Sunday, August 30, 2009

Suggested Sunday reading (8/30)

This week saw the celebration of Women's Equality Day. The White House launched its page for the Council on Women and Girls, and check out Judi Jenning's column on the day, "Women's rights and human rights," about how we're all connected.

One important aspect to women's equality, at least for me, is reproductive choices. That was in the news a bit this week (isn't it always?):
  • Randall Terry, a radical anti-choicer who founded Operation Rescue, and who, let's face it, shouldn't be worth any words on any blog or news site but has to be written about because he and people like him not only put reproductive doctors in danger but also aim to stop women from getting abortions, was thrown out of a town hall meeting in Virginia this week. Check out some of the stunts he pulled and phrases he was chanting at Salon and at The Hill. Rachel Maddow also talked about this on her show, and she interviewed Dr. Leroy Carhart, one of the few doctors in this country who performs late-term abortions:

  • Carhart himself was the subject of Operation Rescue protests this week. Read more about the protests here, here and here (and check out RH Reality Check's Twitter page, they're reporting live from the events). The Wichita Eagle has a good story about Carhart, the protesters, his friendship with Dr. George Tiller and more. Some photos from the protests here.
  • A new law takes effect in Nebraska today, requiring women who seek an abortion to be given an ultrasound. The law specifies the screen must be turned toward them. A similar law in Oklahoma was overturned recently; here's hoping this one is, too.

Looks just like a person!

  • Apparently another effort is taking place in Colorado to define an egg as a person. A group is collecting signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. This measure was defeated in Colorado in 2008, by a very wide margin. If this ever become law in any state, I urge every single woman in said state to move, because the second it takes effect you will become property of the government. Read more about this ridiculous movement here. and check out this humorous column on the "benefits" women could receive were this to become law.
  • The Guttmacher institute reports that the "abortion pill" has not dramatically increased access to abortion in this country.
  • Psychiatric Times writes about "abortion trauma syndrome."

In non-abortion news:
  • The California Senate is officially seeking an end to the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
  • New York Gov. David Patterson signed the bill ending (most) shackling of prisoners during childbirth. I wrote about this issue last week.
  • Media Matters has a great column on media portrayal of "angry" people in the political realm, titled "Angry right-wingers are important, angry libs are annoying."
  • I thought this post on Undecided, "Midlife crisis, for her" was a good read. Lot of truth in there.
  • The president of Mali decided not to sign legislation expanding women's rights. What kind of rights, you might ask? Like allowing joint property ownership and setting the legal age of marriage at 18. (The president does say he's sending the legislation back to the lawmakers and it will be revised, then passed.)
  • More than 500 women met for the Women's Role in the Changing World forum in Hong Kong.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Prescription meds for eyelashes -- what next?

Have you heard of Latisse? I first saw an ad for this prescription medication last night, and I couldn't believe it. It's marketed as "the first and only FDA-approved prescription treatment for inadequate or not enough eyelashes, growing them longer, fuller and darker."

Let me start by saying I completely understand there are cases of actual medical needs for this drug -- and in fact, the ad and Web site both mention hypotrichosis (though the TV ad does not mention it verbally, just in print). But the TV ad and Web site feature Brooke Shields, who does not have (to my knowledge) hypotrichosis. The site features "before and after" pictures of her eyelashes, and she definitely has plenty of eyelashes to start with. She herself never mentions any medical need for the drug, in the TV ads or the videos on Latisse's site. Instead she just talks in vague generalizations about "ripping off her false eyelashes" after an appearance and about how her eyes now "pop" after she's used this medication, and that "everyone has noticed." So this isn't advertised as something you need medically; it's advertised as a cosmetic need.

Really? This is where we are now? Prescription medication to for your "inadequate" eyelashes? Because women don't feel enough guilt in this appearance-driven world already, now we're to consider the adequacy of our eyelashes? Yeah, I know, some women already do that -- we use mascara, eyeliner, fake eyelashes, etc. to try to make our eyes "pop." And that's fine. I certainly love my mascara. But it's never even occurred to me that my eyelashes, which are very short, are "inadequate." Then again, I can't even be bothered to do things like pluck my eyebrows, or wear makeup on a daily basis, so I'm probably not the woman they are targeting with this medication.

Most appearance-related routines we go through seem to fall into three categories: 1. being hygienic or "clean" enough to meet the basic societal standards of being seen in public (brush your hair, put on clean-ish clothes); 2. impress women; 3. impress men. Eyelashes have nothing to do with No. 1, so that leaves us with the latter two in this case. And I can't recall ever hearing a woman or a man talk about a woman's "inadequate" eyelashes. "She'd be so pretty if only she had longer eyelashes." "I'd date her, if she'd just grow longer eyelashes." I mean seriously, have those words ever crossed anyone's lips? No. And the ad features Brooke Shields! She would be gorgeous without hair, let alone without eyelashes -- except she already has eyelashes!

But okay, let's say you're really paranoid about your "inadequate" eyelashes and are considering this medication. Side effects listed, as per the Web site:

"If you are using prescription products for lowering eye pressure or have a history of eye pressure problems, only use LATISSE® under close doctor supervision. May cause eyelid skin darkening which may be reversible, and there is potential for increased brown iris pigmentation which is likely to be permanent. There is a potential for hair growth to occur in areas where LATISSE® solution comes in repeated contact with skin surfaces. If you develop or experience any eye problems or have eye surgery, consult your doctor immediately about continued use of LATISSE®. The most common side effects after using LATISSE® solution are an itching sensation in the eyes and/or eye redness."
Permanent "increased brown iris pigmentation"? So my green eyes could turn brown, permanently? Eyelid skin darkening? No thanks. Not to mention, the site says "If you stop using LATISSE®, your eyelashes are expected to return to their previous appearance over several weeks to months." If you want to keep your now-adequate eyelashes, you'll have to use this drug forever. And this drug, by the way, apparently costs about $120 a month.

One last note: This drug is made by the company Allergan ... the makers of Botox.

UDPATE (9/22): Must-read Consumerist post on this medication. Turns out
the FDA has issued a warning letter to the manufacturer.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Admiring Ted Kennedy

While I can't say anything about Sen. Ted Kennedy that hasn't already been said since his death, I want to take the time to say I admire and appreciate all the work he has done and everything he has accomplished in his career. Truly sad that he can't be here to see health care reform through.

I thought this political cartoon by R.J. Matson summed it up well (you need to click to see the entire image):

Not only does it summarize a good portion of Kennedy's career, all the issues listed serve as a good reminder of why I'm a liberal in the first place -- because people come first, and everyone deserves to be treated equally.

Matson describes how he came up with this concept:

"I don't like doing obit cartoons because they are very hard to do without being sappy. There are all the famous images surrounding Ted Kennedy, but I didn't want to do that. So I tried to come up with something that was a little more contemporary but still acknowledged his career in the Senate."

For Matson, the inspiration came from Shepard Fairey's now iconic "Hope" painting of Barack Obama, seen across the campaign trail in 2008. "I decided that this would connect Kennedy to the famous Obama painting. I used 'Liberal' for the big image because Kennedy was the most proud liberal in American politics. From there it was sort of just a process of figuring out what else worked."

So many people seem apologetic about being a liberal. It's time to be proud. Wear it on your sleeve. It isn't a dirty word, no matter how many people try to make it such. Own it.

I know it's been all over every story since his death, but Kennedy's quote from his 1980 speech at the Democratic convention is one of the most poignant quotes from a politician that I can recall:

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Breast-pumping breaks can get you fired

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled today that the company Totes/Isotoner was within its rights to fire a woman who was taking unscheduled breaks so she could pump her breasts. The court says it was not discrimination, and that the reason she took the breaks doesn't matter.

Kind of alarming verdict. I'm not sure how a court can say lactation doesn't matter in this case. If she weren't lactating, she wouldn't be taking the breaks (one can assume), but yet it doesn't matter that that was the reason?

Apparently the court was just trying to avoid the whole issue of whether lactation is covered under the state's Pregnancy Discrimination Act. I highly recommend reading this summary of the case, posted on the blog FYI: Central Ohio Employment Law Update. It does a good job of explaining the case and the decision in it, and has this note:
In any event, Isotoner now finds itself in the unenviable position of manufacturing a product (i.e., fashion gloves, slippers and umbrellas) to women who it will not permit to take a daily fifteen minute break to pump breast milk for suckling infants. Ohio employers are left unsure whether a future court decision will address this question or whether the Ohio legislature will eventually take it up. For now, there is no law in Ohio giving women the right to take breaks to pump breast milk for their infants.
(emphasis mine)

Again, something that seems so obvious to me -- allowing women time at work to pump milk so they can feed their babies -- is going to have to be legislated. Is there actually no common sense in the corporate world? In the meantime, I'll be sure to avoid buying any of this company's products, and I hope others do the same.

More reading on the case:
Ohio Employer's Law Blog
Columbus Dispatch

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Living in Umoja ("unity")

Though the village of Umoja Uaso, in Northern Kenya, has existed since 1990, I just became aware of it. And "it" is a matriarchy -- a women-run, women-only village, set up for women by women, and run by
Rebecca Lolosoli. It came to exist because women sought refuge from rape, from the abuse doled out on them by their husbands after the men raped them, and from violence. It has since been quite successful, with the women earning money by making crafts and selling them to tourists, raising their own food, and taking in more and more women. (The Washington Post wrote about the village in 2005.)

It is a safe haven. It has been declared a "violence-against-women-free zone.

But recently, Lolosoli was threatened by male family members (her former husband? reports aren't so clear), who had guns. Apparently she has sought police protection after returning from a trip to Santa Fe for an arts festival; it's unclear to me if she received the protection or if so, if she's returned to her village. Read more here and here.

I can't even pretend to know what these women have gone through that led them quest to live in this village, where men are forbidden, or what they have gone through since and are going through now. But I can sympathize with the notion of being so desperate for change and for being allowed to live your life that the only way to get it is to create such a village. I don't think their example would work the world over; but if it works for them, that's all that matters. I hope they are able to continue doing what they're doing in the way they wish to do so.

If only every place were a "violence-against-women-free zone."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Celebrate Women's Equality Day on Aug. 26

What are you doing on Wednesday to mark this day? Anything, nothing, moment of thought, attending an event, watching Iron Jawed Angels? (One of the best, and most obvious, ways to honor the day and the women who made it possible: vote in every election you can.)

I would hope the readers of this blog know what Women's Equality Day is, but in case: the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was signed into law on Aug. 26, 1920. That's seventy-two years after the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. Women’s Equality Day was established in 1971, by Bella Abzug, to commemorate the event.

Read more about the day and the history involved:
You can also use the day to take action:
  • Amnesty International USA has an easy-to-use form letter to send to the White House, urging the re-introduction and passage of the International Violence Against Women Act.
  • has information on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which was introduced and passed by the U.N. General Assembly in 1979 -- and still, to this day, the United States has not ratified it, even though 185 other countries have. (Iran, Somalia and Sudan have not ratified it either). The site also has a sample letter you can use to contact your representatives.
  • Sign the petition at urging Congress to create a commission on women.
  • Take a look around (If you have other suggestions for this section, please e-mail or leave them in a comment so I can add them.)

It's hard to comprehend that my great-grandmother was born before women had the right to vote. I cannot imagine it. (My grandmother was born just a couple years after the 19th Amendment became law.) A salute to all the women who've brought us where we are today. As much as we talk about our continued fight for equality, we certainly should be thankful for all the progress made so far in this country -- and remember how much further so many women across the world still have to go.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Suggested Sunday reading (8/23)

If you haven't seen the New York Times' Sunday magazine yet, I will suggest you start there. The cover story is "Why women's rights is the cause of our time." It's an excerpt from the book "Half the Sky" (pictured) by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (check out the book's site too, and the Kristof's blog entry on the contest they're running, which has some really great comments).

The rest of the Sunday magazine is full of stories about women and women's rights around the world; it's all a must-read, in my opinion.

One of the articles is an interview with Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, in which she says:
I happen to believe that the transformation of women’s roles is the last great impediment to universal progress — that we have made progress on many other aspects of human nature that used to be discriminatory bars to people’s full participation. But in too many places and too many ways, the oppression of women stands as a stark reminder of how difficult it is to realize people’s full human potential.
  • The Nation has an article titled "Why women need health care reform." This is a subject I so wish the mainstream media would pick up on, as I don't think many people realize the inequality that exists in health care. (Did you know insurance companies can deny individual policies to pregnant women, because pregnancy is a "pre-existing" condition?)
  • On a related note, NARAL dispels the myth about abortion mandates in the health care reform bill.
  • By now you've probably heard about Caster Semenya, the woman from South Africa whose gender is being questioned after she won a race at the track world championships. This CBS story talks about how her gender may never be known (scientifically speaking, at least), but it also talks about the reaction to the story in South Africa, and how many people think racism and sexism are at the core of this story: "The head of the South African track federation, Leonard Chuene, was among those raising race in the Semenya case. 'It would not be like that if it were some young girl from Europe. If it was a white child, she would be sitting somewhere with a psychologist, but this is an African child." Also check out Feministe's post on Germaine Greer's column about Semenya.
  • The AP writes about the women's vote in the Afghanistan elections, which was pretty much zero, thanks to violence and intimidation. (NYT story here.) The Los Angeles Times has an op-ed on the subject, "The war for Afghanistan's women: It's not worth risking U.S. lives unless we raise the status of Afghan women."
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted this week to allow gay men and women in "committed relationships" to serve as clergy members. Celibate gay men and women can already serve. This is a good step. It was a contentious debate and has led to some members of the religion saying they'll be leaving it (and possibly forming their own branch, because you can just do that -- look, a new religion!). Now to get rid of the "in committed relationships" part. (Is that a qualifier for straight people too who want to be in the clergy of this religion? Not so far as I can tell.)
  • A story out of Toronto says that girls are accepting sexual assault at school as a part of life. As in, that's just what happens.
  • A Muslim model in Malaysia will be caned because she was caught drinking beer.
  • In a bit of good news, an Oklahoma judge has ruled that requiring doctors to perform ultrasounds before a woman has an abortion and describe the results to her in great detail is unconstitutional. The law was one of the more strict laws in the country.
  • Forbes has named its top 100 most powerful women. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is No. 1. The entire list is here; it's very interesting to see the CEOs on the list, some for companies that I didn't realize were lead by women.

As always, if you have any suggestions for this column, send them along! E-mail me at

Friday, August 21, 2009

Michele Bachmann wants control over her own body!

Hey, guess what Rep. Bachmann? So do the rest of us.

In yet another one of those head-shaking moments too often provided by the (anti-choice) Minnesota Congresswoman, she said the following on Sean Hannity's radio show on Tuesday (click here for audio, and here for NARAL's story):
"That's why people need to continue to go to the town halls, continue to melt the phone lines of their liberal members of Congress and let them know, under no certain circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions."
O RLY. Under no circumstances, huh? So you're going to lead the pro-choice cause now? Because pregnancy is certainly a pretty big "circumstance" for which you yourself want legislation that would give government control over women's bodies.

On her Web site, Bachmann proudly reports that she has the support of "the
Susan B. Anthony List, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), and the National Pro-Life Alliance." On, you can see abortion-related legislation she has voted on or co-sponsored, including a bill that would have "implented equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution for the right to life of each born and preborn human person."

Hmm, what would that legislation mean if ever passed? Oh, right: forced births. Women would no longer have control over their own bodies, and the government would. The exact situation she is telling people should not happen under any circumstance happens to be one she's more than in favor of and advocates for.

Get out of my uterus, Michele Bachmann. You yourself said I shouldn't give control of my body to the government. I'm more than happy to oblige.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shackle-free births coming to New York

It is astounding that there has to be legislation for this, but it was reported yesterday that New York Gov. David Paterson promised to sign a bill "that will prohibit incarcerated pregnant women from being shackled while in labor." The bill has passed the N.Y. House and Senate, so it just needs his signature. (Another story about the bill says New York is one of the few states that allows this to happen.) Having not done so, I can't imagine giving birth ... let alone giving birth in prison while shackled. It's so inhumane.

Reminds me of the story about a pregnant woman in Florida who was ordered by a court to remain hospitalized against her will and to undergo any medical treatment the hospital staff "deemed necessary." What a scary court precedent to set, as if women can't decide for themselves what care is in their best interest. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case, on behalf of the woman.

There was also the case of a judge sentencing an HIV-positive pregnant woman to prison for longer than necessary because he was trying to stop her baby from being born with HIV. (Didn't trust her to take her meds, I guess.)

Let's not forget about the mother who refused a Cesarean section and ultimately got her child permanently taken away from her.

Of course there's the bill some lawmakers in Ohio introduced legislation a while back that would basically force women to have babies if they became pregnant.

If that's not enough, how about some forced sterilization? It wasn't all that long ago that it happened. There's also an organization, Project Prevention, that will pay you cash to get sterilized or take long-term birth control -- if you're a substance abuser. Their goal? To stop drug addicts and alcoholics from giving birth. No care about helping the women and men with their addictions, just don't reproduce.

And to think some people (men and women) believe we've achieved gender equality. We can't have true equality until women are entrusted with something as basic as their own bodies and own medical care. As Diana Kasdan, an attorney for the ACLU, said,
"Women do not give up their right to determine the course of their own medical care when they become pregnant."

Monday, August 17, 2009

The "Stop Glenn Beck" campaign must be working

Because Beck "supporters" seem to be getting a little antsy now that so many companies have pulled their advertising from his show. So antsy that there's a whole Twitter campaign to support/defend Beck, and this Web site has popped up well.

The Beck "supporters" know this was all prompted by Beck calling Obama a racist, right? I can only presume they feel the same way then, right? Just can't handle a black man being president. Oh, but he is the racist one. Not them. I'm sure they all have black friends, right?

Maybe it's more because they won't know what the daily crazy talking point is if Beck goes off the air? Now, now, there are plenty of other places to get your crazy on: Hannity, Rush, Dobbs, Malkin, Coulter, etc.

For anyone else wondering who's left supporting Beck's show, Media Matters has put together a video to let us know:

And check out if you want a sample letter to use to contact Beck's advertisers, which can be found here at, along with their contact info.

If our health care situation were reversed

For a minute, let's imagine we had a health care and health insurance system under which everyone was covered and everyone had access to a doctor or dentist when they needed it. Let's say this system was affordable for nearly everyone, and help was provided for those who couldn't afford it. Let's say that if you had a health insurance plan you liked, you could keep it indefinitely, regardless of changing jobs or moving. Let's say that if you decided to buy or switch insurance, you couldn't be denied because of a pre-existing condition.

So that's what we have currently in our pretend world. Now let's say we want to switch to a plan where not everyone is covered -- pretend roughly 47 million people would no longer have health insurance of any kind. Those people could only see a doctor if they could pay out of pocket or if they visited an emergency room. Let's say this plan we want to switch to isn't really affordable for many people, and even those who have health insurance often can't afford their medical bills because prices are so high and insurance is covering less and less. Let's say that you lose your insurance plan if you switch jobs or lose your job or move to another state. Let's say that if you try to buy a health insurance plan, insurance companies could deny you because you have something like diabetes.

How fucking stupid would we as a country sound if we had the first plan and changed to the second? ("Very fucking stupid" is the answer.)

Our health care system needs to be fixed. Get out of the way and let it get done. Politicians, I'm looking at you. Grow a pair, stand up to the lobbyists, and work for the citizens you represent. To the crazy town-hall folk (FOX News included): Shut. Up. Your stupidity is downright embarrassing.

(And for more on the frustration of the health care reform debate, check out American Razor's aptly named post, "Frustration.")

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Suggested Sunday reading (8/16)

Some reading to occupy your (and my) time until the Season 3 premiere of "Mad Men" tonight. (Can't wait! For the record, I did get all caught up on the show. So, so good.)

  • The Boston Globe has posted the text of Maria Shriver's eulogy of her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. It's very moving. Maria says, "Her story, I believe, teaches that women are complex and they can live out every simple, single aspect of that complexity."
  • This piece at Zero at the Bone was posted more than a week ago, but I want to point it out in case you missed it. It's a response to a blog post a man wrote called "A Respectful Breast-Man," about how he just wants to stare at and/or see your boobs. I'd recommend reading his post, the comments on his post, this response, and the comments on this response (links to his post are given). A great conversation, to be sure, with many well-written comments, and an eye opener to what some men think they're entitled to. Like starring at your boobs.
  • Have you been following the story of Harriet Harman in the UK? She is the deputy leader of the Labour party, and recently said “I don’t agree with all-male leaderships. Men cannot be left to run things on their own. I think it’s a thoroughly bad thing to have a men-only leadership.” Her comment has sparked quite a debate. And if you recall, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton recently made "news" when she was asked what her husband thought about something, and she responded by saying she would share her opinion, but isn't a mouthpiece for her husband. Cath Elliot wrote a piece for The Guardian about these two cases, called "The 2009 summer of hate." It's a good one.
  • UNLV's publication, The Rebel Yell, has a column called "Not ugly enough for feminism?" about Karl Lagerfeld's recent comment that Coco Channel wouldn't be a feminist because she was "never ugly enough for that."
  • The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga has hired it's first (I believe) male professor for its women's studies department.
  • responds to a study that claims women create their own glass ceilings. (Why is it not surprising that someone managed to find a way to blame women for women not having equal pay, as many promotions, etc.?)
  • An excerpt from Michael Eric Dyson's book "Can you hear me now?" has been posted, under the headlined "Why men need to get over their femiphobia." I always enjoy listening to Dyson on shows like "Real Time," even if I don't always completely follow everything he says.
  • A judge in Florida has ruled that a Gay-Straight Alliance is in fact allowed to meet at school, like any other group, and does not have to change its name. Good news, and good for the students who filed the lawsuit.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that Belmont Abbey College (a Catholic school) discriminated against its employees when it denied them health care coverage of birth control. Will it ever sink in that law trumps religion-based inequality?
  • A bureau of Taiwan's legislature has recommended changes to the country's abortion laws. Their current laws are strict; among other laws, right now married women have to get permission from their husbands to get an abortion.
  • RH Reality Check reports that Dr. Leroy Carhart is no longer being protected by federal marshals. It was only months ago that Dr. George Tiller was killed; this move by the Justice Department makes no sense.
  • Women's boxing will be added to the 2012 Olympics -- did you know boxing was the last remaining Olympic sport that didn't allow women to compete?
  • A 22-year-old woman has become Thailand's youngest -- and first female -- winemaker. A toast to her!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Furiously catching up with "Mad Men"

I hadn't watched a single episode of the TV show "Mad Men" until recently. The first two discs of Season 1 sat in Netflix envelopes next to our TV for a while, actually. I was reluctant. I knew I wanted to try to get caught up before the third season starts (on Sunday), but I was worried the show was going to piss me off too much. I'd heard bits and pieces about how the women on the show are treated, and it didn't sound like a good time.

Then we finally got around to putting in the first disc, and I've been hooked ever since. Hooked as in I ended up at a store at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night just so I could purchase Season 2. (Too impatient for Netflix!) I have seven more episodes before I'm done with Season 2 and I'm fully confident I'll finish it before the new episode Sunday.

Spare Candy readers, do you watch this show? I can't recommend it highly enough. "Mad Men" is simply fascinating, on every level. And I'm not going to lie, it's currently one of the top reasons I've been slacking on this site. All I want to do is watch it. I love how character-driven it is, how layered the female characters are despite the sexism of the times, and the writing ... oh the writing. Superb. I love that Joan has an actual body, I love how normal Peggy looks, I love the flashes of impatience and independence from Betty, I love the office politics and I love the clothes. I love the smoking and the drinking. I love that no one is all good and no one is all bad. I love that there are consequences, even if only internally.

Even though I shake my head multiple times an episode at the sexism, it's also easier to digest than I thought it would be. Since it's set in the 1960s, I can appreciate, for lack of a better term, the overt sexism of the times. If ever a woman needs reassurance that women have made inroads to equality, just watch this show. What a great (horrible?) reminder of what it could be like for us now.

Tons of words have been typed on the subject of "Mad Men" and feminism, and what a thrill to find out for myself that they're accurate. Read more (warning, there could be spoilers; I tried to avoid them but still came across a few):

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

'Children are killed, women are raped and the world closes its eyes'

Some time ago, I wrote about the United Nations Security Council passing a resolution that classified rape as a weapon of war. Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about rape and sexual violence in the Congo -- a place the U.N. describes as the "rape capital of the world" and that others call "the most dangerous place to be a woman."

Most sources estimate that hundreds of thousands of women have been raped in the eastern Congo in the past decade. Hundreds of thousands. And it's happening to men, too. Hundreds of cases of men being raped have been reported. If ever there were an example of rape as a weapon, this has to be it. (Around six million people have died in the conflict since 1996. Six million people.)

Clinton's proposal -- $17 million to help "prevent and respond to" sexual violence -- might help and is definitely a good step. To be sure, her trip and her words have shined yet another light on this outrage. But it seems like more will need to be done to stop something so systemic. Clinton said
"This problem is too big for one country to solve alone," and I believe she's right.

More reading:
  • CNN International: "Girl, 9, details rape in Congo to photographer"
  • Feministing: "What is Clinton actually proposing to do in the Congo?" (also talks about Clinton's "outburst" and has video of the interview in which it happened)
  • Ms. Magazine (from 2005): "Not women anymore ..."
  • AFP has a video about combating rape in the Congo
Also check out Women for Women's work in the Congo. (You can donate to them.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Suggested Sunday reading (8/9)

After taking a much-needed break from the computer over the last four or five days, it's time to jump back in. I have to start by saying thank you to John Hughes for writing and making so many movies that I adore, movies that I have spent so many hours watching and re-watching, movies that I can recite from memory. If you haven't yet seen this fantastic blog post by a woman who was pen-pals with Hughes, "Sincerely, John Hughes," do yourself a favor and read it. It's such a great story.

Other reading suggestions:
  • The Frisky writes about how women on Medicaid can almost never get abortions.
  • The New York Times writes about women in Iraq who have started a wrestling team, which one supporter calls "a sign of evolution and freedom."
  • Ariel Boone has a column on Huffington Post about how women who work at the White House make less than men do (89 cents for every dollar).
  • Also at the HuffPost, Louise Marie Roth has a column about hate crimes against women, including the guy outside Pittsburgh who shot and killed three women at a gym. On the same subject, check out the column at Wimn's Voices.
  • An op-ed in UK's The Independent talks about the case in Sudan of Lubna Hussein. The author asks "Where are the women protesting outside the Sudanese embassy? Where are the feminists sticking up for the basic human right to put on what you like when you get out of bed? Where are the calls to impose tough sanctions against Sudan for oppressing women, as we did against South Africa for oppressing the majority black population in its apartheid days? Where, in short, is the International Sisterhood?"
  • I thought this column in the Daily Texan (University of Texas-Austin) about the Chris Brown saga was a good one.
  • Voice of America writes about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to Africa, during which she stated "I'll be in Goma [Congo]. And I will be there primarily to speak out against the unspeakable violence against women and girls in eastern Congo. It is the worst example of man's inhumanity to women."
  • The Washington Post executive editor, along with employees Dana Millbank and Chris Cillizza, have apologized for the remark the latter two made about Clinton drinking "Mad Bitch" beer (which I commented on here). The video series by Millbank and Cillizza has been pulled as well.
  • The Guardian talks to Suzanne Braun Levine, a former editor of Ms. magazine, about her new book, why she became a feminist (botched abortion) and more. It's a good read.
  • Somebody on Twitter (I wish I had made a note of who) posted a link to photography by James D. Griffioen, mostly photos in Detroit of abandoned homes and building. Be sure to check out the links on the left to the public schools book depository, and read the story. It's unreal.
  • Something I was glad to see happen: the NYT pulled the plug on Ben Stein's column because he's endorsing the scam of via commercials he's in. Sorry, you don't get to call yourself an economist and then do commercials for such a site.
  • And finally, congratulations to Sonia Sotomayor, the newest Supreme Court justice.

I'm always looking for suggestions to put in this weekly column. If you want to recommend a blog or article (yours or someone else's), e-mail me at I try to make the rounds and mark the best stuff, but obviously I can't catch it all!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why you should know about Lubna Hussein

Lubna Hussein is facing a trial in Sudan, and a punishment of 40 lashes, for wearing pants in public that were deemed to be "indecent." (Far as I can tell, that would be any pants on a woman in Sudan.) According to CNN, she and 18 other women were arrested July 3 at a restaurant "after police burst in and checked women for their clothing."

But Hussein has taken this arrest and turned it into a way to shed light on how Sudan treats women, and to try to get this Islamic-based law on "indecency" overturned. She is a former UN employee -- former, because she quit her job to make sure that she doesn't receive any kind of immunity in this case, which she could have received as a UN employee. She has welcomed a public flogging, even sending out invitations to it.

She is taking a stand, and other women are joining her. Women who rallied outside her trial today, some wearing pants, were beaten by police and had tear gas used on them.

Hussein's trial has been delayed until September to clarify if her UN resignation went through. A toast to her, to her pants and to the women out there supporting her and standing up for themselves.

Here is the BBC's story about it, they have an audio interview with Hussein. By the way, tribal fighters in southern Sudan have killed 185 people, most of them women and children.

UPDATE (9/7): A court has found Hussein guilty, but instead of receiving lashes she received a monetary fine. She has said she will not pay the fine, around $200 (U.S.), and that she plans to appeal the case. (New York Times story here.)

Hope my health insurance covers this!

Because my blood pressure just shot up after watching these two videos:

This entire situation with people, elected or not, trying to stop health care reform is, I believe, best described as FUCKING INSANITY.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Megan Fox media blackout day accomplishes exactly nothing

Someone, somewhere has dubbed tomorrow, Aug. 4, as Megan Fox Media Blackout Day.


I first read about it at Celebitchy, thought it was no big thing, then decided to look into it and see who's participating. Turns out there's a looooot of stories about this. So, congrats to whoever decided this blackout day was a good idea, all you've done is draw attention to another story about Megan Fox. It matters not if the story is about her overexposure, it's really just another excuse to post more Megan Fox photos on your site and get more hits.

This article reports that a dozen men's sites plan to take part, including,
Ask Men, Just a Guy Thing and Double Viking. Are these big sites? I have no idea, I've never heard of them. But here's a tip to them: If they're tired of Fox coverage, then stop covering her. I'm sure they don't mind the hits she generates, so why make a big deal over it anyway? Are your sites going to collapse if you don't talk about her daily? No? Then shut up. Yes? Then post her pictures all over your site until you figure out something else that "works" for your readers.

I love the notion that a one-day blackout would even do anything anyway. Fox's new movie, Jennifer's Body, comes out in September, and Fox will surely be promoting it everywhere (as she should, since she stars in it). There's already a lot of hype around the movie, and obviously around its star, and it's only going to grow when you try to convince your readers that there's someone out there they shouldn't pay attention to. After all, what's the fastest way to get someone to look at something? Tell them they shouldn't.

Everything about this is gross: Fox's overexposure in the first place, based solely on her looks (judging from what people tell me about how awful the Transformers movies are, anyway); the way she can be treated by guys and girls (and trust me, I'm no fan); and now this truly stupid and insulting idea from these "men's" web sites. If you like Megan Fox, like her. If you don't, don't. But don't pretend you're "tired" of her and then revert back to covering her as much as you did before, which I am 100 percent sure all the sites participating in this will do.

By the way, the Frisky has a great column about Fox. I recommend reading it ... tomorrow, of course.

And because word is spreading that Jennifer's Body is
being described as "a feminist story while also being 'delightfully exploitative',” check out this L.A. Times story on female-explotation films.

I don't know if I'll ever see the movie; the stealing of the True Blood poster turned me off from the beginning, and I can't say my impression of the movie has changed much since.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Suggested Sunday reading (8/2)

Lots of variety and good stuff this week:

  • AP reports that the Wisconsin man accused of killing his 11-year-old daughter because he prayed instead getting medical care for her diabetes was found guilty of second-degree reckless homicide. I'm relieved this man was convicted. I don't care what religion you are or how strongly you believe, this is inexcusable. Here's a thought: If God didn't want you to take your daughter to a doctor, why would we even have doctors? In semi-related news, the Minnesota teenager who was ordered by a court to undergo chemo is still receiving it, and improving.
  • You know that wedding entrance dance video that's made the rounds on the Internet? The couple in the video has set up a web site to raise funds for domestic violence prevention -- because their video features a Chris Brown song. Very, very cool of them to do. If you haven't seen the video yet:

  • Stephen Hoffman, a scientist who is working on a vaccine for malaria (can you imagine how fantastic that would be?!), let 2,000 malaria-infected mosquitoes bite him -- and now he's immune to malaria. Really interesting story.
  • Feministing reports that Diane Keaton has signed on to play a "feminist icon" in a new HBO show, as yet untitled, and in which she creates a "sexually explicit magazine for women." Sign me up!
  • I don't know when this photo gallery was published, but I just learned about it this week (thanks to @pourmecoffee on Twitter). It's in the UK Telegraph, and it's amazing. Thousands of WWI soldiers forming iconic images.
  • One of the stupidest stories of the week I've seen: Alabama has banned a wine from being sold in its state because it features a naked nymph on it. Just so happens the nymph in question is from a very old French bicycle poster, but Alabama claims the image violates its "rules against displaying "a person posed in an immoral or sensuous manner." Congrats to the wine company in question, who is sure to get a big boost from this.
  • The New York Times has a story about how girls' sports tournaments generate more money than boys' tournaments do, once again proving girls rule, boys drool.
  • The Guardian has a great story on women in Rio de Janeiro who are working on the front lines of gang wars there. It has a great headline too: "Feminism and M-16s: Transforming macho policing in Rio."
  • RH Reality Check writes in "The splintering of the pro-life movement" about how Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who is pro-life, has been cast aside by the pro-life movement because he cosponsored a bill that supports birth control. The bill is the "Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act." When a pro-lifer or a portion of the pro-life movement reaches the point that they can't even get on board with birth control, NONE of them are ever allowed to have sex ever again. Sorry. That's my "moral view" that I'm going to impose on you. (Note: Thanks to Open Congress for linking to Spare Candy.)
  • And finally, also from the NYT, Nicholas Kristof writes an op-ed called "Crisis in the operating room," about maternal health care and maternal mortality around the world. Read it. It contains gems like this one:
If men had uteruses, “paternity wards” would get resources, ambulances would transport pregnant men to hospitals free of charge, deliveries would be free, and the Group of 8 industrialized nations would make paternal mortality a top priority. One of the most lethal forms of sex discrimination is this systematic inattention to reproductive health care, from family planning to childbirth — so long as those who die are impoverished, voiceless women.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Will the U.S. ever have its own Corazon Aquino?

Corazon Aquino, the former president of the Philippines, died today from colon cancer. Aquino may be one of the most well-known female political leaders in the last half century. She came to power after her husband was assassinated, through a peaceful uprising in 1986 -- which earned her a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. She served as president until 1992, unable to run again because of term limits. She has been active in politics ever since, and has rightfully been honored on multiple occasions.

In reading about her death, this statement, made by her oldest grandson, struck me: "Even in death she was able to unite our people."

How many current or recent leaders of our country would receive such praise today, should they die? Is there even one woman in this country for whom such sentiment would be expressed? What does that say about us as a country, and about our leaders? Tragic events can unite our country (Sept. 11), but could any one person? Are we too divided for a Corazon Aquino of our own?

Can we even elect a female president? I'd like to think it could happen sometime in my life, but I don't know who it would be. What I do know is that whoever even decides to run will be in for a rough time in today's political climate. We witnessed what Hillary Clinton went through in the primaries, what Sarah Palin went through in the election, and now what Sonia Sotomayor is going through in her confirmation process for the Supreme Court.

It's not like it's really letting up for any of these women. Just the other day, Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza suggested Hillary Clinton would have drank "Mad Bitch" beer if she'd been at the "beer summit" at the White House; a Fox News poll showed that 32 percent of Americans think Palin should be a homemaker (good article on Salon about that poll); Sotomayor has been accused of palling around with terrorists by the Swift Boat people; and to throw another female political leader into the mix, Politico reports that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (the first woman to hold the job), who they call "one of the most despised political figures in the country," "doesn't care" if people don't like her. Maureen Dowd wrote the other day about how Clinton and Palin have essentially switched roles. (As if they were the same in the first place.)

By my account, that all pretty much sums up the state of women in politics in our country right now. Sad, hateful and divided. Of course there are a number of women in politics who don't elicit these kinds of responses, but these are the most prominent women at the moment. And when the others do get more attention and work toward higher office, I don't doubt it will look a lot like it does right now for Clinton, Palin, Sotomayor and Pelosi.

Look at the numbers in our federal government right now: Out of 435 members of the House, 75 are women. Out of 100 senators, 17 are women (that includes Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who is going to step down to run for governor of Texas). Out of 535 members of Congress, 92 are women. In the history of our country, 260 women have served in Congress -- and that includes the 92 currently serving. Of those 260 women, only 39 have not been white. Across the country, women serve as governors in six states (there were nine female governors until Palin, Kathleen Sebelius and Janet Napolitano recently stepped down; the latter two are now members of Obama's cabinet). In the history of our country, we have had 31 female governors.

As if that weren't depressing enough, now take a look at the lists of women who have been heads of government or heads of state.

We have a long way to go. In the meantime, a toast to Corazon Aquino and to the Filipinos mourning her loss -- who, by the way, are currently led by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, their second female president.

Here's the first part of the famous speech Aquino gave before the U.S. Congress in 1986, which Tip O'Neill, then the Speaker of the House, called
"the finest speech I've ever heard in my 34 years in Congress.":


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