Thursday, July 31, 2008

Abortion Law: Two Medical Opinions, or Criminal Charges

A Kansas judge ruled Monday to deny a "...defense motion to dismiss a criminal case brought against one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers," Dr. George Tiller. As the Kansas City Star explains:

Former Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison filed 19 misdemeanor charges against Tiller in June 2007, alleging he broke a 1998 state law requiring that a second, independent Kansas physician sign off on late-term abortions of viable fetuses. Two doctors, without financial or legal ties, must conclude that if the pregnancy continues, the mother will die or face "substantial and irreversible" harm to "a major bodily function," which has been interpreted to include mental health.

Tiller relied on Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, of Nortonville, for his second opinion on abortions in 2003, and she had a financial relationship with him that is against the law.

Tiller's attorneys contend that the law creates an unconstitutional burden on a physician's right to practice medicine and a woman's right to obtain an abortion. They also argued that the Kansas law was unconstitutionally vague. His defense attorneys also challenged it on the basis of violating a right to travel because of the requirement a woman be seen by two separate physicians in Kansas.

For Dr. Tiller, this means that he will still have to stand trial, where it will be decided whether or not he had a financial relationship with Dr. Neuhaus that might have made her second opinions illegal under the state's laws. For women, this ruling means that we are willing to risk their health as we create obstacles to their being able to receive a legal medical procedure. For doctors, this means that physicians who decide that a patient's continued pregnancy puts her at risk of "substantial and irreversible" harm runs the risk of having criminal charges brought against them.

Will this ruling put women at a greater risk from pregnancy related injury and death?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Teacher Fired for Pregnancy

When school officials at the Seventh-day Adventist Linden School in Queens, NY discovered that Jewel Redhead was pregnant, they first asked her if she planned to marry the father of her unborn child. When she said no, they fired her. Now, Redhead, who is a Columbia University graduate, is suing:

Redhead, who grew up a Seventh-day Adventist in Trinidad, said her problems began when the school's superintendent found out she was expecting a child and wasn't married.

She said her boss asked her whether she planned to eventually wed her baby daddy.

When Redhead responded no, the supervisor said, "We're going to have to terminate you," she claimed.

"How can you fire me for being pregnant?" Redhead said she asked - breaking into tears as she relayed her version of the conversation to jurors.

"That's how it's done," the superintendent allegedly answered.

Ross Weaver, the lawyer for the school, said Redhead "violated one of the basic precepts of the Seventh-day Adventist Church" by having premarital sex - and that the school was within its rights to get rid of her.

OK - there are two things wrong with this story. One is that this school fired a woman based on her marital status. They deserved to get sued. The other... "baby daddy?" Really? We can use that sort of 'hip' language in the newspaper because Jewel Redhead is black, right? Classy, New York Post.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Call for Submissions: Feminist Parenting

On a recent post discussing research that links girls' exposure to unrealistic portrayals of female bodies with "lower self-esteem, decreased psychological well-being... dieting behaviours, obesity and depression," commenter Larry Geater writes:
I try to make my daughter believe that she should be less concerned by her looks and that she is attractive in any case but how does one fight the world?
Larry's question has stuck with me all day. Quite frankly, I don't know what to tell him. As a teacher, I struggle with this on a regular basis - how do I help my students fend-off the constant messages that they should be dissatisfied with their looks and figures? Oddly enough, having gone through periods of self-loathing similar to what I sometimes recognize in my students doesn't seem to make me particularly qualified to help them. How does one fight the world?

So, I've become convinced that we need a new regular segment dedicated to how to help kids avoid the damaging effects of sexism in our society. I'm thinking of beginning with a week-long series on feminist parenting, and I want as many voices involved as possible.

Since The Feminist Underground writers believe that fighting racism, classism, homophobia, ableism, and transphobia are part of modern feminism, we're looking for posts about how you deal with all sorts of dangerous -isms when interacting with the young people in your life. Write what you want, but some ideas include movie and book reviews, personal essays about what your parents did right, and essays about what you've done to help kids cope with the toxic ideas and images about gender, sexual orientation, and race that they're bound to encounter. Send submissions to pobrehabladora (at) gmail (dot) com by next Thursday evening (August 7th)- or just leave us a link to a post you've already written in comments.

We hope to hear from you soon!

(UPDATE: What started as a series has now become a regular feature, so please continue to send submissions if you'd like to be included.)

Drug Companies Ignore Pregnant Women and Third World Countries

My favorite science journal, PLOS, has a nice series of articles on women's health and more specifically maternal health. PLOS, which I love because they are public access, is a top tier journal. The gist of the articles is that after the scariness of DES and thalidomide, maternal medicine development has been at a relative standstill. As pregnant women still often have the need for medication, this has de facto resulted in the off-label use of medication. According to Fisk and Atun, 75% of pregnant women are on at least one medication for which the safety has not been formally verified. This in no way means that all (or even any) of these drugs are actually dangerous--it moreso belies the fact that women are ignored by the drug companies. Only three new medications (atosiban, carboprost, and carbetocin) have come about in the last 20 years in the UK. This is in exception to abortifacients and reformulations. Moreover, two of them are only used post-delivery. The Big Medication Players in maternal health (magnesium sulfate, α-methyldopa, hydralazine, β-blockers, aspirin, and nifedipine) have all been around for decades.

Why is this so important? According to Fisk and Atun:
Worldwide, there are 536,000 maternal deaths annually, while nearly half the 13.5 million under-five child deaths occur as antepartum, intrapartum, or neonatal deaths.
In developing nations, the problems are even more pronounced because of their increased burden of disease. We do not know how to treat most tropical diseases in pregnant women, but that does not mean they are not getting sick and dying. I support careful testing of all people with no qualifications. Malaria, however, leads to a mortality rate of 50% in pregnant women in their 3rd trimester, according to White et al, and we do not know how to treat it. There is no easy answer. Clinical trials are difficult as it is, let alone one in pregnant women or in a third world country.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Big Deal: Manufacturing a State of Normative Discontent

The 'what's the big deal?' chorus started up again last week after Feminist Gamers, Feministe, and Shakesville posted articles critiquing a new game for PSN called Fat Princess. As usual, women commenting on our society's constant shaming and objectification of women's bodies cued the refrains of 'it's just a joke' and 'don't you have better things to worry about,' and 'shut up, you ugly beepity-beep-beep.' The authors of the Fat Princess critiques might have been annoyed, but none were surprised - every time it is suggested that a movie, commercial, or magazine is objectifying or belittling women, there tends to be a vicious backlash. People's comments often equate to 'its our right to objectify and belittle women,' or concern-troll style 'these images help women to avoid being icky.' Yet, by far the most common sentiment boils down to 'why does this matter?'

The answer, in short, is that body-shaming and media representations of unrealistic beauty ideals create a toxic environment for girls- and constant exposure to such images have long-lasting impacts on women's psychological and physical well-being.

I'm not alone in this assertion. According to research conducted by Hayley K. Dohnt and Marika Tiggemann:
It was found that by 6 years of age, a large number of girls desired a thinner ideal figure... Watching music television shows and reading appearance-focused magazines predicted dieting awareness. In particular, girls who looked at magazines aimed at adult women had greater dissatisfaction with their appearance. Thus, the present study highlights that girls aged 5–8 years of age are already living in an appearance culture in which both peers and the media influence body image and dieting awareness.
So, through exposure to media, our children are inundated with appearance-focused presentations of women, and the more exposure kids have to this appearance culture, the more likely they are to be dissatisfied with their own appearance. As Dohnt and Tiggemann point out:
...comprehensive literature reviews have implicated this preadolescent body dissatisfaction as a risk factor for subsequent lower self-esteem, decreased psychological well-being, increased eating disorder symptomatology, dieting behaviours, obesity and depression.
Concern trolls take note: fashion magazines, TV programs, and video games that objectify women don't 'help girls by encouraging them to diet' - they put kids at risk of eating disorders and depression. And since "...studies of women and adolescent girls have reported positive relationships between television viewing and magazine exposure with weight concerns and eating disorder symptomatology," media matters.

While this particular research focused on how young girls are impacted by media depictions of women, it isn't just our children who are at risk. Dohnt and Tiggemann are quick to point out that "...the desire for thinness is so prevalent among women that it has been identified as a ‘normative discontent.’" Normative discontent - we have created a culture in which so many women suffer from self-hate, that discontent with our appearance is considered normal.

So, what can we do? We can try to protect our kids from toxic media by thinking critically about the TV they watch, the magazines they read, and the games they play. We can try to protect ourselves by avoiding those things we know to be toxic. Since peer influences have also been shown to highly impact girls' body-awareness, we can also help by not belying any self-hate we might feel while in the presence of young women. We can refrain from being too critical of our own figures or other women's. And we can continue to call-out irresponsible media, even if it means braving some insults. Hopefully, raising awareness, acknowledging that sexism is dangerous, and holding companies accountable will encourage a change - the type of change that will make our society a happier place for women.

Thanks, Holly, Mighty Ponygirl, and Liss for not being cowed into silence.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Link-Lovin': The Good Stuff

Here are some things I really do mean to write about today, but... it is a really pretty Sunday afternoon here and one of the French restaurants around the corner has a chalk-board out front advertising gingersnap and honey-lavender ice cream. So, I'm making no posting promises. On the off chance ice-cream eating ends up turning into a day-long excursion, here are some 'don't miss' items I found last week:

Racialicious discusses racial ambiguity in a piece called 'Not Quite White,' and Lots of Thinking responds in 'The One-Drop Rule and I'.

Even during a week when we've seen some stereotypes about 'girl brains vs boy brains' refuted, the TimesOnline insists on spouting gender-essentialism in 'Don't teach boys to be like girls'. Ugh.

Sociological Images notes the prevalence of the use of the word woman as an insult.

Don't Ya Wish Your Girlfriend Was Smart Like Me talks about sports, sexuality, and gender.

Hillary Clinton writes an Op-ed for RH Reality Check on Bush and birth control, which is a nice compliment to NewsCat's post.

A reader of Feminist Underground has long been asking for a post on feminist porn, but I've been stalling - mainly because my mom reads this site. So, I can now happily point interested readers to a definitive piece on this subject up at Feministe.

If she's interested, Maus might be able to answer a few more questions about rape kits, and how they are processed...

An AlterNet piece discusses McCain and women

How Many More Workers Will We Let Die in the Fields this Summer?

The Hathor Legacy tells why film schools advise students to write scripts that fail the Bechdel Test (sometimes called the Mo Movie Measure)

UPDATE (I've found more...):

Feminist Chemists looks at the problems with anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommer's arguments against applying Title IX to academic sciences.

Beijing Olympics organizers have set up a gender determination lab to test female athletes suspected to be males???

Woman Lawyers reverses some of the rules about professionalism
to show how gendered they are.

Oh, You're a FEMINIST?! writes about beauty and privilege

Feminocracy covers the story of a woman who was told that she couldn't wear her hijab if she wanted to keep her job.

Finally, Womanist Musings gives many more links to lots of good reads.

Feel free to discuss - or to leave other 'don't miss' links - in the comments!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Good Feminist Characters?

Well, I've asked Feminocracy readers, and no one seems to have any ideas yet - so I'm bringing my questions to you:
I'm in the process of writing a children's novel. Of course, I want a strong female protagonist with whom the kids will want to identify, but... the story is based on legends from the 8th century - not the most liberated time for women in most parts of the world. Naturally, I'm fictionalizing the world a bit to get around the 'she couldn't have done that!' moments - but I'm feeling conflicted about how to balance creating a world that feels real, and creating a character with whom modern children can easily identify. Oh, and the story spans three continents, so she's going to have to be kick-ass in several different cultures. I need advice - do I point out the challenges that faced women at the time? I don't want the character to be cool 'even though' she's a girl - I just want her to be an interesting character who is female. Dose anyone have any recommendations of children's books that do this well? Anyone care to recommend some favorite childhood characters from books or films? Can anyone recommend some children's fiction that did a good job of presenting diverse cultures to readers without falling into the trap of reveling in the 'exotic'?
Seriously... there have to be some good female characters that inspired us as kids... Who did you love growing up? What characters made you think, 'yeah - people like me do fascinating things'?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Viagra helps me get my rocks off

A great article came out in JAMA this week: Sildenafil Treatment of Women with Antidepressant-Associated Sexual Dysfunction by a group in New Mexico (with 3/6 female authors!). Although it is not the magic solution that men have, it seems that Viagra (Sildenafil) is successful in increasing orgasms in women on anti-depressants. That is no small feat. Anti-depressants are notorious for decreasing libido and orgasmic potential. These reasons are, in fact, a major cause of medication non-compliance. The inability to have pleasing sex is deleterious to a marriage in which one partner is already battling with depression. According to the authors:
Antidepressant treatment–associated sexual dysfunction is estimated to occur in 30% to 70% of men and women treated for major depression with first- or second-generation agents, a principal reason for a 3-fold increased risk of nonadherence that approaches 70% in the first months of treatment and leads to increased relapse, recurrence, disability, and resource utilization by affected patients.
The Definition:
  • decreased sexual interest, genital sensitivity, and vaginal lubrication; delayed or absent orgasm; dyspareunia; reduced sexual activity; and overall dissatisfaction or loss of pleasure in sexual relations.
The Study:
  • 8-week prospective, parallel-group, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial (Sounds like a well designed trial...)
  • 7 US research centers (Lowers bias from one population group...)
  • 98 previously sexually functioning, premenopausal women with remitted major depression on SSRIs (the most common type of anti-depressant) who were experiencing sexual dysfunction (It's a small study, but a start)
The Conclusions:
  • Viagra + SSRI = :)

Update: Check out this week's Savage Love! He talks about this same study. Warning: link not safe for work.

All birth control is now an “abortion?”

I’ll admit that in the beginning even I was a bit skeptical about the idea that the anti-abortion was going to have any chance of success in taking away women’s birth control. Sure they’d make some noise and make a lot of people nervous, but it wouldn’t really *happen.*

But the evidence is starting to pile up that they might have some success in, if not completely outlawing contraception, they can make it a lot more difficult to get.

The New York Times has a story about a leaked proposal that Health and Human Services (HHS) was circulating that would redefine all hormonal contraception as an “abortion.” Cristina Page writes about it here and here.

Now the reason why HHS would take this route is that by redefining contraception as “abortion” it gets around the Weldon and Church amendments, two laws that prohibit any agency receiving federal money from being required to offer abortion services. So if birth control becomes the same as abortion, there are a lot of ways this will have an effect on women’s ability to get contraception.

One of the main effects is that in 27 states there are laws requiring any employer that cover s prescription drugs to also cover contraception (because it’s not an “elective,” its not a cosmetic. It’s a regular part of health care for women and hence, if you cover diabetes medication employers should also be forced to cover birth control.) HHS’s proposed redefinition would then wipe out the state laws.

It would also immediate overcome any state rules about requiring pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, or requiring hospitals to offer it to rape victims.

Now here’s the thing about the so-called “right” for pharmacists to refuse to dispense medication, Susan Paynter in the Seattle PI has a lot of good examples of what happens when you allow pharmacists to suddenly make snap judgments about their customers.

And, at a pharmacy in Seattle, a woman's prescription for a cervix-dilating medication was refused by a pharmacist who suspected she was on her way to have an abortion. Not that it ought to matter, but the woman's physician prescribed the drug because she was about to have surgery for uterine fibroids.

And, in Yakima, a pharmacist refused to dispense syringes to a diabetic, assuming he was an IV drug user. And there are more infuriating scenarios, says Nancy Sapiro of the Northwest Women's Law Center.

I don’t understand why moralists who think that requiring pharmacists to dispense birth control – even if they don’t like their customers – is any different than refusing to sell condoms (or disposable syringes) to “certain people” because, well you just don’t like them. Pharmacists are regulated by their own boards (and many state and federal laws) that say you don’t get to pass judgment on your customers.

Meaning you are not allowed to discriminate against people because of their gender, skin color or religion. What if some atheist pharmacist refused to dispense heart medication to the local pastor because he/she didn’t like their sermons and wanted him to get sick and die. Isn't that part of the atheist's religious freedom? Can’t the local pastor just go SOMEWHERE ELSE to get his necessary medication? Wouldn’t that be infringing on the atheist pharmacist right to not sell to only people whose lives he approves of? Oh wait that's a ridiculous example you say? But is it?

Deborah Kotz has more.

FYI -- I'm thrilled habladora has asked me to contribute to Feminist Underground.

--cross-posted at NewsCat

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm a math whiz and so are you!

We're equals! Finally, a study has shown that women are just as proficient in math as their male counterparts. The paper was published in Science magazine: 'Gender Similarities Characterize Math Performance' by Janet S. Hyde, Sara M. Lindberg, Marcia C. Linn, Amy B. Ellis, Caroline C. Williams. Here's the link for those with access to Science Mag. I want to point out that all of the authors are women! I must say I have never seen a paper in a top tier journal by all women. This is an exciting day indeed. Their conclusions:
Our analysis shows that, for grades 2 to 11, the general population no
longer shows a gender difference in math skills, consistent with the gender similarities hypothesis.

My Mom Can Kick Your Mom's Butt (In less competitive terms...Way to Go Mom!)

I come from a family that generally does not like to toot its own horn. Well, I am going to break the tradition here and submit a wee post of congratulations to my mom. She would never agree to an interview for this so it will have to suffice for me to say, “Look at what my mom can do!”

Over the past two days, my eighty-two year old mother was competing in the Tennessee Senior Olympics – Swimming. That’s right; my eighty-two year old mother still swims competitively. She came away from her four events with four wins and four new state records (one of them in the long distance 500 freestyle where she shattered the record by almost seven minutes).

The photo I included of my mom swimming was taken this past November during a trip to Belize. I can barely manage butterfly these days and there is my mom showing me up.

I know she doesn’t think it's any big deal. It's just what a person does. She may have aches and pains, but everyone else does, too. So what does she do? She wakes up every morning grateful to have another morning and she does so without my dad who passed away almost four years ago. She goes to the pool, she gardens, she mows, and she shuttles around the grandkids.

I feel certain I never tell her this enough so to make amends I am going to tell the blogging world. Mom, I am so very proud of you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kindergarten Won't Admit Apache Boy with Braids

Gender-policing is known to hurt kids' psyches and feet. Now, a Texas school is proving that gender-policing can also perfectly complement racism and xenophobia to ensure that children's educations are damaged as well:

When Adriel Arocha, 5, was born, his father, Kenney, vowed to teach him his heritage.

"We feel that it's important to raise him as Native American until he's able to make a choice," said Kenny.

And part of that heritage meant he would not to cut his son's hair, believing hair holds spiritual meaning...

All that was fine until Adriel's parents planned to enroll the five-year-old at Needville Elementary School. Despite promising to keep his hair neatly braided, the district refused to accept him.

A quick glance at Needville Elementary School's dress code makes it clear what this is really about:

1. Hair shall be clean, well groomed, and out of the eyes. No hair shall cover any part of the ear or touch the top of the standard collar in the back. Hair shall not be excessively full (not to exceed two inches in fullness).
2. Designs are not permitted in the hair.
3. One straight line for parting purposes in permitted.
4. Sideburns shall be neatly trimmed and be no longer than the middle of the ear lobe.
5. Extreme hairdos of any nature that would be disruptive shall be in violation of the dress code.
6. Not tufts or tails are permitted.
7. Hair when combed forward cannot be in the boys’ eyes.

It is obvious from looking at the schools' photos that the 'no long hair' rule only applies to boys - so we can safely translate rule 1 to mean 'no girly-boys allowed.' Then there is the 'no non-white hairstyles allowed' series of rules: no full hair styles, no designs, no 'extreme hairdos'...

This all seems to add up to the no 'political' hairstyles rule - aka no hairstyles that suggest that you're OK with being different from us.

(h/t: Shameless)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dangerous Ideas

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Apparently, The Feminist Underground is considered PG-13 due to the presence of the following words:
  • sex (4x)
  • rape (3x)
  • death (2x)
  • dangerous (1x)
On seeing this rating, my first thought was that it seems fair enough... if a kid younger than 13-years-old were going to read this blog, her parents might want to discuss some of the ideas found here with her.

Then, I read the explanation of why Kittywampus received an NC-17 rating:
Supposedly I got the NC-17 "based on the presence of the following words":

* sex (7x)
* death (4x)
* shit (2x)
* abortion (1x)
Whoa... 'abortion' gets you an NC-17? We've got a real problem if we're more worried that kids might learn about abortion than we are about them reading about rape. I assumed that 'rape' might trigger a stricter rating because discussions of violence are scary and might disturb kids -hell, they disturb me.

Let's run the test again, now that we've put the word abortion on the front page, and see what we get...

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
  • rape (6x)
  • abortion (4x)
  • gun (1x)
Wait... gun? I didn't add the word gun! If anyone wants a fun side-project, I'd love to know how this program rates the NRA site...

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Strong Woman's Voice for the Pending Change

I will freely admit that I am not always up to date on all the players on the current political stage. So, while scanning the news today (which I am behind on yet again) I came across the name Susan Rice. She is currently serving as Obama's foreign policy adviser. However, she has clearly been making a name for herself long before I belatedly stumbled across it.

There is a concise article in Spiegel Online with Susan Rice concerning Obama's upcoming visit to Europe. Most rational people realize that the past almost eight years have almost decimated our relations with European countries. While I can admit that perhaps his visit is indeed somewhat PR related since he is not yet President, at the very least he is trying. I respect that. And I respect Susan Rice in her effort as one of his advisers.

I think this is my favorite portion of the interview:

SPIEGEL: The reception for Obama in Europe will be very warm. But too much European enthusiasm could backfire in an US election campaign.

Rice: Americans understand that our security is enhanced when the United States is trusted and respected in the world. Unfortunately, our standing in the world has diminished in the last several years. This has hampered our ability to work cooperatively to confront global challenges. Americans are hungry for change both at home and in our relations with the rest of the world. Barack Obama represents a dramatic departure from the policies of the last eight years. There is no downside to Americans seeing the promise of change manifest both domestically and internationally.
(image via Citizen Jane Politics, where you can read more about Dr. Susan Rice)

Ill Doctrine: How to Tell People They Sound Racist

Of course, Ill Doctrine's method works best for those who have already read Alas, a blog's How Not to Be Insane when Accused of Racism.

(h/t Kandee)

UPDATE: Excellent commentary on this can be found at Jump off the Bridge.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Our Elderly and Increasingly Scary Supreme Court

Politics has broken my heart too many times in the last decade to consider Obama a sure thing. But what do we have to consider in the case that he doesn't win? Having Congress and the White House would be great for future of progressive liberalism, but what about the Supreme Court, too?

The Washington Post today has an article on the hopes and dreams of Democrats to fill the Supreme Court with more liberal appointees, "Some Legal Activists Have Hearts Set on 'True Liberal'". It's true that if McCain wins [shudder], the court will be firmly in the 5/9 conservative territory. Additionally, Democrats on the court tend to be older and one could assume that they will consequently retire sooner, leaving more spots for conservatives to potentially fill.

Below is a chart comparing age (at the start of the next president's first term) and overall conservative voting record (from Rational Judicial Behavior: A Statistical Study). Albeit not a perfect correlation, it appears that the younger the Justice, the more conservatively they vote. The implication is that they will also have a longer future period of influence.

Moreover, this court currently holds 4/5 of the most conservative justices since 1937, according to Rational Judicial Behavior: A Statistical Study, a very thorough study by Landes and Posner, both of the University of Chicago Law School. Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the same institution said:
It is a court with no true liberal on it, the most conservative court in 75 years. What we call liberals on this court are moderates, or moderate liberals, if you want to get refined about it.
From the Landes and Posner study Clarence Thomas ranks as the most conservative justice since 1937, while the first African American to serve, Thurgood Marshall, was ranked the most liberal. Using the Landes and Posner study, one can also analyze civil liberties voting records, again presented as fraction of conservative votes. Not surprisingly, Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter are the only ones who vote liberally >50% of the time. Kennedy, the "independent", votes conservatively on civil liberty issues >70% of the time.

For those of you that only get your news from USA Today, I have also presented this same information in Bill O'Reilly info-graphic form.

Some Democrats are formulating a Supreme Court dream team already. Hillary's name was suggested in a op-ed in the Washington Post back in May by James Andrew Miller. He wrote:
Obama could also trust that Clinton would maintain her image as a fighter after arriving at the court. Her tenacity has never been more apparent. President Obama would engender praise (at least from Democrats) at the prospect of Hillary going toe to toe with Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Clinton's gumption and determination might make her one of the most powerful forces ever on the court, particularly when it comes to swaying other justices when the court is closely divided.
As a fervent Hillary supporter, I think that this is a great idea, but I am not sure we can count on Obama for her nomination. From the Washington Post article:

Obama himself has been opaque and even contradictory about his criteria for a justice. He voted against both Roberts and Alito, and has said he sees Ginsburg and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and David H. Souter as the kinds of "sensible" justices he would favor.

Yet, as the court's term ended last month, he praised the court's decision in support of an individual right to gun ownership that struck down the District of Columbia's handgun ban, a decision in which Roberts and Alito were in the majority and liberals dissented.

It comes down to my simple demands:
  1. Elect Obama.
  2. Nominate a true liberal, who is also really young or has the ability to live forever.

Dehumanizing Women for their Sexuality

(h/t Lindsay)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Banana Split

Come morning, I will no longer be a Feministe blogger... I think this calls for a little song:

Joan Tysinger's Wheelchair Diaries

Here is a clip from Joan Tysinger's Wheelchair Diaries, a short documentary in which she chronicles her journeys around the sidewalks and streets of Atlanta, GA:

Joan explains why she decided to make the Wheelchair Diaries this way:
As an artist with a disability, my personal journey towards self-acceptance is ongoing. While many individuals are engaged in this quest, the process of establishing a positive self image is a particular challenge for those of us who are different. I have dealt with physical disability since I was nine months old when I contracted polio. Until recently I studiously avoided focusing my work on any aspect of living with permanent mobility limitations...

In creating Wheelchair Diaries, I have taken on the role of aesthetic activist: my work has begun to open eyes, alter opinions, and hopefully effect change. I am convinced that through this work I have an opportunity to make a difference, and I believe the time is now.

You can read my interview with Joan over at Feministe.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gender Policing Hurts Kids Abbreviated

I've been thinking about NPR's piece "Two Families Grapple with Sons' Gender Preferences," which aired weeks ago, and about how gender-policing hurts all kids. So, I wasn't surprised to stumble across some research published in the journal Sex Roles indicating that parents who over-correct "... gender atypical behavior (GAB) i.e. behavior traditionally considered more typical for children of the opposite sex" put their kids at greater risk of developing adverse adult psychiatric symptoms:
Negative parenting style was associated with psychiatric symptoms. Structural equation modeling showed that parenting style significantly moderated the association between childhood GAB and adult psychiatric symptoms with positive parenting reducing the association and negative parenting sustaining it.
So, it isn't being different that put kids at risk, it's being punished for being different.

I wrote more about this... a lot more... over at Feministe. But for those of you who don't have a leisurely Friday morning, I'll just skip-ahead to the end:

Knowing that gender policing is potentially dangerous for kids, how do we let our children explore their gender identities in their own ways - despite the messages all around them implying that anything but strict adherence to their prescribed gender roles is bad, or even unsafe?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Skeptics' Circle #91 up at Sorting Out Science. There is a lot of good stuff there, so go read. If you read carefully enough, you might even bump into some writers you know...

Oh, and, Mom - Feministing also mentioned my piece on the impacts of objectification in the Weekly Feminist Reader. I just thought maybe you'd like to know...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why the New Yorker Cover isn't Good Satire

Here is how David Remnick, the New Yorker editor who approved the cover illustration of 'scary' Barack and Michelle Obama in the Oval Office, defends the illustration:
“The cover takes a lot of distortions, lies, and misconceptions about the Obamas and puts a mirror up to them to show them for what they are.

“It’s a lot like the spirit of what Stephen Colbert does — by exaggerating and mocking something, he shows its absurdity, and that is what satire is all about,” Mr. Remnick continued.

His explanation fails. It fails because it is impossible to amplify the smears and scare-tactics being used against the Obamas to the point of satire - you simply can't get more outrageous than what the right and the bigots are already saying about them. The image on the New Yorker is right in line with this image (via Pandagon):

You can't joke about race by being more over-the-top racist than the 'actual bigots' when there are still people being violently attacked because of their race. You can't successfully satirize sexism by portraying violence against women. And you can't satirize the hateful rhetoric being used against the Obamas by merely repeating it.

Yet, Remnick still insists that he shouldn't have put the edition's title "Politics of Fear" on the cover, saying "Satire doesn't run with subtitles." Mr. Remnick, with all due respect, when Stephen Colbert - who you hold-up as the example of how good satire is done - does The Word... what do you call that?

BTW... Here is Colbert's response:

Oh - and go read Kandee's thoughts on this cover... I've already told you twice, now - don't make me tell you again...

UPDATE: Oh, and I wrote about a new Massachusetts law that is good news for same-sex couples here, and about Title IX and science here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Olde Time Movie Review

Last night, I rewatched the Steve Martin comedy "The Man with Two Brains". Seeing as the last time I watched it was certainly when I was ten and did not yet have a fully developed sense of self, this time I was able to enjoy it with feminisim in mind. Don't get me wrong, I love this movie, but I was able to see how offensive it could be considered.

****Spoiler alert****

"The Man with Two Brains" is the moral equivalent of the oldies song "If you wanna be happy", which describes the ideal woman as ugly because no attractive woman could be a reasonable spouse and less attractive women are subserviant, which is an ideal trait in a woman.
An ugly woman cooks your meals on time
And she'll always give you peace of mind
Steve Martin is the lecherous Dr. Hfuhruhurr search of a hot, younger woman to be his 'little woman'. He finds an evil gold digger instead, who is played by Kathleen Turner. He puts up with her abuse for months in anticipation of the 'honeymoon' night which is always promised for next Thursday. By accident he falls in love with a brain, who is kind and funny. He goes searching for a hot young body to put her into entertaining the idea of murder instead of using a less attractive already dead woman. He later states that he had to meet her disembodied mind to fall in love with her because he was always distracted by physical beauty. When Dr. Hfuhruhurr finally meets his newly embodied love, he is still happy despite the fact she forgot to mention that she's a "compulsive overeater" and fatted up the hot body that was obtained for her.

Is this movie sweet or sexist?

Monday, July 14, 2008

You Must Read...

1. A fellow Feministe guest-blogger, Marcella Chester, has written a post called Linguistics and Meaning Of "Why Did She Stay", which discusses how we speak and think about domestic violence.

2. The Washington Post has piece about young gay students in U.S. middle and high schools, and the challenges they face.

3. Kandee of Lots of Thinking discusses one thing that many who have written about the now infamous New Yorker cover have missed - what the drawing of Michelle Obama's hair implies.

4. McCain doesn't believe same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children - more here and here.

5. According to one study discussed by MSNBC, "Having a husband creates an extra seven hours of housework each week for women, according to a new study. For men, tying the knot saves an hour of weekly chores." (Thanks, J., for pointing me to it)

6. Pam discusses a travesty:
The U.S. Census Bureau, hiding behind DOMA, will edit the responses given by same-sex couples in California and Massachusetts (as well as any other states that may legalize marriage equality by then).

Even though thousands of couples will have legal civil marriage certificates, they will be reported in statistics that will be relied upon by demographers and agencies as "unmarried partners." Politicizing the census with bad data is unacceptable.

7. Salon's Broadsheet takes down one stupid article blaming equality laws for the problems women face in the workplace.

8. Oh, and my most recent Feministe post can be read here, and is bringing in some interesting comments. (What? You didn't expect me not to mention it, did you?)

Teen Sex or Sex Offense?

From the Atlanta-Journal Constitution:

Wendy Whitaker's name may be on Georgia's sex offender registry, but her offense suggests she is no predator.

At age 17, while a high school sophomore, Whitaker had oral sex with a 15-year-old male classmate. In 1997, she pleaded guilty to sodomy and got five years' probation.

Whitaker, 28, has moved twice because of the sex offender law's restrictions that say an offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of places where children congregate. Whitaker was recently told by a sheriff she must move again because her home is within 1,000 feet of a church.

While I certainly understand the appeal of a law aimed at keeping sex offenders away from children, it seems like we might want to more carefully consider just what type of crimes get a person's name added to a registry that can have such lasting and profound impacts.

Wendy Whitaker is now the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit "that seeks to have [Georgia's] residency restrictions found unconstitutional," yet the state of Georgia does not want to allow her to wait for the federal decision before moving. Whitaker's lawyer, Sarah Geraghty, couldn't help but express some exasperation with the case, commenting:

Wendy Whitaker is not now and has never been a threat to anyone... The state of Georgia has better things to do than to evict a woman from her lawfully purchased home because she had sex as a teenager.

What do other people think about Whitaker's case, and about residency restriction laws in general?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Comment 'o the Week: Cake, Envy, and Obama

This week's winner is Lindsay, who writes, "oh my god tell me there's cake. or at least beer." Lindsay, you are right - there should always be cake and beer. You have won the answer to a question that has long haunted humanity, "Just what is the best kind of cake?" It is Devil's Food Cake. It should be washed-down with an Adventinus, which has a nice banana note that perfectly compliments any chocolate cake.

In the Other Amazing Comments category, I'd like to point to UnFit's response to my question about how people cope with objectification:

And funnily, being bisexual and all: with women who I personally find beautiful or sexy, there is no envy, I just find them attractive and that’s that, and I don’t feel the need to measure myself against them.

It’s women who are *conventionally* beautiful, whom I might not even be atracted to, who give me those “wish I was like her” moments. Which makes it even more nonsensical, because logically wouldn’t I prefer to look like someone *I* find attractive, not Vogue and Cosmo?

UnFit - you are really on to something here. Why is it so easy to envy people with corporately-defined good looks, even if that is not the type of beauty that we personally consider most attractive?

And finally, an honorable mention to Barack Obama, who said this week:

But let's be clear: these issues - equal pay, work/family balance, childcare - these are by no means just women's issues. When a job doesn't offer family leave, that also hurts men who want to help care for a new baby or an ailing parent. When there's no affordable childcare or afterschool programs, that hurts children who wind up in second rate care, or spending afternoons alone in front of the TV. When women still make just 77 cents for every dollar men make - black and Latina women even less - that doesn't just hurt women, it hurts families who find themselves with less income, and have to work even harder just to get by.

So you'd think solving these problems would be one of our highest national priorities. But while some politicians in Washington make a lot of noise about family values, when it comes to what people actually need to support their families, and care for their families, and spend time with their families - they get awfully quiet, don't they? And year after year, it just gets harder for working parents - especially working women - to make a living while raising their kids.

Hat tip to Ann from Feministing and Dana from The American Prospect for reminding me just why I like Obama so much.

Fore! Unless You Are A Woman. Then, No Beer For You!

Here is my latest piece on the inequality that women must face when it comes to sports, even when they are not an actual participant.

How about this:
When the men of the Phoenix Country Club saw their feeding ways in peril, they did not tarry. Some sent nasty e-mail messages, hectored players on the fairway and, for good measure, urinated on a fellow club member’s pecan tree.The targets of their ire were the women, and some men, who have dared to speak up against the club’s policy of forbidding women in the men’s grill room, a center of power dining in Phoenix.

Barbara Van Sittert, one of those women, said her husband, Logan, 73, has been heckled while playing golf and once found his locker defaced.

“They hooted and hollered at him and called his wife a whore,” said Mrs. Van Sittert, 72, a petite, quiet woman with an elegant white bob. “It was not warm and fuzzy.”
Or this:
Women at the club are not permitted to have lunch in the men’s grill room with their husbands after a round of golf; they have been barred from trophy ceremonies after tournaments, even ones they have sponsored, and may not participate in one of the most sacred rituals of the men’s grill room — sealing a deal over a beer with a client.
I read this article and was utterly disgusted. What I did find to instill a wee bit of hope into the situation is this article here encouraging women to get out there and keep playing.

Really, this is the big picture for an individual regardless of gender. Get out there and fight against whatever inequality is holding you back!

Publishing opportunity

The Washington Post magazine has a new opportunity for women to publish short essays about life from the female perspective. It's called XX files. Submit your own at

  • 750 to 900 words
  • must be factual
  • include full name, phone number and e-mail address

Check out this weekend's "Art of the Bluff".

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rape Inquiry Squads

The UK has a good idea, one that is long-overdue. According to a report in the BBC:

Every police force should set up a specialist squad to investigate rape allegations, a senior officer says.

John Yates, who speaks on the issue for the Association of Chief Police Officers, argues such teams would help raise standards of victim care.

They would also help improve conviction rates as rape inquiries are demanding and require specialist skills, he told a London conference on the issue.

Hopefully, this proposed specialist squad will become a universal reality soon. In addition to increasing the level of expertise of the officers who investigate rapes, I believe more survivors might report if they understand that their cases will be taken seriously, and that they will be provided the support of officers who specialize in rape and sexual assault. I have heard too many accounts from survivors that they've been asked victim-blaming questions by officers who come to investigate, and that the experience of reporting was more traumatic that it should be. Hopefully, the British are on the path to changing that.

UPDATE: Also, my third and fourth Feministe posts are up!

(image via)

Feminism through Crafting

My favorite past-time is definitely being domestic--I garden, bake, sew, make jewelry, and make stationary. Although these things are all more traditionally female interests, I view crafting as a form of personal (and therefore female) empowerment. It allows me to make my own items, become less reliant on box chains and others. The ability to create goods allows a women to nurture her own skills and talents and potentially create income. I am actually not alone in connecting craftiness with feminism.

Lisa Jervis, founder of Bitch magazine:
My friends who go out of their way to make their own stuff or purchase from within the DIY community often talk about wanting to support women-owned small businesses. It is a desire, not only to protect the environment and reject corporate capitalism, but to spend money in a community that is explicitly feminist.
In November, a new knitting book by Betsy Greer, Knitting for Good!: A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change Stitch by Stitch, will be available for purchase on Amazon. In fact, my grandmother-in-law spends her free time crafting (knitting and sewing) for charities. She uses her talents to empower herself and improve the world around her, which I think is quite noble.

Even if you are not craft-inclined yourself, supporting small-time crafters allows you to also support local and female business ventures. Check out the sites below for a tiny glimpse of the creativity that's out there:
My favorite shopping site of all time is Etsy, a great place for individual crafters to sell their wares. It's a great [and cheap] way to get handcrafted gifts. I really love the following things:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Salon Industry is Pretty Part II: After Graduation

[Note to readers: On Monday we ran the first of a two-part series by guest-blogger Voodoolady. Today we are excited to present Voodoolady's second post, describing her experience working in the salon industry after graduating from the honors program of her cosmetology school. These are her words...]

I planned on graduating and moving into the real world. I envisioned a creative, hardworking environment - a place where determination and drive would ensure my career. I wanted to learn from professionals and progress. I had the drive and the enthusiasm.

The first cosmetology job after graduation was an assistant (shampooing, cleaning, learning). On my first day of work, my manager looked through my lunch bag and scolded me about my eating habits and weight. I saw a red flag, but I continued - knowing this had no relevance to my position at the salon.

The lunch badgering continued for a week until she exclaimed that I "obviously would not listen" to her. After speaking with the human resources department, I was told that she was the manager and accommodating her would be the best thing to do. I quit during the second week, when I was admonished about my weight in front of the salon, stylists and clients. I did not sign-on for public embarrassment.

My next position was as an assistant for a salon in Buckhead, GA. My boss referred to me as "sweetie" always; looking back I'm not sure if he bothered remembering my name. I was there early and left late. I ran errands and went above-and-beyond - until I walked in on him making-out with a client who, incidentally, was not his wife. I immediately left the room, and he let me go the next day because our 'personalities didn't mesh.' Somehow I doubt that was the real reason.

I saw a fellow student from cosmetology school walking down the street the next day. She explained that the salon industry was "too flakey" for her, and she'd gone back to her previous job in graphic design. She explained that the attention to makeup, hair, and designer dressing was not her career. After expressing her disappointment with the actual salon environment, she left - explaining that the school was unrealistic about the expectations we should have as women.

The third salon job was as a colorist assistant at an upscale salon in West Atlanta. I was let go after responding to a phone message 3 hours 'late' on my day off. The owner explained to me that working in a salon was similar to being a doctor on call, and I had to be there for him even if a call comes on my day off. This was never explained as a condition of the hire during the interview or my training.

Discouraged but still hopeful, I went to my fourth position as a receptionist. I thought maybe taking a step back and observing the industry from a different position would help me adapt to salons. I was enjoying the work and adapted quickly. My boss soon started giving me suggestions for losing weight and 'dressing better.' I was concerned; I did not want my appearance to be a factor again. After three weeks of work, I was called early before work by my boss. He told me there was a water line break and we couldn't reopen until next week. I thought nothing of it until I received a phone call from my boss's boyfriend the following Monday, informing me that I would no longer be needed in the position. The boyfriend also mentioned that the new employee worked out really well last week. So, not only had I been lied to, but the owner didn't have the courage to call me personally.

I began working on clients independently and traveling to them. Without the uncomfortable overhead, cosmetology work is fun again. I still do this work, but it is not my career. I have had to become a cosmetologist with my own agenda.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, Feminist Underground!

That's right - one year ago today, this site popped into being! Happy Blog-Birth Day, everyone! No, we don't want any presents,

so if you're looking for a way to celebrate, simply raise a beer in a toast to feminists everywhere sometime this evening!

How will we be celebrating? We'll be in the pub in just a few minutes, talking about the following:

1. The Anglican Church in Britain has voted "to approve the consecration of women as bishops," and the Vatican is displeased. When we speak of this, Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels will be referenced every third sentence.

2. Did the White House Manipulate Climate Documents?

3. NPR's report on how violence has impacted marriages in Iraq, and how marriage break-downs are disproportionately impacting women, is a must-hear.

4. Womanist Musings has a post up entitled "You're So Controversial" that I'm itching to discuss, and I'm also enthralled with Professor, What If's piece, "What if we gave up the 'top-model' instead of expanding it?"

5. In "Is this news?" news:
A. As it turns out, having gays in the military doesn't weaken the military in any way! (Seems like the Romans could have told us that).
B. Men have biological clocks, too! (Actually, this one will surprise my grandma.)
C. Having kids doesn't necessarily make you happier, and might stress you out!

If you leave comments about any of the above, it will be just like you're right here with us. Oh, and my second post is up over at Feministe! Yeah! (The 'it's my birthday and I'll brag if I want to' UPDATE: Jezebel linked to my second Feministe post today! - Oh, and Skepchick, too! I love Skepchick! And AlterNet and RH Reality Check!)

(photo source)

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Salon Industry Is Pretty Part I: Cosmetology School

[Note to readers: We're excited to have Voodoolady here as a guest-blogger today, and honored that she's decided to post her exposé on the salon industry on The Feminist Underground! These are her words...]

I entered the cosmetology world due to an interest in working with the public and being creative. Short hair, long hair, blue hair, black hair: I love the change, and I wanted to help others have that experience. Was I naive? Yes. I believed that hard work and study at a top school would provide me with the skills I needed for a career.

There were no warnings that this would not be the case as I entered cosmetology school. I was impressed by the faculty and the environment. Without hesitation, I made my plans to begin school and got my application and financial assistance completed. I could not wait to begin!

I soon found out that there was an all-black dress code, with dress shoes (no sneakers) required. On the first day of school, I was reprimanded for not having "complete" makeup. I'd worn some concealer, powder, and blush, but I was informed that I must wear foundation, mascara, full eye makeup, and style my hair as if I were 'going out on the town.' I thought this was sexist, but I decided to comply the next day. I wondered if some vanity simply came with this career.

The first week was terrifying. I was 10-12 years older than the majority of the students, and that old high school awkwardness returned. I didn't speak much during the first week of school, but I eventually adapted (in a way). During my entire cosmetology school experience, I was reprimanded constantly for my makeup, hair, and comfortable shoes. I noticed that the male students got away with wearing blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a hat to cover bed-head. Yet, whenever this dress code discrepancy between genders was discussed, the staff promised to enforce the same standards. It never happened.

I studied hard and made excellent progress. The top echelon of education was the honor's program, my goal. Joining every club and charity event, working hard, making clients happy, and becoming Student President gave me a feeling of belonging and confidence. I made excellent grades and finished my credits months before finishing my required hours.

Shortly after entering the honor's program, the director of the honor's students told me in private that I would have a much harder time finding work than the younger, slimmer, 'more attractive' students. I was shocked and angry. When I discussed this with other teachers, and they assured me that he was just "picking on me." Yet, he went on to make derogatory comments towards me in front of other students and, more importantly, clients during the duration of my education. I kept my head up, however, and my sights focused.

[Watch for Part II: After Graduation later this week...]

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Feministe, Here I Come!

I've been trying to play it cool, but I can't take it anymore... I'm guest-blogging for the next two weeks at Feministe, ya'll! Yeah, that's right, THE Feministe! Wooo-hooo!!! I'm both honored and nervous, so I'm asking for help with ideas... what would should I write about?

If anyone happens to follow me home and wants to know what I've been blogging about since starting The Feminist Underground almost a year ago, here are five older posts on topics I'm still itching to discuss:
From whence came wench, and other slanderous slurs?
Are Single-Sex Schools Good for Girls?
Privilege and Feminism: Do Allies Exist?
Feminism is for Lovers, but Sexism Sells Papers
An Either/Or Decision: Keeping Women Out of Competitive Careers
Conversely, here five of my more popular posts:
Iron Man Review - Spoilers, Spoilers, Spoilers
Movie Review: Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited
Movie Review: Persepolis
NBC's The Office: Satire, Feminism, and... Sexist Stereotypes?
The Lone Feminist at Girls' Night
And from my co-bloggers, I particularly love this post from Maus on Roller Derby, and this one from Le Loup-Garou on a spectacularly heinous reality TV show.

I won't be shy about letting readers know when I put up my first post (and all subsequent posts as well), but in the meantime go read Feministe - it is uniformly fabulous.

UPDATE: OK, here goes... my first post is up at Feministe!