Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Here's a news round-up from the beginning of this week, courtesy of Rebekah Spicuglia and Women's Media Center Daily News Brief. Any other stories you think we should be reading? Post them in the comments below, please! --Kristen
In Study, Evidence Of Liberal-Bias Bias
LA Times: Cable talking heads accuse broadcast networks of liberal bias -- but a think tank finds that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Barack Obama than on John McCain in recent weeks.
Military Women Fight Sexual Assault
AP via Chicago Tribune: Sexual assault and harassment involving female military personnel is not a new consequence of war. But the sheer number of women serving today - more than 190,000 so far in Iraq and Afghanistan - is forcing the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs to more aggressively address the issue.
McCain Backs Ban On Quotas
Boston Globe: John McCain said yesterday that he supports a proposed ballot initiative in his home state that would prohibit affirmative action policies in state and local governments.
Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?
NY Times: Internet-addicted children like Nadia lie at the heart of a passionate debate about just what it means to read in the digital age. The discussion is playing out among educational policy makers and reading experts around the world, and within groups like the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
Couric to Lead CBS News' Convention Coverage
Broadcasting & Cable: As expected, Katie Couric will lead CBS News' coverage of the political conventions later this summer.
Sexuality Bias Seen At Justice Department
LA Times: On Monday, the Justice Department's internal watchdog hinted at perhaps the most sensational justification yet -- perceived homosexuality. In a series of reports on the tenure of former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, the department's inspector general found that two former Justice aides used sexual orientation as a litmus test in deciding whom they would hire or fire.
Nancy Pelosi Airs Some Clean Laundry in 'Power'
Washington Post: In her new book "Know Your Power," Nancy Pelosi explores the route to becoming the first female speaker of the House, including growing up in Baltimore (where her father and brother both served as mayor), her years organizing in Democratic politics in California and her decision to run for Congress at 47.
Filmmakers' Point: Putting Women In Charge
SF Chronicle: Filmmakers Amy Sewell ("Mad Hot Ballroom") and Susan Toffler decided to make Wilson and six other smart, ambitious young women the focus of their new film, "What's Your Point, Honey?" A feminist film, it looks at the political gender gap through the lives of these ethnically diverse women.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Slate writer, Jack Shafer, wrote a provocative article last week on a "double standard" at play in the media's treatment of scandalous love affairs. Now, I think it is easy to pinpoint that double standard at work for women versus men: just look at the flack over CBS chief foreign affairs correspondent, Lara Logan's relationships in Iraq, which spread to the front page of the New York Post. And she's not even a nationally-recognized figure.
But Shafer claims, in light of the new "scandal," or lack thereof, over John Edwards' alleged affair, we need to pinpoint another double standard in media treatment: that of Larry Craig, of the infamous wide stance, versus John Edwards. Questioning why the media hasn't jumped all over the potential affair and love child of a man who campaigned for president on the strength of his family values, Shafer asks:
So why hasn't the press commented on the story yet? Is it because it broke too late yesterday afternoon, and news organizations want to investigate it for themselves before writing about it? Or are they observing a double standard that says homo-hypocrisy is indefensible but that hetero-hypocrisy deserves an automatic bye?
Shafer does point out some of the differences between the two cases (notably, a police blotter in one), and I have never really looked to the National Enquirer, which broke the Edwards story, as a news authority-- but it is impossible to deny that a story, either to verify or debunk, is there, simmering, with everyone too afraid? skeptical? uninterested? to look into it.
But no matter what Edwards actually did or did not do, it seems to me that Shafer has something on the double standards. News media love salacious stories, and in America, here is what is salacious: 1) a beautiful woman with lovers (promiscuous!), 2) a gay senator (gay!). Here is what is run-of-the-mill: a male politician with a mistress on the side.
Last week, the New York Times published an article on how the slowing economy is affecting women equally to men, which claimed that:
After moving into virtually every occupation, women are being afflicted on a large scale by the same troubles as men: downturns, layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages or the discouraging prospect of an outright pay cut. And they are responding as men have, by dropping out or disappearing for a while.
The discussion continued on Girl with Pen, where Virginia Rutter's detailed the research behind the, gasp, realization that women workers may not be choosing to "opt out," as the anecdotes go, but instead leave work for the same reasons men do: because of downturns in the economy.
I wanted to post a few remarks from our commenters, who had their own angles on the "opt out" question.
Marjorie noted: I'd also be interested in seeing if the researchers accounted for women who "opted out" of the labor force in order to start their own businesses. I left traditional paid employment for good earlier this year to pursue a career as a freelance writer, for example.
I wonder if there are any statistics on the percentage of women versus men in the nontraditional, freelance workplace-- does anyone have any idea?
And anniegirl1138 had the following insight: I am curious though about what impact the rising costs or child and elder care might play and the fact that in a down employment cycle men might be taking jobs in service sectors that typically went to women.
Which was a very keen observation. In a letter to the editor yesterday, Sara K. Gould, President and Chief Executive of the Ms. Foundation for Women, made a similar point: women are not the "equals" of men in the poor economy, but instead:
Today, despite decades of struggle for job access and pay equity, women are paid 77 cents for each dollar a man makes; the disparity is worse for African-American women, who earn 62 cents, and Latinas, who earn 53 cents.
Nearly 10.5 million women are single parents (as compared with 2.5 million single fathers). For them, opting out for any reason — like motherhood or education — is not viable.Already disadvantaged by years of workplace and legislative failures, women and their families face an increasingly insecure future if policies are not adjusted to meet their ever more pressing needs.
Am I naive to be surprised that a long article giving a vast overview of women's place in the American economy, failed to make the very basic, and in light of the article's argument, primary point that women and men cannot be "equally" affected by the economy if women begin 23 to 47 cents behind?
Monday, July 28, 2008
One session in particular has been on my mind since I returned: "Beautiful Blogging and Positive Posting." The title initially set off my snark alarm, but I forged ahead because I knew Alyssa Royse from Just Cause It and Off the Rocks (a new blog she's writing with her husband, following his arrest for a DUI--"because we're not pathetic and destitute, we're just dealing with the worst f*ing situation of our lives") would be speaking, and I think she's doing some amazing work. Also on the bill were Lucrecer Braxton from Art Slam, Krystyn Heide from HopeRevo, Jen of oneplustwo, and Kyran Pittman of Notes to Self.
Alyssa mentioned that her young daughter recently came to her and asked, "Mommy, is there any good news in the world?" Ouch. The short answer to that question is yes, there is. And that's ultimately what positive posting is all about. As many of the panelists pointed out, the topics we post about don't have to fluffy and cute (although I personally enjoy some fluffy cuteness here and there). We don't have to ignore that injustice, suffering, and media b.s. exist--and we don't have to hold back our anger about it either. The point is that we need to start talking about the difference between a snark-filled rant and a post that inspires something positive in our readers. Here are a few key tenets of "positive posting" that came up:
Positive: A blog or post that serves as a catalyst for social change in the real world
Positive: A blog or post that aims to break through a taboo topic and overcome social stigma
Positive: A blog or post that builds connections through honesty
Magali and I try our best to make 5 Resolutions a combination of all three of these. We started talking publicly about our eating disorders and body image issues because we wanted to break through the silence and misconceptions surrounding these issues. We launched a blog and a network to build connections and bring about change. At the end of the day, positive posting isn't so much a particular approach to blogging as it is what naturally happens when you have a hopeful approach to life. That said, I think it's important to remind ourselves of what makes a positive post as we're writing (and reading other blogs for that matter). We might not hit the mark every time, but we think it's important to try.
Cross posted at 5 Resolutions.
I am very excited to be able to start your week off with a guest post from Gloria Feldt, who last week wrote about barriers that still stand in the way of American women's search for equality. This week, Gloria is back with a wonderful post on a woman who's run for the presidency has helped to strip some of those barriers down. --Kristen
The Importance of Being Hillary
by Gloria Feldt
Like Kristen said in her post “Now That the Dust Has (Sort of) Settled," Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president is still fascinating to ponder. I was recently asked to write an article on the topic for the ILF Digest, the journal of a think tank I’ve been a fellow of (I find this terminology amusing, but have never come up with an acceptable alternative—can you?) for some years. It won’t be published for a few weeks but I’d like to share an excerpt here because it takes up where Kristen’s questions were leading:
Despite many problems with sexism in the culture and media that made themselves self-evident during Hillary Clinton’s campaign, there are even more reasons to be optimistic that Clinton’s presidential run will be a net plus in motivating women to enter politics. I predict a sea change in women’s participation in politics up and down the ticket and in non-elective political roles as well, for these reasons:
1. Seeing gives the potential for being. The message chanted at Clinton’s rallies: “Yes she can!” has clearly been delivered to younger generations. All young girls hereafter will grow up knowing it is possible for a woman to be president. And Clinton’s willingness to stay in the race despite all the challenges, despite constant calls for her to bow out, despite what must have been intense exhaustion and disappointment, is exactly what women of all ages with political aspirations need to see. In her speeches, she often mentioned “two groups who move me: women in their 80’s and 90’s who come out in walkers and wheelchairs and say they just want to live long enough to see a woman elected president, and families who bring their children and lean over and whisper in their daughter’s ear, ‘Honey you can be anything you want to be.’” Now they know they can.
2. Women were energized as never before. Rep. Carolyn Maloney said at a recent event sponsored by Lifetime Television, which along with three major women’s magazines has spearheaded a massive multimedia campaign called “Every Woman Counts”, that even though Clinton lost the primary campaign to Obama, “I think she lifted up the self esteem of women across the country, across the world.” Observing that Clinton raised $190 million in the primary race, Maloney said. “I think she helped all of us.” One measure of how much she has helped women become more engaged in politics is that in past races, women’s financial contributions amounted to less than 30% of the total. For the first time, fueled by excitement over Clinton’s candidacy, half of the contributions to a presidential candidate came from women. And, in fact, over 40% of Obama’s contributions came from women as well, demonstrating women’s importance to the Democratic party and women’s understanding about the strategic importance of giving their fair share of the proverbial mother’s milk of politics in order to get their fair share of influence on the public policies they want. As North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue pointed out, “Everybody is involved in politics whether they realize it or not.” Since men have little motivation to change the power structure, women have little choice but to become the change we want to see. Clinton’s willingness to put herself out there will motivate more of us to try.
3. Media sexism has been called out, and that roots it out. Rep. Maloney went on to say at the Lifetime event that there was “a big undercurrent of sexism, misogyny and stereotyping” against Hillary Clinton during her campaign for president. But the point here is Maloney made her claims at a public, mainstream media-sponsored event. That would not have happened in the past. The nonprofit Women’s Media Center mounted a campaign called “Sexism Sells, but We’re not Buying It” in collaboration with several media justice organizations They got the attention and the responses of major media executives and producers, as well as on-air apologies from Chris Matthews, David Schuster, and others. Even Katie Couric—too late, sadly, to make a difference in this year’s primary reporting but with luck influential enough to change the way women candidates are treated in the future—finally had enough and spoke out publicly on the subject. Change will be slow and imperfect, but it will happen.
4. Hillary’s post-primary awakening led her to embrace her leadership role as a woman and on behalf of other women. Throughout the campaign, she downplayed the importance of her gender, saying as she did at her Beacon Theater birthday bash early in the campaign when she was still considered the front runner, “For me it is a great honor and humbling experience to be the first woman president. But I’m not running because I am a woman but because I am the most qualified. “ Since the campaign, she has been much quicker to champion women’s rights. For example, she led the charge to challenge the Bush administration’s proposed new regulations that would redefine many birth control methods as abortion and allow medical providers to refuse to provide them. She seems to have learned a lesson about being her true self; other women will take courage from that.
At Hillary’s birthday event almost a year ago now, Elvis Costello performed to a standing ovation. Then the Wallflowers joined Elvis onstage; the decibel level elevated ten-fold, whipping this audience of aging rockers into frothy enthusiasm.
When comedian Billy Crystal came up to close the evening, little did he know just how prescient he was when he said, “Hillary is making this campaign not so much for the old rockers but for the new ones.”
Cross posted at Gloria's Heartfeldt Politics Blog.
I hope everyone had a great weekend, and welcome to the second week of Girl with Pen sans your usual Girl with Pen (Deborah Siegel), who is away on her honeymoon (felicitations!). But don't worry, she'll be back next week and we'll all hold down the fort until then. There are few organizations that work to bridge the gaps between "feminist research, popular reality, and the public" as surely as Our Bodies Ourselves, and so I wanted to bring you this announcement: they are seeking a new Associate Director. Forward it on to anyone who might be interested-- or apply yourself! And thanks to Virginia Rutter for sending this over!
New Position of Associate Director, Our Bodies Ourselves
Our Bodies Ourselves (also known as the Boston Women's Health Book
Collective, Inc.), a nonprofit women's health education, advocacy, and
consulting organization, is seeking an Associate Director. This person
would work closely with the current Executive Director, other senior
staff, and selected Board members to assume key leadership
responsibilities as the organization approaches its 40th year.
Our Bodies Ourselves provides accessible, research-based information
about women's health and sexuality and advances health and human rights
within a framework of values shaped by women's voices and a commitment
to self-determination and equality. For some time, the organization has
maintained a consistent profile, both in terms of visibility and
financial size. A focus for the next few years is to grow the
organization's annual revenues and budget while stabilizing its
fundraising capabilities and diversifying its funding sources.
Responsibilities (to be phased in over a period of time):
MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONS
* Supervise the day-to-day operations of the organization
* Ensure accuracy & compliance of routine financial operations,
working with financial consultants and/or staff, including:
- Review financial management system and make recommendations
for strengthening, as appropriate
- Oversee preparation of annual audit and review monthly
- Develop and monitor annual and quarterly budgets for the
organization and its specific programs
- Ensure timely and accurate completion of necessary state
and federal government filings
* Lead strategic planning for the organization, in collaboration
with the Board and other senior staff, and monitor/oversee
implementation of strategic plans
* Principal staff liaison with the Board of Directors; attend all
* Manage the human resources function and supervise staff
* Prepare annual report
* Provide overall program leadership
* Increase visibility of the organization through various modes
- Act as spokesperson for OBOS
- Write op eds and other advocacy pieces
* Conduct policy/advocacy campaigns
* Develop and maintain relationships with other community-oriented
* Supervise research, writing, and submission of grant proposals
and grant reports
* Lead donor relations
* Develop and implement short and long-term fundraising plans,
created in collaboration with the Board and staff
* Nonprofit management/administrative experience, including direct
supervision and management of employees.
* Knowledge of, skills, and proven experience in financial
management of an organization with an annual operating budget of over
$500,000 (including experience with budget management and financial
* Familiarity with and commitment to the content and philosophy of
OBOS (the book)
* Good knowledge base and experience with women's health,
including reproductive health and gender equity issues
* Excellent oral and written communications skills
* Experience interacting with the media
* Some fundraising experience
* Excellent organizational skills, including the ability to
organize resources, manage multiple projects, and establish priorities
* Demonstrated relevant experience of 8-10 years, including
expertise gained in a growing nonprofit (or other relevant setting)
* Expertise and experience working with diverse communities
* Ability to think strategically and to develop and implement
* Experience/comfort with a collegial model of management
(participatory leadership style that recognizes people's skills and
fosters leadership in others)
OTHER QUALITIES SOUGHT
* Self-starter (dynamic, highly motivated)
* Entrepreneurial and forward thinking
To apply, please submit preferably VIA EMAIL a resume and cover letter,
to: email@example.com. The organization mailing address is OBOS, 34
Plympton St, Boston, MA 02118. Fax: 617 451 3664.
Deadline: AUGUST 20, 2008
OBOS is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Today I'm pleased to bring you first time guest poster (and frequent Girl with Pen commenter!) Marjorie Asturias, who encourages all of us women to start getting our voices out on the opinion page. Marjorie is a weekly columnist at the Grand Junction Free Press, and maintains her own blog, Interior Designs, where she dishes out more advice on the writer's life-- so go check it out! --Kristen
Girl with Newspaper Column by Marjorie Asturias
Landing a newspaper column gig isn't easy, but neither is it impossible, and it's about time that more women put themselves out there and make a bid for one of their own.
A few months after moving to Grand Junction, Colorado, where I now live, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Grand Junction Free Press criticizing the slant a reporter had taken on an article about a local woman doing humanitarian work in Africa. The editor wrote within hours letting me know how much he liked my writing and that he hopes that I submit again in the future.
I immediately wrote back and asked him if he would be interested in hiring me on as a columnist. He was and quickly signed me on, warning me that he couldn't pay me for columns, but he did encourage me to submit regular features in addition to columns, as those news-y type pieces are paid.
I'm now a weekly paid columnist and special contributor to the paper, and while the compensation won't buy me any Birkin bags, the assignments have opened up a number of opportunities for me. Yes, I've received my share of hate mail. Yes, I have had my moments where I'm two hours from deadline, and I've yet to write a single word.
On the other hand, I've also had a few of my columns reach a national readership, including one about the loss of Generation X that was picked up and distributed by an online news aggregator. Another column I wrote about Ralph Nader's entry into the 2008 election was linked from the front page of Mr. Nader's site and generated tons of hits from around the world. Not only did I get my own name and work out in the public eye, the Free Press also saw a hefty spike in its own site statistics, garnering valuable publicity for the paper itself.
Writing the column turned out to be much harder and more rewarding than I dreamed it would be. Not only am I faced with a weekly deadline, I'm also dealing with the fact that I'm writing primarily to a conservative, small-town readership.
My columns frequently touch on issues that ignite heated debate in the community: immigration, abortion, gay marriage, and religion and prayer in public institutions. I'm also proudly feminist and have written about mail-order brides, sexism in the 2008 presidential election coverage and why being child-free can be a liberating choice. Since much of the paper's audience receives its news primarily from local sources, I'm offering them a viewpoint rarely found outside of the national media outlets, i.e., that of a minority woman who sees the world through the a lens that is both gendered and “colorized.”
I have my days when I cringe even as I write some of my more potentially controversial piece, or when I get yet another racist or sexist rant in my Inbox. But I've found that the more I write, the more confident I become. Now, although I also occasionally write about “lighter” topics, I find that the columns that make my readers think are the ones that I find most rewarding. To me that's a sign that I'm doing my job. Equally important is that even among the most offensive emails, I often learn something new about the issue that I hadn't considered before.
I strongly encourage women in any community, no matter what the size, to submit their opinion pieces to their local papers. Don't just aim for the big guns like the New York Times. Every media outlet needs to hear our voices. Carol Jenkins recently wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that part of the responsibility for the dearth of women commentators lies not just with the women who aren't submitting, but also with the top-level decision-makers who aren't actively creating op-ed pages that reflect their commitment to diversity.
Let's do our part and make sure that the supply part of the equation is taken care of. The decision-makers won't have any excuse not to publish us.
I had to post Jill from Feministe's comments below on the passing of Estelle Getty, who played the tenacious and hilarious Sophia on Golden Girls. Writes Jill on the meaning of Golden Girls for her:
I'm a huge Golden Girls fan, and I maintain that it’s one of the best feminist shows ever created: It’s got an all-female cast; they women are all older and therefore outside of traditional beauty norms; the women have independent lives that involve men but don’t revolve around them; and the characters are funny and smart (with the possible exception of Rose, but she’s smart in her own little way). Where else have you seen a popular sitcom (or any show) that revolves around women who actually kind of look like average women, who aren’t young and fabulous and beautiful, who have interests other than finding male companionship, who put their female friendships first, and who have sex after menopause? More to the point, where can you find a TV show or movie that revolves around women like that, and those women aren’t the butt of the joke?
It’s certainly a rarity, and Golden Girls remains a bright spot in TV history. Estelle Getty was a class act.
I have to second that statement. Sure I've sat around with friends debating which Sex and the City character each of us is, but I've also sat around and talked about which Golden Girls character we are, or will be, or hope to be. I'm banking on being a decided Dorothy.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Here today is Adina Nack with a fantastic guest post on how STD stereotypes have led to the mismarketing of the HPV vaccine as a cervical cancer vaccine. An associate professor of sociology, who has directed California Lutheran University's Center for Equality and Justice and their Gender and Women's Studies Program, and author of Damaged Goods?, Adina asks some provocative questions about the consequences this gendered mislabeling will have for public health awareness. --Kristen
The “Cervical Cancer” Vaccine, STD Stigma & the Truth about HPV
by Adina Nack
You’ve probably seen one of Merck’s ads which promote GARDASIL as the first cervical cancer vaccine. Last year, their commercials featured teenage girls telling us they want to be ‘one less’ woman with cervical cancer. GARDASIL’s website features new "TV spots” which say the vaccine “helps prevent other HPV diseases, too” and end with, “You have the power to choose…” – but do you, the viewer, know what you are choosing?
A clue that this is a STD vaccine appears briefly at the bottom of the screen: “HPV is Human Papillomavirus.” Merck’s goal may have been to appeal to parents who are squeamish about vaccinating their daughters against 4 types of virus which are almost always sexually transmitted. This marketing strategy means that the U.S. public, currently undereducated about HPV, is none the wiser about this family of viruses which infect millions in the U.S. and worldwide each year. When the ads briefly mention “other HPV diseases,” how many realize they’re talking about genital/anal warts and that recent studies link HPV with oral/throat cancers? [You don’t need to have a cervix – or even a vagina – to contract any of these “other” HPV diseases.] Why don’t they want us to know the whole truth about the vaccine?
Branding GARDASIL as a cervical cancer vaccine was aimed at winning public support. But, what are the consequences of a campaign built on half-truths? Today, only females, ages 9-26, can be protected against strains of a virus that may have serious consequences for boys/men and women past their mid-20s. If public health is the goal, then let’s question how our STD attitudes shaped a marketing plan which has, in turn, influenced drug policy.
Marketing a “cervical cancer” vaccine may have appeased some social conservatives who don’t want their daughters vaccinated against any STD, fearing it might promote premarital sex. But, the vaccine will likely soon be available to males, and their anatomy does not include a cervix – will girls get a ‘cervical cancer’ vaccine and boys get a HPV vaccine? The current gender-biased policy supports a centuries’ old double-standard of sexual morality. Most view STD infections as more damaging to women than to men. Many believe that STDs result from promiscuity -- “bad” girls/women deserve what they get. So, are we ready to embrace any STD vaccine (including a future HIV vaccine) as a preventive health measure?
Having studied women with HPV, I know that a person can contract the virus from nonconsensual sex or from their first sexual partner – you could still be a ‘technical’ virgin since skin-to-skin contact, not penetration, is the route of transmission. In my new book, Damaged Goods?, I take readers inside the lives of 43 women who have struggled to negotiate the stigma of having a chronic STD. One chapter delves into stereotypes about the types of people who get STDs: these beliefs not only skew our perceptions of STD risk (bad things only happen to bad people) but also can psychologically scar us if we contract one of those diseases. Merck’s branding of GARDASIL makes sense: a typical U.S. teenage girl or young woman has good reason to fear others’ judgments of her – thinking her to be promiscuous, dirty, naïve, and irresponsible – if they knew she’d sought out a STD vaccine. Whereas, getting a “cervical cancer” vaccine feels more like something that a responsible girl/woman would do.
Unfortunately, with GARDASIL taking the easy way out, the U.S. public misses a prime opportunity to learn about this prevalent, easily transmitted disease that is unfortunately difficult to test for. We’ve also lost a chance to take on STD stigma and challenge the population to view sexually transmitted infections as medical problems rather than as blemishes of moral character.
No vaccine is 100% effective and neither are the treatment options for HPV infections. STD stereotypes (particularly negative about infected women) come back to haunt those of us who become infected with diseases like HPV and herpes, which are treatable but not curable. Until there’s a ‘magic bullet’ cure, we should educate ourselves not only about medical facts but also about STD stigma – the anxiety, fear, shame and guilt – that often proves more damaging to the lives of those infected than the viruses, themselves.
Even though the primaries are over, that doesn't mean the discussion (and activism) on the role of sexism in the campaigns, or the continuing role of women in politics or the media is done... so don't turn off the monitors yet. Here's a roundup of what we should still be talking about (a number of these are taken from the awesome WMC Daily News Brief):
Sexism Against Clinton: 'Sharp Reality in Media'
A group of women, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D.-N.Y.) and Rep. K. Granger (R-Tex), got together to discuss the effects of Clinton's campaign. Maloney argued that Clinton's campaign had made it "more likely a woman will be elected commander in chief." Another panelist noted that the campaign served as consciousness-raising for American women: “I think it was a wake-up call for a lot of women to say ‘Gee, I had no idea there was that much blatant misogyny out there.’ And that not only the media moguls but the American public tolerated it.” Katie Couric has been making a number of statements about sexism in the media as well.
A (Female) VP Candidate by Any Other Name?
This, I must say, I just don't get. Seemingly similar to the "We won't vote for Obama" statements made by Hillary supporters during the primaries--now some former Hillary supporters are up in arms over the idea that Obama could choose a woman VP who isn't Hillary. One such supporter suggested that "Clinton's loss has deflated activist zeal for making history with another woman."
Here are a few reasons from former John Edwards advisor, Kate Michelman, why that activist zeal shouldn't be lost: Each possible candidate, including Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, "would be 'outstanding' as vice president because each supports abortion rights as well as a range of other issues of particular concern to women, such as pay parity, universal quality day care and economic support for mothers." [my emphasis]
The New York Times also reported on a potential backlash among former Hillary supporters on Sunday. Meanwhile House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told everyone to cool their jets, noting that, "None of us can afford the luxury of 'my candidate doesn't win the nomination' or 'my candidate wasn't chosen as vice president, I'm taking my marbles and going home.'" Here here.
Taking a Page from the Al Gore Post-Game Playbook
Am I being too hopeful in thinking that Hillary might now use her energies post-primary-loss to become an outspoken campaigner on behalf of women's reproductive rights...?
Cross-posted at Transitioning.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I'm delighted to bring a guest post from Gloria Feldt, former head of Planned Parenthood of America, currently on the board of the Women's Media Center and Jewish Women's Archive, co-author with Kathleen Turner of the NY Times best-selling Send Yourself Roses, and needless to say, feminist extraordinaire. Keep reading for Gloria's provoking questions on why barriers still remain for American women today. --Kristen
I am perplexed. I hope you can help me figure this out.
During the last 50 years, thanks to feminism and other civil rights movements, reliable birth control, and an economy that now requires more brain than brawn, women have broken many barriers that historically prevented them from partaking as equals at life’s table. But though we’ve smashed many corporate glass ceilings and marble barriers to political leadership, and now make up the majority of college students and graduates, women remain far from parity in any sphere of political or economic endeavor. For example, women hold just 16% of seats in Congress and 25% of state legislative offices ; 3% of clout positions in mainstream media corporations and 15% of corporate board positions. And despite gender equity laws and the separation of biology from reproductive destiny, women still earn approximately3/4ths of what men do while shouldering the lion’s share of responsibility for childrearing. These factors are interrelated, though they have usually been thought of as discrete problems, and that is one reason they still exist.
Still, it seems to me—and I am a second wave feminist who has seen many barriers fall, but I’m well aware of the many structural challenges women still face---that by far the most intractable problem facing women today is not that doors aren’t open, at least wide enough to give us the sense of possibilities, but that women aren’t walking through the open doors with intention sufficient to transform the workplace, politics, or relationships.
I am trying to figure out why we don’t seem to use all the power we have to change the system so that it works better for us. I’d like to know what you think. Here are just a few of the theories that have been advanced:
Women have less ambition than men.
Women have less motivation than men.
Women are more adverse to competition than men.
Women see these problems as individual ones rather than problems that women have in common, and therefore don’t join together as a political force to solve them.
Women do not negotiate compensation as aggressively as men.
Women are more turned off by the rough and tumble attacks of political campaigns than men are.
Do you think I’m simply all wet in my statement that women aren’t walking through the doors with intention sufficient to transform the workplace, politics, or relationships?
I know that many GWP readers are experts in various aspects of these questions, and even more important, all of you have a stake in bringing about greater equity and equality for women. What are your thoughts? What do you think is to be done about it? I am eager to hear from you.
Cross posted in part at Heartfeldt Politics Blog.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
GUEST POST: Opting out ain’t what it used to be: economics, not psychology, explains an historic decline in women’s employment
Opting out ain’t what it used to be: economics, not psychology, explains an historic decline in women’s employment, by Virginia Rutter
Dear Debbie: While you’re away, make sure you read the New York Times today on women and unemployment. Louis Uchitelle tells us that
...for the first time since the women’s movement came to life, an economic recovery has come and gone, and the percentage of women at work has fallen, not risen, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. In each of the seven previous recoveries since 1960, the recovery ended with a greater percentage of women at work than when it began.
Economist Heather Boushey and colleagues at the Joint Economic Committee in Congress put this finding in context in a new study. Uchitelle reports:
The Joint Economic Committee study cites the growing statistical evidence that women are leaving the work force “on par with men,” and the potentially disastrous consequences for families.
The proportion of women holding jobs in their prime working years, 25 to 54, peaked at 74.9 percent in early 2000 as the technology investment bubble was about to burst. Eight years later, in June, it was 72.7 percent, a seemingly small decline, but those 2.2 percentage points erase more than 12 years of gains for women. Four million more in their prime years would be employed today if the old pattern had prevailed through the expansion now ending.
The pattern is roughly similar among the well-educated and the less educated, among the married and never married, among mothers with teenage children and those with children under 6, and among white women and black.
While at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Boushey started responding to the blahblahblah about the “are women opting out?” question, by doing what she does best—using data to look for answers. Her paper, Are Women Opting Out? Debunking the Myth, responded to viral anecdotal accounts of highly educated women leaving the workforce. At that time, Boushey reported that the data showed that women were
not increasingly dropping out of the labor force because of their kids. The main reasons for the declining labor force participation among women over the last four years appears to be the weakness of the labor market.
(Boushey discussed some of the complexities of these issues at girlwithpen last year.)
Here’s what I’m thinking: The new study is ominous especially because unemployment is going to continue to hit men and women hard for years to come (for an analysis, see John Schmitt and Dean Baker’s report, What We Are In For: Projected Economic Impact of the Next Recession. And for a reflection on the impact of the recession on families, see Stephanie Coontz and Valerie Adrian’s Council on Contemporary Families’ June 2008 briefing report.
The impact of unemployment, as Uchitelle highlights, continues to be interpreted, understood, and experienced differently for men than for women. So, as the “opt out” narrative (those anecdotes about women who withdrew from the job market that got picked up as a “trend” until Boushey and others started to debunk the myth) tells us, when women lose work, it gets interpreted as being about family and psychology (not about unemployment or the economy), or seen as a return to traditional gender roles (not as women assuming a new gender role on the unemployment rolls). Until someone brings evidence to the subject.
Facebook launched itself into the hearts of Madison Ave. in November 2007 with a new scheme for targeted advertising. Essentially, this meant that data from users' profiles would be used to throw up advertisements on their sidebars that supposedly fit their wants/needs.
At first glance, I was actually impressed, or at least mildly amused, by the system. My most scintillating piece of personal information at the time was a quote from Arrested Development, where George Sr. yells at George Michael in a prison yard to "Give me your hair! Give me your hair!" because he needs a disguise. And what do you know, within a week, I had a new targeted advertisement that ran along the lines of: "Going bald? Here's what we can do..."
Having removed all hair-related references from my profile, leaving only a few references to Ella Fitzgerald and Betty Grable behind, things have changed now that I am tagged and targeted as a "Woman."
As soon as bathing suit season began to come into gear, I received ad upon ad about "losing those 15 to 30 pounds" accompanied by pictures of ostensibly "unattractive" women with non-concave stomachs, not to mention many an ad urging me to "date that special someone." The Australian blog, Dawn Chorus, has a roundup of some of these ads, the Feministing community has been discussing various manifestations of these ads for both males and females, young and old, the UK F-Word talks about subvertising these ads (with example provided above!), and Feministing discussed a few months ago how ads for Crisis Pregnancy Centers were coming up as well. I have described a pretty pernicious advertising campaign above-- but I wonder what kind of happy advertising campaign the feminist blogosphere would launch to women (and men) on Facebook. Suggestions welcome!
In more heartening news from Facebook, however, Facebook has evolved over the years in its approach to gender. First of all, it no longer requires that you designate one. There is also a very cool application that you can add to your profile that allows you to express your gender and sexual identity in your own way--be that binary, non-binary, in transition, or anything else.
Monday, July 21, 2008
What has been especially interesting in the furor over the New Yorker cartoon (I'm sure we've all seen it by now--nonetheless, helpful clip to the left) is that the main focus has been on Barack Obama's image as a Muslim terrorist and not on his wife. In some ways, this is unsurprising. After all, there's a history of the "Obama-Osama" slip-ups--though "slip-up" gives Fox News too much credit--and he is the presidential candidate. Nonetheless, and maybe because I've felt already inundated with the Obama imagery, the cartoon of Michelle Obama shocked me much more. As Sophia A. Nelson writes in a superb article in the Washington Post today, the New Yorker satires an "Angela-Davis-Afro-wearing, machine-gun-toting, angry, unpatriotic Michelle Obama." I use the word satire, because clearly it is meant to be one. At the same time, the New Yorker was willfully obtuse on this one. No virgin voyagers on the high media seas, the meta-New Yorker must have known how images can be misconstrued and used to deepen prejudice. (Just take a look at this report from Media Matters on reactions from conservative WorldNetDaily readers.)
But the Michelle Obama cartoon seemed a much more egregious satire to me. Besides a "terrorist fist bump" here and an "unpatriotic" there, I have never seen Michelle Obama painted in such a way that so clearly undermines the strong, professional, intellectual image she has maintained throughout the campaign. As Nelson points out in her article:
"Sad to say, but what Obama has undergone, though it's on a national stage and on a much more prominent scale, is nothing new to professional African American women. We endure this type of labeling all the time. We're endlessly familiar with the problem Michelle Obama is confronting -- being looked at, as black women, through a different lens from our white counterparts, who are portrayed as kinder, gentler souls who somehow deserve to be loved and valued more than we do. So many of us are hoping that Michelle -- as an elegant and elusive combination of successful career woman, supportive wife and loving mother -- can change that."
This is clearly an issue for the feminist blogger world. So here are my questions:
1. Which image were you more shocked by?
2. Do you feel that the feminist and race implications of the Michelle Obama image have been underreported?
Crossposted at Transitioning
Hi everybody, Kristen Loveland (of Transitioning, formerly called The Choice) here helping to fill in for Deborah a bit over the next two weeks with some cross-posts. It's always best to start your week off with a little contemplation about how much those pesky, pervasive, much-(statistically)-vaunted "sex differences" between men and women hold water beyond the oversimplified pop study and advertising board room (let's all take a minute to painfully remember Mel "sugartits" Gibson's What Women Want movie). In a brilliant move over at Slate, Amanda Schaffer and Emily Bazelon take on the latest literature by the "sex difference evangelists" in a six-part series (click through to read them all and thanks to Daphne Uviller for sending this over!) Looking at everything from language to empathy to hormones to Larry Summers, they ask why there is so much focus on the Mars/Venus dichotomy, and so little on the many variables within a gender. And most happily, instead of taking all the stats and studies at face value, they dig into these researchers' findings beyond the intro paragraphs.
For instance, they get to the bottom of how significant the difference in empathy is between men and women, noting that by 1987 sex differences were actually only "comparable to the difference in average height between 15- and 16-year-old girls, "though this didn't stop psychologist Susan Pinker to use these studies to argue "that women have a powerful 'empathy advantage.'" But most significantly, and something I always try to keep in mind when the New York Times flashes the latest stats across its front page, Schaffer and Bazelon point out:
"Of course, what people say about themselves on questionnaires tells a limited story in any case. Psychologist Nancy Eisenberg made this point most dramatically in the 1980s, when she demonstrated that the empathy gap, which appeared in studies that relied on self-reporting, all but vanished when other measures like physiological responses or changes in facial expression were considered. Men and women differ in 'how empathetic they would like to appear to others (and, perhaps, to themselves),' she wrote—and that's not the same thing as real underlying sex differences in empathy."
Any weekend spent with my sister (my complete opposite in countless ways) very clearly brings the differences within gender home to me. This weekend, this very neatly played out in our contradictory reaction to the very advertising and consumer campaigns that target those so-called differences. Lacking soap, I very naturally picked up my brother's Old Spice "Vitality" body wash to use. It smelled quite nice, I thought, though I'll wait for the day when a "woman's" body wash is tagged as the dynamic "Vitality" as opposed to "soothing," "calming," or the it's-hard-being-a-woman "re-energizing." As soon as I ran down stairs, feeling quite vital, thank you very much, I was subject to a very big sisterly campaign of: "I can't believe you just used man-wash. You smell like a man now. Who uses man wash?" Clearly, it was not something she would have even contemplated. Even in our decisions as to how much we will abide by the consumer-minded gender roles, the reactions are variegated, dare we even say, unexpected.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Jennifer opened the session with this question: How many of you have engaged with media outside of your blogs? Most people in the room raised their hands, but those who didn't said they haven't engaged because they are nervous about putting themselves "out there" and exposing themselves in their communities especially when it comes to politics. Jennifer made the point that as women, we must be willing to engage in a competitive landscape. The media landscape does not look the way we want it to. Women are marginalized and "hard news" is still seen as the realm of men (white, privileged men for the most part).
Jennifer gets tons of hate mail after her TV commentary. Perhaps not so surprising (but still pretty depressing), most of those comments are usually about her physical appearance and almost never about what she actually said.
The more popular your blog is, the more likely it is that mainstream media outlets will come to you. When you get that call, you have to be prepared. Jennifer mentioned the brother-in-law test. If you can get your brother-in-law to understand your point and frame your argument in a way that he gets it, you'll know that you are better prepared to address a broad audience beyond your niche.
Catherine Orenstein posed five questions:
1. what is credibility?
2. how do you create an argument that is a contribution?
3. What is the difference between being right and being effective?
4. how can you see what you care about as part of a bigger picture?
5. how can you see your knowledge and experience in terms of its value to others?
Some stats: 85% percent of op-eds are dominated by men, 84% of political pundits are men, 84% of Hollywood producers are male, 84% of Congress are male. Get the picture?
Plenty of women are blogging, but not in the places where it has the most influence. One out of 20 political bloggers are women. Sadly, these numbers convey the idea that women's voices don't matter and that women aren't leaders.
Three things happened when Catherine published her first op-ed: She got a book deal, she was went on national television, and she was invited to speak with a Clinton adviser. In other words, there are incredible opportunities presented to those who do put themselves out there. If you're not writing your own story, someone else will. And probably not in the way you would tell it.
Public conversations are happening in an echo chamber. Catherine compares this to what happens in the movie Being John Malkovich when John Malkovich goes through the John Malkovich tunnel. That's what public debate looks like these days.
Women don't submit op-eds. Shouldn't we all be projecting our opinions into the prominent forums? So here are Catherine's thoughts on some of those questions.
What is credibility: Accountability to knowledge. What are you an expert in and why?
Creating contribution: What would be valuable? What's the evidence (statistics, quotes, news information, research).
What's the difference between being right and being effective: She shared a letter she received after she wrote an ope-ed that was critical of Sex & the City. "It's Sex & the City, not Jobs & the City," the writer pointed out. "Your version: Boring." Catherine realized that she had alienated a large portion of the audience she wanted to reach. What she learned is that before she concludes an argument, she needs to put herself in the shoes of someone who disagrees with her. Remember two words: empathy and respect. Assume that the other party is both intelligent and moral.
This content is cross posted at 5 Resolutions.
Elline Lipkin (pictured left) is a poet and nonfiction writer. Her first book, The Errant Thread, was chosen by Eavan Boland to receive the Kore Press First Book Award and was published in 2006. She is currently working on a book about girls for Seal Press and will be a Visiting Scholar with the Center for Research on Women at UCLA in the fall. She recently taught at UC Berkeley where she was a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Beatrice Bain Research Group.
Watch for Elline's review next week of Pamela Paul's latest,
Parenting, Inc, a book that investigates "the whirligig of marketing hype, peer pressure, and easy consumerism that spins parents into purchasing overpriced products and raising overprotected, overstimulated, and over-provided-for children." Parents, yes, and especially, perhaps, mothers.
And with that, I am signing off for reals--to go get married!!!
The last decade has produced enough books challenging received wisdom to fill a small—and stupendously popular—library called the Compendium of Counterintuition. Here we find Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, which teaches that snap judgments are sometimes more accurate than studied observation. James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds, almost a companion volume, argues that a bunch of random idiots can sometimes do better than experts. Chris Anderson's The Long Tail makes the point that selling unpopular stuff can be a way to make lots of money.
The newest addition to the collection is Michael Heller's The Gridlock Economy, which does for property rights what the Long Tail does for product marketing. The difference is that Heller, unlike most of the authors of counterintuitive books, is actually a leader in the academic field he is scrutinizing. As one of the nation's leading property theorists, he has accomplished a feat. In an area that has generated very few nonacademic books, Heller has managed to pull off one of the most perceptive popular books on property since Das Kapital.
The review is titled "Move Over, Marx." And the book's author is not just any ole ex. He's my ex-husband.
Michael worked enormously hard, I know, writing this book, and I am just kvelling over here to see him receive laurels so richly deserved. I'm looking forward to reading the book, and I urge folks to check it out.
Congratulations, Professor Heller. You are the best first husband, ever! I wish you all the joys in the world.
The Woodhull Institute Prepares Women to Be Leaders on the Page
Women are underrepresented as nonfiction authors and opinion writers. In a long weekend of writing instruction and one-on-one critique from expert instructors Kristen Kemp, Catherine Orenstein, and Deborah Siegel, participants gain fundamental knowledge of Op-ed pieces, features, book proposals, and pitching ideas.
When/Where: September 5-7, 2008 (Ancramdale, NY)
Early Registration: $455
Regular Registration: $495*
Learn more and register today! Substantial discounts are available to alumnae and members.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Saving Mothers, One at a Time
NY Times: According to a 2007 study of global maternal mortality rates, more than two-thirds of deaths among Malawian women of reproductive age are linked to pregnancy or childbirth - a larger proportion than in any of the 171 countries in the study.
Teen Sexual Behavior Does Not Predict HPV Risk
RHRealityCheck.org: A teen's sexual activity doesn't predict her future risk for HPV, and shouldn't determine whether she receives the HPV vaccine, according to University of Michigan researchers. HPV, genital human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Study Questions Breast Self-Exams
Boston Globe: Although most women are told to examine their breasts every month for lumps, new research confirms that the practice - on its own - may do more harm than good. Self exams, and those by healthcare providers, actually produce an increase in benign biopsies, but don't get the patient into treatment earlier or save her life.
(Image is from Women's Health 2009: The 17th Annual Congress)
Launched in January of this year, Progressive Women's Voices has provided 33 women from a variety of fields with intensive media training and ongoing support to promote their perspective and message into the national dialogue. Since the program began, the Women's Media Center has already had an impact at the highest levels of the media. Participants have appeared on such media outlets as CNN and CBS Evening News, been quoted by The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle, placed op-eds in national papers including the Washington Post, and blogged about issues from the economy to race.
"You can't change the lopsided numbers of women working at top levels overnight," said Carol Jenkins, president of The Women's Media Center. "That's why we created this year-long, intensive program that includes briefings from experts, conversations with media professionals, pairing with mentors-as well as pitching to media outlets. The women get on-camera and op-ed writing training, and constant feedback. They have a support system, and it shows."
Participants in the third training class include authors, policy leaders and journalists - 11 women whose diverse backgrounds reflect the diversity of women's experiences in the United States. They join 22 current participants, forming a stable of progressive women who will add their voices to the national conversation in areas of economics, politics, health care, immigration, women's rights, workplace policy, and other important issues. The program is funded primarily by a generous grant from the NoVo Foundation and with additional support from the UN Foundation and other supporters.
A personal shout out to Veronica Arreola and Alissa Quart. For a full list of participants in the third class, click here.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Talk about timing! I love it.
(Image is from the mag)
California Gays Ditch Wedding Gifts For Donations
Reuters: A month after California began legally marrying same-sex partners, thousands of dollars that might have been spent on toasters or dinnerware for newlyweds have been donated to the campaign against the November referendum that seeks to define marriage in the state as only between a man and a woman.
Weddings Are Big Day for Extreme Dieting
Women's eNews: Questing for the perfect body has become a norm in the world of wedding preparations as a multi-billion-dollar wedding industry peddles the perfection myth more intensely than ever before.
HA! Not moi. I so pigged out this weekend (last one before the wedding) and enjoyed every minute....
A bit o history making over the weekend, as reported by Adele Stan over at Huffington Post: Sunday's face-off between the McCain campaign's Carly Fiorina and the Obama campaign's Claire McCaskill on NBC's Meet the Press served up an historic television moment; it was the first time in the show's history, said moderator Tom Brokaw, that two women had appeared together on the show as the surrogates for opposing campaigns.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Nothing says "moving on" like the divorce collage.
Actually, these here doubled as housewarming projects. After having an awful experience (not a big surprise) with a Jewish divorce ceremony some years back, I decided to refill the frame that had held my marriage certificate or ketubah (left) with ad-hoc art work by my dearest friends. So I invited them over and we had a party.
That party will be part of a Page 6 story in this Sunday's New York Post. And the timing couldn't be more perfect. Because on Monday, Marco and I will be going down to City Hall to pick up our marriage license and officially change our names! We are becoming the Siegel-Acevedos. How's that for a mouthful of fusion. I'm staying Siegel in print. Hey, do people still hyphenate these days, or has that already become outre? (Our thanks to the Wallace-Segalls for the inspiration...!)
And on Thursday, I will make my first ever visit to a modern Mikvah with a friend, which, from the pictures, looks more like a spa. Here's to ritual new and old, tossed out and reclaimed and reinspired, updated and reinvented, I say.
Huh? Glass is a trailblazing icon of alternative, indie culture, a very with-it, 21st-century guy. What was he thinking? Why did he choose a gender-specific title for his book?She goes on to do some byline counting:
A few years ago, two women — Ruth Davis Konigsberg, a writer and former editor at Glamour, and Elizabeth Merrick, director of a women's literary reading series — tallied the ratio of male to female contributors at those four magazines on their own Web sites. The numbers called attention to a significant gender disparity. According to Konigsberg, on womentk.com, during a 12-month period (from September 2005 to September 2006), there were 1,446 men's bylines and 447 women's bylines. At Harper's, the ratio was nearly seven to one, at The New Yorker four to one, and at The Atlantic 3.6 to one.Then analyzes what does make it into print:
I did my own tally. From May 2007 through May 2008, Harper's published 232 men and 51 women (a ratio of about 4.5 to one) and The Atlantic published 158 men to 49 women (a ratio of about three to one). In 2008, The New Yorker has published 185 men and 51 women (about 3.5 to one). Things are not getting much better.
As disheartening as those statistics are, closer inspection of what women do publish in such magazines makes the disparity even more disturbing. Many of the women's contributions are not features. (At The New Yorker, they might be a Talk of the Town piece, a poem, a cartoon, or a dance review.) And many are about being a woman. For example, the March 2008 issue of The Atlantic contains three substantial pieces by women. One, by Eliza Griswold, is both political and reported, and it does not integrate her personal experience. But the other two use personal experiences to make claims about women's lives. And in an almost absurd twist, both argue that women should start settling for less.That other Atlantic piece of course is "Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough," by Lori Gottlieb.
For a great analysis of what gives, read the rest.