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.