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