Thursday, December 28, 2006

A New Low

I was planning on complaining that in the New York Times style section today an article on your BMI shows photos of all scary skinny women representing low BMIs and average to obese (by BMI standard) men. (The one exception being Rosie O'Donnell on the high BMI end). But Gawker one-upped me on the comment on the strapless bra story. They call it brainless and fail to see the news hook. But I disagree. I am personally a great fan of any kind of bra story that can be dreamed up. Bras are the bane of woman. Who doesn't get that? Gawker. I guess.

Anyway, in a year that got attention for being more bottomless than topless, can't we be a little bit happy about having a story where people are still wearing under-things?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Let's Review

This came to me From Katha Pollitt by way of Deirdre English: The Women's Review of Books is back. I always think it's curious that there's such a huge interest in women's popular culture with only a minor shrug to women in literature. (OK, when Britney Spears is showing her cha cha in front of god and everyone you've certainly got my attention more than an expository essay on Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Where is Camille Paglia when we need her?) It sounds like the new and improved journal is being revamped to be more relevant to a broader audience. Hell, I'll probably subscribe. Here's Pollitt's note:


Was Elizabeth Cady Stanton a racist-- or way ahead of her time? Do men and women really speak different languages --Martian and Venusian-- or do they both talk Earthling? What’s up with America’s obsession with black men’s penis size, anyway?

If you subscribe to the Women’s Review of Books, you’re up to date on these and many other topics, from Doris Lessing’s latest novel and Hirsi Ali’s latest polemic to the economics of prostitution and the sociology of abstinence-only sex ed . If you don’t yet know the WRB, you’ve been missing a lot -- great reviewing from Vivian Gornick, Dorothy Allison, Tricia Rose, Rosalind Barnett and Caryl rivers, Ann Snitow, the distinguished economist Barbara Bergmann and many other provocative writers and scholars, to say nothing of poems, cartoons, photographs and the ever-lively letters section.

I can’t tell you how often I hear complaints about the short shrift paid to books written by women in mainstream newspapers and magazines, and the lack of women -- and especially feminist women -- reviewers. Important books, both academic and general-interest, simply don’t get reviewed. Or are reviewed, how shall I put this, unintelligently. The WRB represents a real alternative -- for books, for reviewers, and for its many enthusiastic readers. If you care about women, about scholarship, about fiction, about books -- you need to be part of the conversation at WRB!

A subscription to WRB makes a great holiday present -- for friends, relatives, your public library, or yourself! And nothing could be easier -- just visit and click on “subscribe.” A year of Women’s Review of Books—six great issues full of reviews, essays, poetry, author interviews, and artwork by cartoonists and photographers—costs $33. That’s about the price of two CDs or dinner for two at one of those great little neighborhood places that don’t exist any more..

Happy holidays, happy reading,
and please forward this letter to people who might be interested!

Katha Pollitt

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's the Policy, Stupid

This is the kind of story that sends me into a tailspin. I so often try to imagine my life as a mother, and it bears no resemblance to my life now. Why? Because I can't figure out how to integrate my work with parenting. And it's not like my work does a bad job, probably better than most with working moms. But it's hard out here for a mom. Check out this piece in Alternet today that gives a hard-nosed economic reality check about how we as a country will fail unless we make the workplace work for moms. Check it out here.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Urban Jungle and Just Jungle

I'm not a nature girl. I did spend six months in Kenya when I was in college, much of it spent hiking and camping outdoors, and I figure I've done my time. Since then, I am comfortable viewing nature through the window of a four-star hotel, and a closed one at that.

I made an exception at our latest vacation to Mexico at a high-end resort near Puerto Vallarta. It was one of the most physically beautiful places I've visited -- thick jungle hillside up from a stunning patch of beach not too ruined by the boat loads of cruise-ship day trippers.

But nature had a way of finding us even if we weren't looking for it. My husband was stung by a scorpion as he was putting on a shirt to go to lunch (that's what he gets for being civilized). A scorpion sting is nasty and painful, but usually not deadly. The poison hits the nervous system and runs its course, trying to close off the throat and paralyze the limbs. Larry went numb, went pale through his sunburn, then was taken on the back of the man they called "the rabbit" down the hill at a dead run to the village doctor. The doctor had clearly seen worse. Es normale, he kept telling us when Larry would moan his next symptom. But hours later, he walked himself back up the hill to a waiting glass of tequilla.

Before I left, I wrote about my encounter with wildlife in San Francisco, which aired on KQED. You can listen here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Here's the Plan

NARAL is calling for us to contact major pharmacy chains and demand they stock Plan B. Add your name to the petition here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How Do You Cope?

Hear my essay on retail therapy on the latest edition of B-Side in a show all about coping that's hosted at a bar with Tamara Keith. For me, shopping wasn't just an escape. It was a strategy. A plan of attack on the senseless path life sometimes takes. You can listen by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

No Plan for Plan B

Emergency contraception is great in concept, but not so great in execution. Although this should really be something everyone, pro-choice and anti-choice should get behind (it's the medication that keeps athe sperm from fertilizing the egg -- no fetuses are harmed in the stopping of this pregnancy) and can avert unwanted pregnancies. That's the good news. The bad news is, many people who need the time-sensitive drug, can't get it. Read about this piece on Women's eNews as printed in AlterNet.

Since it can be dicey to get ahold of it when you need it, it's good to get it in advance and keep it on hand for when you really need it. And guess what, men can get it, too. So, guys: along with your condom stash, keep some EC in your cabinet next to the mouth wash.

Here's a snippet:

Because of its new non-prescription status, Carol Cox, a spokeswoman for Barr Labs, told Women's eNews that the distributor does not expect insurance companies to provide coverage for it and that Medicaid does not cover Plan B in all states.

Health advocates recommend that, because it can still be difficult to buy Plan B on a timely and affordable basis, women should buy the emergency contraception even if they don't need it, just to be on the safe side.

Women who can't afford to buy Plan B can try clinics in some regions, such as Planned Parenthood, that will provide the product on a sliding-fee basis.

Because of the age restriction imposed by the FDA, most women under 18 years old must still acquire a prescription for it.

Exceptions are women under 18 who live in Alaska, Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, or Vermont. They may be able to get Plan B directly from a pharmacist who participates in the state's pharmacy access program, according to the National Women's Law Center. States in this program allow Barr to ship the drug directly to participating pharmacists, rather than stores.

Monday, December 04, 2006


I'm on the hunt for my new perfect bag. It doesn't have to be THE "it" bag, just my "it" bag. As in: this is it!

But so far, the bags have been so incredibly large as to not just accomadate everything I could dream of stuffing into it (umbrella, wallet, sweater, large book, two pairs of glasses, bagel sandwich, two apples, small cat) but weighed half my body weight even before I began testing the capacity of the bag. (Note: cat did not appreciate said test.)

It used to be that bags were too small, too dainty, to ever meet my growing needs. I carried a backpack for years. Then after graduating from graduate school, swore off and switched to a grown-up Kate Spade bag the size of a piece of luggage. (I'm not kidding: it is actually offered as luggage in her store).

That really put me over the edge and had to be retired. The luggage now has a new life on top of my rolly bag. But I needed a replacement. I got something called a "hobo" (now I can just look like one) that is a slouchy carryall that carries almost everything, although I must take that too literally because the strap has broken not once but twice from the groaning weight of my "essentials."

Now I think I've found my new perfect bag. It's a Chloe, and it's very much the "it" bag, so it can't be mine. It costs as much as a month's rent. Maybe I could live in it.

12/6/06 Update: Lots of Baggage

So it seems I'm not the only one with the large-bag problem. The NY Times Style section has a cover story on the over-sized bag causing lots of overly fashionable women back and neck pain. One of the humungo-bags, by Chanel, has been described as looking like its only slightly less glamorous cousin, the garbage bag. Well, at least it's a Chanel garbage bag.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

They're At It Again

First it was clear skies policy meant to weaken EPA regs for clean air. Then it was intelligent design meant to replace evolution. And the Bush administration is sure not evolving. The new guy at the FDA appointed to run this country's policy on birth control and sex ed is against both. Planned Parenthood is waging a campaign to laugh this guy out of Washington, D.C. You can sign the petition by going here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Drinking While Pregnant

At first I thought it was just a trend in San Francisco, but apparently, there is a shift in women defying the unctuous stares of others and ordering a glass of wine at dinner, having an after-work beer or uncorking the champagne while pregnant.

From what I've read in the past, the studies about drinking and fetal alcohol syndrome were only done on extreme drinking levels, so to be safe, doctors just said don't do it. It's like, a woman gets pregnant and her reason and ability to make sound judgements based on the information at hand leave with her expanded belly. (And apparently, her fashion sense. Have you seen some of the maternity wear out there? But let's no go there.) Like everything else, each woman who's pregnant has to decide what is an acceptable risk. In France, women are considered baby killers if they eat salad while pregnant. Drinking? That's fine.

The New York Times does a great job today with a piece in the Dining section about drinking and pregnancy. Here's a small excerpt of The Weighty Responsibility of Drinking for Two:

Little attention has been paid to pregnant women at the low end of the consumption spectrum because there isn’t a clear threat to public health there, according to Janet Golden, a history professor at Rutgers who has written about Americans’ changing attitudes toward drinking in pregnancy.

The research — and the public health concern — is focused on getting pregnant women who don’t regulate their intake to stop completely.

And the public seems to seriously doubt whether pregnant women can be trusted to make responsible decisions on their own.

“Strangers, and courts, will intervene with a pregnant woman when they would never dream of touching anyone else,” Ms. Golden said.
Nancy, It's Not That Easy

Starting a political career after having five kids is not typical. And yet again, women who manage a high-power career and family don't seem to leave any kind of legacy for less empowered working women. There's a great piece today in AlterNet on just this subject.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ariel & Parker

Can I just take a moment to give Terry Gross some street cred? I have loved two interviews she did with two women (and I don't know if it's true, but it does feel like she interviews more men than women) that absolutely captured me. One was with Parker Posey, the Indy film queen, as Terry called her (quoting others). The second was with Ariel Levy, whose new book is just out in paperback called Female Chauvanist Pigs, which dresses down Playboy Bunnies and Girls Gone Wild.

I haven't read Levy's book, but I love the premise -- that the porn-star empowerment of women is so not -- and can't wait to get into it.

Both Posey and Levy offer such refreshing takes on pop culture, one shaping it, the other commenting on it, that I hope at some point Terry does a double-feature with these two interviews. You can hear them at:

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Weighty Issue

In the Sunday New York Times, the Sunday after our calorie fest known as Thanksgiving, were two pieces on extreme body issues. One on being fat and the other on scary skinny. The first was a moving piece about a woman's effort to save her daughter from starvation. The other trumpeted fat activism, once on the fringe, now joining its cousins queer studeis and women studies and disability studies and going academic. (I know, I know, what could they discuss in fat studies -- sitting around asking each other, does my butt look fat? But it's a real field. With professors and conferences and stuff.)

The thing is that in the alternate press and actual scientists, cultural scholars and such have been studying eating disorders for a long time. Neither piece was exactly a news flash. Anorexia affects 1-3% of the population. But over half the country is overweight and a third is defined as obese. Of course, what we see is the 1-3%, but we are the 60%. (The fat piece in the Style section was nicely placed beside a Gucci ad of models in bathing suits. Someone in layout has a sick sense of humor.)

Both conditions of overweight and underweight have been studied, but the actual causes of weight gain or loss in such extremes seems to confound scientists. Fat studies came about because the common wisdom is that weight is a control issue. Those who are fat are out of control -- those who are too thin, control freaks. Those who consider themselves fat and fit (and say this is not an oxymoron) found themselves connecting this with feminism. Even five years ago, when gastric bypass surgery was just being reported, this was pretty gutsy. Now, with TV shows called The Biggest Loser and cosmetic surgery a given for those in a given age group, turning activist into professors may be one more way to marginalize a would-be movement.

I produced a radio story about Marilyn Wann, fat activist and editor of Fat!So? zine years ago, when she testified at a San Francisco Supervisors meeting to argue that a local anti-fat statue should pass in San Francisco. It did. I spent a day following Marilyn around, going to her gym (women only), eating with her, shopping with her. In the end, I was won over by her ferocious determination to feel comfortable with herself. But despite the fact that more people in the U.S. are like her than not, this doesn't translate into acceptance. The more we weigh, the more obsessed we've become with not being fat. Food for thought.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Plath's Ennui

A previously unpublished poem by Sylvia Plath is online at Blackbird. You can see the facsimile of her final draft. She wrote Ennui while a student at Smith. Check it out.

Karen Kukil, editor of The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, is quoted in a Smith newsletter saying,

"It is difficult to realize how hard Plath worked to perfect her craft unless you read the poems written before 1956; many of these poems, like 'Ennui,' deserve publication."
No Choice

While voters in South Dakota and California pushed back punitive anti-choice legislation, Nicaragua is a different story. They now have a complete ban on abortions, even when a woman's life is in danger.

How could this happen? The new president, Daniel Ortega (who gained notoriety in the 80s as the leader of the Sandinistas) has "reconciled" with the Catholic Church. Read: handed over women's lives in exchange for political viability.

Maybe we should invade Nicaragua for their extreme laws that violate women. Wouldn't that be a hoot for Robert Gates. What is old is new again.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mom I'd Like to . . . Surgically Alter?

You really have to see this to believe this. There's a new reality show hitting the airwaves soon -- they're looking for . . .the Hottest Mom in America! Sponsoring the entire show: Restylane. The Botox competitor.

So I guess the message is: you're not really hot if you look like you have wisdom or experience. The hottest Mom should look like a nubile teen who's never had kids.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Borat Ellen Willis Smack Down

What if the sequel to Borat found his wife from Kazakhstan come to bring him home and knock some sense into him. I mean, the guy clearly hasn't taken out the garbage in god knows how long.

Is Borat doing a public service from his country to ours? Or is he just proving that no-one has the higher moral ground. Did we really need this character to show us the character of our country?

I wish Ellen Willis could have taken on Borat. Can Borat exist without someone finding something he says outrageous? If no-one jumps on the Borat bandwagon, what happens? Does he go home and take out the garbage?

Borat's movie is sort of a cultural take on Jackass 2. Don't try this yourselves, folks. You'll be run out, turned on, arrested, sued. In the end, is it all just for a laugh?

Is anger the only kind of humor that resonates with our jaded, tuned-out country? Who, exactly, is Borat angry with? Us? Kazakhstan? The Jews? The feminists? Everyone who hates the Jews and the feminists? Borat embodies everything. The Jew is the anti-semite. The Brit is actually the ugly American. If we join with him, we lose. If we push against him, we lose. If we laugh, he wins.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Terrorists You Don't Know About

There is still a home-grown terrorist element in this country. Ignoring it doesn't change that it's happening. Check out Jennifer Pozner's piece reprinted in AlterNet and largely ignored by the mainstream press.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ellen Willis

I'm not sure if it was good or bad that Ellen Willis happened to die on the same day as Ed Bradley. Bradley was lauded for being the kind of journalist that didn't stand by idly, who jumped in to help because it was the right thing to do, who had stacks of Emmys and famous friends. He was a pioneer as the first black White House correspondent, and so on.

But next to his obit in the New York Times was that of Ellen Willis, who was also a pioneer, a feminist, author, cultural critic, revolutionary and academic. All those labels sound much scarier and radical than the stolid Mr. Bradley. But she directed the NYU department of cultural reporting, was married with kids, and on the archive interview with Terry Gross today, sounded more frank in her approach to topics like sex and porn, than lacivious. She famously wrote:

In practice, attempts to sort out good erotica from bad porn inevitably comes down to 'What turns me on is erotica; what turns you on is pornographic.'

She was best known for her cultural essays, like the one quoted in the Times on the Monica Lewinsky scandal:

Arguably, just as Victorian repression produced a thriving porn industry, the exclusion of sex from 'serious' news media produced tabloidism. As this taboo passes into history, there should be more room for public conversaion on sex that is neither coy nor prurient, but simply frank.

I'm trying to figure out if Willis would have approved of the discussion of Mark Foley or Haggard in the mainstreaum media. More than likely, she despised the hypocrisy of the repressive and moralizing attitudes of such people that created their own personal tabloidism. If anything, the Lewinsky scandal seemed to have opened the floodgates of sexual discussion in many ways. Let's hope that the program at NYU that is Willis' legacy carries on a better tradition.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

In the House!

In San Francisco today, we were all walking around in a daze. A giddy, wild-eyed kind of daze, but still shocked nonetheless. I can't remember the last time I voted on a ballot where everything I voted for won (except that we still have the Governator). OK, I actually do remember the last time. It was 1992, which was also the first time.

Clinton won. Feinstein won. Boxer won. We all won. But it was short-lived. In 1994 that crazy Republican Congress had its revenge, and we've been paying ever since.

Still, just for the moment I'd like to appreciate what it's like to have San Francisco representing with Speaker Pelosi. My rep! And now the country's rep. As an East Coast girl, I know what you think of us. Crazy nuts and screws. The Left Coast. Hippies with love-ins and be-ins and the Free Speech movement. Oh wait. That wasn't bad. In fact, many "crazy" things that start in California end up being mainstream by the time they get to your side of the country. Like stem cell research. Pro-choice law. Living wage. Cleaner air. Solar power.

Still not comfortable? Think about it. Would you rather have the hypocrtical Christian right leading the way, preaching homophobia but hankering for gay sex and drugs when (almost) no-one's looking? All of a sudden, good old-fashioned San Francisco tolerance doesn't seem so radical at all. It seems downright refreshing.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Speaker Nancy

What did Nancy Pelosi say: It takes a woman to clean house. And an army of women to make change: a whopping 82 women candidates will be descending on the House come January, at last count. Prop. 85, the anti-choice California ballot initiative, was voted down. The South Dakota abortion ban is toast. The news just keeps getting better and better.

Unfortunately, we can't undo all of Bush's bad work. With Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor replaced by Alito, and the arguments to outlaw late-term abortions being presented at the Supreme Court today, I feel a slightly ominous cloud coming over my sunny disposition.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

South Dakota Has Spoken

And resoundingly voted down the ban on abortions. This ridiculously horrifying law that was meant to force the hand of the Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade, is dead.
Track Women's Wins

Feminist Majority will be keeping tabs on women's races across the country as the results start coming in.
Year of the Woman, for Real?

Picture Nancy Pelosi (yes, my rep!) as spokeswoman in chief; and with 139 women candidates running across the country, many of them Dems -- and a desire for a change of perspective from arrogant, imbicilic and bellicose to reasoned alternative, women could be marching in and taking over. But don't take my word for it. Check out the ABC News story.

Of the 56 women challenging male incumbents, most are Democrats who could be the key as the party vies for the 15 seats it needs to take control of the House.

And among the competitive races in the country, there are 18 in which a Democratic woman is poised to win.

You can read more here.
I Voted!

I love Election Day. I love getting up in the morning and walking around the corner to the church-turned-polling place. Our voting site was packed with our neighbors this morning. Our paper ballots and pens worked just fine. The coffee was free. The poll workers were polite. I got a little laugh over a city proposition I hadn't noticed before -- would I want it to be policy to impeach Bush/Cheney? Yes, please.

The rhetoric is over. It's time for us to speak.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Down to the Wire

My co-worker is on the ground in South Dakota helping get the appeal to the abortion ban passed. Check out her blog.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Legally Spurned

It's funny. When couples make millions, live in L.A. and spend most of their time worry about looking good and which script to choose, it's hard to imagine fighting over something so silly as who's more successful. Since A Star Is Born, there seems to be no shortage of men who feel emasculated by their wives' success.

As all the tabloids were happy to point out, Reese Witherspoon, who is at the top of her game while still being so gamine, got the Oscar, but not the guy. Apparently she and Ryan Phillippe, after 7 years of marriage and two kids, are ending things. Getting an Oscar, for an actress, may be killer for your career but can really kill a relationship. Think Hillary Swank and Chad Lowe. Coincidence?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And Speaking of Ballot Initiatives . . .

A new poll shows opposition to the abortion ban in S.D. is in the lead. It's still only by a smidge, though.
No Means No

For Californians heading to the ballot box next week, there will be a sense of deja vu all over again with Prop. 85. It's the parental notification law we already voted down last election. Seems that some people just don't get that no means no. So once again, we have to vote this anti-choice intitiative down, which does nothing to foster good family communication but does a lot to endanger teen health and safety.

By requiring teens to delay abortions by 48 hours until parents are notifified, this law would put teens' health in jeopardy. It may also put teens with abusive families at risk. While ideally teens should have good, trusting communication with their parents, this is not the reality, and no government mandate can change that.

This is just one more way that anti-choice extremists are seeking to limit access to abortion services and to eventually undo Roe v. Wade.

To help defeat Prop. 85, again, please go to the campaign Web site for more info. And be sure to go to the ballot box and vote NO on Prop. 85 on Nov 7.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Dame's Eye View

Check out Diane Johnsson's review of Nora Ephron's book of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck. My favorite part is where Johnson takes a look at the other best-seller books on the landscape and makes this connection:

We might hope that the coincidence on the best-seller lists of Nora Ephron's funny, sisterly collection of essays I Feel Bad About My Neck and Thomas Ricks's Fiasco, a book that explores the mendacity, incompetence, and corruption of the war effort in Iraq, or, this week, Bob Woodward's State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III on the same subject, implies something encouraging about our national character—our realism and appetite for self-criticism. At least the success of these books reflects, beyond their intrinsic merit, our hunger for candor. Oscar Wilde said something about England being the capital of hypocrisy, but the US, outdoing England in many of the qualities we inherited from it, may have now surpassed it there, so that the rare appearance of truthfulness is gratefully rewarded wherever it should be found. Ephron addresses many commonplace hypocrisies, among them:

Why do people write books that say it's better to be older than to be younger? It's not better. Even if you have all your marbles, you're constantly reaching for the name of the person you met the day before yesterday. Even if you're in great shape, you can't chop an onion the way you used to....

I have to say, after reading Ephron's book and definitely feeling like I would have a marvelous time having tea with her, a real laugh riot actually, it was fun to see her personal dismay about age put into context of the larger public dismay over the Iraq war. And somehow, makes me feel less guilty about thoroughly enjoying her book and deciding to stick with reading the reviews of the others.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Life Under Abortion Ban

Picture this. You need an abortion. You need one because you're poor, have too many children, or your health will suffer. You can argue that your life is in jeopardy if you carry the pregnancy to term, but you need three (3) doctors to certify this.

This is no made-up scenerio. It's Nicaragua, where exactly six legal abortions were performed last year, because every other kind of abortion has been outlawed. That doesn't mean that that cut down on the number of abortions. In fact, 32,000 unsafe, illegal abortions are performed each year, according to the New York Times. Could it happen here? If you live in South Dakota, the answer is yes.

The ban that was passed by the South Dakota legislature and signed into law by the governor (but stopped by a voter-sponsored initiative)has a familiar ring to the law passed in Nicaragua.

According to the Times:

The ban in Nicaragua comes two weeks before a hotly contested presidential election on Nov. 5, and opponents of the law say it was introduced now because no one dared to oppose it in the political climate.

Caught getting an abortion in Nicaragua and you and your doctor can get up to six years in prison, and the law is expected to add far harsher sentences. Maybe they'll draw and quarter you, or you'll get the chair. Apparently, they're seriously thinking of imposing a 30-year sentence. While I'm tempted to now go off on the power of the Catholic church in poor, developing nations where birth control and reproductive services are so desperately needed, I feel compelled to point out that South Dakota is attempting to pass the very. Same. Law.

Well I'd like to think that feminism, Roe v. Wade and our legal right to abortion has gotten us somewhere in this country, I'm terrified by the extremists who want to take us back to, well, Nicaragua.

If our like-minded, pro-choice voters stay home on Election Day in S.D., we could be looking at a similarly grim law. And it wouldn't stop there. The point of the S.D. abortion ban was to force the argument at the Supreme Court level. South Dakota, c'est moi.

If you haven't already, check out the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families site and give a hand, if you can.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Hillary Clinton's rival for the Senate, John Spencer, accused her of spending "millions" on plastic surgery. I guess he couldn't get much traction on anything else (I assume they agree on the war) so he said the B-word. Botox.

Given that you can get your Botox injection at your local mall these days, Spencer's got a pretty outsized idea about what kind of money you spend to look a bit more camera-ready. But Hillary Clinton is hardly a Hillary Duff look-alike.

I'm actally looking at a photo of Hill right now and her forehead does look smooth. On the other hand, the crows feet around her eyes and the laugh lines around her mouth scream crone. And her bod? Well, let's just say if she is getting plastic surgery, she should sue.

I have deeper ridges above my eyes, the little marks that give me away as terminally annoyed. I can't imagine that she has less of a reason to be annoyed than me.

Given that botox is a multi-billion dollar industry and everyone seems to be doing it, if Hillary did do such a thing and admitted it, she'd probably get that untapped consituency: the botox vote.

It's funny. Plastic surgery is a no-no, but hair color is completely accepted, for men and women. I don't know when that happened. But I mean, every woman you see whose hair is still brown or blond and is pushing 60 or more is not going au natural. I started going grey in my mid-30s (which I am still in) but noone would know that to look at me. So Nancy Pelosi, Clinton and friends for sure are not showing their true roots.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Madonna Don't Preach

These days it is really hard not to be completely cynical when some uber-celebrity like Madonna shows up in poverty-stricken Malawi to scoop up a child all in the name of helping Africa.

Madonna's no fool. She knows a good trend when she sees one. Apparently in her latest Confessions tour images of starving Africans appeared on a huge screen in tune with a Madonna ballad.

But this latest stunt has seriously back-fired. You know it's bad when AlterNet finds it necessary to cover this pathetic story.

I'm sure that a lot of stars have seen the Angelina Jolie effect and want in -- but keep in mind that Jolie actually has an official role with the UN. (Of course, this didn't mean that she had to go and give birth in Namibia, but she seems to be filled with righteous zeal and searching for deeper meaning than being a movie star. Maybe being the St. John knitwear model will help.)

We're consumed with images of Madonna "helping" one child, but turn a blind eye to the genocide in Darfur, to starvation, AIDS, no funding for birth control or abortions and the most rudimentary health care in so many of these nations. We need to do so much more than have our statement baby to show the world how much we care. Please, Madonna. Take your act somewhere else.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Beauty-Book Junky

There are two books attacking the same topic from different perspectives.

One, Beauty Junkies, just came out, is by one of my favorite NY Times writers, Alex Kuczynski, who writes a kind of personal as retail column in the Style section called Critical Shopper. In her shopping persona, we are voyers as she goes into stores and explores, shops, and oggles. She's a fan of shopping, but with if not a critical eye, at least a personal one.

In her new book, she confesses to have been addicted to plastic surgery. This does come as a surprise. After all, she's blond, she's brilliant, she's hot. What's to worry about? Well, she's not the only one to fall prey to the beauty industry and maybe that's the point. At least she has the smarts to feel bad about it (although only when something goes horribly wrong) and make a buck off it. I mean, everyone else is.

Of course, Bitch has been exposing the plastic surgery industry for years now. Not that I want to get picky about it, but they were writing about this stuff long before any mainstream press was too worried that elective, expensive surgery was not really something should do recreationally.

The other book is Nora Ephron's irreverent I Feel Bad About My Neck, a series of essays about aging. She says despite all the work to fight the future, it's hopeless. But she's funny about it, and turning her angst into good copy is what it's all about. I can't wait to dig in.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Dame's Eye View

S. Dakota is a battleground for choice. Ms. Magazine has an in-depth piece about the campaign to overturn the abortion ban.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hooker Chic

More on the hoooker Halloween costumes: So the Style section in the New York Times today has yet another piece on channeling your inner whore for Halloween. I'm glad they're really covering the important issues of our time. I mean, good thing we're getting all the angles on "good girls going bad" for a day. If by going bad you mean dressing bad. Have you actually seen these so-called sexy costumes? Tack-y. The Times is downright pervy in its coverage, including photos that, the Times says, evokes male fantasies (tricks). Because who doesn't want the love of their life to look like a street walker. These over-the-top, kitchy outfits look less like male fantasies than they do outfits for drag queens.

So this got me thinking: what it maybe says about Halloween is not that women have lost touch with feminism when they dress like this. They're losing touch with good taste. Which makes it even more silly, not sexy. Because, after all, they're costumes.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Horror

Here's what New York Times guest columnist Allison Glock found while looking for a mouse costume in the adult costume section of Target:

I walked past the displays for the sexy devil and the sexy bunny and the sexy leopard — which, confounding logic, was already sold out — before happening upon the wall of full adult costumes. The first was Tavern Lady, an off-the-shoulder dress and faux-leather vest. It was followed by French Maid (ruffled mini-dress with matching headpiece), Cheerleader (pleated micro-mini and fitted vest) and Wonder Woman, which had not only a nearly invisible skirt but also red vinyl boot covers that reached to the thigh.

Not that she's the first to notice that Halloween for women seems to be, instead of a slasher ghoul fest, a time to be tres sexy. Sexy ghost. Sexy cat. Sexy nurse. At a party of grad students one year, the dean of students for the journalism school at the time showed up in lingerie and said she was a Freudian slip.

I definitely plea guilty to the sexy costume charge. I mean, it's been a long time since I dressed up as a tacky tourist (7th grade) or a football player (don't ask).

Mainly, I donned red lipstick and a pout to be Marilyn Monroe, even though the holiday is so much more Marilyn Manson. I showed up in the Castro as Cat Woman, wearing a Betsy Johnson catsuit and ears and a tail, but was showed up by men wearing dresses. And maybe my best costume was at Hampshire College's Trip or Treat party, where I arrived as Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (I had glued those cool glow in the dark stars all over a short black dress), which paired well with my friend's Devil in the Blue dress costume. She carried a red trident and wore a blue dress.

I was reminded of all this while on the bus this weekend shamelessly listening in on some twentysomething's conversation about what to wear this Halloween.

She's planning to go as scary skinny, by wearing one of those skeleton suits with a bikini over it.

Target, take note. And truly, the scariest costume I can imagine.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Marriage Mission Not Accomplished

A new study by the Census shows that a majority of households are not married, making married couples for the first time a minority. Says Sunday's New York Times:

The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples — with and without children — just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.

The numbers by no means suggests marriage is dead or necessarily that a tipping point has been reached. The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry. But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners, and the potential social and economic implications are profound.

“It just changes the social weight of marriage in the economy, in the work force, in sales of homes and rentals, and who manufacturers advertise to,” said Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group. “It certainly challenges the way we set up our work policies.”

While the number of single young adults and elderly widows are both growing, Professor Coontz said, “we have an anachronistic view as to what extent you can use marriage to organize the distribution and redistribution of benefits.”

Couples decide to live together for many reasons, but real estate can be as compelling as romance.

“Owning three toothbrushes and finding that they are always at the wrong house when you are getting ready to go to bed wears on you,” said Amanda Hawn, a 28-year-old writer who set up housekeeping near San Francisco with her boyfriend, Nate Larsen, a real estate analyst, after shuttling between his apartment and one she shared with a friend. “Moving in together has simplified life,” Ms. Hawn said.

The census survey estimated that 5.2 million couples, a little more than 5 percent of households, were unmarried opposite-sex partners. An additional 413,000 households were male couples, and 363,000 were female couples. In all, nearly one in 10 couples were unmarried. (One in 20 households consisted of people living alone).

And the numbers of unmarried couples are growing. Since 2000, those identifying themselves as unmarried opposite-sex couples rose by about 14 percent, male couples by 24 percent and female couples by 12 percent.

Fun fact: the highest number of same-sex female partners living in Hampshire County, MA, home of Northampton.

This is more than a statistic. This is my life. My partner and I lived together for 10 years before getting hitched. Many couples I know are in commited relationships, with houses and kids, who aren't married.

As adults, marriage isn't necessary to cement a relationship. It's a choice.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Is Bigger Better?

OK, so we've all lived through the great starving model controversy of Fashion Week 2006. The fashion world, the ones who parade their skinny-girl clothes for their celeb audience for a teeny lucky few who wear them and the masses who buy the fashion mags suddenly seemed horrified by what they'd produced: the demand for super-thin models.

Cut to today. In the San Francisco Chronicle today in the Style section there's a story about a plus-size model who's been getting more work these days. The reason? Obesity rates in Europe went up 10% this year. So, more fat people. And fat people buy larger clothes. The use of the "zaftig" model is supposed to be good. The onset of obesity in Europe is bad.

If there are more fat (sorry, just can't do the Rubenesque thing) models, are we embracing a positive image of women or a negative result of health? Is anyone else out there confused? Are we truly worried about what's being portrayed in the fashion industry when the general population is hardly suffering from skinniness? It all just seems, well, silly.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Remember Your First Time?

Unmarried women make up the fastest growing demographic in America -- and the least likely to vote. Women's Voices Women Vote are working to turn that around. And if just imagining the power that all those unmarried women could have if they stepped into a voting booth isn't enough to pursuade you, there's always a TV commercial to push all those voting virgins to do it on Election Day.
Ladies' Man

Feminists do have a sense of humor! Just ask Stephen Colbert. His "Salute to the American Lady" show had me rolling on the floor, for real. Special guests Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem proved that when Stephen gives you apples, you make apple pie jokes. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Court Says No to Doe

In S. Dakota, the poll numbers are looking good -- those who plan to vote to appeal the ban are in the majority. Just like the number of Americans who believe in choice are.

So, as the right does so well, the anti-choicers are simply seeing what's working and putting out the message, wait for it: feminism is a woman's right to motherhood. That has a very surreal Stepford wives ring to it, doesn't it? I mean, right to motherhood, from a union of incest? of rape? Coz that's what this ballot measure says. I don't call that right. I call it wrong.

Meanwhile, the Supremes said No Thanks to re-thinking a part of their 1973 decision legalizing abortion. Take that, S. Dakota.
Not So Ordinary People

Check out the new show that's up on the B-Side Web site.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Have You Had One?

Well, seems we haven't come so far along, baby. In fact, if you don't want to have a baby, the laws are getting more and more restrictive. Your phrarmacist may refuse to fill your prescription. And you may have to plead with a judge to end a pregnancy you never wanted in the first place. This isn't the 60s or 70s, but retro, when it comes to telling women when and how they can be mothers, is in.

So Ms. Magazine had the idea to do something that was groundbreaking when it was first published, maybe will get some attention once again. The We Had an Abortion pledge. Made public. In their magazine. Hey, maybe we'll have to fight to have Ms. back, too. Ah, good times.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Educated Women Have More Orgasms

Not my opinion, just a new survey out from Canada. How does someone get funding for that kind of study? While I can't vouch for the scientific rigor of it, I can enjoy
the headline.

This might be the best argument for educating women I've ever heard.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Good Freakin' Idea

Women, if you're living in D.C. and are poor -- here's what you need. A man. And a wedding ring. Because we know, that's what solves socio-ecnomic problems for women: men. Men with no jobs or housing or direction. But if they're husbands, well, this changes everything -- at least if you're in D.C. That's what the "marriage-incentive" program being considered by Congress would have us believe.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Recipe for Success

Here's a perfect example of thinking creatively to make movies women will want to see:

Nora Ephron is writing the screenplay to The Julie/Julia Project -- the book by Julie Powell that was a blog about cooking every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook.

Ephron, one of my all-time fave screenwriters and who knows a thing or two about love and cooking (remember Heartburn? You can read it or rent it on Netflix)is the perfect match for this really fun read -- about an almost-30 secretary hating her life and job, married and living in a tiny Queens apartment post-9/11 New York City, and focuses her energies and talent on going through Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Every night. After work. She cooks. She cries. She writes.

Now, how cool is that for an idea for a great movie? No explosions. No big budget. I can't wait.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hollywood, Why Don't You Call Us Anymore?

I make a habit of it to meet my best gal pals for movies and dinner when we really get excited about some chick flick. Recently, it was the Devil Wears Prada. We're also anticipating the Sofia Coppola teen-queen movie on Marie Antoinette, due out in a couple weeks. But in-between, we stick mainly to dinners. Because there's nothing out there for us.

The most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly has a cover story that asks where are all the women? In movies, in the studio, in the audience? And it makes clear, in dollars and cents, that this is an issue that Hollywood is not making sense on. Simply put, women make up half the audience. And, the movies we like are ones with a good script, not good explosions, which are much cheaper to make, and tend to do really well over time. Plus, there's an incredible talent pool. So, what's up Hollywood? Although EW is right to point out obvious lack of movies by and for women, I'm ticked for a different reason. I think Hollywood doesn't give a rat's ass about me or my girlfriends looking for a good time without our men on a Saturday night. They think that I'll just roll my eyes and let myself be dragged to X Men or Superman or whatever movie my man wants to go see, the more special effects the better.

Well, Hollywood, you can't get away with that. It's lazy. It's greedy. And it sure won't win you any awards. So get off your duffs and start making movies that the other half of the movie population wants to see. Better yet, hire some more women in high places and I won't have to waste this space explaining why making movies for the other half of the population makes sense.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dame's Eye View

One of my fave all-time writers, Joan Didion, writes about the most reviled of all public figures, Dick Cheney, in the most recent issue of NY Review of Books. You should not be reading the piece near any heavy objects that will break or do damage if thrown across a room.

Also, watch for the Lowell Bergman Frontline (yes, the guy made famous by his expose on 60 Minutes of the tabacco industry, as portraed by Al Pacino in the Insider) on sleeper cells. He operates out of the Berkeley journalism school, which is very low-key about his presence there. He was on the Colbert Report the other night talking about it and it sounds Tivo-worthy.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Check out my comrade Jen Nix's blog posts at FireDogLake. She is fun, sassy and is on the march to make blogging something more than dismissed by the mainstream media. (It's coz they're scared of us.)She went after ABC on that ridiculous ABC fake-o-drama on 9/11 and her goal is to make the media accountable, whether they like it or not. Go Jen!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Beauty Junkies, Take Note

I'm not normally one to shill for a makeup brand, but this is too good a find to pass up: the new brand e.l.f (eyes face lips) is selling tons of beauty goods for a buck a pop to get the word out on their brand coming to Bloomies (opening this week in SF, by the way. Not that I'm excited about that. Not by a long shot.)

Best of all: they don't test on animals. And there's a fabulous co-promotion for a $5 tweezers that supports the Humane Society. On the ergo tweezer it reads: fur free. Indeed.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Marie Antoinette Makeover

If you want the non-fiction version of Marie Antoinette before Sofia Coppola's film comes out later this month, check out David Grubin's take on the teen queen. On PBS tonight. I saw a preview two weeks ago and while I think it's problematic in some ways (how do you discuss Marie Antoinette and leave out the details of the French Revolution as so much background noise?), but the first hour had some very juicy details that you may not know. Apparently some PBS stations will be censoring the political cartoons (yes, from the 18th century) that denigrate the queen with the best tool available: enormous penises. Check it out.
Our Bodies Overseas

Over the weekend I found myself discussing the best place to have a baby in the Bay Area. Several hospitals were compared, one was high-tech, the other respectful of women who want to bring in a mid-wife or birth coach. And then I picked up the Sunday New York Times. There I read Nicholas D. Kristof's harrowing tale of a young woman in Cameroon who needlessly dies in childbirth. He even goes so far as to donate his own blood. He writes:

Prudence, 24, was from a small village and already had three small children. As she was in labor to deliver her fourth, an untrained midwife didn’t realize she had a cervical blockage and sat on Prudence’s stomach to force the baby out — but instead her uterus ruptured and the fetus died.

Prudence’s family carried her to the hospital on a motorcycle, but once she was there the doctor, Pascal Pipi, demanded $100 for a Caesarian to remove the fetus. The fetus was decomposing inside her, and an infection was raging in her abdomen — but her family had total savings of only $20, so she lay down in the maternity ward and began to die.

I arrived the next day, interviewed Dr. Pipi about maternal mortality — and found Prudence fading away in the next room. Dr. Pipi said she needed a blood transfusion before the operation could begin, so a Times colleague, Naka Nathaniel, and I donated blood (yes, the needles were sterile) and cash.

The transfusion helped Prudence, and she grew strong enough to reach out her hand and respond to people around her. Dr. Pipi said the operation would begin promptly, and Prudence’s family was ecstatic. But as we waited in the hospital lobby, Dr. Pipi sneaked out the back door of the hospital and went home for the night.

It wasn’t just the doctor who failed Prudence, but the entire system. He did operate the next morning, but by then the infection had spread further — and the hospital had no powerful antibiotics. Prudence’s breathing grew strained, as her stomach ballooned with the infection and the bag of urine from her catheter overflowed. The nurses couldn’t be bothered with a poor villager like her.

That night she began vomiting and spitting blood. She slipped into a coma, and a towel beside her head grew soggy with blood and vomit. On Tuesday afternoon, she finally passed away.

Intellectually, I knew that women in Africa had a 1-in-20 lifetime risk of dying in childbirth. But it was wrenching to see this young mother of three fade and die so needlessly.

As Gloria Steinem pointed out in discussing the need for the Women's Media Center, it goes un-noticed that 6 million women around the world die every year just for being women. "It's a holocaust of women every year," she said.

My mom called me crazy in tears after watching Christiane Amanpour's report on AIDS orphans in Kenya.

My question is, how many women and children must die on camera or in a column before this country cares? Kristof points out that we spend more on pet food in this country than it would take to provide maternal health care around the world. Please. Women's health must rank somewhere near our favorite pets. Even if they are women we never see or hear about.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Where Are All the Women?

After meeting Gloria Steinem and hearing about her latest project, the Women's Media Center, and thinking maybe it was a little old-school, it's a good reminder to see that, well, actually, this focus might be timely after all.

In Broadsheet today there's a little piece about, started by an editor at Glamor, which tracks the woeful lack of women writers in major magazines like New Yorker and Vanity Fair. The ratio of men to women is a pathetic 3:1.

If we don't want gender to be an issue, we have to get to a point where there are so many women writers that it doesn't matter who's writing what. But we're not there yet.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Can You Be Too Thin?

There was a great moment on Project Runway a few episodes ago where Heidi Klum, who hosts the competition, announces the next challenge: designing for the everyday woman. Then in come the everyday women: the contestants' moms and sisters. Instead of the usual wire-hanger stand-ins, they actually had to design for women's bodies: soft, round, curvy, short, fat. You could see the shock on their faces. But who exactly do these wanna-be designers think buy clothes, anyway?

I was thinking about this because in today's New York Times Style section is a story out of Fashion Week: When Is Thin Too Thin?

Apparently, those in the biz think it's now. Fashion insiders are shocked, shocked! that models are so very, very thin. Of course, to be a model, that is the job description, but these women are serious over-acheivers. The desire for models to look as close to a hanging bag has pushed the models to scary skinny. Of course, they push, or purge, or whatever they do to look like that, themseleves, to get the jobs the designers want. (Michael Kors, who is a judge on Project Runway, has a model showcased in the piece that looks like the walking undead.)

Waif is out. Chemo patient is in.

With actual people in the world starving, it seems a little awkward to be sending starving models down the runway. The Madrid Fashion Week has officially banned anyone who doesn't fit the World Health Organization's weight/height metrics considered normal -- 125 pounds! Where will they find anyone who weighs that much in the fashion industry? Methinks the fashion industry protest too much.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I Just Met Gloria Steinem!

And she looks marvelous. She, along with Jane Fonda and past Planned Parenthood Director Gloria Feldt started a new women's organization called Women's Media Center. Steinem is working on a guidebook for journalists called "unspinning the spin," which will reframe some of the oldies but goodies: preferential treatment, the death tax, pro-life, etc.

The GreenStone radio project came out of the Women's Media Center. But I'm thinking it's a little old school -- they seemed a little wary of blogs, even through their site links to many good feminist ones. Gloria's name gets the kind of press many bloggers and nonprofits would kill for. But who cares if their organization rehashes the same old feminist tune. I met Gloria Steinem. This just in: the revolution is still on.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar -- on FM

Forget about a room of one's own -- how about a talk-radio station? Since the all-male, all-talk format has supposedly been chasing women away in droves, this women's network launched by Gloria Steinem, who else, will be the female answer to Rush and Howard.

What I hope is that all-women doesn't mean all-fluff. I guess we'll find out if we tune in. After all, women is rather a broad swath -- and Oprah's women are different from NPR's women are different from, well, Rush's women.

I couldn't figure out if this is on FM or AM -- does anyone know? You can listen on their Web site.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Has Anybody Read It?

That was the question Sociology Professor Nancy Whittier posed to a standing room only crowd this weekend at Smith College to remember Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique. Whittier asked her mom, who was in Friedan's generation, to comment in preparation for the symposium. Her mom admitted: she hadn't read it, but it changed her life.

Maybe it didn't matter if anyone read it. It sparked a movement.

This panel got personal when discussing the political.

Betty Friedan was difficult. Like Moses, a prophet. And maybe an ego to match. Her rivalry with Gloria Stienem was petty, but real. Gloria got an honorary doctorate from Smith in 1971, before Ms. and years before Friedan. "Was it because of the story she wrote about the bunny?" Friedan reportedly fumed to Barbara Seaman, also there to talk about her colleague. But this being a panel from the sociology department, the conversation came back to this:

Would the women's movement have happened without her and The Feminine Mystique.

Walking the grounds of Smith at the start of the academic year left me feeling energizied. It's hard to explain the feeling of being in a room full of smart women. It's unspoken, but so powerful. This must have done something to Friedan. She said she was re-born at Smith. She went out into the world to change it.

Would the women's movement happened without Betty Friedan? Of course. But the book sparked the movement, it crystallized a profoundly unpopular sentiment: that women who should have been happy, were not. It got women talking to each other, it got them to raise their voices.

Would the French Revolution have happened without Marie Antoinette? Probably, but she helped unify the French people against her. Strange to be thinking about those two women from very different times this year, but both women are being re-examined this season and were the inspiration for revolution.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Head Over Heels for Teen Queen

The madness for the Queen of France continues with a historical version of her story that, while doesn't call for her head, does lay the blame of the French revolution squarely on her overly dressed shoulders. Different queen, different outcome? You can check it out on PBS.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 9/11

A lot has happened in five years. Five years ago, the trade centers stood. And then they fell. I remember being unable to reach my mother that day, who lives in Manhattan and worked in Brooklyn. I reached my father by e-mail, whose loft boasted a picture window that looked on to the towers, where he suddenly had a first-row view of people stuck on the upper floors of the towers hurtling to their deaths.

New York is my adopted home, where my parents live, where my sister went to high school, and where my grandparents came to start their lives. My sister, a designer, and her collaborator Andi, created a a T-shirt design in 2001 to raise money for the 9/11 fund, which was showcased in Graphic Design. Today I think about the design, and the destruction of the towers, those inside, and of loss.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Pygmy in the Zoo

Yet another Radio Diary from Joe Richman is airing today on NPR's All Things Considered -- The Pygmy in the Zoo, about a man from then Belgian Congo who lived in the monkey cage in the Bronx Zoo 100 years ago.
Can We Handle the Truth?

So this ABC fake-o-drama "Path to 9/11" about the events leading to 9/11 that down plays the Bush administration's mistakes and plays up or makes up ones from the Clinton years leads me to wonder: do they think we can't handle the truth? Who benefits from thinking that the Bush administration did everything it could, when we know it didn't? You know how we know? The bipartisan 9/11 Commission report. That's how. Joe Conason's piece in Salon today details how the ABC fiction is telling a tale that never happened. The New York Times review says of course everyone made mistakes and that the bloggers are just a bunch of whiners. Oh, those things called facts can really get in the way of a good drama, can't they? I mean, Bush was no action hero. He was huddled with school kids reading about a goat when the planes hit the towers. He didn't know what to do. He wanted to clear brush at the ranch, not read memos about Bin Laden determined to attack in U.S. It's not pretty. But that's the truth. And no gauzy made-for-TV movie is going to change that.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Where We Are Now

This Labor Day weekend I flew to southern California to hit the beach and rememeber what a hot summer feels like. At the airport I forgot to take my sunscreen out of my bag and had it confiscated by a stern dude wearing fatigues. At least, as my husband consoled me, it wasn't the expensive sunblock, which was safely tucked away in a checked bag.

But it made me think. Is this all we have to show for the 9/11 attacks? Does taking my sunscreen away make me safer? We're at war, thousands have died. There's no guarantee that we won't be attacked again. And, to quote Tom Lehrer, everyone still hates the Jews.

We had a 9/11 Commission, a fat report whose recommendations still haven't been adopted. We have airports where moms' breast milk is viewed with suspicion, and my sunscreen is taken away. And we now have made entertainment around 9/11, movies like Flight 93, World Trade Center, and apparently a docudrama on ABC filled with inaccuracies and the right-wing conspiracy theory that places the blame of the attacks at Clinton's feet. (Memos that scream "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States" aside.) We have first responders with lasting health problems.

Hendrik Hertzberg's New Yorker essay this week talks about how we squandered a post-attack unity, when the headline in France was "Nous Sommes Tous Americains." But five years later, what we have to show for it is being treated like the enemy at the airport.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Katie Couric: Meow Fest

Cattiness aside (her publicity photo re-touched, outfit more debated than her output), Katie Couric's debut behind the anchor desk at CBS news is not about the triumph of feminism in network news. I mean, she's a pioneer the way any woman with her star wattage and a dream can attain.

But that list is a little short. I bet Oprah would be available to take over at ABC news -- that would be just the kind of ratings jump they need.

Friday, September 01, 2006

This Breastfeeding Policy Sucks

A story on the front page of the New York Times today discusses the big-time class chasm between working women with good jobs and big offices who can breastfeed at will vs. women who are lucky if they can breastfeed in the public bathroom.

Since women have been brow-beaten to breastfeed, and many go back to work while they're still lactating, the work place should make it easy to do. But like so many other issues that break along class lines, women with good jobs often are provided special lactation rooms with comfy chairs, fashion mags and e-mail access. While women at low-wage jobs (even at the same company) are left to fend for themselves with milk-filled breasts and nowhere to pump. One woman said,

I feel like I had to choose between feeding my baby the best food and earning a living.

The news now is not that high-powered women breastfeed at work. It's what's happening with the low-power ones that's a worry.
Fashion Fur-Pas

Check out this latest Humane Society's anti-fur campaign just in time for New York's fashion week. Jay McCaroll, Project Runway's first season winner, and a fur-free designer, is recruiting people to sign a fur-free pledge.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Our Right to Shoes

The other day, when Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler were on KQED's Forum to promote Bitchfest, their anthology of 10 years of Bitch magazine, a woman called in. The second-wave feminist was bemoaning the backlash of back-breaking shoes. I thought we'd won this war, she said. But now women are running around in ridiculous shoes again. I think she may even have thrown in Sex and the City as Exhibit A of the bad-for-you-shoes.

Then I talked to my mom a few days ago. Actually, she called me from the streets of Manhattan to tell me about a shoe sale I was missing. A good one. She was trying on a pair of shoes that were just perfect. Buying them, and wearing them out the door. She called back to tell me they were very comfortable. At four inches, she told me, the shoes felt so comfortable it was like walking in slippers.

My mom, I might add, also of the second wave. She marched. She attended hootenannies. She even, in high school, protested the no-sandals dress code by wearing boots in the summer. Don't think feminism isn't without a sense of humor.

I guess one woman's battleground is another woman's suit of armor. It is, after all, a right we've won. Our right to shoes.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Space of Our Own

B-Side Radio -- the show I help produce -- has finally caught the MySpace vibe -- a little late, but better than never. Check out our MySpace page. You can listen to some recent shows and, you know, send us love notes, or be our friends, or whatever it is you do with MySpace.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Billie Jean Way

I love that the woman who beat the pants off Bobby Riggs in the battle of the sexes tennis match back in 1973 and opened doors for women athletes and, well, women in general, in countless ways, now has the U.S. Open Tenns Center named for her.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Marie Antoinette: Style Queen

Apparently I'm not the only one with an eye on the monarchy. This Sunday's New York Times Style magazine insert featured Marie Antoinette as a French fashionista. The teen queen had a passion for fashion, and, as Antonia Fraser notes in her book on the style icon, the craze of her courtiers to follow in her oh-so-chic shoes led more than one husband to go bankrupt. Suddenly the look of Marie Antoinette is once again now.

What are we to make of this trend? A woman beheaded as the last Queen of France, during her reign of incredible excess (hers) and incredible hardship of everyone else? Maybe it's fun to popularize that century's real-life Cruella DeVille. After all, would she have been remembered if she hadn't made the notorious remark during the Flour War when people were starving, to "mangent de la brioche" when bread -- the food staple of the French -- cost half of a working person's income?

A little bit of style certainly goes a long way.
The Forbes Mystique

How did this one slip past the editors at

An article that could have been at home in the 50s found its way on the Forbes Web site: Don't Marry a Career Woman. Really. Are career women too uppity for the delicate sensabilities of the readers? And, given that Forbes is a business publication, wouldn't these same working women that Forbes warned their male readership away from actually be the target audience of Forbes?

Turns out, not very many people at all read Forbes. The New York Times reported today that their readership is overblown, despite their feminist-baiting articles.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Plan B Prescription-Free

Finally, the FDA approved Plan B to be available over the counter (but still behind the counter) to women over 18. Plan B will be in your local drugstores (we hope) by the end of the year. Was that so very hard to figure out?

By the way, Planned Parenthood recommends heading to one of their clinics to pick up a package of Plan B to have on hand as back up birth control. This seems especially good advice if you're under 18 and need a doctor's note. You never know when you'll need to go to Plan B.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cake Eater

She was spoiled, young, misunderstood. And she was the Queen of France. She thought she was beloved, but the jewels and outrageous outfits and opulance of Versailles were far more expensive than the taxies levied on the people of France. They cost her her head.

Marie Antoinette is making a popular come back. I'm reading the tome by Antonia Fraser. A movie starring Kristen Dunst as the teen queen and directed by Sofia Coppala comes out this fall. And a documentary film by David Grubin (who I once interned for in college) will be airing on PBS.

Certainly she is fascinating, in the way a car crash attracts attention -- you can't look away. And her story is larger than life, great fodder for melodrama no matter how it's staged. Still. It's a little creepy to know that in some ways, she'll be viewed with sympathy. Her mother, Austrian royalty, ruled her family and husband while telling her daughter to submit to her French king. She married off her youngest at the age of 14 to form a successful alliance in France. Fraser in her book even describes Marie Antoinette as a spy and a sleeper cell for her mother.

Apparently, Sofia Coppala's homage is post-modern, with the cake-loving queen clad in Converse sneakers and rocking out to Siouxsie and the Banshees. The movie was booed at Cannes, although I'm not sure if it was because it was an impressionistic rather than historic portrayal, or if it was simply too kind to the woman who inspired a revolution. Or if that's just French.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lovely Lush

"I don't care what is written about me so long as it isn't true."

Okay, Dorothy Parker, here goes.

I can't sign off tonight without a toast to that literary luminary, whose birthday is today. She was quick with the quip, and quicker with the liquor.

Her wit was dry, even if she was never without a drink.

She fought depression and alcoholism her entire life. She would probably say she didn't fight them at all.

But who better to lay out her accomplishments as one of the most quoted American writers than Dorothy Parker herself.

I'm never going to accomplish anything; that's perfectly
clear to me. I'm never going to be famous. My name will never
be writ large on the roster of Those Who Do Things. I don't
do anything. Not one single thing. I used to bite my nails,
but I don't even do that any more.

What a dame.
Plan B Gets A-OK

Bush's news conference gave me one piece of news I didn't already know: he supports Plan B. Did I hear that right? Bush-backed birth control? Apparently, this is so. And so the FDA should make it so. Get Plan B out. Now.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fear Factor

I always thought that the reason that amusement parks had been built was to manufacture fear that we, as Americans, could never experience by living in this cush of a country.

But as this latest terror threat reminds me, fear is an amazingly effective tool. (Panic attacks over hand cream? Terror in my lip gloss? You can't make this up.)

A preview for the movie Snakes on a Plane announced a long list of phobias. Fear of flying. Fear of snakes. Fear of small places. In some ways, these kind of fears are so quaint. We have drugs to deal with these little inconveniences, people. But drugs to deal with bomb-wielding terrorits? Or how about drugs to deal with endless lines at the airport and forgetting to take your toothpaste out of your carry-on luggage? It's no surprise we're all looking for a little suspension of reality, when real-life has become more cinematic than any movie could have imagined. One review called it Flight 93 without the tears.

So I was wondering how this blogger-fueled madness for the movie Snakes on a Plane would do, even with Samuel L. Jackson. Even with snakes. On a mother ***** plane.

Of course, this kind of horror-tainment is closer to the amusement park rides than any real-life event. And yet. When a beauty product or a bottle of water marks you as a potential threat, maybe this is a move whose time has come. Snakes bringing a plane down? Now replace snakes with toothpaste and you have our summer blockbuster.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Michael Krasney Said Bitch!

Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler, founders of Bitch, are being interviewed on KQED's Forum program right now celebrating 10 bitching years. Check out their interview, or better yet, buy the book, Bitchfest.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What's the Plan for Plan B?

To paraphrase Gloria Steinem, if men needed to take Plan B, do ya think the FDA would be stalling to get it approved the way it is now? This is a no-brainer, people. It's safe. It's effective. It would prevent abortions. What more of an agument do you need? Apparently, much more. Tell the FDA to just do it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

It's the Exceptions, Stupid

Check out this latest poll about the South Dakota abortion ban that shows that even more people are against the no-rape-or-incest exceptions law.

It's pretty amazing that in such a conversative state, people are being forced to confront their anti-abortion views against the hideous idea that a woman who was sexually assaulted would be forced to bring to term the outcome of that union.

But there it is, in black and white, right in the ban. Not only does it clearly not hold water constitutionally, it doesn't hold weight with S. Dakota residents, either.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Exploding Lip Gloss

I've been told that my collection of lip stick, lip gloss, lip blam, sheer tints, chap stick and the like is a bit much. But explosive? That's a first.

Since the feds have banned liquids or gels from being carried on planes due to the thwarted terrorist plot to bring on bottled chemicals that looked like your average Dasani bottle, I've had to re-think my lips. I'm not sure how the leap from liquid explosives to lip gloss came about, but there it is. That must be one powerful ingredient that could fit into a lipstick tube to bring down a whole plane.

Not that I'm questioning the feds. I mean, if anyone knows how to keep us safe, it's them. Maybe, as Condi Rice would say, this crisis also means opportunity. Maybe someone can invent some special kind of terror-free lip product that's airplane friendly. FAA requirements met. It might go on a little thick, but that's to make up for the feds reasoning, which is a bit thin.

Update: August 14
Hooray! CNN just reported that "Ladies, you can now bring a tube of lipstick on the plane." Still no lip gloss -- that's still too explosive.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pining for P-Town

It's summer and the world is heating up, terrorists are causing fear in airports in real life and snakes are causing fear on planes in the movie theaters, and I am thinking about P-Town.

That's Provincetown, Cape Cod. The little funky town where my mom and her parents would decamp from New York City, where she spent all her childhood summers, and then where my sis and I spent ours. We stayed at 535 Commercial Street, known to us as the Kibbutz (and about as close to one as I've ever come). Aside from my grandparents, who had rented a small apartment right on the water there year after year, was Roz Roos, who held a famous literary salon in New York, Al Jaffee, of Mad magazine fame, Art Bloom, the clarinetist who taught Woody Allen (but he was better known for having the best door to play hand ball) and Chaim Gross, artist. My mom threw a birthday party for my sis, August 12, and the entire Kibbutz would turn out. Often, we were the only kids there. Even though it wasn't a typical type of birthday party for a kid, it felt terribly glamorous and Carolla always got so many presents she never seemed to mind.

For two kids who spent most of the year shuttled between divorced parents and daily life with a very protective mom, P-Town was our playground for a few glorious weeks a year. Where the kids left the house at sun up and didn't come home till after dark. The water lapped the piers and usually once a summer some storm would rip the staircase that led down to the beach straight off. The staircase was about 10 steps down to the beach, and the tide came in so high we could start swimming from the steps. Then went out so far we could run and play tag on the flats for miles.

We collected shells, sand crabs and minnows, stubbed our toes, begged for empty cigar boxes from the 5 and dime and scrounged for forks that fell through the cracks of the restaurants on the pier next to ours. It was P-Town where I first saw the Wizard of Oz (my sister was so scared by the wicked witch my mom had to leave early and buy her ice cream), where I discovered the stark beauty of the dunes and had my first date. (I was nine. He was 10. He took me to the drive-in. His mother drove.)

I read today in the New York Times that everyone, and hey, myself included, is avoiding summer vacations these days. But noone would if they had a time like we had in P-Town.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Plan for Plan B

Looks like the FDA is serious about getting Plan B over the counter. The catch? Only those 18 and over can partake. Right, because anyone can buy a condom, but I'm sure the only ones that break are the ones used on women who are also old enough to vote.

The Onion has thought through the ramifications of Plan B for the over-18 crowd, too.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Worlds Are Colliding

Bitch has hit big-time: Bitch magazine co-founder Andi Zeisler was Deborah Solomon's interview subject in the Sunday New York Times magazine. As snarky as Solomon's question got, Andi lobbed back. Example: on naming the magazine Bitch:

Q.: But is the goal to rouse an entire generation of women to become bitches?
A.: We have always sort of concentrated more on the active form of "bitch." As in, to bitch. And, actually, as grammar nerds, that was one of the big factors in choosing "bitch." Hey, it's a noun and a verb.

The angle of Solomon's interview was basically summed up in one of her last questions about whether feminism is being undermined by, of all places, Bitch:

"Doesn't the obsession with pop culture risk trviliazing feminism?"

OK. So it's not enough that feminism has brought about the expectation of gender equality in, oh, I don't know, the workplace. Schools. Domestic life, even. But Bitch isn't serious enough because the mag bills itself as feminist but deals with sexuality and not policy? TV shows instead of TV news? People, we live in a culture that is over-exposed to media, advertising and images that need to be addressed from a feminist perspective. Because if Bitch doesn't do it, who will?

Bitch is getting noticed for celebrating 10 um, bitching years. For me, it's personal. It was one of the first places I ever published. My first piece for the newly minted 'zine was all about the Wonder Bra. I should better say, I ranted about the Wonder Bra. Since then, we've had the Miracle Bra, the bareley there bra, the T-shirt bra. I have still never worn a bra that claimed to be wonderful. But Bitch sure is.

P.S. The other great thing I forgot to add: heh, heh: New York Times said "bitch."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Goy Gone Wild

Global warming. Horrific violence in the Middle East. Mel Gibson. Does one of these things not go with the others? In the midst of global death and destruction, I was shocked, shocked to hear that Mel Gibson, of all people, director of The Passion of the Christ, son of a Holocaust denier, founder of bizarre sect of Catholicism that even the Pop eschews, is an anti-Semite! But only when drunk.

To avoid the press, and I guess, the Jews, he’s slinked off to the Betty Ford center swearing off tequila and what-not and now everyone seems to have a suggestion about how he can repent! (That sounds very, um, Christian, doesn’t it? Can’t we do something more Jewy, like have him just feel bad for the rest of his life? I like that idea so much better. Oh, wait, he could throw money at the problem! That’s tres Jewish!)

On top of that, it’s been such a fun water-cooler topic trading tips on what Mel might have said. He might have called the officer who pulled him over “Sugar Tits.” This from the man who co-starred opposite foxy Rene Russo in all those Lethal Weapons flicks? I guess I should have stopped expecting much from him long ago.

But still, you have to wonder how a guy who's been in Hollywood so long could still harbor so much provincial hate -- after all, he's not someone who's never met a Jew before. He really has run out of excuses.

You know, the saddest thing is how far he’s fallen. From being the guy whose impish face and hot bod I’d see up in my girl friends’ dorm rooms for a little hero worship to being the same face that now works fine for target practice. Oy!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Poll Tells It All

The good news: A poll on the S. Dakota abortion ban says a majority of S. Dakotans disapprove of such a punitive law with no rape exception. The ban, intended to be a challenge to Roe v. Wade, was so extreme that even the extremists are having second thoughts. But we're not there yet. The ban still needs to be overturned by voters in November.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Why We Fight

Today in Salon, Michelle Goldberg writes a chilling tale from Mississippi from the frontlines of the abortion wars. You can get a day pass to enter the site and read the piece for yourself. But here's a taste:

"We're not waiting for the president, we're not waiting for the Congress, we're not waiting for the Supreme Court," Benham told me a few days before the rally. "This issue can't be won from the top down." At Benham's side for much of the week was Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade, who since 1995 has been an evangelical antiabortion activist. "It would really please the Lord God if Mississippi becomes the first abortion-free state," she said, as she stood in front of the Jackson Women's Health Organization one scorched morning. "Then all he'd have to worry about are the other 49." She happily reeled off the names of states where abortion bans have been introduced or passed: "South Dakota, Ohio, Louisiana…"

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Revenge of the 80s

First I kind of laughed when people (my mom especially) started wearing leg warmers outside of dance class. Again.

My laugh was more of a grimace when I heard Miami Vice was back, this time as a movie. A movie that critics seem apologetic at liking so much despite how basically dumb it is.

And my grimace turned to outright swearing when I saw the latest trend is, wait for it, leggings. You may remember leggings from their front-and-center turn in my college years, striped ones, patterned ones, black ones. Worn with long flowy shirts and paired with chunky shoes. Sound familiar? The flowy shirt is now a bubble shape and the chunky shoes are there, this time as sky-high platforms.

I am also sorry to report that it doesn't end with skin-tight legwear that ends at the ankle. As I was glancing through my special edition of In Style magazine,* I paged through tips on how to wear jumpers (!) and neon so it didn't look too 80s. Too late!

I guess what I'm confused about is this: is the fashion industry so bereft of ideas they can't wait even a generation to reach back into the worst fashion mistakes of all time and bring them back? Is this some kind of sick joke?

Well, I will not be wearing any of those items mentioned above. What will I be wearing? At The Grocery Store, not actually a food market but a boutique out in my 'hood, the assistant manager suggested a turquoise cashmere sweater with a skull decked out with a jaunty red kerchief. I think she took offense at my reaction (pure hilarity) because she said quickly: "skulls are very now. Haven't you seen Pirates of the Caribbean?" Great, so when it's not the fashion-industrial complex telling me how to get dressed, it's Disney. Arrrrrgh!

*Yes, I subscribe to In Style. Why? I'll tell you. I like fashion, but I could care less about reading about it, or any faux-celeb reporting with its obsequious PR-machine formulaic crap that gives me little dirt and lots of useless details about what kind of shampoo so-and-so uses. With In Style, I look at pictures. No reading required. 'Nuf said.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Terrible Tale

OK, I promise to write about something lighter tomorrow, but for now, this just has to get some ink. Turning to Iran. It's bad enough that the country since the revolution, has considered Islamic law its highest authority. It's worse that this law includes punishment of death for sex outside of marriage. But when that law is turned on a 16-year-old girl, something finally has to be done. While we worry about nukes in Iran, what about the explosive issue of the treatment of women. While Iranians may be building bombs, they're also burying girls -- and the facts surrounding the abuse and death. Here's what the BBC reported.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Could It Happen Here?

I know the Middle East is blowing up right now, and it's horrifying and tragic. But whenever the news focuses solely on one area of the world, I start worrying about Africa. It's a whole continent with every kind of strife -- civil war, religious war, gun-running, drug-running, oil-rich, disease-ridden and famine plagued. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty that is great about Africa -- I did spend six months in Kenya. But I fear that the problems don't sway the world powers the way some other regions do.

If we keep going this way, we'll end up like Kenya: no health insurance, no reproductive rights, and lots of unwanted pregnancies, poverty and pollution. With help from U.S. foreign aid, which only directs aid to countries that agree to the global gag rule -- no talking about abortions -- we are creating my worst nightmare. It's unclear to me why those who claim the moral highground think that forcing a woman to give birth every time she conceives, without being in charge of her reproduction, in countries where women are not in charge of much, helps.

But it can always get worse: women seeking abortions can be treated like criminals.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

It's Election Season

I really hate waking up to news that a bunch of old white men are once again deciding the fate of teen girls. Really, really hate that. I know it only happens in election season, when politics trump rights and reason, but really, where will the madness stop?

This time it's to take up a bill that persecutes people helping teen girls cross state lines from an anti-choice state to a pro-choice state where they can get an abortion without parental consent. EEEW. Are we going to have a start an underground railroad, now, so teens can get the help they need?

Once again, this movement to force teen girls to give birth is promoting punishment for girls or women for making a mistake. It is sick. It is hateful. And it's going to be law.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Happy anniversary!

Of what, you ask? See my post on the Bitch blog to find out.
We Had Abortions

In 1972, yes, before Roe v. Wade was legalized, 53 women in Ms. magazine signed a petition asserting they'd had an abortion, seeking to fight the stigma around the procedure. Ms. has decided that things have gotten so bad that they need to do it again.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Pooch Posturing

On the stairmaster this morning I was surfing channels. (Love to multi-task on the stairmaster, helps kill the deadly boredom of the gym. In fact, starimasters have so little popularlity these days, having been replaced with the sleek elliptical trainers, the tough treadmills and the spinning bikes, that my stairmaster -- and it is mine -- noone else uses them, and even the gym staff call it mine -- faces the wall instead of the prime real estate of the window. But I digress.)

Eager to not watch Bush spew his pandering rhetoric to the NAACP, which was being taped live on most cable news networks, I was looking for relief. I thought I had come across some kind of View-like talk show with Daisy Fuentes interviewing that woman who is on all the time and I never recognize her from any actual show, but her name is Rinna. Anyway, they were talking about pilates. How does Rinna always look so good (and with so much makeup on, not sure how Daisy could tell, any who.) and Rinna says, oh, it's the pilates. Then they cut to her doing her little pilates routine and she's talking about how after she had her second child, her stomach was "shot." As an ad for the pilates tape flashed on the screen, I realized I was watching an infomercial. Punked! Star after star gave their testimonial on camera. Virginia Madsen said it helped her lose her post-pregnancy pounds, since she wasn't one of those stars who just "bounced back."

I know it's a total fantasy, but I just kept waiting for Daisy to ask Rinna in her interview: so why is having a hard pooch so important? What does it give you? Fulfillment? Accomplishment? Fighting gravity? Fighting being fired? I know stars are held to a different standard, but they're beaming into homes at seven in the morning to women with their new-borns thinking: I can be like Rinna. But they were selling pilates like another quick fix to women who weren't really broken to begin with. At least it was more entertaining than Bush.