Saturday, July 31, 2010

Guest Post: Toeing the Line Between Friendly and Flirtatious

VikingKitten is a friend of Femonomics, and has agreed to submit some summer guest posts for us. She is an aspiring lawyer, recovered Diet Coke addict, Texan, and cat-lover. Let's make her welcome!

During a recent diversity-themed luncheon and discussion at my company, we began to touch on the issue of being hit on at work. My coworker mentioned that she often faces unwanted or inappropriate comments from male colleagues and clients, and that she was unsure of how to respond to them. The advice she received from my colleagues was nearly unanimous: they advised my coworker to take particular care in everything from choosing her wardrobe to altering handshake techniques in an effort to avoid giving off the wrong impression.

My subsequent Google-ing of the issue turned up this recent Corporette post, dealing with the issue of being hit on in a professional setting. Interestingly, the author of the Corporette post concludes in part by suggesting that women who want to avoid sending out inadvertent “I’m flirting” signals be particularly mindful of their body language when associating with others in a professional setting. Thus, both my coworkers and Corporette seemingly agree that it is important for female professionals to be overly cautious about their actions towards the opposite sex.

And in fact, it is certainly realistic that men may pick up unintentional flirting signals from women: Psychological studies have shown that males have more difficulty than females in distinguishing between “friendly behavior” and “sexually interested behavior,” and that men often misinterpret friendly behavior of women as flirtation. Thus, at least in interactions between men and women, signals can often be confused.

However, this recognition this leads to a difficult question: should it be the responsibility of women to be overly mindful of their actions in order to avoid unintentionally sending the wrong signals to men, as my colleagues implied? Or should men instead be held accountable for their unwanted and inappropriate remarks? While professional women fear client loss, job loss, or retaliation from employers if they report (or harshly respond to) unwanted and inappropriate advances, men may not even be aware they have said something that is in fact unwanted unless women do respond. Is there a middle ground here?

Readers, what do you think is an appropriate way to deal with being hit on in a professional setting?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Eggplant rollatini

This is a hearty, pasta-free version of manicotti, so could for gluten-free folks.  It's also great for people who don't really like eggplant, as the eggplant becomes melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Eggplant Rollatini
1 large eggplant (or 2 smaller ones)
1 jar tomato sauce (you won't need all of it)
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg
Garlic, salt, pepper, and fresh basil if desired

Trim off the top and bottom of the eggplant, and then slice vertically into long, thin slices.  Cut the middle slices, which will be broader, in half vertically.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and fry each slice of eggplant until lightly browned on each side and soft--you'll need to add more oil after every few batches.  Remove to paper towels to drain excess oil. 

Blend together ricotta, egg, half the Parmesan cheese, 1 smashed garlic clove, and salt and pepper to taste (you can add fresh basil to the filling or the sauce if desired).  Spoon filling onto one end of each eggplant slice, and roll.  Place with the loose end underneath into a square baking dish.  Continue with remaining eggplant (2 tablespoons of filling each), arranging in baking dish in single layer.  Pour tomato sauce over top of eggplant, and top with mozzarella and remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mad Hoc: Episode 1, Defining the Mad Men universe

Today brings a new, collaborative weekly television feature: Mad Hoc. Deeply Problematic blogger extraordinaire RMJ and I are huge Mad Men fans, and we both love to read all the recaps and discussions about the show.  However, we also feel like the show gets a pass sometimes because it's so good in many respects that we as viewers assume that Matthew Weiner knows all and is perfect.  And RMJ and I have something to say about that.  So each weeek, we're going to chat about the new episode, in the style of Sady Doyle and Amanda Hess’s “Sexist Beatdown." We’ll discuss a mixture of general issues and episode specifics, viewing it all through both our cranky feminist lenses, and our huge fan goggles!  These posts will usually appear on Monday or Tuesday following a new episode. 

Coca Colo: Ok, so, I think it would also be good and proper for me to tell you a tiny bit about myself and my Mad Men background: I'm a grad student, phd in economics.  And, I actually haven't watched every episode of Mad Men!  I am very into it, and read lots of blogs about it, but I haven't seen all of season three.
RMJ: I am 24, living in Virginia (originally from Kansas!). I graduated from a women's college two years ago, live with my boyfriend and two cats, work as a composition tutor.
Coca Colo: Oh, and since you do such a good job of unpacking privilege on your blog, that's something we should make explicit, and keep in mind with regard to these posts. I'm half white, able-bodied, straight, cis, size-privileged.
RMJ: Good idea! I am white, mental disabilities/physically abled, straight, cis, fat with some size privilege, class privileged.

Coca Colo: One of my things with Mad Men, getting into content now, is that it's allll about sexy whiteness and wealth. And it's not just that, it's that there is a certain amount of goo-goo-ga-ness to its presentation of whiteness and wealth.
RMJ: Yeah no kidding. That was definitely present here, with the multiple fancy interviews in fancy restaurants and the whole “TimeLife building! Two floors! Wow!”  I often feel like they're giving a nod to civil rights, as with the reference to Andrew Goodman, without seriously addressing it the way they do feminism.
Coca Colo: Even with the white people, they show there are major problems beneath the facade, but we're supposed to ooh and ah at Betty's clothes. Within that framework of showing an admittedly very appealing fantasy, how much can you be subversive?
RMJ: Well, but is it supposed to be a fantasy? I mean, I think it's supposed to be "gritty" and "revealing" to a certain extent.  Like "this is what your grandma's sex life was REALLY like! In the CAR! Have you EVER!" And “people were RACIST and women were DISCRIMINATED AGAINST! My stars!” Which is a revelation...for rich white people
Coca Colo: Yes, I agree, but I just meant that part of what they draw viewers in with is how sexy and luxurious it is. It's not a fantasy life, but it plays on our fantasies.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet: Phoebe Prince, sluthood, race and sympathy

Slate ran a piece on "What really happened to Phoebe Prince," which does some decent reporting as far as logging exactly what the attacks on Phoebe consisted of, and whether they deserve jail time, but also advances a rather questionable hypothesis that "Phoebe helped set in motion the conflicts with other students that ended in them turning on her" by "attracting guys away from relationships."  The Women's Rights blog rightly points out that what happened to Phoebe was slut shaming, not just bullying, but I'd go one step farther and say Slate's article buys into that same narrative.  Apparently, you can bring bullying upon yourself by daring to get involved with young men who may or may not be in fickle teenage relationships.  Men who are eighteen, mind you, but clearly the fifteen-year-old Phoebe is to blame.  Gross, Slate.
Jaclyn Friedman has a great piece on sluthood (hers, specifically) and about how talking about women's sexual experiences outside of committed relationships has the power to help break us free of the virgin/whore dichotomy.  After recounting a story about a casual encounter on Craigslist, she says:
I’m telling you this because sluthood requires support. Because any woman who indulges these urges carries with her a lifetime of censure and threat. That’s a loud chorus to overcome. A slut needs a posse who finds her exploits almost as delicious as she finds them herself, who cares about her safety and her stories and her happiness but not one whit about her virtue. A slut alone is a slut in difficulty, possibly in danger.
And rightly acknowledges that she is in a privileged position to talk about sluthood without jeopardizing her livelihood.  Hetero men can often indulge "sluthood" without fear for their safety.  For women,  non-hetero men, and transgendered individuals, it's rarely so easy.  And by not talking about it, we keep it that way.
For anyone who thinks we live in a colorblind society, please check out these two videos of news reports on 7-year-old boys who each highjacked a family vehicle for a joyride that ended in a police chase.  You'll never guess: When the white boy does it, it's "funny," and his video games are taken away; When the black boy does it, it's "dangerous," and he needs to be in the "system" so he can get "help."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mad Men: Remind me again how Pete Campbell is supposed to be a sympathetic character?

The season premiere of Mad Men was yesterday.  I watched it; I loved it; better people than me have written recaps.  I want to talk about Pete Campbell.

You remember Pete.  Him and Peggy had a thing.  He used to be somewhat of a smarmy ass.  His dad died.  Oh yeah, and he raped his neighbor's nanny.  He had done her a favor by replacing a dress she'd borrowed and ruined, and tries to make a pass at her.  When she declines, he shows up at her door drunk, demands to be let in, and then forces himself upon her.  Apparently some people think this is a "gray area"?  This video shows only part of the interaction, not the part where he demands she undress (by insisting she put on the dress he's replaced), blocks her exit from the bedroom, and kisses her despite her clear fear and discomfort, but I think you can get the idea:

I thought that scene would be a turning point for Pete Campbell's character, where he went from being a misguided schmo in the viewer's mind to being a really entitled asshole who deserves comeuppance.  But that comeuppance never came.  Instead, here we are in season four expected to laugh at Pete's antics, and the oh-so-cute dynamic between him and former flame Peggy.  His character arc is, apparently, that he got more likable after raping his neighbor's nanny, and now we're supposed to accept him as one of the boys.  It troubles me that after all the positive feminist ink Matthew Weiner and co got from portraying Joan's rape by her fiance and Pete's rape of the nanny--showing that rape isn't always the kicking, screaming, violent act we expect, but rather one where men trade on other power dynamics than merely physical superiority to coerce women into submission--they've failed to let Pete's character bear any of the moral consequences of his actions, or even paint them as reprehensible to the audience.

Weiner is trying to portray a time when women were less powerful, rape culture was perhaps stronger, and men frequently saw crossing the line as their entitlement.  And yet, I still see space for defining the morality of individual character's actions within that time.  If Weiner doesn't, that's a problem for me.  Because then every frat boy who lives in an environment where women aren't respected gets to say he didn't know better.  I think he does; and I think Pete Campbell did, too.  And so, no, I can't laugh at his jokes, I can't smile at his character development, and I certainly can't root for him as an up-and-coming member of the new agency.  He. Is. A. Rapist.

Even this article from Bitch magazine, while at least clearly defining Campbell as a rapist, seems to see him as a "product of his times" instead of someone making criminal, morally repugnant, and damaging decisions in the context of those times:
Pete Campbell is a rapist.  I keep repeating it like that, keep saying it flat-out like that, not because I demand that you hate his character now.  (In fact, I've always thought Vincent Kartheiser - who I hated on Angel - does an excellent job of making such a weasel character kind of sympathetic, human.)  I keep saying he is a rapist because I think everyone would benefit from understanding that "rapists" are not monsters: they are human beings.  They are human beings who have been taught, time and time again, by this culture, that they are entitled to sexually use other people.  They are not outliers; they are not blips on the radar; they are not deviants.  They are, often, just men who have gotten so caught up in themselves, so blinded by the ego they are told from birth they must develop as a symbol of virile masculinity, that they have utterly forgotten that woman are human beings.  They have forgotten that women are not there for their sexual use.
In this interview, Pete's portrayer says he doesn't see his character as a villain, and doesn't think in terms of "good and bad."  Apparently neither does Matthew Weiner.  This is not about the "world of Mad Men," which is meant to be deeply flawed, and viewed through a critical lens.  This is about the world we live in, where that critical lens settles only so briefly on a man's rape of a domestic servant, before moving on to admire his personal growth.  Men who rape get to be oh-so-very complex and troubled.  Women who get raped get to dry their tears alone.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What Catholicism and Orthodox Judaism have in common

A couple weeks ago, news broke that the Catholic church had ruled ordaining a woman an offense punishable by immediate excommunication, putting it in the same category as sexual abuse.  I think it's clear to most that the Catholic church has a woman problem.

But, I think it's equally evident that Orthodox Judaism has a woman problem, and one that doesn't get nearly as much ink, perhaps because Orthodox Judaism is so much smaller of a movement than radical Islam and Catholicism.  Moreover, despite those rumors of a "Jewish establishment," unlike Catholicism, Orthodox Judaism has no single governing body that dictates its tenants.  That doesn't mean some factions of Judaism are any less virulently anti-woman than the worst of the Catholic church.  In fact, echoes of the very same "ordaining a woman is the gravest crime anyone could possibly commit" attitude were evident in a recent NYMag piece on an Orthodox rabbi doing just that, ordaining a woman, Sara Hurwitz (right),  who had completed all of the requirements for becoming an official spiritual leader and religious teacher.
Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a revered scholar at YU widely known as the foremost authority on Halacha in the United States, raised eyebrows at the RCA [Rabbinical Council of America] convention when he reportedly put the ordination of women in the category of yehareg ve’al ya’avor, a tenet that literally suggests one should opt for death before violating the law, used by rabbis when referring to acts that are absolutely impermissible. “He believes that it is a slippery slope that will lead to the breakdown of traditional Judaism,” explains Marc B. Shapiro, an expert on Orthodoxy.
This is only one individual, but this sentiment seems so clearly ludicrous, it deserves highlighting.  As with the Catholic church's declaration, I have to ask, how can a victimless crime be worthy of such grave punishment?  How can treating a woman as an equal be so blasphemous that one should die before doing it?  The Jewish Star has more on the specifics of the RCA's objections to Hurwitz's ordination:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Berry Poke Cake

I have been on a baking kick for the past month or so. And because I don't have a lot of time to spend baking I have been using a lot of cake mixes from a box and adding things to spice it up. This Berry Poke Cake was something I remember my mom making when I was in high school. Quick and, of course, scrumptious!

1 box of yellow or white cake mix
1 box of jello--any flavor, usually strawberry (hence the "Berry" Poke Cake)
Cool whip or frosting

Bake cake as directed. When it's done baking poke holes into it, about half an inch apart. Make jello according to the directions (up through it still being a liquid). Pour the liquid mixture over the cake. Then chill the cake in the fridge for 3-4 hours. Top with cool whip/frosting and serve.

Recipe Fridays: Things to do with quinoa that are actually delicious

One of the NYTime's top articles this week has been a recipe for a spicy quinoa salad.  This reminded me that when people first started going nuts for quinoa, it was one of those things like Justin Bieber for me--everyone is talking about it, but you're not sure what it is, and you don't get the fuss either way.  Then I tried it, both eating it and cooking with it, and it became one of those things like kombucha, which everyone tells you you're supposed to like, but you just find a little weird.  After much trial-and-error, though, I finally learned how to appreciate quinoa, and in fact now enjoy cooking with it, both due to its health benefits, and because it actually tastes ok!  The big thing that helped me to start liking quinoa was to learn to overcook it.  Most recipes say to cook it just until the thread around the grain becomes visible, but at this point, to me, it still tastes like bugs.  (Sorry for the imagery, but now you know why I don't like quinoa.  Beetle shells, I am telling you.)  I generally cook it for about ten minutes after this point, giving it a much more rice-like texture.  Try cooking white quinoa this way with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  It actually tastes good!  Red quinoa doesn't get as soft, and seems to go better with acidic sauces like a lemon vinaigrette and fresh herbs.  Below is one of my favorite quinoa recipes, courtesy of femonomics contributor Mad Dr.

Mad Dr's Quinoa pilaf

Cover 1 cup white quinoa with 2 cups water, a small drizzle of oil, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat.  Continue cooking, adding water as necessary, until about ten minutes after threads become visible (or until quinoa is soft).  Meanwhile, saute 1/2 chopped onion with 2 chopped garlic cloves in olive oil.  When onions are translucent, add 2 chopped celery ribs and 2 chopped carrots.  Add 1 T butter.  Saute until carrots are tender.  Add cooked quinoa, and continue stirring over heat for 5 minutes longer.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. 

The onion, celery, and carrot is what the french call a mirepoix, and provides a vegetable-broth taste to the pilaf, meaning no additional seasoning is necessary.  Mad Dr also adds chopped bell peppers to this, added near the end of cooking.  I like to add toasted pine nuts.  You can add any other vegetable (cooked eggplant sounds good0, or even a protein such as cubed tofu or chicken to make a complete meal.  Add dried fruit, like currants, to give it a fall flavor.

Did you also go through a quinoa=yuck stage?  Have you made any recipes with it that changed your mind?  Post your best quinoa recipe below!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Congress Introduces Legislation to Protect Public Health

Recent events, such as the BP oil spill, highlight the danger posed by regulatory agencies that aren’t properly doing their jobs of, well, regulating. The BP oil spill happens to be one highly visible and very dramatic example, in which we learned too late that MMS was actually allowing companies to drill without proper permits and overruling findings of staff scientists.

However, oil is not the only industry escaping proper regulation. Surprisingly, the cosmetics that women use are not being regulated at all by the U.S. government. The FDA spells it out clearly on their website, that the responsibility of ensuring the safety of ingredients actually falls on the cosmetic industry:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gawker: Shirley Sherrod should not have been forced to resign, White House "embarasses itself"

Perhaps you have seen this video, circulated by Andrew Breitbart, in which a black USDA employee supposedly exhibits "reverse racism" or whatever:

In it, Shirley Sherrod says that when she was called upon to help a white farmer (in her position with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, not a government job), she did not put her full effort into his case.  She brought him to a white lawyer, to let "his own people" take care of him.

Yes, this is a personal anecdote of how Sherrod acted, in a role completely different than the one she held until being asked to resign by the head of the USDA.  But is she recounting this anecdote with pride?  The anecdote is from 24 years ago--is she speaking of it as a model for how she would act today?

It turns out, no, not at all.  She was using the anecdote to illustrate how she came to understand that it was not black versus white that mattered, but rather "those who have versus those who have not."  The story was about how she came to believe that all poverty comes from the same injustices, and that racism was a means created by wealthy white men to keep poor people of different races from helping and supporting one another.

In fact, she ended up spending years working to help the white farmer she speaks of in the anecdote, and his wife considers her a "friend for life."  So, that's cool, right, I'm sure the USDA checked into the full story before firing her, right?  Turns out, no.  From Gawker:
So, Andrew Brietbart lied and defamed a government employee. And yet: Sherrod was asked to resign from her position as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's director of rural development for Georgia by her boss, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, apparently without any attempt on the part of Vilsack or the rest of the Obama administration to check up on the origin of the video or the story. And even as the White House attempts to distance itself from her forced resignation, they say they stand by it.
What gives, guys? It's despicable, but we expect this kind of fatuous race-baiting from sleaze like Breitbart. What we don't expect—or what we shouldn't expect—is for the Obama administration to take the bait. The USDA is apparently "reconsidering" her forced departure, but get real: Sherrod should never have been asked to resign, period, and she should be reinstated to her former position immediately.
Um, seriously?  We celebrate Robert Byrd, who supported segregation and filibustered the Civil Rights Act, and fully embrace his change of heart, and yet the minute a black official says that 24 years ago she wasn't so sure how she felt about helping white people, in a notoriously racist state, until she changed her mind, we kick her out of her job?   Breitbart, in trying to illustrate "reverse racism," has actually just given us yet another example of the regular kind.

UPDATE: Robert Gibbs offers apologies on behalf of administration.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Some good news for HIV prevention

A randomized controlled trial in South Africa has revealed a microbicidal gel spread inside the vagina to be effective at reducing HIV transmission by 39%.  Women who complied closely with the treatment recommendations, to use the gel before and after sex, experienced a 54% reduction in transmission.  What's so revolutionary about the gel, versus orally taking anti-retrovirals as prophylaxis, is that it acts on site, so doesn't flood the body with powerful medications that aren't safe for long-term use.  This means both that the user won't experience side effects and, as reported by ERV, the virus itself is unlikely to become resistant to the particular anti-retroviral used in the gel, since it is not present throughout the body where HIV multiplies.

Unfortunately, 39% is a far cry from the virtual 100% protection proper use of a condom offers.  I have the same concerns about this drug as I have about circumcision, that it may make people feel protected when they are not, and therefore actually decrease or fail to adopt condom usage.  The first thing I'll say (in response to my own concerns) is that as much as we'd like "just wear a condom, darnit!" to be the solution, studies show that people simply like sex without condoms, and so there will continue to be a market for products or treatments (circumcision) that reduce risk without condom use.  Much of this aversion to condom may be social, and that's why I hope there continues to be just as much focus on upping the sex appeal of condoms as there is on finding alternatives.  The second important thing to keep in mind is that this gel is for use specifically by women, and can be used without her partner's knowledge or approval.  This is incredibly important, given that men are more likely to report experiencing a decrease in sexual pleasure with condom use, and therefore may be the ones objecting to prevention practices.  This gel allows a woman to protect herself if she is in a violent or unequal relationship, or simply if she wishes to have sex with someone who refuses to wear a condom.

I'll be interested to see further trials on the gel, and how marketing materials are developed to encourage use with condoms (I hope it's been tested for compatibility!) rather than in place of.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Elle magazine has some pretty creepy guy friends...

"When I walk the streets on a sunny summer day and the women are out, wearing spaghetti-strap tops and short skirts, their legs bare, the internal monologue starts. The voice in my head, by the way, sounds like Barry White's. Oh yeah. Oh, you like that, right? You mean you want it in there? Oh, yeah."
This was the point in Elle's most recent ElleReaderMen feature where I started to feel a little bit creeped. Typically I enjoy reading through this fairly intellectual fashion magazine, though I tend to disagree with a lot of the editorial content. This particular author is an anonymous man who is informing us on "the sexual fantasy life of men." He expands the experiences and feelings of him and three friends to all of men, but I'm pretty unconvinced. I can imagine a plurality of teenage boys perhaps being so obsessive and objectifying, but that seems pretty unfair as well. A few more samples, to give you a sense of Anonymous's piece:
"...I realized it's not entirely about seeing exposed flesh, however; it's about clothes - shorts, miniskirts - that seem so easily pulled aside for quick access. It's the feeling that I - a perfect stranger - could have this beautiful woman topless in a fraction of a second...and be kissing her bare breast, a sensation hat would feel so good she would be powerless to resist..." [emphasis mine]

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet: early puberty, racist tea party, whoopi, and an app that lightens your skin

People used to think just Americans were hitting puberty early, due to unhealthy lifestyles, but a new Danish study shows the age of puberty dropping among Danish boys.  A large part of this may be due to better nutrition, but it also may be caused by exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals or other environmental factors.  What do you think--does this trend concern you?  Or is it simply a marker of better health in the developed world?  Importantly, how do we get people to separate in their minds the age of puberty and the age of maturity?  (The linked article worries this will increase sex abuse--but only if people viewed 15 year-olds, who would have mostly gone through puberty, as sexually mature before the change!)

The NAACP issued a mild statement asking the Tea Party to repudiate racists in their ranks.  The Tea Party spokesperson, Mark Williams, responded on CNN by saying the Tea Party is ground up, has no set ideology, and isn't racist.  He then went on to pen a shockingly racist blog post (full text below jump) that contained these words:
We Colored People have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!
...And the ridiculous idea of "reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government." What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!
The racist tea parties also demand that the government "stop the out of control spending." Again, they directly target Colored People. That means we Colored People would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right.
The end result, thankfully, was the Tea Party doing exactly what the NAACP resolution requested, by kicking out Williams and repudiating his racist statements.  Seriously, all you have to do is come out with a statement that your group stands for equality and you won't tolerate racism from people under the Tea Party banner, and then follow through on that commitment.  It's not so hard to be not racist, unless you're worried about alienating racists.  Oh, and Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, I hope this provides sufficient proof to you that some people in the Tea Party are in fact racist.

Jezebel has a list of 15 questionable things Whoopi Goldberg has defended.  Between coining the word "rape-rape" and sticking up for Mel Gibson (she says his anti-Semitism was because of drinking, and in her experience he's not racist), I'd say it's time for Whoopi to hang up the towel on opinonating a bit.  Renee Martin has more here and here.

Omigod, Vaseline has a new facebook app that lightens users' skin, to advertise their skin lightening products in India.  "Shadeism" is a huge problem in India and throughout the world, and many people experience permanent skin damage from using lightening creams.  I understand that there is market demand for this, but I can't help feeling like the companies that sell these products are evil.  I don't really know what to do about it, though.  Where will the pressure come from to eliminate shadeism, and the dangerous products it creates a market for? (hat tip Katey-kat)

NPR has a big spread on summer books.  (Hat tip Fug Girls.) What are you reading?  What's on your list?  I'm tackling the Stieg Larsson trilogy next.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Mango Paletas

The best way (or perhaps just the tastiest) to cool down in the summer heat is by eating popsicles, ice creams, and other frozen treats. Recently, in the foodie community I've noticed a resurgence in Mexican-style popsicles: las paletas. Not only are they easy to make, but they are relatively healthy. Full of fresh fruit, juices, and sometimes cream. Since I don't have my very own recipe I tried out one posted on iVillage (which is also below). Experiment with other unique flavors--tamarind, watermelon, coconut, pineapple, etc. Delicious!

3 ripe apricots
1/2 cup water
pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 ripe mango
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Cut up apricots. Put the pieces of apricot with the water and sugar in a pot. Heat until sugar dissolves; remove from heat and cool completely. Cut and peel the mango. Put the mango and apricot mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. Mix in lime juice. Divide mixture into popsicle molds. Freeze for at least 4 hours.

Read more about the popsicle and shaved ice trend here and here. And if you are in NYC try out these paletas.

Decorum: Be a Good Weekend Crasher

I love the flexibility that summer brings. With supervisors taking time off to go on family vacations, weekends get a lot more flexible. For instance, it's 11 am on a Friday and I am on a bus from Washington to New York. I hibernate all winter, so summer is the perfect time for me to get in all my mini-reunions. And because summer is high tourist season and hotels are pricey (especially in cities like Washington and New York) it is the perfect time for the "weekend crash". The "weekend crash" is when you call up your BFF from college and say, "Hey, what are you up to this weekend? I was thinking I'd come visit. Oh, and by the way, would it be cool if I crashed at your place?" Usually, that works just fine between friends, but after the jump are a few tips on how to be a good weekend crasher and not wear out your welcome.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Nicholas Kristof offers a welcome shot of honesty, now I want action

Earlier I discussed my roller-coaster relationship with Nicholas Kristof. His recent comments in response to reader criticisms have gotten to the heart of my issue with him, and why even though I'm glad he's talking about developing countries, I think he needs to take a serious step back and reevaluate his work, before he risks doing more harm than good.

From NYTPicker:
Kristof -- a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning op-ed columnist who focuses much of his attention on Third World problems including rape, prostitution, hunger and lack of education - has been praised by presidents and world leaders for his compassionate and determined effort to help the destitute.

But to some of his readers, Kristof has demonstrated, at times, a condescending superiority over those he wants to help -- portraying himself, and other Americans working on these issues, as seemingly necessary to the process of bringing about change.

Those feelings bubbled over into public discussion late Friday afternoon, as Kristof answered questions from readers via YouTube. The columnist found himself on the defensive from a reader who rightly observed a pattern in his standard narrative -- one that often focused on the foreign, typically American "savior" helping the poor Africans in need, to the exclusion of efforts of black Africans themselves to bring about change on the ground.
It's Kristof's own words that bowled me over (transcribed by NYTPicker. He somehow managed to demonstrate both extraordinary self-awareness (about what he does and why) and shocking obtuseness (about its consequences) all at once:
...Very often I do go to developing countries where local people are doing extraordinary work, and instead I tend to focus on some foreigner, often some American, who’s doing something there. And let me tell you why I do that. The problem that I face -- my challenge as a writer -- in trying to get readers to care about something like Eastern Congo, is that frankly, the moment a reader sees that I'm writing about Central Africa, for an awful lot of them, that's the moment to turn the page. It's very hard to get people to care about distant crises like that.

One way of getting people to read at least a few grafs in is to have some kind of a foreign protagonist, some American who they can identify with as a bridge character.

And so if this is a way I can get people to care about foreign countries, to read about them, ideally, to get a little bit more involved, then I plead guilty.
Ok, well I guess that settles that. What makes Kristof write his columns the way he does is racism. Look, I really don't want to say that. Because I think Kristof is an ally. Or at least he wants to be. And I don't want to say it because by saying it, I'm making him out to be the enemy. But he's not. The enemy is racism. Racism that's inside of all of us, and integral to all of our geopolitical discourses, and yet unspoken, and unaddressed, and all the more powerful for it.

What makes Nicholas Kristof put white protagonists front and center in his stories, while Africans are depersonalized and turned into background players, is racism--both his own and (his impression of) his readers'. That description of how he gets people to stay on the page...he is admitting that he sells out Africans to save them. He erases the stories of successful, charitable, entrepreneurial, and independent Africans so he can better tell the story of the destitute and diseased. He is only showing one side of the African coin--the negative one. It is to get people to care. But it is sending the wrong message. If Africa is a place to be pitied, to be acted upon, to be saved, how can its people thrive? If helping them means you have to dehumanize them, thanks, thanks.

Kristof's racism is unintentional, and I believe well-meaning. But it is damaging nonetheless. Now that he's admitted it, I'm asking him to change it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jumping to Conclusions: Disease Burden and "Intelligence"

Last week, The Economist publicized some research by Christopher Eppig, a graduate student at the University of New Mexico. Eppig's research posits that the relationship between national disease burden and national IQ scores is causal, and that this decreased IQ level is thus a symptom, and not a cause, of underdevelopment in countries that lack health and hygiene infrastructures. The Economist summarizes how
Eppig and company reached their conclusion of causation (emphasis mine):
The correlation is about 67%, and the chance that it might have come about at random is less than one in 10,000. But correlation is not causation, so Mr Eppig and his colleagues tried to eliminate other possible explanations. Previous work has offered income, education, low levels of agricultural labour (which is replaced by more mentally stimulating jobs), climate (the challenge of surviving cold weather might provoke the evolution of intelligence) and even distance from humanity’s African homeland (novel environments could encourage greater intelligence) as explanations for national differences in IQ. However, all of these, except perhaps the last, are also likely to be linked to disease and, by careful statistical analysis, Mr Eppig and his colleagues show that all of them either disappear or are reduced to a small effect when the consequences of disease are taken into account.
Wow! They accounted for a lot of different stuff there! Do you think they accounted for every possible confounding factor? (Not possible!) It's also certain that the previous work they rely on included major ambiguities and assumptions in itself. And did you notice that the authors included distance from Africa as a cause for increased intelligence? It's like magic! Or really crappy analysis. I expected them to throw in craniometry as a potential confounding factor for good measure.

Now, a longstanding complaint of mine is that The Economist doesn't rigorously source articles, making it difficult for readers to go back to the studies and decide for themselves. Sometimes (oftentimes?) journalists don't understand a correct / responsible way to interpret data. So here's the full text of Eppig's article as published in Proceedings of the Royal Society.

First of all, I take issue with the scientific measurement of intelligence on such a broad, multi-cultural scale. Like love, joy, or pain, intelligence is something that is really difficult to define. And like, IQ tests, how bullshitty are those? Perhaps it is true that intelligence would vary on a national level - but I suspect that you would find even greater variance in definitions of intelligence across cultures. Even within our own culture, how would you describe a star mathematician, brilliant actor, and shrewd politician in a way that classified them all as equally intelligent.

Owen Gleiberman thinks Twilight love represents a backlash against feminism

EW's movie critic, Owen Gleiberman, has decided that the popularity of Twilight represents "an unambiguous embrace, by women, of the male gaze," and thus some kind of backlash against feminism. I usually like Owen's reviews a lot (and met him back in college, and he was very kind to my then-aspiring-journalist self), and I've admired the feminism of his counterpart Lisa Schwarzbaum, but I can't help comparing this nonsensical rant to the urge of many-a-previous threatened male to declare feminism "over," "wrong," "passe," etc:
To recap: Either you’re a hater or you’re a Twihard. Either you identify with Bella Swan as a fresh and noble ordinary girl who has a small touch of the extraordinary about her — a lovely wallflower who blooms under the gaze of her courtly vampire beau — or you think that she’s a drippy, passive doormat in thrall to the kind of male-centric romanticism that should have died out around the time of Gone With the Wind.
...What fascinates me, listening to the noisy battle of Team Rapture and Team I Can’t Stand This Garbage, is that the war of opinion over the Twilight saga isn’t just a disagreement about books and movies. It touches something deeper, something that pop culture has always touched and even defined: key questions of what love and sex and romance should look like and feel like, of what they should be. A movie like Eclipse may be a far cry from art, but it’s increasingly clear, at least to me, that the movie hits a nerve, even in people who say they hate it, because it embodies a paradigm shift: a swooning re-embrace of traditional, damsel-meets-caveman values by a new generation of young women who are hearkening back, quite consciously, to the romantic-erotic myths of the past. The Bella Swan view of the world may, on the surface, be the opposite of “rebellious,” but the reason her story sets so many hearts aflame is that it is, in a way, a rebellion — against the authority represented by a generation of women’s-studies classes. Bella’s story is, by nature, a meditative, even meandering one because it’s the story of how she wants to be acted upon, to be loved, desired, coveted, fought over, protected. A movie like Eclipse represents nothing less than a new and unambiguous embrace, by women, of the male gaze.
OK. Remind me again how fantasizing about being desired is a rejection of women's studies classes? Don't men also fantasize about being "acted upon" and being desired and being an all-consuming object of affection? But Gleiberman isn't done:
In many ways, the debate over these movies reminds me of the kinds of arguments that first coalesced 20 years ago around the Susan Faludi book Backlash, in which the author argued that a widespread retreat from many of the mores of traditional feminism was, in effect, a kind of cultural conspiracy, one that reached from corporate boardrooms to the cosmetics industry. I think it’s become clearer in hindsight that what Faludi regarded as a coercive step backward to the dark ages was a lot more complicated than that — that what she viewed as a back-lash was, in reality, a back-swing of the pendulum. With the Twilight saga, that pendulum swing may finally be complete — and some women, let’s be honest, are horrified at that.
First of all, the pendulum never swung. We never had a generation of women who believed in their own sexual power, independence, and right to equality, and were fed a diet of media that affirmed their right to those things. The "feminist generation" is a myth, a myth used to create a handy narrative for imaginary backlashes that also don't exist. Yes, culture changes and things come in and out of fashion. But all women never believed in the "feminist ideal" (whatever that is), and certainly not all of them swoon for Edward or Jacob now. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that teenage girls are mostly the same over the past few decades, and that most of them had a lust object they sometimes dreamed of being dominated by. But I'm willing to bet more of a few have equally as many fantasies about dominating. And none of that makes this generation any less feminist than the rest. Twilight is just that--a fantasy. In reality, most of us women still want equality. Now.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Daily Show meets feminists; feminists meet the internet

It all started when the Daily Show hired Olivia Munn, someone who was established as a TV host, but not necessarily a comedian.  With all the great female comedians out there, Jezebel writer Irin Carmon couldn't help but wonder, did the Daily Show have a woman problem?  Although her investigation started with Munn, it didn't end there:
Given its politics and the near-universal adoration with which it's met, the current iteration of The Daily Show is held to a different standard by the viewing public. But behind the scenes, numerous former female staffers tell us that working there was often a frustrating and alienating experience.
"What I was told when I was hired is that they have a very hard time finding and keeping women, and that I was lucky to get a one year contract," says Lauren Weedman, a comedian and writer who worked on the show as an on-air correspondent from 2001-2002.
...Stacey Grenrock Woods was on Stewart's show from 1999-2003, longer than any other correspondent besides Bee. (She later chronicled the experience in her book, I, California.) She told me, "Did I feel like there was a boy's club there? Yeah, sure. Did I want to be part of it? Not necessarily. So it kind of goes both ways."
Unfortunately, the piece of it that was about Munn led Emily Gould to wonder if frustration with The Daily Show was really about jealousy over (the very pretty) Munn's success, and if Jezebel was feeding on women's insecurities by throwing Munn to the wolves.  Gould's piece is somewhat thought-provoking.  She discusses the way feminist blogs encouraging "outrage" can really just be another form of the snark and self-loathing fed by traditional women's magazines.  But, I wish Munn had been left out of the whole thing, since the issue with the Daily Show isn't really about Munn, it's about whether there can be a progressive news source that nonetheless has a "boys club" attitude backstage.  And the issue that Gould brings up with feminist blogs isn't really about Munn either.  But the missed-connections back-and-forth didn't stop there.

Housekeeping: posting may be choppy for a while

Hi everyone!  Thank you so much for your support in getting femonomics off the ground.  Over the past 6 months since we've launched (!), we've tried to provide you daily content on a variety of topics.  Unfortunately, over the next few months, we might not be able to keep up with daily updates.  I'm preparing to do some field work in sub-Saharan Africa, and have a million things to finish before I go, so I'm going to have to cut down on my posting.  Also, once I leave the country, my internet may be in and out, so daily posting probably won't be possible.  We're working on finding some new contributors to keep the blog full of great content, so stay tuned!  Additionally, if you have something you'd like to add to the conversation, we're looking for guest posters!  If you have an idea for a guest post, email us at
Thanks again for your support, and I promise there's much more to come!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Payday Bars

I don't even want to touch my oven in this weather, so these are the perfect dessert bars to make. No oven cooking required. They're quick and easy and are a peanut lover’s dream. I dare you to eat only one piece!

1 jar of dry roasted peanuts
1 bag of peanut butter chips
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
Most of a bag of mini marshmallows (like 3/4 of the bag)

In a saucepan (or with the microwave) heat the peanut butter chips and milk until melted. Blend in the marshmallows; stir until melted. Add in the peanuts. Stir until all the peanuts are coated (note: it will be very ooey and gooey!). Spread the mixture into a 9x13 pan. Put it in the fridge to set and then cut and devour!

Recipe Fridays: A smoothie with nutritional punch

It's too hot in NYC to eat anything not cold.

For 2
1 frozen banana (cut into chunks and freeze the night before)
1 cup frozen strawberries
1-2 tablespoons almond butter
1/2 cup almond milk (or other milk), add more to reach desired texture
protein powder if desired

Place the banana chunks and strawberries in the blender and cover with almond milk.  Allow to sit out for 10 minutes (this will make blending much easier).  Blend until chunky, then add almond butter, and more almond milk as needed to reach blendable consistency.  Blend until smooth.

Seriously, this tastes like strawberry ice cream and makes an oh-so-satisfying breakfast.  Replace strawberries with any kind of frozen fruit or a mix to change it up, but keep the banana because this gives the smooth texture.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet: hot politicians, heart rate, fat camp, LiLo, and cartoon bears

Oh my goodness, there's a male politician who's hot!  Check out his abs!  And his turquoise belt!  Meet Illinois representative Aaron Schock.

Apparently the new show Huge on ABC Family is really amazing!  The main character, played by Nikki Blonsky, is a radical feminist who rails against body propaganda and plasters her walls with "fatspiration" at weight loss camp.

New research says the classic "maximum heartrate" formula, used to determine recommended exercise heartrates (e.g., 65-85% of maximum, calculated by 220 - age), don't work at all for women.  Oh man, how I hate the medical profession's continued jeopardization of women's lives by willy nilly applying research based on male subjects to female care.  Do you remember the renaissance painters who used to draw babies with muscles because all the bodies they could dissect were adult males?  Yeah, it's kinda like that.

To update you on the Wikileaks/Bradley Manning case, Manning has now been charged with mishandling classified information, and is now being held in Kuwait, awaiting an investigation that could lead to a court martial.  Also, there's a nerd war going on over whether Adrian Lamo acted honorably.

So, Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to 90 days in jail, of which she'll probably serve 23.  One writer, watching the feed for amusement, felt sorry for her when she broke down in tears.  I watched, and don't, because the reason she broke down is that it had never occurred to her she might go to jail for violating her probation.  She's totally shocked when it happens, and is sending incredulous tweets today.  Also, she says her F--- U manicure had "nothing to do with court".  Umm, then do you think maybe you should have had it removed before court?   Please go peacefully into obscurity like Paris Hilton.  I beg you.

I thought these two videos about the iPhone vs the HTC Evo were hilarious.  Maybe you are less nerdy than me, and you will not.  Very NSFW language.  Spoken by cartoon bears.

Emmy nominees are out: Glee, Mad Men, and even Conan!

Nominees (Glee!  Mad Men!), EW's list of snubs (No Vanessa Williams?!), Gawker's thoughts and their dream Emmy list, Ausiello's take.

Yay for Christine Baranski, Chris Colfer, and Conan!  Your turn...who deserved it, who got snubbed?  Nominees below the jump.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - in which Mongoose returns to genre fiction

It has been years since I have read any genre fiction: crime, action, Star Wars (I was once a teen, too), fantasy, etc. This was a conscious choice, so I didn't expect much from Stieg Larsson's famous crime novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But it came heavily recommended by my mom and a good friend, so I picked it up. And didn't put it down except to sleep and go to work for the next three days. It is truly riveting. This weekend, I bought the second in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and similarly finished it within 48 hours. If you have ever enjoyed a mystery novel, you have got to read these. I would go buy the third and final book (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest), but it's only available in hardcover, and I have shit to do this week.

The trilogy, an "international publishing sensation," comes with its own dramatic backstory. Larsson died of a massive heart attack at age 50 in 2004 before the sales of the first book really took off - without a valid will. He had never married his partner of more than three decades, Eva Gabrielsson, and according to Swedish law his property went to his father and brother after his death, including rights to his three novels. Gabrielsson allegedly has the partial manuscript of fourth on her laptop. The court battles continue to rage.

Jake Pavelka might be the worst person in the world

Seriously, this man makes me feel sympathy for Vienna Girardi.  On the very special taped confrontation episode of The Bachelorette last night, Vienna and Jake hashed out their competing stories of the death of their "love."  I didn't watch the show (but I do read the tabloids!), but my understanding was that everyone really did not like Vienna, and that she was the villain.  That might still very well be true, but if you watch the way Jake speaks to her on camera on last night's show, and then imagine what it would be like to live with him, I can't help taking her side. (Skip to 7:35 for full-on douche.)

(Skip to 1:08, 2:08, 3:40, and 4:20)

He literally says to her "Stop interrupting me!" with murder in his eyes.  Over the course of the interview, you can see him go from controlled sociopath to outright rage, and you get the feeling he's revealed a little more of his true personality than he meant to.  From EW's Michael Slezak:
Jake, for his part, seemed to be channeling Terry O’Quinn in The Stepfather, or Terry O’Quinn as Lost‘s Mr. Smokey. His mouth set in an unwavering line, his eyes boilingeth over with fury, he spoke like a man who had come to a streetfight armed with a half-dozen vague and pre-rehearsed anecdotes, and was shocked to discover his adversary was shooting arrows coated in the poison of “40% truth.” I half-expected the dude to announce to Vienna that “Any further criticism of Jake** will result in your immediate strangulation.” Indeed, other than that winning bon mot about Vienna being “like a tabloid,” Jake came off as relentlessly creepy: The way he addressed all his answers to Chris Harrison (not Vienna), the way he spoke about Vienna like a disappointed boss rather than a scorned lover (how about griping she’d participated in an “unauthorized interview”!?), and the way he chanted the words “undermines,” “emasculates,” and “disrespects” like he’d spent two sleep-deprived weeks in a new-age spa praying that his failed fake TV relationship wouldn’t cost him any awesome future gigs on Drop Dead Diva. By the time he shouted “Be quiet while I’m talking!,” I wondered if Vienna fled the scene in tears because of the harshness of his words, or the eeriness of what was going on behind his eyes.
I don't care how terrible she is--it really bothers me to see someone disrespect another human being the way he disrespects her.  Eeeeesh.

Oh, and in other progressive Bachelorette news, check out this quote from Ty (to Ali): ''I think it's awesome that you have ambitions and goals.... It tickles me to death that you have a plan, that you know what you want.''
From EW's Jennifer Armstrong: "Gee, thanks, Ty. Glad my adorable little ambitions amuse you so."

Also, Bachelor/Bachelorette whiteness update, it appears all the contestants on Ali's season are indeed white!

Monday, July 5, 2010

McChrystal, Obama, and the male ego

Now that this whole McChrystal thing has blown over a bit, we can take a step back and meditate on the situation.  And I think I speak for everyone when I say, "really?!"  Really you super awesome four-star general, director of covert ops, you didn't realize that things you said in front of a magazine journalist might be published, and that those same things might get you in trouble?  But that's not the only thing I'm incredulous about.  Read on for three very different angles on the Stan MacChrystal debacle: what does it say about McChrystal, what does it say about the administration, and what does it say about journalism?

For those of you just joining the news cycle, or outside the US, the general in charge of the Afghanistan war ran his mouth off about his distaste for everyone within the administration in front of a Rolling Stones journalist, and the subsequent article got him fired.

The Sexist Beatdown ladies have a pretty funny piece on just how ridiculous this Stan MacChrystal character is, and how his male machismo seems to have both advanced his career, and ended it:
SADY: Dear Lord. This McChrystal profile: I cannot get over it! Like, four pages in, it starts becoming more generous. Which is kind of startling, because on page one it kind of presents McChrystal as this overgrown eighteen-year-old drinking Bud Light Lime and playing World of (Actual) Warcraft (In Which People Die) with his buddies. Bud Light Lime. BUD LIGHT LIME! The reputation-killer! ...It seems to me that this whole article is profiling McChrystal as like this sad doomed exemplar of a certain kind of machismo. The kind that doesn’t overthink, doesn’t do things that are “fucking gay” like attend restaurants with candles or drink wine or respect the President, and is dead set on getting its way no matter what the consequences of getting your way when you’re resolutely opposed to thinking about stuff or opening your mind at all might actually be...
AMANDA: The lack of self-awareness is the main thing. I’m amazed that no one had their guard up around Hastings—or better, that this is what they look like with their guard up. I mean, looking at the hilarious photographs accompanying the story of Hastings in hipster jacket and beard and sunglasses hanging out with all these dudes in uniform, you have to wonder what they were thinking.

SADY: Right. Like, that’s what’s kind of alarming. That not only are they being frat-house homophobic and hostile to diplomacy — although part of their job is supposedly understanding this culture that they’re trying to singlehandedly break down and reconstruct — but that they’re being quoted as talking smack about everybody in the administration. They’re all identified mostly by their positions, not names, but does being anonymous really help with the impression that this entire operation is just Out Of Control?
AMANDA: And insulting the administration in the laziest way possible. Biden? More like Bite Me! France: Gay! Beer: Good! ...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Really Chris Brown, please go away

I really cannot stand Chris Brown.  I have never heard someone get so self-righteous about people criticizing him for beating the crap out of his girlfriend.  I believe the correct emotion is "unbelievably apologetic" or "in therapy."  Now, Queen Latifah is apparently coming to his defense after he gave an emotional performance of Man in the Mirror at the BET awards, saying, "The guy is a young guy and he made a big mistake and he needs to bounce back from that. And he needs an opportunity for a second chance."  But there's more: "He needs to be forgiven. Enough already. We can't keep beating him up. She's [Rihanna] going to grow and he's going to grow and we have to allow them both to do that."  Yeah.  I'll let that language sink in for a minute.  From Renee Martin:
I cannot believe that she said the phrase "We can't keep beating him up," in reference to the public's refusal to continue to support Chris Brown's career. In case the queen forgot, the only one that got beaten up in that relationship was Rihanna.  It is her body that was covered in bruises, when Brown decided that he had the right to lay hands on her in anger.
....No one has to support Chris Brown with their hard earned dollars, no matter how many times he breaks down in tears.  I certainly agree that the recidivism rate is high because we don't allow ex-criminals a chance to earn a living, but Brown has made more than enough money to support himself if he manages it properly and stops living high on the hog.  Furthermore, nothing is stopping him from going out to get a regular 9-5 (you know those shitty jobs that regular Black folk work).  He simply wants to retain his celebrity status because he feels entitled.
Renee is exactly right.  It's not as though people are hounding Chris Brown, refusing to let him into their establishments, or lobbying for him to move out of their neighborhood.  They're simply choosing not to be his fans anymore.  And he resents that.  Once people admired him due to his talent.  He showed a much much less admirable side, and now some people no longer care for him.  And this pisses him off and pisses off his supporters, because your admiration is something he feels entitled to.  Well, I call BS on Brown, and on anyone demanding that we proffer our admiration and praise instead of scorn and approbation. 

And in case you had any doubt about the level of disrespect Brown feels toward women, and how ugly and violently he reacts when they criticize him, check out his colorist attack on Sandra Rose, who called his career dead on her blog:
That's right, when a woman criticizes him and insults his career, his line of attack is to make racist jokes about the color of her skin and her appearance.  Can we please all declare this guy an unrepentant a**hole now?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet: Everyone's a little bit racist

Joel Stein wrote a piece for Time lamenting the fact that his hometown has become his "own private India" after a large influx of Indian immigrant.  It's supposed to be funny (sample humor: "I never knew how a bunch of people half a world away chose a random town in New Jersey to populate...Did we accidentally keep numbering our parkway exits all the way to Mumbai?"), but like so many things, is actually just really racist.  Kal Pen, of Harold and Kumar fame, mocked Stein's really uncreative racism for the Huffington Post:
Were it not for the intelligent, fresh sense of humor of individuals like Mr. Stein, the world may never know about Americans who happen to be of Indian descent. Gags about impossibly spicy food? I'd never heard those before! Multiple Gods with multiple arms? Multiple laughs! Recounting racial slurs like "dot-head"? Oh, Mr. Stein, is too good! I don't know how he comes up with such unique bits. (I was worried that he'd missed an opportunity to joke about Dr. King's predecessor, Gandhi, but I see that he got to that hilarity on Twitter. More never-before-heard satire!)
Growing up a few miles from Edison, NJ, I always thought it was hilarious when I'd get the crap kicked out of me by kids like Stein who would yell "go back to India, dothead!" I was always ROTFLMAO when people would assume that I wasn't American. He really captured the brilliant humor in that one too!
Stein apologized on the pages of Time by saying his piece was actually pro-immigration:
 I truly feel stomach-sick that I hurt so many people. I was trying to explain how, as someone who believes that immigration has enriched American life and my hometown in particular, I was shocked that I could feel a tiny bit uncomfortable with my changing town when I went to visit it. If we could understand that reaction, we’d be better equipped to debate people on the other side of the immigration issue.
Right.  Except to do that, you would have had to actually discuss your feelings and critique them instead of just playing your grade school inability to accept change for laughs.  Time magazine fail. [Hat tip Jez]
DL Hughley guest-hosted the view, and voiced his clearly medically researched (sarcasm) opinion that "brothers on the down low" are responsible for the AIDS epidemic in the African community.  Because any form of unlubricated sex (anal sex or dry sex) has a higher transmission rate than lubricated PIV or oral sex, it is true that, for unprotected sex, transmission rates will be higher on average for gay men receiving anal sex than for straight men having vaginal sex.  But it's not true that the phenomenon of gay black men having girlfriends is responsible for the high rates of HIV among African American women.  Evil Slutopia sets the record straight:
The CDC has studied why the HIV/AIDS rates among African-American women is so extremely high (they make up 61% of all new HIV cases among women). Although 80% of African-American women contract HIV through heterosexual contact, this is mainly from men with high-risk behaviors such as having multiple sex partners (primarily female partners, not secret gay male partners) or IV drug use. There are actually "relatively few" infections coming from male partners who are bisexual.
Slutopia points out how ludicrous it is to continue to consider "gayness" a risk factor, instead of actually risky behaviors:
I was researching the subject, for a potential article for the school newspaper, and questioned a representative of the Blood Bank on why gay men were restricted from donating blood. She informed me that gay men were at a higher risk for contracting HIV/AIDS. I reminded her that not all gay men are at a higher risk, only those who engage in high risk activities like unprotected anal sex with numerous partners. However women who engaged in the same high risk activities could donate. She didn't understand, so I explained further.
Me: The risk factor isn't "being a gay man". Yes, unprotected anal sex is a higher risk activity, but it would be the same level of risk for a woman.

Idiot: Oooh, you're right! She could have had anal sex with a gay man!
In other racist news, the movie The Last Airbender, which replaced all of its leading Asian characters with white actors, while still having minority characters play villainous and background characters, is apparently terrible.  Ebert's review: "The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here."  Oh M. Night, how far you've fallen.  Also check out this history of Yellow Face in the movies.
If you like the World Cup, this infographic is fun.  Or if you just like hot soccer players magically changing size with their facebook popularity. [Hat tip Fug Girls]
I thought this piece on why breastfeeding is a feminist issue was interesting.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Summery and light noodle salad

One of my favorite things to eat over the summer is the Vietnamese noodle salad Bun.  It's cold rice noodles with a tangy sauce (called nuoc cham) and fresh herbs.  I usually order it as take-out, but recently realized I could make it myself.  Don't laugh at me, but Gwyneth Paltrow has a pretty good recipe for Bun on GOOP (snicker snicker), although hers left out the noodles:
Vietnamese Salad (serves 4)
  • 4 large bok choy leaves, rough bottoms discarded, stems cut into ¼" bias and leaves shredded
  • 4 big leaves Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bunch watercress (discard thick stems), roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • the leaves from about 8 stems each basil, mint, cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ½ small cucumber, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 red Thai chili (or more…or less), thinly sliced
  • ½ cup roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Vietnamese Dressing (see recipe below)
  • grilled fish, shrimp, tuna, chicken, or tofu for serving (optional)
Vietnamese Dressing
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon hot pepper sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion or shallot
I tried this recipe out, but instead of the nappa cabbage and watercress, I put in the rice noodles, of course.  The noodles you need for this are usually called "rice stick" or rice vermicelli, and need to be boiled just briefly to become tender.   You just want the thinnest dry rice noodles you can find.  I also simplified the dressing by omitting the salt, hot pepper oil, and red onion and just mixing in the other seasonings until it tasted right.  The herbs are key, but basil and mint are the two essential ones.  Cilantro is nice if you have it.

I then tossed all the ingredients with the dressing, and topped it off with more chopped peanuts and a sliced Japanese-style egg omelet.   Soooo delicious, and refreshing.

This site has more info on making proper Bun.