Wednesday, June 27, 2007

That's No Woman. That's Hillary Clinton.
My alma mater -- Smith College -- boasted two first ladies as alum. We even had a T-shirt showing Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan that read: there must be a better way to get a Smithie in the White House.

Well, we don't have a Smithie yet. But we do have a Wellesley grad running for highest office. But, when faced with the cocktail conversation question, Hillary or Obama? I have to say I go with the Big O every time.

Ellen Goodman, the feminist columnist for The Boston Globe, addressed this at her keynote speech in March at the Women, Action and Media conference. She called Hillary's run for office a "de-gendered" candidacy, as she was running as the establishment candidate, not the woman candidate. In many ways, this is very good news for women. That we have someone who has the name, the experience and the money to get to the top of the heap is lightyears ahead of where women candidates have been in the past.

In other ways, this makes her less accessible. She's not one of the marginalized. She's one of them.

As I've said in other posts, Hillary Clinton is not someone who I'm behind. But that's right now, when the primaries haven't happened and others seem a little less blow dried and speak in a less canned way. I cringe when I hear Hillary Clinton trying to girl it up on an entertainment show -- please. This woman is about power and I can't take it when she starts gushing about somebody's shoes.

A piece on AlterNet today about the unrelenting criticism from liberals and feminists about Clinton is all about gender, and then sometimes not at all about gender. Take the CodePink antiwar group's obsession with Hillary and her vote to give Bush authorization to go to war:

Clinton's supporters also argue that women candidates are unfairly subjected to higher standards, especially by women themselves. It's why antiwar feminist organizations like CodePink are less likely to give her a pass for her Iraq vote than they would, say, John Edwards. Explaining the reasoning behind their "bird-dog Hillary" campaign to The Nation, founder Medea Benjamin wore her double standard on her sleeve: "You expect more of a woman."

Ouch. Well, as Clarence Thomas can show us, just being black doesn't mean you're going to support affirmative action. As Ann Coulter proves, being a successful woman doesn't make you a feminist, or a peace-nik. And being Hillary Clinton demonstrates what we should have known all along: that being an ambitious, mainstream candidate with a legacy doesn't mean she'll be a terrible president. It just might not mean she'll be great for women. The question is, can we feminists live with that.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Walk a Mile in These Shoes

I was on the hunt for the perfect pair of summer shoes, an elusive quest at that. But as I trolled through the many shoe Web sites, I noticed something adorning the shoes that caught my eye: a peace symbol. Now, I'm not one to judge another person's footwear. I thought it was cute, at first, on a pair of Michael Kors moccasins. But then I noticed them on a dressy high-heeled sandals from Donald J Pliner. So, what's up with this trend? Of course, peace symbols have been worn on clothing, sure, but as a sign of counter-culture rebellion. But this is high-end foot fashion. Is it simply a commodity, a continuing commercialization of a recognized logo? Or is it a way of the designers to slyly speak out against the war through women's footwear? You decide. These shoes are actually pretty cute.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Big 3-5

Title IX is 35 years old -- you know, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination. Meaning athletic scholarships don't just go for the football players, and maybe some of those football players are women, anyway. Why is Title IX still important when there are more women than men in school these days? Exactly for that reason. Keeps things even. When I think of Title IX, I think of Bill Jean King, the star tennis player who challenged Bobby Riggs -- ranked number 1 in his day -- to a tennis match in a "Battle of the Sexes," and then beat the pants off him. Now we have Venus and Serena Williams. I think of the term "male chauvinist pig," which was really big to say 35 years ago. Now we say O'Reilly. Anniversaries are good for re-telling the good stories. Let's just make sure we keep telling them.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Interview with a Dame

More shameless promotion: check out my interview with the new site, BlogInterviewer. It's a cool new way to get to know your favorite blogs. You can rate my blog and leave a comment!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Flip to the B-Side

And now a shameless plug for the radio show, B-Side. First of all, check out the new site. And, if you haven't seen how easy it is to download or stream our shows, enjoy them with a click of the mouse. The Father's Day show, which at last count aired on three public radio stations across the country, is online now.

Monday, June 18, 2007

So a Pig Walks Into a Bar . . .

Tell me if you've heard this one. Trojan has a new ad campaign out -- "Evolve" -- that CBS and Fox refused to air. Why? Because the message is about pregnancy prevention, not disease prevention. Doesn't one result in the other?

The ad, which you can see here on YouTube opens to a scene of pigs in a bar trying to pick up babes (pun not intended) when one rejected pig swaggers up to the condom machine in the bathroom and is transformed into a hot guy who now gets the attention of the hot woman who had no time for pigs without protection.

So why is it OK for a Viagra ad to be about sex but not a condom ad, you might wonder? You might pose this question to CBS and Fox, who are making this a moral issue. Ads about sex? Shocking! Sadly, the condom industry lags far behind Viagra in sales. An ad selling condoms as a sexy product might just be the boost condoms need to, um, lift sales.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Nancy Drew, Where Are You?

I thought it was a nice coincidence that on my birthday the new Nancy Drew movie would be opening. Imagine, a character that had captured my imagination growing up, even though she was already ancient history (created in the 30s) would be discovered by a new group of fans. Her roadster. Her crime fighting, independent ways, so cool. So smart. So, cute.

Not this Nancy Drew. According to the reviews, she's been re-invented for the iPod age as a sort of time-machine misfit who has stepped out of the 50s suburbs into Hollywood, and even the cool Nancy Drew can barely survive the cynical millenials of today. Ick.

Kids, take it from your elder: skip the movie and read the books.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Feminist Smack Down

The author of Sisterhood Interrupted wants us to know why feminists fight. What I want to know is, what's wrong with fighting? I think feminism is made of fairly solid stuff, and can take it.

Evidently, the publishing industry agrees, churning out critiques like The Feminine Mistake and Sisterhood Interrupted. Well, this isn't an issue just with feminism. After all, you could argue that a lot of us got pretty comfortable during the Clinton years (Bill) with our status. Not that the gains were so amazing, and there was the whole ending of welfare as we knew it thing. But choice was safe. The Supreme Court wasn't so scary. And clearly, everyone relaxed just a little bit.

Here's how Deborah Siegel, the book's author, lays it out in an interview with Alternet on the idea behind "personal as political."

Siegel: The idea behind this truly brilliant slogan transformed the way Americans thought of the politics of private life. In the book I write about how these words launched a movement, then quickly morphed into a philosophy and a blueprint for action that meant different things depending on where you sat.

Today, we're smack dab in the middle of those conversations -- whether we realize it or not. But there's a new hitch. In the absence of a visible, organized, and powerful mass movement and in an era that's far more conservative and individualistic, younger women are less inclined to see our problems as shared.

The thing is, just like in all movements and especially on the left, women don't fall into lockstep, and it's ridiculous to expect that just because we're women, we have the same agenda. As Jessica Valenti said recently, feminism makes your life better. Feminism is the best self-help guide a woman could have. But somewhere after women's lib of my mother's generation and pigs like Rush Limbaugh, the ideals of feminism came under attack. But while the academics were sniping from inside, the power drain came from the outside.

Well, it's a convenient time to look back, if not in anger, then in understanding. After all, on the surface, many of us are doing pretty well, especially when compared to the 70s. Frankly, when I speak to women in my mother's generation, they look at me like I'm crazy. "It was hard" they say, of working, raising kids, running a household and the PTA, "but we did it." Point being, why do women of my generation complain so much? My mom pointed out to me that when she was my age, she was raising a 14 year old and a 10 year old, as a single mom, and working, too.

I'll be 38 on Friday, and am responsible for myself, my husband, a very needy cat and a large shoe collection. What is my problem? Do I really think that having a family is so untenable in this day and age that it's not worth trying?

The problem is, and this is the premise of my book on my Smith Class (Whatever Happened to the Feminine Mystique) is that the path in the sand left from the second wave of feminism is hard to follow. Each woman must make her own way. Who has time to join together in anger when we can watch the Sopranos do it so much better on TV?

Now, we have parental leave, paid. It is actually illegal to pay women less than men (but oh, don't get me started on that one, coz it sure got a lot harder to prove that women aren't paid equally) and women make up the majority of college students on campus. Do the math: in the next 20 years, women are going to be running most everything, whether men like it or not.

But here's the thing: if feminism really wants to re-charge, things are going to have to get a lot worse. And heck, with Bush in the White House we are getting there. But it's going to take more than a book.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pro-choice? Not in the Movies.

There's a little trend in movie-making these days that the New York Times helpfully pointed out in this Sunday's Style section: abortion is a no-show in movie plots. Two movies, especially that deal with pregnancy skip the topic entirely: Waitress -- about a cute woman with a no-good husband who goes through with the pregnancy even though she's plotting to leave the guy -- and Knocked Up, about a woman who ends up pregnant after a signal encounter with -- from what I read in the reviews -- a comically unsuitable mate. Keeping the man is the quandary of this movie plot, not whether to terminate the pregnancy.

The last time I remember abortion being front and center in a movie was Dirty Dancing, and the woman almost dies as a result. And it's a side-plot that tangentially affects the heroine. No, the message definitely is: nice girls don't have abortions in the movies. The Style section piece points out that abortion is treated more realistically on the independent film scene, according to Geoffrey Gilmore, the director of the Sundance Film Festival,

as do other difficult themes like drug addiction, incest, even infanticide, most recently in “Stephanie Daley,” about a teenager accused of murdering her newborn.

Ouch. Abortion being equated to infanticide and incest? And yah, I get that if the topic of the movie is pregnancy, having an abortion ends the plot pretty fast. But it's a pretty sad thing when the so-called values of the religious right have so permeated our culture we can't even have abortion as a side note in a plot device.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Myth Makers

As I've documented on my blog many times, the myth that working moms are opting out is just that. Lisa Belkin -- who started the whole opt-out controversy with her New York Times magazine story on elite moms forsaking plum careers for motherhood, recently recanted this (in the New York Times style section, of all places) by saying that everyone was heading back to work. Neither picture was ever true.

Heather Boushey at AlterNet does a good job of taking us through why these media myths keep being recycled.

One reason is that even if it's not true, it feels true. It is hard to be both an employee and a mother. But the media often jumps on anecdotes or mini-trends to explain this away. The larger implication seems to be: feminism doesn't work. You wanted it all, you can't handle it all. Your mom vibes are stronger than your work vibes.

It's a strange message. After all, wouldn't we all -- men and women -- be better served if companies were flexible with our time, understanding of families' needs? Instead, the focus is on an individual -- and that way, no one will ever join together to demand that there be a general change in policy. It's better that way for the media, but it does moms and families a huge disservice, and for that matter, readers, too.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

No Pies But Good Dish

If you missed Jessica Valenti on The Colbert Report last night shilling her book Full Frontal Feminism, let me tell you Jessica was in top form. She looked good and she spoke well. And turns out, I'm not the only one who thinks Stephen Colbert is the best tool in the feminist tool kit. Jessica presented him with a "feminists dig me" T-shirt at the start of the interview, made him promise she wouldn't make her bake, like he did when Gloria Steinem was on the show, and had Colbert waving Full Frontal Feminism at the camera with the command: Buy it.

But don't take my word for it: Watch for yourself.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Full Frontal Feminism

One more reason that Stephen Colbert is my most fave feminist: he actually has feminists on his show. Tonight Jessica Valenti, Feministing blogger and author of Full Frontal Feminism, is on his show.

Valenti is the it-girl of the now-feminist movement. She wants to bring feminism to Gen Y and beyond, to show how it's relevant for the next generation. So be sure to Tivo tonight's Colbert Report, right after The Daily Show to catch her and Stephen mixing it up. Or watch it live if you're a night-owl.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

What are the Dems Thinking?

With the ridiculous war vote Congress recently passed, I am reminded that the Dems are if nothing more, politicians. But why push through war funding with no benchmarks for the war? Why does the war funding get a free pass? Really, maybe the IRS or the NEA should take over the war budget. The IRS has no problem with paperwork. And the federal education guidelines make kids take more tests than TB patients to track their status. Anyway, with a vote that goes against the majority of the country, the Dems seem to be acting like they have a constituent of one: President Bush. Here's Jen Sorensen's take.