Wednesday, March 31, 2010

You have got to be kidding me: Rape video game goes viral

CNN has an uber-disturbing story about a Japanese rape-themed video game that was pulled from store shelves, only to go viral online.  The game puts users in the crime driver seat, similar to Grand Theft Auto, only this time the crime is stalking, assaulting, and raping women--including teens.  From CNN:
It is little wonder that the game, titled RapeLay, sparked international outrage from women's groups. Taina Bien-Aime helped yank the game off store shelves worldwide.
"This was a game that had absolutely no place on the market," said Taina Bien-Aime of women's rights organization Equality Now which has campaigned for the game to be taken off the shelves.
Unfortunately, the game is now available on the internet, with a wider audience than ever before.  Some are calling for the government of Japan to take further action to ban the game, but I'm not sure to what extent I agree with that.  I think you could go after the game online if you think it's actively promoting either child pornography or could directly lead to criminal conduct, but otherwise, the right answer to this seems to be OMG-education-please this is crazy!  I'm sorry, I need to take a deep breath; I still cannot believe there is a rape video game.

I understand that rape fantasies might play a real role in both men's and women's sexual enjoyment, and while I recognize their existence is fraught with gender issues, I don't find anything essentially un-feminist about them or the people who have them.  However, playing out fantasies of domination and submission in a mutually consensual, controlled, and reciprocally pleasurable environment is very different from a one-sided video game where the player gets to actually harm unwilling women-cum-objects for his enjoyment alone.  I would have felt very differently about the game if it was an S&M fantasy world, where you first meet your willing counterpart outside of the fantasy setting, and then agree on a role to act out for both of your enjoyment. 

The harm as entertainment aspect reminds me unsettlingly of the torture tourism depicted in Hostel and its sequel.  The premise of that movie (which I have not seen, nor will I) seems to be that it is many people's deepest desire to harm others, if only no one would know.  The premise of the video game is less sinister: it's the idea that people would like to experience harming others, both without anyone knowing and without anyone getting hurt.  Unfortunately, I can't quite get on board with that, either.  Why?  Because it's impossible to hurt someone without them being hurt, and games like RapeLay allow that essential connection to be broken, for a single, pixelated moment.

So, what do we do now?  These products, and moreso, the desires that generate demand for them, are out there, and it might be impossible to stamp them all out in a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.  So how do we both mitigate their harm while working to change the culture that created them?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NCAA Men’s Final Four: Indianapolis Bound

What a show the boys have put on for us! The men's Final Four is imminent and will feature the #5 Butler Bulldogs vs. #5 Michigan St. Spartans and #2 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. the last surviving #1 seed, my beloved Duke Blue Devils. How we got to this Final Four, I haven't a clue.

An Immortal Story: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry. More than twenty years later, her children found out. Their lives would never be the same.” –Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is one of the most intriguing, informative, and heartfelt nonfiction books I have read in a long time. From the first line on the cover (above) to the final sentence on the last page, my whole being was attuned to the incredible—and sometimes tragic—story of the origin and reach of HeLa cells. Not having been a science-focused student, I was not immediately familiar with what HeLa cells were—and how integral a part of medicine they still are.

Rebecca Skloot accessibly and lyrically details the history of HeLa cells--and the woman behind them--in her book. Briefly, the first immortal (self-regenerating) human cells to ever survive in a petri/culture dish were taken from the body of an African-American woman named Henrietta Lacks in Baltimore, Maryland in the 1950s at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Moscow bombed, CNN blames "women"

A terrorist attack in the Moscow subway system was perpetrated by two reportedly female suicide bombers.  CNN found it appropriate to communicate the relevant facts with "Women blamed in Moscow suicide blasts."  To see how backwards this headline is, imagine the consummately uninformative "Men blamed for 9/11."  I understand it's novel that the suicide bombers were female, but their womanhood was not responsible for their extremist views and actions, and is therefore not the salient point for inclusion in a headline, certainly not at the cost of including information on their political affiliation.  CNN and MSNBC are both notorious for bad online headlines.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen them describe a rape or sexual abuse case as a "sex scandal" (rape is no more a sex scandal than a robbery is a payola scheme), or drastically misrepresent the findings of scientific research.  To them I say: hire somebody better.  And to those victimized by the Moscow subway bombs (many of whom were also women), I say: I am so sorry, and you'll be in our thoughts.  I so wish we could learn to work out our differences without involving innocent civilians.  Next century, perhaps.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet so you don't have to: women in politics and the sciences, Passover, AT&T, and more!

This report shows that women are less likely to be recruited by political operatives to run for office, even at equal levels of experience and political connectedness.  This might be a major reason for the under-representation of women in elected office.
Elsewhere, women are making strides in representation in the sciences, but are still anemically present at top levels.  Nick Kristof is worrying about the boys for a change, and how to keep them engaged early on in school.  This issue has been brought up many times before, but Kristof handles it well, acknowledging that men still disproportionately dominate most arenas of society, but cogently arguing that we're doing a disservice if we let this fact blind us to the educational difficulties of young boys.
The march of bad science continues, with Louann Brizendine offering up some insane theories of how men are "hard-wired" to ogle our breasts in the workplace.
Happy Passover!  This year, President Obama will be hosting a seder, as he and his staff have done for the past two years, first on the campaign trail and then in the White House.  It's a sweet story, and I think gets at the nice thing about Passover: the universalism of the message that freedom is worth enough to risk a lot.
There's a new iPhone ap that let's you avoid AT&T...except not. It just lets you make calls through WiFi instead of through your AT&T minutes. But you still need that dern AT&T contract.
Feminist Review offers up women-penned reviews of things women are interested in watching, listening to, eating, and using. It's a worthy goal, and they're currently in the middle of a major fundraising drive, so I thought I'd draw attention to it here.
In this amusing interview, the author of Yes Means Yes!, Jaclyn Friedman, offers up the following handy test to see if the guy you're dating is feminist-compatible:
Right now my basic litmus test is this: Is he interested in feminist issues when I bring them up? And can he talk about them in ways that express curiosity and engagement and respect, instead of defensiveness or dismissiveness or attachment to stereotypes? If we can talk about this stuff in ways that are interesting and productive, I can work with it most of the time.
 [hat tips Larry, Katherine]

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Online tools for financial and physical fitness

I have previously written of my love for, a personal finance management site, and am always on the lookout for online tools to help me improve my fiscal health. This week, the New York Times brings us a checklist of 31 Steps to a Financial Tuneup. As an ESTJ, I love a good checklist!

Although very focused on weight loss goals, the Strength Training Woman website has a great list of exercises by muscle groups and even some handy worksheets for tracking your progress. I've been reading John Medina's Brain Rules and he tells me that exercise boosts brain power. The more brain power I can get, the better!

Friday, March 26, 2010

New bill to ban 2% milk in schools. Is this really helping?

The NYTimes has a piece on the pending legislation to improve school nutrition.  A cornerstone of the suddenly not-so-exciting sounding bill?
For example, milk is the biggest single source of saturated fat on the lunch line. The bill would allow only skim milk to be offered, banning whole and 2 percent. And schools will be required to make sure children have water with their meals.
Call me crazy, but I don't think 2% milk is making our children fat.  In fact, I think there's probably no problem with children (who eat dairy) drinking 2% milk, since kids are active and growing and hence have high calorie requirements, and getting them from wholesome foods like milk will help them not need to get them elsewhere, like from the chips and soda they'll purchase on their way home from school (trust me). 

From the Fat Nutritionist:
...Little kids are metabolically active. Meaning, their energy requirements, per unit body mass, are huge. Meaning, they naturally seek out energy-dense foods — like concentrated sugars and fats. Meaning candy, cake, and ice cream.  Meaning, kids are perfectly normal for liking, even for obsessing a little, about these things.  The way to deal with it, in my opinion, is not to make it a big deal. It’s part of a stage they’re going through physically, as well as mentally.
So giving them plenty of calorie (but also nutrient) rich foods might help them make good choices about other calorie (but not nutrient) rich foods.  I've also heard that little kids should not be fed a low fat diet, because they need fat for brain development.  Moreover, I thought the weight loss community had moved on from its obsession with restricting fat and calories to the more reasonable recommendation of a varied diet of wholesome and nutritious foods.  Michelle Obama, I'm hoping you hear this: Yes our kids need better foods in schools, but can we please spare them the weight loss fads of the nineties?

Earlier: Jamie Oliver's food revolution is inspiring and maddening all at once

Recipe Fridays: Roasted veggie antipasto

You've probably noticed, I have a thing for throwing vegetables under the broiler.  It seems to really bring out the character and flavor of vegetables and make them infinitely more delicious, even for people who don't like said vegetables.  Here are four options for yummy roasted veggies, to be served individually as side-dishes or all together as an antipasto platter (perhaps with a certain yogurt salad?).  These all taste great warm or cold.

Recipe Fridays: Persian Yogurt Salad

I grew up eating this refreshing and satisfying salad (also called Mast-o-khiar) on it's own with bread and as a side with meals. It is very similar to Tzatziki. I kind of eyeball and taste test everything as I make it--do the same and tailor it to your liking.

1 large container of plain yogurt
1-2 cucumbers, peeled and diced
Generous scoops of mint
Generous scoops of dill
Optional ingredients (I, however, never put these in it): chopped garlic/shallots

Mix the yogurt and cucumber in a bowl. Add mint, dill, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Chill and serve.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet so you don't have to: bad science, working women, and football

Some crazy study has come out that shows that to maintain weight, women need to exercise an hour a day.  Oh wait, no it doesn't!  The study followed 34,000 women, who had a mean age of 54 at the start, over 13 years, and recorded exercise, start weight, and end weight.  1) There it is again: correlation is not causation.  Exercising a lot was correlated with not gaining weight (for women who had a "normal" BMI to begin with), but that could be because people who exercise a lot eat differently, have different genetics, or had different health habits early in life.  2) Did I mention these women started at 54?  Gaining weight in the 13 years between 54 and 67 is completely normal (whereas exercising an hour a day really isn't, especially for people in their 60s who may have health problems, see image).  Your body needs fat to synthesize estrogen, which is protective against osteoporosis and other diseases of aging.  After menopause, estrogen produced by the reproductive system naturally decreases (why hormone replacement therapy used to be the norm), so fat cells may be an important source of ongoing estrogen support.  We have no idea whether weight gain after menopause is good or bad for you.  We have no science that says this.  These studies...oh man.  As Gawker says, science is working overtime to make women feel bad about themselves, but not much else.

March Madness: A Farewell to Busted Brackets

Last week, my bracket blew up--completely self-destructed. It no longer exists. BUT, my excitement about this year's NCAA men's basketball March Madness has reached MANIA! This tournament has been seriously schizophrenic, with the most unpredictable opening rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament I've seen in a long time and I'll tell you why....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Healthcare: a skeptic's guide

Since Sunday night's healthcare vote, we've put up two pro-healthcare reform pieces on this site (by Mad Dr and Pearls N the Hood).  This isn't because our site has any specific stance, it's because we have two writers who happen to feel passionately on the subject, and happen to be pro-reform.  But if you look around the feminist blogosphere, most feminist bloggers and tweeters seem to be taking a "pro" stand (with the exception of arguing reproductive rights shouldn't have been thrown under the bus for us to get there).  On twitter Sunday night into Monday, there was tons of breath-holding (as the final votes were counted) and cheering (once the bill tipped over the threshold) going on among the feminist groups we follow.  Reading all this, you might start to feel that feminism comes as a package deal, complete with liberal political beliefs.  I'm writing this because I don't believe that to be the case, and I don't want our readers who don't share this "belief package" to feel alienated if they don't, either.

There are many reasons one might feel skeptical, or at least less-than euphoric, about the recent healthcare legislation, and none of them make you any less of a feminist.  Let me lay out the spectrum of healthcare skepticism, both for us skeptics and for those who don't get where we're coming from.  You might be skeptical of the healthcare legislation because:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tiger Pays (another insincere apology) to Play.

Can this be over already? I'll admit that I have, like many others, become overly interested in the Tiger Woods scandal. While I can appreciate that the man is a skilled golfer, I tend to root for the underdog. So, I usually end up rooting against Tiger on the course. Despite my indifference towards the man as a golfer, I can't shake my curiosity about Tiger the man, the son, the husband, the father—mainly because it has been thrown in my face by the media everyday for the past several months. In my opinion, Tiger Woods is the ultimate "Two Face". Seriously, once again on Sunday night, Tiger Woods stood before a camera and recited, basically the exact same speech he gave us last month when he took just enough time out of sex addiction rehab to stand before the media and chastise it for being in his and his family's business. Now, that he's decided to play in the Masters in April, I guess he just wanted to remind us in that robotic, stoic, and unconvincing way that he performs so well that he is sorry he let us down.

The 5% rule: Marginal Revolution says statistical significance is often misleading

I recently came across two good posts from Alex Tabarrok (at Marginal Revolution, via @TimHartford) about the dubious achievement of statistical significance.  A standard "rule" for acceptable statistical significance is 5%--If your paper achieves a p-value of 5%, it gets published; otherwise, maybe not.  Statistical significance is the probability that a difference of a certain level could have occurred by chance, rather than because of true underlying differences.  An example may clarify (skip to the jump if you're familiar with this): Suppose I have two classrooms of 30 kids, and each takes a test.  If one classroom scores an average of 78% and the other scores an average of 75%, this might not mean that one classroom is smarter than the other.  Even if the kids in both classrooms had exactly the same average ability, there's a certain probability that, just by chance, we'd see a difference at least as big as the one we observed.  That probability is called the p-value.  Obviously, if the p-value is quite large, say, 70%, we would think it more likely the results occurred by chance.  If the p-value is quite small, using the scientific community's rule, under 5%, we would say it seems much more likely that the two groups are in fact different, because otherwise observing such a large difference would be very unlikely.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Reform Passed the House of Representatives (again)… Now what?

Image Credit: ThomasThomas

Last night, the House Democrats voted to pass the Senate’s comprehensive health care reform bill. In the end the vote was 219-212. The vote, as expected, was pretty much along party lines. The Republicans all voted Nay and all Yea votes were from Democrats. However, 34 Democrats went against their party and voted Nay. Eric Kleefeld of Talking Points Memo put together a spreadsheet looking at how their districts and political ambitions may have affected their vote. The chart showed that 26 of the Representatives came from districts that voted for McCain in 2008.

The House then voted by a similar margin, 220-211, to pass a companion bill making several changes to Senate bill that were needed to gain enough support from the Democrats.

What Is Next?

Healthcare Reform? Yes, we can!

The pundits said health care was dead. I almost believed them, but at zero-hour President Obama stepped in and took the reins, making it possible for our representatives to pass historic legislation that will start to reform the way health care is accessed and delivered in the US over the next few years. The health care reform bill passed with 219 Democratic votes and not a single Republican vote. This legislation is the most revolutionary health care legislation to pass since Medicare started, and the Republicans didn't want any part of it. Even after we were forced to suffer 6+ hrs of political theater dubbed a "health care summit" last month, where President Obama begged GOP leaders to give him any response other than "No.", they still wanted nothing to do with it. To be completely fair, neither did 39 conservative Democrats. But, despite the naysayers, I believe in this bill and I hope you do too. I don't believe in this bill because I think it is perfect. It is far from it. My ideal health care reform is a single payer system—perhaps, Medicare for all. This bill still leaves some 10-15 million folks who may want/need health insurance out. I don't believe in this bill because it is in accordance with my particular moral values. In my opinion, abortion is a private and individual issue. I won't pretend to understand what someone considering abortion for any reason is going through and I won't judge their values. I don't believe in this bill because it's comprehensive, because really, it's mostly a health insurance reform bill, and there are many other facets to the US health care delivery system untouched by this bill. However, it is crucial that we take steps towards fixing our expensive, broken, and unjust system. It is undeniable that skyrocketing health care costs are unsustainable. I believe in this bill because each and every step we can take to ensure and insure the health and wealth of our country, the better off society will be. And the provisions in this bill, which is now set to become law, are a big leap toward making that possible. I believe in this bill because, as Speaker Pelosi said, "all politics is personal." And health care is deeply personal. And this bill reaches Americans on a personal level. This bill does what is right for the American people. Here are some highlights, (see chart below for more details):

Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution is inspiring and maddening all at once

Jaime Oliver took on the British school food system, and won. He managed to get British schools serving healthier, fresher meals country-wide, and I'm sure the health of school children in the UK is better for it. However, it's telling that all of Oliver's efforts were scrupulously documented for hit TV series. On one hand, Oliver is the ultimate modern idealist: a David of nutrition against the Goliath agro-industrial food industry. On the other, he's the ultimate modern cynic: a natural performer who wants to create big social change, as long as the camera gets all of his best angles (in a scene at the end of yesterday's show, Oliver cries crocodile tears over the people of Huntington not understanding how much he cares. This Washington Post article sums it up: "[Oliver is] afflicted with the kind of warm-hearted caring that requires the constant presence of a TV crew."). If Oliver's new effort to put healthier food in US schools is successful, the latter won't seem so important. But if all that Oliver gets out of this is a season of good TV, I'll wonder whether there wasn't a better way to create change.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Harding & Kirby: Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere

Here at femonomics we're big fans of Shapely Prose, Kate Harding's fat acceptance blog. So, when I saw her book Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body on sale at Borders for $3.99 (sorry Kate), I had to pick it up. The book proved to be just as witty and readable as all of her and co-author Marianne Kirby's work.

The book has a lot of great things to say, that are helpful for anyone who thinks negatively about their body (not just fat people, or even women - unfortunately most people seem to suffer from this). As a relatively thin person, I don't feel fully qualified to critique the book, but it did really get me thinking. I had plenty of ah-ha! moments while reading, as well as some discomfort in having old prejudices and patterns of thinking challenged.

The main point is for (fat) people to stop worrying about what they weigh or how they look, and to be happy, along with specific mind-steps to get there. The most poignant essay in the book regards the fantasy of being thin, wherein people postpone living until they lose weight. Don't do that!

One minor criticism I have is the notion the book promotes, however, that the amount of calories consumed is unrelated to weight. I will admit that the relationship between food and weight is quite complicated, but am pretty sure there is at least a correlation. However, the book's argument that dieting is unhealthy is compelling, to the point that you really should talk to your doctor before embarking on any such course. Overall, the book is a pretty quick read and mind-expanding, and I recommend it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Recipe Fridays: My possibly perfect salad

This salad was once lauded by a colleague with the following extremely dubious compliment: "This salad is really good.  I'd say it's the best salad I've had in the past three months."  And if that doesn't tell you all you need to know, I don't know what would.  No, seriously, it's good--he's just like that.

Arugula salad with melted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and lemon dressing
  • First, make the "melted" tomatoes.  Halve cherry or grape tomatoes and arrange on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper.  Place under the broiler for 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes have shrunk and the surfaces appear to sizzle.  Leave to cool.  (This roasting technique really brings out the sweetness in tomatoes--try adding them to pasta.)
  • In the meantime, toast a small handful of pine nuts in a dry skillet.  Watch carefully and stir occasionally so they turn golden, but do not brown.  Leave to cool.
  • To make the dressing, whisk together 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard with 1 teaspoon honey.  Slowly pour in three tablespoons olive oil, whisking quickly (combining in this order will help the dressing stay together).  Just before serving, squeeze in half a lemon and a little lemon zest if desired and whisk.  Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.  You can add crushed garlic if you like more kick.
  • Combine baby arugula with tomatoes, pine nuts, and roughly chopped fresh mozzarella.  Sometimes, I add sliced apples (dipped in ice water with a squeeze of lemon to prevent browning), or steamed asparagus, but neither are necessary.  Stir in dressing, sprinkle on a few extra pine nuts, and serve.

Recipe Fridays: Saffron Rice Pudding (Sholeh Zard)

Tomorrow is the Persian New Year, Norouz (which also happens to be the first day of spring), so it's the perfect time for a traditional Persian recipe. Instead of one of the labor-intensive--albeit delicious--main dishes, this sweet and simple rice pudding (aka Sholeh Zard) recipe is perfect for springtime. There are several variations of this recipe (varying amounts of rice and water and toppings). I suggest picking up a copy of New Food of Life for some great Persian recipes, including one for Sholeh Zard.

2/3 cup Basmati rice
2 cups water
3-4 tablespoons butter
1-1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons rosewater (you can add up to 1/2 cup, depending on your taste)
large pinch saffron
silvered almonds (optional)
crushed pistashios, unsalted (optional)
cinnamon (optional)

Rinse the rice and place in medium-sized pot. Add water and butter and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally so that the rice does not stay whole. Smash with the back of a fork if necessary, and add more water if needed.Once the rice is cooked, add sugar (taste as you add the sugar in stages so it is not too sweet). Cook some more until sugar melts and the rice pudding thickens. Stir in rosewater. Add the crushed saffron to the pudding. (You may rub the saffron mixed with a tablespoon of sugar with the back of a spoon so it is crushed well.) Add a handful of slivered almonds. Simmer for a while. Note: you may adjust the pudding by adding water or boiling on higher heat if necessary to acquire the desired thickness.Put the pudding in serving dishes and decorate with cinnamon, pistashios, and almonds to create an interesting pattern on it. If desired, cut a stencil from paper to print a pattern on its surface. Can be served warm or chilled.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet so you don't have to: Don't ask please tell, Sandy's tale of woe, and reality TV roundup

The NYTimes has a piece on a new book featuring photographs of gay men and women in the armed forces, posed with their faces obscured.  Go check out the author's website to see the moving, poignant pictures yourself.  The idea of our nation's soldiers having to cover their faces instead of hold them high (for fear of being discharged, dishonored, and stripped of benefits) just emphasizes to me how much this policy is not at all acceptable.  An Iraq war vet recently chained himself to the White House fence (and was later arrested) to make just that point.

As you've probably heard, a woman has come forward claiming Sandra Bullock's husband, Jesse James, had an affair with her.  Normally I wouldn't rush to believe the rumors, but given that Sandy canceled her scheduled European appearances for "personal reasons" and James has issued an apology, it seems likely at least some portion of the accusations are true. This really kills me, not just because Sandra seems like such a genuinely nice person who was so grateful for the recent accolades coming her way (and issued a heartfelt thank you to her husband each time) and who I just wish could have the chance to savor her little slice of happiness, but also because I know about the inevitable media storyline to follow: "Sanrdra Bullock's marriage collapses as her career reaches new heights.  Maybe there's just no way to have it all," I can already here the press cackling.  For some reason, journalists seem to delight in this arc of public success and private failure, especially when it comes to women who seem to be playing in the big leagues career-wise.  At least on these pages, we won't be drawing any conclusions about how her busy work schedule drove him to seek attention and comfort in another woman's (tattoo-covered) arms.  We'll just say that we're sorry, and hey, she'll always have Oscar.

And in other news two new interesting reality shows are arriving on VH1.  One featuring Jessica Simpson going around the world to try other cultures' beauty rituals, and the other featuring a transsexual makeover squad.  Check out feministing's deconstruction of both here and here.  I know these shows are far from perfect, and will probably end up using their constructs (foreign people doing crazy things!  Ladies who used to be men!) as gimmicks more than once, but nonetheless I find these two shows at least intriguing, as opposed to most of what VH1 and other purveyors of "reality" fare put out.  I say, bravo for pushing the envelope; now try to toe the line. 

The gender wage gap: So true that it's just a textbook example?

Last week, as part of my graduate student duties, I had the pleasure of grading some undergraduate econometrics midterms. Now, I've taken a few economics/statistics classes in my life, and I've noticed that all professors have the same two favorite textbook examples of basic linear regressions that they like to put up on the board to explain how regressions work and write on their tests for students to derive: the "returns to education" equation and the "gender wage gap" equation. Following suit, the econometrics midterm that I was grading featured the latter. And maybe my brain was a little fuzzy by the 70th midterm, but I started thinking - is the fact that the "gender wage gap" equation is seen as a textbook example good because it means that people acknowledge it (and hence maybe would support efforts to push for more equal pay for women)? Or is it not so good because it just means we take it as a basic fact that's not debatable and hence it can function as a classroom example or a test problem without much controversy?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Are suicides a crime of opportunity? Cornell's sixth suicide this academic year raises troubling questions

A Cornell student jumped to his death on Friday, immediately following a similar jumping death on Thursday, marking Cornell's fifth and sixth suicides this academic year. Gawker asks if Cornell's unusual terrain is playing a role in the tragedy: the college's campus is sliced through by scenic gorges filled with rushing water and craggy rocks, bridges hanging overhead.  Although prior to this particularly bad year, there had not been a suicide at Cornell since 2005, some wonder whether the opportunity provided by the treacherous gorges and accompanying bridges make Cornell students more likely to complete an act of suicide, whereas a less...rugged...campus might provide a student enough thinking time to seek help.

March Madness: It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Question: What do the NCAA tournament and flip-flops have in common?

Answer: NO HEELS!

Okay, that was a cheap shot, but I bleed Duke blue, so naturally, the NCAA Men’s tournament is one of my holy seasons. There’s a lot of commotion over this year’s picks for the Big Dance. Folks whining over Virginia Tech not getting invited; haters saying that Duke is in the easiest bracket (well, they say that every year, though we really may have gotten the best draw this year); people crying that Kansas, the number one seed overall, is in the toughest bracket—alright, so now they can prove that they deserve it. I don’t get all of the brouhaha out there, but I do have a few personal considerations as I’m filling out my bracket and calling busters that will ensure I take the whole pot home this year—no more splitsies!! Here’s my list, what’s on yours?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Saudi Arabia: Can it be the 13th easiest place to do business when women can't do business there at all?

Saudi Arabia has been named the 13th easiest place to do business by the Doing Business Project and the World Bank.  Sure, they still have some things to work out, reports the Financial Times, like getting visas for foreign workers and enforcing contracts.  And, oh yeah, not allowing women to share workplaces with men or participate in any number of careers deemed "inappropriate."  Says the FT:
The rankings do not take into account issues such as rules on segregation of women in the workforce. Businesses that employ women must either build special sections to accommodate them or risk being closed or fined. 
When I worked as a business consultant, I did a stint living and working in Bahrain, which is right off the coast of Saudi.  We felt the proximity in more ways than one, especially since there was a causeway connecting the two lands, that Saudi men and women would head across on weekends, eager for freedom.  For men, this often meant drinking and women, and for women this meant driving, trying on clothes in a mall, and being without male escorts.  Many of our colleagues who worked in the Mideast office had clients in Saudi Arabia, but of course no female consultants could work there.  I always thought our company should refuse to do business with Saudi under these conditions: like, we're a workplace that values gender equality, and if having you as a client precludes that, we're not interested.  Of course, I was also told not to tell our clients I was Jewish, so I guess we were a long way from perfection on that score.  But how, how can you be considered the 13th easiest place to do business, right between Thailand and Iceland, when 50% of the population can't do business there at all?  Let's say a major bank wanted to set up a division there.  Half of their workforce (ok, who are we kidding, a quarter) would be out of the running.  How can they send their best people?  What if a company that just wants to make a deal with a Saudi company.  What do they do about their female executives at the meeting?  (I'm honestly not sure--can they not come?  Do they have to wait outside?)  I repeat: How can it be easy to do business without half the population?  If Saudi Arabia scores so highly, is the Doing Business Project really measuring the right things?

[Hat tip Institute on Women]

Rielle Hunter breaks her silence in GQ interview. I don't even know where to start

This interview with Rielle Hunter is every bit as ridiculous as you never could have even imagined (and the photos!  Whose idea were the photos?!).  The thing is, though, she actually comes off as kind-of nice.  Completely out of touch, utterly delusional, and distinctly last century in her attitude toward gender roles, but nice nonetheless.  I certainly believe her (completely f-ing crazy) version of events more than Andrew Young, who has had a knack for making this entire thing about him.  Who the interview does not make me feel any sympathy for whatsoever is John Edwards (who you already know I think there's a special circle of hell for)--he comes off sounding exactly like the self-impressed, overly-coddled man-child I always imagined him to be.  He couldn't be truthful with Elizabeth because she might yell at him, whereas Rielle always supported him unconditionally.  No, really.  Read Jezebel's take for more quotes that reflect Ms. Hunter's unique perspective on relationships.  Then, for the love of all that is holy, please remember to always do the exact opposite in your own life.  And, if you're in the mood to vomit today, be sure to check out the Daily Beast's yucky summary of the John Edwards sex tape.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

What do men and women want? And are the lists really so different?

Pearls N the Hood recently drew attention to her personal struggle with relationship ennui, in the form of her beau seeming to bristle at the nurturing she provided by instinct.  I doubt this reaction was really about getting too much of something (home-cooked polenta?  Sign me up!), but rather not enough.  I don't think we ever get enough from relationships.  For women, I think it has to do with the fact that we're constantly sent the message that finding the right man will solve all our problems, leaving us disappointed when it doesn't instantly transport us to carefree happiness.  For men, maybe it has to do with being taught that what they want for themselves and what their partners want for them are necessarily in conflict.  E.g., they want their careers, their buddies, their beer, their freedom, and we want them to do dishes and watch chick flicks.  Of course these gender roles are totally unrealistic, and for same-sex partnership there are entirely different dynamics, but I feel like the messages we are fed about relationships from a young age play a big role in programming us for dissatisfaction later in life.  We think relationships have some kind of magical power to transcend our life situation, when in reality, they are simply a commitment to share that life situation with someone else.  Don't think I'm advocating for settling like a certain (fat-shaming) Lori Gottlieb.  Far from it.  I'm simply advocating looking for a partner instead of a savior.  We shouldn't expect a relationship to fix us, rescue us, or make our lives something they weren't before.  We should expect our relationships to be filled with ups and downs, to be thrilling at times and tedious at others, and for the people we embark on them with to be wonderful and flawed, just like us.  It's because relationships are so hard that we need to find wonderful people to be in them with.  Not perfect people, but wonderful.

My non-negotiable list of what to look for in a partner, and an opportunity to share yours, after the jump.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

15 Years Since Beijing: Is It Still the Same Men's Club?

Fifteen years ago, the U.N. held the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Representatives from 189 countries adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action unanimously which identified what they viewed as major obstacles to gender equality.

This year the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women held a two-week meeting to review what countries had done to implement this landmark declaration. At the end of the meeting, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks reminding us that, while we have made real progress over the last 15 years, our work is not yet finished.

Friday, March 12, 2010

CSMonitor opinion piece plugs for women serving aboard submarines

There are no remaining legal barriers to women serving on Naval submarines, and this CSMonitor article defends plans for the reversal of Navy policy on the issue, despite some public hysteria regarding women and military service.
Historically, attempts to exclude citizens based on gender or race have been ultimately unsuccessful. But the issue here is more than just a demand for gender equality. Navy recruitment is cyclical. Prohibiting women from serving aboard submarines not only limits their Navy career potential, it also limits the Navy, which has a limited talent pool of nuclear-trained service personnel.

Women make up 15 percent of the Navy. And there is a need for more nuclear-trained recruits who can serve on subs. “We know there are capable young women in the Navy and women who are interested in the Navy who have the talent and desire to succeed in the submarine force,” said Lt. Justin Cole, a Navy spokesman. “Enabling them to serve there is best for the submarine force and our Navy.”

Countries that allow women to serve as submariners include Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden. Sounds like a non-issue to me.

Recipe Fridays: easy pasta puttanesca

This is a great recipe for dinner alone (or a fast dinner for company).  The ingredients are all storable, so if you keep them in the house you can make this whenever there's nothing else in the fridge.  The sauce will be ready to go by the time the pasta boils.

You need:
Kalamata olives (in jar)
Capers (in jar)
Pine nuts (these keep best in fridge or freezer)
Jarred pasta sauce
Pasta (I like rotini or spaghetti)

These proportions are for one person.  Double for two.
Put the pasta on to boil.  In the meantime, chop 1/2 small onion. Toast two tablespoons pine nuts in a dry skillet.  Empty skillet, and add two tablespoons olive oil.  Add onion and saute.  While onion cooks, chop up two tablespoons kalamata olives.  Add these and two tablespoons capers to onions.  Continue to saute.  Add 1 cup pasta sauce.  Add toasted pine nuts.  If desired, add red pepper flakes, fresh-ground pepper, and salt to season.

Serve pasta topped with sauce, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Recipe Fridays: Better Than Anything Cake

I got this recipe from my mom a few years back. I'm not sure where she got it, but I am sure that it really is Better Than Anything (or, at least, most things). It's one of my go-to party cakes--this thing will have people going up for second and third helpings. Go bake it now. Seriously, you'll thank me later!

1 box German Chocolate Cake Mix (or regular Chocolate will do)
1 can condensed milk
1 jar (14 oz) of caramel or butterscotch sundae topping
Cool Whip
1 bag of toffee chips

Make & bake cake according to directions on the box. Let it cool for 15 minutes. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes in cake (holes should be approx 1/2 inches apart). Pour can of condensed milk over cake, allowing it to soak in. Then pour jar of sundae topping over cake, allowing that to soak in as well. Spread cool whip over the cake and sprinkle toffee chips on top. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet so you don't have to: anti-gay high school policies and jail time for your miscarriage

How do you remember your high school prom? Was it the most magical night of your teen years or was it a night full of drama? A school in Mississippi has decided that Constance McMillen (and consequently her entire class) isn’t going to get to have one. When she found out that she was not allowed to bring her girlfriend to prom, the ACLU got involved and reminded the school that it was a violation of her rights. So in response the school outright canceled the evening.

As Coca Colo reported late February, Utah legislators passed a bill to charge women who engage in ‘reckless’ acts to terminate a pregnancy with criminal homicide. I can’t even begin to imagine what a 17 year-old girl would have to be going through to pay a stranger to beat her in an attempt to miscarry. The bill has now been signed by the governor, but with slightly revised language. They dropped the word ‘reckless.’ A major concern is the potential to make every miscarriage fair game for investigation.

Kelly Cutrone: Bringing the Power of the “Ancient Feminine” Back

I just finished reading Kelly Cutrone’s If You Have to Cry, Go Outside and Other Things Your Mother Never Told You and was pleasantly surprised by how inspiring and motivating her coming of age and rise to power story is. Expecting this to be the wanna-be PR girl’s handbook, I was also surprised by how universal her message is. Kelly Cutrone is the founder of fashion public relations, branding and marketing company People’s Revolution. You may have seen her using her tongue as a lethal weapon doling out brutal truths to employees and clients and pulling rank on a number of sobbing interns on shows like The Hills, The City or her new Bravo series Kell on Earth. Cutrone is the leader of the New York PR power-girl pack and serves as “Mama Wolf” over all twenty-something fashion girls who dream of one day rubbing elbows backstage with the likes of Jeremy Scott or Vivienne Westwood. If You Have to Cry…is her no-bullshit how-to guide to making it in New York’s crushing and soul-stealing fashion publicity world. I’m not a fashionista, nor am I looking for a New York Fashion Week internship. I’m just a health policy consultant with a reality-TV addiction who has found Cutrone interesting since first seeing her mentor Whitney Port and Lauren Conrad on The Hills. I wanted a little insight into her and her industry. I also thought “this woman is completely balls-out crazy on TV—she must have an interesting story to tell and I sure need some entertainment on this long-ass bus ride I’m about to take!” Six hours and 197 pages later I had laughed, cried, furiously scribbled notes in the margins, and had recalculated an old resolve.

Femonomics reads the internet so you don't have to: Kathryn Bigelow, plagiarism 101, racist drug laws, and more!

The NYTimes' Manohla Dargis, who previously used the F-word to hilarious effect in a rant about female directors, has a lovely piece on the woman of the hour, Kathryn Bigelow. 

Kate Harding over at Shapely Prose (which is an amazing fat-acceptance blog full of terrific writing) has a humorous and biting piece on how not to plagiarize like a certain NYT business reporter, even though you're writing on the internet, and the deadlines are really fast, and the links are all confusing, see?  No, says Kate, we don't.

The Huffington Post publishes a must-read by Michelle Alexander about how drug laws have been used to create a permanent under-class in the United States.  She points out several sad facts about the state of racial equality in the United States (noting it has gotten worse, not better), and looks to biased drug laws predicated on Americans' fears of the inner-city crime bogeyman for the explanation.  Most compellingly, she explains how everything from drug laws, to police incentives, to sentencing guidelines, are designed to get and keep black men in jail.

Reality Check has an update on Utah's effort to criminalize miscarriages (read our earlier piece here), and it seems that even though the governor sent it back without signing, and the bills' sponsor withdrew it, they're not giving up this fight to put women in jail so easily.

[Update: hat tip to Feministe, where I first saw the Alexander piece]

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pearls N the Hood in the City: Maiden and South

Last weekend my beau and I boarded a DC 2 NY New York City bound bus. I love visiting New York! To me, New York has always represented freedom, attitude, and style. In New York it’s O.K. not to give a damn. It’s O.K. to be exactly who you are. It’s O.K. to be exactly who you want to be. I know I’d never have to courage to actually live there, but I feel daring enough just dressing up in my designer labels and stilettos and heading downtown to hit the clubs—it’s definitely not a Nashville party! I even dared to make my first venture to Harlem c/o my girl, Coca CoLo, who took me to eat the best soul food I’ve had north of the Mason Dixon, nay, north of my mama’s kitchen. I felt a little uncomfortable standing at the corner of 116th and Malcom X, but not as uncomfortable as stumbling upon Maiden Lane and South Street. Yes, a real intersection and one that got me thinking. As I wound through the financial district with my fantastic boyfriend, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was fate that had led me here. I mean, my relationship is pretty great, but sometimes life sends you signs. And at this point my only options were literally to continue along on Maiden Lane or veer left at South Street. Ay mi!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Opting out of exercise

There are plenty of hardcore exercisers writing for this blog, sometimes myself included, and I’m sure plenty of readers, too.  We've posted exercise tips in the past, and likely will in the future, because exercise is a part of our and many of our readers' lives.  I understand the power of exercise, and the excitement surrounding it, and the benefits for one’s health.  That said, amid this chorus of “wheee, exercise,” I want to take some time to offer a different perspective: you don’t have to do it.

I say this because when obesity, and the health problems surrounding it (note that these are often drastically overstated), are so often in the news, it's easy for us to get caught up in a culture of healthy eating and fitness to such an extent that we begin to associate a value judgment with something that is, at its core, self care.  We don't tend to associate values with getting a manicure or not, but deciding to go to the gym or not can determine whether we feel "good" or feel "bad."  The same way marketers describe desserts as "sinful," we feel that lying on our couch catching up on Lost instead of hitting the treadmill is "lazy," "indulgent," or just plain "bad."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet so you don't have to: International Women's Day

Every year, March 8th is International Women’s Day. The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the holiday, The Nation has a brief video on the history.

Raising awareness about the continued threat women face from sexual violence, the theme this year is "Women and men: United to end violence against women". I truly believe that men are a vital part of the solution.

To celebrate the important role women have played throughout history, March has been designated as Women’s History Month. This year the theme is “Writing Women Back Into History”, which will include a look back on the women who have been honored in the past and looking at women’s impact on history through the years. Here is a post from the Women’s Media Center highlighting 30 women who are making history.

Oscars part 2: More dresses! More gossip!

I promised there was more to come...

The fashion was in full, frothy-fun mode, with Hollywood not even pretending they're a little like the rest of us this year.  Jezebel's got The Good and The Bad.  Some of these gowns (many of which had too-tight bodices--looking at you, Miley) made me know exactly what Roger Ebert meant by these two tweets:

There were some standouts, though.  I thought Demi Moore looked absolutely amazing, Cameron Diaz was surprisingly magnetic, Elizabeth Banks' structured grey frock was my favorite of the night, and Rachel McAdams looked pretty in watercolors.

And, all five of the best actress nominees blew me away: Meryl Streep in a Chris March suit-dress hybrid; Sandra Bullock in a lovely Marchesa with perfect styling; Gabby Sidibe rocking one of my favorite dresses of the night--a richly colored, godessy Marchesa; Helen Mirren (who has impeccable taste) in sparkly Badgley Mischka; and Carey Mulligan in an unfairly maligned Prada, which I loved for it's youthful, indie feel combined with pure elegance.

As for gossip, Gawker's got videos from the most memorable moments and an amusing post-mortem from their two culture writers.  Jezebel has George Clooney's priceless reaction faces (it was a gag, right?).  The commercials were surprisingly Super-Bowlish, with lots of talked about ads making their debut, including this one for the iPad.  Head over to the LA Times for some more delightful dish, especially coverage of the after-parties, with photos!

In acceptance speech news, I thought Sandra Bullock's was the best of the night, documentary short is worth watching for the mic-grabbing drama, the adapted screenplay award to Precious's Geoffrey Fletcher was obviously a surprise, so was refreshingly unscripted as a result, and Sassafrass humorously quipped that she can tell this adorable couple spend most of their lives in a room editing film and not, you know, talking.

Update: I almost forgot!  Did you know Forest Whitaker directed Hope Floats?  That totally blew my mind.

Oscars part 1: dresses, gossip, and more!

The first woman director has finally won an Oscar.  Congratulations, Kathryn Bigelow.  In my opinion, richly deserved.  Lisa Schwarzbaum says it's because she made a great movie, not because it's a great year for women.  Feminist Review weighs in here.   Jezebel has a moving piece about the accomplishment.

TLo has the dresses, part 1.  People's got the best dressed list.  EW has best and worst.  The Fug Girls are doing their thing.  More to come!

Now for the gossip: Everyone's pissed at Seacrest and Rancic for not doing their job and asking about the dresses.  People's got some pretty tame backstage notes.  EW does slightly better.  They also have some highlights of the show.  Roger Ebert offers up his thoughts on the ceremony, including what he calls the "surprisingly unfunny" hosts.  Also, Farrah Fawcett and Bea Arthur were mysteriously excluded from the In Memorium tribute (maybe because they mostly did television?).  And was that awkward moment during the best documentary award friendly, or not?  Not, says Salon.  Lastly, see the Mo'Nique-mentioned Hattie McDaniel Oscar win here.

Winners list here. [Image via TLo, hat tip to @EbertChicago for links]

Sunday, March 7, 2010

California bees get on the cookie diet!

This week's Economist brings us news of one etymologist who is putting bees on a special diet. Apparently the bees brought in to pollinate California's almond crop have been suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder, and a special protein-rich dough is helping bees to survive long enough to finish the pollination. The bees have to eat their way through the cookie dough-like substance to leave the hive.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

NPR reports that repeat offenders are responsible for 90% of sexual assault on campus

In NPR's continued coverage of campus sexual assault, they bust myth that student rapists are making a one-time bad decision that gives administrators a "teachable moment" to reform young minds. In this latest installment they report on psychologist David Lisak's work. He has found an entirely different picture of campus rape from the one administrators choose to believe:
What Lisak found was that students who commit rape on a college campus are pretty much like those rapists in prison. In both groups, many are serial rapists. On college campuses, repeat predators account for 9 out of every 10 rapes.

And these offenders on campuses — just like men in prison for rape — look for the most vulnerable women. Lisak says that on a college campus, the women most likely to be sexually assaulted are freshmen.

"It's quite well-known amongst college administrators that first-year students, freshman women, are particularly at risk for sexual assault," Lisak says. "The predators on campus know that women who are new to campus, they are younger, they're less experienced. They probably have less experience with alcohol, they want to be accepted. They will probably take more risks because they want to be accepted. So for all these reasons, the predators will look particularly for those women."
NPR's ongoing coverage has been a true eye-opener for me, and I hope more people tune in. I am left, unfortunately, with a cynicism for college administrators. It's possible that they are simply naive idealists, but I suspect they have known for a while about this situation. Universities are harboring criminals through their administrative disciplinary procedures, in which rapists are rarely even expelled, no less sent to jail where they belong, and it has got to end.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Mini Caprese salads

Continuing the trend of four-ingredient hors d'oeuvres, here's an easy, quick crowd pleaser that looks beautiful arranged on a tray with goat cheese-stuffed mushrooms.

Mini Caprese Salads
Party toothpicks
1 pint grape tomatoes
8 oz package mini fresh mozzarella balls (ideally you want Ciliegine size, which are about the same size as a cherry tomato)
1 bunch fresh basil
Olive oil

Drain mozzarella balls.  Toss mozzarella and tomatoes in enough olive oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.  On each toothpick, thread 1 grape tomato (long way), one basil leaf folded in half, and one ball of mozzarella.  That's it!  You're done!  Arrange mini "salads" on platter and serve.

Sarah Palin's visit to the Tonight Show was laugh-tracked, attendee reports in sexist language

A sound engineer who attended Sarah Palin's Tonight Show taping is reporting that those big laughs television viewers heard were added after the show.  The studio audience was dead silent, or laughing in all the wrong places, he says.  TV critic Ken Tucker had wondered why Jay's audience was so much friendlier to Palin than Dave's (when Mitt Romney called her "terrific," he got jeered on Letterman).  The writer describes in great detail moments of complete silence or uncomfortable groans following Palin's jokes, which were filled with gracious laughter during the TV broadcast.  He also points to moments where he hooted loudly during serious parts, which were apparently cut out.  It's quite a get, and it's important that people understand how much of the audience's response on TV shows is faked and how much isn't.  Unfortunately, said writer, Micheal Stinson, also described Palin in the following appallingly sexist way:
And while NBC Sold Palin, she sold her body, jiggling, teasing, pushing the cutesy-pie, what we used to call in the military, a "prick tease". She short circuits brains, deflects the fact that most of what she says is nonsense or hateful, as lizard layers of right wing men's brains hum a sexual fantasy tune, and women who have thrown all sense of propriety to the wind, watching her strip, want to be just like her. Rich. Stupid. The sweet "Bite Me" bitch attitude she's honed to an art form. No, she doesn't just "wink" - she uses her whole body to sell the package. Turn off the sound, just watch her body language. I find it whorish, repulsive, and I'm no prude.
Personally, what I find repulsive is his choice of words.  I don't think Palin's public persona is particularly appealing, and I don't enjoy her faux-folksiness.  But I also think calling her whorish, a prick tease, and a bitch because she, an attractive woman, dares to get on TV and make jokes while smiling is outrageous.  Handsome male politicians like Scott Brown, Mitt Romney, and John Edwards all flirt for all they're worth when on television.  Palin is being described this way because she's a woman.  And whatever her sins, she doesn't deserve it.

I would love to be 100% cheering the discovery of NBC's fraud, but instead I'm left with a strange and uncomfortable defensiveness on behalf of Sarah Palin.  Check out the video below and see for yourself, both whether you think she crosses the line in using sex to sell her message, and whether the laughter sounds canned.

Recipe Fridays: Blueberry Pancakes

Have a taste for pancakes this weekend? Try your hand at these blueberry panckes with a twist, courtesy of foxy Australian TV chef Curtis Stone. I made them for a brunch several months ago so I can attest to how yummy they are. I think the ricotta in the batter makes them even more fluffy and gives them a good zing. And topped with thick blueberry compote topping? Even better.

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup buttermilk, shaken
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
About 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Butter, for serving

Blueberry topping:
18 ounces fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Forget Vienna, the real controversy on The Bachelor is...

Why is everyone white?  I have seriously just noticed this, mainly because I stopped watching Sassafras's favorite guilty pleasure after the tire guy (Andrew Firestone), but it turns out that after 14 seasons of The Bachelor and 6 seasons of The Bachelorette (Ali Fedotowsky was just announced as the latest one), our friends at ABC have been unable to locate a single non-caucasian man or woman to star.  As a result, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are two of the whitest shows on television.  Not only is the star always white, but so is the host, and so, by nature of our society's continued discomfort with interracial dating, are almost all of the suitors.  The all-white star phenomenon then becomes a self-perpetuating cycle, because the newest star is usually picked from one of the nearly rejected contestants, who are all themselves white.  We have a black president, people.  This has got to stop.  America is a mulit-ethnic nation, and if I don't see someone whose tan doesn't come from the california sun or a bottle on my TV, stat, ABC is going on the femonomics blacklist. 

Now, simply choosing a black (or hispanic, or middle eastern, or asian, or south asian, or mixed race) star would certainly not remedy the problem.  In fact, it would likely only highlight it, since naturally ABC would never reverse the formula and stock this cast with all people the same race as the star (that would make The Bachelor a "niche" show, they would say).  Nonetheless, at least we would have taken a small, token step toward inclusiveness.  I know The Bachelor is ridiculous, that the formula of trying to find love in a couple months with 25 strangers is nonsense, and that we have bigger representation problems than television.  You can tell me all that, and yet it still enrages me how white this show is.  So ABC, you're on notice.

What do you think?  Does it bother you that The Bachelor and The Bachelorette haven't gotten the inclusiveness memo, or do we have way bigger things to worry about?

Beyond choice: The big picture of reproductive justice

Last night I heard four reproductive justice advocates speak at Barnard College.  Surprisingly, the evening's conversation only touched on the topic of abortion.  The four women, Aisha Domingue of Brooklyn Young Mothers' Collective, Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell of The Doula Project, and Miriam Perez of Feministing and Radical Doula, have all been trained as doulas, and all work with women at various stages of their reproductive decision-making: pregnancy, abortion, childbirth, and adoption.  What this panel emphasized is that while abortion choice and contraception access continue to be key frontiers for the reproductive justice movement, there are other crossroads where women find themselves without agency over their own bodies, particularly childbirth.  Perez said she got into doula work after seeing the documentary Born in the USA.  "There was something about the way childbirth was being done in the usa that just appalled and horrified and motivated me," she said.  "I found we had technologized and medicalized and institutionalized it in a way that was not serving mothers."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet so you don't have to: Oscar smear campaigns, just how pro-choice are we, three strikes, and more!

Jezebel and others are picking up the news of a "Hurt Locker backlash" now that the film has claimed front-runner status. What they point out, though, is that the strange timing of the attacks makes it likely that one of Hurt Locker's rivals for best picture are behind the attacks.  James Cameron is still friendly with Kathryn Bigelow, so he seems an unlikely candidate.  That leaves the team behind Inglorious Bastards, the same ones that managed to engineer a Shakespeare in Love victory over Saving Private Ryan.  Jezebel quotes S.T. VanAirsdale from Movieline:
I'm not about to second-guess anyone in Iraq. But I'll totally second-guess the editors who seem to have left the "Additional reporting by Harvey Weinstein in Baghdad" credit off the LA Times story.
Really?  An Oscar smear campaign?  Let Matt Damon explain it to you.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Who will win the Oscars? The pundits weigh in

Despite the ten best-picture nominees and more than a little early-season shuffling, this season's Oscars are shaping up to be unfortunately predictable... At least so say the Oscar pundits.  I love that there are pundits for the Oscars.

Ew's Dave Karger, NyMag's Vulture pool, and a host of other Gurus of Gold have settled on the same picks:
  • The Hurt Locker for Best Picture
  • Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director
  • Sandra Bullock for Best Actress
  • Jeff Bridges for Best Actor
  • Mo'Nique for Best Supporting Actress
  • Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor
(Also, The Cove, Up, and White Ribbon for documentary, animated, and foreign; Hurt Locker for best original screenplay and Up in the Air for best adapted, although there are more dissents here.  Vulture also helpfully picks the less popular categories, if you're interested.)

So if you want to do well in your office Oscar pool, run with the above picks.  If you like a few surprises, join me in rooting for a Meryl Streep upset (or better yet, Gabourey Sidibe or Carey Mulligan, who were each heartbreaking in their own way), a screenplay nod for the wacky genius of Quentin Tarantino, and a nail-biting foreign film race (that's the most contested category?! Yes).  I won't be wishing for an Avatar or James Cameron spoiler--Hurt Locker moved me in a way few films in recent memory have.  Kathryn Bigelow deserves all the accolades she gets and more.

If you're an awards show fiend like me, let me feed your habit.  Check out the Oscar Watch blog, Gold Derby, Notes on a Season, and the Carpetbagger.

Also, if you're interested in who should win an Oscar, not who will, the NYTimes has started a list.  What's yours?