Sunday, January 30, 2011

Re-Defining Rape: A Bipartisan Goal

By now many of you may have heard about H.R. 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act". According to legislators, the purpose of this bill is only to make existing limits on abortion in federal code, such as the Hyde Amendment, permanent. However, the law goes further than permanently codifying these restrictions on women's privacy, and drastically limits the definition of both rape and incest.

The text of the bill lists that the only exceptions to the ban of federal funding for abortions include when the pregnancy endangers the mother's life and:

"[I]f the pregnancy occurred because the pregnant female was the subject of an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest..."

Forcible rape? What does that even mean? One major reason for concern is that the term 'forcible rape' is not defined in the federal code, nor do many states have a definition. To me, the term 'forcible rape' sounds like the only time rape is really 'rape' is when your attacker has a gun or a knife to your head. It would be interesting to see how we decide whose rape qualifies and whose rape doesn't for a federally funded abortion.

The incest exception is also being drastically changed. Federally funded abortions would only be allowed if the victim of incest was under 18. Because that makes sense. (?!)

I was surprised to learn that this bill, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ4), has bipartisan support. Nine 0f the 173 cosponsors are Democrats, including Daniel Lipinski (D-IL3) and Nick Rahall (D-WV3).

But to be clear, I wasn't surprised that some Democrats would support pro-life legislation. Rather, I was surprised they would support legislation that would only really accomplish demeaning women, restricting their rights, and perpetuating harmful myths about rape.

Want to take action? Join the Twitter campaign. Stand up for survivors everywhere. #DearJohn

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union 2011 - Some analysis, many links

Tuesday night, President Barack Obama gave his third State of the Union address to Congress. He addressed a myriad of issues, including America's competitiveness in the world economy, education, jobs, infrastructure, and health care reform. This year, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was in a secure location during the speech to ensure continuity of government in the event of a disaster. Michelle Obama wore a lovely Rachel Roy dress, and the President tried to be funny, although most of his jokes fell flat. Personally, I most enjoyed the one about traveling on high-speed rail without needing a pat-down :).

It was a lofty speech, with the kind of rhetoric we've come to expect from President Obama. He has very talented speechwriters, and probably had a hand in crafting this speech as well. This year's State of the Union was almost exclusively focused on non controversial issues; he did not cover topics such as gun control, which might have been expected after the shooting in Tuscon. In a way, the speech echoed the bipartisan seating plan that many of the Congresspeople adopted for the evening: policy plans straight down the middle, and ideas about patriotism, innovation, and a brighter, better future for the country.

While there weren't any particularly memorable lines, I did enjoy the reference to RFK: "The future is ours to win,” Obama said. “But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, 'The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.' Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age." I liked this reference as it sort of summed up an important theme of the speech: innovation, investments in education, and growing the economy can bring America a great future.

In sum, I will have to agree with Paul Krugman - meh. It was an okay speech, not the best, not the most inspiring, but probably what the country needed to hear now.

A few more links for perusing:

Patterns of Speech - words used in past speeches, dated by president and amount of usage

Word clouds for Obama's speech and past presidents

SOTU in numbers

GOP Response from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

The text of Obama's speech

Watch the speech
on YouTube

Mark Bittman is ending his "The Minimalist" column today

You may be aware that we at femonomics love Mark Bittman.  Farewell, old friend.
Here are some links to his best recipes: A gallery of recipe videos.  His 25 favorite dishes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Femonomics at the movies: Winter's Bone

The Oscar nominations are out, and I was surprised to see my favorite movie of this year getting four big nominations, for Best Picture,  Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  That movie is Winter's Bone, and I hope these nominations will be the push you need (yes, you) to watch it immediately.  You can rent it on Amazon for $3.99.

Winter's Bone is more than a great movie; it is the best movie I have seen in recent memory for fully fleshed out female characters that matter.  With a female heroine who never once talks about a boy, her female best friend with whom she shares a family-like bond, and a female villain from whom our heroine receives veiled, then not-so-veiled threats, Winter's Bone passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.  I want to repeat that this is a movie with a female hero and a female villain, neither of whom are sexualized.  Adding to the thrill is the fact that those characters are featured in such a fantastically, spine-tinglingly taut crime drama that you don't realize how special what you've just seen was until it's over.

The film follows 17-year-old Ree, an Ozark Mountains girl from a meth-cooking family.  Her dad is supposed to stand trial for said meth-cooking activities, only no one can find him.  Because he placed the family home and woods up for bond, Ree, her neuro-atypical mother, and her two young siblings will be left with nowhere to go if they can't manage to "turn 'im up."  What follows is Ree's search for dear-old dad, which takes her first to his menacing brother's place, and finally to the home of a local crime boss, whose wife does not appreciate the disturbance.  In a region where the code of silence is more important than family ties, Ree is treated brutally by those who see her quest as "against their ways."  She is helped, finally, by the same uncle who initially menaced her, when he decides the rest of the clan has gone too far in trying to shut down a 17-year-old's quest to keep her family from sliding into destitution.

As Ree digs deeper to uncover her father's whereabouts, a quieter tale unfolds of a 17-year-old girl, torn between home obligations she wasn't ready for in a drug-ridden community whose ways she despises, and a shaky dream of escape, to a world she neither knows nor understands.  Somehow, though, Ree proceeds on her search with an unshakable faith that this better world does exist, and that people in this iniquitous community will, when pushed, still act according to its basic tenants: help your neighbors, love your family, do what's right.  She knows that's the only way she can find her father--if one of these unmovable villains gives, just a little bit--and thus the only way to save her family.  So she fights like she's got nothing to lose.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Recipe Fridays: Oven fries or breakfast potatoes

Mmmm...potatoes.  These oven fries even won over my three-year-old niece, who loves french fries with lots of ketchup.  "I want another potato fry!" she insisted of these much healthier and more wholesome spin on the original.

Oven fries
2-3 Idaho potatoes (other varieties like red potatoes or yukon gold are great, especially for the breakfast version)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pressed or grated garlic clove (or 1/2 t garlic powder), 1/2 t chopped fresh or dry rosemary (if dry, mash with oil with the back of a spoon to extract flavor), salt, and pepper.

Slice potatoes into fry-like shapes.  For wedges, cut in half lengthwise (through the thicker part if not round, resulting in two more flat halves), then cut lengthwise in halves again, then cut each half into 3-4 pieces.  For fries, slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick pieces, then slice lengthwise the other direction to make sticks.  If not cooking immediately, place in water to prevent browning.

Toss fries with olive oil and seasoning, and place in oven pre-heated to 425 degrees on metal baking pan.  Cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until fries are brown and crisp outside, soft inside (20-30 minutes).  If they are browning too quickly, turn oven down.  If they are getting soft but not yet brown, drizzle with more oil, toss to coat, and turn oven to 450 or place (briefly!) under broiler.

Breakfast potato version
Cut potatoes into chunks instead of spears (just cut through the spears crosswise).  Replace seasoning with 1 t paprika, 1/2 t turmeric, 1/2 t garlic powder, dash cayenne, and salt and pepper.  Once done baking, toss with sliced green onions.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Red carpet wrap-up: Golden Globes

 [Image via TLo]

Yay!!  Dresses and mean jokes about Hollywood! 

Ricky Gervais was hilariously out of control last night, making jokes about the airbrushed SATC2 poster and how terrible The (nominated) Tourist was.  See a rundown of every funny-awkward-funny jibe here.  Many have speculated he went too far, but I only thought he really crossed the line in making a Scientologists are gay joke--we all know, Ricky, but outing people isn't funny.  Movieline has pointed out that Gervais essentially pulled off the Emperor's new clothes of Hollywood, un-self-awaringly illustrated by this quote from the HFPA: "Ricky will not be invited back to host the show next year, for sure. [A]ny movie he makes he can forget about getting nominated. He humiliated the organization last night and went too far with several celebrities whose representatives have already called to complain."

Gawker has their take on the most memorable moments.  Dave Karger contemplates how the wins affect Oscar predictions.  Complete winner's list here.  For my take, it looks like The Social Network is dominating, but I wonder if the academy doesn't want something more feel-good.  I hope Annette Benning beats Natalie Portman, and I think she has a good chance, given the Academy's penchant for career-achievement awards.  I think supporting actress is a wide-open race, and wish Hailee Steinfeld were getting more love (she was not nominated for the globes).

And the fashion: The Fug Girls have the best and worst outfits over at NYMag.  Tom and Lorenzo (bless them) have parts 1, 2, and 3, as well as a rundown of the men.

What did you think of the hugely mean-spirited and mildly sinister show last night?  (To paraphrase Robert Downey, Jr.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The warpath of the Tiger Mother

This guest blog by new femonomics contributor ENTJ addresses the controversy over Amy Chua's infamous "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" WSJ piece.  ENTJ is an Asian-American woman in the finance industry, with her very own Chinese mother.  ENTJ is passionate about educational policy, film, museums of all kinds, and fashion.

You have to think that Amy Chua won in all of this. Her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, is now the #5 book on Amazon. She’s won the kind of instant notoriety that is typically reserved for cast members of Jersey Shore. The original Wall Street Journal article about her book has been the most-read article on the site for more than a week, and has generated more than 6,000 comments, split between admirers of the Asian-American community’s disproportional representation in the Ivy League and those citing the Asian-American community’s disproportional representation in national depression and suicide statistics.

But for me, the most interesting reaction has been among those of Asian-American descent themselves. I am Chinese-American, and was tempted to create a filter in my Gmail account so I wouldn’t have to sort through all the times that people emailed the article to me. Among the first people to email me the article was my younger sister, who sent it to me and my parents, with no comment besides, “I’m not sure how I feel about this.” My parents did not have the same reaction. Apparently, a mailing list of Asian parents in our town had been debating the article since it first appeared. From the sampling of emails that my parents forwarded on, the uniform reaction of the parents was a disavowal of Chua’s techniques; one after another wrote that “If this is what a Chinese parent is, then I am a Western parent!”

Friday, January 14, 2011

Recipe Fridays: raw kale, beet, and orange salad

I like raw kale salad.  It's healthy, it's easy, it tastes delicious.  My favorite version is still an Italian-style take, but a little variety is always nice.  The one below is perfect for winter produce.

Raw kale salad

1 bunch kale
1 large navel orange (or several smaller oranges)
1 medium beet
Walnuts (optional)
Lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt, and fresh pepper

Wash kale thoroughly. Cut off stems, and, if you wish, cut out the stem part of the larger leaves (I leave it in). Tear or chop the kale into less than 1 inch pieces (I gather all leaves and cut into strips, then cut again the other direction a few times).  Put sliced kale in bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Squeeze 1/2 lemon over kale; sprinkle with salt.  With your hands, massage the lemon/salt/oil mix into the kale until leaves begin to soften and turn bright green.

Wash the beet and scrape the outside to remove rough skin.  Remove stem and root section.  Cut beet in half vertically.  Slice each half thinly, then cut slices into matchsticks.  Peel orange using knife to remove as much pith as possible.  Cut orange in slices (going across sections, not between), and split slices into 4 pieces.  Toss beet pieces and orange with kale.  Grind in fresh pepper, and add more salt, lemon juice, or olive oil as needed.  A splash of balsamic vinegar is also nice.  If desired, top with broken walnut pieces.  (A sliced avocado also works).  Enjoy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Recipe Fridays: Quick Navy Bean Stew

With all the temperatures dropping and snow keeping everyone indoors, now is the perfect time for some steamy soup or stew to keep you nice and toasty. I made this extremely easy and fairly quick navy bean soup from good ole Martha. I added a zucchini and tweaked some minor things, but here's the original recipe. Here's what I did:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 small red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used a few small, a few medium as I like more potatoes!)
1 pound mushrooms, cut
1 zucchini, cut
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups water
10 ounces baby spinach leaves, rinsed well
1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar, optional
Ground pepper

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and potatoes; cook until onions are golden. Season with salt. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, and thyme. Season with more salt and cook until mushrooms, etc are tender. Add the tomato paste and water. Mix until tomato paste is blended. Cook that until the potatoes are tender (maybe 10-12 minutes). Add spinach, beans, and vinegar. Heat until spinach is wilted. Season with (more) salt and pepper. Serve hot!

Recipe Fridays: Southern Comfort--Chicken Pot Pie

The long, cold winters in Washington always make me miss my mama's home cooking terribly, so I've worked on some of her recipes for the past few years and am delighted to share some of my favorites that I crave on a weekly basis from November to April.

Chicken Pot Pie
· 1 Tbsp. olive oil
· 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
· 1 medium Onion, chopped
· 1/4 cup flour
· 2 cups chicken stock
· 2 cups chopped Roasted Chicken* (I either season and roast several drumsticks at 425 degrees for 40-45 mins and pull the meat off the bones with a fork and discard the skin, or I purchase a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, if I feel like taking a short cut, and chop some of the breast, leg, and thigh meat, also discarding the skin, and season it)
· 1/2 cup frozen sweet petite peas
· 1 potato , diced and boiled
· 1 1/2 cup chopped, cooked carrots
· Salt
· Pepper
· Dash of Tabasco (or red pepper flakes instead)

*Scratch the chicken and add more veggies to make it vegetarian.

· 3/4 cup white or yellow cornmeal
· 3/4 cup flour
· 1 Tbsp. baking powder (don’t use if you are using self rising flour and cornmeal)
· 2 Tbsp. sugar
· 1/2 tsp. salt
· 3/4 cup milk
· 1 large egg
· 2 Tbsp. canola oil
· 2 Tbsp. melted butter

Cooking Instructions:
To make filling: Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray. In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil and unsalted butter together. Add onion and sauté until tender--4 to 5 mins. Add in flour until blended. Slowly stir in 2 cups of heated chicken stock, whisking well. Cook mixture over medium heat until it thickens and starts to bubble--about 4 mins. Stir in chicken, peas, potato, carrots. Season mixture with salt, pepper, Tabasco (or red pepper flakes), and any other seasoning that you like. Evenly spread mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray.

To make crust: In a bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Mix oil, egg, butter, and milk together in separate bowl. Then, stir wet ingredients (milk, egg, butter, and oil) into dry ingredients. Spoon the batter evenly on top of the filling.
Bake until the top is golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes

Make it Vegan!

Cornbread Crust:
· 1¼ cup. all purpose flour
· 1¼ cup cornmeal
· 2 tsps baking powder (do not use if you are using self-rising cornmeal and flour)
· ¼ cup white sugar
· 1½ cup soy milk
· 2 Tbsp olive oil
· ½ tsp salt

· 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
· 1 medium Onion , chopped
· 1/4 cup flour
· 2 cups vegetable stock
· 1/2 cup frozen sweet petite peas
· 1 potato , diced and boiled
· 1 1/2 cup chopped, cooked carrots
· 1/2 tsp. salt
· Cracked pepper
· Dash of Tobasco (or red pepper flakes instead)
· Salt
· Pepper

Follow the cooking instructions above.

I like to entertain, so I don't make dishes that serve only 1 or 2 folks usually, these recipes could easily serve 4-6, so keep that in mind. It also freezes and holds up wonderfully if you have too much leftover.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dear Decorum: Polite Feminism?

"Dear Decorum" is an attempt to answer some of life's most challenging questions concerning everyday etiquette and how to stay cool, calm, and collected even during those most trying social situations. Deadbeat friend never have cash on hand to pay their share? We have advice for you--Stop inviting said deadbeat; they'll take the hint. Busybody neighbors all in your grill? Maintain boundaries, but it's never a good idea to completely alienate a neighbor. And so on...

You are cordially invited to send us your questions and we'll do our best to help!


How should one behave when a new acquaintance, or friend-of-a-friend, or friend's significant other makes an inappropriate (e.g., racist, sexist, otherwise offensive) comment? I ask because the rules of traditional decorum seem to indicate one should gloss over the incident and move merrily along, preventing the evening from descending into awkwardness for everyone. Meanwhile, the rules of feminism--or at least my feminism--seem to dictate one should put that person promptly in their place. I admire the stories of Snarky's Machine berating colleagues or her doctor for racist/size-ist comments, and of Choosing Raw's Gena firmly telling the receptionist at her gym that she would not accept unsolicited comments on her body. But those situations were, it seems to me, a bit different. In each, there was some element of a professional relationship, rather than a purely social one. In professional relationships, or online one, or to strangers, I haven't hesitated to state my aversion to even mildly -ist behaviors or statements. But what about when you meet a friend's friend, at a party at your friend's house, and she says something implying, let's say, immigrants are lazy? Or you go out with a group of girls, one of whom you've never met before, and she calls someone "So Jewish" (as in cheap)? Or you meet an old friend's significant other for the first time, and he/she says something sexist? I'm not talking outright* racist or discriminatory behavior, like them calling a friend of mine a name, in which case, you can believe I'd bring the whup-ass. But I've experienced variants on each of the situations listed above, and in each case, I tried to mildly make my disagreement known, while gently moving the conversation along. What's the right thing to do in these situations? When at a social gathering, where the feelings of people you care about are at stake, how can we still stand up for what we think is right? When decorum and feminism come into conflict, which one should rule the day? (Or is there--please--a happy medium?)

Coca Colo

*I know that term is loaded, so please understand I use it to distinguish between them being in my face, versus me needing to get in their face to make a correction

Dear Coca Colo,

This is indeed a challenge that I am all too familiar with as well. You know me, so you've seen the jaws drop, heads turn, and ignorant comments fly out of folks mouths when they discover I am not their stereotype of "southern black woman" and I've shared some of this experience with the readers before. I still haven't figured out why people feel it's acceptable to comment on a. how articulate I am and/or b. how I mix "black" speech (Negro dialect, anyone?) with "talking white"? This sort of situation has ruined many a lunch, dinner, first impression of a friend's significant other for me. None of it makes sense, but luckily we live in the age of the "Teachable Moment", oh yes. So, even when the situation is personal and hurt feelings may result, my suggestion to you is that you keep doing what you're doing--you've found the "happy medium", which I think is to use these situations as opportunities to gently nudge and enlighten our peers who may just not have had the same exposure to folks of different cultural backgrounds or skin colors and welcome them into the light of the 21st century.

I totally agree with your approach to calmly state your opposition and reasoning and move the conversation forward. It is both right and polite to do so. I don't think any offense can be taken so long as you aren't gearing up for a Lincoln-Douglas style debate, which really would ruin the party. I don't think you have to choose between being true to your convictions as a justice-seeking feminist or being "nice" for the sake of saving your party from an awkward social situation. I mean, certainly, by the time the offender has made the remark things have already turned rather awkward, no? And others have noticed, it's just most aren't going to speak up. So, unless you are truly at risk of making a large, dramatic scene and it's a public event, work function, someone's wedding, etc... (you'll know when discretion is advised), then continue to speak up, as you have been. Embrace the teachable moment. Honestly, if someone is surprised by the use of the term "off the chain", they should be encouraged to expand their circle.

I try to live my life by two totally unoriginal credos. The first my mother impressed upon me from an early age: When you LEARN better, you DO better. OK, so, she got this from Oprah (yes, we are drinking the Oprah Kool-Aid), who learned it from Dr. Maya Angelou. It's a simple, but true message. Breaking down these kinds of barriers requires time and patience and it requires us all to be teachers and students of life when we are called to be so. If you know the person, then gently, saying, "I think your remark may stem from how homogeneous your background and upbringing has been. Not all gay, black, Jewish, women, etc... people can be lumped into the same stereotype...." Is usually enough to embarrass an offender into checking themselves before they wreck themselves. If you don't know the person, it may simply be enough of a ball-buster to inquire, "Do you actually feel that way or were you trying to make a joke?"

My other motto is: Truth over Harmony (as an order of my values). This one I stole from a system of prep schools in the northeast geared towards character development (reform school?), not that a good southern belle like me ever needed to attend reform school, but the message has still had meaning in my life. I've found that even if being honest makes someone upset, in the end, it's appreciated and actually strengthens friendships and bonds.

So, keep it up Colo! We are all challenged by these situations and I appreciate you bringing them to light. Each one teach one.


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! Is it just me, or have we put a lot of pressure on 2011 to usher in the good times? Good riddance 2010--you sure were a lousy year! In the past few days I've been surprised to find out (via my Facebook News Feed) just how angry my friends have been at 2010. And when I stop to think about it, 2010 was a whopper for me as well. Midway through the year I got Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from attending an outdoor Dave Matthews Band Concert--I can no longer bear "Ants Marching". Following my month long antibiotic regimen, I broke my foot, leading to a six week sentence of house arrest. That wouldn't have been so bad, but did I mention it was a new house? It's a great place--it's a great arrangement, as I now get to spend 24/7 with my sweet beau, but hobbling isn't an efficient way to move and sometimes I wasn't sure if the fever was due to my illness or the agony and the ecstasy of adjusting to a new living situation--with a boy.

And then there's September, and college football season is stressful for a Bama bred girl. Defending a national championship is hard. So, my team decided not to do October.

On a trip to visit Colo in November, I was sorely disappointed by so-called "soul-food" in DUMBO, but I should have known better. And in the same night, I learned I wasn't ironic enough to ever step foot in Williamsburg again.

All I needed was a little Christmas, but Uncle Boone's "Killer Bee" concoction left me a little too merry and the Snowmaggedon Part II that Washington never got made me a nervous wreck, as after Snowmaggedon Part I, I developed a crippling snow-phobia.

Man am I ever glad it's January...2011 and I (we) can put this all behind us and start fresh! I'm not a New Year's Resolution making kind of girl. Too much pressure. But, I am happy to say that I have gotten in a cardio workout 2 days in a row. Things are already looking up.

So, Welcome 2011! I've always preferred odd number years anyway!