Friday, August 27, 2010

Recipe Fridays: How to cook (and eat) Zambian food

The staple Zambian food is N’shima, a cooked maize product similar to grits or polenta. It’s dense and highly caloric, thanks to the cooking process by which a small amount of maize meal is cooked into a porridge, then additional meal is beaten in until the N’shima is thick and sticky. There are two kinds of maize meal, or mealy-meal, from which N’shima is made: Refined meal, called “Breakfast”, and whole meal, called “Roller” (pronounced Rollah). N’shima is eaten with a variety of “relishes”, such as vegetables, small dried fish (kapenta), beans, and/or meat with gravy. The major Zambian vegetables are: Rape, a dark green, slightly bitter leaf similar to chard; Chinese cabbage, a slightly lighter colored and more crisp leaf; Chabwawa (pronounced almost like Chihuahua the dog), pumpkin leaves, which are thick and often sandy if not washed enough; Kalembla, pointy, sometimes star-shaped leaves which can be slimy if over-cooked; and Bondwe, basil-shaped leaves with a distinctive fragrance. These vegetables are usually cooked with tomato and onion, and sometimes in a groundnut (peanut) stew called V’sachy.

Zambians eat with their hands, but this is certainly not an excuse for poor hygiene or table manners. Washing hands before and after meals is mandatory, and you’ll find most Zambians somehow keep their hands clean throughout the entire affair. This is managed by the process of taking a golf ball-size lump of n’shima, rolling it into a ball, and flattening it with the thumb before picking up any food. The n’shima and the thumb together are used to pick up vegetables and sauce, leaving the rest of the hand clean. For tearing apart meat and fish you will have to use your hand—but only one. The other rests on the table clean. Westerners seen grabbing food directly off the plate by the handful are considered just as uncouth here as they would be back home, so be warned—eating with your hands isn’t as simple as it seems.

Below are some Zambian recipes, starting with those that are most transferable to Western grocery availability.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Unlocking the puzzle: HIV in East Africa

Let me ask you this: Do you believe patterns of sexual behavior are the primary determinant of rates of HIV infection in the world?  If a country has more HIV, does that mean more people are having more unprotected sex with more partners?

Personally, I don't believe the above statement, at least without major qualifications, but there are plenty of people (and plenty of people in the HIV/AIDS advocacy community) who do.  What I would say, is that countries with higher infection rates probably provide the virus with more opportunities for transmission--perhaps in the form of unprotected sex, but also in the form of overall poor health, additional untreated infections, possibly lower rates of circumcision, and other so-called "open windows" (to borrow a phrase from Elizabeth Pisani) into our normally protected bodies.

On the other hand, I am also troubled by how HIV rates could be so high in relatively well-off East African countries (such as Botswana) and so low in equally poor Latin American countries.  What's the missing variable?  One theory that I've heard advanced is that East African societies tend to favor concurrent sexual relationships, rather than serially monogamous ones, which is more conducive to HIV transmission.  The idea is that HIV is most infectious after you've been recently infected, so if you have sex with someone for several months, become infected, and then start a new relationship a few months later, you're less likely to transmit the disease than if you have an ongoing sexual relationship that involves multiple instances of unprotected sex with two people during the same time period.  But is it the case that East Africans have more concurrent sexual relationships than people in other countries?  Honestly, I don't know.  Feasibly, it seems like something you could find out by examining DHS surveys, but I don't know of anyone who's done this.  So in the absence of facts, let's at least talk about why that impression exists.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Nutella Milkshake

So this recipe is not rocket science. It's not gourmet. It's not inventive. It is simply to die for. A few months ago some friends and I went to Brooklyn Bowl for some good old fashioned fun. Not only is it a fantastic-looking venue, but the food is scrumptious--thanks to Blue Ribbon who runs the food there. And, lo and behold, they have a Nutella milkshake on the menu. It was heaven! I attempted to recreate it the other weekend to much success.

Warning: Once you taste the first sip, you'll want to have bucket loads. All the time.

Vanilla ice cream
Milk of your choice

In a blender, mix ice cream and milk until you get the consistency of milkshake you would like. I find that three parts ice cream to one part milk (or thereabouts) is best. Then add in a couple of spoonfuls of Nutella (again, as much as you would like). Blend well. Serve and drink immediately!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet: Thank you Obama, leave Shelley alone, pro-choice heartbreak

Obama spoke out in support of the "Ground Zero Mosque", which as Gawker points out (in a hilarious piece on potential "compromises") could more accurately be called the "The Downtown Manhattan Muslim Community Center," but that doesn't do as much to justify faux outrage and calls to "refudiate."  Seriously, thank goodness.  Now could someone from the right prove their party isn't going over the waterfall of irrelevance by doing the same?  Anyone?

Shelley O (The nickname is from TLo) took a trip to Spain, and now someone is comparing her to a modern day Marie Antoinette.  Snarky columnists will be snarky columnists, but the part that really irks me, is that her approval ratings fell after the whole thing.  Honestly, give me a break.  She took a trip with her daughter and a few friends.  Surely this is not unheard of from someone who earned over $300,000 a year as a vice president at University of Chicago Hospitals? 

I'm about as pro-choice as they come (when it comes to legal restrictions) and yet I found myself tearing up reading this description of abortion (last page) in a piece on selective reduction of twins linked to by Jezebel.  Jezebel's Anna North seems to ask whether we should judge one woman's choice in terms of how this informed our defense of her right to choose.  But to me, the two can be unrelated.  It's possible to feel sadness about abortion, and even to feel anger at the person doing it, without believing in legal restrictions on it.  Going in with this belief, I was still surprised at how much the piece affected me emotionally.  Go read it and let me know if your eyes stay dry.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Guest Post: The Teaching Methods of Higher Education - Sexist or Simply Part of the Profession?

Another great guest post from VikingKitten regarding teaching methods and potential gender bias in graduate schools. Enjoy!

At first glance, graduate education programs seem to be more female-friendly than in years past: female enrollment in graduate programs of traditionally male-dominated fields—such as medicine, law, and business—has significantly risen in recent years, with enrollment in law and medical schools about evenly distributed among genders. However, despite this rise in female enrollment, the teaching methods of these schools have generally remained the same. Does this put women at a disadvantage?

As a law student, I will focus on the teaching method with which I am most familiar—the “Socratic Method”—which, despite its unfortunate misnomer, actually describes the following type of scenario: A law professor will “cold-call” on a student, asking questions about the assigned cases or reading material. The professor will often give the student a tough time and ask many follow-up questions, forcing the student to come up with strong arguments on the spot and to support his/her opinions with clear and logical reasoning.
So, what’s wrong with this method? According to Harvard Professor Lani Guinier, one of the many staunch advocates for the removal of Socratic Method in law schools, the Socratic Method may put women at a disadvantage to men. The basic argument, stemming from Guinier’s 1994 study  and extending into more recent scholarship, is that women learn better in cooperative environments and are more likely to speak up and excel in smaller groups and in more interactive situations. Proponents for the removal of the Socratic teaching method also observe that women tend to take longer than men to formulate answers on the spot, that they tend to feel alienated in the law school setting, and that male students consistently outperform their similarly-situated female counterparts in law school.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mad Hoc: Character studies

Just in time for the new episode of Mad Men, RMJ's and my chat on "The Good News."  These chats may be more infrequent/posted later due to internet connections in Zambia, but we'll try to keep bringing you Mad Men discussions!

Don and Anna
 RMJ: So, what did you think?
 Coca Colo: Well, TLo pointed out it was a slower episode, and I agree, but it was really sweet and interesting to see so much Don-Anna interaction
  RMJ: So I was with tlo - it was a little boring
  i watched it with a friend which i think means i missed some of the subtleties
Coca Colo: Yes, it was more about laying groundwork. I'm less into this other version of don, as far as I just find him less exciting, than the Madison Avenue one, but I think that's the point
 RMJ: Yeah, he's a lot less compelling but much happier
 Coca Colo: I think it’s because he's NOT that polished guy. He's the guy in the country bar and painting the wall.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Chess Pie

When the fancy strikes me (which is not often), I just have to bake a pie. There's something old-fashioned and homey about pies that makes baking them even more enjoyable. Last night I went and bought the ingredients to a traditional Southern pie: Chess Pie. It reminds me of the filling of pecan pie--only without the pecans. It's super easy, super tasty, and super sweet so make it to share with your friends, family, and neighbors.

1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 Tbsp cornmeal
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
1 unbaked pie shell (unless you have more time, then definitely make your own pie crust!)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix the butter, sugar and vanilla together. Then mix in the eggs, then stir in the cornmeal, evaporated milk, and vinegar. Stir until smooth and pour mixture into unbaked pie shell. Bake the pie in the oven (make sure you put the pie on a cookie sheet in case it spills over the crust) for 10 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake for 40 minutes. Let cool and serve.

Recipe Fridays: The Best of Jamie Oliver (so far)

I have to admit, that my first introduction to the work of Jamie Oliver was here at Femonomics, when we reviewed his new show Food Revolution. Since then, I've been DVR'ing episodes of Jamie at Home, and have checked out his books from the library. I think I might be in love. Not only are his recipes exactly the kind of think I like to eat, they are "dead simple" and really impressive. A few of my favorites so far:

English Onion Soup - like the traditional French, but with as many kinds of onions you can get your hands on.

Proper Chicken Ceasar Salad - cooking the croutons underneath the chicken, and later bacon, makes them ridiculously delicious.

Zucchini Carbonara - this is a little trickier, and requires a lot of prep time (for me), but is super tasty and massively impressed a colleague I cooked it for.

A couple of notes, Jamie adds red pepper and pours olive oil on top of everything. There's no need to replicate that, it's just his tic. He also uses really expensive ingredients - organic, local, the highest quality. That's all well and good for a multi-millionaire, but I just do the best I can. In most cases, you can get by with whatever's in the grocery store.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Out of the pot, into the fire: How hierarchy defines our lives

I've just finished the first week of what will be a four-month stay in Zambia (and the reason femonomics posting won't be daily for a while).  The first time I was in Zambia, I was a cultural outsider.  I spent a lot of time just chatting with people, anyone who would, to try out my fumbling grasp of the local language (English is the language taught in schools, but other languages remain prevalent), and understand as much as I could about the place whose people made up data points in our research.  After three months spent working with Zambian women, living with Zambian housemates, cooking and eating Zambian food, and making Zambian friends, I felt integrated enough into the culture that when I returned this time, part of it was strangely like a homecoming--returning to an old familiar place and the memories it holds.

But as I felt less cultural separation between myself and the Zambians around me--of course we still came from different backgrounds, but I no longer felt like a complete outsider--I noticed a strange thing.... I was adapting more to the class hierarchies of Zambian society.  Instead of chatting with guards and bus drivers, I offered them curt greetings and hurried on my way, trying to avoid the inevitable discussion of my relationship status that I'd learned would follow.  I found myself referring to domestic workers in local terms, as a "garden boy" and "maid," despite finding these terms pejorative, and using "She doesn't even speak English!" to express that someone was uneducated to my housemate.  And honestly, I had no idea why.  The less I saw my middle class Zambian friends as separate from myself, the more I was adopting their way of organizing the world into "other" and "same."  As I saw things less in terms of me versus them, developed country versus undeveloped, white(ish) versus black, the more I saw them as educated versus not, laborer versus professional, economically comfortable versus poor.  I was absorbing a new set of hierarchies and division to replace the old, and it felt as natural as breathing.

There are many misconceptions about developing countries, especially African ones, that I hope to address in a future post.  But one of the most pernicious is that everyone is poor, destitute, and miserable.  Far from it.  Plenty of Zambians, especially urban ones, are middle class, comfortable, and caught in between the same appreciation of their good fortune and striving dissatisfaction that so many Americans face.  And very often these individuals seem to define themselves in contrast to those that are not, just as much as we define ourselves in contrast to our vision of them.  Why is that?  Is it human nature for us to make sense of our landscape through hierarchy?  Does our wealth mean nothing if we are not richer than?  Is our education useless if we're not smarter than?  Or is it the insidious effect of Colonialism, still boiling away, in which class and ethnic divisions were often encouraged in order to better control Colonial lands?  (For more on this, see Mahmood Mamdani's wonderful book Citizen and Subject, about how the British encouraged hierarchical and authoritarian local rule in South Africa in order to better oppress the Africans they sought to dominate.)

If we rid ourselves of one form of oppression, will another replace it?  Is hierarchy truly as natural to us as breathing?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A feminist capitalist's manifesto

In a recent piece titled "Feminism and anti-Capitalism, a love story" on Feministe and Girldrive, Nona argues that because structural sexism is built into a capitalistic economy, fiscal conservatism and feminism are inherently incompatible, and in fact in conflict with one another.  In fact, she seems to single out fiscally conservative beliefs above even socially conservative ones for exclusion from the feminist paradigm.  While it is "[effed] up to leave conservative women out of the conversation, especially if they felt torn between their family’s traditions and their own reality," fiscal conservatism is a different issue because "capitalism needs to be humanized" and "business [needs] to be regulated."

And yet, here I am.  I am a feminist and I am a capitalist.  I am a feminist because I believe in expanding the choice set for women everywhere.  I am a feminist because I work to challenge systematic oppressions.  I am a feminist because my life's work is women, and I have never felt satisfied doing anything else.  And yet, I am a capitalist.  I am a capitalist because I believe in making the pie bigger, and then trying to divide it as equitably as possible.  I am a capitalist because I am an economist, and I believe that markets tend to offer more efficient solutions to problems (and in fact, often more equitable) than governments, although I also believe that sometimes they don't.  I am a capitalist for reasons that have nothing to do with ideology, because my ideology is that none of us have any moral claim to the endowments of our birth, and thus a good life is one that serves others.  I am a capitalist because I think it works. 

I am not a capitalist because I think the interests of business should come before the interests of women.  Far from it. I have seen big government oppress women, and business and free markets help them.  I believe systematic oppression is every bit as entrenched in government forces as it is in market ones, and that both can be tools to either rectify or reinforce the hierarchies of the past.  I believe there is a role for government in correcting inequalities, but I also believe that government helped to put them there in the first place, both in the US and the world over.  In places where governments continue to oppress, I have seen the remarkable effect of freedom, both market and personal, in improving the quality of life for people in need.  I believe that women's right to vote in this country, a fundamental accomplishment of feminism, is also integrally tied to immigrant and otherwise under-privileged women's participation in the labor force, even under sub-human conditions--sheer, brutal, ugly capitalism. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

How to respond when senior coworkers are sexist jerks

This week the feminist blogosphere has been buzzing about a Slate advice columnist's response to the following letter from a woman working in a law firm for the summer:
I am a female law student who is employed for the summer (and potentially for the school year) at a small firm that I'm really enjoying. The law office shares a floor of an office building with a bigger law firm, and my cubicle is "on the border." All of the attorneys at both firms are male, but at the other firm, the men are far from politically correct. I have two issues: First, one of the attorneys, "Jerry," often makes comments to me about my appearance. These range from annoying but harmless ("Nice tan") to creepy ("I like that skirt," in a lecherous tone). I have tried to ignore him or subtly indicate his comments aren't welcome, but neither approach has worked. I'm tempted to speak to one of my firm's partners, but I fear it would make me look like a little girl running to a man to fight my battles. I'm also considering documenting all his comments until I have enough for a sexual harassment suit so I can make his firm pay for the legal education I used to nail it. Second, I overhear a lot of conversations I find highly offensive. The men are fond of using homosexuality-based insults, calling one another or opponents "fag" and "homo." The work environment is becoming so unpleasant that I wonder how long I can stand it. What should I do?
The response is basically to (a) confront Jerry directly, (b) chill out about the homophobic bigots next door, and (c) not to be so eager to sue, it won't win her a lot of points. Jezebel has a good summary of responses to this column, including why this advice is not really so great, especially since it lacks the broader context of entrenched sexism in some law firms.

But what DO you do when coworkers, especially those above you on the office hierarchy, say bigoted or offensive things? It's a tough dilemma for many in the workplace, as calling out unacceptable behavior can decrease your own political / social capital. I find this particularly challenging, since I want to live my values and advance progressive causes, but find myself uncomfortable saying anything that makes waves. One Jezebel commenter had some advice that I particularly liked:
Here's what I did in a similar situation: I went to the partner that I felt would be the most receptive. I started the discussion with how much I liked my job and the firm, and how I hoped to work there for many years to come. I talked about being a team player and wanting the best for the firm (bosses eat that shit up). Then, I mentioned overhearing some of the male attorneys saying inappropriate things in front of the clerks and secretaries, and how bad it would be for all of us if these women sued the firm. Because I was looking out for the firm. -SheelaNaGig
So, being strategic with how you deliver the message can help. I haven't read the whole thing, but this free manual from The Southern Poverty Law center on responding to everyday bigotry has a lot of good ideas. It even gives sample conversations, which I think is really helpful (nothing like a script to make you feel more confident!) Do you have any strategies for confronting workplace sexism / racism / homophobia?

Guest Post: Purchasing Power in Numbers

Here's another great post from guest contributor VikingKitten, letting you know where to find the best deals online!

It’s smart to save money, especially in this economic climate, and “group-buying” seems to be the newest way to do so. Amazon’s June 30th announcement that they will acquire, along with the recent news of the purchase of FreshGuide by Sugar, Inc (an online publisher focused on women’s media), indicates that the group-buying phenomenon has become more popular than ever.

Group-buying websites typically work like this: online shoppers indicate their desire to purchase a particular featured “deal of the day.”  If enough people agree to buy the deal, they get it at a significant discount. 

Here’s a quick comparison of our favorite group-buying sites:
Site Name
# of Cities
Main Type of Merchandise
How It Works
Rewards for Referrals
Other  Notes

Restaurants, retail, entertainment
Minimum number of buyers needed to get the deal
Includes a handy “how close are we?” bar to show how many more buyers are needed to get the deal

Restaurants, retail, entertainment
The more buyers who join in the deal, the lower the price goes
$10 credit for each person who clicks on your referral link and buys a deal
Shows the starting price of the deal, the current price, and the amount of savings from retail price

Restaurants, events, entertainment
Minimum number of buyers needed to get the deal
$10 credit for each person who clicks on your referral link and buys a deal
Currently trying to expand into several cities
Gilt City

Fashion, events, restaurants, entertainment
Deal can be purchased until it sells out.
$25 when a referral makes a first purchase
Deals often sell out—so act fast!  However, you can be added to the “wait list” for a sold out deal, so all hope is not lost

93+ (incl. non-U.S.)
Restaurants, retail, entertainment
Minimum number of buyers needed to get the deal
$10 credit for each person who clicks on your referral link and buys a deal
Includes discussion boards with helpful staff members answering customer questions; Hilarious “Groupon says” section of each deal

Restaurants, retail, entertainment
1 deal/day. No minimum number of buyers required
If 3 people buy the deal using your referral link, you get it free.  $5 to a referral for signing up, and $5 to you when your referral makes a first purchase
Features a section of “365 things to do” in your city of choice.

Outdoor gear and clothing
1 deal at a time until the item is sold out; then another deal immediately begins
Has a neat feature where you can see the current number of people viewing the page; For apparel, the number of items remaining is broken down by color/size

Restaurants, events, entertainment
3 deals/day.  The more buyers who join in the deal, the lower the price goes
$5 to a referral for signing up, and $5 to you when your referral makes a first purchase
Can log on automatically though Facebook

1 item/day until it sells out or the day ends.  Does not reveal the number remaining or the retail price of the item.
The management claims that there will be no change to Woot’s ways in light of Amazon’s acquisition—it will be interesting to see if this is true is another helpful site, which essentially aggregates group deals from various group-buying sites, organized by city. Readers, are there other sites where you go to shop for bargains?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Apple-Blackberry Crumble

This is a fairly easy dessert to whip up. And lighter than a cake. Pick your fruit filling (berries, plums, peaches, even pineapple) and your nut (walnut, almond, pistachio, pecan) and get baking! I made a few of these this week--and this turned out to be tasty:

Crumble topping:
1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
7 tablespoons of butter, softened
pinch of salt

Mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt together. Then add the nuts. Next, mix in the softened butter with your hands until everything is evenly moistened. Set aside.

Fruit filling:
3 lbs apples, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups blackberries
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt

Mix all filling ingredients together in a bowl. Transfer the filling into a buttered 2 quart baking dish (or 8x8). Dot the top with 2 tablespoons of cut-up cold butter. Sprinkle crumble mixture on top of fruit. Bake until golden (40-45 minutes) at 375 degrees. Let it sit 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

California shows some sense! Prop 8 ruled unconstitutional, appeal may end up in Supreme Court

GawkerThe AdvocateNYTimes.

Editorial from the Times:
Until Wednesday, the thousands of same-sex couples who have married did so because a state judge or Legislature allowed them to. The nation’s most fundamental guarantees of freedom, set out in the Constitution, were not part of the equation. That has changed with the historic decision by a federal judge in California, Vaughn Walker, that said his state’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the 14th Amendment’s rights to equal protection and due process of law.

...One of Judge Walker’s strongest points was that traditional notions of marriage can no longer be used to justify discrimination, just as gender roles in opposite-sex marriage have changed dramatically over the decades. All marriages are now unions of equals, he wrote, and there is no reason to restrict that equality to straight couples. The exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage “exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage,” he wrote. “That time has passed.”
To justify the proposition’s inherent discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation, he wrote, there would have to be a compelling state interest in banning same-sex marriage. But no rational basis for discrimination was presented at the two-and-a-half-week trial in January, he said. The real reason for Proposition 8, he wrote, is a moral view “that there is something wrong with same-sex couples,” and that is not a permissible reason for legislation.
“Moral disapproval alone,” he wrote, in words that could someday help change history, “is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and women.”
The ideological odd couple who led the case — Ted Olson and David Boies, who fought against each other in the Supreme Court battle over the 2000 election — were criticized by some supporters of same-sex marriage for moving too quickly to the federal courts. Certainly, there is no guarantee that the current Supreme Court would uphold Judge Walker’s ruling. But there are times when legal opinions help lead public opinions.
Just as they did for racial equality in previous decades, the moment has arrived for the federal courts to bestow full equality to millions of gay men and lesbians.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mad Hoc: The many faces of Peggy and Don

This is the second in an ongoing series where Deeply Problematic blogger RMJ and I break down each episode of Mad Men through both our feminist and fan lenses.

RMJ: Let's start with Peggy. Is she engaged?

Coca Colo: No, I don't think so, the boyfriend just made that up last time, 
and this episode, she said "I have a boyfriend"

RMJ: But I thought there was a ring at the end?

Coca Colo: I actually thought it was interesting, because Freddy told her at the end that if she wanted to marry him, she shouldn't put out
, and I thought her choosing to sleep with him was her making the decision she didn't want to marry him. But I didn't see a ring! 
Was she wearing it in the last scene?

RMJ: Screencap is in order:
Coca Colo: Oh, goodness, I didn't notice that detail! Is that her left hand?
RMJ: I can't tell - I'm a little screwy about right/left :). The viewer is clearly supposed to see it, they wouldn't just have it there for no good reason...

Coca Colo: I hope she's not marrying him...
 It doesn't seem to me that she respects him, nor that she's willing to let him see "real Peggy." Like is she as smart, funny, interested, conflicted, etc. when he's around?
RMJ: I think that she does show him the real Peggy to a certain extent - her work covers her bed - and he doesn't like it.
 I'm interested to see what her mother and sister have to say about the dude.
 They are probably pushing for her marriage to him.
Coca Colo: That's interesting, hadn't thought of that.
 What does it mean if our career spitfire Peggy gets into an un-fulfilling relationship herself?
 Does that make her truly one of the boys?
RMJ: Yeah, it seemed like it could very well be imitating Don, as she so often does - rushing into an unsatisfying relationship for the sake of having a relationship
Coca Colo: Well, first of all, I am hoping she's not engaged, and that the last scene was her choosing sex over marriage, for now
, like I thought. But, given that you're absolutely right, the hand-on-chest shot seems significant, I'm hoping she comes to her senses before going through with it!

RMJ: Me too! 
 I wanted her to have a little office thing in which she has the upper hand.

Coca Colo: I know she wants companionship just like anyone else, I know she doesn't want to be alone on New Year's, but she deserves better.
 What I love, though, is that she's not a "type"
the creators have done a really good job making her complex and real
RMJ: I agree.
Coca Colo: This episode really showed an interesting tension in Peggy's life, that we still deal with today. 
She wants a fulfilling work life and a fulfilling personal life, and she doesn't feel as though she should have to choose
. Freddy thought he had insulted her by suggesting she wanted to get married
. But she does want to get married. She just doesn't want to be threatened with spinsterhood if she forgoes Pond's cold cream and instead spreads out her work on her bed.
RMJ: I also think it's interesting how it showed her having to appease and make compromises in both areas - she's clearly better at her job than Freddy, but he ignores her attempts to assert her authority and competence.
 And it didn't seem like the dude was a good match for her, but she wants to get married, and she had to negotiate what sex and respect meant for them in that relationship.

Coca Colo: the whole virgin ruse was indicative of that.
RMJ: I agree. Speaking of the fake virginity thing though, it also reminded me of Joan pretending to be a virgin with Greg.

Coca Colo: YES. And, likely, everyone else in that era
. Which is so funny, because the men were having sex with somebody
. The math doesn't work for them to be having all this extra-marital/premarital sex, and for all the women to be virgins!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Femonomics at the Movies: Salt

I'm a little late to the game on this one - it's been a week since I've seen Salt and everyone has already written about it! Easily the most anticipated movie of the year (for this mongoose, at least), the picture is Angelina Jolie's return to a starring role in an action flick (Jolie plays the eponymous Salt). I enjoyed Tomb Raider, and was a big fan of Mr and Mrs Smith - the movie that launched an entire tabloid industry. So, was I disappointed?

The Viewer's Angle

In short, no - but neither was I elated. Salt is an unrelenting action film - not an action-comedy, action-romance, or even action-drama. The basic plot is a chase, with the FBI chasing Salt, and Salt chasing a mysterious group of bad guys to which she might belong. I have to agree with David Edelstein's review that "the movie is a blast, even though - and this might be a deal-breaker for some people - it makes no sense, at all!"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet: the legal system is actually sortof working to fight bigotry, oh man, is there a lot of bigotry

Congress has passed legislation that will cut the extreme sentencing for crack to be more in line with that for cocaine.  Previously, someone found to be in possession of crack would be sentenced as though they had been found with 100 times as much cocaine.  The new legislation, waiting to be signed by the president, reduces that ratio to 18:1.  The 25-year-old crack sentencing guidelines have been responsible for the imprisonment of thousands of African Americans while white drug users often went free, and is a leading reason many people believe the war on drugs to be a war on black families.  According to the Washington Post, 80% of people arrested for crack possession are black.  This is a huge step in the right direction, but will not have the desired effect unless the ratio of arrests and searches for black and brown versus white individuals is brought more in line as well.

In other "thank freaking God" news, a court in Arizona has blocked the most controversial part of the SB1070 immigration legislation.  The case is now headed to a San Fransisco appeals court.  Supporters of the law rallied in Phoenix, while immigrant rights group Trail of Dreams peacefully spoke out for the other side.  Civil rights, people.  Civil freaking rights.

And now in terrible news, the Anti Defamation League has joined the bigots protesting the "Ground Zero mosque," while confusingly saying they're still against anti-Muslim bigotry.  I put "Ground Zero Mosque" in quotes because the planned Muslim community center would be two blocks away from the site of the World Trade Center.  I am willing to grant the ADL that the funders of the community center should be thoroughly vetted to insure that no money from radical groups is making its way into or out of the project.  But the ADL, amazingly, in their statement say that even if the center is found to be completely legitimately funded and to be promoting a positive, peaceful message, it should not be allowed to built because "this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right."  Give.  Me.  A.  Break.  How on earth is a center that promotes peaceful Islamic community, and educates others about the religion outside of the extremist mold all too often portrayed, not consistent with the goal of memorializing 9/11?  Along with the victims of the terrorist attacks that day, many of whom were in fact Muslim, Islam itself suffered a devastating blow in the attacks on the twin towers, which left Americans and others with a deeply skewed view of the religion, and paved the way for conflicts raging across the globe over Muslim representation.  That deserves a memorial as much as anything else.  At least us Jews still have J-Street to talk sense.