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.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Frat Boy-In-Chief

Bush is taking the ugly American to new levels at this latest G8 summit. He's swearing. He's talking with his mouth full. He's annoyed and bored with his co-rulers of the world. But this unsolicited backrub of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel is just too icky for words. So let the picture Kos is running say it all.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Look Who's Talking

Creepiest report ever -- the Dems have discovered that so-called "pregnancy resource centers" that have recieved millions in fed money are actually anti-abortion fronts.

Monday, July 17, 2006

It's About Location, Location, Location

This does not bode well: an ABC story posted today about anti-choice groups who can't stand the idea of clinics providing abortions services are opting to buy the property and evict the clinic tenants.
The Gender Divide, Continued

Here's a piece that should have been part of the NYT series on the new gender divide in colleges across the country. Women in the naval academy. Even though there are a record number of women, that hasn't stopped men from behaving badly. Just because women have been on the scene for years does not stop their male counterparts from treating women like nothing more than a piece of ass.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Woman Within Wants Out

Check out my post on Bitch.
Re-Writing Roe

Check out this fascinating blog by Jack Balkin, a Yale law professor who wrote a book on re-writing the Roe v. Wade decision. Here's an excerpt from the book, where he basically speaks of the forced birth movement, an idea that needs to get out into the mainstream as an answer to the scary growth in states of the fetal rights movement.

My opinion argues that abortion statutes violate both women’s liberty and their equality. Restrictions on abortion compel women to become mothers, with all of the social expectations and duties that come with motherhood. Whether fairly or not, women in American society still bear most of the responsibility for childcare. They are expected to make sacrifices for their children and they feel most of the brunt of social condemnation if their children are not properly cared for. Moreover, because of the strong social expectations about the duties of motherhood, women suffer stigma and shame if they give their children up for adoption. The right to abortion is the right to have a reasonable time to decide whether to take on the responsibilities of motherhood.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

So That's the Problem

Who knew that The Devil Wears Prada picked up on such a hot-button social issue: bad women bosses. I realize that movie is practically a documentary in its realistic portrayal of the workplace. And apparently CBS found so, too, when they reported on this poll.

Are women harder to work for than men? Cattier? Well, natch. More competitive? Wait, is that supposed to be a bad thing?

As the young assistant in the movie says about her devil of a boss, "If she were a man, she'd just be good at her job."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Football: the Problem. And the Solution?

I never thought I would read, in a series on "the new gender divide," in the New York Times, about how football is the cure-all to too many women and not enough men on campus.

I mean, I see the ads during the Superbowl. It's obvious who their audience is. But according to yesterday's latest installment in this really strange series on gender inbalance (read: not enough guys on campus), football is touted as the instant makeover to give a jolt of testosterone to any campus with a little too much woman power.

I hope, New York Times, that your next piece is a good-news feature on how awesome and amazing it is that, despite everything women have been through -- and let's not forget that in the 80s men accused women of taking a man's place on campus -- that women's dominance at some smaller campuses is really a huge accomplishment.

Maybe the next piece in the series will take place at a women's college -- there's a thought.
It's Not Just S. Dakota

Legislation that holds up the rights to fetuses over the mothers bearing them are cropping up around the country. Check out this article in the Detroit Free Press.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Boys Just Wanna Have Fun

In keeping with the new gender-war hysteria (this time around, women 1, men 0) about boys not keeping up with girls academically, the New York Times is going all out with a series. With big photos, the piece by Tamar Lewen was packed with anecdotes about boys playing lots of computer games, becoming sexual predators on campuses with too great a gender imbalance, and preferring to hit the football fields and not the books. One guy even botched his laundry:

"There was so much freedom when I got here (to college), compared to my very structured high school life, that I kept putting things off," said Greg Williams, who just finished his freshman year. "I wouldn't do much work and I played a lot of Halo. I didin't know how to wake up on time without a mom. I had laundry problems. I shrank all my clothes and had to buy new ones."

Crisis! What should we do with young men who can't manage to figure out alarm clocks and the cold cycle? Where are we, as a nation?

Well, turns out, the guys of our nation are actually doing just fine (except for non-whites, and that is not an issue of gender, but class). First off, Ivy Leagues still have more boys than girls in their classes. Phew! The traditional gender inbalance is alive and well in the most selective colleges. (Can the New York Times look at that next, please? Since our presidents come from Yale, not State U.)

And in the workforce, despite these little detours in college where women are stealing all the academic honors they deserve from, maybe, not playing Halo, and not playing dumb, women still lose out in the end because of biology (and not all of these so-called gender differences that the author worked so mightily to insist there exist). As Lewen finally notes in the third to last paragraph of this piece that spreads over two entire newspaper pages:

Still, men in the work force have always done better in pay and promotions, in part because they tend to work longer hours, and have fewer career interruptions than women, who bear the children and most of the responsibility for raising them.

But, by the way, raising kids who grow up to get sucked into computer games and not know how to do laundry -- we have ways of making moms feel they've failed at parenthood, too.

As New York Times guest columnist Judith Warner noted recently in an excellent op-ed "What boy crisis?" that Lewen would be advised to read, she points out that boys are doing better than ever. But girls, well, they are on fire.

And while this may be disingenuous, and not exactly the point of the series -- although I'm not sure why not -- can we at least take a moment, a moment people -- to say girls: you go!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Doing the Right Thing

Looks like the HPV vaccine is going to be recommended as a required innoculation for 11- and 12-year old girls with no guff from the right. There were worries that the right would fight the CDC on this and call the HPV vaccine an invitation for wild sex parties, but even the Family Research Council praised the decision. I'm sure no-one really wants to be on the side that's against a vaccine that actually prevents cancer. That would probably look bad.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Planned Parenthood Action Fund in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota are organizing to overturn the S. Dakota abortion ban that's put to voters in November. Check out their Web site and more info about how to help.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Them's Fightin' Words

The first woman leader of the Oglala Sioux has been ousted from her post for proposing an abortion clinic on the Pine Ridge reserveration. Apparently the tribal council considered her definance of an unconstitutional law an impeachable offense. S. Dakota passed a horrifying abortion ban that is the sickest, most anti-woman law in the nation, with no exception for rape, incest or the health of the mother. The deposed leader says she will challenge the action. You can't keep a good woman down.

More from Ms. Magazine.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Last Great Adventure

In 1993, my sister and her friend Melanie rode from Pittsburgh, PA, to my flat in the Haight in San Francisco.

She had little money, and even less experience on a bike. But she did have a huge curiosity about seeing this country. She didn't give me the full story about her trip until she was sick with cancer and the two of us were holed up on the guest bed in her house, talking about our lives. She knew at the time that I was terrified of the idea of her making this trip, two women, on motorcycles, with nothing but the rubber and the road and 3,000 loneley miles in-between. She didn't tell me about the falls, the flood, or the lack of funds, till 10 years later. When she was looking back on a life fully lived. Even at the age of 28.

Carolla always inspired me. She was four years younger, but so, so tough. Braver, stronger, and more confident in her risks. I read recently that there is a gene that you inherit that manifests this behavior. She sure as hell had it. I sure as hell don't.

Tonight two years ago, she died as we lay side by side. So I blow kisses to her and link to her story that played on B-Side, the story of her cross-country adventure.

Token Appreciation

No matter how safe New York gets, some things will never change. Take subways. Cops recently arrested 13 subway gropers -- and I'm sure that will hardly end the harassment that so many women and girls on their way to school -- experience on a regular basis. And say nothing.

My mom tells me tales of her hour-long subway rides to Music and Art High School in upper Manhattan from her 3rd street apartment, where on the way she was grabbed, flashed, robbed, harassed. If someone bothered me on the subway, she told me, I was to get off at the next stop and -- change cars. Not go to the police. Not yell. Just leave.

Seems like not all that much has altered since the 60s, the women's movement, the crive level. Reading that piece in the paper, I thought -- what is it about the subway that silences even the most outspoken women? Are you somehow violating the social fabric to point out when someone has been violating you?

Deborah Tannen weighed in yesterday with a New York Times op-ed on the subject, where she compares research she did years ago of Greek women facing issues of sexual assault vs. women on the subways. The Greeks yelled and screamed and even threw rocks. But she writes:

Most of the American women — like those recently interviewed in the New York news media — told me they had felt humiliated and helpless and had done or said nothing.

Last time I checked there weren't any rocks to throw at assailants on subway cars. And some women are the exception to the rule. One of my mom's high school friends was being groped on a crowded subway car years ago and spoke up when an unfamiliar hand got way too familiar: "Get your hand off my ass!" The man in a suit had no where to go and had to face the rest of the ride surrounded by pissed off people. All of a sudden, my mom's friend was in a car full of friends.

I faced this once on the metro in Paris in my college years riding with friends. I was the only one who spoke fluent French (although the language of "get the hell off me" is universal, trust me). We were on the train late night. A man was bothering one of my friends and she turned to me for help. I whirled around and out came a string of invectives that would have made my French teacher blush, then proud. There was something about speaking in another launguage that gave me a voice in the way that when I was in New York, I had none.

Deborah Tannen points out that the way the Greeks talk sounds to untrained ears like argument. There is an expressiveness that doesn't come with speaking English.

Maybe self-defense classes in New York should come with a Greek lesson to learn to say "fuck off."