Sunday, September 30, 2012

Todd Akin Wants to Write My Blog

Would Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin be more likely to be elected Senator in Missouri if he just STFU until November? I'm thinking that he would have better odds if he never opened his mouth for the rest of the campaign.

Yesterday, in an interview with the Kansas City Star, he called his opponent Claire McCaskill "unladylike":
I think we have a very clear path to victory, and apparently Claire McCaskill thinks we do, too, because she was very aggressive at the debate, which was quite different than it was when she ran against Jim Talent . . . She had a confidence and was much more ladylike (in 2006), but in the debate on Friday she came out swinging, and I think that’s because she feels threatened.
 
Can you just imagine being the reporter? You know it was like ten Christmases came at once for him!

Please, Todd, tell us more.

Congressman, why don't you support the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which ensures that women and men are paid equally for the same work?

I believe in free enterprise. I don’t think the government should be telling people what you pay and what you don’t pay. I think it’s about freedom. If someone wants to hire somebody and they agree on a salary, that’s fine, however it wants to work. So, the government sticking its nose into all kinds of things has gotten us into huge trouble.
 
Yeah, this guy is about to get a bump in the polls. We ladies cannot get enough of being underpaid and told how to behave. After the "legitimate rape" biology lesson, you might expect Akin's handlers to put the ix-nay on the isogyny-may. I guess not.
 
Today's $5 is for the Business and Professional Women's Foundation, which works to "to create successful workplaces that embrace and practice diversity, equity and work-life balance convening employers, working women and policymakers to promote systemic workplace change."
 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Linda McMahon Aint Your Granny

Would you vote Hugh Heffner for Senator? How about Larry Flynt or Bob Guccione? I bet you wouldn't. I hold the First Amendment dear, but NFW am I going to vote for someone who got rich objectifying women. In that vein, I am pleased to see that Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), is losing the Connecticut Senate race.

You have to admire McMahon and her husband Vince for building their company from nothing in 1980 to earning $123 million in the the first quarter of 2012. In case you've never channel-surfed on a Monday night, WWE produces scripted wrestling matches of steroid-enhanced body-builders. The audience for their television, pay-per-view and live events is huge, covering a wide demographic. It also serves up homophobia and misogyny as a part of it's standard fare.

Here's the trailer for a terrific documentary on the company, Wrestling With Manhood.

If you're wondering how producing a Bra and Panties wrestling match qualifies you for political office, how about this story line, which is strangely nowhere to be found on YouTube.  From the West Hartford News:
[McMahon] appears on camera in a wheelchair, staring into space as her husband, Vince, berates a woman playing his buxom mistress and orders her to undress, "crawl around" the ring, and "bark like a dog." She complies.

McMahon stays silent as her real daughter physically assaults the "mistress" and her real son physically assaults her husband.
It's weird how the WWE has gotten aggressive about enforcing their copyright to this clip. Every time it appears on YouTube, their lawyers force it down. In fairness, the WWE switched to a more PG format in 2008. Just in time for McMahon to announce her first Senate bid. Hmmm.

You can still watch this clip of McMahon defending WWE to Christiane Amanpour.



Sorry, no. You don't get to spend decades enriching yourself by making rape jokes and then say you were just giving people what they enjoy. If your product encourages boys to think violence against women (and gays, and the mentally disabled, and other races, and other boys) is a normal part of being a man, you cannot run for office as a business owner and proud grandmother. No, not even if you get yourself appointed to the school board and donate to the Special Olympics. (Although I think it shows impressive chutzpah to connect WWE to an anti-bullying campaign!)

I'm not making political donations as part of this website, so today I'll give $5 to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, because violence against women is just not f***ing funny.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Damn, I hate it when the facts on the ground interfere with my preconceptions. This week, when the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommended IUDs and hormonal birth control implants for sexually active teens, my first thought was, "What about protecting them from sexually transmitted infections?"

I feel like a Values Voter, only my cry will be "Condoms for everyone" not "Keep your knees together OR ELSE."

Religious conservative groups oppose comprehensive sex ed for teenagers, preferring to tell kids that they must abstain from sex before marriage. Take it away, Focus on the Family.
Focus on the Family supports abstinence-until-marriage education in the public schools because it is God's expected standard as communicated in Scripture. God's perfect plan for sexuality unfolds as an exclusive blessing for husband and wife in marriage and also ensures protection for the unmarried. Sexuality is a glorious gift from God meant to honor Him either in marriage or in celibacy.
 
Here on planet earth, the average teenager has sex around his/her 17th birthday.  And abstinence only education is associated with higher rates of unintended pregnancy, not lower. Surely, the fact that their beliefs have been repudiated will cause these conservatives to change their tune. What do you say, Family Research Council?
Abstinence-until-marriage programs have proven to be very effective in reducing sexual activity among young people. Their success in changing young people's views and behavior is due to the fact that they teach young people that saving sex for marriage is the best choice, one that will benefit them now and in the future. In addition, these programs give students the knowledge and skills they need to abstain until marriage
Okay, then.

In my perfect world, kids would learn that using condoms in a loving relationship is the best way to protect both partners from pregnancy and STIs. Oddly, it seems like kids don't like condoms any more than we adults do, and they don't always use them. Anything to add, Journal of Adolescent Health?
Adolescents who received comprehensive sex education were significantly less likely to report teen pregnancy than those who received no formal sex education, whereas there was no significant effect of abstinence-only education. ... Neither abstinence-only nor comprehensive sex education significantly reduced the likelihood of reported STD diagnoses. [emphasis mine.]
 
Well, that is inconvenient. You mean telling kids to use condoms is not reducing their risk of STIs? Imagine, the evidence-based studies not conforming to my prejudices. The nerve of these scientists with their statistical analysis and polling data.

Luckily, I'm a feminist, not a values voter, so I'm allowed to change my mind based on actual evidence. I'll send a $5 thank-you to the Guttmacher Institute, who seeks to advance "sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education."



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Math


A great article in yesterday's New York Times discussed the persistence of gender bias among science faculty at American research universities. In a study conducted by professors at Yale University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, members of the science faculty were asked to review a resume and rate the applicant's potential.

Some resumes were for John, and some were for Jennifer. You will be shocked, shocked to learn that John was deemed more competent than Jennifer, despite their identical resumes. And the fact that both applicants were entirely fictional.

Interestingly, the study authors credit this to subconscious, rather than overt bias.
Past studies indicate that peoples behavior is shaped by implicit or unintended biases, stemming from repeated exposure to pervasive cultural stereotypes that portray women as less competent but simultaneously emphasize their warmth and likeability compared with men. Despite significant decreases in overt sexism over the last few decades (particularly among highly educated people), these subtle gender biases are often still held by even the most egalitarian individuals, and are exhibited by both men and women. 
Yeah, this is kind of a bummer. Especially since the subconscious belief that women are less good at math and science is self-reinforcing - girls who believe that boys are better, do worse. On the flip side, a 2007 study from Stanford demonstrates that girls who believe that mastery of math and science are learnable, rather than defined by innate ability, close the achievement gap. So tell your daughter science comes to those who work hard. And tell Barbie to shove it.


Today's $5 goes to the National Academy of Sciences which support math and science for all of us.
 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Big Mess in Texas

So, Rick Perry and Todd Akin walk into a biology class ...

Haha, just kidding. Clearly, neither of these guys have ever set foot in a biology class. Why else would Perry's grand plan to remake women's healthcare in Texas direct women seeking birth control to Crisis Pregnancy Centers?

Were you wondering why a woman looking for an IUD would need to listen to a lecture on why she shouldn't have an abortion? 

Welcome to the Texas GOP, where teaching crititcal thinking is forbidden and birth control = abortion. You can't be asking those Crisis Pregnancy Centers Women's Health Providers to give women abortifacients like the morning after pill, IUDs, shots, implants and the pill. That would be violate their freedom of conscience. Duh!

RHrealitycheck.org has some great articles about this. But, here's a thumbnail sketch. Texas will turn away federal funds for poor women's health, 9 out every 10 dollars, rather than direct any money toward Planned Parenthood clinics. Even though those clinics accounted for 47% of all non-hospital/lab Women's Health Program claims in 2011, and even though none of the clinics receiving these funds provides abortions. Planned Parenthood is currently challenging its exclusion from the program in court. Governor Perry supports sending women to different providers, including Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which are not currently equipped to provide services to non-pregnant women. Moreover, with their ideological bent, many of these centers are staffed by people who believe common forms of birth control cause abortion.

So, in a state with 4 million residents living in poverty, where there has been no taxpayer-funded abortion for 36 years, 160,000-180,000 women will lose access to healthcare next year because their government doesn't like Planned Parenthood.

Sure, there will some unintended pregnancies when women forget to use aspirin as a contraceptive. Sure, some women won't be able to get Pap smears or mammograms. Maybe some will die for lack of early cancer detection. Clearly, it will be worth it to Perry and the Texas lawmakers who can be proud that no taxpayer dollars have gone to fund "affiliates of abortion providers."

You know, I didn't used to think there was a War on Women.

Today's $5 goes to Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Channeling Sinead

You know how some news stories are so very wrong that you stand there swearing at the radio like a crazy person? This is one of those stories.

In a nutshell, the Vatican is reprimanding the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization for most of America's 57,000 Catholic nuns, for focusing too much on ministering to the poor and not enough on opposing the Affordable Care Act. You got that? The Vatican is dispatching a bishop to disabuse these women of their "radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" and tell them they need to spend more time opposing abortion and gay marriage, less time opposing torture and climate change.

Sonofabi... Yeah, it's those radical nuns always winding up on the six o'clock news.

Here, here and here are links to stories in the New York Times about the controversy.

Look, I'm a Jewish girl from Baltimore. But anyone can see that these nuns are doing the Lord's work. I'm not going to criticize anyone else's religion. I am going to donate $5 to the LCWR, in appreciation for these amazing women who go out and try to heal the world.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Halloween, Part 1

 

It's that time of year again. There's a chill in the air, the kids are back in school, you've had your Labor Day picnic. It must be time for unsolicited soft-core porn Halloween catalogs.

I love Halloween in the way only a kid who grew up in a candy-free home can. I even love candy corn. Strangely, I never put the candle in the jack-o-lantern and think, "Well, it's time to put on my undees and wander 'round the neighborhood." Judging by the contents of my recycling bin, however, many people are having just this thought.


Take for instance this "Junior Saloon Girl," AKA Wild West sexworker. Is she on her way to a Take Back the Night Slutwalk? No, I'm thinking she got the memo that Halloween in America has some very specific rules.

Rule 1.     Little Girls celebrate Halloween in summertime. Thus all costumes for girls are required to be sleeveless, by law. Whether you are a Leopard Ballerina, Circus Clown or Princess Belle, you must show your arms.

Rule 2.     Little Boys celebrate Halloween in the fall. Which is when it arrives in my neighborhood, too. Lucky for them, their costumes keep them warm on chilly October nights.

Rule 3.     Girls' skirts must not cover the knees. For safety, obviously. And accuracy - ladybugs, cats and candy corn have knees, of course.
 
Rule 4. Girls' and boys' costumes are never interchangeable. Hello, separate but equal. You should look into it.


 


Rule 5. It is never too early to begin preparing your daughter for a career as a Hooters waitress.
Or a peacock. Or a cheshire cat. (Yes, these are really teen costumes for a waitress, peacock and "cheshire cat." I know, WTF?)
 
Who in the world is buying this stuff for their daughters? Because every magazine carries it, so it must be selling. Please, parents, stand up and let us all shame you now.
 
Nobody's gonna cop to buying fishnets in size 4/6?
 
Okay, let me just quote the American Psychological Association, then.

Girls’ relationships with boys and men are affected in that exposure to sexualizing and objectifying media has been shown to relate to girls’ and boys’ views on dating, boys’ sexual harassment of girls, and attitudes toward sexual violence.

So, knock it off! And October 31st is no time for adults to start leaving the house dressed like pole dancers, either. No, not even if you've been hitting the gym like a beast lately.
 
Because if you seize on the flimsiest pretext to treat yourself like a sex object, so will everyone else.
 
Today's $5 goes to Girls For a Change, which works to instill confidence and positive self-image by pairing teen girls with mentors to identify social problems and bring about change in their communities. Hats off to you, ladies!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

That's Me, Minnie the Moocher!

By now we've all seen the video of Mitt Romney surreptitiously recorded at a $50,000 per plate fundraiser in Florida where he suggested that 47% of Americans were freeloaders, dependent on government largesse, not contributing to the tax base and not taking care of themselves.

Allow me to more fully introduce myself. I am a housewife, AKA stay-at-home mom, AKA household drudge, AKA grifter who pays no federal income tax. You probably recognized me by my dress made entirely out of government cheese.

Plenty of smart people are dissecting all the ways Romney's comments were factually inaccurate. Frankly, I thought he was going to lose last week, and I still think that now. So, how fast that ship sinks to the bottom is not really interesting to me here.

What bothers me is the way that generalizations about "tax payers" disregard the contributions women (in the main) make to the common good because they can't be measured by traditional economic indicators. I don't love those studies that circulate every Mother's Day valuing a stay-at-home mother's duties at hundreds of thousands of dollars because (a) they are unscientific, and (b) they disregard the fact that working mothers do many of the same things. But I do resent the implication that unpaid labor doesn't contribute to the economy at all.

I mean, hello, think of all the money we've spent to take the kids to tennis/piano/karate lessons because I was available to drive them! And we would never have to buy a new car again if I wasn't racking up all those soccer/football/baseball miles every day.

Okay, in all seriousness, the main problem with undervaluing the economic contributions of women who care for children or the elderly is that it leads to public policies which don't promote these activities. And these policies are bad for women and bad for families.

On the economic side, the US is the only developed country that does not guarantee paid parental leave; Welfare reforms passed in 1996 shifted the focus from supporting families in poverty to encouraging employment, shunting many kids into lousy childcare so their parents could get low-wage jobs;  And the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit works out to about $1000 per child maximum, which is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but not exactly a huge subsidy that supports working families.

On the social side, dividing us into a society of "makers" and "moochers" contributes to the Mommy Wars. I know that working moms love their kids, they know I don't spend the day watching soap operas, and pretending that we have some beef is such a waste of time!

I would so much rather be talking about ways to improve childcare for young children then debating the way political speech denigrates caregivers. Today's $5 goes to the Maryland Family Network, to promote quality childcare and better outcomes for families.
                                                                                                                                                               

Bonus video: Mitt Romney admits that his wife can be kind of annoying. What a gentleman!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Child Marriage

 
Just a quick post for today, since it is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Here's a link to an AP story on child marriage in Niger, reprinted in the Washington Post. Even in times of prosperity, Niger has a high rate of child marriage. This article details the pressure drought places on families to marry their daughters off even earlier, using the dowries to feed the remaining family members.
 
It reminded me of an article from the U.K. Daily Mail about a mass wedding of girls in an area of Gujarat, India where many families rely on prostitution by young daughters to support the family. The wedding was intended to rescue the girls from becoming prostitutes.
 
Two children below India's legal age of marital consent participate in the engagement ceremony

It's easy to condemn societies for marrying off young girls, but much harder to weigh the dangers of early marriage and childbearing against a life of prostitution. Should a family starve to death, or sacrifice a daughter? How can there be moral clarity when every outcome treats a young girl's body as a form of sexual currency?
 
Today's $5 is for CARE.org's campaign against child marriage.



Thursday, September 13, 2012

No Private Idaho

May I suggest a new state slogan: Idaho, Doing our part in the War on Women.

The Wall Street Journal has a more detailed version of this sad story. The short version is that an impoverished mother of three, Jennie Linn McCormack, found herself with an unplanned pregnancy which she couldn't afford. Unfortunately, she also found herself in Idaho, a state with some of the strictest anti-choice laws in the country. Having no money to get to the closest abortion-provider in Salt Lake City, Ms. McCormack ordered RU-486, a drug which causes a non-surgical abortion, over the internet. One of her neighbors then turned her in to the police, who came to her home and confiscated the fetus. Based on their autopsy, the Bannock County prosecutors charged her with violating Idaho's ban on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, a law enacted based on a belief that a fetus can feel pain from 22 weeks. She was also charged with ending her pregnancy outside the care of a licensed physician.

First they came for the doctors. Now they're coming for us, women who are just excercising our constitutional right to control our own bodies.

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law requiring women to determine the legality of each kind of abortion procedure places an undue burden on her access to abortion services. They also found that prosecuting women for having an abortion in a manner other than prescribed by law is probably illegal.

Funny, I don't feel like celebrating. I feel like it really sucks to be poor in rural America. I feel like the Idaho legislators were trying very hard to ban all abortions, or at least force women to spend a lot of money and be humliated by a crowd of screaming protestors. I feel grateful for my neighbors who hate my siding but mind their own, damn business.

I feel like giving $5 to Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.

Here, have a video. An Ohio legislator will demonstrate his deep understanding of female psychology. Haha, just kidding.



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Does this trophy make my butt look big?

When even the Fox network says you lack gender and racial sensitivity, chances are you've really acted like an a**hole. So it was with the United States Tennis Association last week when the Wall Street Journal broke the story of it's refusal to fund 16-year-old Junior Australian Open winner Taylor Townsend at the US Open. Their reason, she's too fat. Ahem, "Our concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long-term development as a player," said Patrick McEnroe of the USTA.

This story has gotten a lot of media coverage. Here's a link to an interview the Ms. Townsend did with ABC's Good Morning America. And, yes, the USTA backed down and restored funding for the player ranked top in the world to play in her sport. But . . .

Let's do a thought experiment. Let's say that the USTA really did have Townsend's best interests at heart when they told her to slim down before she played publicly. Maybe what they really meant was something like, "If you want to maximize your endorsement deals, being the best isn't enough. You're a woman, and you have to be beautiful enough to make men want to watch you play your sport."

Because this woman has won 43 professional titles.
And this woman has won 16.
 
Guess who makes a lot more money?

Damn. Am I asking too much for someone to judge my daughter on how well she plays, not on whether she looks like a northern European underwear model?

Toward that end, I am sending $5 to Grrrl Camp, a non-profit summer camp that promotes positive body image for girls through athletics.
GRRRL Camp empowers girls to realize their full potential through sports, dance, self-defense, health education, and social justice education. The camp facilitates the creation of a network of powerful girls who are self-confident and support each other in a world which, even while giving them equality under law, has a ways to go in its attitudes towards girls, their worth, and their abilities. Our participants inspire each other to fight beauty standards, attitudes, and assumptions the media has set up.

Sign me up!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dishonored

You know that momentary rush, when you think, "Yay, the good guys won out." And two seconds later you think, "Dammit, why are we still having to fight this hard in 2012?" The happy feeling passes, and you're just as pissed off as before. It's one of those days.

Today the ignominious case of Judge Bruce Lamdin, of Baltimore County, comes to an end. As publicized by wbaltv.com, on September 6, a woman came before the Judge seeking a routine protective order against her husband. The (heartbreaking) audio posted by WashingtonPost.com of the proceedings includes details of the assault which took place in front of the witness's minor children: "He then threw me down on the floor and stomped me in the ribs so hard that I peed my pants." In this situation, a person with an ounce of human decency would, (a) grant the order, or (b) berate the victim for putting herself in harm's way because of her own greed and laziness.

Yeah, I wish it was (a). But no.

Lamdin's first line of questioning concerns the wife's own culpability in staying in an abusive situation. He was unconvinced by the witness's wish to save her children from experiencing life in a shelter, as she herself had done as a child.

"It confounds me that people tell me they are scared for their life, and then they stay in a situation where they can remove themselves and go to a shelter."

The Judge went on to suggest that she had no rights to the house acquired during their marriage because it had not been titled in her name, going so far to interrogate her as to why her credit history would bar her being placed on the title.

He followed by blaming the victim for her own greed, "If your concern was really the safety of your children and yourself, you'd already be out of there. But as always, based on your testimony, it comes back to the almighty dollar."

While he did end up granting the temporary protective order, Judge Lamdin did his best to deprive the woman of any sense of safety or comfort she might otherwise derive.
Don't walk out of this courtroom and think you're protected. 'Cause people have been shot, knifed, run down, killed, maimed and there's orders in place, but, ma'am, this is nothing more than a piece of paper. You can hold a piece of paper right up in front of this gentleman, and he could shoot you right through it.

So then what happened? Well, the Women's Law Center filed a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Judicial Disabilities. And rather than face a likely removal from the bench, Judge Lamdin will not be seeking reappointment when his term is up next month. Okay, yes, the system worked.

But, why are we still having to fight these fights? Why are domestic violence victims somehow treated like prostitutes who took money in exchange for allowing themselves to be beaten?

I have no jokes.

Just my $5 for the Women's Law Center of Maryland. It's not enough, but sadly, I suspect I'll be donating to them again.

Thanks to my pal Marcie at BaltimoreCrime.blogspot.com, who turned me on to this story and pissed me off enough to start this blog.

Double Standard Day

Hello, Ladies.

Were you aware there exists a double standard in the workplace? No? Seems like a feminist utopia to you everywhere you look? Yeah, not so much.

American women are earning 80 cents for each dollar men earn. Often they are bringing home their 4/5 of the bacon to families with no men to share the burden, as one household in four with young children is now headed by a woman. Is it necessary to link to one of the bazillion studies that show that women employed outside the home still do the greater share of childcare and housework, even when they have husbands? Do you live under a rock? I have many things to say about the American workplace being totally family-unfriendly. But for today, let me just point to the totally sexist line of questioning posed to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan last week at the Democratic National Convention.

Ms. Madigan may or may not be considering a primary challenge to current Illinois Governor Pat Quinn in 2014. Ms. Madigan has two children, aged 7 and 4. Obviously reporters felt the need to ask her if she could both parent and govern. Were you thinking, "Wow. Does anybody ever ask that question?” Yeah, that's what she said, too.

Here's an excerpt from the Chicago Sun Times article, which seems to imply that their reporters are the ones with this burning curiosity.
Pressed further on whether she could simultaneously hold both jobs — governor and mom — she said, “I can be the attorney general and do that. There are plenty of women who juggle.”
 
Reminded that being governor is a lot more demanding than attorney general, she said, “All of these jobs are very demanding. And people who, unfortunately, have to work three jobs and don’t necessarily have health-care coverage — they’re even in a worse situation. So nobody needs to give any pity on what elected officials have to endure.”
Just the way they asked Paul Ryan (children 7, 8 and 9) and Rick Santorum (seven children, between 3 and 20) if they could balance family obligations with political office. Oh, they didn't ask them? That's weird. I wonder why.

Ms. Madigan, in your honor, I will donate $5 to the Chicago Foundation for Women. Thanks for brushing off this preposterous line of questions.

**********************************************************************************
 
And, the Daily WTF goes to crazy uncle Pat Robertson, who suggests that a man with an uppity wife convert to Islam so that he can give her the beating she deserves.