Happy IWD, Creating a More Diverse Business Climate

Today I saw that Virgin posted an article in honor of International Women’s Day, meant to explain how to diversify the business climate by including more women. I have decided to spend the exact same time that I wasted reading that article in order to list some actual solutions. And go:

1. Businesses, pay your taxes. If you pay your taxes instead of dodging them, more money would be available for the common good. Such as (2, 3, 4):

2. More money for educational improvements, and not just in neighborhoods with economic advantages.

3. Free state provided daycare. Daycare that is run and operated on a state model, consistent in offerings to families, and beholden to the rules and regulations of State Health and Safety agencies.

4. Investment in violence prevention programs, police resources, and training for employers to support workers in abusive situations.

5. Transparency in salaries. We know there’s a wage gap, and if companies were to provide lists of position wages publicly, it might be easier for women to fight for equality. We wouldn’t be disadvantaged in boardrooms or disillusioned by the traditional business atmosphere if traditional businesses would stop paying women less for doing the same jobs as their counterparts. GM’s new CEO is a great case in point.

6. Pay women equal benefits, too. Stop treating “women’s conditions” as “elective”. Know what’s elective? Viagra, but that’s covered.

7. Stop using credit history for hiring purposes. If women are paid less to do the same work, left with more of the family burden to care for financially, if our healthcare is not equally covered under the same insurance plans for which we pay full price, then we are already put at yet another disadvantage when trying to enter the job market.

8. Do encourage men to take time for families through equal paternity leave policies, which in turn, should make women feel more comfortable in claiming their own maternity leave. But…

9. Stop rewarding men for being good family members while punishing women for focusing on family and not careers. Think about it.

I admit I spent a little more time writing this article than reading it, but only because I was typing left-handed and holding a toddler. I’d come up with a witty conclusion, but we have to go watch some videos about owls now.

4 Easy Ways to Help Bees

The death of 25,000 bumblebees in Wilsonville, Oregon, can be read as a sure sign of things to come if we don’t all pitch in to help save the bee population.

Here are ways you can help protect bees, and, in turn, our global food supply.

1. Stop using chemical pesticides.

There are many reasons to avoid the use of chemicals in your lawn and garden. By killing off insects deemed pests, you also endanger the helpful predators on your lawn, such as ladybugs and lacewings, and the birds that will happily eat your “pesky” bugs for you. Chemical pesticides are one of the major reasons for the decline in the bee population, and without bees, who’s going to pollinate your plants? Are you planning on manually completing this task? When bees come through your yard, they are providing a free gardening service. Think of it as a work safety issue – don’t poison your labor (the birds, the bees, and their friends).

Also, if you are growing a fruit or vegetable garden, do you really want to ingest chemicals designed to kill living things?

2. Provide habitats for bees.

When looking for information on how to encourage bumblebees in our garden, I found an article with that very same title.

Apparently, my overworked husband and I have been doing the right thing already without even trying. According to the author, “[W]hat do you do if you want bumblebees in your garden?  You need to provide three types of habitat — foraging, nesting, and hibernating. […T]he easiest solution is just to leave some areas of your yard completely alone to grow into native plants and provide a natural nesting and hibernating ground.”

So great news, you don’t have to do anything to help with this part! Just let your lawn do what it wants. Job #2: Done, my friends.

And honestly, which is prettier:


(Picture taken from article entitled “Lawn Mower Injuries a Growing Problem“: “More than 200,000 adults (and some 17,000 children) were treated for lawn mower injuries [in 2010] – a 3 percent increase over 2009 numbers.” Ick!)

Or a yard full of this:


(Thanks, Wikipedia!)

3. Get involved.

The other major threat to bees is lack of corporate accountability. Even Russia recognizes the dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and scientists globally have acknowledged the danger of GMO crops for bees and human consumption. Considering all that energy you have saved by not spraying your lawn with pesticides and not having to mow it, take a minute to write your local government representatives about your concern for the environment. Heck, don’t even bother typing anything more than CTRL+C to copy this content and CTRL+V to paste it into an email. Sign your name at the bottom of the letter if you really want to put some effort into the cause.

Dear Representative/ Senator/ President/ [Insult Deleted] Exec at Monsanto,

I am concerned about the negative impact that Monsanto’s GMO crops have had on the global bee population and will have on the human population as a result. Much scientific research has pointed to the fact that GMOs are bad for the environment, and many European countries have already taken steps to eliminate this threat for their own populations. The fact that our nation has not yet taken steps to ban these crops, let alone label them, coupled with the ethical concerns about the profiteering by US politicians who have protected Monsanto’s investments, should not be taken lightly. I urge you to help protect our environment. Protect our bees, and protect us.


A Concerned Citizen,

[Your Name Here]

Here is Monsanto’s contact information, although it is probably more useful to contact legislators.

For example, you can send your thanks to Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon for working to overturn the Monsanto Protection Act. Here is his contact information. I even wrote a letter you can send to him just by copying and pasting:

Dear Senator Merkley,

Regarding your actions on the Monsanto Protection Act:

Rock on!


A Concerned Citizen

And finally,

4. Stop singing the “Bumblebee Song.”

Our toddler has been coming home from her Christian daycare for the last several weeks doing what I thought was an awkward attempt at prayer. (As agnostics, you can imagine our concern.) However, walking into her daycare the other day, I realized it’s much worse: she’s been trying to emulate the squishing motion of the song, “Baby Bumblebee”.

It’s a song about the innocent slaughter of a baby. A baby bumblebee. The song promotes MURDER!

Obviously censorship might be one step over the line. My point is we have a responsibility to the younger generation to teach them compassion and respect for our environment.  I admit, I am intensely afraid of many kinds of bugs, but I am working to change my initial knee-jerk reaction to spiders (KILL IT WITH FIRE!) into the thoughtful act of ushering them outside (if I’m home by myself, otherwise, it’s someone else’s duty).

We need to teach our kids about the vast inter-connections of the ecosystem. It’s not a task we should leave up to the school system (and apparently not our seemingly innocent and kind daycare director!) because kids are more impacted by what WE teach them outside the classroom. Play outside, explain the important role insects, like bees, play in protecting our environment, and teach children about the long-term dangers of using quick fixes such as pesticides to kill the ones that we consider “nuisances”.

Let’s work together to protect our little buzz-y friends, and they’ll protect us.

Suzanne Skaar

Tear Gas is a Women’s Issue: Men, Stand Up for Women!

Many who know me personally know that I have been fighting for justice for the loss of my first pregnancy to CS gas exposure (a.k.a. “tear gas”) since 2011. I started the website, http://banteargasnow.com, in order to compile my research for others who may be facing the same tragedy, lost and alone, fighting against forces with much more money, and therefore seemingly more power. At first, I received insults, laughing off the effects of tear gas. Then I received thanks from other activists who also understood the dangers of tear gas. I received requests for help. I received encouragement that I wasn’t alone in my battle against producers of tear gas and the government which allows its continued production and distribution.

Tear gas was banned for use in conventional warfare, yet it is still used to prevent domestic dissent (in violation of the First Amendment in US, and several aspects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Both the U.S. government and corporations such as Combined Systems (a corporation which profits off all manner of weapons, not just the “less-lethal” tear gas ) have ignored reports of increased miscarriage rates in response to tear gas exposure. Pregnant women don’t have this luxury. When women live in areas where tear gas is released on a regular basis, many are forced to remain indoors if they want to ensure a healthy pregnancy.  If a woman loses her child due to exposure, she has no recourse to justice. The fetus may be expelled or lost before she can reach medical help, but even then, doctors do not test the fetus for exposure to tear gas. Because letters from doctors can be dismissed in court as hearsay, I myself was forced to seek research studies proving what I and thousands of other women know first-hand worldwide.

While the US government and corporations may proclaim this weapon is safe if used properly, there is no way to properly use a weapon on innocent civilians. Furthermore, the human studies referenced as proof of safety were all conducted on healthy young male military recruits in a controlled setting: not women of childbearing age, elderly people with various age-related health concerns, or children. The result is that while we see in real life what happens to citizens recklessly exposed to tear gas, the government and the corporations that produce the weapon point to the original biased “study”.

Imagine trying to prove a bullet killed a loved one, not relying on the evidence at hand, but on laboratory studies. How long would it take for you to prove your case? Now imagine if you are a woman trying to support your family without time or the resources to conduct this kind of research. On top of that, what if the only research available on the subject has not been translated into your language? Even more, imagine if you have only an arbitrary 60 days to meet deadlines of which you were unaware, in which you must prove your case, recover from physical and/ or mental trauma, and continue meeting your other responsibilities. Would you get justice then?

The half of the population that’s responsible for bearing and protecting future generations is at great risk from this weapon. I am asking you to stand up. Contact your senators and government representatives. Hold the US government and corporations like Combined Systems accountable not just for the pain and suffering of citizens across the globe, but violation of legal rights.

Women are the backbone of society. Protect us. Ban tear gas now!

Women and UW’s 2013 Commencement

This is my response I sent yesterday to the University of Washington’s Office of Commencement’s reminder that I hadn’t registered for Commencement yet. I cited the text in bold from their email:

Make the walk across the 4,000-square-foot purple and gold stage, adorned with life-size replicas of the University columns and holding over 300 faculty members and Commencement speaker, Jon Huntsman, former Ambassador to China and former Governor of Utah– all of whom have come to witness the conferring of your degree.”

Is there a separate Commencement Ceremony for the women of this campus who don’t want to share the stage with a politician who brags about trying to overturn Roe vs. Wade? Maybe something to consider for the next class of women who paid good money to attend this public university.

On UW’s Choice of Jon Huntsman as Commencement Speaker

Wonder why they haven’t gotten back to me yet…

If you have the same question as me, here is their contact information:

University of Washington Office of Ceremonies
(206) 543-2592

Women’s Rights to Health Care: UW Medicine

The announcement that UW Medicine will be partnering with the Catholic organization Peace Health should be cause for alarm throughout the state, but particularly for any student or student employee dependent on health coverage through the University of Washington. While the current insurance policy offered to students and workers does not cover 100% of medical costs, it covers even less if you must get medical attention outside of the covered network (i.e., UW Medicine and Hall Health).

From my own personal experience, even if you are working for the University at the time of your injury and receive medical care at a different facility due to your work duties, you will have to fight your way through the system for reimbursement. I am currently waiting for the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals to schedule a hearing, more than two years after my work site exposure to tear gas overseas caused me to miscarry my first pregnancy. It was not covered fully under my UW employee insurance because the insurance company did not consider a D&C an emergency procedure (the only way it would have been fully covered), despite factors such as debilitating pain, uncontrolled bleeding, the heightened risk of infection,  my doctor saying I should not get on the plane home without having the operation, and the loss of what was to be my first child.

Legally speaking, the first amendment guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Allowing one religion’s dogmas to determine which types of health care patients can receive in a public medical institution infringes upon the legal rights of those patients who do not have the same beliefs, yet must use the facility for UW insurance purposes, time sensitivity, or other reasons.

In a Catholic affiliated hospital where “elective abortions” such as mine are not permitted, women will be forced to seek medical treatment elsewhere, therefore paying more than they should have to, like I was forced to. This religious affiliation is one more insulting way to institutionalize gender discrimination at the University of Washington. Given the fact that the UW and its various branches, such as the University Medical Center, receive federal and state funding, neither this new religious affiliation nor other UW discriminatory practices should be allowed to stand.

I am calling on other citizens to stand up for women’s health and the right of equal access to medical care. I am calling on both the Governor and Attorney General of our state to step in and stop this partnership between the University of Washington and the Catholic Church from progressing. Separation of church and state is not just a phrase; where women are concerned, it is a matter of life and death.

— Suzanne Skaar

Forcing VA Women to Report Miscarriages to Police

So according to Salon.com, the new GOP candidate for Virginia’s Attorney General wants to force women to report their miscarriages to the police or spend up to a year in jail.

Although I live on the opposite side of the country, sure, I’ll report mine to the police right now. Two years ago, I was walking through a parking lot with the students I was chaperoning, when the police decided to break up a small fight with American made tear gas. So how do you report the police to police, because that’s who caused my miscarriage. Read about what happens when women have miscarriages due to government actions and try to get justice:www.banteargasnow.com.

One wonders how quickly he’d change his tune if women actually DID report their miscarriages to the police. Let’s try an experiment, report my or your own story to the police: say Mark Obenshain told you to do it. http://www.vcp.state.va.us/

Or better yet, Virginians, get out there and make sure this guy isn’t nowhere near a position of authority!!! The voter registration deadline is today at 5 p.m.!!

Tell your friends!!!