Thursday, May 31, 2007

Let Justice Be Heard

Check out my post on the WorkingForChange blog today on how Ruth Bader Ginsburg is getting her groove on over at the Supreme Court. She's not taking to the Alito-Roberts axis of evil silently. She's speaking out. It won't change the bad decisions the court is making that reverse decades of progress for women, but it may at least get the attention of Congress. A girl can hope.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The L Word

You've probably already heard that the FDA approved a new birth control pill (you gotta love the FDA -- women may not have that many great choices of birth control, but they have a gazillion different pills to choose from). This pill completely suppresses the menstrual cycle for as long as you take it. It's called, wait for it, Lybrel. And liberated from your period is as good as it gets.

Critics of this pill say the period shouldn't be marketed as an inconvenience. OK, but then, marketed as what, a beautiful thing, like in the film strips from health class tried to trick us into believing? I mean, really, what woman in her right mind would buy any kind of marketing telling her a period is great, cramps are lovely, blood is fun. Sure, there's a nice ritual to becoming a woman the first time you get it, but that thrill is gone really fast. And anyway, when you're on the pill, you're not really getting your period, even on the standard 21-day cycle with the 7-day flow. It's all fake to make you feel like you're getting it. But really, you're not. So why go through the pretending?

Women have known for years they can skip the sugar pills of any oral contraceptive and go straight to the next pack, creating their own Lybrel pill without the marketing or expense of a new pill.

And anyway, it's been acknowledged for some time that what isn't normal is getting your period every month, every year, for decades on end. Our ancestors did not get their periods as much as we do. So please, let us all be Lybrels, and embrace the L word.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sex Work

If you had any doubt that the Supreme Court was setting out to redefine what's it like to be a woman in America, this latest case should settle that argument: yesterday, the court ruled to limit workers' right to sue for pay discrimination to 180 days. The New York Times quotes the National Women's Law Center on the ruling:

“The ruling is clearly a very important setback in the ability to eliminate discriminatory pay,” said Marcia Greenberger, a co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. “It puts people in a terrible bind.

“On one hand,” Ms. Greenberger continued, “it requires individuals to file a complaint within 180 days of being concerned that their pay may be discriminatory in nature. But having to file that quickly could be counterproductive because people might still be trying to make sure that there really is discrimination and because they still might be trying to work things out in a conciliatory way.”

I didn't think I could be more angry and depressed over a legal decision since the late-term abortion ruling. But whaddya know, I was wrong. It's great to know that with one case, the Supreme Court can reverse the enormous gains women workers have made over the last 40 years. Really, this is an impressive, monumental setback. Um, checks and balances anyone?

Here's a question: if a woman is Speaker of the House, and doesn't do anything about this egregious decision, does it at all matter? If the underwhelming way the Dems have acted on the war front is any indication, I fear for my rights at home.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The War Not at Home

Today I slept til 10 a.m. Ate breakfast. Got in the car with my husband and headed to Home Depot. The cashier chided us, "Don't work too hard today." I promised not to.

Today is Memorial Day, when we remember our war dead, but most of the country seems to have already forgotten about the war we are fighting, and losing, right now.

I hope the Dems we put into power to put a stop to the war won't roll over and play dead. We don't need to add to the 3,400 and growing list of sacrifices from this country. We're going to need another day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dems Abstain from Abstinence

Looks like commonsense has finally penetrated the Democratic Party. The Dems voted down money earmarked for abstinence only sex ed after a Congressional study, of all things, concluded that whaddya know, it doesn't stop teens from having sex.

Here's the skinny from Women's eNews:


Democratic leaders plan to let $50 million drop from the Title V federal funding stream earmarked for abstinence-only education programs after a recent study released to Congress reported the programs did not dissuade teens from having sex. Congressional Quarterly reported May 15 that lawmakers, who say they would rather see funding focused toward comprehensive sex education that includes abstinence, will not reauthorize the funding when it expires on June 30.

"Abstinence-only seems to be a colossal failure," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which controls the earmark, adding that the deficit and the war were also factors.

Abstinence supporters said the move would only embolden their efforts to maintain abstinence-only education.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Architect of Peace?

While this whole Paul Wolfowitz scandal was going down -- guy meets girl, guy heads the World Bank, guy helps girl get better job at State Department while saying he's against corruption, guy resigns from bank after kerfuffle over corrupt actions for girl -- all I kept wondering was -- why he is always described as an architect?

You see, before Wolfowitz went over to banking, he was in the business of making war for Bush & co. Search Google for architect of war and it comes up nearly 5 million times. Since my husband is an architect of the building kind, I kind of take the abuse of the word personally.

But now that Wolfie is off the stage, maybe we'll go back to remembering that architects can build good things, too.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Belkin's Boo Boo

One more thought on Lisa Belkin's reversal on the opt-out "trend." Would it be too much to ask to acknowledge what she created by her story? The more I think about it, the more I'm peeved by her only passing reference to the major maelstrom she created by her story that was wrong, wrong, wrong. Now she's jumping into the conversation started back up by The Feminist Mistake. Too little, too late.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lisa Belkin Opts In

The woman who launched a real media frenzy over a fake trend, opting out, has decided that there's a new trend: opting in. Oh, really. Lisa Belkin. Who wrote the New York Times magazine cover story back in 2003 that trumpeted that women were not leading the pack but instead packing lunch for their kids. The ones who she was quick to put in their place as non-working moms even if they said they weren't permanently staying out of the work force. Even when no numbers backed Belkin up.

So Belkin is back. But the media myth she created in the respected Times magazine is debunked in the silly Style section. Thanks, New York Times. I'm sure a lot of people will notice and take the placement really seriously. Right next to the piece on age-appropriate dressing and meeting Mr. Right in tennis camp.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Mayor of Central Park

Did I ever tell you about the time I met the mayor of Central Park? That's right, the mayor. Of Central Park.

It wasn't the first time. Back w hen I lived in NYC in the 80s, it was a grittier time. A woman had been gang raped at the 102nd st. park transverse by a group of boys who said they were "wilding" -- and while who attacked her has since been disputed, a dense fog of fear fell over the park that year. I was a runner. I ran at night. In the summer, the park is closed to cars and the light doesn't fade till almost 9 p.m. Despite the ozone alerts, the threat of violent assault and the thick air, I ran daily through the park.

One day I noticed an older man with a white handle bar moustache and white hair, walking around the reservoir the wrong way. He waved. I didn't wave back. Then I saw him the next day. He waved. This time, I waved, too. No matter what time of day, or how often I ran, he was always there, a sort of safe harbor during a rough time for the park.

I moved away. I ran in San Francisco. But when I came back to see my mother, I would run to the reservoir. The reservoir run is as long as you want it to be. It's a 1.3 mile loop. In my younger years, I would run around the loop five or six times. Now I run around once or twice. The run is around the reservoir, counter clockwise on a dirt track. In rain, the track is soggy. In summer it's fast and dry. There are no dogs allowed, no strollers, no distractions from the pure act of running. Or walking.

It wasn't always like this. Alberto Arroyo started the runs around the reservoir. He was the first one. He used to be a boxer, years ago. He ran for exercise around the park. Supposedly, he ran with Jackie O and even Madonna.

For his service of making the park safe for running, he was given a medal and declared the Mayor of Central Park. He wears that medal around his neck; you can see it when he walks. If you want the full story, it's up on the east side of the reservoir, near the water fountains. The newspaper story, and a picture of Alberto Arroyo, getting his medal.

About a year ago I was back in NYC and went for a run in the afternoon. There was Alberto. I stopped him and shook his hand. "Where have you been?" he asked. I explained I now lived on the other coast. He smiled and kept on walking.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bridal-Industrial Complex

If you are applying your cultural lens, as Rebecca Mead does for The New Yorker, and train it on the industry around weddings, and you write a book about it, what exactly does that make you?

I'm not really sure who Rebecca Mead's audience is for her book, One Perfect Day, the Selling of the American Wedding. Buyer beware? Cultural critique? All you have to do is walk to a newsstand to see an entire section devoted to wedding magazines to know that the selling of the wedding, not marriage, has become an institution itself. But so has the stuff around babies, tweens, Gen Y, cats, Hispanic 16-year-olds, I could go on. We are, after all, a logo nation. So I'm curious to know what Mead can say that hasn't already been said.

I'm skeptical that readers of Mead's book will be surprised to learn that when you plan your wedding there are -- you may want to sit down -- people who will try to sell you stuff. Heck, they may even try to rip you off.

I won't bore you with the details of my wedding. But you can always find ways to save -- and ways to spend. We went the morning of the wedding to the flower market and bought our buds wholesale. And got friends to arrange them. We bought cupcakes instead of wedding cake from a local bakery. We hired a really, really expensive band. And it was so worth it.

But if you step carefully, do your research and avoid the cheesy temptations of the wedding paraphernalia that will try to whip you into a spending frenzy (we turned down the "fable cable" limo, complete open bar and party favors), you should be OK. Even if you're not, you'll still end up married.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What Is the Thing?

To find out, you'll have to listen to this month's edition of B-Side, all about clues, mysteries and, well, things.

So sit yourself down with a nice cup of cocoa or whatever it is you drink when you sit by the Real Player to hear your stories, and enjoy.

Monday, May 07, 2007

It's Not a Hallmark Holiday

It's not all about flowers and cards. But don't tell my mom that. The original Mother's Day was apparently conceived as a call for peace back in 1870. Gee, how that message has gotten lost in translation.

What's cool is that there is an effort to bring the Mother's Day message back to its roots. You can see a video about it starring Felicity Huffman here.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Our Better Half

Harvard didn't just make history when it selected a woman to lead the institution. It now means that half of the Ivy League schools are now run by women. This is a nice little postscript to the scuff up started by ex-Harvard prez Lawrence Summers, who made the now infamous comment that gender differences may explain why women don't succeed in these fields as much as men. Obviously, this made the women at the conference, especially the science and math profs, hopping mad.

While having a woman running the show at Harvard or Brown or U. Penn certainly doesn't guarantee against pig-headed gaffes, it's a good bet that these leaders, who have experienced gender and race-based bias on their way to the top, know a thing or two more than Lawrence Summers about what it means to succeed as a woman.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Happy Birthday, Golda Meir!

Yes, should Hillary Clinton make to president of the United States, it would be a milestone. But she'd be following in some pretty nice shoes. Golda Meir's, for one, who became Prime Minister of Israel in 1969 -- and was the "iron lady" long before Margaret Thatcher.

Here is a Goldaism, which also makes me wonder: will we ever again see such wit in our leaders?

"Whether women are better than men I cannot say - but I can say they are certainly no worse."

- Golda Meir, 1898 - 1978

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Words Can Hurt
When I was reading about the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the abortion ban, I was struck that Justice Kennedy used the term partial-birth abortion in his decision. Even though it's not a medical term, but was created by the anti-choice movement as a sort of touchstone. The term is graphic, horrific, and, it turns out, effective.

Cynthia Gorney, my professor at the UC Berkeley Journalism School, writes in The American Prospect about the decision and a history of the procedure, in a way that I did not see in the mainstream press. She has written about the politics of abortion for years. It's well worth a read.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Feminism: the Sequel

So there's a debate that's been exploding in recent days around differing views of the work-family balance. One camp says women are leaving the workforce to stay home with the kids. (Bad.) The other says this is an overblown media myth that focuses on an elite minority and scares women about the choices they're making. (Also bad.)

So, who's right?

Both sides have incredibly well respected researchers making their cases. There's the blame the women who don't work side: Linda Hirshman, a former researcher at Brandeis, and Leslie Bennetts, who just wrote The Feminine Mistake. And of course, Lisa Belkin, who wrote the NYT magazine piece about the "opt-out revolution" about women who choose to give up their professions and power. Taking the media myth argument are Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist and E.J. Graff, a current researcher at Brandeis, along with Caryl Rivers.

As Rosie O'Donnell said to Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle when disputing the media myth that more woman are likely to be struck by lightening than married over 40: It's not true, but it feels true.

Juggling work and family is hard. Tiring. Challenging. But does that mean women have decided to choose one over the other? For the majority of working moms, it isn't. Most are sticking it out. Even though the numbers are trending down, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor stats, there's no clear evidence that women will continue to leave the workforce to stay home with young kids. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The few women I know who have traded the office for the nursery have done so to initially focus on raising young children, and are now working flexible, part-time hours. It's a workable solution. Finding good childcare and a good job that's understanding of families is really hard. Much harder, frankly, than it should be, four decades after feminism got us so many gains.

But to spend so much energy decrying women who stay home with children is not only a pretty much pointless exercise, it negates what we should be discussing, which is how working mothers are faring in the workplace, and how it can be made better.