Friday, August 29, 2008
Joan Walsh, "What Sarah Palin Means"
Gail Collins, "McCain's Baked Alaska"
Kristen Powers, "A Brilliant Trap Makes the Dems the Male Chauvinists"
Jonathan Alter, "Why McCain's Veep Choice Is Likely to Flop"
Women's Media Center
On other fronts, I'll be offline for a bit. My other grandmother died last night. She was always in the know on all things political and pundit-ish and I often looked to her opinion to get a gauge on the world. For many other reasons, I will miss her very, very much.
You may have heard that the Bush administration's latest attempt to infringe on women's reproductive rights could give health-care workers the right to refuse contraception to their patients. Yes, it all sounds a bit pre-Griswoldian. I'd like to say I'm shocked. But I'm not. After all, we live in a world of abstinence-only sex ed and, for a time, Eric Keroack. More especially, we live in a cultural climate intent on pathologizing and condemning young people's sexual practices, and governmental encroachment on the sexual habits of legal adults seems like the obvious next step. But let's be honest, they're really concerned with the sexual habits of young women, and are we surprised?
In 2007 when I first opened the Atlantic Monthly to discover Caitlin Flanagan's take on Laura Sessions Stepp’s Unhooked, which chronicles "the semi-anonymous 'hooking up' that is now the norm," I was floored. After noting Stepp's conclusion that the "girls" were “exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually” by the practice, Flanagan carried on her own paternalistic diatribe on "girls" who change "in some ugly ways when left on their own." I was shocked. They were talking about me. Or, at least, they thought they were talking about me. After all, I was a 23-year-old woman who had hooked up with men I was not nearly in love with throughout college. Did this make me an "ugly-wayed" girl?
With other things on my mind (a grad school thesis, job search, friends and flings), I promptly forgot about it. However, soon I realized that this trend wasn't going away. What has followed, from both the religious right and so-called cultural studies of my generation such as Unhooked and Girls Gone Mild by Wendy Shalit, has been an attempt to convince young women that by engaging in pre-marital, or more broadly "pre-love," sexual activity, they risk their emotional and psychological well-being. With women no longer prohibited by fear of pregnancy or STDs, purity propagators are now on a mission to tell women that, like smoking and fatty foods, sex is bad for their health.
The recent publication by the The Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute of Sense and Sexuality, subtitled: "The college girl's guide to real protection in a hooked-up world" highlights this fact.
According to Sense and Sexuality, girls should avoid hookups because oxytocin, released during sex, will cause a girl to "develop feelings for a guy whose last intention is to bond with you." Further, it scientifically observes that "as the number of casual sex partners in the past year increased, so did signs of depression in college women." In sum, once you have sex with a guy, you're a goner. You fall in love, you get attached, you're bound to become love-sick and depressed when it doesn't work-- all because you had intercourse.
Don't you find it odd that such arbiters of high culture and higher religion center their definition of "love" on sexual intercourse? While troubadours once spun tales of romantic despair and literal illness caused by love unrequited, today's story-tellers have pared that soulful feeling down to a simple physical act. As my generation would say, how ironic. As I would say, how wrong. In a recent Vanity Fair article, British bon vivant Nicky Haslam, now 68 and with many lovers come and gone, says, "The truth is I’m not that interested in sex... I’m about love. It’s wonderful once or something. The quickest way to fall out of love is to sleep with somebody. Don’t shatter the crystal.” Go ahead. Call me a romantic. But my greatest heartache was not caused by the guy who hopped in and out of my bed and got away, but by the guy who seemed to fulfill my ideal of what I want in a partner, and got away.
Let's talk about agency and subjectivity, because I think it's about time the media published more first-hand accounts from the "hookup" generation itself. Tracy Clark-Flory, my own age (24), wrote a great article at Salon about her "hookup" experience--she's had about three times as many hookups as relationships, and concludes, "like innumerable 20-somethings before me, I've found that casual sex can be healthy and normal and lead to better adult relationships." Like many my age, who will wait to marry until they are well into their late twenties and thirties, she has found hookups to be a way to romantically vet men. I whole-heartedly agree.
And about that term "hookup"--so amorphous, so undefined. To be clear, if I tell a friend that I "hooked up" with so-and-so last night, her first reaction will be "So how far'd you go?" A "hookup" can range anywhere from making out to a full romp in bed. It might include slinking out at midnight or staying over, cuddling in the morning, going out for brunch. It is one of the most ill-defined terms of my generation, which makes it surprising that so many adults have such firm opinions on it. And while a hookup may be "semi-anonymous" as Flanagan says, it often involves a classmate or an acquaintance or friend you've known for years. It can last a night, a month, or three years on and off.
In college and beyond, the line between hooking up and dating has become increasingly blurred. I've known couples now engaged who began with an orientation-week hookup. I've known wine-and-dine daters who have dropped out of the picture with nary an explanation. Do I worry about girls who engage in hookups because they think the only thing they have to give are their bodies? Of course. And as Shira Tarrant recently noted in Bitch, "the modesty movement makes some good points about the effect a hypersexual culture can have on women’s well-being and sense of self."
Yet why are our moral watchdogs so quick to condemn women's sex-positive behavior as primary culprit? As Tarrant goes on to argue, such an analysis leaves women with only two choices: to be either virgin or whore. And personally, I'd like to think of myself as neither. Writes Tarrant, "If we refuse to acknowledge that judgments about women and modesty come from an extremely narrow-minded, controlling view that has more to do with punishing female sexual agency than with modesty itself, all we’re doing is restating that good girls don’t, bad girls do, and each gets what’s coming to her. " By targeting immodesty and hookups, in fact, such commentators only undermine their mission, ignoring the complex social influences that actually do lead some women to value their bodies over their selves. Self-destructive sex is a symptom of a greater social pathology--not the cause.
But haven't I ever felt "exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually" from "hooking up"? Yes, sometimes, just as I've felt exhausted by tested friendships and challenged beliefs. Show me a Bildungsroman protagonist, or an average American college student, who doesn't need to go through emotionally and physically trying times to develop a better understanding of what he or she wants in a career, a friendship, a partner, in him- or herself.
At the end of her Atlantic article, Flanagan writes: "The bitter pill for many parents sending their daughters to college is that there is no possible way to protect them from what they will encounter once they have been dropped off at the freshman dorm." As a woman who is very different today from the tremendously introverted and scared 18-year-old her parents dropped off at her freshman dorm, all I can say is: thank goodness for that.
In her Aug. 25 op-ed in the NYTimes ("Second-Place Citizens"), Susan Faludi attempts to explain not this insanity but merely these Hillary supporters' disappointment by offering a suggestive comparative analysis to an earlier moment in time--the 1920s, after women won the vote. Check it out, if you haven't. She raises some excellent points.
I just learned, courtesy of Broadsheet, that Planned Parenthood is busy at the DNC handing out more than 700 pounds of rubbers encased in a pink matchbook that reads: "Protect Yourself from John McCain (In This Election.)"
Apparently the back reads, "10 Things Everyone Should Know About John McCain." No. 10: "Has voted against women's reproductive rights and privacy 125 times in his 25 years in Washington, D.C." Nice.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Women Have Another Who Understands
8/28/08 Denver Post: Hours before Michelle Obama's big speech, she watched the "Cosby Show" cast reunited on Oprah to discuss how their sitcom gave the country its first glimpse at an educated, career-oriented black mom. "Americans didn't believe there were black families with two professionals," Michelle Obama says. "Sometimes, I feel that people don't believe I exist." After her speech, it would be tough not to believe in the authenticity of Michelle Obama. And after talking with her the next morning, I'm struck by how far we've come since 1992 when Hillary Rodham Clinton dissed half the women in America by saying, "You know, I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies." Obama gets the complicated tug....Read the rest
And an odd yet slightly interesting little item on housework:
Women Might Like Being Housewives, But Not Every Day
8/28/08, Telegraph, UK: Feminists got it wrong. Women don't want to be bread-winners; they want to stay at home and bake bread. This, at least, is the view of The Yorkshire Building Society, that well known repository of expertise on gender psychology/publicity-mongering. The key element to all of this is choice. Scrubbing floors has a therapeutic value as a contrast to a week of sedentary desk-based toil; compulsion would take the shine off, in more ways than one...Read the rest
For anyone who's ever gotten stuck in the middle of a writing project--meaning, in other words, anyone who seriously writes--a few upbeat quotes to share this morning:
"Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you – as if you haven't been told a million times already – that writing is harder. Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching." -Harlan Ellison
"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." --Thomas Mann
"All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." --George Orwell
"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." --Oscar Wilde
"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." -~E.L. Doctorow
Hey wait--all the writing-is-hell quotes I could find were by guys. Got a favorite writing-is-hell quote by a woman? I know they're out there. Please feel free to illuminate us and share in comments.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
It's live! It's live! My personal website is now live at: www.deborahsiegel.net
I'll likely change the domain name to my name, since the GWP blog is going group and all, but that's where the individual stuff lives for now. I've listed upcoming talks and past writings and all the usual suspects, and now info on the consulting and coaching and training that I do is listed there too.
For those of you needing to make (or redo) websites, it's a Wordpress template, with a personal redesign engineered by Kristen Loveland the Brilliant. Kristen, you are a goddess. (And I hope you are getting some rest.)
Why might this be? Syed's hypothesis:
"It is sometimes even considered a defect, as if there is something downright unfeminine about all that striving, fist pumping and incontinent sweating. Sport, in this respect, is a reflection of wider society, where male success is a universal desirable whereas female success is sexually ambiguous."
In all fairness, Syed is not condoning the phenomenon, merely noting it. Is he correct? What do you think?
Renee over at Smilla's Simple Life points us to a piece by Katherine Marsh at The New Republic titled "Let Michelle Be Michelle". Also check out Renee's thoughtful response, along with urbanartiste's, in comments to "Isn't She Lovely".
Frau Sally Benz points us to her own post at Jump Off the Bridge about why how the speech made her internalize the historicity of this campaign.
And Frau Sally also points us to a post by zakstar from SchizoFrenetic about how undeniable it is that Michelle and Barack love this country.
Next up: Hillary. Please post links to good analysis of last night's appearance in comments and I promise to share!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
How to Write a Book Proposal
In this module, instructor Deborah Siegel will teach the group how to take a subject about which they are passionate and generate from it an exciting, marketable, serious non-fiction book proposal. She will cover the proposal itself, the chapter outline, the bio, and the marketing section. Deborah will then walk the participants through the cycle of submission to an agent; the agent's submission of the proposal to multiple houses; the bidding process; the signing of the contract; the writing cycle; the editing and copy editing and fact checking cycle; the publishing cycle and the publicity phase of the hardback non-fiction book. She will show participants what the common mistakes are that writers make in crafting book proposals and will demonstrate the difference between an unpublishable and a highly commercial book proposal both of which are based on an identical subject.
More info on it all, including how to register, here.
I'm also getting VERY excited about the unveiling of the new format for the group blog. Yes, it's confirmed--GWP is going group this fall for reals, with contributions from some amazing women crossing academic and nonacademic (er, postacademic) worlds. More on all that soon.
Ok ok, now back to work....
Personally, I thought Michelle rocked the house last night. Seen any particularly interesting commentary or analysis out there? Feel free to post links in comments!
The lesson here, I feel, is not so much be careful what you wish for, but be flexible. If one tactic for getting into what you're working on doesn't work, try another...right?
So today I'm working on a commentary that's due, and that's also connected to my chapter's argument. Bird by bird, as dear ole Anne Lamott would say, bird by bird.
Anyone care to share their I-was-stuck-but-now-I'm-found writing story? I'm listenin'.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Just as ya'll helped immensely when I was at the outlining stage the other week, I turn to you, dear GWP readers, once again: Does anyone have any tips for avoiding checking convention coverage every 3 seconds? If you've got em, I'd love to hear them.
A quick reminder for those of you lucky enough to be in Denver this week:
The Women's Media Center and The White House Project will both be reporting on the latest from the DNC--where together they are hosting a panel, Soundbites to Solutions: Bias Punditry and the Press in The 2008 Election, along with The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Panelists include:
* Jonathan Alter, Senior Editor, Newsweek
* Michele Martin, Host, "Tell Me More" on NPR
* Maria Teresa Petersen, Founding Executive Director, Voto Latino and Commentator for MSNBC (and a fellow PWVer)
* Jamal Simmons, Political Analyst, CNN
* Rebecca Traister, Senior Writer, Salon.com
At the panel, they'll be releasing an accompanying report (authored by yours truly!) called BIAS, PUNDITRY, AND THE PRESS: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Report available to public today too--I'll be sure to post info when it's up. Registration for the event required at www.seachangecom.
More women-focused DNC events posted here and here.
And hey--if you're reading this from Denver and would like to post something about the events you attend here on GWP telling us about it, please email me at email@example.com.
I was waiting for someone to come out with this book. Like The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It (note the similarity of the subtitles), the authors accuse the media of sexualizing children. No surprise there. But what does sound surprising is the extremity of the anecdotes. Here's from the Publishers Weekly review:
Constantly, American children are exposed to a barrage of sexual images in television, movies, music and the Internet. They are taught young that buying certain clothes, consuming brand-name soft drinks and owning the right possessions will make them sexy and cool—and being sexy and cool is the most important thing. Young men and women are spoon-fed images that equate sex with violence, paint women as sexually subservient to men and encourage hooking up rather than meaningful connections. The result is that kids are having sex younger and with more partners than ever before. Eating disorders and body image issues are common as early as grade school. Levin and Kilbourne stress that there is nothing wrong with a young person's natural sexual awakening, but it is wrong to allow a young person's sexuality to be hijacked by corporations who want them as customers. The authors offer advice on how parents can limit children's exposure to commercialized sex, and how parents can engage kids in constructive, age-appropriate conversation about sex and the media. One need only read the authors' anecdotes to see why this book is relevant.
Any of you parents--or girls studies experts--out there got your own advice on dealing with this phenomenon? Inquiring minds are eager to know.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Among today's tidbits from the widget, health research with a twist of gender:
Men, Women and Speed. 2 Words: Got Testosterone?
NY Times: Researchers say there is no one physiological reason for the gender gap in sports, although there is a common biological thread. Testosterone gives men what he calls a bigger and better-fueled engine.
Positive Thinkers 'Avoid Cancer'
BBC: Women who have a positive outlook may decrease their chances of developing breast cancer, say Israeli researchers. The small study, published in the BioMed Central journal, also found that getting divorced, or being bereaved could increase the risk. But the researchers admitted that women were questioned after their diagnosis, which might significantly change their outlook on life.
Wait. Stop. Rewind. HUH??
A few days ago, Roy Den Hollander, a lawyer who has filed a series of misogynist lawsuits, came out with this gem: he has filed an antifeminist suit against Columbia University for offering women's studies classes, arguing that Columbia uses federal funding to support a “religionist belief system called feminism.” Now, part of me would like to dismiss this as the silly lawsuit it is, but sometimes such trivial things are important for us to reexamine the larger issues at stake.
As an undergraduate at Columbia, the debate on women's studies and on adding women writers to such classes as Literature Humanities (the great literary works from Homer to Woolf-- one of two female authors in the series) and Contemporary Civilization (the great philosophers-- from Plato to, well, Woolf once again, this time the only female writer), reared its head from time to time. In navel-gazing online college forums, such as Columbia's The Bwog, where commenters are anonymous and misogynist remarks rampant, the debate ran along these lines: someone starts off with a misogynist remark, someone asks why there aren't men's studies if there are women's studies, someone else points out that the past two thousand years were "men's studies," someone else ignores this somewhat cogent remark to take the opportunity to make a few jokes about "boobs" and other funny female body parts, and someone else rounds it off by saying that it is all moot as humanities majors are generally wasting their money on unemployable skills.
High-minded stuff, for sure. The point being that even those who try to get past the boob jokes are unable to articulate the purpose of women's studies beyond a call for balance. Which makes me think maybe the trivial isn't so trivial. Maybe it's time to rearticulate some of the values of women's studies. But more importantly, perhaps it's also time to make a wholesale change over to Gender Studies, which would undermine the whole of the lawyer's invidious accusations. Because in the end, with courses not only called "Feminist Texts" but "Gender, Culture, and Human Rights," and "Sexuality and the Law," and an institute called the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWAG), that's what we, and Columbia, are really talking about.
Gender studies is very much the evolution of groundwork laid out by Women's Studies. While we now recognize that inquiring into women's role in society is imperative for an understanding of power dynamics and social relationships, we also recognize that it is just as important to understand how definitions of masculinity may shape men's approach to women, each other, and themselves. Even more so, we see that there is difference within difference: that seeing the world from a gay male perspective overturns traditional notions of maleness. The theory behind women's and gender studies goes further to a better understanding of class and race. We are no longer shackled with a simplistic grouping of "working class" as a faceless mass of singular experience, recognizing that women's and men's roles differ significantly within that group. We recognize that citizenship may also be defined along gendered lines (historically, women give their reproductive systems and males their lives to the state--but how does that definition change now that women are also on the battlefield?)
The intersection of race and class helps us to understand that women are not one "sisterhood" of victimhood throughout history, that women are actors in the past and today--both the perpetrators and the perpetrated--divided along lines of racial, ethnic, economic, sexual differences. Even at the seemingly strict dichotomous line of "body," we can overturn a male/female divide by recognizing that women have experienced their bodies differently throughout history: those who have reproduced, those who haven't, those who have undergone forced sterilization, and so on.
Ok, but enough of Gender Studies 101. What's the practical application? Well, a little thinking about gender might lead you to question a few things. For instance: Single sex public education, Gender testing at the Olympics, The effect of birth control pills on your love life, and to bring us full circle: Diversity in academia.
But maybe I'm jumping the gun of the whole Gender Studies thing. Is there still a place for "Women's Studies" (single gender) in today's colleges?
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Thought I'd share some links from their blogroll, as they list a number of other group blogs about books that GWP readers may find of interest:
Hope some of you can join me!
SEPTEMBER 2 - “Girl with Keyboard: Making Waves in the Feminist Blogosphere”
University of South Carolina, Upstate
“Talking ’bout My Generation: Youth, Gender, Race, Class and the 2008 Election”
University of South Carolina, Upstate
SEPTEMBER 5-7 - “Raise Your Voices”
Woodhull Nonfiction Writers’ Retreat
Workshop on nonfiction book proposals
SEPTEMBER 26 - “Women, Girls, Ladies: An Intergenerational Conversation about Work”
Association of Women in Communications Conference
Doubletree Hotel Crystal City
12:45-2pm (luncheon panel)
I'm currently booking for December. To bring me to your campus, company, or organization, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Life is precious. Live every minute, my mother always says. I have a feeling Stephanie did. And she should have had many, many more.
Among the findings:
• After Gen Y women, Senior women are Senator Obama’s next strongest generation: Obama leads Senator McCain by an incredible 30 points among Gen Y, 11 points among Seniors, 8 points among Gen X and 6 points among Boomers.
• Hope and Optimism vs. Safety and Security: The key thematic divide in the presidential race is the equal split between those women who are looking for a candidate who offers hope and optimism (supporting Obama by a 60 point margin) and those who are looking for a candidate who offers safety and security (supporting McCain by a 35 point margin). The women’s electorate divides exactly evenly among those who are looking for hope and optimism (38 percent) and safety and security (38 percent).
And, yes, my personal favorite:
• Young women don’t take equality for granted. Seventy-seven (77) percent of Gen Y agrees that sexism is still a serious problem for women today, including 36 percent who agree strongly. Seventy-eight (78) percent of Gen Y agrees that there is still a need for a women’s movement that has a strong political voice, including 34 percent who agree strongly. Eighty-three (83) percent of Gen Y thinks it would be better if more women were elected to office, including 48 percent who agree strongly.
The complete report is available on the EMILY’s List website at www.emilyslist.org.
And for those lucky ducks attending the DNC, EMILY's List will hosting a breakfast and a talk about the findings on Tuesday, August 26th at the Downtown Convention Center, Korbel Ballroom 2C, from 8:30-10:00. RSVPs required.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
- The majority of women with a recent birth (57 percent) were in the labor force. (Are we, um, surprised?)
- Of the 4.2 million women who had a birth in the previous 12 months, 36 percent were separated, widowed, divorced or never married at the time of the survey. Of these 1.5 million unmarried mothers, 190,000 were living with an unmarried partner.
- Second generation Hispanic women tend to have lower fertility rates than either foreign-born Hispanics or those who were third generation (i.e., native and of native parents).
- The highest levels of current fertility (67 births in the year prior to the survey per 1,000 women) were among those with a graduate or professional degree.
The report also finds that the national birth rate for women age 15 to 50 receiving public assistance in 2006 was about three times of those not receiving public assistance. A decade after the passage of welfare reform in 1996, data show that women in this age range receiving public assistance had a birth rate of 155 births per 1,000 women, compared with 53 births per 1,000 women not receiving it.To hear Katherine's interview with a prof from Florida who hits on some of the implications of it all, click here.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Parenting, Inc. by Pamela Paul
Just six months ago I felt bombarded by my bedside stack of wedding guides. Each, under the guise of "must have to be happy on your Big Day," proscribed things to wear, stuff to buy, favors to give, rituals to enact, details to watch, all apparently needed to fulfill the American wedding tradition. Without each one in place, they warned, The Wedding Dream just couldn't be. Happily, I tossed most aside in favor of indiebride status (shared with you Deb! Mazel tov!), but the relentlessness of "to-dos," all sheltered under the umbrella of "necessary for happiness," was enough to make me question my every choice.
Moving quickly on to the next stage of later-in-life union, I was glad for journalist Pamela Paul's preview warning about the lists of Stuff new parents are told they need -- so I can know what not to do, or at least, to try to resist. The "new parents checklist" Paul is given before the birth of her first child starts her off on a consumer journey that exacerbates every anxiety, worry, and concern stewing about her impending parenthood.
In her new book Parenting, Inc., Paul fires back – by examining the multiple industries that launch both an avalanche of products at new parents (only sometimes aimed at their babies) and the landslide of guilt, obligation, and often enough, misinformation that accompanies these products. Paul outlines how confused, overwhelmed, and/or desperate parents feel and then how susceptible they become to overpriced wares and unnecessary "edutainment" programs that they're told will give their babies a head start.
Paul's research is thorough as she exposes the selling points of everything from Baby Einstein (experts can't tell if a baby is really engaged or not and setting a tape on an endless loop often serves as a less guilt-inducing break for parents since their child is "learning") to teaching signing to babies (results dubious) to exclusive NYC clubs tailored to well-heeled babies, nannies, and parents (tapping into peer pressure and celebrity allure). She visits "enrichment classes" that range from Little Maestros to Gymboree. It doesn't take a critical eye to see most kids are actively disengaged and that often the only ones benefiting are the parents who are eager to be out of the house and connecting with each other.
Paul exposes the phalanx of consultants who stand at the ready to charge overstretched or just overly concerned parents, from sleep specialists to thumb-sucking experts to bike tutors to potty-training day programs. A through-line in the book is the loss of extended family for support and expertise and their replacement with a consumerist approach to parenting through a deluge of products each packaged with angst-inducing rhetoric: This will be the key to make your baby smarter, brighter, swifter in his or her head start to Harvard. Particularly revealing are Paul's interviews with many of the business-savvy entrepreneurs (including some "mompreneurs") who realized what a vulnerable and anxious customer the new parent can be and who are ready to market accordingly.
Paul's writing is engaging, particularly as she candidly reveals her own needs and frustrations as a parent and partly researches the book while into her pregnancy with her second child. She uses her own experience as a measuring stick to look critically at what she finds.
One critique of the book is, in some sense, also its strength -- its relentlessness. Paul reiterates the sheer velocity of products to buy, outsourced help to tap, and crushing sense of obligation that parents feel, but her point is made (and remade) as she debunks their necessity. There are "nameologists" who will provide naming packages, tot manner minders, expert baby-proofers; no corner of childhood is exempt from a product or expert to help a parent do it better. The sense of frenetic obligation is palpable.
After awhile, I would have found it more interesting to hear about alternatives – parents who resisted, consumer groups who called products out, DIY'ers who found a way around the monolith of consumer pressure. And while she makes it clear that the dilemma of too much stuff is a class-based issue, this seems a place to expand her argument. How many kids who had tutoring before age 2 really live up to the racing head start they were supposedly getting? How many geniuses came from humble beginnings where no educational accoutrements were available? And from what context do these parents feel "every opportunity" is truly necessary for a child?
The negative effects of "helicopter parents" are only touched on and I wondered from where and when did such class-based devotion to achievement spring? Towards the book's end the text turns more reflective as Paul asks a range of experts what it even means to parent, never mind parent "well" and it's a relief, finally, to tie together the economic and social forces that goad parents toward an ethos of inadequacy and a cycle of self-doubt that seem to make few happy, despite the consumerism that promises exactly that. A few startlingly refreshing voices practically sing through the madness, such as that of Elisa Sherona, a 63-year-old grandmother who raised five kids in the '60s and '70s and is unafraid to declare outright you just don't need any of this stuff and questions how raising kids like this will affect them as adults. While the latter remains to be seen, at the book's end Paul finally has determined that she doesn't need these products or programs for her kids and that that doesn't mean she's a bad parent. She lets out a sigh of relief that echoes Sherona's thoughts, and seems all the more relieved that she can finally release.
One door closes, another creaks open. I'm excited to share a new blog by a member of my writers group, Paul Raeburn (left), over at Psychology Today. It's called "About Fathers". Paul also blogs at Fathers and Families, and he culls from the latest research and writes Very Smart Things about the importance of fathers and how fathers affect children's development. Paul's a journalist and the author of "Acquainted with the Night," a memoir of raising children with bipolar disorder and depression, and a new father himself. I encourage GWP readers to visit and comment and check him out.
We very much welcome (thoughtful!) comments on Jamie’s post. An aside: A former Hillary supporter myself, I’ve nevertheless been having mixed feelings about Hillary’s name being on the convention ballot and am still trying to understand the politics of it all. I find myself very moved by Jamie’s conviction below. - GWP
Hail to the Runner-Up!
In a recent writing workshop when Debbie asked me to write down three things, no matter how minor or grand, that I would like to change, only one thing came to mind. With each tap of my pencil I came to the realization that it was the only significant matter I wanted to write down. Quickly I wrote, “I would like to change the fact that Barack Obama became the presumptive democratic nominee-I wish Hillary Clinton had won instead.”
Over the past months I have become enraptured with Hillary Clinton’s intelligence, experience, and ability to continue fighting even with the bellicose nature of the press coverage. Not only was the press treating Barack Obama with obvious delicacy but they were also treating Hillary Clinton appallingly. For example, whereas Hillary Clinton was harshly criticized for showing emotion at a press conference, Barack Obama came out smelling like a rose after using the same words that Massachusetts Governor Patrick Deval used in one of his speeches as if they were his own. Regardless of what I saw as the clear press bias towards Obama, I was not and am not captivated by his empty speeches no matter how grandiloquent.
Many of my friends, however, were. After watching late night primaries, caucuses and debates I began to voice my opinion in school. I had never been as interested in politics and former elections as I was now: getting into arguments with close friends and shouting out in history class. I was tired of hearing the same mantras:
“But Obama wants change.”
“I’m sick of the Clintons.”
“Hillary has no personality.”
I would return their attacks with equal aggression saying, “Yes I get that Obama wants change but how is he going to make change? All of his speeches were bombastic and eloquent but they had no substance to them!” I would continue, wistfully, “She is just so intelligent. She has so much more experience then Obama. I just wish Obama had waited until 2012 or 2016 to run.”
I would emphasize the issues. I agreed with her universal health care plan. Hillary wanted to stop health care providers from turning away clients due to pre-existing conditions. She wanted mental illness to be covered. I also liked her plan to solve health care problems by starting now as a senator and not waiting until 2009. Hillary had great ideas about fighting global warming by using cars that run on fuel cells, bio fuels, and electricity. She wanted cars to get more mileage to the gallon then ever before so that the cost of driving will diminish. To conserve energy Hillary wanted buildings to be constructed that are more energy efficient. How can you argue with that?
Hillary talks facts and her solutions are realistic. She has had the motivation and dedication and after Obama became the presumptive democratic nominee I felt somewhat cheated as her supporter, wishing the press had been more just. With Hillary no longer in the race, my interest waned and I began to only casually glimpse at newspaper articles here and there. Slowly my day-to-day Obama versus Hillary arguments died down as the race turned to Obama versus McCain.
Now, days away from the August 26th National Democratic Convention, I’m getting excited again, because Hillary Clinton will speak at the convention.
I look forward to a count at the convention and am thrilled that Hillary Clinton’s name will be put on the ballot. A delegate count will give Hillary’s delegates the opportunity to cast their vote for this outstanding woman and will give me, a young Hillary supporter who cannot yet vote, the chance to honor my presumptive candidate with some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Monday, August 18, 2008
A new report, Glass Ceiling in Gubernatorial Appointments, 1997-2007, provides new gender, race, and ethnicity data and a national and state-by-state trend analysis on the demographic composition of gubernatorial appointees in state governments, 1997-2007.
The report indicates that the glass ceiling remains intact for women appointed policy leaders in the executive branch of most state governments. Over the 11-year period, women's share of policy leadership posts increased by a modest 6.8 percentage points to 35 percent. With respect to race and ethnicity, even as substantial changes in the race and ethnicity composition of the U.S. population continue to be recorded, the demographics of executive branch policy leaders changed very little between 1997 and 2007.
The report is available for download here. Read it and weep.
From the filmmakers of Mad Hot Ballroom comes a new social justice cause documentary, what's your point, honey?
The doc puts a "new face on political leadership" by introducing 7 possible contenders coming down the pipeline, while revealing the inequalities that still exist today. The aim is to start the conversation -- again. Teens and tweens, weave in and out to present the next generations' take on the topic, giving the film punch. On the doc’s trail is a soon-to-be published book, She's Out There! The Next Generation of Presidential Candidates, presenting a "doc in book form" to a mass audience.
Runtime is 87 minutes, and the film includes a 30-page study guide written by two faculty members at PACE University. Here's the trailer -- spread the word!:
From left to right: John, Sheri, Marco, me, Dawn, Isaac, Rebecca, Jeremy. Awww. (Thank you, Ricki and Jeff! You guys are the best!)
Friday, August 15, 2008
Have a good weekend, all!
October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. If only people knew about it.
“Among men [vegetarianism is] regarded as, if not a girl thing, then at least a girlie thing — an anemic regimen for sensitive souls subsisting on rabbit food and tofurkey,” says Holly Brubach in her recent New York Times article “Real Men Eat Meat.” If the male gender sees vegetarianism as a “girl thing,” then that’s got to be our hardest obstacle to overcome. Whenever compassion and eating “rabbit food” became a girl thing, it became taboo for boys, because sexism is rooted so deeply in our society that girls are seen as weaker overall. But maybe making a harder decision wouldn’t be weak at all. Maybe it’d be more macho, if that’s what you’re after, to overcome the stereotypes. Overcoming the expectations society has of you could be “manly,” no?
I’ve been a vegetarian for the fourteen years of my existence – my parents stopped eating meat four years before I was born. They were told by a number of smug acquaintances that, just wait, I would become all “teenager-y” and start eating meat once I became obsessed with fitting in and defying my parents out of spite. We’re still waiting.
Probably the reason I’ve stuck with vegetarianism and animal rights is because it’s not just an arbitrary ritual I inherited, but is based on the unfortunate reality that the thing on the plate is the same as the cute little thing on the farm. I know I must have adopted this concept at an early age, because I recall feeling appalled fury at a boy in my preschool class who took the unsuspecting snails out of their tank and stepped on them.
Most of the attitudes I’ve encountered haven’t seemed to change much over time.
“Vegetarians are stupid” is the bluntest of the accusations I’ve received – this one coming just recently in our eighth grade hallway from a guy flaunting an anti-Wendy’s flyer, sparking the debate that flares up every now and again at school. It’s only in hindsight that I realize that these heated I-wish-they-were-discussions-not-shouting-matches are generally divided by gender. Girls my age tend to be considerably more tolerant, even if they don’t adopt the practice of not eating meat themselves, because boys, in general, have macho stereotypes driven into their heads from babyhood.
The anti-Wendy’s flyer is waved tauntingly. “Meat is good,” comes the challenge, which lingers in the air. Whatever futile hope has caused me to take this bait all these years rises in me again. And so it begins. Detailed description – the cruelty the animals face, the fact that they can feel emotions and pain, even if they don’t have your intellect, thank-you-very-much. Wild rebuttal – ending with “Vegetarians are stupid,” and exasperated disappointment from me. It’s not worth it.
And yet, in a grasping-at-straws way, it is. It’s a success any time that you can make someone confront the cruelty involved in butchering animals, because getting people to face the truth is the hardest thing you can make someone do, and possibly the first step toward creating a change.
I’m not sure when vegetarianism became seen as a sign of weakness. Maybe it always has been. “It’s human nature to eat meat. The food chain and all that,” says my friend. And maybe it is human nature to eat meat, but it’s also human nature to use violence to get and keep political power, and yet many countries have incorporated democracy to overcome this problem. If we can overcome our natural tendency to physically fight for power, surely this October we can overcome the meat-eating part of our omnivore selves as well.
Chew on that.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Thanks for those comments on my previous post (anniegirl, Renee) -- you gave me a push to give the outline thing a try today. And I have to say, it seemed far less anxiety inducing to work on an outline than it did to face a blank screen and start pushing words around on the page. Which is what I generally do, and which ends up taking me AGES.
As for my next steps, I like Renee's approach, which she describes as follows:
The key thing about that outline for me is that I use the outline to make a VERY detailed To-Do list. That is the list that I then work from in completing the work -- items on it might be as difficult/conceptual as "Restructure introduction to add in the literature on social movements...." or as simple as "Add citation to McClurg and Mueller..."I'm gonna give it a try. Anyone got an answer to Renee's question (see comments, previous post), about deviating from the outline once you've got it? How strictly do you outliners out there hold yourselves to it? Inquiring minds wanna know :)
At the end of any work period, I decide on two or three things on the to-do list that I will work on the next day/work period -- so I can percolate on the conceptual tasks I've set for myself, and then I warm up on the work by doing the easier/simpler tasks.
Since I'm all about beginnings this morning, thought I'd share this quip from James B. Stewart's Follow the Story, which I'm reading upon recommendation of my authors group (aka the Invisible Institute):
"The key to a successful lead [beginning] is quite simple: it must attract and hold readers by re-creating in their minds the same curiosity that drove you to undertake the story in the first place."And here's Stewart's pitch for outlining:
"I have been amazed to discover how much time I have saved, and how much anxiety I have avoided, by having a clear structure in mind, if not on paper."And I have been amazed to discover how difficult it is to get myself to outline. I'm always curious to hear about other people's processes. Tell me, dear GWP readers--many of whom I know are also writers--do you outline? Does it work for you? Tips?!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
(cool logo design by Marco Siegel-Acevedo!)
Sisters, This Is an Election We Can't Sit Out, says the Rev. Valda Combs in a piece for Women's eNews, urging Hillary supporters, who have reason to be bitter about the primary, have to pull it together. The most vulnerable women in our society need our unity too much.
The Center for New Words launches a new election season project, This Is What Women Want!
And Girls, Incorporated launches the Dear World public education campaign in which girls express their daily realities, hopes, fears, and dreams in 30- and 60-second television spots and a website.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Related research: In "Working for the Woman? Female Managers and the Gender Wage Gap" (October 07 issue of the American Sociological Review), Philip Cohen and Matt Huffman demonstrate that the greater representation of women in management jobs narrows the wage gap among non-management workers. When ladies are boss, all the ladies do better. But for it to really make a difference, women need to be in the higher levels of management. In fact, the authors reference the "title inflation" phenomenon: they saw evidence of a concentration of women in lower management--and that concentration doesn't give the workers much relief in terms of the gender wage gap. Reason I like this story--and the one on board membership here--is that it gives us concrete evidence for the glass ceiling, and why breaking through matters.
And btw, for Philip Cohen's latest, check out his post last month at HuffPo ("Women May Be Losing Jobs Too, But They're Different Jobs") in response to the NYTimes piece on how hard economic times are affecting women's employment rates. -GWP
Monday, August 11, 2008
According to a new study released on July 23, Advancing Women Leaders: The Connection Between Women Board Directors and Women Corporate Officers, the more women on the board, the more women higher ups. To wit:
-Companies with 30 percent women board directors in 2001 had, on average, 45 percent more women corporate officers by 2006, compared to companies with no women board members.
-Companies with the highest percentages of women board directors in 2001 had, on average, 33 percent more corporate officers in 2006 than companies with the lowest percentages.
-Companies with two or more women members on a company’s board in 2001 had 28 percent more women corporate officers by 2006 than companies with one woman board member in 2001.
Seems rather significant in this era when folks continue to scratch their heads and ask "where are the women in senior management?" The study drew on data from the 359 companies that were in the Fortune 500 during the years under investigation, 2000, 2001, and 2006. For more on the results, click here.
As a fertility specialist cum (hey no pun - it's Latin) interview subject recently told me, often when a man learns that his sperm are plentiful, mobile, and strong, he'll proclaim right then and there: “My guys are good! My guys are good!” Meanwhile, awaiting her diagnosis, his partner will slowly retreat back in her chair. And get this: even in an era when severe male factor infertility is one of the diagnoses most easy to treat, some guys who go in with their partners for fertility workups refuse to go through with the semen analysis because they’re too afraid of the results. For more on all this, of course, check out Sperm Counts: Overcome [pun intended] by Man's Most Precious Fluid by sociology and women's studies prof Lisa Jean Moore, a book I blogged about here a while back.
So with all that as a prelude, I thought I'd start out the week by karmically balancing the universe. Color me 1970s, but I firmly believe that more women should greet the news that their ovaries are working with "My Girls Are Good!" Or something like that. "Girls" doesn't quite cut it. Any one out there got an alternative expression for ovum pride? I'm taking suggestions.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Additional happenings of interest going on at the DNC, all conveyed via Carol Jenkins (thanks, Carol, for the heads ups!):
-On August 25, there will be a reprise of the WMC/WHP/MIJE forum, From Soundbites to Solutions: Bias, Punditry and the Press in the 2008 Election, on which the report is based. This time the panelists will be Michel Martin of NPR, Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, Patricia Williams of The Nation, Rebecca Traister of Salon, Jamal Simmons of CNN, and María Teresa Petersen of Voto Latino, among others. Video clips from the original forum, which took place at The Paley Center, can be accessed from the WMC website.
-On Tuesday, August 26, Senator Hillary Clinton will address the delegates. That is the 88th anniversary of the day the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution became law, which gave women the right to vote in 1920. Senator Barack Obama accepts the nomination on Thursday, August 28th, before a public audience of 75,000 people. That is the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
-On Wednesday, August 27, the WMC is hosting a panel with Women's eNews at which six leading congresswomen (Loretta Sanchez-CA, Rosa DeLauro-CT, Carolyn Maloney-NY, Gwen Moore-WI, Lois Capps-CA confirmed so far) will discuss WEN's The Memo-- a status report of six areas that the candidates and delegates must address. The congresswomen will address the media's handling of women and the economy, immigration, women in the military, international issues, war and peace, and health. Do check out my fellow PWVer Pramila Jayapal's Election Dispatch on Immigration and Jennifer Hogg's Election Dispatch on Women in the Military.
-And finally, this year, the convention is chaired by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the highest ranking woman elected official in the country, co-chaired by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. The CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee is Leah D. Daughtry.
They're looking for "someone bright, with a deep talent and love for analyzing media/pop culture from a perspective rooted in social/economic justice, who’s passionate about both print publishing and newer (to us, at least) forms like online, audio, and video, someone excited about helping shape the future of the work we do at Bitch (and who recognizes Bitch’s potential), someone committed to DIY/grassroots operating, who understands Bitch’s role as both critiquing what’s crappy and praising what’s good, who’s as excited about Bitch as a multimedia organization as Bitch as a magazine."
Sound like anyone you know?
Some of the job duties associated with this position:
- Oversee the editorial and production process for the magazine
- Edit articles and help shape editorial tone and scope of magazine
- Manage writer’s agreements and payment for each issue
- Outreach, fundraising, and event planning
- Oversee editorial internship program
For more info, contact email@example.com. Deadline for apps is now August 15.
The photo below is of Marco and me and our gaggle of flower girls. Because matter how cynical or intellectual one might be, it was very hard for me to resist inviting every little girl in my life to be a flower girl. I stopped at six.
Marco, always looking out for me, fears I'm going to lose my feminist cred if I keep wedding blogging. But I beg to differ! I'm still the same ole Girl with Pen. Ok ok, so your Girl is a little wedding obsessed right now. Thank you for indulging me.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Weddings are theater, we figured (our guests were invited to dress in 1950s garb and many of them took us up on it) so why not have some fun. The soundtrack was mambo (and klezmer) and we pretended -- sort of -- that we were at a Catskills resort, you know, the ones where Latin bands like Tito Puentes' taught the summering Jews how to dance. Since Marco and I are Latin-Jewish fusion and all.
But here's the thing: though I went into it "playing" the bride, I utterly became one. And it was the veil that did it. I became a bride not in the retro pregnant-in-kitchen kind of way (though I must say, at 39 and undergoing fertility treatments, I certainly wouldn't complain about the pregnant part--and I'll always be an active labor force participant by necessity and choice). Rather, the veil helped me become a bride in the physically-spiritually-transformed-special-and-set-apart kind of way. My groom, who donned a white linen suit in order to feel his own kind of special, was in costume too.
Sometimes a veil is just a veil. And sometimes it's not. What about you, dear GWP readers? Did the marrieds among you don it or ditch it? I'd be interested to hear.
(Hey--Shira--someone's gotta write about brides, feminism, and fashion for your new book! Any takers?)