Friday, August 31, 2007
... were ranked by Forbes Magazine today on just how powerful they are. The most powerful woman in the world is, according to Forbes, Angela Merkel. The write-up about each woman is brief, but perusing the list is rather telling about how power is perceived in our culture.
So what is the main factor? Money. Governing a country also helps. But, really, it seems to be mostly about money. Yet, while reading through this list of rich and influential ladies didn't change my life, it did introduce me to some prominent women that I never knew existed. I was relieved, at least, to see that it wasn't a list of actresses (although Oprah was ranked #21, beating Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi alike).
Yet, I'm not sure that Forbes (which is a business publication, after all) got the markers of what denotes real power and influence right. I was surprised to see that certain influential women, some evil, did not make the list. For example, Donna Kalajian Lagani, the Senior VP and Publishing Directory of Cosmopolitan Magazine and Cosmo Girl, publications that sell sexist stereotypes to millions of young women and tell them that there is such a thing as "grey rape", was not mentioned. Surely she is powerful, and uses her power irresponsibly, for she is selling a perception of what women are that impacts us all. Obviously, prime ministers and presidents are important and powerful and these women should be acknowledged as such. And I am sure the executives with all their cash hold great sway. But there are no writers on the list and no real activists and I can't help but feel that women who have a real international impact have been overlooked.
But really, I am just looking to post about Angel Merkel so that I can once again snicker about the famous massage. Considered the most powerful woman in the world, and our president thinks it is okay to... no, it is just too embarrassing to go on...
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Secondly, how are there still gay republicans when the mere allegation that one of their own tried to pick up a man makes the whole party call for an end to his political career?
Thirdly, why are we not now laughing politician who run on a “family values” (code word meaning anti-gay, anti-choice) platform off the stage? The term was always meaningless, since opposing gay marriage does not do anything to help families, but now it is clear that saying ‘family values’ in every speech does not make a politician any less likely to be gay. If we could just scrap the whole pretense that other peoples’ consensual love-making somehow was a threat to families, we could start talking about issues that really matter to parents and children – daycare, schools, equal pay for women, paid leave for new parents…
Monday, August 27, 2007
China is planning to tighten punishments for sex-selective abortions amid
concerns that its widening gender imbalance will lead to wife trafficking,
sexual crimes and social frustration...
Nationwide, six males are born for every five females, far above theIn the SI subtitle I mention "women in the west." This is largely because I feel like, having never lived in an eastern society, I have a very limited understanding of the issues that face women living in those cultures. Yet, this story struck me as particularly telling in a global sense - we create societies that limit opportunities for women, that rob women of their power and confine them to the home. Having denied women the opportunity to contribute equally to their society, the society then devalues women. This causes problems for women and for the societies in which they live.
international average. With the gap growing every year as a result of increased
access to ultrasound sex-checking technology, one senior official warned that
China faces the 'most serious gender imbalance in the world'.
I'd like to think that in the west we are free, for the most part, of this type of bias towards boy babies. Yet, there is a constant pressure within western societies to limit women's rights and to confine their sphere of influence to the home. Don't believe me? Visit Feministing.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
We deported Elvira Arellano this week, separating her from her 8-year-old son who, having been born in the States, is a citizen of the U.S.A. Her story is one that you would expect would raise feelings of compassion - it is the story of a mother who has struggled against forces much mightier than she in order to stay close to her child. Arrellano's tale might also be interpreted as an act of compassion on the part of the Christian Church (which should stir feelings of sympathy within the "religious" right), for after seeking sanctuary in a Chicago church to avoid deportation, Arrellano lived within the protection of the church for a year before leaving to speak about immigrants' rights. It was then that Arrellano was detained and eventually deported. Yet, according to Jim Hayes, the director of the L.A. office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, this mother and activist should be considered a "criminal fugitive from Mexico seeking to elude federal capture." To be clear - Arellano has committed no crime in her country of origin. The charge against her is that she used a false social security number to obtain employment here in the U.S. - as a janitor. Hayes continues by asserting "I think if you put that into appropriate perspective, we have to look back six years ago and see that people who use false identification documents can in fact be very dangerous." It is true that people who use false identification can be dangerous criminals and terrorists. But has our fear really made us insensible to to distinction between killers and mothers?
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Once again, pop science is out looking to prove even the most trivial of gender stereotypes. This time, *science* has proven that women are genetically predisposed to like pink more than boys do. That's right, pink - the color that was considered a "boy's color" even into the 20th century when mothers were advised:
"...the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is pertier for the girl." [Ladies Home Journal, June, 1918]
There must be a genetic explanation for the color pink being considered feminine over the last century, no? Surely every decade's whims have been millions of years in the making.
So, the experiment worked like this: European adults (who had spent a lifetime being taught that pink was feminine) were shown pairs color swatches and asked to pick a favorite as quickly as possible. To make things fair,
The test included a small group of Chinese people among the other 171 British Caucasian study participants to establish whether gender differences in colour preference depend more on biology or culture. According to Professor Hurlbert, the results among the Chinese participants were similar, strengthening the idea that the gender differences might be biological.A small number? One other ethnic group? 171 Brits to determine the whole world's genetic evolution? But, perhaps I am too harsh - as we all know, the Chinese and British cultures have no contact that might undermine the assumption that any similarities must be genetic rather than cultural. Hello Kitty, I hear, hates pink and the Chinese have nothing to do with the pink and blue toys marketed to British girls and boys. So what conclusions should be drawn from such rigorous experimentation? As Professor Anya Hurlbert, Professor of Visual Neuroscience at Newcastle University, explains it: "The explanation might date back to humans' hunter-gatherer days, when women were the primary gatherers and would have benefited from an ability to home in on ripe, red fruits. Culture may exploit and compound this natural female preference..." Oh, those savvy homo habilis home makers. You probably use those same red-finding skills in the supermarket today! Well, that settles it. We can, in fact, use preferences formed by a very small, very homogeneous group to explain our genetic gender differences and there will always be someone with the right letters behind their name who is willing to back up even the stupidest stereotype.
So what annoys me here? Granted, my first reaction was to laugh. But - Reuters and this Newcastle University are presenting the general public with the idea that this is sound scientific thinking. Yes, you might say, but what sort of journal would publish a study that makes such sweeping conclusions based on such a small, homogeneous sampling and ignores contrary historical evidence? Well, this proof of a "robust, cross-cultural sex difference in color preference" was first brought to you by the reputable-sounding journal Current Biology.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
It seems that more and more men are feeling that a pleasing physique is an absolute must, regardless of one’s experience or qualifications – or great personality, and are undergoing cosmetic surgery in greater numbers than ever before. According to this article in the AJC:
Since 2002, cosmetic procedures among men have increased at a faster pace than among women. Surgical and nonsurgical work for men jumped 57 percent between 2002 and 2006, compared to 9 percent for women, according to theStatistics gathered by The American Society of Plastic Surgeons seem to corroborate these findings, reporting that the number of men who undergo cosmetic procedures increased by 8% from 2000 and 2006. So what is it that these men are having done? The top five men’s choices are: nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, liposuction, hair transplantation, and breast reduction. But while these are the most popular picks, they are by no means the only cosmetic surgeries that males are increasingly undergoing. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that in 2005, men accounted for 25% of all cheek implants and chin augmentations, 30% of calf augmentations, and 41% of cosmetic ear surgeries. Who knew the menu had grown so long? As the AJC explains it, “Many men are having cosmetic work done for ‘business purposes,’” apparently feeling that the better looking men have a real advantage.
of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. American Academy
It is discouraging that Americans are feeling pressure to look young and to conform to a homogeneous beauty ideal in greater and greater numbers, and that we feel like we are judged on our physical features in every area of life. As a feminist, my goal is to achieve the same rights, opportunities and freedoms for women as are afforded to men. Equality, though, should be attained through bettering the situations of women, not by equal-opportunity oppression. So instead of being gratified by this news in a sort of now-you’ll-see-how-it-feels-to-be-judged-for-your-looks sort of way, I was discouraged by the disturbing signs that look-ism is becoming a societal problem that will continue to plague women as it increasingly becomes an obstacle for men.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Well, actually they might let you in if you just try to look like you’d like to be of European decent. Power, it seems, is in the donning of the power suit and no amount of fame can save you from being considered a poor peasant if you eschew the dress codes set by
If you think I’m being overly dramatic, consider Tuesday’s expulsion of Rigoberta Menchú from a
Update: The Guardian now has the story in English - just don't forget who brought it to you first...
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
So, since it is week one of the new job, I'll be brief as I present the Wednesday Reader:
Alternet notes that our failure to secure Iraq has had a detrimental effect on the health of women and children.
Jezebel notes that corporate fashion do's and don'ts are outrageously racist.
Two Dutch news bloggers are caught filming up women's skirts as the women walk up a clear staircase and then posting the videos. The men's defense? That they are activist trying to shed some light on the clear stairwell issue.
And the BBC discusses the problem of baby snatching in Guatemala, where children are being kidnapped and then put up for adoption.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
A while back, La Pobre Habladora informed me that she and Casmall had attended a roller derby bout. I was skeptical. However, I recently was able to catch a bout between the Knoxville Knox Roller Girls and Memphis Roller Derby. To be perfectly frank, it was awesome! Kudos to La Pobre Habladora. At the same time, I cannot in good conscious disregard the negative feminist implications behind the sport.
For those who have never attended a roller derby match, it is nothing like those choreographed events of old that rivaled current "wrestling" events in their theatrics. These are women skating hard and delivering real hits. My concern arises when I stop to ask specific questions. (1) Why do women (some...I do not pretend to make this a blanket statement commentary on the state of women in sports) still feel they need to don an alternate identity in order to express strength? (2) Why is it necessary for women to provide entertainment of a somewhat sexist nature in order to gain attention as an athlete?
PBo and I have discussed this on any number of occasions. Often the discussion starts anew upon viewing women playing either softball or basketball in full make-up. Is that necessary in order to (1) get men to watch or (2) establish one's self as a heterosexual athlete? I realize that the (2) question ventures into a whole new discussion of women in sports, but I find it relevant all the same because it also has the effect of discrediting feminism.
This is not a new discussion. Vicky Vengeance weighs in against roller derby with, "If Roller Derby is really about how awesome the girls are at their sport, then it should REALLY be about that. It should really be about how empowering it is to see women being competitive and athletic and downright bad ass regardless of what they're wearing. Why does "embracing your femininity" in this context turn into wearing sexy clothing? Are there no other ways for women to assert their femininity? And if not, maybe we should reconsider what's so great about femininity in the first place. And if it's primarily about playing with sexual norms and doing some kind of Suicide Girls type performance with a little bit of violence added in for spice, well then I think we should stop pretending it's feminist and empowering."
Friday, August 10, 2007
and was shocked to learn that, unlike what she and her parents had been told by University of Virginia officials in 1984, Charlottesville Police Department did indeed have jurisdiction over the fraternity house where she had been raped and that there is no statute of limitations on felony rape in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Seccuro also learned Beebe had been “tracking” her for nine years with the aid of the
office. Universityof Virginia Alumni
Her attacker was tried, convicted, and given "10-year prison sentence with all but 18 months suspended." Yet, today news breaks that he is to be released after serving only six months. As much as we would like to believe that we live in a society that now has a clearer understanding of how heinous a crime rape truly is, Seccuro and other victims still face a hostile audience when they try to speak out against their attackers. The repugnance and tragedy of this is perhaps best understood by reading Seccuro's own words as she attempts to combat the misinformation published about her in a callous and idiotic piece published in the school news paper of her, and my, alma mater. Reading a sexual assault survivor having to try to teach basic compassion to a college-age girl attending the same university where she herself was attacked and failed to get assistance... it sickens me to realize just how far we still have to go.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
For giggles, read Macho Men, a little piece that draws the revolutionary conclusion that maybe women don’t want men built like rocks, yet ends with this: “We shouldn't be thinking about masculinity in terms of health, which is a totally different thing in women's minds, but in terms of social dominance." What?
For some correlation and causation fun, try Breast Implants linked with suicide study.
For a picture of Joanna Krupa using all her charms for the noble cause of combating the fur industry, visit El País. Who wears fur these days anyway?
For shocking evidence that Democrats might get more funding from gay voters than Republicans do, head on over to the WSJ.
For reasons why grown-up presidential candidates shouldn’t refer to themselves as “girl,” visit Feministing.
And to view the creepiest baby picture you’ve ever seen? Pandagon takes care of that.
My second impulse after reading this piece was to feel deep resentment towards the organizations that are supposed to use their authority to protect and help, yet take few steps to do so. While the government of South Africa has legalized same-sex marriage, Human Rights Watch reports that it “needs to do more to protect lesbians” citing the “partial or inadequate investigations by authorities into allegations of homophobic abuse.” Although it is not mentioned in the BBC piece, I also felt angry with the Catholic Church for their continued intolerance of homosexuality, opposing same sex marriage and “the social acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships.”
So what can be done to help women who live so far from us in societies so different from our own? What can we do for them as we struggle to solve similar problems? Other than supporting groups like HRW and the Global Fund for Women and working within our own communities to end violence and intolerance, I have no answers. But feigning unawareness is not an option.
Researchers’ gender biases hurt this panda’s love-life. Despite her lack of penis, the panda was considered male. Okay, in all fairness, I might not want to get close enough to look for a panda penis either, especially since they only measure 3cm and that might take some very close looking. Yet, considering how endangered pandas are, we shouldn’t waste their best dating years by pairing all the rough-and-tumble pandas with lady pandas just because we expect the impish ones to be the boys.
I shudder to think what some sexist economics professor will try to do with this article. That’s right, there is a difference between real science and the absurd pseudo-scientific claims that sexists use to justify the subjugation of women as “natural.” So, according to new fossil evidence, “early female hominids were much smaller than males.” Why do I think that this will be used against us? Well, animals with a significant size difference between males and females tend to form social groups where the males fight for breeding privileges, winner mates all. As Dr. Emma Mbua, on of the team of researchers studying the fossil explains, "This sexual dimorphism is considered a primitive character because it occurs in other apes," and that “this could also mean the sexual behavior of Homo erectus was more like that of apes, where individuals, especially males, mate with several partners, sometimes in a few hours, than that of its more monogamous human successors.” It won’t bother the idiot who tries to use this to justify sexism that modern humans no longer have such a significant size difference between the sexes, nor that a lot of things gorillas do would not be justifiable in human society. Repeat with me now: being descended from apes does not mean you’re allowed to act like a chimp, chum.
Monday, August 6, 2007
How much power do your doctor’s religious beliefs hold over your uterus?
When Guadalupe Benitez, a lesbian, wanted to become pregnant and raise a child with her partner, two
Just to be clear, what is being determined is not if doctors can deny women legal medical procedures under the claim of religious objection. They can. What is shocking, however, is the extent to which this power over patients is written into our laws. According to the Gunttmacher Institute:
-46 states allow some health care providers to refuse to provide abortion services.
-All of these states permit individual health care providers to refuse to provide abortion services.
-43 states allow health care institutions to refuse to provide abortion services, 15 limit the exemption to private health care institutions and 1 state allows only religious health care entities to refuse to provide such care.
-13 states allow some health care providers to refuse to provide services related to contraception.
-8 states allow individual health care providers to refuse to provide services related to contraception
-4 states explicitly permit pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraceptives. (4 additional states have broad refusal clauses that do not specifically include pharmacists, but may apply to them.)
-1 state explicitly permit pharmacies to refuse to dispense contraceptives.
-4 states have broad refusal clauses that do not specifically include pharmacies, but may apply to them.
-9 states allow health care institutions to refuse to provide services related to contraception, 6 states limit the exemption to private entities.
-17 states allow some health care providers to refuse to provide sterilization services.
-16 states allow individual health care providers to refuse to provide sterilization services.
-15 states allow health care institutions to refuse to provide sterilization services; 4 limit the exemption to private entities.
So, how much power do your doctor’s religious beliefs hold over your uterus? Almost as much as you do.
Friday, August 3, 2007
Since the recent Supreme Court ruling against Lilly Ledbetter, I have been feeling a bit gloomy about not having yet achieved one of the most basic aims of second wave feminism, equal pay for equal work. I had, in fact, started feeling a bit like a character from the movie Nine to Five. Then this article in this morning’s NYT gave me a bit of hope. According to the Times, “Young women in
Yet, I could not ignore the disturbing news that being perceived as angry, even when that anger is justified, hurts women in the work place more than men. According to a recent study done by Victoria Brescoll of
She conducted three tests in which men and women recruited randomly watched videos of a job interview and were asked to rate the applicant's status and assign them a salary.
In the first, the scripts were identical except where the candidate described feeling either angry or sad about losing an account due to a colleague's late arrival at a meeting.
Participants conferred the most status on the man who said he was angry, the second most on the woman who said she was sad, slightly less on the man who said he was sad, and least of all by a sizable margin on the woman who said she was angry.
The average salary assigned to the angry man was almost $38,000 compared to about $23,500 for the angry woman and in the region of $30,000 for the other two candidates.
So, I guess I still feel like I’m trapped in a 80’s movie like Nine to Five or Working Girl - it is possible for working women in New York to get ahead, as long as they cover their justified anger with fake smiles or sighs. The message seems to be: sure, be successful – but only if you can be sweet while charging ahead.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
No mater if the Washington Post tries to convince you otherwise, do not let your children see this movie. In fact, just reading the Post’s interview with the actresses might entrench some negative gender stereotypes in the kiddies’ brains, so keep them away from the paper for once. I am willing to bet that the makers of this film are self-aware enough to know that they are risking young girls’ self images in a callous attempt to sell more clothes. However, Post reporter Jennifer Frey is embarrassingly enthusiastic about the most shameful aspects of the film. She entitles her piece “”Bratz’ the Living Doll: Young Actresses Add Wholesome to the Toys’ Rep,” and gushes with delight about giggling with “…the four dolls-come-to-life.” Why, you might ask, is a professional writer so giddy about the chance to talk with teenage actresses who portray “Living Dolls”? Well, that’s what I’m asking too! The review is mainly about how the live actresses will not be dresses as trashy as the dolls on which their characters are based, so parents need not worry. Fearlessly selling readers a feminine ideal based on pretty, not too trashy dolls is not enough for Ms. Frey, however. She decides to delight in the film’s racial stereotypes as well, reporting that each Brat has her own personality in the movie, like “…Jade, the Asian American Brat, a science and math whiz with high-pressure parents and a side interest in clothing design.” Has the Post gone mad? The article ends as the girls “…link arms, elbow to elbow, four across, their shiny hair swinging behind them, as they head back to the SUV.”
Yes, this review is over-the-top and completely lacking in self-awareness. So read it if you are looking for a laugh, but, whatever you do, don’t let your children watch this movie.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
According to Eugenia Chen at AlterNet, the pollsters have “announced unmarried women as the biggest swing votes in the next election.” Well, well, well… Although reading her article convinced me that Ms. Chen and I have a lot in common (we are about the same age, our families want us married and child-producing, and our ideas of true love have something to do with breakfast foods and sharing the NYT), we approach this news from entirely different angles. While she views this new focus on unmarried female voters as deplorable in that it once again makes a woman’s marital status important in a way that a man’s in not (and I concede her point), I see an opportunity. Might these typically liberal voters be courted and be able to exert some political pressure – might these women even vote as a block? Chen thinks not:
But what do unmarried women really have in common? Many unmarried women simply haven't found the right kind of men. Thousands of single mothers are unmarried because the men in their lives refuse to commit. Unmarried women may be divorcees or widows…Yes, yes – but let’s look at what these diverse groups do have in common. None of them are married. Most likely, none of them are celibate. So, what will they be wanting? Access to birth control. The right to make their own reproductive choices. And since they are also the primary incomes in their households, they should be concerned about fair pay and anti-discrimination laws as well. Chen adds one more category to the unmarried women list, “…lesbians who are unmarried because the law forbids their union.” Well, although possibly less interested in access to birth control, lesbian issues by and large jive with those of other single women. And most women voters tend to be liberals in the first place, so I don’t think that scare tactics about “the gay agenda” will have much of an effect. So I think this news is good - we should be able to push for what we want in the next election.
The ability of the human mind to hold two contradictory ideas at once never ceases to amaze me. Take, for example, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a republican from
[McMorris Rodgers] says she wishes more women could have the benefits she enjoys of a flexible work schedule, generous family leave time, and the privilege of working from home. But such policies have never been endorsed by her own political party. Republicans are taking a back seat as Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) leads the fight to expand the Family Medical Leave Act, which would enshrine into law some of the flexibility McMorris Rodgers theoretically endorses.It always amazes me that you can, in fact, be female and not a feminist.