Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

February 29, 2012

Gabby Sidibe on What’s Missing From Movies, Plus Organizations Making a Difference

During the Oscars on Sunday night, a video montage featured a number of famous actors speaking about the power of movies. Gabourey Sidibe, a break-out star who was nominated in 2010 for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in “Precious,” shared something quite personal:

The way I watch movies, I’m really searching for myself, because I don’t get to see enough of myself and I don’t — I kind of don’t get to like myself enough.

But if I get to see myself on screen, then I know that I exist.

Gabby Sidibe at Academy Awards in 2010In that short statement, Sidibe (left, at the Academy Awards in 2010) revealed a great deal about representation and identity in Hollywood, which rarely includes women who don’t match a young, thin and white ideal. When young (and old) women don’t see themselves in popular culture — the lingua franca of our times — they receive the message that their lives are not as important or worthy of inclusion.

A number of organizations have been working to counter this message by focusing on girls’ inner beauty, smarts and talent. New Moon Girls Media, which publishes New Moon magazine and runs a moderated online community for girls, has launched Yes, I’m Beautiful!, a YouTube project that asks, “Why are you beautiful? What is true beauty? What would you say to someone who isn’t sure about her/his beauty?”

No matter what your age you can send your “Yes, I’m Beautiful” video to: beautynewmoon AT It’s a nice counterpoint to stories about young girls turning to YouTube to ask for public comment on whether they’re ugly.

Hardy Girls, Healthy Women is offering a free webinar in March and April to introduce its girl-driven media activism site, Powered By Girl (PBG), and will offer tips on using social media for youth activism.

As Rachel pointed out yesterday, the National Eating Disorders Association has launched Proud2BMe, which includes the Stamp Out Bodysnarking project to reduce bullying based on one’s appearance.

Later today, Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, will officially launch the Born This Way Foundation at a celebrity-filled event at Harvard University. The foundation will support programs and initiatives that empower youth — focusing on issues of self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying, mentoring and career development.

Hollywood embraces diversity at a glacial pace. Fortunately these groups are ahead of the times.

August 4, 2011

The Effects of Using Birth Control, Right-Wing Version

As previously reported, women with health insurance will soon have access to a host of preventive health care services, including contraception, without having to pay out-of-pocket costs such as co-payments, co-insurance and deductibles.

Not surprisingly, the news rankled some conservatives who refuse to acknowledge the long-term economic or health benefits.

Take, for instance, Sandy Rios, a FOX News contributor and vice president of the Family-PAC Federal, a conservative political action committee, who likened women’s health needs to beauty services: ”We’re $14 trillion in debt and now we’re going to cover birth control, breast pumps, counseling for abuse? Are we going to do pedicures and manicures as well?”

Once again, we turn to Stephen Colbert to explain the outrage. And he does so beautifully, noting, for instance, that “a woman’s health decisions are a private matter between her priest and her husband,” and insurance companies should be in the business of covering only “necessary medical expenses — like boner pills.”

Plus, learn what happens when U.S. women get their hands on birth control pills …

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Women’s Health-Nazi Plan
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July 26, 2011

Howdy From Down Here: Colbert on Summer’s Eve and Ads for Clean Men

Have you seen the Summer’s Eve videos featuring vaginal puppeteering (by way of a talking hand) asking for more V-love? The videos promote using scented cleansing and deodorant products to freshen your vagina.

Let’s get one thing straight up front: Vaginas don’t need cover-up. In fact, douches and other scented products are more likely to cause irritation and infection. The vagina is very good at cleaning itself, so if Summer’s Eve really believed in its tagline, “Hail to the V,” it would leave our vaginas alone.

But making money off women’s insecurities about their bodies never grows old for Summer’s Eve. Its newest ads targeting black and Latina women play on racial and ethnic stereotypes in addition to playing on women’s insecurities.

So how do you point out the ridiculousness of this campaign? Imagine, as Stephen Colbert does, what would happen if men’s genitals were the focus of such advertising. Hail to our best satirists.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Vaginal Puppeteering vs. D**k Scrub
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February 23, 2011

The Daily Show Takes on Republicans Defunding Planned Parenthood

Jon Stewart: The Republicans have come up with a brilliant idea. What if instead of cutting services for “people,” they cut services for “women”?

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mother F#@kers
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

For more on the Republicans’ defunding efforts …

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mother F#@kers – Stork Bucks
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October 20, 2010

Seeing Ourselves: (Mis)Representations of Girls and Women on Television

by Culley Schultz | SPARK blog tour

As a teenage girl, I watch television on a regular basis. “Glee” happens to be a favorite of mine. Unlike most shows on television, “Glee” showcases students of every race, religion and size. There are multiple representations, but more importantly, there is accurate representation.

The majority of shows now depict glamorous lifestyles enjoyed only by the rich and skinny. Shows like “America’s Next Top Model” are not only using unrealistically thin women, they are forcing women to compete to be the most beautiful.

The media’s obsession with thinness is having a serious effect on girls and young women. Narrow definitions of the “perfect woman” put a box around women, and it is closing in on our ability to be ourselves.

Studies show that “cultural pressures that glorify ‘thinness’ and place value on obtaining the ‘perfect body’” [pdf] play a major role in causing eating disorders. Over half of teenage girls use unhealthy weight control methods such as skipping meals or taking laxatives.

Most children begin watching television shows at a young age. By age 10, 81 percent of girls [pdf] are afraid of becoming fat. It is because of the portrayal of teens on shows such as “Gossip Girl,” which attracted more than 2 million viewers during the 2009 fall season, that girls believe they must be thin to be “hot” or to have relationships. This message needs to be reversed.

It is not only young girls who are affected by the media’s messaging; 45 percent of U.S. women are on a diet any given day. The sexualization of women on television reaches millions of viewers every day. There is a significant difference in the messaging between the representation of women in the Victoria’s Secret commercials, where only thin models strut in their panties with angel wings on, and the Playtex bra commercials, which showcase women of varying sizes.

The truth is most fashion models are thinner than 98 percent of American women, but we rarely see ourselves on TV or in movies. The lack of accurate representations of women in the media has created the belief that we’re not good enough unless we look like those models or actresses.

It is time to change that mindset. The media is playing to what they think we “like” to see. It is up to us to change their ideas. I know I would like to see more girls that look like me. On Monday nights, I choose the self-esteem boosting characters of “Glee” over the inaccurate portrayals of teens on “Gossip Girl.” If we have more of these options, a real change will commence. Women have the power to demand this change. And from that change, we will all benefit.

Culley Schultz is a senior at Glen Ridge High School in New Jersey where she is vice-president of the Glen Ridge chapter of Girls Learn International. Culley previously interviewed teen girls on their views of media representations of girls and women. Watch the video at the Women’s Media Center.

Look for another post from the SPARK blog tour tomorrow at Feministe.

SPARK SummitSPARK — which stands for Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge — is both a summit and a movement designed to push back against the increasingly sexualized images of girlhood in the media.

The SPARK Summit, scheduled for Oct. 22 at Hunter College in New York City (and virtually online), is focused on working with girl leaders and activists to jump start an intergenerational movement for girls’ rights to healthy sexuality. The idea is to engage teen girls and young women to be part of the solution rather than to protect them from the problem by providing them with information and tools to become activists, organizers, researchers, policy influencers and media makers.

September 7, 2010

Our Book, Their Inspiration: Riffing on “Our Bodies, Ourselves”

Over the years, the book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” has inspired more than simply an enlightened perspective on women’s health — it  has also inspired many title adaptations. To wit: “Our Bodies, Our Cars,” “Our Bodies, Our Quantified Selves,” “Our Bodies, Our Stilettos” … the list goes on.

More poignantly, Jaclyn Friedman recently broke the silence around women’s sexual freedom with a must-read post at Feministe titled “My Sluthood, Myself.”

Now comes a new sexual guidebook for the 21st century entitled (are you sitting down?) “Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk.”

The satire comes to us from The Association for the Betterment of Sex, a male collective of sorts that includes comedy writers from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and the publications McSweeney’s, The Onion and Esquire.

I’ll qualify this by noting I haven’t read it (review copy, hello?), but a few compelling topics include everything from outmoded masturbation slang (“Going on tour with Midnight Oil” is apparently out) to the top five pastry-related euphemisms for female genitalia. The book also lists “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” dry-cleaning services “for freshening up your vinyl fetishwear or adult-sized Tigger costume.”

For a bit of a preview, the Huffington Post has posted a slide show of favorite info-graphics from the book. You can also enjoy short bits of wisdom from the book’s Twitter feed. Most recent tweet: “Ever made love in a cranberry bog? Sound off!” (Where’s the hashtag?)

For a another satirical perspective, check out “The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex,” written by “Daily Show” correspondent Kristen Schaal and her boyfriend, “Daily Show” staff writer Rich Blomquist.

“Given the couple’s impeccable comic credentials and the evident affection they showed during a joint interview at a Midtown bar not far from the Daily Show studios, it’s no surprise that The Sexy Book Of Sexy Sex is a charming comedy love-child, mixing The Daily Show’s textbook parodies with extended prose pieces that riff on romance novels and pornographic science fiction,” writes Sam Adams in the intro to The Onion’s Q&A with the authors.

We’re used to the appropriation of OBOS for satirical purposes. It wasn’t too long ago that Steven Colbert was throwing the latest edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” on the yule log as part of the book-burning extras on his “A Colbert Christmas” DVD. And Colbert has long used a skeleton reading OBOS for his “Cheating Death” segment.

You know what they say: A sense of humor is really sexy.

Plus: Speaking of the “Our Bodies, Ourselves” book, we’re in the midst of writing a new edition — the 40th anniversary edition (!) — due out in fall 2011. Watch this space for more info on how to submit personal stories for revised chapters. You can also share your story about reading OBOS for the first time and the impact it had on you and your friends. And if you’d like to support these endeavors, you or someone you’d like to honor can be listed in the book. No kidding!

July 16, 2010

Gloria Feldt’s Personal Response to “Friday Night Lights”

Earlier this week, we wrote about the groundbreaking “Friday Nights Lights” episode that dealt more honestly with abortion than most television shows in the past 30 years. We’re pleased to include this reflection by Gloria Feldt, activist, author, blogger and past president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. We hope you’ll follow through on her suggestions to thank NBC for allowing this episode to air.

On a personal note, it pleases me no end that this truth-telling episode appeared on “Friday Night Lights.” The show is based on Buzz Bissinger’s book of that same name, a sociology of the very West Texas town (Odessa, Texas) where I lived for 20 years and the high school (Permian) from which my three children graduated.

Not only do I know Dillon/Odessa and its hardscrabble culture all too well; it was where I moved as a 15-year-old pregnant teen with my new husband. We hailed from an even smaller West Texas town, where our football team was truly the only game around (my high school classmates still play the 8-millimeter film of our state championship game at every reunion, if that gives you a clue). At least Odessa has supermarkets and movie theaters!

Odessa was also where my growing understanding of the complexity of childbearing decisions came full circle — and why, though I loved my children more than anything, I came to realize I would have been a much better parent if I’d waited 10 or 20 years to have them.

My 30-year career with Planned Parenthood began when I became executive director of the fledgling affiliate there in 1974 — an affiliate now headed by a woman who was in my older daughter’s Permian High graduating class.

Sadly, I know from stories I still get from young women that the same time-warped pattern repeats itself: Teen girl wants to please football player boyfriend and gets pregnant. The good news is that these stories now — regardless of what the girl decided to do about the pregnancy — are much more likely to end in a statement of appreciation for having had choices in the first place.

This particular episode of FNL is a testament to the fact that regardless of the reactionary, shaming culture and a media with a rightward tilt, real life women will find a way to save their own lives — even in unlikely places like the fictional Dillon and the very real Odessa.

I’ve sent NBC a note of appreciation and urge all of you to do same. We’re good at reacting when we don’t like something, but less so when there’s a show worthy of applause. Here’s where you can go to send a comment:

The series is executive produced by Peter Berg (the film “Friday Night Lights,” “Hancock”), who also wrote and directed the pilot. Joining Berg as executive producers are Jason Katims (“Roswell”), Brian Grazer (“Frost/Nixon,” “The Da Vinci Code”), David Nevins (“Arrested Development”), Sarah Aubrey (“The Kingdom”) and Jeffrey Reiner (“Caprica”). “Friday Night Lights” is a production of Universal Media Studios, Imagine Entertainment and Film 44, in case you want to target a specific individual.

July 13, 2010

“Friday Night Lights” Scores With Honest Episode About Abortion

The tube has long had tunnel vision when it has come to portraying women. Recently, though, television shows have been broadening their point of view by addressing previously taboo subjects — abortion and body image — with surprising maturity and subtlety.

“Friday Night Lights,” one of my long-time favorite series, has paid attention to women’s health since its inception, from its diverse portrayal of teenager’s sexual lives to its confrontation of sexual violence. And, yes, it even book-dropped “Our Bodies, Ourselves” at the end of its first season.

But it truly out-did itself (and almost every other work in the history of television — or film) with an episode that aired last week on NBC that traced one character’s decision to have an abortion.

Fifteen-year-old Becky (Madison Burge), pregnant after one sexual encounter with a high school football player, turns to Tami Taylor (Connie Britton), a high school principal (but not at Becky’s school) and trained guidance counselor, to help her sort through her feelings of whether she can manage a baby at her age:

Becky: I have an appointment for my abortion tomorrow. Why do I feel so weird?

Tami: Because it’s a hard decision. Have you thought about what you want?

Becky: We don’t have any money. I’m in the 10th grade. It was my first time. I threw it away, and I don’t want to throw my life away. It’s just really obvious that my mom wants me to have this abortion because I was her mistake and she has just struggled and hurt and everyday she wanted better. And I knew better. I was just thinking forget about what she wants, what do I want? Maybe I could take care of this baby. And maybe I would be good at it and I could love it and be there for it. Then I think about how awful it would be if I had a baby and I spent the rest of my life resenting him or her. Do you think I’m going to hell if I had an abortion?

Tami: No honey, I don’t.

Becky: What would you tell your daughter?

Tami: I would tell her to think about her life, think about what’s important to her and what she wants and I would tell her she’s in a real tough spot and then I would support whatever decision she made.

Becky: I can’t take care of a baby … I can’t.

Writing in The New York Times, Ginia Bellafante discusses the significance of the episode:

With those words Becky decides to have an abortion. This took place on Friday’s episode of “Friday Night Lights” and was remarkable — abortions have been rare on serial television since the early ’70s. But the effect was particularly resonant this week. On Monday Bristol Palin, America’s most famous teenage mother, briefly appeared as herself on the ABC Family soap opera “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” bringing greater attention to a popular series that for three seasons has performed didactic and soulless cheerleading for anti-abortion sentiments.

Bellafante goes on to describe numerous instances in which television has “leaned to the right on the subject of unwanted pregnancy,” including a  shocking (even for a soap opera) turn of events on “All My Children”:

In the most bizarre instance of revisionism on the issue, four years ago “All My Children” reversed Erica Kane’s 1973 abortion, a milestone in television history when it occurred 11 months after the passage of Roe v. Wade. A character named Josh Madden learned that although Erica had initially conceived him, he had been kidnapped as an embryo and transferred to the womb of another woman by the obviously deranged doctor who had raised him. Fans were outraged, on one level because the story line was ludicrous, even by the measure of daytime television, and on another because the twist had gone a long way toward eradicating the show’s progressive politics, and, in some sense, an entire era.

What makes the portrayal on “Friday Night Lights” even more surprising is we see the hardships of obtaining an abortion — from coming up with the money for the procedure to the time and money lost when faced with a mandatory waiting period.

And unlike an abortion episode from the short-lived WB series “Jack & Bobby” (see Jenn Pozner’s summary), FNL doesn’t dwell on issues of divided teens/parents. Becky’s mother, Cheryl (played brilliantly by Alicia Witt), supports the decision, though she’s emotionally unavailable to her daughter. The boy’s parents, though, want Becky to have the baby, noting that Mary and Joseph toughed it out — to which their son, Luke, retorts: “Becky and me are not Mary and Joseph.”

Having seen this season of FNL during its earlier broadcast on DirecTV, I don’t want to offer any spoilers, but know there will be fall-out from Becky’s decision. Meanwhile, another character is pregnant and lacks health insurance. Her storyline is also compelling and is yet one more reason you should be watching this intelligent show.

In other TV news, Los Angeles Times TV critic Mary McNamara also sees something virtually unprecedented in the recent portrayals of fat people on television who, at least three new shows have discovered, “are human after all, with a panoply of dreams, desires, foibles and stories that often have nothing to do with their weight”:

Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” broke the ice last year. Lit up by newcomer Brooke Elliott, the show wrangled its iffy conceit — an afterlife mix-up leaves a thin girl trapped in a fat girl’s body — into a surprisingly edgy comedy. This summer, ABC Family debuted “Huge,” a vehicle for “Hairspray” star Nikki Blonsky, which was no doubt the cause for much rejoicing among plus-sized thespians. Set at a fat camp, “Huge” is essentially a teen drama — with the requisite rebel, pretty girl, shy boy, tough jock, etc. — but one that also explores the complexities of childhood obesity with a clear eye and dark humor.

And this fall, pound-power comes to the networks. In CBS’ romantic comedy “Mike and Molly,” Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell play a fourth-grade teacher and a Boston cop, respectively, who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. All three of these shows take on the emotional, social and physical difficulties of being overweight, but none of them get bogged down in the slippery excess of parody or pathos that so often accompanies current tales from the top of the scale.

McNamara also makes an important clarification: “When I said television has discovered that fat people are human, I mean it’s discovered that fat women and children are human. Men have always been allowed to be fat on TV.”

She gives props to the one great exception — “Roseanne” — in which Roseanne Barr herself was remarkable for rarely remarking on any of these issues at all.

May 28, 2010

Work by Artist Kaucyila Brooke Censored at Bucharest Biennale

When Los Angeles-based artist Joanne Mitchell wrote to us with news of the removal of a gender-oriented work from the Bucharest International Biennale, we asked her to share the information with readers. Joanne’s piece “Our bodies, ourselves – the book, I mean” will be showcased as part of the organization’s 40th-anniversary celebration in 2011.

By Joanne Mitchell

The Bucharest International Biennale opened last week without “Tit for Twat,” a 20-year long, ongoing project made by a former teacher of mine, the artist Kaucyila Brooke.

“Tit for Twat” is a three-part epic that takes the form of photo montage, and re-imagines the creation story from the perspective of two lesbian protagonists (view it here). It is intelligent, challenging work, sweetly sprinkled with just the right touch of humor – exactly the caliber of work I aspire to make as a lesbian-feminist artist.

The work was supposed to have been installed as part of the Biennale at Bucharest’s Institute of Geology but was shockingly pulled at the last minute by the director of that institution.

Kaucyila has consistently challenged conventional thinking on gender and sexuality throughout her long and distinguished career as an artist and as a teacher at California Institute of the Arts. It is troubling that her work is being kept from view during this international event.

Kaucyila was influential in support of my project “Our bodies, ourselves – the book, I mean” while I was a student of hers at CalArts. She contributed a wonderfully engaging story about her experience with “Our Bodies, Ourselves” that I present in a video installation. My project tracks the history of the book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and offers viewers an opportunity to engage critically with the history and trajectory of the women’s movement. I will be presenting the project as part of the 40th Anniversary Celebration of Our Bodies Ourselves in Boston in 2011.

Here are some statements on Kaucyila’s behalf:

Kaucyila Brooke’s “Tit for Twat” is a challenging piece of artistic literature about some of the most important topics affecting our humanity. It is a deeply thought out and literate investigation into the stability of gender categories and our deep mythopoetic narratives of origin. Some viewers will not like it, some will outright disagree. But these dissenters and others will all find wholly new dimensions of thinking about humanity’s fixed categories of being.

None of that can happen in the face of censorship, a form of silencing cloaked in cowardly evasiveness. The Arts are one of the very few global cultural spaces where repressions of difference may — and indeed must be — freely explored for humanity to find ways to move on, allowing discovery, discussion (however contentious), and progress towards a more tolerant world. It is a grievous blow to that future tolerance that the Bucharest Biennial has allowed Art’s precious freedom to be compromised in the interest of pathetic inoffensiveness.

- Ellen Birrell, Artist, Publisher and Editor, X-TRA, a Quarterly Journal of the Arts

Jacques Rancière claims “a new form of political subjectivity that would accept the point that we start from equality, from the idea that there is a universal competence – that there is a universal capacity that is involved in all those experiments and that we are trying to expand – to expand the field and the capacities of that competence.”

In “Tit for Twat” by Kaucyila Brooke, Madam and Eve are standing on the edge of human evolution, curiously embarking on a journey through space, time and history. Intellectually fascinated by the idea of “nature,” they decide to visit various historic gardens, to question the biblical assumption of heterosexuality (Adam and Eve), and to deal with their relation towards other theories of origin. Especially in a Catholic country, the piece is highly provocative but don’t we need provocative works in order to discuss future ways of living?

In our times of passage, a time that implies a certain chaos, structures are going to disappear and the new is not yet at the horizon. Especially in uncertain times, we have to open our minds, we have to be able to ask questions, we have to show critical works and we have to discuss them — but not to exclude them. No religious or political authority can provide us with a clear definition of meaning, or communicate a socially sanctioned aspiration for the collective implementation of a utopia or a promise of redemption.

Therefore, the act of censoring works (without even discussing it) is against society, is against all that contemporary art stands for today and questions the intent of the Bucharest Biennial as a whole. Believe in your audience and give them the opportunity to decide for themselves.

- Bettina Steinbrügge, Co-curator of Forum Expanded/Berlin International Film Festival, Associate curator of La Kunsthalle, Mulhouse

“Tit for Twat” will not be seen at the Biennale, but you can view images and text from dialogue balloons online at Please share this with anyone interested in feminist art and censorship.

March 31, 2010

Reproductive Health: The Facts on Health Care Reform, Georgia and Lilith Fair (Yes, All of the Above)

Putting HCR in Context: The Guttmacher Institute looks at the pros and cons of health care reform as it relates to reproductive health, including sex education, Medicaid expansion and funding for public health programs.

The research institute notes that insurance companies not only would have to “jump through numerous, unprecedented hoops to estimate the cost of abortion coverage and ensure that the abortion payments never mix with other funds,” but “they also are likely to face extensive public scrutiny and protest around their action.”

All told, according to an analysis by George Washington University’s Sara Rosenbaum, “the more logical response” for private insurers marketing plans within the exchanges — and eventually in the broader market as well — “would be not to sell products that cover abortion services.”

Plus: Drawing from its Congressional record, NARAL flags Republicans who have voted against reproductive rights and who also warned HRC would lead to government intrusion on private medical decisions.

Lasting ConsequencesKatha Pollitt talks with Carol Joffe, author of “Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us,” about the effect of HRC on women’s reproductive rights and health. Joffe discusses the good, the bad and the ugly — which refers to the marginalization of abortion.

President Obama and Democratic Congresswomen repeatedly said, “This is a health care bill, not an abortion bill.” I understand why they said it. They felt this was the only way to get the bill through and perhaps they were right. But abortion is health care! One out of three women has an abortion during her reproductive years. One of the best ways to reduce the stigma around abortion is to normalize the procedure within mainstream health care settings. The mantra “this is a health care bill, not an abortion bill” reinforces exactly the opposite message.

Plus: In a separate piece written earlier this month, Katha Pollitt offers concrete suggestions on how the Democratic Party and the Obama administration can repay supporters of women’s rights for cooperating on HRC, including taking steps to improve maternal care and outcomes, and full funding for Title X and the Violence Against Women Act. I love the ending:

Speaking of violence against women, Dems, would you look in the effing mirror? New York’s Hiram Monserrate and David Paterson? Scott Lee Cohen in Illinois? That these men and others like them could get as far as they did says the culture of the party is tone-deaf when it comes to abuse and its warning signs. The only way to detoxify politics of tolerance for violence is to have lots more women in office. If India can pass a law requiring Parliament to be one-third women, surely the Democratic Party can figure out how to achieve equal numbers of women here. Pro-choice women. Feminist women.

Start by backing the grassroots campaign of former teacher and county commissioner Connie Saltonstall, who has announced her intention to challenge Bart Stupak in the August primary. “He has a right to his personal, religious views,” says Saltonstall, “but to deprive his constituents of needed healthcare reform because of those views is reprehensible.” Now there’s a woman with gumption and a gift for stating things clearly.

In Other News …

Revisions to On-Air Abortion Language: NPR reporters will no longer use the terms pro-choice and pro-life to describe both sides of the abortion rights debate. Instead, according to an internal memo:

On the air, we should use “abortion rights supporter(s)/advocate(s)” and “abortion rights opponent(s)” or derivations thereof (for example: “advocates of abortion rights”). It is acceptable to use the phrase “anti-abortion”, but do not use the term “pro-abortion rights”.

Digital News will continue to use the AP style book for online content, which mirrors the revised NPR policy.

Do not use “pro-life” and “pro-choice” in copy except when used in the name of a group. Of course, when the terms are used in an actuality they should remain.” [An actuality is a clip of tape of someone talking. So if a source uses those terms, NPR will not edit them out.]

Georgia Senate Passes Abortion Bill: The latest assault on women’s reproductive health in Georgia is SB 529, a Senate bill that makes it possible to bring criminal charges against doctors, boyfriends, pimps and even parents if they encourage a woman to have an abortion. The bill’s supporters frame it as a way to protect women — especially women of color — but women’s health advocates say the true motivation is to criminalize abortion.

“This bill was created under the false assumption that abortion doctors solicit women of color, particularly, black women,” said Democratic State Sen. Donzella James. “This bill calls into question all who make a deeply private and personal medical decision. Every woman, regardless of ethnic background, should have the ability to make personal decisions. Not the people in this room. It is between, she, her family and God.”

Heidi Williamson of Sister Song has more. “Publicly, white Republican men claim to care about pregnant black women who are allegedly being targeted by the abortion industry. Privately, those same men scramble to ‘opt Georgia out’ of national healthcare reform and find the perfect wedge issue for the mid-term elections to build the Republican base in African-American communities,” she writes.

We previously discussed an anti-abortion billboard campaign in Georgia targeting black women  that proclaims black children are an endangered species. Women’s eNews reports that the campaign may soon go national. For more on the difference in abortion rates among women, see this Guttmacher Institute policy report, which notes that black and Hispanic women have higher abortion rates than white women because they have higher rates of unintended pregnancy.

What’s Up With Lilith Fair?: After announcing that it would donate a dollar from every ticket sold to a women’s organization in each of the 36 host cities, Lilith Fair is coming under fire for including organizations that don’t support a full range of reproductive services.

Apparently, the only vetting Lilith did was to look online for women-focused organizations with federal tax ID numbers. Jessica Hopper interviewed Nettwerk CEO and Lilith cofounder Terry McBride about the selection process and received a less-than-informed response.

“The seeding at the start was done with a basic digital search in each market of woman’s charities,” he said. “It’s not perfect. Nor could it be, as we simply don’t have the local expertise even within our own city of Vancouver.”

Really? Lilith couldn’t have contacted local women’s health advocates, or put a few interns on the project? Perhaps the festival should include a booth for organizers on research skills.

There’s always a chance for improvement. Facebook fans will vote on the selected organizations, and the top three vote-getters in each city will be forwarded to Lilith founders — Sarah McLachlan, Terry McBride, Dan Fraser and Marty Diamond — who will hand pick the winners. And organizations not currently featured can self-submit for consideration. Read more at the Chicago Reader.

March 14, 2010

Double Dose: What Will Happen to Healthcare Reform?; Stopping Campus Rape; Granny Midwife Margaret Charles Smith is Honored; and More …

On How a Bill Becomes a Law: The bill that will likely become the reconciliation bill on healthcare has been posted (PDF). Ezra Klein explains what it means.

Democratic leaders say a bill will pass this week.  House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) pledges obstruction, saying Republicans will do “everything we can to make it difficult for them, if not impossible, to pass the bill.”

Jen Nedeau covers the multiple threats to women’s health and reproductive rights that must be addressed, including the House anti-abortion language. You know it as the Stupak/Pitts admendment. But Richard Doerflinger, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ point man on abortion, should have had his name in there, too. Meanwhile, Jessica Arons tries to see the world through the lens of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).

In an editorial in Monday’s paper, The New York Times urges anti-abortion Democrats to accept the Senate’s restrictive provisions, the lesser of two evils.

Too Many Tests, Too Much Treatment: “A spate of recent reports suggests that many Americans are being overtreated. Maybe even President Barack Obama, champion of an overhaul and cost-cutting of the health care system,” reports Lindsey Tanner of the Associated Press.

“More care is not necessarily better care,” wrote cardiologist Dr. Rita Redberg, editor of Archives of Internal Medicine, commenting on Obama’srecent physical, which included prostate cancer screening and a virtual colonoscopy. The PSA isn’t recommended at any age and a colonoscopyisn’t recommended under age 50.

Over-testing may be due to a combination of what is known as “defensive medicine” — doctors ordering tests and procedures because they’re trying  protect themselves against lawsuits (or because they’ll be compensated by a fee-for-service system) — and patients insisting on tests and treatments that they’ve heard about or know is commonly prescribed. But the thinking around more care = better care may be shifting.

“This week alone,” writes Tanner, “a New England Journal of Medicine study suggested that too many patients are getting angiograms – invasive imaging tests for heart disease — who don’t really need them; and specialists convened by the National Institutes of Health said doctors are too often demanding repeat cesarean deliveries for pregnant women after a first C-section.”

Stopping the Campus Rape Crisis: Jaclyn Friedman, executive editor of Women, Action and the Media and co-editor of “Yes Means Yes,” wrote a must-read op-ed in the Washington Post on ending the silence around sexual assault on college campuses.

First, colleges can eliminate the “miscommunication” excuse that many rapists use by creating an on-campus standard that requires any party to a sexual interaction to make sure their partner is actively enthusiastic about what’s happening — not just not objecting. They can create judicial boards equipped to seriously investigate rape accusations, instead of throwing their hands up at the first sign that the accused’s testimony contradicts the accuser’s. They can defend the safety of the entire campus by permanently expelling those found guilty of sexual assault. And they can be transparent about every step of the process.

Plus: The Center for Public Integrity recently released “Sexual Assault on Campus: A Frustrating Search for Justice,” an in-depth report filled with useful data, articles and resources.

Listen to Me GoodRecognition for Midwives: Granny midwife Margaret Charles Smith was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame at Judson College this month. Smith attended nearly 3,000 births between 1949, when she received her midwife permit, and 1981, when she attended her last birth. Her life story is told in a book Smith co-wrote with Linda Janet Holmes, “Listen to Me Good: The Life Story of an Alabama Midwife.”

Plus: Rachel previously noted that the National Library of Medicine is featuring an exhibition on African American midwives. ”Nothing To Work With But Cleanliness: African American ‘Grannies,’ Midwives & Health Reform” tells the story of “granny” midwives and the state and local training programs that educated them and succeeding generations of midwives. View a wonderful set of photos from the exhibition on Flickr.

Utah’s Controversial Law Charges Women and Girls With Murder for Miscarriages: Writing at AlterNet, Rose Aguilar breaks down the problems with Utah’s new law that makes it a criminal offense for having miscarriages caused by “intentional or knowing” acts.

“What happens to women who are in abusive relationships?” asks Planned Parenthood’s Melissa Bird. “What happens if a woman threatens to leave the abuser, falls down the stairs and loses the baby? What if the abuser beats the woman and causes a miscarriage? Could he turn her in? Who would the prosecutor believe? What happens if a drug addict who’s trying to get clean loses her baby? Will she be brought up on murder charges?”

Some critics point out the legislators erred in not considering the lack of access that young people have to comprehensive sex education, and the overall lack of contraception and health services, especially in remote parts of the state.

The Girls Who Kicked in Rock’s Door: Not exactly health related (unless you’re like me and consider loud music essential for well-being), but I am completely intrigued by the “The Runaways,” the new film about the 1970s all-girl rock band, starring Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart. Sia Michel writes about the story behind the film and its director, Floria Sigismondi.

November 10, 2009

Our Bodies Ourselves Guest Stars on “Gossip Girl”

We’ve heard from several readers who caught a glimpse of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” on a recent episode of “Gossip Girl.” (No, not that episode.)

We tried to embed the scene, but permissions just won’t let it happen. Fortunately Television Without Pity has the full (really full) re-cap, including the dialogue referencing OBOS.  New York magazine was as surprised as we were to find OBOS included …

October 29, 2009

Gail Collins on The Colbert Report

when_everything_changedNew York Times columnist Gail Collins appeared on The Colbert Report earlier this week to discuss her new book, “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present.”

in 1960, women were prohibited from serving on juries and it was perfectly legal to not hire women because of their sex. The book opens with the story of a woman who was kicked out of traffic court for daring to wear pants (and she was there to pay her boss’s ticket).

One of today’s biggest problems, said Collins, is that “half the workforce is female now, and we still haven’t figured out who’s supposed to take care of the kids.”

Colbert appeared shocked. “The women take care of the kids,” he said.

The reason, he added, is simply biological.

“I cannot produce milk. I’ve tried. It’s painful and it doesn’t work.”


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September 7, 2009

Women & Labor: Lillian Moller Gilbreth, Peggy Olson and the Next Generation

Hope you’re all relaxing today, at least for a little bit. Here are a few articles that seem fitting in honor of Labor Day …

- At Women’s eNews, Kate Kelly describes the work of Lillian Moller Gilbreth, also known as the Mother of Modern Management, who was an industrial engineer and a pioneer in creating work environments that met the needs of the disabled. This is the first I’ve heard of Gilbreth, a mother of 12, and continued to read more about her incredible life at Webster and Wikipedia. Gilbreth’s papers are at Smith College.

- From Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz: “Last week, in a 5-1 ruling, the highest court here ruled that an Ohio law that bans discrimination against pregnant women does not protect them from punishment for taking unauthorized breaks to use a breast pump after they birth those babies. And you thought we were a trendsetter only in presidential election years.” Read on.


- “Mad Men,” my favorite TV show of the moment, offers a poignant look at the trials of women in the workplace in the early 1960s. The series is set at a growing ad agency on Madison Avenue (that’s copywriter Peggy Olson, played by Elisabeth Moss, above), and it’s full of cringe-worthy moments. Seven of the show’s nine writers are women, which Amy Chozick notes is a rarity in Hollywood television.

Joan Wickersham, who worked as a copywriter in a Boston ad agency in the 1980s, writes in the Boston Globe that “long after the 1960s, the workplace was still stuck in the same cultural blind spot satirized in ‘Mad Men.’” She shares this story of a client presenting prototypes of two computer games — the one targeted to boys involved building a railway empire; the one targeted to girls involved deciding where to put furniture in a house.

I suggested to the client that maybe the girls’ game needed a little more substance. The boys’ game was ambitious, intellectually challenging – couldn’t something similar be devised for the girls? Or maybe they didn’t need their own game. Maybe they’d be just as excited as the boys about building a railway empire. Maybe . . .

One of the men I worked with gave me a look. A look that said: “You’re being a pest, and a troublemaker. Shut up.’’

And I did.

Fast forward another 25 years, and consider Wal-Mart’s gendered back-to-school commercials, as described by Claire Mysko:

Boy version with Mom voiceover: “I can’t go to class with him. I can’t do his history report for him, or show the teachers how curious he is. That’s his job. My job is to give him everything he needs to succeed while staying within a budget…I love my job.” Cut to boy with his new affordable laptop. He’s getting applause from his teacher and the students in the class as he delivers a report.

Girl version with Mom voiceover:“I can’t go to school with her. I can’t introduce her to new friends.” Cut to girl nervously asking “Can I sit here?” to a group of girls sitting together at lunch. “Sure, I like your top!” one of them answers. “Or tell everyone how amazing she is. But I can give her what she needs to feel good about herself without breaking my budget. All she has to do is be herself.” Cut to smiling girls walking arm-in-arm down the hallway.

It appears that much work still needs to be done.

August 17, 2009

Double Dose, Part 2: Clinton Focuses on Elevating Women; Whole Foods Fight; Our Genders, Our Rights; The Gender Politics of “Mad Men”

Clinton Prioritizes Women’s Rights: “Clinton intends to press governments on abuses of women’s rights and make women more central in U.S. aid programs,” writes Mary Beth Sheridan at the Washington Post. “But her efforts go beyond the marble halls of government and show how she is redefining the role of secretary of state. Her trips are packed with town-hall meetings and visits to micro-credit projects and women’s dinners. Ever the politician, Clinton is using her star power to boost women who could be her allies.”

“It’s just a constant effort to elevate people who, in their societies, may not even be known by their own leaders,” Clinton told WaPo. “My coming gives them a platform, which then gives us the chance to try and change the priorities of the governments.”

Whole Foods Fight: I’ll be posting a more studious healthcare round-up, but for the moment: The New York Times Opinionator blog did a nice job pulling together comments from around the web about the anti-government healthcare reform op-ed written by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey that has some shoppers calling for a boycott.

One commenter recalls a food boycott from years ago that was more win-win: “I *loved* the Domino’s boycott way back when. Pro-choice cred PLUS I don’t have to eat cardboard pizza!”

feminism_and_sexismOur Genders, Our Rights: The summer edition of On The Issues Magazine discusses a topic that the editors describe as “both utterly fundamental and wildly revolutionary: gender norms and gender identity.”

Among the many offerings: “How a Feminist Found Her Sexism,” by Helen Boyd (with image at left by Gavin Rouille); “Trans Health Care Is A Life and Death Matter,” by Eleanor J. Bader; and “Virtual Switching, or Playing Games?” by Georgia Kral.

The Gender Politics of “Mad Men”: Cheers to Feministing for making Mondays that much better with a weekly feminist analysis of the popular AMC series “Mad Men,” and to RH Reality Check for hosting an ongoing “Mad Men” salon. And don’t miss Crystal Merritt’s insider perspective, as an ad woman and feminist.

New Column, Great Advice: Jaclyn Friedman is one of our favorite people for many reasons. She runs the annual Women, Action & Media conference as part of her role at Center for New Words; she co-edited, with Jessica Valenti, “Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape“; and now she’s writing a weekly column for Amplify Your Voice, a project of Advocates for Youth.

Read Friedman’s “Open Letter to Miley Cyrus,” which should be shared with all 16-year-olds.

Ovarian Cancer Surgery and Fertility: According to a new study published in the journal Cancer, five-year survival rates for stage 1 ovarian cancer patients were the same for patients who had both ovaries removed and women who had only the cancerous ovary removed, reports the L.A. Times. Though ovarian cancer occurs most often in postmenopausal women, up to 17% of ovarian cancers occur in women 40 or younger and that rate is believed to be rising.

Plus: Chicago Tribune health columnist Julie Deardoff writes: ”One of every 1,000 pregnant women in the U.S. has cancer, a relatively rare but stark convergence of life and death. For these women, treatment is possible. But it comes with a host of terrifying decisions for the family.”  The story focuses on Sarah Joanis, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 26.

“Menopause, the Musical”: “This isn’t retro; it’s just old,” Anita Gates writes in The New York Times of the eight-year-old musical that, despite corny songs and stereotypes, has been produced in 14 countries and in more than 200 American cities. “Who calls menopause the change of life? Edith Bunker, maybe, on the 1970s sitcom ‘All in the Family.’ And she would have been in her 80s by now. Women who read ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ in their youth don’t use euphemisms.”

The musical is underway at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, and while Gates is clearly not enamored with the premise, she is a fan of the current staging and cast: ”And thanks to a shift from self-deprecation to self-actualization (and a few nice costume changes), by the end, against all odds, the show is actually exhilarating.”