Friday, January 30, 2009

Voilà! Modern Medicine Shows Off

Okay...I am sneaking this post in at work in between DNA extractions and a pile of post-move paperwork because I am simply dying to know. What are some of the opinions floating around out there about the octuplets?

Outrage? (Scientifically speaking) Joy? (The miracle of birth) Astonishment? (What was wrong with six) None of society's damn business? (This one speaks for itself).

I had originally had this as a comment, but I figured I'd move it to my original post...maybe this will get me out of trouble with LaPH. I was cleverly trying to instigate dialog. But she was right, I was cheating a bit as well. :)

The simple answer is I find this to be scientifically irresponsible.

I'm not well versed in IVF. A quote from Wikipedia states, "Embryos are graded by the embryologist based on the number of cells, evenness of growth and degree of fragmentation. The number to be transferred depends on the number available, the age of the woman and other health and diagnostic factors. In countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand, a maximum of two embryos are transferred except in unusual circumstances. In the UK and according to HFEA regulations, a woman over 40 may have up to three embryos transferred, whereas in the USA, younger women may have many embryos transferred based on individual fertility diagnosis. Most clinics and country regulatory bodies seek to minimize the risk of pregnancies carrying multiples."

Going off that alone I have two thoughts. (1) The UK, Australia, New Zealand limits make sense to me. Considering the incidence of premature birth that comes from multiples along with the medical issues a two/maybe three egg limit that mimics what tends to occur naturally seems acceptable. (2) Who in the US thought eight was a brilliant idea? I mean either they all fail or only a couple remain viable or all of them remain viable and then you have just stepped into the termination debate.

But hey, at least it wasn't stem cell research.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coming Up for Air

Some notes on the new job. Basically, I really like it. Yet, I couldn't help but notice:

1. The expectations of dress are dramatically different for men and women. Male professors often teach their classes in jeans, female in full suits or skirts and heels. I haven't yet figured out how much of this is due to the personalities of the professors and staff, and how much is due to different expectations for men and women.

2. There is no way I could put in the hours expected of me if I had children. No way. There is no on-campus daycare to help working parents out either. Very few of the professors or staff in our department have children, and only one of the women.

While the dress code discrepancy is more of an annoyance than a real complaint, I can't help but think that many women might be kept out of jobs like mine because of the long and unpredictable hours and the lack of good child care options. Which leads me to the conclusion that we'll never really put those 10,000 cracks in the glass ceiling without guaranteeing more support for working parents.

Hot Chicks (manipulate the oppresive constraints of gender)

I love hot women as much as the next person, but what is up with this Chickipedia website?!

According to its About page, this website is "the first female-only encyclopedia of the people, by the people, and for the people," whatever the heck that means. While I think it's great to have a space to celebrate women's achievements and have no problem admiring their hotness at the same time, this is somehow not what I had in mind.

Let's start with the focus on women's measurements, which they've got right there on top, along with an outline of what those measurements roughly look like. It's also what comes up when you search for somebody... which I find rather strange because I don't see how knowing measurements will help you find who you're looking for, but whatever. It's also owned by Break Media which is apparently "the Internet’s premier entertainment community for men." Um-kay.

Then we move to the gray area... The list of assets includes the standard perky breasts, long legs, nice ass. But it also includes some really awesome stuff like "black belt in Tae Kwan Do" (apparently, Evan Rachel Wood kicks ass) and "ability to manipulate the oppressive constraints of gender" (Hilary Swank kicks ass in a completely different way).

Also, the information on the pages I checked out actually seem to not be gross or terribly degrading! I expected to find disgusting sexual innuendos or more vulgarity and grossness, but it seems to actually just have normal information. They have bio info, lists of what the women have been in and who they've worked with, and even give props where it's due.

They also include women who I suppose would not conventionally make hot lists, like Jeanne Tripplehorn, Amy Holmes and Rachel Maddow. (Ok, anybody who wouldn't put Rachel Maddow on their "hot" list is freaking crazy, but I think you know what I'm trying to say here.)

Maybe these unexpected pluses (if one can call them that) is what confused the crap out of me. If it'd been as sleazy as I expected, I would've just kept it moving like I usually do when I find sites like these. But these people seem confused about what exactly they're going for here...

I realize I shouldn't have expected much, but I'd never heard of this site and was intrigued. But I guess I can go ahead and file this under "what else is new?"

(Cross-posted at Jump off the Bridge.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blog for Choice 2009

I'm breaking the silence here for Blog for Choice Day!

The theme is "What is your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress?"

I'll keep this really simple -- My hope is that everything is done to ensure that Roe v. Wade is not overturned. I want Obama to select Supreme Court Justices that will actually take women's rights, especially women's choice, seriously.

It is the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. More than three decades have passed and yet we are still having this conflict, why?! It doesn't get much simpler than it is a woman's choice. Period. The end.

I have gone back and forth in the past about what will happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned. It was my Women's Studies Senior Thesis for goodness sake! But I'm tired of making my brain go there. Overturning Roe v. Wade just shouldn't be an option. With news of underground abortions going on (honestly, I couldn't write about the Dominican women and Cytotec b/c it was just too close to home), I really don't have the mental energy to listen to reasons why a conscience rule is necessary.

So that's my hope-- plain and simple. What's yours?

(Cross-posted at Jump off the Bridge.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Silly-Happy Bye-Bye Bush Celebration

This just because I'm feeling happy about saying goodbye to President Bush tomorrow:

I hope you're all celebrating in your own ways!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

MLK Day of Service

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday for those of us living in the U.S. of A., and many of us will have the day off. We're not supposed to just sit around and watch Bewitched reruns though, MLK Day is a national day of service. That's right, as

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Clinton's State Department Will Champion Women

If you are a regular reader of news, you probably read all about Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearing yesterday. You may have heard that it went swimmingly, or that there were questions about conflict of interest, or that a lot of it was about policy with countries like Iran. What seems to be getting left out of these stories is a lovely exchange between Clinton and Senator Barbara Boxer.

Boxer made it plain that she wanted to hear what the State Department is going to do about the international rights of women. Clinton was right there with her, promising a strong Women's Office and Office of Human Trafficking if confirmed. I didn't know there was such a thing. But here's the Women's Office and here's the Office of Human Trafficking. Boxer referenced a series of articles by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. Kristof's columns are here (his recent articles are from January 1, 4, and 11; November 27 and 30; September 25; and August 31). In fact you can see that this isn't a new issue for him. There's a set of articles from 2004 on slavery and human trafficking as well. Who said women were the only ones who should be talking about women's rights?

I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised this story isn't getting a bit more play. The only example I've found? Rachel Maddow!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Quick Hit: Loving the Fame!

For those looking for some interesting feminist blogs to read, here's a "top 100" list that managed to introduce me to some new sites. Take a look and, yes, you'll see us included in the excellent company. Yeah!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Amusements

If you get as bored with the internet on Sunday as I do, here's a couple little things to peruse until everything gets going again tomorrow morning.

I don't know if you're as sick of whiny relationship memoirs as I am, but even I couldn't stop reading this one posted on Salon. Something about it just brought the whole thing to a new low. The very simple story? Freelance writer of upper-middle-class background wants to marry a guy who will put food on the table but instead marries a wonderful but unambitious guy with no money who gets fired from his job. Girl's response? I should divorce him. It's amazing that she treats her eventual decision to stay with him and get an actual paying job as some huge sign of growth. I had to check my calendar to make sure we are in the 21st century. This isn't a pro-feminist link. It's more of a so-horrific-you-can't-look-away-car-accident kind of thing.

As for something more peppy and woman-friendly, Slate is considering how one woman may change fashion. President-elect Obama's pick for his new Solicitor General is Harvard Law dean Elena Kagan. (The Solicitor General is the federal government's representative before the Supreme Court.) She's the first woman appointed to hold the position, which puts her in a bit of a quandary. The traditional garb worn by the solicitor general when before the high Court includes a morning coat, vest, and striped pants, basically resembling the outfit at right. Women present in various roles at the Court have worn this outfit before, but Dahlia Lithwick thinks the whole thing should be thrown out and I must agree. It's bad enough we have only one woman on the Court right now, but an outdated tradition that favors men and makes women look ridiculous is inappropriate.

As for me, I'm more interested in whether Kagan will be doing her own arguing. Usually the Solicitor General argues the government's position in all cases before the Court, though deputies may also perform the arguments. Kagan's background is mostly in administrative law, which is perfect for someone in this position. But I haven't seen any evidence of appellate work in her history and it's not just something any lawyer can step in and do. Especially in the biggest court in the country. After her administrative role at Harvard, I'm curious to see if she sticks to an administrative role or decides to step up herself. Either way, I'm happy to see such an impressive woman in such an impressive position. (There are already whisperings of her filling an empty Court seat someday.)

And last but not least, I heard there was a Rachel Maddow bit on SNL last night so I hopped over to hulu to take a look. I admit I wasn't a faithful viewer for a while there after the election, but I have hopped back on and I really enjoy her program. I was glad to see that it wasn't a Keith-Olbermann-style-pounding, such as the one Ben Affleck gave a few months ago. But I was kind of surprised to see that there didn't even seem to be much of an impersonation beyond a wig and a suit jacket. What about all her cute little mannerisms? The way she does funny little voices? The nerdy humor? Did you see when she wore the cavers helmet last week? I thought it was a lost opportunity. And the lesbian jokes there at the end fell very very flat. For now I'll withhold my judgment on SNL newbie Abby Elliott who played Maddow, though I was surprised it was her after I'd just read that other newbie Michaela Watkins was interested in giving Maddow a try.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Your 2008 Feminist Reading List

I am a complete bookworm, and I'm at my most annoying at the end of the year when I like to compile lists of my favorite books and bug people to read them. While I was putting my 2008 list together, I thought I'd keep an eye out for any good books for feminists and those who love them, and was surprised by my results. There was only one book you'd find in your regular fiction section that I can unequivocally recommend. But I did hit the jackpot in a completely different area.

I was the kind of kid who always wanted to be an adult. I went through a fruitful reading period from about 5th to 8th grade where I read all those really great classics. There were no shortage of strong, smart, and interesting female characters. Little House on the Prairie, A Wrinkle in Time, Julie of the Wolves, Jacob Have I Loved, Bridge to Terabithia, I Capture the Castle, I could go on and on. But then I started reading adult books and it took me a long time to realize that there weren't anywhere near as many strong, smart and interesting women in them.

So, I present to you, 3 Young Adult books I read this year that I would have died for at 13. I know that these days people think of YA and think of mushy drivel and rich-girl melodrama, but there is so much more out there and it's just as good as it ever was no matter how old you are. Plus, not only are all three about strong girls, but they're all written by women.

  • Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. This is the only book on this list not published in '08 (actually '06) but I didn't find it until recently. I have always loved crazy post-apocalyptic stuff, but this book is actually the apocalyptic part where you have no clue what's going to happen. Pfeffer's heroine writes about the ever-increasing calamities in her diary, a device that rarely works but really does here. Miranda's relationships with her family and friends go through a lot of strain as she finds the things that used to matter don't anymore.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. If you do keep up with YA, I have little doubt you've already heard of this one since it's taking the place by storm. The premise sounds insane, a futuristic society with an annual battle where teenagers have to fight to the death, but you'll be surprised just how personal and compassionate of a book it is. It also has a nice edge of satire and a plot that's full of surprises. Our heroine, Katniss, is nothing if not savvy, but she's also both tough and tender. Allegedly there will be books to follow and I'm very excited.
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. This is the only book of the bunch that is set in the plain-old present. At first glance it appears to be your average boarding-school novel complete with crushes, pranks, and secret societies, but it turns out to be a study in budding feminism. Our lovely young Frankie, who finds herself suddenly attractive after the summer break, has to think long and hard about what it means to be a girl and what you should really look for in a boy. I really love the way Lockhart already knows what kind of person her heroines will end up being and is going to show you how they'll eventually get there even if you don't see the final product.

So, there you have it, and I'm sure there's a whole bunch more that I've missed. As for my one regular fiction recommendation, it is The Age of Shiva by Manil Suri, a beautifully written book set in India that follows one woman's life that really rings true (even though it's written by a man). What I love about it is that you can see the difference between reacting to patriarchy and breaking free from it.

What are some great books you've read this year?

Monday, January 5, 2009

An Existential Dilemma

Today was supposed to be the day when everything returned to normal here at The Feminist Underground - we're back from travel and our visiting friends have all returned to their homes; but... I've accepted a job! No, not with these doods. Instead I'm teaching at a local college, and doing some T.A. training and supervising too.

Great news for my bank account, but I'm feeling a little melancholy. I mean... is there blogging after one's accepted a full-time job? How will I even get through all my feeds?

So, fellow bloggers with full-time jobs, I put the question to you - how do you find time to produce quality posts after hours? Is it better to cut back the number of posts or to publish shorter posts daily? Are you sneaking posts at the office or staying up late? Seriously, I've been either working from home or part-time since we started, so I'm new to the world of Bloggers With Rush Hour Commutes.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Inadequate Protection for Working Mothers?

Note to readers: Today we are honored to have as a guest-blogger Jake Aryeh Marcus, a public interest lawyer who works to defend the rights of those who face discrimination due to their gender or sexual orientation. She is the founder and director of Survivors as Mothers, a non-profit advocacy group for mothers who were themselves abused as children, and writes for Mothering magazine. These are her words:

This past year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), but there may be little reason to party. Pregnancy discrimination claims are dramatically increasing – by 65% between 1992 and 2007, according to a report by the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF),1 despite the number of women in the work force having increased only slightly during the same period. While increased filing of claims does not necessarily represent an increase in discrimination incidents, the NPWF report highlights significant flaws in the official gathering of data on pregnancy-related discrimination.

Passed by Congress in 1978, the PDA amended the definition of “sex discrimination” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include a prohibition against workplace discrimination "on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions." The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 5,587 charges of pregnancy-based discrimination and recovered thirty million dollars in damages for claimants in 2007 alone.2 However, this could represent only a fraction of actual pregnancy-related discrimination as PDA complaints must be filled with the EEOC within 180 days of the discrimination and EEOC statistics do not include claims filed only under state employment discrimination laws.

The NPWF report discloses another disturbing trend: PDA claims by women of color have increased at a higher rate than for white women - 76% between 1996 and 2005 with particularly large increases among Hispanic women (103%) and American Indian/Alaska Native women (109%). Unfortunately there was also a 72% increase in claims for which “other” was designated as the race or ethnicity of the claimant, leaving a large number of claims for which this information is simply unknown. Other factors may have increased claims such as the opening in 2001 of the first EEOC office in Puerto Rico which obviously contributed to the 300% jump in PDA claims there in 2005.

The NPWF suggests changes in the EEOC complaint process to enhance the quality of the data collected by the EEOC and a nationwide enforcement effort employing federal and state resources to decrease pregnancy discrimination. Whether the increase in claims accurately represents pregnancy-related employment discrimination is unknown but without a more concerted effort to collect and thoroughly analyze accurate information concerning workplace pregnancy discrimination, the PDA cannot realize its full potential to protect women.

1 The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Where We Stand 30 Year Later, National Partnership for Women and Families, October 2008. (last accessed November 6, 2008)

2 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Pregnancy Discrimination, (last accessed November 5, 2008).