Linda Basch

individual

Overview

  • 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.

In May 2002 — less than 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, Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and representatives of such entities as the Ford Foundation and George Soros‘s Open Society Institute.[1]

In an April 2006 article (titled “Trimming Fat–Women Beware!”), 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.”

Citing a study by Harvard researchers who theorized that “higher levels of testosterone are related to a higher propensity to take financial risks,” Basch, in a November 2008 article titled “Wall Street Meltdown,” suggested 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 wrote, “… 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 another 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.”

Portraying the United States as a highly sexist society, Basch between 2009 and 2011 lamented that women in America: were the victims of some 4.5 million violent crimes and 500,000 rapes/sexual assaults each year; were “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. A few years later, in a February 2016 interview with the academic journal On Our Terms, Basch said that “the absence of publicly funded child care” is “particularly problematic for women with low paying jobs who cannot afford day care, or women who cannot go to work at all because they have no one to take care of their children.”

Between October 2008 and March 2012, Basch wrote numerous opinion pieces—largely on feminist issues—for the Huffington Post.

Since 2010, Basch has worked as an an executive-leadership and transition coach in the New York City area. From January through December of 2013, she was an Advanced Leadership Fellow at Harvard University. And since September 2014, she has been a Distinguished Leadership Fellow at Barnard College’s Athena Leadership Center.

When asked, in the aforementioned 2016 On Our Terms interview, about “all the attention [which] rape culture at various top tier universities” was getting, Basch replied: “This is a huge issue. We’re seeing rape surface across the world in many sectors … Clearly this is not yet being handled well on academic campuses … We also need advocacy here – pressure from women and women’s organizations across university campuses because no campus is immune to this. There seems to be something in the culture that doesn’t take this as seriously as it needs to be taken.”

Further Reading:Linda Basch” (LinkedIn.com); “Trimming Fat–Women Beware!” (by Linda Basch, 4-3-2006); “Wall Street Meltdown [Might Not Have Occurred if Women Ran Wall Street]” (by Linda Basch, 11-27-2008); “Where Are the Women? [An Open Letter] To President-Elect Obama” (by Linda Basch, 12-15-2008); “Open Letter to President-Elect Barack Obama by … Women’s Rights Leaders” (by Linda Basch, et al., 12-5-2008); “Sotomayor on the Supreme Court: a Nomination with Promise” (by Linda Basch, 6-1-2009); “How About a Super Bowl Sunday Dedicated to Ending Violence [Against Women]?” (by Linda Basch, 2-1-2009); “The Missing Debate on [Women’s] Poverty [and Unemployment Benefits]” (by Linda Basch, 5-25-2011); “Equal Pay: Why Aren’t We There Yet?” (by Linda Basch, 6-12-2011, re: the “77 cents” figure); “Feels Like Spring: Souter, 100 Days and Equal Pay” (by Linda Basch, 5-4-2009, re: the $434,000 figure); “State of the Union Taboo: Women’s Poverty [and Taxpayer ‘Investments’]” (by Linda Basch, 2-1-2011); Interview with Linda Basch (by On Our Terms, 2-5-2016).

Footnotes

  1. NCRW Annual Conference” (Feminist.org, 5-30-2002); “Academics Say Women Should Be Part of Peace Talks” (WomensENews.org, 6-7-2002).

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