Monday, May 31, 2010

Anti-semitism versus anti-Israel sentiments

I think I can at least start on a note of agreement with most people reading this:  The situation in the Gaza strip is bad.  It has been bad for a while, and I don't think anyone has been acting particularly well.  Unfortunately, it got worse this weekend, when Israeli soldiers boarded a ship trying to break the Gaza blockade and, while apparently under attack (although likely with non-lethal force), fired on civilians aboard.  Nine people were killed, none of them Israeli.  The ship was attempting to navigate through a military blockade, which has been in place since 2007 when Hamas (which refuses to recognize Israel) took control of the Gaza strip, but it was also carrying humanitarian aid, not military paraphernalia. We still do not have all the facts, but I would say what is clear is that the Israeli military acted in a way that was strongly aggressive and poorly thought-out (sending a few soldiers to board a heavily populated vessel was a recipe for disaster), and that the handling of this incident does not seem consistent with the promotion of peace. 

But that's not what I want to talk about.  There will be plenty of people talking about this, and I think it is something we urgently need to discuss.  What level of military action against civilians is warranted?  Is it ever appropriate to cut off humanitarian aid to a country, even when at war with its leaders?  To what extent should a country's citizens, whether or not they support the government in charge, be liable for its actions?  I hope there will be many fruitful and interesting conversations in the coming days about justifiable military force, both on behalf of Israel and countries like the United States, who have set a higher limit on acceptable civilian casualties than I believe to be warranted.  I hope those conversations will both help us honor those killed today, and find a better way forward to a lasting peace.  But I'm no expert on that.

What I have, unfortunately, had to become an expert on is anti-Semitism.  And that's what I'd like to try to talk about today.  It may seem crass to discuss discrimination against Jews in light of the recent death of civilians at Israeli hands.  I'm sorry if the timing bothers you.  Honestly, I would first say that I don't think it's ever a bad time to talk about racism.  Secondly, this post has been on my mind for a while, but some things I saw on twitter in response to the #flotilla incident encouraged me to stop putting it off.  There were a couple predicating tweets, but one in particular stuck out: Someone tweeted the following "quote" from Hitler (I say "quote" because, while I'm sure the sentiment is accurate, it doesn't appear to be a direct translation), with the #freedomflotilla hashtag.  "I could've burned all the Jews, but I left some so you could see why I wanted them to burn."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

How does your garden grow? Femonomics goes suburban

I live in an apartment building in Manhattan, where the closest thing I have to a garden are the sad little planters attached to our wrought-iron fence, and the three houseplants we constantly forget to water.  But, that doesn't mean I don't dream of fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and especially herbs.  Growing up, we had a vegetable garden in the front lawn (we lived in the suburbs) until my mom got tired of us kids refusing to weed and water, and the special taste of fresh-grown, warm from the sun produce lingers in my memory.  Spring is here, and I'm eying the flower, herb, and vegetable plant palettes at the farmer's market with envy.  So I thought I'd do a link roundup of gardening resources for those of you lucky enough to have a little patch of soil to call your own.  Feel free to share your gardening tips, or jealousy-creating tales of biting into the season's first tomato, in the comments.

Apparently, growing vegetables upside down is a big trend.  This works with anything that's not too heavy to strain the vine (so no melons), and has the advantage of eliminating the need for stakes and cages, and cutting down the weed burden.  It also seems to me it's an option for people who have a porch, fence, or outdoor stairway landing they can claim, but no yard.  (So, it would have worked in my old apartment in Chicago, another reason I miss it.)  There's a brand of upside-down planters called Topsy Turvy that has been selling its wares on QVC and late-night infomercials, but (the internet tells me) it's easy to make your own from an empty soda bottle or milk jug.  Here's a great list of 66 things you can grow without a real garden, in suitably sized pots or other containers.

Here's a nice guide for starting your own vegetable garden, unfortunately all the contacts are in the UK.  For more resources, the site DIY has about a million links to answer all your questions, as does the Backyard Gardener.  And you know we can count on Martha for some tips, both for herb and vegetable gardens.  Fruit is a little trickier to grow at home, but here's a list of varieties that work (although it may take you several years to get returns, and you generally need more space).  My family's had great luck with raspberries, which took over our backyard like weeds, but sometimes it's a matter of trial and error to find what works in your climate and soil.  For people who don't want to eat garden produce, but do want to spruce up a dreary lawn, this site has some great tips on growing all types of flowering plants. 

For general gardening tips, the Weekend Gardener is a good resource.  Once you get your garden going, you'll need to maintain it.  Here's some weeding tips.  Also, if you want to keep your gardens chemical-free, here are some tips for dealing with pests (and here).  I've also always heard setting out cups of beer is the best way to get rid of tomato slugs.  Silly alcoholic slugs.

Happy spring!  If you get to put any of these into action, you know I'm jealous!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Environmental Health News: Oil Continues to Flow

Image credit: The National Guard

In early May, I wrote about the tragic BP oil spill. It has been over a month since the explosion, and oil is still leaking at an incredible rate. I wanted to take a look at recent news, attempted steps taken to correct the problem, and potential health implications.

Rumors have been spreading like wildfire about scandals in the Mineral Management Services (MMS), which is the agency that oversees offshore drilling. As of Thursday, Director Elizabeth Birnbaum is no longer in charge of the MMS. Bob Abbey, the Director of the Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management has been named as the interim director.

But the greatest scandal is still the risk posed to the health of humans and the environment. BP has tried a number of strategies to plug the leak that have failed. The most recent approach is called 'top kill', which involves the use of materials such as densely packed mud to plug the leak. Friday was the third day BP attempted to use top kill, but by the end of the day not much progress was made.

Thursday, estimates confirmed worst fears that the leak in the Gulf of Mexico is now the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Federal officials suggest that the rate of oil is 2 to 5 times higher than they previously thought, with between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day leaking each day.

This realization of the sheer magnitude of oil that is pouring into the Gulf increases the urgency of remediation efforts to protect fragile ecosystems and the health of Americans. However, we must also be certain that remediation strategies themselves are safe. Clean-up attempts have been made using booms to trap the oil, controlled burns, and chemical dispersants.

However, all methods have the potential to impact on our health and the environment if not used correctly. One key example, is recent discoveries of problems associated with the chemical dispersants. Several workers have complained about health effects, such as nausea and elevated blood pressure. Just last week, the EPA told BP to stop using one of the dispersants and to switch to a safer alternative. One person I spoke with who visited the spill told me that the smell of the chemicals were actually worse than the smell of the oil.

It is now up to the Obama administration to ensure that the clean-up efforts are not a greater health problem than the initial spill.

Kendra Wilkinson was coerced into making sex tape

That Kendra Wilkinson sex tape?  Apparently not so consensual.  This is really, really upsetting.  Moreover, it doesn't matter if she's making money from it now or if she "enjoyed it" then.  She didn't want to be filmed, didn't want to participate in some of the sex acts filmed, and didn't want the tape released.  That seems to me like three very unfortunate acts of sexual violation.  It doesn't matter what we call it--it matters that it is NOT OK.

Recipe Fridays: Beating the heat with Gena's banana soft serve

[Image via Choosing Raw]

Earlier we told you about Gena's amazing recipe for banana soft serve over at Choosing Raw.  Since then, I've not only made it, I've made it ten different ways, and completely fallen in love with it.  Gena's basic recipe is to take bananas, slice them into chunks, and freeze them in tupperware.  This is a great use for those bananas bound to become overripe.  You don't want to actually use overripe bananas, as the flavor might be too strong, but the ones you know you're not going to get to in time are perfect for this.  Then you whirl them in a food processor on high for about 5 minutes.  I've found that the bananas need to be at the right temperature--about 5 minutes out of the freezer--for them to "whip" instead of "chop."  Go check out Gena's original recipe for more tips and pics of what the process looks like.

Gena's recipe has become such an integral part of my life because I am an ice cream addict who recently became lactose intolerant.  I also can't do soy, so that's out.  My only ice cream options are coconut bliss and Gena's banana soft serve.  But banana soft serve isn't just for people who are lactose intolerant.  It's for anyone who wants a fruit-based snack that tastes like dessert and keeps you cool in summer.  If you're a frozen grape enthusiast, this treat's for you.

But since I needed banana soft serve to fill almost all my ice cream needs, I wasn't content to eat it just in its original form.  So I mixed in frozen strawberries (slightly defrosted) near the end of mixing to create a terrific strawberry ice cream stand-in.  I added frozen peach chunks at the same time as the bananas to create a new flavor hybrid.  And, I mixed in almond milk and chocolate syrup (would have used plain cocoa if I had it) to make something that was pretty much an exact replica of a frosty, and omigod so good.  Next up, I try peanut butter and chocolate swirled in.  Give banana soft serve a whirl, and let me know if you come up with any good flavor combinations!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet: SATC2, breaking the cycle of snark, adjectives as nouns, and more

Some choice words on SATC2 from Erica at Feminista.  She points out the casual racism of the first film, the weird way Michael Patrick King has constructed these movies as a gay male fantasy of femaleness instead of authentic womanhood, and quotes from all the scathing reviews, including Roger Ebert's which contains this gem:
A sample of Carrie's realistic dialogue in a marital argument: "You knew when I married you I was more Coco Chanel than coq au vin." Carrie also narrates the film, providing useful guidelines for those challenged by its intricacies. Sample: "Later that day, Big and I arrived home."
The series was good.  The first movie was fun, if overly consumerist and, yes, a little racially clumsy.  The second one sounds awful.  Why did you do this to Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte?  Why?  Erica's last lament hits home the hardest:
But having said all that, you know why I am FORCED to hope this makes money? Because if it doesn't Hollywood will say female-centric movies -- which never cost nearly as much as action flicks -- don't make economic sense and they'll stop greenlighting them.
I hate that what she says is true.  But still, let's not go see this.  And, after it fails, let's try to communicate to studio execs that it failed because it was insulting, not because it was about women.  Make good movies with female characters and I promise you can have my $12.50!
What do you think about MIA?  Is she an interesting artist with an interesting political message, or does she make drama and appropriate causes to sell records?  New articles reveal both sides, and personally, I'm intrigued.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Women and children imprisoned in Iraq without cause

This article from the CSMonitor cannot be ignored:
In some cases, the women were being interrogated as possible suspects, but in others they were being used to try to extract confessions from their husbands. Using threats against women to elicit confessions from male relatives is a practice well-documented by rights groups.

"Four days ago when one of the men wouldn't confess they said, 'Bring in his wife.' They put her in a separate room nearby and beat her so he could hear her screaming," says the witness. "They went back to the man and said, 'We will rape her if you don't confess.' "
Now, I really have no problem with women being held as prisoners if they're suspected of crimes. But this article describes a prison operated by the Iraqis (who run some joint operations with American troops) where family members of suspects are being arrested and held as leverage to get confessions. I shudder to think this is what we're leaving behind us as we exit the country.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Beauty advice you can actually use

I wear makeup, paint my nails, futz with my hair, and I don't apologize for it.  I understand where radical feminists are coming from with their "makeup supports the patriarchy" position, but, in the end, I think it's possible for me to be critical of the demands of physical attractiveness and the rituals required to achieve it while also participating in them.  Most of us have jobs, want to meet cute boys or girls, and enjoy looking nice, so I think grooming is here to stay, like it or not.  BUT, that doesn't mean we need to get our grooming advice from sexist sources that demand we invest unreasonable time and money in said practices.  Reasonable grooming is the new bra burning.  Get on board.  (Very much so kidding, in case not obvious.)  So here's the best of the internet's offering on reasonable fashion and beauty advice.

The problem with most beauty and fashion advice sources is that their source of revenue are the makers of the products they're hawking.  That means that the number one thing they're there to do is to convince you that you need stuff.  Many fashion blogs are also supported by advertising, but they tend to be more up-front about their influences, acknowledging when they've received free products, or are reviewing a product from an advertiser.  Moreover, many feature user reviews, which provide a balanced opinion (unless written by a company mole!) when taken in aggregate.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Watching The Blind Side, thinking about Hollywood's problem with race

Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for portraying Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side.  Bullock's performance is quite good--nuanced, funny, natural, and absorbingly watchable.  The film, on the other hand, is riddled with major problems in race representation.  But Hollywood doesn't care.  In addition to Bullock's nod, the movie was nominated for best picture.  Could Hollywood voters not tell that the film's representation of black characters was deeply problematic?  Or, do they just not think that's very important?

The Blind Side is a tricky case.  It's a true story, so we can't blame the film for the story of a white woman as the savior for a poor black child's problems--it really happened.  This was how I defended the film, when I initially expressed interest in seeing it, and my boyfriend said, "doesn't that sound a little bit racist?"  I said, "But it really happened!  Michael Oher really got taken in by this rich, white, Southern family!"  It's a true story, and it's also an inspiring one.  It's the story of an incredibly talented athlete who likely would never have become a household name if it weren't for the intervention of a conservative, white, Christian family that took him into their home and helped him get the grades he needed to play in the NCAA.  The story is real.  The story can't be racist.  But I believe the movie is.

Recent US Trends: Crime down but domestic terrorism up

The FBI recently released a preliminary version of their annual crime statistics for 2009, and both violent and property crime have decreased significantly in the last year, all this in spite of an ongoing recession.
Yet preliminary crime figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 2009 show that the crime rate is falling across America, across all categories. Violent crime was down 5.5 percent and property crime down 4.9 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to FBI statistics released Monday.
In fact, crime in every category decreased, says FBI spokesman Bill Carter. Murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault all declined in 2009, he said. Robbery – which tends to boom in bust times – dropped 8.1 percent.
So, that's some great news reported by the CSMonitor, which also gives some potential explanations like an aging society and increased policing and incarceration. I find these explanations somewhat lacking, as I'm not sure how great of a change there was in these variables in the relevant time frame (2008 and 2009).

On the other hand, there has also been a lot of discussion over the past year about an increase in attempts and incidents of domestic terrorism. I cannot find any great sources to support such an increase, but certainly the topic has been more on the public's mind this year. There are basically two lines that this conversation has been following, which I never see overlap. One is a coverage of recent attacks perpetrated by homegrown jihadists, including the Fort Hood shooting and the sensationalized profiles of 'Jihad Jane.' The other side to domestic terrorism that we've heard a lot about is increases in rightwing extremism, under which could be classified the murder of abortion-provider Dr George Tiller and the intentional crashing of a plane into the IRS building in Austin. Homeland Security has increased efforts on domestic terrorism this year, and some polling indicates that Americans are more relatively more concerned about domestic terrorism than in 2002. Do any readers know of better sources for information on domestic terrorism?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Sorta like chilaquiles

Chilaquiles are a Mexican dish of stir-fried leftover tortillas smothered in salsa.  You can add eggs or meat to the dish and eat them for breakfast or lunch.  It's a great way to use up those old tortillas that always seem to get left in the fridge after you buy a batch for taco night.  I love chilaquiles, but when I'm in trying-to-use-up-leftovers mode, I'm not exactly about to make the homemade green or red sauce the dish needs.  So, instead, I tapped into my Jewish roots and made chilaquiles like fried matzoh--by slicing up the tortillas and throwing them into salsa-flavored scrambled eggs.  It's easy, filling, and pairs eggs with hot sauce, one of my favorite combinations!

Modified chilaquiles

3 eggs per person
2 old corn tortillas per person
salsa and/or chopped onion, green peppers, tomato, etc.
hot sauce or more salsa for serving

Slice the tortillas into halves, then slice the halves into strips.  Scramble the eggs.  Mix in the tortillas, and a big plop of salsa (the salsa will keep the eggs moist, so no need to add water or milk).  Salt and pepper to taste, and allow to sit for a few minutes before cooking so the tortillas moisten.  Heat butter or oil in an omelet pan.  If using, stir fry chopped onion and other vegetables.  When oil is hot or onions are translucent, add egg/tortilla mix.  Cook over low-medium heat, stirring up cooked egg as you would for scrambled eggs.  Serve with hot sauce.

Recipe Fridays: Jackpot Noodle Casserole

One dish meals are always good, and this casserole was my favorite growing up. It's cheap and cravable - the perfect growing teenager food. Here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 can tomato soup
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup grated cheddar or American cheese
4 oz noodles (elbows are the best for this, but any will work)
1 can creamed corn
salt and pepper
optional: 1/4 cup chopped olives (I never add this, as I detest all brined foods)

  1. In a dutch oven, brown meat and spoon off as much grease as possible.
  2. Add onion, soup, water and noodles. Cook until noodles are tender. Season to taste.
  3. Add corn, olives, and 1/4 cup of the cheese. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. (I always add extra cheese).
  4. Bake (uncovered) at 350 for 45 minutes.
This recipe can easily be doubled, and there is considerable margin of error - you can't miss!

Recipe Fridays: Black Bean, Rice, and Feta Salad

This is my go-to side dish recipe. I take it on picnics, to dinner parties, and make it at home to enjoy. My mom makes it a lot, but I have slightly changed her recipe to adapt to my taste. I've included what she adds in with the optional note in case you'd like to try it. I also tend to eyeball and taste-test as I go along so think of these measurements are flexible!

1-2 cups of cooked rice
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
4-5 green onions/scallions, chopped (I like scallions so I add a lot)
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled (again, I usually add more cheese)
2-3 medium/large tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup of italian dressing (I'm a fan of Newman's Own); or 1/2 cup of olive oil and vinegar
Optional: chopped celery

Mix everything together in a mixing bowl. Chill for a few hours (or you can eat at room temp if you're hungry!).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Abortion Rights in the News: Health of Mother Not a Justification and Laws in Response to Healthcare Bill

This week in Phoenix, Arizona, a bishop excommunicated a nun for approving an abortion. The only catch is that it was a LIFESAVING abortion. The woman was 11 weeks pregnant and developed pulmonary hypertension, and the abortion was needed to save her life. The nun only approved the abortion after speaking with the family and healthcare providers, and for her service was promptly expelled from the church.

According to the bishop who declared the nun excommunicated:
We always must remember that when a difficult medical situation involves a pregnant woman, there are two patients in need of treatment and care; not merely one. The unborn child's life is just as sacred as the mother's life, and neither life can be preferred over the other.
We all need to recognize that an 11-week fetus is not able to survive on its own. So in this case, if the abortion were not performed... both mother and child would have been likely to die.

In other news, Obama's healthcare bill has created some opportunities for abortion opponents to restrict access. Arizona and Tennessee, are two states that have enacted new laws that would restrict access for people who receive their insurance through exchanges (which is estimated to be about 30 million people). So this would extend beyond federal plans if private plans operated in the exchange. You can read more about this and other laws attempting to take away women's rights from an AP article.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is Glee really diversity friendly?

Glee is the new show everyone seems most excited about, and for good reason.  It's well-written, irreverent, and frequently hilarious.  Not to mention the songs!  But there's another reason that people are excited about Glee, and that's because it's showing characters not typically included on the small or big screen: a diversity of races, religions, and even a kid in a wheelchair.  And, although the show also regularly plays on stereotypes for humor, its creator, Ryan Murphy, has been outspoken that diversity and a positive message is part of the show's principles.  Murphy has been one of the biggest critics of Newsweek following the Setoodeh aricle, writing in an open letter that Glee is a show about "inclusiveness."

But is it really?  Does the show really include disadvantaged groups, or does it just use them as props?  Many people have been critical of (black character) Mercedes's relegation to the background, until recent episodes, so much so that the writers did a self-referential jibe at it by having her say the line "You can't just drag me out to wail on the big notes" (or something similar).  But Glee's representation problems go beyond this.  The bloggers at Feminists with Disabilities have pointed out that it's hard to take the show's inclusiveness of disabled characters seriously when it more often features characters faking disabilities than actually having them.  Moreover, the character of Artie, who uses a wheelchair, is played by an able-bodied actor who seems to lack wheelchair skills, and as a result was wheeled around in the early episodes, which didn't make much sense to anyone who actually used a wheelchair.  TLo, who has been forgiven of the show's Artie missteps, finally had enough last week, when the show trotted out a paralyzed football player to teach Rachel a heartwarming lesson about what's important in life.
Later, the show makes us even more uncomfortable as yet again, a disabled person is used to teach an Important Lesson to the so-called "able-bodied" person. At least with Artie's story it was actually about a main character, but with the deaf kids, the developmentally disabled characters, and now the paralyzed kid, it's veering into cheap plot device territory, and worse, Afterschool Special territory. We're not complaining about the frequency with which differently abled characters are depicted; we're just a little uncomfortable with how often they're used to teach a lesson, especially when you've got a quadriplegic teaching a lesson to a girl with tonsillitis. Really, Glee? You don't think that might be just a mite heavy-handed?
This week, we had Artie revealing his secret dream to be a dancer, despite his paralyzed lower body, and a number of awkward and maudlin scenes of him expressing this desire, trying to achieve it despite his disability, and ultimately day-dreaming it into reality (this could be achieved because, as mentioned, the actor who plays Artie is not disabled).  Honestly, the whole thing felt a little cheap to me, and it also didn't seem to make much sense.  For example, how long has Artie been disabled (more frequent Glee watchers, please let me know if this was explained earlier)?  If it's been for a long time, as is implied, you would think he would have previously tried walking with crutches if this was possible, or understand from his doctor and physical therapy work that this was not possible.  Disabled people live with their disabilities day-in, day-out.  I imagine they know them pretty well, and understand completely in what ways it limits their activities.  I'm not trying to hate, it's just that the character doesn't feel very well thought out, nor does he seem to have been created in collaboration with actual wheelchair users.

Overall, though, my verdict is mixed.  I think Glee is a great show, and is getting out there a lot of things we don't usually see on TV, including cast diversity, honest and biting humor, and a few positive messages to boot.  But, at the same time, if it's going to take the bold step of representing people with disabilities, you would think its creators would put in the extra effort to do so carefully.  What do you think?

Online excellence in journalism

In spite of the hysterical cries that new media is the death of journalism, I have found several sites that truly excel at news delivery and always improve understanding of the issues. My current favorite is the non-profit ProPublica. Even their "About Us" page is awesome:
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.
I am particularly addicted to their Eye on the Bailout coverage, where they give us an excellent illustration of how much has been repaid to government to date. ProPublica also links to investigative work done by other organizations, making it a great source for your daily outrage (guaranteed to have a story near you!)

Pulitzer Prize winner PolitiFact is my other standby. These guys really keep our public officials honest, and manage to do so with a wry sense of humor. Their Truth-O-Meter ranks the veracity of politicians' statements, giving grades like True, Half True, Barely True, and Pants On Fire (for the egregious violations).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's the problem with facebook?

Facebook now has over 400 million users world-wide.  And they are ruthlessly leveraging that popularity to turn pageviews into profit.  Meanwhile, it has become a de riguer communication device--so widely used, you're a no one if you're not on it ("You're not on facebook?!" has become the new "You don't have a cellphone?!").  With this increased popularity, and expanding scope of use, a worrying trend has emerged: facebooks users continuing to share private details, as facebook's creator and business managers gradually take away the privacy protections that once kept that information limited to your closest (400 or so) friends.

We've long been aware of facebook overshares via lamebook, but a new website, openbook, makes clear just how vulnerable your information is, by allowing you to search facebook statuses for questionable phrases like "cheated on test" and "I hate my boss."  You may have noticed the way facebook is trying to take your privacy control away from you when it required you to "connect" with your work info and interests in order to keep them listed on your profile.  "Connections," unlike the information listed in your extended profile, are public information.

You can see graphically just how much facebook has eroded your privacy over the years through this neat-o blooming flower of overexposure.  Some have had enough, and there's a growing wave of discontent, with many users deleting their profiles, or threatening to.  Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis is on a mission against facebook, after deciding in late 2009 that the company wasn't trustworthy due to its new privacy defaults.  But he's far from the only one.  Gizmodo has offered up ten reasons why you should quit facebook, including its leaders' demonstrated questionable ethics and "war on privacy," but also arguing that even if facebook wanted to protect your privacy, recent technical gaffes show they just aren't competent enough to.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jezebel jumps on the "act like a man!" in the workplace bandwagon

The NYTimes has a new piece on guidelines for women seeking raises.  The article, in general, avoids most of the old sexist tropes and manages to come up with some actual good advice, including that women might be perceived differently when using the exact same negotiating tactics as men.  The article also suggests that an additional barrier women may face is that their reference group for how much they "should" be making is their peer group, mostly other women, who experience same wage gap they themselves are trying to subvert.  My takeaway was "might not be a bad idea to ballpark those numbers with a few men in the same industry, too."  Jezebel's takeaway was "Want a raise?  Talk to a dude!"
While your female colleagues can certainly help and should be consulted (particularly the ones who are natural negotiators themselves), your male ones will probably bring to your negotiation issue the same sense of entitlement that they brought to their own. (Generalizing wildly here, of course.)
....Put yourself in your boss's position, and in the company's position, and if you think you deserve a raise, pick up the phone and call the most successful male friend you have. Chances are, he'll jump at the chance to be a little part of your success.
Lindsay, who wrote the article, is careful to say that she's speaking in generalizations, and that female friends can be helpful, too, but the body of the article focuses on her experience getting a male friend to rewrite a contract for a new job to be more hard-nosed and foolproof.  From the anecdote to the article's title, the message is that men are more competent businesspeople than women, a notion I find both untrue and highly damaging.  After all, if women can't even handle our own salary negotiations, how can we be expected to negotiate on the behalf of our companies?

Jezebel has also implied that the gender wage gap could be partly explained by the fact that women aren't as good at talking about money explicitly as men.  It's fine to phrase these concerns as: "don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth"; "don't hesitate to talk about money explicitly"; and even "don't only consult female friends and colleagues."  But to somehow imply that women are simply less well equipped to deal with matters of salary and self promotion than men is absurd!  Moreover, it's blaming the victim.  The problem we're fighting with the gender wage gap is the component of it that comes from women being treated differently than men despite their equal skill and preparation.  Discussing ad nauseum women's (in my opinion, imaginary) shortcomings in managing their affairs simply provides an excuse for those who don't see gender inequality as a problem.  "It's not discrimination--women are just different," they'll say.

So enough of this sexist nonsense.  The next time you need to negotiate for your salary, ask for a raise, or market-price yourself, talk to your most bad-ass, successful, confident friend (who's in a similar industry)--male or female--and ask their advice.  Then go out there and do it the way that feels right to you, and the way you know how.  I believe in you.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet: HIV treatment, smear campaigns, SWEDOW, and the female body

The NYTimes has a heartbreaking story this week about the number of HIV patients in need of treatment outnumbering the number of dollars available for drugs.  Bill Easterly, a longtime aid critic, has responded by noting he argued early on that HIV treatment was a losing battle, since the number of new patients will naturally exceed the capacity to treat without prevention efforts that work.  HIV treatment is one area where visiting a country at the heart of the HIV/AIDS fight profoundly impacted my viewpoint.  I formerly was more sympathetic to the simple logic that, although AIDS is a death sentence without treatment, there will always be limited funds, and it is much cheaper to save a life through malaria prevention and treatment than through years of ARVs.  However, seeing the profound impact of HIV/AIDS on communities (everyone I met had a family member who had died of AIDS.  Many other people were on treatment, and you would not even know they had the disease) right now, I realized that even though prevention is the long-term solution to the HIV crisis, treatment--expensive as it is--is not something the development community can afford to cut.  Without AIDS treatment, all of the newly infected people will die in 7-10 years.  I believe there can be profound changes in development, disease, and poverty in the next ten years, not the next fifty.  If that is to happen, we cannot afford to have a "lost" generation--the already infected, condemned to die.  Moreover, real prevention requires testing so that people can be aware of their status and protect others from infection; and without the possibility of treatment, there will be no testing (and, for that matter, those who are tested will be profoundly negatively affected, the opposite of the desired result).

Richard Goldstone was appointed to investigate war crimes in the Gaza war.  His report concluded that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes.  Now, people who disagree with this ruling are engaging in a smear campaign of Goldstone's past, accusing him of being an apartheid-era hanging judge, and no better than a Nazi.  However, a South African friend explained to me that while Goldstone did accept a judgeship during the Aprtheid era in South Africa, and thus did have to enforce some questionable policies and sentence people for crimes within a broken legal system, he also took every opportunity he could to find loopholes, re-interpret statutes, and set precedents in a way that lessened the burden of Apartheid's oppressive laws.  In particular, Goldstone was responsible for issuing a ruling that people could not be compelled to leave an Apartheid zone if no suitable alternative accommodation was available, thus effectively ending the enforcement of the "Group Areas" provision.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Kitchen grilled vegetables

We subscribe to Food and Wine.  I'm not sure why...probably because I'm semi-delusional about my actual culinary capabilities?  I always forget that the people at Food and Wine have way more time than me to cook, and thus do not need to be concerned whether it's really a pain in the butt to roast that first before mixing it into that, and dirty 7 dishes while doing so.  Thus, this week I attempted a delicious-looking grilled vegetable recipe from F&W.  Small caveat, we live in an apartment.  Grill?  Yeah right.  But never fear.  What you, my friend, need is a grill pan, and all your indoor grill fantasies can come true.  (Do you have these?  No?  Just me?)  I got this high-class one for a Chanukah gift:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fashion photographers like to be racist, call it "edgy"

This latest spread from Interview magazine is soooooo not OK.

The copy reads:
Let’s get lost. The hour is late, the air is thick, and the evening is charged with a steamy sensuality. What works? Tone-on-tone swimsuits, slithers of silk, and plenty of skin, as flesh meets flesh, body meets soul, and Daria gets lost in the heat of the night.
From Africa is a Country: 
You would think that if they’re going to keep using Black people as the exotic background on which white people get to project their fantasies, they’d at least be more original with it. In the heat of the night? Really? Sorry, Interview, but the joke’s on you.
From TLo:
Aren't we past this whole colonialist idea of the fetishized black person? It's fine to cast a bunch of gorgeous black models, but they're more like props or backdrops for the white girl to play with or lean up against. Plus everyone's inexplicably sweaty, like sex is gonna break out at any second. This is all deliberate button-pushing and it's tired. "Let's be controversial" in a very 1979 kind of way.
Memo to fashion: stop being effing racist.  It is not edgy.  It is not artistic.  It is shameful.

Are men smarter than women? Your guide to detecting bad science

The UK's Daily Mail recently published an opinion piece by Richard Lynn stating "on average, men are more intelligent than women."  Moreover, Lynn asserts that at the near-genius level of IQ, "brilliant men outnumber brilliant women by 8 to one."
In this context...indignation that only one in ten science professors is female doesn't seem all that bad. It also goes some way to explaining why, in almost 110 years of Nobel Prize history, only two women have ever won the Prize for physics, only four have won the Prize for chemistry and why no women at all have ever won the coveted Fields Medal for mathematics in eight decades of trying.
Making this argument is pretty much exactly as ludicrous as saying the fact that no women were recorded to have voted in federal elections before 1920 shows us that women are, on average, less politically inclined than men.  And Lynn's article is chock full of such gems.

When I expressed my horror on twitter, a friend wrote back saying "It's the Daily Mail!  And it's Richard Lynn!"  In other words, don't waste your time.  Yes, this is Richard Lynn, staunch advocate of The Bell Curve, eugenics, and other racist pseudo-science.  And yes, the Daily Mail isn't exactly the Wall Street Journal.  But, sorry, I just can't bring myself to sit this one out.  Because the fact that Richard Lynn can still call himself a scientist, and his theories and the evidence he provides to back them up can be thought of as scientific, is an embarassment to every real scientist out there, and to those of us working our tails off to put the letters P, H, and D after our names.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life Skills: Caulking a Bathtub

Every time I move, it seems like the caulking in the new apartment is peeling or crumbling. I could pester the landlord to take care of it, but since it takes less than $10 to fix, I usually just handle it myself. Below find instructions for caulking a bathtub, though these are of course applicable to any other household fixture you need to caulk!
What you'll need:
Putty knife
Painter's tape
Caulk (Spend the extra dollar to get the anti-fungal kind)
Your finger
Wet paper towel

What to do about rape in South Africa? New Rape-aXe condom may not work, but at least she's trying

One in four men in South Africa admit to raping a woman, many having done so multiple times.  In America, one in four women will be sexually assaulted or abused in her lifetime, but at the hands of a relatively small number of perpetrators.  The number of available perpetrators in South Africa make sexual assault a virtual certainty for women who live there.  This is a developed country, with a functioning government and police force.  It is not a war zone.  It is not even a society with high gender inequality.  This has got to stop.

One woman had an idea--a toothed condom-like device a woman could wear inside her vagina that would painfully stop a man from completing an act of rape, tagging the attacker as a rapist, and preventing her against STD infection simultaneously (important in a country with a 12% HIV infection rate).  It's basically a modern-day chastity belt, and as Jezebel points out, it's not without it's problems.  For one, it puts the responsibility for preventing rape on women, who are the potential victims.  It also could create the unintended consequence of making additional violence more likely.  Moreover, it can't actually stop rape, since penetration has to occur for it to work, and anal and oral rape could still take place unfettered.  For my money, I doubt the device will actually work much in practice, but a few highly publicized cases of a man getting his penis shredded attempting rape might deter some would-be attackers--until they resolved to check for a device and remove it before attempting penetration.

But Jezebel also rightly points out that the critics of Rape-aXe are coming at it from the perspective of living in a society where rape is a relatively rare occurrence, and thus no one would consider leaving home with a vaginal insert to protect themselves.  This, tragically, just isn't the case in South Africa:
[Rape-aXe creator] Ehlers isn't suggesting that British or American women run out and purchase this product - it was introduced in South Africa to address the terrifying frequency of sexual assault. South Africa has one of the highest levels of rape in the world; a 2006 study found that a woman is raped every 17 seconds. To make matters even worse, a 2009 Amnesty International report found that out of over 20,000 reports of rape, only 8% led to convictions. 
This might not be the solution, but one is desperately needed.  And at least this somewhat shocking device is getting the word out on an issue that deserves greater attention.  So, what can South Africa do to protect rape victims?  And, how can the World Cup, happening in South Africa this summer, be used as an opportunity to bring attention to this issue?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Because a penny saved is a penny that can be spent on sushi dinners: What to pack for lunch

[Image via Bust]
I like to cook, and I like to eat my cooking.  In fact, I would usually prefer to eat my own cooking than eat at a mediocre restaurant or take-out place.  And yet, that's what I do, day-in and day-out, for lunch.  I am just too busy/not motivated enough/not quite cheap enough to actually buckle down and pack my own lunch.  Maybe this summer, when my schedule calms down, I'll finally change my ways.  I will motivate myself by telling myself that any money I save on packed lunches translates into money I can spend trying out those nice restaurants throughout the city for dinner!  Also, new tupperware (BPA free, I hope?) is always nice!

Here to help me in my newfound resolve is our old friend, the internet.  Here are the best ideas for packed lunch the web has to offer.  Please, please share your own in the comments!

Lemondrop has a plan.  $25 plus 1 hour prep buys you a work-week full of yummy lunch.  Their best idea?  Make an Asian dressing that doubles as a noodle sauce, and use it to dress up fettuccine and pre-mixed salad:
Asian Dressing/Sauce
1. Peel one clove of garlic and throw it in the blender or food processor, blending briefly to dice.
2. Add 4 tbsp. sesame oil, 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. vinegar and a pinch of sugar.
3. Blend for about 20 seconds, until the sauce becomes a rich brown.
4. Pour the sauce into Tupperware and stick in the fridge.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Saving "Africa"? Who said they want it?

People, generally, have good intentions.  This is one of my ingoing assumptions in most interactions.  Generally, people do not deliberately hurt others.  Generally, people would like to take actions that help themselves, but would prefer, all else equal, if these actions help others rather than hurt them.  But guess what?  It doesn't matter.  Because these well intentioned people hurt others all the time.  Especially when the people they are trying to "help" are low status groups (I mean based on societal hierarchies, not as a value judgment) who are given limited to voice to express what kind of help they actually need or want.

With that said, let me introduce the cautionary tale of #1MillionShirts.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Network Femonomics: The Women of V

With Lost nearing the end of its six-season run, ABC has been trying to find an action-packed scifi replacement for primetime. One of these new shows is V, a remake of an eighties series wherein aliens come to Earth purporting to help humanity, but with ulterior sinister motives. We don't know yet what those motives are, but I think they are going to eat people. The show has excellent production values, a super-attractive cast, and plenty action and special effects (also fair-to-middling writing, but you can't have it all.) But by far the most exciting part of this show is that it features three women as starring heroes and villains.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet: playing straight, Hasselbeck's hassle, Madonna, standing up for fat, and more!

Newsweek published an incredibly poorly argued column that basically amounted to the author saying "I can totally tell gay actors are gay when they play straight people."  I guess Newsweek thought this "Yuck, gay" argument was okay because it was written by a gay columnist?  Well, I can totally tell someone's words are homophobic, even when written by a gay writer.  The article singled out Sean Hayes, who plays a lovelorn straight man in Promises, Promises, a role once inhabited by Jerry Orbach.  Luckily, Hayes's costar, Kristin Chenoweth, had something to say about that:
As a longtime fan of Newsweek and as the actress currently starring opposite the incredibly talented (and sexy!) Sean Hayes, ...I was shocked on many levels to see Newsweek publishing Ramin Setoodeh’s horrendously homophobic “Straight Jacket,” which argues that gay actors are simply unfit to play straight.

...Audiences [don't give] a darn about who a person is sleeping with or his personal life. Give me a break! We’re actors first, whether we’re playing prostitutes, baseball players, or the Lion King. Audiences come to theater to go on a journey. It’s a character and it’s called acting, and I’d put Hayes and his brilliance up there with some of the greatest actors period.

Lastly, as someone who’s been proudly advocating for equal rights and supporting GLBT causes for as long as I can remember, I know how much it means to young people struggling with their sexuality to see out & proud actors like Sean Hayes, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon succeeding in their work without having to keep their sexuality a secret. No one needs to see a bigoted, factually inaccurate article that tells people who deviate from heterosexual norms that they can’t be open about who they are and still achieve their dreams.
Three cheers for April Rhodes!

Sooo, last week on The View, Elisabeth Hasselbeck went all victim-blame-y and said something to the effect of, Erin Andrews shouldn't be showing all that skin on Dancing with the Stars after getting stalked.  Jennifer Armstrong showed EW's feminist side in a strong response, saying "I don’t want to make showing a little leg or midriff into the greatest of feminist acts, but I will say this: If a woman tones down and reins in any hint of her sexuality just because she was victimized, well, that means such crimes can be used to tame and control women."  Hasselbeck apologized:

Femonomics reads the internet: Environmental Health and New Lows for Victimization of Victims

I've been pretty impressed with a series of articles being published by TIME. One issue I have consistently written about (i.e. here and here and here), are chemicals in plastics and our health. Early April, Bryan Walsh published a solid article called the Perils of Plastic, which hit all of the key points. Just this Thursday, Tiffany O'Callaghan recapped a report from the President's Cancer Panel determining that environmental chemicals are a larger factor in the rising burden of cancer than they previously thought.

In Australia, the successful use of the 'Skinny Jeans Defense' in a rape case has terrifying implications. Recap: A man (Nicholas Gonzales) was acquitted of rape in Australia using the argument that the tight fit of the jeans would make them "difficult... to be taken off by someone else unless the wearer's assisting, collaborating, consenting." But believe it or not, this is not a new defense. In 1992, the same argument was used successfully to overturn a guilty verdict in an Italian rape case. That case served as an inspiration for an annual event called Denim Day that is held in April every year and asks people to "wear jeans as a visible means of protest against misconceptions that surround sexual assault." I'm going to stop there before I start to rant and rave and redirect you to a round-up of posts and articles by Alex Eichler at the AtlanticWire on just how wrong this defense is.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Pseudo-Latin vegetarian platter

When you think in terms of platters, it's easy to make a relatively impressive-looking and indulgent-feeling meal, even for one.  This idea is inspired by my travels to Puerto Rico, where fried plantains and flavorful black beans are standard order (especially for vegetarians!).  I recommend you purchase the ingredients for this recipe at your local Latin grocer.  Almost every neighborhood has one, and I bet you anything the ingredients will be cheaper and fresher than at the supermarket.

Black bean spread
In a hot skillet, saute 1-2 cloves chopped garlic.  Add cumin, chili powder, and ground coriander and stir fry until fragrant.  For 1 person, add 1/2 can black beans (a whole can for two) with a little bit of the liquid.  Stir together until heated through.  With a fork, semi-mash the beans, stirring as you do, so that some whole and half beans are mixed in with a smooth bean puree.   Taste the beans for salt and seasoning, and add more as needed.

Recipe Fridays: Orzo with Spinach, Feta, and Chicken

One of my go-to cookbooks when I'm in the mood for something new and quick is Everyday Food: Great Food Fast. It has a bunch of fairly simple yet delicious recipes. I recently tried the Orzo with Spinach and Feta, but added a few things. You can find the original (meatless) recipe here. Mine is as follows...

Half box of orzo
1 lb of spinach
2 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper, to taste

-Saute chopped garlic in olive oil. Add in chicken with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste. Cook until done. Set aside.
-Cook orzo according to package directions.
-In still boiling water with the orzo, add the spinach. Cook until wilted. Drain water.
-In a bowl mix your cooked chicken and garlic with the orzo and spinach. Add in feta and mint. Add salt and pepper to taste.
-Serve hot or chilled.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In fighting oppression, which matters more: beliefs or behavior?

Snarky's Machine has a great post on Shapely Prose about her own personal approach to stamping out oppression.  Instead of trying to change people's beliefs, or educate them, she just tries to get them to stop making other people's lives miserable (by making their lives miserable): [NSFW language after the jump]

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Red carpet wrap-up: The Met Costume Insitute Gala

Sadly, awards season is over.  Or, as I like to call it, pretty pretty dress season.  But, lucky for us, the Met hosts an annual event just for that!  I have no idea what happens at the Costume Institute Gala.  I don't know what it's for.  I just know that everyone always shows up looking awesome (or, at least trying to look awesome).  And that, for a dress fiend like me, is awesome.

NYMag seems to have by far the most comprehensive slideshow, and the fabulous Fug Girls breaking down the ten weirdest looks.
People's got a gallery.  Gwen Stefani looked amazing.  Tina Fey wore a jumpsuit.  Anne Hathaway looked radiant, but strangely plastic.  Kristen Stewart was a no.  Renee loves her fishtail hems, but looked fresh and happy.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is now Helena Bonham Carter?  Katy Perry's dress had lights.  Eva Longoria Parker wants you to check out her train.

TLo has part 1 of their "fabulous and opinionated" critiques, with side-by-side runway comparisons (see above).  They no like Tina.  And they promised a part 2 and 3 last night on twitter! [They're here!  And here!]

More to come!  I'll update as more people put up their posts!  [Here you are: Jezebel has the good, bad, and ugly, but they also wonder why all the outfits were so boring.  The Fug Girls are having at it, and it ain't pretty.]

Monday, May 3, 2010

The High Cost of Black Gold

On April 20, 2010 there was an explosion on a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. When the accident first happened, the main news story was about the potential victims. Reporters monitored the search for 11 people who were missing after the explosion.

Search crews have since given up hope to find those missing 11. But the tragedy continues to unfold. The oil continues to leak at an incredible rate, creating a massive oil slick approaching the U.S. coast. The barriers being used in an attempt to hold the oil are not doing their job, and the Coast Guard has resorted to using controlled burns to contain the oil.

According to BP, the worst-case scenario is that the leak could take 2 to 3 months to correct. However, the amount of oil that would be spilled at that point is estimated to surpass the Exxon Valdez, the current worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The vast resources consumed by a clean up of this scale are staggering, but they will never completely contain the damage. Oil is a poison, and countless birds and marine wildlife are going to die from this oil spill. A commercial fishing ban has already been put in place to protect Americans, but there are so many other ways the oil can impact our health, through contaminating water and land.

Is there a silver lining? The only positive I can see is that this could serve as a wake-up call for all stakeholders supporting continued U.S. dependence on oil. What can you do? Contact your Senators and Representatives and demand they support energy independence initiatives that also protect U.S. health, such as wind and solar power.

Let’s Talk About: (In) Fidelity.

Conversational post between duchess and Pearls N the Hood. Full disclosure: both of the authors are currently in non-married monogamous relationships, but both have also been in non-monogamous relationships (which might be a strong descriptor for a few of the instances in question) in the past..

Marriage and family. The big white dress. The partner who adores your every quirk. The adorable children who are always clean, never throw tantrums in public, and astonish all adults they meet with their cute antics.

That's what women are expecting, right? Okay, not really. We all know that marriage will probably involve a lot more compromise and a far fewer picnics in the park than we might wish for. And our children, well, perhaps the best we can hope for is that they don't throw a tantrum during our sister's wedding, where we, as the matron of honor, can't leave the altar without everyone looking at our every move.

And we all know that what works in one marriage probably doesn't work in all marriages, after all, the way we live our lives definitely isn't the way our neighbors, colleagues, or even our best friends live theirs. There can be similarities, of course. But on the whole, people live their lives in ways that make sense to them at the time—not in ways that make sense to everyone else. And marriages are going to be like that too.

Of course, there are infinite questions and compromises that take place in a marriage. In this conversation, we'd like to just explore one --fidelity. What does it mean? Does it mean that once you say "I do", you have sex with your spouse and only your spouse, for the rest of your natural life? Does it mean you're each free to sleep with other people as long as you're discreet and don't bring the details home? Or does it mean something entirely different?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet: Palate cleanse edition

Oh, goodness, there has been a lot of heavy [crap] going on this week.  And I don't know about you, but I need something FUN to keep me going.  So this is a special edition of femonomics reads the internet, without a single heavy thing to be found.

Project Rungay has finished critiquing all the season 7 Project Runway finale collections.  You should check them out.  Also, Tim Gunn critiques superhero costumes.  It is amazing.  [via Fug Girls]

Obama was funny at the White House correspondents' dinner.  Jay Leno, apparently, was not.  Here's what people wore.

Cats love their invisible objects.  I love LOLcats, especially feminist ones.  Did you know that feminists have senses of humor (and that there's a whole site devoted to it)?  There's even a site for happy feminist news.

There.  That's better.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

It's Blogging Against Disablism Day, what can I do?

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day.  Feminists with Disabilities has a list of ways you can get involved.  "Disablism," which is synonymous with "ableism," refers to discrimination, derision, and mistreatment toward persons with disabilities.  Ableism can appear in our lives in many little ways, from commenting/glaring scornfully at the person who gets in to the elevator to go one floor, without considering that he or she might have a disability, to not recognizing the ways our work or living places may be inaccessible and hence unwelcoming to people with disabilities, to using language that makes disabled people uncomfortable or employs words previously used to deride disabled people to describe unrelated negative things.

Although I have always tried to be conscious of and considerate toward the needs of people with disabilities, I have only recently begun reading and thinking about the little ways I display ableism in my daily life, and what the implications of this are.  Feministe has an interesting post up on ableist language, which is one of the hardest habits for us non-disabled people to break.  These words are so ingrained in our descriptive lexicon, letting them go makes us feel unable to describe a loss for words.  The problem with these words is twofold: one, we're associating people with disabilities with negative behavior, and two, we're obscuring the real problem with the behavior--AZ didn't pass the anti-immigration bill because its lawmakers are crazy, they did it out of racism, oppression, and vote-pandering.  This comment from Kowalski on the Feministe post sums up the issue with employing oppressive language to (ironically) describe oppressive people:
Another thing I notice a lot on many feminist blogs is how often the words moron, idiot, imbecile, and cretin, etc are used to describe reprehensible and oppressive people.
These words have been used to dehumanize people with developmental disabilities like myself and it really is worth considering how obnoxious it is to use these words to insult misogynist, racist, or homophobic people.
And here at femonomics, we're guilty as charged.  Take a quick scan down our homepage, and you'll see we've described things as "crazy" and "insane" many times, just in the past week!  In my earlier post on advocating for others, I admitted to not being ready to give these words up.  Well, today, on Blogging Against Disablism Day, I'm challenging myself to get a thesaurus already, and stop using ableist language in my blog posts.  It's not much, but that's what I can do.  What about you?

Derby Day Update on the Ethics of Horse Racing

Today is the first Saturday in May, when I watch my first horse race of the year, the Kentucky Derby. This is the first race in the competition for the Triple Crown - a trophy which has not been awarded since 1978! While not an expert on horse racing (I have watched three horse races a year for the past 12 years or so), I do own a horse (see right) and have spent plenty of time discussing the ins-and-outs of horse industry ethics. So, while you are mixing your mint juleps and picking out the perfect hat, here are some of the top issues facing racehorses and their riders.

1. Racing young horses can be physically destructive. The Kentucky Derby races three year-old Thoroughbreds, a breed which is not physically mature until age four or five. Moreover, age is determined based on January 1st of the year of foaling, so the horses racing today are actually between the ages of two and three, and have already been fully trained and run many races to qualify. This means that they are actively racing well before three years of age on bones that are not fully developed. Is it any wonder then that these young horses (babies!) receive fatal injuries on the track, as favorites Eight Belles and Barbaro did in recent years? This does not even go into the long-term health and soundness implications of putting a horse through such intense work at a young age. To give some perspective on how young these animals really are, the average, healthy Thoroughbred lives to its mid-thirties.