Saturday, March 31, 2007

Feminists of the World, Unite!

Or at least get together once a year to kibbutz, argue and bemoan the state of mainstream media at the a conference, Women, Action and Media, where I endured flying 6,000 miles roundtrip, a time-zone adjustment (more precisely, I did not adjust) and two short days clocking hours of concurrent sessions to take in as much as possible.

I don't know if I'm paying more attention to this but women seem to be getting savvy about marketing themselves. Some of my fave feminists, like Andi Zeisler from Bitch, Jessica Valenti at Feministing and Allison Fine have books, along with their online presence.

A new writer (to me), Courtney Martin, has a new book coming out called Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, a topic that never seems to get old and spans pop culture and media criticism. I also ran into Rita Henley Jensen, founder of Women's eNews. Aside from being a Columbia Journalism School grad, and an award-winning journalist, she is a domestic abuse survivor who was a welfare recipient. One reason she founded the Web site that covers stories about women, by women (in English and Arabic) was inspired by her disgust with the New York Times coverage of the Welfare Law of 1996 (she is careful not to call is welfare reform), when the paper of record only profiled women of color as welfare recipients.

On the other hand, Ellen Goodman decried the lack of political content of women's media -- the old boy network is now in new media, with bloggers linking to each other on political issues, and the dearth of political women's blogs. Instead there are the popular mommy blogs, which Goodman called "the personal as apolitical" in her keynote address to the over 400 crowd of women from nonprofits, media organizations and feminist writers.

While we may not have the discipline of the lockstep right -- or the feminist response to Ann Coulter yet to handle smack downs at Fox News -- I couldn't help, as I circulated around after a meeting of freelancers, that this conference fulfilled a need, that once in a while, it's actually nice not to be part of the mainstream.

Friday, March 30, 2007

This Girl Needs to be Called a Woman

You know, this might be something I'd expect to see in a lesser rag, but the NY Times? The Thursday Style section, which hello -- can we just talk about what is the deal with every paper getting "Style" these days? It's like I can't open a paper without some lightweight content directed at women that seems to sidestep the otherwise highish standards of said paper. I digress.

So, this week's "Critical Shopper" column is titled "What Every Precocious Girl Needs." What would you think this column was about? Well, if you are me, you'd think it was about a children's store, but you (um, I) would be wrong.

I will grant that "girl" has its place. Girlish, girlie, girl-like, sure. But precocious girls are still girls. This shopper column was about a women's clothing store. Hey, Times, like I said, cut the Style crap and get it right. If you want to talk about a store for women, call it that. Even if it's for immature women.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Easy Rider

In 1993 my sister learned to drive a motorcycle -- while riding it cross country, from Pittsburgh to my place in San Francisco. She weathered floods, rain -- even snow on her way West -- in July.

Carolla finally gave me the scoop on her trip (she mainly spared me the scariest details while en route) when she was dealing with something much scarier -- terminal cancer.

Carolla's boyfriend Ted, also a motorcycle rider, is sending me the motorcycle jacket she wore through it all. It looks like it's really lived, just like Carolla.

That's a picture of Carolla wearing the jacket and sitting on her BMW 650 in front of my pad when I lived in the Haight.

You can hear in her own words the story of her ride across country at Bside radio.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

We're All Going to Die

Thought for the day: Didn't Laura Bush have a cancerous skin lesion removed from her leg? Didn't Tony Snow go in to remove cancer in his abdomen, and they found more in his liver? Doesn't Dick Cheney have a history of heart attacks?

How long till we find our own president isn't even compos mentis?

Katie Couric, the CBS anchor, asked Elizabeth Edwards in a 60 Minutes interview Sunday night that she faces the possibility of death. "Aren't we all, though?" Edwards responded.

When I first heard her say that, I thought she was skirting the issue. But now I'm coming around to thinking she has a damn good point.

We are all going to die. Some of us are just doing it faster than others.

Elizabeth Edwards says she wants to keep campaigning with her husband for president because she doesn't want cancer to be her legacy. But maybe as she sparks a national discussion about death, illness and cancer, and, I hope, at some point, health care, being the new face of cancer as her legacy isn't necessarily a bad thing. Like I said before, she started it, and now it may be bigger than her.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Hard Couric

Well, Katie Couric can't win. The CBS news anchor is accused of being a light weight, then lands the biggest news interview of the week for 60 Minutes and gets called out for taking out John and Elizabeth Edwards. No soft-ball questions. This interview is no puff piece.

Actually, I found it kind of refreshing. I do think her line of questioning using the crutch "some say . . ." to sort of soft pedal her hard questions was timid. But overall I don't think her questions crossed the line. They needed to be asked. After all, the Edwards' started it with their press conference. They're expecting to be an open book. Some of the bloggers thought Katie should have come out with her own cancer stories. Um, no. She's a journalist, not their girlfriend. I don't care about Katie's brush with death, or her family's experience. I care about Elizabeth and John Edwards. Katie's not running for president. John Edwards is, with a very sick wife. Even if she comes out strong and positive -- and she should -- it doesn't change what she's up against.

By the way, if anything, they are just becoming a mirror for the American experience.

According to the CDC, cancer is the second leading cause of death in America, second only to heart disease, and a million people are diagnosed with cancer every year. Breast cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in Hispanic women. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Here's to You, Mrs. Edwards

I have to hand it to the Edwards'. Never has terminal cancer sounded so good. Treatable, not curable. Manageable, like diabetes. Mrs. Edwards even said she didn't look sickly or feel sickly.

OK, well. Cheers to you and your excellent health care that somehow didn't notice until the cancer had spread to your bones that you didn't beat breast cancer. When you are stage 4, statistics don't matter. Each person handles their cancer in a different way. It could be two months, it could be two years. I'm sure Mrs. Edwards will hear every kind of miracle story and miracle cure. And at this point, before treatment and before she feels or looks sickly, I'm sure she wants to call game on, and show her game face to the campaign. After all, nothing makes anyone feel more sick than when everything changes because of some number, some test that someone says of you.

Eventually, maybe not tomorrow or the next day, her cancer will catch up to her. And all the careful tip-toeing of the press to follow the Edwards' statement and not the reality about her illness won't matter. The treatment better be good. Because there is no cure for terminal cancer. What she does have is hope. And that will carry her a long way.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mother's Little Helper

Recently Alternet reported on the "motherhood industrial complex," where celeb moms make having a baby look so cool and easy that real moms were shocked, shocked that wasn't the case.

Now celebs moms can be accused of yet another trend: the postpartum hot body. If celebs have them, why can't regular moms? Apparently, they can, with the help of a scalpel and elective surgery. For these women, risk factors and finances are not an issue when the end results are a flat stomach or big boobs.

A story in the San Francisco Chronicle today (yes, front page, too -- they really do have a nose for news) discusses this high-income, high-anxiety trend to go under the knife after going through labor. It doesn't stop at stomach and boobs, either. Vaginal "rejuvenation" is also a top request. It's like: take my body back pre-baby and, what the heck, pre-adolescence, too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Women Warriors

There's a post on Women in Media & News about the cover story of Sunday's New York Times magazine about women coming back from the Iraq war who were raped and assaulted by fellow soldiers. Her beef isn't with the piece, but with what she considers to be cheesecake photos.

I don't think so.

Although the woman are in what could be taken as alluring poses, they are not Victoria's Secret model look-alikes. They look tough and strong and stolid. But the photos also capture a vulnerability and quiet resilience. I also don't think that the mom in the swing with the baby on her lap looks sexy. It's a photo full of pathos, of what she endured, and how she must carry on in civilian life, despite that.

That said, the photos, by Katy Grannan, have a decidedly artistic, posed feeling to them. They are not smiling. And they are placed in familiar settings: a kitchen, a living room couch, on the beach. They could be your neighbor, in fact, they probably are. They gave to their country, and went to hell and back.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

There's Still Time

Where do you get to catch up with Lisa Jervis, co-founder of Bitch, catch a keynote address from columnist Ellen Goodman, and get a primer on how to create your own feminist publication from Rita Henley Jensen of Women's eNews?

It's all at the Women, Action and the Media conference. This year promises to be better than ever, with a pre-conference lineup of sessions ranging from citizen journalism to how to sell a great book proposal without selling out. Plus, there will be an evening event commemorating Molly Ivins and you get to rub shoulders with all your fave feminist writers and media types in one place. Including me! There really is still time to register, but you have to hurry. The conference is over the last weekend of March in Cambridge, MA.

I can't think of any forums like this anywhere else. Women who are on the ground and every day rebutting the larger media stereotypes that are the lazy crutch of mainstream news. Like Jen Pozner, who started her own mini-media empire, Women in Media and News. Or Jessica Valenti from Feministing, who raises feminist hell with her site.

I will be blogging from the conference, so if you can't make it, you won't miss out. But you will miss it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

More on the pink cigs.

I thought I'd give you a close-up view of Camel No. 9, the new "light and luscious" brand (their words, not mine) from Camel, the cigarette maker that will do anything to get women to pay attention to them. Turns out, they're not so popular with the ladies, and, not knowing much about them, thought that a rosy hue might help get their sales into the black. Just like the color of the women's lungs who choose to smoke them. Which leads me to wonder, is pink the new cancer?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Blues About Pink

In the musical Legally Blonde, which was playing in San Francisco for its pre-Broadway run, there is a crucial scene with the lead, Elle Woods, who has left Beverly Hills for Harvard Law in a quixotic play for an ex-boyfriend. She has withstood withering contempt from professors and students alike, who underestimate this blonde underachiever. She is about to head home when she has a change of heart. She is presented with a lawyer's navy blue suit and refuses it. Instead, she jumps into a closet and comes out, as it were, dressed head to toe in pink.

Pink has come a long way, baby. It used to be relegated to baby blankets. The pink craze hit and turned everything pink, from cell phones to cigarettes. What? Yes, Camel just introduced Camel No. 9 (sounds like Chanel No. 5, doesn't it?). It's a new cigarette that's igniting controversy, that comes in a Pepto pink package and looks more like bubblegum than a cancer stick. What's next, pink 40 ouncers of malt liquor? Pink pistols for your pink purse?

I love what Legally Blonde did for pink. It claimed it as the color of girl power. All Camel No. 9 does is put a pretty color on a bad habit. I hope women everywhere decide this is one accessory they can live without.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

That Takes Balls

Soccer balls, that is. True story.

The cast: a Smith grad turned girls' soccer coach in Georgia: Luma Mufleh.

The drama: Our heroine realizes there is a ragtag group of refugee kids who want to play ball, too. She puts some fliers out (she too, is an immigrant from Jordan) and soon has a kind of UN-version of the Bad News Bears on her hands. At first she coaches only boys, since the kids were Muslims from places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and many parents wouldn't let their daughters play, but this changes.

End Game: The New York Times makes it a front-page story, then Hollywood comes calling. I don't know how she has time to coach any more, since this local girl has made good. Check out the story.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vaccination Proclomation

In more health news, the HPV vaccination, now widely available, is widely out of reach for those who need it most: college students. Here's the AlterNet story on it.

This is more of same: it's legal, it's so necessary, but that isn't enough. I'm so sick of women's health taking a back seat to either 1) Christian zealotry. 2) pharmaceutical greed 3) moralizing right-wing politicians.

I have to ask: if this was a vaccine for men, would this even be an issue? It's a vaccine that stops. Cancer. We don't have too many of those. They should be giving them away.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pill Patrol

First the challenge was getting emergency contraception approved. Done. Now, the really hard part. Getting it at your local pharmacy.

Not every pharmacy feels it has to dispense the emergency birth control, which is only effective 48 hours after sex. Not getting EC is not an option.

So Planned Parenthood came up with a plan. It's enlisting us to head to our local Walgreen's or Costco and request Plan B. Then report back. To get involved, go to Planned Parenthood to sign up.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Baby I Can Drive My Car

I've always taken issue with the VW ad campaign about, you know, how in life there are passengers and and there are drivers. As in, the world is divided into two groups. For most of my life, I was the passenger. And not in life, just in the car.

People laugh when I say this, but it's true: I've always been a pedestrian by temperament. I prefer to be on my feet, take public transit, walk and not drive.

I did grow up in a suburb, Princeton, New Jersey, but it was an easy enough place to get around on bike. (My mom would point out that she drove me most everywhere I needed to go. She would be correct.) Then my mom moved to New York City, another place where a car isn't necessary.

Not that I didn't try to learn. I had a constant stream of learner's permits, just never bothered to follow through with the driver's test. I did finally get my license while at graduate school. But I still never learned to drive a stick, my husband's vehicle of choice. He held on for many years to an impossible-to-drive 1983 orange Nissan truck that simply refused to die. I finally had to put my foot down when I actually put my foot through the floor of the car. Seeing the road beneath your feet is never a good sign.

Now all that's changed. We have a Mini-Cooper S and it's automatic. Now I get to be in the driver's seat. Of the car.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Our Monthly

Did you know March is Women's History Month? All of the excitement of February's Black History Month with none of the marketing. Women's eNews does a good job of looking at the history that has brought the month on. Let's face it, we've earned a month. Hell, we probably deserve at least a year just for the whole child birth thing, the no voting for eons thing, the no feminism till the 70s thing, the constant barrage of old white men who think they know better about our bodies thing. But for now, we'll make do with a month.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Tasty Show

When I pitched a show all about food to my senior B-Side producer, Tamara Keith, and then made a call for pitches, I had no idea (well, maybe some idea) of how many weird, wacky tales about food there are out there. Food as extreme sport. Food as barely recognizable as food. Food as fuel. Food as livelihood. That's all in the show we just wrapped and is online for your listening pleasure. If you like food, and even if you don't like food, you've got to hear this show. And while you're on our site, you might get hooked, so listen to all the other 50-odd shows. Or download our podcast and get B-Side to go.

Monday, March 05, 2007

No D & G for Me

I do love to shop and even though Dolce & Gabbana are so way out of my price range, I hope they care I can't afford and now don't want to buy any of their to-die-for creations. They've got an ad up in Italy that's got Amnesty International, for god's sake, up in arms. You know you've done something that crossed a line when a human rights organization has to say something.

You can judge for yourself. I mean, the ad's not exactly snuff porn, but it's a little edgy. A woman pinned by a man, surrounded by other men who look on.

Europe seems to be having less and less patience for the fashion industry. First, they're mad the women are too skinny (Spain demanded that women have a healthy BMI in order to walk the runways of their fashion week). Now an ad that's promoting gang rape. The image isn't exactly new -- think back to the 80s with Jody Foster on the pool table in The Accused. In fact, that movie alone seems to end up being the inspiration of ads pushing products. (I wrote for Bitch magazine about a similar ad by Sony years ago.)

There is really nothing new or sexy or breakthrough about this ad. What, buy this dress and you'll be asking for it? Not much of a sales pitch for the modern Italian woman, is it? Yes, it is just a fantasy, but whose? The stale machismo vibe says backlash, not buy this.