- Former executive director of Re: Gender (previously known as the National Council for Research on Women)
- Views America as a nation awash in sexism
Linda Basch, who earned a BA in economics from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in anthropology from New York University, served as president of the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW)—now known as Re:Gender—from 1996-2012. She currently serves as that organization’s president emerita.
Prior to her work with Re:Gender, Basch held positions as director of academic programs at New York University, dean of arts and sciences at Manhattan College, and academic vice president at Wagner College. She also worked as a social policy specialist/director of research at the United Nations, co-chair of the National Academy of Sciences’ Anthropology Section; coordinator of the Metro New York City branch of the American Council on Education’s National Network of Women Leaders; secretary-treasurer of the International Women’s Anthropology Conference; and editorial board member of the journal Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power.
Nine months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Basch and NCRW organized a three-day conference where academicians, policymakers, and activists explored “ways for easing tensions between America and people around the world who oppose the dominance of the only remaining superpower.” “A new concept of human security is being used,” said Basch, “that shifts the notion of security of the nation to the idea of the protection, well-being and safety of people. We wanted to bring more of a gender lens to this issue.” Notable attendees at this conference included anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott, Debra Schultz of George Soros‘s Open Society Institute, and Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
In April 2006 Basch warned that the Bush administration’s tax-reduction policies would lead to “drastic cuts” in social welfare programs and thus “could be devastating to many, but especially to women and their families.” She explained that because “women on average earn less than men [and] are less likely to have access to health care and other benefits through their jobs,” they “depend more on publicly funded programs that support them.” Consequently, “when government cuts these services, women and children feel it first.”
Portraying the United States as a highly sexist society, Basch laments that women in America: are the victims of some 4.5 million violent crimes and 500,000 rapes/sexual assaults each year; are “40% more likely to live in poverty than men”; are “more likely [than men] to have substandard insurance or spend part of the year uninsured”; are “about 10 percent less likely” than their male counterparts to receive unemployment benefits when they lose their jobs, “because of outdated eligibility rules that disproportionately disqualify women”; and earn only “77 cents to the male dollar” due to “the gender wage gap” that “results in a loss of $434,000 in lifetime earnings.” To address the “glaring” economic handicaps that women—especially those who are nonwhite—allegedly face on a daily basis, Basch calls for massive taxpayer “investments” in publicly administered education, job-creation, job-training, and childcare programs designed to benefit women in particular.
Citing a study by Harvard researchers who theorized that “higher levels of testosterone are related to a higher propensity to take financial risks,” Basch suggests that the economic crisis of 2008 could have been avoided if women had been more prominent among America’s financial-industry leaders at that time. “Wall Street,” she says, “… just can’t afford women’s absence, nor the absence of true diversity, any longer.”
A few days after Barack Obama had won the presidential election in November 2008, Basch wrote him a respectful open letter asking him to “first and foremost” assemble a “gender-balanced” cabinet that “reflects the demographic of this country.”
In a similar spirit, on December 5, 2008 Basch and a number of fellow feminist leaders gathered in New York to craft an open letter to Obama, telling him that “we are are honored and proud to have you lead the nation during this historic time.” They then called on the president-elect to “ensure that women are equally represented in everything, [including] your administration’s infrastructure [and] its decision-making and solution building”; to “exercise leadership in dismantling the structures that perpetuate gender inequality [and] impede women’s full participation in society”; to make “long-term investments in women’s education, health and leadership”; and to address “economic structures” that “continue to marginalize women.” Among Basch’s co-signatories were Eve Ensler and Sara Gould.
When Obama subsequently nominated the longtime activist judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court in 2009, Basch lauded the nominee as a “well-educated and accomplished” woman whose “legal acumen” and “life experience” made her an “outstanding addition to the nation’s highest court.” Sotomayor’s “compelling narrative of personal triumph” Basch added, had “special significance for people from historically under-represented groups, particularly Latina women and girls.” As for any senators who might oppose Sotomayor in the upcoming confirmation process, Basch preemptively dismissed their objections as nothing more than “the usual partisan mud-slinging.”