Friday, March 31, 2006

Mass Media

I'm in Cambridge for the Women, Action and the Media conference that starts today.

And while the place seems friendly enough, Massachusetts apparently won't put out the welcome mat to out-ot-state gay couples wanting to marry in the Bay state. What exactly is Boston worried about? Marauding hordes of gay couples in love descending on the state demanding legal matrimony? Frightening! (The case applied to five couples from states where same-sax marriage isn't available.) I know Gov. Romney wants to run for prez in 2008, but gays and those who support gay rights are a base of money and support too. Although certainly not for him.

But with the whiff of any kind of national spotlight, this commonsense, pioneering ruling allowing gays to marry is now being chipped away in the face of the religious-right cabal who are running this country's republican party.

You can read the local report in the Boston Globe.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Suffering for suffrage.

As Women's History Month comes to a close, there are at least a couple of things to be thankful for. We can be glad worker conditions have improved since the Triangle Fire in New York City caused women to jump out of a burning building to their deaths.

And, we should be thankful for the women before us who fought for the right to vote. But we're not. Some 15 million single women aren't registered to vote. It gives opt-out a whole new meaning. Single women could determine the future of many elections this fall. But maybe before anyone can be convinced to get involved in changing the future, we should appreciate the past.

The concept that women should have the vote was brought up at the Seneca Falls Convention in New York in 1848. Women got the idea to have their own convention for women's rights after being left out of the anti-slavery movement in England. It only took some 70 years after that to get suffrage off the ground. Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the convention, where in a stroke of ingenious marketing, they re-wrote the Declaration of Independence to reflect women's rights, including property rights and voting.

When I was in sixth grade, I decided to write a paper on the first women's movement in the United States, at Seneca Falls. I headed to the reference desk at my local public library in Princeton, New Jersey. The librarian told me there was no women's movement in 1848. We had to look it up together. The student becomes the librarian!

It's an extraordinary part of this country's history that is told too seldom. But the word is getting out. There's a really cool online exhibit of some of the artifacts from the suffrage movement at the National Women's History Museum that have previously been stored away in boxes, as a story on Women's eNews tells it. It's worth a look. And it's a reminder that sometimes great movements do take time to be heard.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Do you have a reservation?

The Sioux are taking a principled stand against the South Dakota abortion ban -- they've said it simply doesn't apply to their rez. Sioux Tribe President Cecelia Fire Thunder says she's planning to make abortions available at Pine Ridege. Now that's a good use of sovereign territory. The South Dakota attorney general did agree that the law didn't apply to the rez unless. Either the abortion provider or the patient were non-Indian. Really. And exactly how would that work? Would only 100% Sioux be allowed to partake? Everyone, quick, check your ancestry for Indian blood.
Warrior, come out to play.

Donald Rumsfeld, architect of the disaster in the desert, is coming to San Francisco, apex of the anti-war movement. Go figure. If all goes according to plan, he'll be speaking at the Commonwealth Club, on April 5, so grab your tickets and your protest signs.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Choose strife.

What if the state where you lived passed a law that said abortion was no longer legal? Would you quietly let the law lie, and start packing, or would you dust off the protest signs and hit the streets?

Proving that their name is not a contradiction in terms, NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota launched a campaign to get an initiative onto the ballot that will overturn the law making abortion illegal.

This law is the strictest ban on abortion in the country -- an inadequate exception for a woman's life and no exception for a woman's health, rape or incest -- and will become state law on July 1. Unless the nearly 17,000 signatures are collected for a voter referendum, in which case the people, not the politicians, get to decide.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Wedge Issue

Forget about clothes making the man. It's all about shoes making the woman. At least that's the way I walk through life. I've noticed lately that the wedge has cycled back from the 70s. Very my mom circa 1978, stepping out in one of her many pairs of platforms, three inches or more of pure fox, complete with denim skirt and tube top. She was a Ms. She'd heard the click. She'd marched for civil rights and women's rights, and for the most part, she'd won.

My coming-of-age shoe was the Doc Martin. I had a pair in dark green suede. They looked like lace-up men's shoes, because they were. They said rocker and rebel all in one, especially when paired with a floral-print Laura Ashley dress, as my friend Rebecca wore on the occasion of our college graduation.

I have long since dumped my Docs for the wedge, but I wonder -- will I still have the freedoms my mom enjoyed back in the 70s or will I just share the shoes?

Outstanding female college applicants are being rejected because admissions committees feel they've got to stick to a 50-50 balance of the sexes and leave some of the best students behind, instead of conceding the statistical reality that there are simply more highly qualified women applying to college than men.

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds has told the women of its state they're not capable of making decisions about their own bodies -- can a Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade be very far in our future?
I only hope I can walk in my mom's shoes.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Dame's Eye View

Change, thy name is woman. What says change more than getting rid of those tired, corrupt men we keep seeing in Congress? How about women? After all, women candaidates could do no worse. Really. They might even do better, especially if they're pro-choice. The New York Times article today dubs the trend as "the revenge of the mommy party." Well, okay, Times. That's not pejorative in any way I can think of. But whatever the recipe for change, the dems certainly do need a recipe.

Use it in sentence. Don't get napolied. I'm not going to describe it here, but suffice to say, stay out of S. Dakota.

I am feeling betrayed by the Gap. They did come through for me in college, when everthing I wore was two sizes too large and my tastes could be satisfied with jeans and a T. But now I'm told I've aged out of that demographic and am being marketed to with a new store concept called Forth and Towne. Okay, I may be having issues with being lumped in as over 35. (I'm 36.) But when I can go to Zara and H&M, why would the Gap company open a new chain for, as the SF Chronicle put it, "mature" shopping tastes? Isn't this the kind of thing they eat up at the Mall of America, mid-West crowd, where people over 35 still wear pleated pants with pockets and high waists? And when did the Gap decide they should be our cradle to grave outfitter? Soon will it be ElderGap for the really, really mature taste? May your high-waisted pants be turned back by the hipster over-35, low-rise pants wearing women.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Who's the fairer sex now?

So it's not enough anymore to be the most highly qualifed candidate to get into college. This, of course, we've known for some time. It helps to be a legacy -- had a relative who's gone to the school. It helps to be an athlete. Or a concert cellist. Or a super-genius. But once again, it also helps to be male.

This is because right now, women make up the majority of students on campuses, and the majority of candidates applying to colleges, according to an apologetic New York Times Op-Ed today.

Funny, the way I remember it, when men were the majority, there wasn't any apologizing for that. Women, Jews, blacks, all had to fight like mad to get in, and were made to feel like they were taking a white male's place when they did. Now the scales are reversed, the tables turned, and women are being turned away, who should be accepted in droves.

My solution: apply to some of the best schools in the country: apply to women's colleges. My alma mater, Smith College, is still all women, and has been since it opened its doors in 1875. It is committed to turning out women engineers, women who become doctors and lawyers and the next women leaders. There's no issue of not accepting someone because she's a woman: in fact, that's the whole point. Until the day that some admissions committee gives in to the reality of the numbers, make them rue the day they turned you down.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

All dressed up.

I've never been a fan of the prom. In high school, I boycotted it. It seemed silly to me, with the cloying corsages and poufy dresses and stretch limos. It seemed really, well, normal. Plus the money alone spent on that one night can really add up. One organization, the Princess Project, a San Francisco nonprofit, has taken up this cause celebre to give over 3,000 teens dresses who otherwise couldn't afford one, and really want to go to their prom. Who knew that your donated nightmare formalwear could be someone's dream dress.

And here's a Cinderella story: A D.C. teen, Marisa West, organized over 500 dresses to be shipped off to Katrina hurricane survivors, many who lost everything and are having their first prom since the hurricane. Now they'll also have a dress. Sometimes being normal can be nice.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Did you really mean abortion? made a change to its search engine's automatic response to abortion, because it didn't seem that automatic. Typing abortion into its search engine generated the question, Did you mean adoption?

An official for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice was quite certain he did mean abortion, so deleted that question from that search.

Despite Amazon's claim that this is about mathematical logic, not a political stand, my search for abortion on their site caused an ad to generate for "abortion alternatives" in San Francisco. Hmmm.
It's our choice.

NOW announced that they're getting behind pro-choice senate candidate Alan Sandals in the Pennsylvania democratic primary to go up against the establishment candidate, Robert Casey, jr. who's staunchly anti-choice. It's a huge race since the aim is to unseat Rick Santorum -- and the dems are playing it really safe by going with a big name, even if Casey is anti-choice. Well, that may be good enough for some democrats in the party leadership, but what do we win if we unseat Santorum and unseat our values?

When did the dems become the party that fears bold moves, taking risks, fighting for what's just? What happened to the party that stood up for women? C'mon, dems, the choice is yours. Take it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Do the math, New York Times!

Actually, now you don't have to, because the American Prospect did, and they found out that when it comes to the issue of choice, not one pro-choice op-ed was published on that page in the last two years. That somehow doesn't seem possible, but then again, many things don't seem possible that are actually true. Bush is president. There were no WMDs. Roe v. Wade, legal for over three decades, could disappear. Yet this is not worthy of genuine debate? It's not enough that the editorial page is pro-choice -- the conversation of the nation happens on the op-ed page, and pro-choice voices need to be heard.
Chick lit readers of the world, unite!

I always thought of Bridget Jones and the rest of her high-strung, bad-office-work, good-wardrobe spawn as my dirty little secret. My sister and I bought the books in bulk and traded them back and forth. While a few stood out, most of them blended together into one, easy-to-read romp. With their hipster cover illustruations of young, naive but ready for sex-and-shopping heroines, they took us away faster than any legal rush.

But it turns out, reading these books is a feminist statement. Well, not in this country, but definitely in India, where, according to the New York Times Book Review piece, The Chick-Lit Pandemic, they are snapping up their version of Bridget Jones. (By the way, pandemic seems to be stretching the term just a bit. We're not talking bird flu and it's not really dangerous, unless social unrest can really be traced back to Shopholic Takes Manhattan. . . it does give the genre a patina of breathless urgency -- what, we women, hysterical?)

In Russia, Poland and Hungary, this vision of the single woman making her own decisions and shopping up a storm is as good a rallying cry as any. Anything that feels that naughty has got to be stirring up the populace somewhere. Chick lit fans, all you have to lose are your Birkenstocks.
Father knows best, or at least he's having the most kids.

In my city of San Francisco, we can boast the smallest population of children in the United States. Although it really doesn't feel like it since I'm surrounded by people with babies. But apparently they're not having enough. Well, it's not just San Francisco, but most of the western world, Japan, Singapore, China, where birthrates are falling.

So who makes up for this gap? Patriarical societies with Muslim or Catholic traditions. That's right: We're in for a conservative baby boom. Check out Phillip Longman's piece in Foreign Policy as he makes the case that the patriarchy will -- and is -- populating the earth.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dame's Eye View

First South Dakota, next Mississippi?

Adding to the states where you don't want to be stuck needing an abortion: Eleven more states are clamoring to get on board with the South Dakota train to criminalize abortion. Let's stop it in its tracks. First up is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who said he'd sign an abortion bill should one cross his desk.
Send a message
to Mississippi Gov. Barbour that you won't take this action lying down.

On the other end of the fight: a vaccination for HPV, the virus that can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer in women is being protested by the religious right. You read that right, they are aginst a vaccination to. Stop. Cancer. The New Yorker's Michael Specter covers this story in his March 13 piece.

And abroad: Women in Kenya are hardest hit by the drought plaguing East Africa as UN funds are dwindling. Read all about it and find out how you can help. Women's Enews has the story.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Here's a thought: If you're pregnant and over 35, you're having a geriatric pregnancy. This refers to you, your old body, your aging uterus, your weary, falling-apart self. But here's the thing: every woman I know having a baby easily clears the over-35 hurdle. And, in fact, highly educated women these days are having more babies than ever later in life. So what's with the antiquated terminology?

Geriatric isn't even a euphemism, like mature. Or wise. It just means old. Last Sunday's New York Times piece about abortion and birth defects mentions the term, and I've had friends in their late-30s tell me in horror that doctors refer to their pregnancies that way.

Maybe in the medical profession women's bodies do look geriatric when they're pregnant and over 35. But if this is the trend, not the exception, isn't it time for the medical profession to catch up with the over-35-and-pregnant crowd?

Why not call under-35 pregnancies adolescent, then. And, given the results of judgement about, say teen pregnancies (not recommended), why not just call over-35 pregnancies what they really are: smart.
In 1963, Betty Freidan changed the way we thought about women's lives in "The Feminine Mystique."

Forty years later, the "problem that has no name" still rears her ugly head. It may have a different name, but it's still a problem.

In this blog, I will explore issues that women face, from feminism to bag fetishes. From pregnancy to prom. From abortion to opting out. From single-sex education to being single. From deadly serious to seriously inane.

Welcome to DameNation.