Monday, July 11, 2011

Programming Note, Part 2 now redirects you to my new Wordpress site.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Programming Note

I've been testing out a Wordpress blog instead of this Blogger format. I've moved my work over to, ignoring all wisdom gleaned from Matt Drudge. Redirect on coming shortly. Please update your RSS feeds accordingly.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What Kay's Doing

Wow. Hey, guys. I've been out of the posting game for a little while. Sorry about that. Mainly I've been busy because I quit my job and started a new one since my last blog post. I'm no longer the editor at (and if you know anyone who wants my old job, send them here).

Instead, I'm now the online managing editor at Washingtonian magazine. I'm just getting going there, but if you're really desperate to read some stuff written by me, you can read some morning roundups and daily questions I've put together over there.

But if you want to see me in real life, you should swing by the Women's Information Network offices tonight at 6:30 for me to present with some other folks on "Finding Your Voice Online: Political Blogging 101."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why Are There So Few Female Characters Overcoming Disabilities?

(Miramax Films)

I recently got around to watching The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a beautiful film about former Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby's struggle with the aftermath of a massively debilitating stroke. Though not super common, stories about a protagonist overcoming the complications of a disability are getting some attention, what with the Oscar-winning The King's Speech. Even the most recent season of Breaking Bad depicts DEA agent Hank Schrader working through physical therapy after a near-deadly shooting. These stories are part of a niche sub-genre of characters coming to terms with a disability.

But what you don't see in these types of stories are female protagonists. An obvious candidate for a story like this would be a biopic of deaf-and-dumb heroine Hellen Keller, but no such major film adaptation has been done, save a documentary about her released in 1954.

In fact, women are rarely portrayed with disabilities of any kind in film or television in recent years. The last major actress with a disability I can recall is deaf actress Marlee Matlin, who won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and four Emmy nominations. Much has been written about the lack of interesting roles for women, including something Tad Friend touched on in a piece in a recent issue of the New Yorker on female comedians. But rare as interesting roles are for women, roles for women with disabilities are even rarer.

If a stuttering king is worthy of an Oscar, maybe Hollywood can consider writing such a role for a woman.

Addendum: So many people have pointed out that I have forgotten The Miracle Worker, a 1962 film starring Patty Duke. Though it still doesn't change the fact that far more movies get made about men overcoming disabilities far more often than ones about women do. Commenter Sayantani writes,
As someone who teaches illness and disability memoirs - I've been convinced that it's because disability (or illness) brings masculinity into crisis and these narratives are all struggling with that point of social/cultural crisis.

Since Western masculinity is constructed as autonomous, with bodily control, physically powerful, etc. Lots of great things have been written about the hypermasculine disability narrative (or the male disability narrative struggling with masculinity/virility).
My knowledge of film history is nowhere near comprehensive, but I think the original point I raised is still a valid one.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Links: Emancipation Day Edition

Washington, D.C.'s African American Civil War Memorial. (Flickr/wallyg)
  • Folks in Washington, D.C., are celebrating Emancipation Day, or the day when we as a country decided it was probably a bad call to let humans own other humans. Somehow, this is not recognized as a federal holiday and we'll take a day of for Imperialism Columbus Day instead. [Washington City Paper]
  • Is our business students learning? [The Chronicle of Higher Education]
  • Mumford and Sons have a new song. [Paste]
  • Wow, Peggy Ornstein is right. This gendering our children thing is starting at a younger and younger age. Now they have parties for your gender when you're still in the womb. [The Awl]
  • Men should wear wedding rings, Hugo argues. [Good Men Project]
  • After Congress negotiated away the District of Columbia's right to spend its own taxpayer money on abortion, private donations flooded in to make up the lack of Medicare payments. They raised $25,000, but still fall short. [Amanda Hess]
  • Do you need something, anything cute to look at? [Cute Roulette]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Misplaced Protest at Walgreen's?

Jill at Feministe links to a protest planned this weekend based on Stephen Colbert's really hilarious sketch on a Fox and Friends misunderstanding of what kids of things you can actually obtain at Walgreen's.

FOX & Friends thinks we don’t need Planned Parenthood because women can just get their breast exams and pap smears at Walgreens (which is not true). Let’s prove them wrong by demanding these health services at Walgreens across the country and seeing what happens.

Here’s what to do this Saturday at 12 PM:

1) Pick your favorite local Walgreens
2) Get a group of friends together or connect with people via this event page.
3) Go try to get your pap smear!
4) Don’t forget to bring your video cameras and share your footage on YouTube!

View the Colbert Report’s take on Planned Parenthood:


New York City: 1471 Broadway, between 42nd and 43rd street

DC: 1217 22nd Street NW, between M and N Streets.

Madison, WI: 15 E. Main Street (on the Square)
Jill calls it brilliant, but I'm not so sure. No offense to the organizers, because I think their heart was in the right place, but it seems to me that this protest at best will be ignored and ineffective and at its worst could turn people against the cause who previously had no stake in the debate. But then, I wasn't involved in the planning of the debate. Thoughts?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dating Tall Men


This post on Very Smart Brothas asks why women always seem to be biased against short men. Granted, this is completely anecdotal, but I hear women say things all the time like, "I just can't date a guy that's shorter than me." Warning: I am about to take a very controversial opinion on this: Women who discount men because they are short are, well, kind of bigots.

People get really offended when I say that, so if you're interested in my rationale. I recommend you continue reading. Otherwise, you can just skip to the comments section and tell me I'm a horrible human.

Despite the fact that I've never dated anyone shorter than me (I'm 5' 6") and my current boyfriend is closer to 7 feet than he is to 6, I've never really understood women's bias against short men. Not all women are guilty of this, but I've noticed a lot of women say this, and given the reaction I've had from men and women on Twitter, people feel strongly about this.

Height discrimination seems to be one of the last socially accepted irrational dating biases. If you're short, there's literally nothing you can do about that. When I say that I think women who refuse to date a man simply because of his height I usually get a litany of reasons defending this position—pretty much all of which are irrational.

I'm just not attracted to short men.
Fine. I don't really get why you'd eliminate an entire population simply based on height, but there is some evolutionary psychology to back up the idea that women tend to be attracted to greater height. But if we're totally being honest, there are tons of "evolutionary" romantic biases that modern people work around pretty effectively: People tend to be attracted to people that look most like them, women are "attracted" to wealthier men, or that women evolutionarily want to be more submissive to men. Why we adhere to the height "evolution" reason and tend to reject others as biased is beyond me.

Short men have a "Napoleon" complex.
I don't have any scientific data to back this up or anything, but I'm pretty sure Napoleonism isn't a universal trait among men under a certain height. What women mean when they say this is they once dated a short guy who was an asshole and so they've taken to assuming all short men are assholes.

It's "logistically difficult" to date a short men.
Women tend to bring this up a lot, hinting that height affects performance in bed. It's also usually followed up with "well, granted, there were other issues in the relationship." Do you think possibly these "other issues" were why you weren't having such a great time in the sack? Maybe? Possibly? I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there's an extreme height differential between me and my current significant other—yet somehow we manage to work around it. Why women can't work out a hight difference going the other way is, again, beyond me.

I really like to wear heels, and that makes me way taller than a short guy.
I'm sorry, what? No. Your fashion choices don't let you get to justify an irrational preference. Wear flats. Or better yet, wear heals and don't give a shit about how tall they make you.

The thing is, people are ready with all kind of irrational reasons why it might be justifiable to judge someone based on height alone, but it's really weird. Why do they do that?

Probably because the thing that makes them uncomfortable about all of this is that when they say they don't like short guys, what they're really saying is they are passing judgement on men about their masculinity based on a trait these men cannot help. And saying it in those terms makes people uncomfortable, so instead they will come up with strange defenses of this bias to make it seem like this is what's going on.

We perpetuate stereotypes about masculinity because dating is the one aspect in our lives where we're still allowed to be biased. People can't argue with you if you're not attracted to someone. But if they point out that this is rooted in ideas about masculinity and societal expectations, that becomes more uncomfortable for women. They're reminded how society demands they lose weight, look a certain way, act a certain way, or even be a certain skin tone.

Let's just call a spade a spade. If you look at a great guy who's attractive, smart, interesting, funny, and kind—and he's too short for you—you've given in to an irrational bias. That's fine, but just accept you're buying into reductive ideas about masculinity.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Graph of the Day: Female Faculty Pay Still Lags Behind Male Peers

A new story in the Chronicle of Higher Education analyzes some data put forth by the American Association of University Professors shows that female faculty are still making less than their male peers on average.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday Links: The Misogyny-Free Pickup Artist and Comix Journalism

Sylvia Plath on her typewriter (Flavorwire)
  • Famous authors and the typewriters they wrote on. [Flavorwire]
  • How to pick up women, misogyny-free. [Good Men Project]
  • I guess you're not surprised to learn the budget battle wasn't about money; it was about taking money away from "welfare sluts," Amanda Marcotte writes. [The Guardian]
  • How Ayn Rand ruined one woman's life. [Salon]
  • A new project on merging graphic art and journalism. [Graphic Journos]
  • A graphic history of the Honduran coup. [Archcomix]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How 'Lights Out' Is All Too Real on Athlete Bankruptcy

(FX Networks)

Tonight FX will air its final episode of Lights Out, a show about former heavyweight champion Patrick Leary (Holt McCallany) who faces getting back in the ring at age 40 or financial ruin.

Though the storyline about how Leary and his family are on the brink of bankruptcy mainly exists to facilitate Leary's ultimate showdown with "Death Row" Reynolds (Billy Brown), the challenges of tax audits and looming bankruptcy that Leary faces in the series are all to real for most former athletes.

In 2009, Sports Illustrated ran a feature article about why so many athletes go for broke. In it, the author, Pablo Torre, notes that "the closest analogy to a pro athlete is not a white-collar executive. It's a lottery winner—who's often in his early twenties."

The odds seem stacked against former athletes, since Torre noted that 78 percent of former NFL players go bankrupt or are under financial stress after two year of retirement. In that same amount of time, 60 percent of former NBA athletes face the same challenges. Even MLB players, with their cap-less salaries, aren't immune from this reality and several former big leaguers have gone broke after their retirement.

Torre's article doesn't touch on former boxers, but given that boxing is a tightly controlled industry with a few major players betting on the boxing skills of mostly poor and minority athletes, it wouldn't be surprising if they fare the same or worse as the more mainstream athletes. The BBC profiled former boxer Evander Holyfield after he filed for bankruptcy on his 109-room home in the suburbs of Atlanta and noted Holyfied's situation is common among former boxers.

Going through the reasons Torre offers for why athletes go broke so quickly, the fictional Leary story seems to hit on every one.

The Lure of the Tangible
Leary and his brother decide to invest in commercial development project, but as the housing market crumbled, so did their investment. The Leary family also live in a self-built sprawling suburban home in New Jersey, send their daughters to a private Catholic school, hold onto a private boxing gym, and promise to make generous donation to their church's relief efforts in Haiti. They never mention stocks, mutual funds, or bonds.

True, Leary invests in his wife Theresa's medical school (Catherine McCormack), something that could put the family back on track to financial balance, but it seems much of what Leary invested his money in is what Torre called "the thrill of tangibility." Torre wrote, "Financial advisors have come to call it 'the problem of the $20,000 Rolex.' If a 22-year-old spends $22,000 on a watch or a big night out at a nightclub, that money is either depreciating or gone."

Misplaced Trust
This is a big plot point in Lights Out, especially early on in the series. Leary places ultimate trust in his brother, Johnny (Pablo Schreiber), who promptly whittles Leary's earnings away with poorly placed gambling bets and bad financial management. It's Johnny's tax evasion that lands the Learys in trouble with the IRS.

Torre writes that it is often poorly qualified friends or family members that are charged with managing an athlete's money, and they often mis-manage it. Even when it isn't family members who are charged with finances, it's often someone else of emotional importance in the player's life—in one case, it was an NBA player who gave that power to his former Amateur Athletic Union coach. Again, this problem is widespread. Torre wrote, "In fact, according to the NFL Players Association, at least 78 players lost a total of more than $42 million between 1999 and 2002 because they trusted money to financial advisers with questionable backgrounds."

Family Matters
The financial strain also creates a rift between Leary and his wife, and they even separate for a time on the show. Though Leary and his wife eventually make up, it's clear that such a separation would be financially—as well as emotionally— devastating.

According to Torre's reporting, a survey conducted in 2008 by a financial services firm found that more than 80 percent of 178 athletes they polled reported they were concerned about potential lawsuits or divorce dealings. "By common estimates among athletes and agents, the divorce rate for a pro athlete ranges from 60 percent to 80 percent," Torre wrote.

Great Expectations
Leary is the sole supporter for his large and demanding family. Not only is his erstwhile fortune expected to pay for his family's house and expenses while his wife gets through medical school, but he has three daughters who are all planning to attend college, a gym to keep his father—and former coach—busy in retirement, and a diner he owns but his sister runs. Leary's new coach, Ed Romeo (Eamonn Walker), stares at Leary in amazement as he explains how he's supporting his wife, children, father, brother, and sister. The family pushes Romeo out through some manipulation of Leary.

Again, this problem seems widespread, with new and old faces showing up to get a cut of the athlete's earnings. "As soon as an athlete goes pro, people in search of handouts tend to stretch the definitions of family and friends." The large promised donation to the church in Haiti wasn't just volunteered out of the blue by the Learys; the church sought them out as potentially wealth members of the congregation even as they faced a costly IRS audit.

Though Lights Out wasn't a perfect show, often mimicking the plotlines of the Oscar-nominated film The Fighter so closely I still sometimes confuse the two, but I'll be sad to see it go. In an era where Hollywood is trying to capitalize on putting the realities of the recession in various ways on television shows, it's nice to see a show take on a very real and complicated issue like disappearing athlete finances.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Challenges of Raising Cinderella

It wasn't until I read Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture that I truly became terrified of the idea of someday giving birth to (or adopting) a pair of X chromosomes. The main question Orenstein tries to answer is how do feminist (or at least, non-misogynist) mothers deal with the explosion of gendered children's culture? It turns out that the answer to that question is far from easy.

Orentsein describes her journey through confronting the new girlie-girl culture with her own daughter. Princess culture, it seems is rather new to childhood, and was mostly just dreamed up by a Disney executive who couldn't stand to see little girls twirling about in homemade princess costumes. Now, lots of marketers have caught onto this trend and it's becoming increasingly difficult to find gender-neutral toys. This point seems pretty obvious when you view this breakdown from Sociological Images of a Christmas toy catalog: While you occasionally see marketers place girls with gender-neutral or even "boy" toys, you never see boys playing with "girl" toys. Today Sociological Images ran competing word clouds of marketing language in commercials for boys' and girls' toys. It seems you no longer have children; you have boys and you have girls.

Determined not to have her daughter grow up with the mindset of girlie-girl culture, Orenstein did her best to protect her daughter from the tyranny of the princesses. She failed. As much as she didn't like it, it wasn't long before her daughter was demanding tiaras and tutus.

The problem Orenstein ran into is that rejecting girlie-girl culture sends a message that's almost as bad as embracing it: If things that girls like are bad, that diminishes the value of girls in our culture. Telling little girls that they shouldn't like the tutus and princess wands they might be attracted to through a combination of marketing, peer pressure, and even a bit of "nature" tells them that girlie equals bad and that they only have value if they like "boy" things.

It seems parents who want to raise their girls in a way that doesn't reject girl culture but still pushes girls to explore "boy" interests—anything from toy trucks to light sabers—leaves them in a difficult position. After all, just because a girl wears a tiara in childhood doesn't mean she can't go on to become a Ph.D.'s in astrophysics. But it's also true that increased emphasis on "pretty" girls can have adverse effects on body image, self-esteem, and ambition. The notion of trying to navigate these waters is terrifying.

Though Orentsein's work is fascinating, I'm left wondering how parents can raise their girls in such a culture—and, furthermore, how they can raise their boys. After all, if we suspect girlie-girl culture that there's a risk in girlie-girl culture for girls, imagine what it might do to boys who are taught to resist engaging with it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

How to Use the D.C. Library (Almost) Like Netflix


I recently read this story about the Newport Beach library that's might get rid of its physical location and convert to a "Netflix-like" system in which patrons would pick up their books, DVDs, and other materials from lockers.

What you may not know is that the public library already works a lot like Netflix. Thanks to most municipal inter-library loan systems, you can request most books, television shows, and other forms of media (including comic books!) for free. Here's how you navigate this system in the District of Columbia—though I'd bet your local system works pretty much the same way:

Step one: Get a library card.
This is pretty essential to the whole process. You can go to this page to fill out a form for a provisional library card that they'll email to you, and they'll mail you a real one eventually. You can also just show up at your local branch and fill the form out there. All you need is a D.C., Maryland, or Virginia driver's license. If you don't have that, just show up in person to the MLK library downtown and pay $20 a year. (If you request a half-dozen things a year, it's probably worth it.)

Step two: Order books.
This seems confusing sometimes because what they call it at the library is "placing a hold" on an item. Say you want to read Live Wire by Harlan Coben, which is currently at the top of the New York Times fiction best sellers list. Go to the DC Library search page and search for "Live Wire." It'll bring up the item listing in the library catalog. In the top right corner of the item listing (next to some of the social media links) there's a link that says "place hold." It'll ask you to put in you library card number as your "user ID," which you should have had emailed to you—or handed to you if you went to the library in person—and your PIN number. For some reason, the library system just uses the last four digits of your library card number as your PIN. Then it will ask you where you want to pick it up. You can choose a library near your home or work—just be sure to check the hours, since most libraries are only open late a couple nights a week and most aren't open Sundays—and pick the one that works best for you. Click "send."

Step three: Wait.
Unfortunately the library system isn't quite as instantaneous as Netflix or Amazon Prime—sometimes you have to wait a few weeks for your hold to show up at the library where you requested it. If time is of the essence for what you're requesting, you'll probably have to pay for that. Sometimes, though, you'll be surprised at how quickly it's ready.

Step four: Pick up your items.
When your items are ready, you'll get an email telling you your hold is available. Just be sure to get there within a week—if you don't show up to get it before then, they'll route the item to the next person on the list. Go to the library and ask them where they keep their holds. Your item should be waiting there in alphabetical order under your last name. Check it out. Read it within three weeks or renew it if you're not done with it.

Easy, right?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

2011 Reading So Far

Sadly, not my bookshelf. (Flickr/Ben Oh)

I read a lot. I'm lucky I have enough free time to read so much, but I have to say, my recent addition to the library's inter-loan system has motivated me to finish books more quickly than when I purchased them. What can I say? I'm deadline-oriented. Keep in mind the post ahead is going to be a fully indulgent bunch of stats about me and my reading habits. If that's not your style, it's probably best to move on.

The end of March means I'm about a fourth of the way through the year, and I've read 22 books so far this year (You can look at my full selection of books for the year so far here). Last year I read 62 books, so if I keep up this pace, I'm on track to top the number of books I read last year. Granted, some of these "books" include comic books. Take that as you will. Of the 23 books I've read so far, 13 of them are by women. I've read 14 novels, 6 non-fiction books, and 3 comic books.

Best novel I've read so far this year: This was a tough call since I've ready so many great ones, but I think my favorite one so far was Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. It's a beautifully written book.

Best non-fiction book I've read so far this year: This seems a bit unfair since I've read so little non-fiction, but I think my favorite thus far was the slim work A Strange Stirring by Stephanie Coontz. This is, in part, because I really enjoy reading about feminism; others who are less steeped in it might enjoy Michael Lewis' The Big Short more.

Best comic book/graphic novel: Again, a bit unfair since I've fallen down on my comics reading so far this year, but I'm going to go with Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen. It's a beautiful and haunting story about two people in the middle of World War II.

Worst book I read this year: Sadly I think Franklin & Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage was the most disappointing book I read this year. It's hard to tell the story of the marriage without also relating much of the history of FDR's presidency, and Rowley had to breathlessly rush thorough much of it to keep her book a manageable length. In the end, I think I'd rather have read a substantial FDR biography.

Books published in 2011 that I read in 2011: Just two, A Strange Stirring and T.C. Boyle's When the Killing's Done.

The oldest book I read this year: Easy. Jane Eyre.

The longest book I've read this year: Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion.

Shortest book I read this year: The Walking Dead, vol. 13 wins. Ironically the tome of the first 10 volumes was the longest book I read last year.

Reading goals for the rest of the year: Read more non-fiction; I'm especially into historical biographies. Any recommendations?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Links: Bloody Marys and Graphic Journalism

(Flickr/Kenn Wilson)
  • Cool story on the chemistry of bloody marys, but where's the Old Bay? [NPR]
  • The lovely Tracy Clark-Flory takes on America's obsession with "porn for women." [Salon]
  • Reading Sinclair Lewis decades later. [Shani O. Hilton]
  • Rants against girl gamers are so tired, you could play BINGO. [Feminist Fatale]
  • The four main ways of thinking about motherhood. [Sociological Images]
  • What is graphic journalism? Erin Polgreen, the raddest of comic ladies, takes this question on. [The Hooded Utilitarian]
  • Sandra Lee, terrible as she is, is pretty feminist. [TAPPED]
  • An Indiana state legislator delivers an emotional speech defending victims of rape, drawing on her six years of experience as a sex crimes investigator. [Think Progress]
  • Tipping seems to reward flirting, not actual good service. [Smart Money]

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Re-imagining Jane Eyre

A couple of weeks ago, Amanda Hess tweeted, "Is there a more unappealing romantic lead than Mr. Rochester?" It's a really good question. And the answer is, there probably aren't many male romantic leads more unappealing than the jerky Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre, the iconic novel by Charlotte Brontë has been recently re-adapted for the screen starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. We are once again presented with the story of a girl who fell in love with a rather unlikable man. The film has even inspired a challenge from The Hairpin that Jane Eyre, while a genuinely excellent book, pales in comparison to Brontë's work in Villette.

I recently re-read the book and watched the new film. I should note, this is the only film adaptation I've seen of the book. Spoilers ahead (though c'mon, the book was published more than 150 years ago).

The new remake takes care to pluck some of the more feminist-themed language from the novel and depict some of the key scenes that transcend the relationship from fairy tale to realistically complicated relationship. Freedom is a key theme in Jane Eyre, and much of it has to do with the freedom of women in this time.

For Jane, the titular character in the novel, she finds freedom through love. But it is love with a twist; Brontë makes the simple point that love—and ultimately marriage—should be between equals.

The power of this notion might be lost on modern women, who enjoy many freedoms women didn't in the era during which Jane Eyre is set, but the power to choose one's partner—as an equal—was a rather radical notion back in the day. Fans of Jane Austin's work note that much of her satire revolves around women jockeying for partners who will improve their status in live, and that status-changing partner isn't always chosen because of love. Generally women who loved the men they married in this time felt they lucked out. The radical notion of marriage between equals is what makes Jane Eyre a feminist (or, some might say, pre-feminist) story.

But much as this book is about gender, it is also about the freedom that comes with class. At the beginning of the book, Jane is poor. But though Jane is poor, it's clear she ranks above servants in the book. She works, but she is better educated than servants and had the freedom to leave her job if she wanted to. And much as Jane seems to genuinely in love with Rochester, he also represents the freedom that comes with money. Just because Jane Eyre is more earnest than Jane Austin's work doesn't mean the motivation to obtain a status-changing marriage disappears. In the end, Jane and Rochester only marry once their status has evened out a bit—after Jane has inherited a substantial sum of money.

It is possibly his financial status that, in part, makes Rochester more appealing to Jane. The character is imperfect: We witness him as dishonest, exhibit vaguely stalker-ish qualities, and speak in a manner that is quite rude. But Jane herself is a flawed character: She's awkward, defiant, and loves someone as imperfect as herself. In my mind, the idea that Rochester is unappealing is kind of the point of Jane Eyre. After all, it might be even more annoying if he were perfect.

Today, the idea of marriages between equals isn't so radical. Stephanie Coontz, in her most recent book, A Strange Stirring, in which she examines the effects of The Feminine Mystique, notes that bringing attention to gender inequality may have initially resulted in more divorces and declines in marriage happiness. But now that the idea that American marriages should be partnership between equals is considered a good thing. As a result, men and women are reporting happier marriages than they were before feminism arrived on the scene. Life partnerships need to be built on mutual respect, and that notion isn't so radical today.

For the most part, Jane Eyre is a window into the past. It depicts a time when women had few freedoms and women with little means had even fewer, but that window into the past reminds us of how far we have come today.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Student Parents Need Child Care to Increase Retention

Today I have a piece in The American Prospect on student parents. Check it out:
Each morning, Sherita Rooney wakes up around 6 a.m. She gets her 14-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son ready for the day. She makes breakfast and gets her children to school before driving an hour to West Chester University outside of Philadelphia, where she recently transferred after graduating from Montgomery County Community College.

Every day is difficult, but Tuesdays are especially so. She works from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. before class from 2 to 7. She picks up her kids, then brings them home and puts them to bed. As a math education major, she takes challenging classes that keep her up late studying. She goes to sleep around 2 a.m. each night. The next day, she gets up and does it over again.

Without the child care scholarship she found through the Philadelphia-based nonprofit, Family Care Solutions, Inc., Rooney says, she's not sure what she would do. She'll find out this summer, when she's signed up for classes but won't have the scholarship.

Student parents like Rooney make up about a quarter of all postsecondary students in the United States, according to a new report released by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. The report estimates that of the total of 3.9 million student parents in the country, more than half are low-income. About 12 percent of all undergraduate students in the United States are single parents, and of those more than three quarters are low-income. The vast majority of them are women.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How MIT (Sorta) Solved Its Gender Problem

(Flickr/Infinitely Curious)

As Monica Potts notes at The American Prospect, there have been a number of stories about women's leadership this week:
No fewer than three news articles this week detail how hard it is for women, both students and professors, at elite campuses. The New York Times reports that MIT, which made an effort some years ago to correct for a lack of female professors on campus, has made gains in recruiting and honoring female professors. But that's created a weird dynamic in which women who win accolades question whether their gender plays a role and feel they have to navigate gender stereotypes on campus. The Daily Beast writes about a study that shows women trail men in campus leadership positions as students, and another Beast article interviews the presidents of UPenn and Brown, both women, about how there's a similar leadership gap at their colleges.
Though the Times story Monica links to leads with the remaining problems of cultural sexism, what I think is interesting about the MIT situation is this: MIT story is that the school found a problem, studied it, and made steps to correct it. And it worked! MIT made significant gains in female representation among professors. It even has a female president, Susan Hockfield. It's a very MIT way of going about it, when you think about it.

Of course, that didn't eliminate all problems of women in academia. As the Times reported, problems remain: there's still a perceived problem that women are unfairly favored (even though MIT took steps to ensure qualified candidates would be hired), and the school still struggles (like all higher ed institutions do) accommodating academic couples.

What this illustrates is that schools really get down to business and recognize that institutional sexism is a problem that needs fixing, there are steps they can take to get there. And recognizing that there's a problem is an important first step.

Women's Occupy Just 27% of Leadership Jobs in Media

Joyce Slocum is the interim CEO at NPR.

Via Bloomberg:
Women represent less than one third of the main decision makers at news companies worldwide as gender inequality leaves top management and governance dominated by males, the International Women’s Media Foundation said.

Women occupy about 27 percent of the leading managerial jobs such as chief executive officer and about 26 percent of governing board positions, according to a survey of 522 newspaper, radio and television companies by the Washington-based advocacy group. Women hold 39 percent of the senior management positions that include managing editor and bureau chief, the two-year study released today shows.

This taps into tons of earlier discussions about women's representation in media. Still, it's startling to see the numbers.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bad News of the Day: One in Five Air Force Women Say They Have Been Sexually Assaulted

(Flickr/Official U.S. Air Force)

Ugh. The Christian Science Monitor reported last week:
In a quiet push to more honestly address sexual crimes within the military, the Air Force will release a survey later this week that finds 1 in 5 women say they have been sexually assaulted since joining the service.

One of the most comprehensive studies undertaken by the US military to assess sexual assaults within its ranks, it could become a model for how the military as a whole begins to address the problem, defense officials say.
Unfortunately, we're finding that sexual assault rates in the military are higher than rates among the general population. As horrible as this news is, it's encouraging the military is actually reporting the assaults. It's the first step in addressing the problem.

I'll Shut Up After 'Congrats' If You Do Too (At Least a Little)


The Hairpin ran this really great piece on what to say when your friends get engaged. I personally found it rather helpful because I tend to be really bad at shutting up after I say "congratulations" to my friends when they tell me they're getting married. For every eye roll that came with an announcement of upcoming nuptials, I apologize.

But. Here's the thing.

If the conversation about a wedding announcement went something like this:
"Hey I'm getting married!"

"Oh wow, that's great! Congratulations! I'm super happy for you."
and that was the end of the story, everything would be fantastic. It'd be like when your friends get a new job or an apartment or something.

Except it's generally considered rude to change the subject to talking about this week's basketball game or what you had for dinner yesterday. You're often expected to offer follow up questions that include—but aren't limited to—the following:
"Can I see the ring?" (I have virtually no opinions on rings or jewelry that costs more than $30, which probably means my only opinion is that you spent too much money on it.)

"Where/when will the wedding taking place?"

"Where are you going on your honeymoon?"

"Is your mom/dad acting really annoying about the whole thing?" (Most often, the answer seems to be yes.)

"What color are your bridesmaid dresses going to be?"

"Who are your bridesmaids going to be?" (It's really OK if I'm not one of them. Don't worry. I won't freak out.)

"What kind of cake will you get?"

"What's going to be your wedding favor?"

"Are you going to hand-address your invitations? My Aunt Edna said it's rude not to." (By the way, why do old people believe this? It's as if they really want you to waste a lot of time or pay someone else to waste a lot of time. They have computers now that address envelopes for you. Geez.)

"Do you have a tiny relative to carry rings or flowers to you during the ceremony?"
The answers to these questions are often not very concise. Which—I get it—this is totally the most important thing happening in the engaged couple's lives at the moment. But let's remember that weddings are becoming increasingly expensive, so therefore the pressure to dissect every single detail is, well, pretty strong. After all, these couples are blowing a lot of money on the Big Day.

But as a friend, I feel that my role should be limited to the following:
1) Say "congrats."

2) Show up on the day of the wedding if invited. (Also, totally not a big deal if you don't want to blow $100 on feeding me. I understand.)

3) Bring a gift.

4) Get drunk and dance at the reception.
These all seem like totally acceptable ways to help a couple celebrate their One Special Day. Until then, however, I'd rather talk about television or sports or really anything other than what flavor your cake frosting is going to be. Seriously people, just let me be surprised.

The reason folks who get engaged might be experiencing some, uh, somewhat less than glowing congratulatory statements might be because a lot of people have really complicated feelings about weddings. And that might be hard for some people because friends are expected to care a lot about the details of these things.

Granted, this doesn't include everyone. I also have friends that keep wedding talk to a minimum. To those, I thank you. And hey, I'm not trying to be mean. Like I said, engaged folks should know that their friends really are happy for them. It's just that said friends maybe don't want to talk about the wedding as much as the engaged folks tend to think about it.

So let me make a deal: If we all agree to abide by the rules presented in The Hairpin piece, maybe that means the engaged can spare us some of details about the wedding. That's all I ask.

What Will It Take To Make a Consistent Sexual Assault Policy on Campuses Nationwide?

T-shirts San Francisco Women Against Rape created for a 2009 Walk Against Rape. (Flickr/Steve Rhodes)

Today the Chronicle of Higher Education has a really excellent piece on the current debate over sexual assault policies on campus. (Unfortunately, the story is behind a paywall, but I'll discuss some of the relevant bits below and for further context, you should read this really great series from the Center for Public Integrity on the problems with many campus sexual assault policies.)

It seems that whether a victim will receive justice for her assault (the vast majority of victims are women, though they aren't the only ones) depends greatly on where she attends school. Part of this stems from confusion over the law itself:
Federal civil-rights law requires [colleges and universities] to resolve all reported of­fenses. And increasingly, public pressure bears down just as powerfully. [...] The watchdog group Security on Campus proposed broader federal legislation, even a requirement that colleges use the relatively low standard of evidence "more likely than not." And at Dickinson College this month, students occupied an administration building and demanded that expulsion be the only available penalty for rape.

Meanwhile, confusion over existing law persists. The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights recently found that two institutions, Eastern Michigan University and Notre Dame College, in Ohio, did not adequately consider the rights of sexual-assault victims. Observers expect the office to release more guidance this spring on how cases should proceed, apart from general campus-conduct systems.
What this ultimately reveals is that sexual assault policies vary widely by campus, depending on university policy, interpretation of the law, and campus culture. These factors all leave a great deal of sexual assault policy up to the discretion of individuals. Though it's sometimes helpful to have room for special circumstances—especially since rape cases sometimes are thin on provable evidence—but ultimately what campuses need is a consistent best practices approach to dealing with sexual assault.

And figuring out what such a policy might be is difficult. The Chronicle article points out:
For cases that are reported, single sanctions may decrease findings of responsibility. "If the hearing panel has any doubt at all, they're going to acquit," says Gary M. Pavela, a consultant to colleges on legal issues and a former director of student judicial programs at the University of Maryland at College Park. Technical explanations of standards of evi­dence don't matter, he says: "Your eyes glaze over and you do ulti­mately what you think is right."
Finding a balance between investigating cases fairly and providing strong support for potential victims is tricky, but, as Dickson college found, being precise and providing a range of offenses as well as clear definitions is helpful. The school was awarded a $300,000 federal grant administered by the Department of Justice designed to encourage individual institutions to implement a comprehensive and fair sexual assault policy on campuses for its implementation of mandatory prevention education programs.

The grant program is a good incentive, but it also means that schools that already care about this problem are the ones most likely to be the leaders on creating good sexual assault policies. Until best practices can be agreed upon, many victims will simply exist in a legal limbo until schools can figure out what to do with them.

The Center for Public Integrity report revealed that sexual assault victims they followed were sometimes more likely to drop out of school than their assailants were to be suspended while they waited to pursue university appeals processes. For the sake of these young people, here's hoping schools will adopt a precise, fair, and universal sexual assault policy.

Big Love's Experimentation with Feminism

If you watched the series finale of Big Love last night and if you're not ready to give up on Big Love, be sure to read my piece that ran in The Atlantic over the weekend in anticipation of the finale:
The hallmark of Big Love is its ability to dive into modern social issues that are seemingly beyond the scope of the Utah polygamist family at its center. One of the show's creators said on a HBO featurette about the series, "There was something almost a little bit retro, you know, '50s American suburban family about the Henricksons and I think we were turning that idea on its head a little bit."
Keep reading ...

Spoilers ahead with some final brief thoughts on the finale.

The series ended more or less with the same themes they'd established throughout the show. I thought the way they did away with Bill's character was a bit cheap, but it seemed obvious that Bill couldn't continue in his role as the patriarch of the family. This whole season demonstrated that he was slowly losing control over the life he had built for himself. Eventually everything gradually slipped away -- the casino, the state senate seat, Home Plus, his wives, and finally his life. Each of the women began to express desires for something beyond the family (which I talk about in my Atlantic piece).

I agree with Aileen at Vulture, in that Nicki clearly had the least satisfactory resolution. Though I really loved many of her lines in the series, she was by far the least complex character, often reduced to a stereotype of the bitchy, jealous wife.

Still, the final message of the show really did demonstrate the show's major theme: that the bond between the sister wives is strong. They things they'd been through together would bring them together for life, even as they start down their diverging paths.

Friday, March 18, 2011


  • Can mainstream media ever responsibly cover race? Cord Jefferson takes on the question. [The American Prospect]
  • Ann Friedman on late-20s girl genius. [On This Recording]
  • Ever wonder what happens when the president or the first lady decide they're going to eat at your fancy restaurant? Now you know. [The Washington Post]
  • Byron Hurt, a wonderful male anti-violence activist, explains why he's a black male feminist and why more men should pick up the f-word. [The Root]
  • Here's kind of a neat info graphic by artist Kate Hersch. Did you know that 4 in 10 mothers are unmarried? [Pop Jolly]
  • Did you know Neko Case registered as a Republican when she lived in Arizona? [GOOD]
  • Via the hairpin, Caterina Fake examines how the "fear of missing out" is amplified in the age of social media. All I can say is, been there. [Caterina]
  • SPACE FOR WOMEN. [Wherever You Go, There You Are]
  • A woman in Iowa was jailed because she told a nurse she was thinking about having an abortion. [The Frisky]
Update: You should also read G.D.'s thoughtful piece over at Post Bourgie that responds to Hurt's post.

Exceptions to Abortion Bans Are Near-Universal Bans in Practice


Today Nick Baumann of Mother Jones reports more on the disastrous anti-choice bill Congress is debating, HR 3, or the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). See, since the legislation deals with how tax breaks can and can't be used (they can't be used for insurance that covers anything but forcible rape), it mostly means that they're making it much more invasive to apply tax law.
In some cases, the law would forbid using tax benefits—like credits or deductions—to pay for abortions or health insurance that covers abortion. If an American who used such a benefit were to be audited, Barthold said, the burden of proof would lie with the taxpayer to provide documentation, for example, that her abortion fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.
[Chair of the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committe Thomas] Barthold replied that the taxpayer would have to prove that she had complied with all applicable abortion laws. Under standard audit procedure, a woman would have to provide evidence to corroborate facts about abortions, rapes, and cases of incest, says Marcus Owens, an accountant and former longtime IRS official. If a taxpayer received a deduction or tax credit for abortion costs related to a case of rape or incest, or because her life was endangered, then "on audit [she] would have to demonstrate or prove, ideally by contemporaneous written documentation, that it was incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger," Owens says. "It would be fairly intrusive for the woman."
In other words, it suddenly becomes the IRS' business whether your abortion was the "right" kind of abortion. If it wasn't here's hoping you saved your police report in which you reported your rape or a doctor's note to prove your life was actually in danger.

Banning abortion (or in this case, banning tax credits for abortion) is unpopular on its face because withholding them from victims of rape or incest or women whose lives are in danger seems cruel. The way to popularize this position is to add exceptions in which women are "victims" of the pregnancy. The idea, then, is that you're "punishing" women who seek elective abortions, presumably because they're sluts who should have just kept their legs closed (channeling Amanda Marcotte, there).

Adding exceptions for rape or incest sounds really good to moderates, but, as I argued before, in practice it simply restricts access to abortion for all women. Victims of rape or incest report these crimes to the police a very small percentage of the time. Especially sense the perpetrators of these crimes are most often known to the victims, it makes reporting them uncomfortable. (For those that doubt such a thing might occur, I highly recommend going back to listen to journalist David Holthouse's account on This American Life of how he came to terms decades later with getting raped in childhood by a family friend.) The "exceptions" route to abortion bans of any kind is simply a way of getting moderate people to support a radical policy.

The reality of HR 3, if passed, would lead to IRS agents asking uncomfortable questions of women about how, exactly, that tax credit was used. In many ways, it reminds me of some of the accounts in Before Roe v. Wade. Before the Supreme Court legalized abortion, women had to seek permission from her doctors in some states in hopes of obtaining a mental health exception to obtain a legal abortion. Women generally said that having a child (or another child) would be too difficult for them, often exaggerating or lying about depression. This lead to pro-choice activists saying they wanted "abortion on demand," not when a doctor said it was okay. Oddly, this phrase has been usurped by the anti-choice movement.

The reality is that it's difficult to apply abortion exceptions to abortion bans in practice, so even if conservatives say they only intend to target elective abortions, the reality is that victims of rape and incest and women whose lives are in danger will also be caught in this trap. But then, I suppose, that's probably the point.

Giving Context to The Feminine Mystique

I finally got around to reading Stephanie Coontz's A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s, the book that examines, in retrospect, Betty Fridan's most famous work. The slim volume deftly takes on the importance of The Feminine Mystique in the 1960s, but Coontz's examination is not without nuance or critique. Fridan's work was both vitally important and not quite the mythic ignition to the modern feminist movement that it has become.

Coontz surveys 188 women who read The Feminine Mystique and recounts how the work impacted these women. But she also places the work in the historical position that it belongs. The early chapters on the feminist and suffragist movements before Friedan published her work place the frustration women so felt with their roles as wives in important context. Coontz notes that these early women's movements had an impact on public opinion:
In a 1938 poll conducted by the Ladies' Home Journal, 60 percent of the female respondents disliked having the word "obey" in marriage vows, 75 percent favored joint decision-making between husband and wife, and a whopping 80 percent felt that an unemployed husband should keep house for his wife if she were working.
Coontz is sure to note that in some ways, women's equality was backsliding:
From 1951 to 1955, female full-time workers earned 63.9 percent of what male full-time workers earned. By 1963, women's pay had fallen to less than 59 percent of men's Meanwhile the proportion of of women in high-prestige jobs declined: Fewer than 6 percent of woerking women held executive jobs in the 1950s.
This means that the era in which Friedan was putting forth her message about women pursuing work they found fulfilling was happening in the midst of a social backlash to significant advancements in women's involvement in public life. Much of this backlash had to do with externalizes; women's work was viewed as less important during the Great Depression, when many were struggling to find work at all, and women who had advanced in the working world during the war were called on to give their jobs back to veterans—sometimes whether they wanted to or not.

Still, some of the things women faced in this era are somewhat shocking to read from the perspective of today (or at least, they were to me):
Even when a wife lived apart from her husband she could seldom rent or buy a home on her own. In 1972, the New York Times carried a story about a woman who could not rent an apartment until her husband, a patient in a mental hospital, signed the lease.

In many states, a woman was obliged to take her husband's surname. In some, she could not return to her maiden name after divorce unless under the fault-based divorce system, she had proven that he was "at fault." A woman who did not change the name on her driver's license or voter registration upon marriage could have it revoked until she did.
And it is perhaps this context that I found so valuable about Coontz's work and what makes her such an important academic. Her previous book, Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage, provided a clear and honest history of an institution about which many make mythic claims about its history. She does the same thing with A Strange Stirring, providing both mythbusting and context to an important cultural touchstone of women's rights in the last century. Since I can only read about that time in books, this was an important book for me to read.

Update: Yesterday Jill Brooke over at HuffPo's "Divorce" page (that's kinda weird the page is called that, no?) interviews Coontz. In it, Brooke notes that Phyllis Shlafly (!) says feminism is the cause of divorce. Coontz actually touches on this in her book, saying that at first economic independence did cause more women to walk away from their marriages but now women who embrace feminist ideas about gender equality tend to have happier marriages in the long run. Here's how she responds to Brooke's question.
Feminism didn't make good marriages go bad. But feminist reforms gave women the opportunity to get out of unhappy or unfair marriages, and in that sense feminism was the catalyst for many divorces in the 1970s and 1980s. When women no longer had to prove fault to get a divorce, many women whose marriages had been bad for years found it more possible to get a divorce. Before feminist-inspired reforms, for example, there were 42 states where a homemaker who could not prove fault in divorce (and often the criteria for fault were very stringent), had no claim at all on anything her husband had earned during the marriage, even if her housekeeping and child-raising had enabled his career. Furthermore, once feminist reforms gained women access to better jobs and outlawed discrimination in pay, hiring, and promotions, women who were unhappy in their marriages no longer had to stay married out of dire economic necessity.
You can read the whole interview here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top 100 Female Characters in Film Surprisingly Undiverse

Via Kevin Fallon at The Atlantic, Total Film has a list of the 100 greatest female characters of all time. Like any list, it's inevitably going to be incomplete and biased in various ways. It was, however, startling to see this flaw:
Only two characters of color are ranked—both played by Pam Grier and both corrupted by drugs. Furthermore, only one character based on a real person is on the list, Bonnie Parker from Bonnie and Clyde, and even that's a highly romanticized version of the historical figure.
Emphasis added. This is, in many ways, reflective of Hollywood's bigger problems with offering up few roles for women of color or needlessly casting white actors in the roles of characters that are marked as people of color in the source content. The recent casting call for Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the popular young adult fiction series Hunger Games asked for an "underfed" Caucasian.

Hollywood's color problem is highly discussed, but often only among feminist and race blogs. Part of me wonders if there's any prodding on the part of executives and directors to diversify their films. Much in the same way editors are getting shamed for not diversifying their bylines enough, Hollywood executives need to feel pressure for continually casting white actors in films. (Television, for various reasons, tends to be slightly more diverse.)

After all, it would've been nice to see some great female characters of color make the list: Penelope Cruz' performance in Volver is supposed to be excellent, Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique were lauded for their performances in Precious, and let's not forget the many excellent performances in The Color Purple. I also really enjoyed Sydney Tamiia Poitier in Death Proof (even if lots of folks thought that film was the lesser of the Grindhouse double feature). And those are just films that come to mind without thinking very hard.

Maybe we need a Graphic Ladies or a Lady Journos for actresses of color.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Killing the 'Literary Wife' Memoir Subgnere

(Flickr/UK Pictures)

I recently listened to Marueen Corrigan's review of feminist writer Anne Roiphe's new memoir, Art and Madness. I haven't read any of Roiphe's work—not even her highly acclaimed second novel, Up the Sandbox, which has been hailed as a "feminist classic"—but Corrigan's review certainly piqued my interest to read it. What I found most fascinating about Corrigan's review, though, was her thoughts on where Roiphe's new book fell in the sea of literature:
Art and Madness is a particularly hard-boiled addition to a distinct subgenre of female autobiography — memoirs written by women who came of age in the 1950s and who sublimated their own ambitions by attaching themselves to literary men. I'm thinking of testaments like How I Became Hettie Jones by the eponymous former wife of LeRoi Jones, later Amiri Baraka; Manhattan, When I Was Young by Mary Cantwell; and the especially magnificent Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson, onetime girlfriend of Jack Kerouac. Educated at Seven Sisters colleges or their like, these young women wanted to live for Art — which, in the 1950s translated into living for a man who thought of himself as an artist. They found a place for themselves in the New York boho scene of the time, pouring drinks or tending to the other appetites of the resident drunken geniuses.
Roiphe is, after all, the erstwhile wife of Jack Richardson, a playwright who during the 1960s was called one of the most promising playwrights of his generation. But Roiphe clearly resents this connection, and, according to Corrigan's take on the book, is ruthless in her depiction of her younger self. She admonishes her former self for attaching to someone else's genius rather than exploring her own.

Though women today might feel more liberated to pursue their own craft and careers, Roiphe's critique clearly speaks to a perception about how men and women's work is perceived differently—and that's a sentiment that still remains true today.

Writers, like all people, are attracted to people like themselves. A 1993 American Journalism Review article addressed the question of married journalists and pointed to some prominent (at the time) examples:
[...] former Washington Post Executive Editor Benjamin Bradlee and Sally Quinn, an erstwhile Style staffer at that paper. Or Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn of the New York Times, who shared a 1989 Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on China. Or Ann Devroy of the Washington Post and Mark Matthews of Baltimore's Sun, married competitors. Merrill McLoughlin and Michael Ruby, who are married, are co-editors of U.S. News & World Report.
Of the couples called out in the AJR article, the male journalists are arguably more famous an influential than their partners. It's hard to say how literary couples of today, many of whom are still young and coming up in their journalistic and literary careers, will turn out. They will either challenge this paradigm or reinforce it.

After thinking through the many journalistic couples I know of today (an admittedly unscientific sample), I could name just one in which the female partner far outpaced her partner or husband: Megan McArdle and Peter Suderman. (Please, if you know of any other couples that might be in this category, leave them in comments.)

And it's no wonder. One need only briefly glance at the much-discussed Vida graphs to understand there's a dearth of female bylines to suss out why so many male journalists might be outpacing their partners in prestige.

Of course, we still have the potential to turn that idea—that "literary wives" will live in the shadows of their husbands or partners—on its head. Today in her farewell post at Feministing, Ann Friedman, in her tireless campaign to get more women to win at the literary prestige game, wrote about how women need to be more encouraging to other women. Such a message would be powerful if it especially came from a male partner.

Perhaps someday women will no longer be accessories to the "resident drunken geniuses" Corrigan described in this subgenre of memoir. Indeed, let's make sure the "literary wife" memoir is one that will be written about the past.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Links: Star Trek, Socialism, and Unions

  • What Star Trek teaches us about socialism. [Yglesias]
  • I bet you'd be really shocked to learn that Gov. Scott Walker is also anti-contraception. [RH Reality Check]
  • Latoya Peterson wants to stop being feminism's Ms. Nigga. I don't blame her. I'm also really glad she agreed to speak on the panel I helped organize. [Racialicious]
  • Fetal pain laws are bad. Like, really, really bad. [The American Prospect]
  • Shirley Sherrod has some thoughts on the modern era of racism. And they're as interesting as you'd think they are. [The American Prospect]
  • This was kind of a neat little corporate video celebrating International Women's Day. [YouTube]
  • Remember those "Choose Life" license plates proceeds that weren't actually going to support pregnant women? Yeah, now they just want to blatantly fund the anti-choice movement. Points for honesty? [The American Independent]
  • Turns out attacking unions is also bad for the black middle class (and everyone else). [The Root]
  • I'm sorry, this Kate Middleton doll is creepy. [The Frisky]
  • So excited that Clarissa Explains It All is going to be back on the air! [Entertainment Weekly]
  • Hey, so maybe when we write about rape, can we not include the pornographic descriptions? [Columbia Journalism Review (PDF)]
  • Dolly Parton has a cookbook. [Dolly's Dixie Fixin's]

18 (OK, 20) Fearless Female Journalists, Past and Present


There’s been a lot of discussion about the dearth of female bylines in major intellectual magazines. It was the cause of inspiration for Ann Friedman to start her project, Lady Journos, which allows her to highlight some of the great reporting and writing women are doing. But it’s worth pointing out that women have been doing phenomenal, life-changing journalism for a long time. Here are just a few women—past and present—who have been exposing injustices with their fearless journalism.

1. Ida Tarbell

This lady journo often ranks among the most famous of historical muckraking journalists in the Progressive Era, during which a combination of investigative journalism and social activism sought to expose injustice. Her investigation of the Standard Oil trust was published in McClure's Magazine, which she later turned into a book, The History of the Standard Oil Company. Her portrayal was damning to the tactics and practices of big business at the time

2. Ida B. Wells

Wells was a journalist and early leader in the civil rights movement. She fearlessly documented lynching, which she published in Free Speech and Headlight, an anti-segregationist newspaper her husband owned and she edited. She later founded the National Association of Colored Women and the National Afro-American Council,an organization we know now as the NAACP.

3. Rachel Carson

Though Carson got her start as a marine biologist and nature writer, it was her expose of the effects of the pesticide DDT’s effects on animals, published in her book The Silent Spring, that spurred a generation of environmental activists. She is largely credited with the United States’ reversal on a policy of using dangerous pesticides.

4. Nellie Bly

When you talk about embedding yourself into a story, you can’t get much deeper than Bly did when she faked a mental illness to expose the horrific conditions women underwent at the mental institution on Blackwell’s Island. She later wrote a book on her experience, Ten Days in a Madhouse. Her work not only drastically increased funding and quality of care at the institution, but pushed such asylums to adopt policies to ensure committed patients were actually mentally ill.

5. Gloria Steinem

Though we now think of Steinem as the quintessential second-wave feminist activist, some forget that part of her work started in journalism, when she embedded herself as a Playboy bunny in the New York Playboy Club. Her report detailed working conditions at the club, and she later went on to found Ms. Magazine, one of the first overtly feminist women’s magazines.

6. Nancy Hicks Maynard

Maynard was the first African American journalist at The New York Times, where she covered vital issues like the race riots at Columbia and Cornell universities. She later went on to cover health care, including important Medicaid issues. She and her husband went on to found the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which is based in Oakland, Calif.

7. Ethel Payne

Known as “the First Lady of the Black Press,” Payne helped define advocacy journalism. She covered issues important to the civil rights movement, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, desegregation at the University of Alabama, and the 1963 March on Washington.

8. Anna Politkovskaya

This Russian journalist opposed the Second Chechen War and the actions of then-Russian President Vladimir Putin. Her work exposing human rights violations was published in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta and earned her death threats. She even experienced a mock execution when arrested by the Chechen military. Politkovskaya was ultimately murdered under mysterious circumstances in 2006.

9. Margaret Fuller

Fuller was a feminist and author who became the first female full-time book reviewer in American history at the New York Tribune in 1844. Her book, Women in the Nineteenth Century, is a major feminist work. She later became the first female foreign correspondent in England and Italy for the Tribune.

10. Jane Mayer

Mayer is an investigative reporter for The New Yorker, writing major pieces on the right-wing Koch family, the bin Laden family, and the United States’ controversial policy on extraordinary rendition. She was the Wall Street Journal’s first female White House correspondent and in 2008 won the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism for the investigative reporting that was later published in The Dark Side.

11. Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery

The co-editors of Mother Jones have done an excellent job of leading a longstanding investigative publication into a new era of online journalism. Bauerlein was formerly the magazine’s investigative editor and once covered the negotiations to end the first Gulf War. Jaffery came to Mother Jones from Harper’s Magazine, where she was a senior editor. She edited six National Magazine Award nominees, including Barbara Ehrenreich’s magazine feature that later became Nickel and Dimed. Under the supervision of these two editors, the magazine has increased circulation and web traffic when many publications have laid off reporters and editors. Read Campus Progress’ interview with Bauerlein and Jaffery.

12. Isabel Wilkerson

The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her writing at the New York Times, Wilkerson won for her coverage of Midwestern floods in 1993 and her profile of a 10-year-old boy who was responsible for his four siblings. She is the author of the highly acclaimed 2010 book, The Warmth of Other Suns, which tracks the Great Migration of African Americans following the Civil War to Northern cities. Read Campus Progress’ interview with Wilkerson.

13. Katie Couric

Love her or hate her, Couric made history when she became the first female anchor of the CBS Evening News. Her interview with vice presidential candidate Sarah Plain won her the Walter Cronkite Award for Journalism Excellence.

14. Christiane Amanpour

The daughter of an Iranian father and a British mother, Amanpour did serious foreign coverage for CNN for decades, covering the Iraq-Iran War and the end of the Cold War. Last year, Amanpour moved to ABC News’ This Week one of the Sunday morning talk shows.

15. Gail Shister

Shister is widely regarded as the first “out” journalist in mainstream news. She joined the Philadelphia Inquirer as its first female sports writer in 1979. Her sports writing broke the same barrier at The New Orleans States-Item and the Buffalo Evening News in the 1970s.

16. Alexandra Pelosi

The daughter of the first female speaker of the house, Pelosi is breaking some barriers of her own. She started as a television producer at NBC covering George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. She’s created numerous award-winning documentaries, including Journeys with George, Diary of a Political Tourist, Sneaking into the Flying Circus, Friends of God, The Trials of Ted Haggard, and Right America: Feeling Wronged.

17. Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg

These two documentary filmmakers have been pushing important stories. They co-directed The Devil Came on Horseback, which helped expose the genocide in Darfur and won seven festival awards. They also co-directed and produced The Trials of Darryl Hunt, a story about a man who spent 20 years in prison for a rape and murder he didn’t commit.

18. Lisa Ling

She may have really hit it big on Channel One News and The View, but Ling is a serious journalist who now does many investigative pieces for her show on the Oprah Winfrey Network. On her show, she’s reported on bride burning in India, gang rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre.

Cross posted, and co-bylined with David Spett.
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