime lineup, MSBC is dependably pro-feminist. This Presidential campaign season is America’s most diverse in its history on the Democratic side, so we were surprised to see last week that the “2020 Democrats to Watch” was all white and all male.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio—who has not yet declared his candidacy for President—was pictured not once, but twice. "You’ll notice Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Seth Moulton look like twins. They are not, in fact, the same person. The man in the graphic — twice! — is Sherrod Brown.” Vox notes. Of course, Progressive Twitter followed suit. My favorite social media comment is by Professor Emily M. Farris, who posted an image of the graphic of the 18 white men—and two Sherrod Browns—that aired on MSNBC, alongside “Wow, look at Identity Politics.” Isn’t she right?

Elections in Nigeria

Saturday’s elections in Nigeria do not look like they will yield a greater equality between the sexes, nor did the elections happened peacefully. The Presidency is already being contested by two men. Women are also experiencing violent pushback from the conservative Muslim nation. Zainab Sulaiman Umar, a 26-year-old running for a seat in the Kano State House of Assembly, was recently attacked by men armed with knives. Furthermore, the polls closed with a report of 39 deaths in violent encounters, one of which was between the Nigerian army and a gang, notes ABC.

As for gender equality, “women make up about 12 percent of the 8,878 total candidates for national and gubernatorial elections and 7 percent of the 71 candidates, who ran for president on Feb. 23,” The Standard glumly notes. “Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, ranks 181 out of 193 countries for the percentage of women in parliament, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the international organisation of parliaments,” a very low ranking considering its population.

Brazil: Anti-Feminist Rhetorics

The Bolsonaro regime in Brazil is seeking to remove all reference of feminism in school’s textbooks. The far right Bolsonaro has already declared war against LGBTQ communities, and is now increasingly trafficking in blatantly anti-feminist rhetoric. “Following an outpouring of criticism, officials backtracked on the revised texts. But education minister Ricardo Velez Rodriguez nonetheless vowed in his inaugural speech to end the ‘aggressive promotion of the gender ideology,” reported The Independent.

Cover via Washington Post