Thursday, December 27, 2012

14% is Such a Sad Number

The list of movies eligible for an Academy Award came out this past week.  There are 282 eligible.  See the rules for more information on what makes a movie eligible.  Guess how many were directed by women?  Nope.  Lower.  Try again.

They are 39.   

Of those 39, five are foreign films, two are animated and five are documentaries.   So, only 14% of the movies even eligible for a nomination are directed by women.  

Let's drill down a bit further to see who votes for these movies.  According to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, "There are three ways to become a candidate for membership in the academy: land an Oscar nomination; apply and receive a recommendation from two members of a branch; or earn an endorsement from the branch’s membership committee or the academy staff.
The membership committees then vote on the candidates and those who get a majority are invited to join."

A study released this past February, of the 5,100 members of the Academy who voted last year (representing 89% of the membership), 94% are white and 77% are male.  Only 2% are Black and less than 2% are Latino.  Do people tend to vote for things that resonate with them?  Of course.  At this rate, the number of women who break into the Academy and shift the movies that win Oscars will take a century.  Until there is a better representation of our society within the academy, white men will continue to do the voting and pick the movies that they like best.  If you are a woman or a person of color in the movie industry, you are doomed.  To see the lonely list of 39, check out one of my favorite new blogs Women and Hollywood by Melissa Silverstein.  

We have to start making a change.  I've included a list of movies, below, that are currently playing in theatres, that are directed by women. Go see at least one of them.  I have heard great things about Zero Dark Thirty and The Guilt Trip.  Although even Kathryn Bigelow, the ONLY woman to ever win a Best Director Oscar, is being accused of playing second fiddle to her partner, Mark Boal, the screenwriter.  She's also been criticized for being, get this, TOO good looking.  I mean how could a smart woman also be attractive?  What is happening to our world when intelligent women can also be considered pretty?  Jeez!  Smart women must be ugly while the sexiest and prettiest among us must have rocks in our brains.  Women can't get it right!  

Ava DuVernay, the writer and director of Middle of Nowhere was blatantly ignored at the NAACP Image Awards for her work as a writer and director.  Her film won for Best Director at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and numerous other film festival awards.  Check out the trailer here.  Shall we place bets whether the white male Academy recognizes her courageous movie in anyway? 

Zero Dark Thirty - Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Middle of Nowhere - Directed and Written by Ava DuVernay

Diana Vreeland:  The Eye Has to Travel - Directed by Lisa Immordino 

Somewhere Between - Directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton

The Guilt Trip - Directed by Anne Fletcher

Trashed - Directed by Candida Brady (documentary)

Talaash - Directed by Reema Kagti

The Central Park Five - Co-Directed by Sarah Burns (documentary)

Cloud Atlas - Co-Directed and Co-Written by Lana Wachowski

The Other Son - Directed and Co-Written by Lorraine Lévy

Brooklyn Castle - Directed by Katie Dellamaggiore (documentary)

So do me a favor.  Or do womankind a favor and go support women directors.  If we don't do it, who will?  Certainly not the Academy! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Season of Light. A Season of Stress. Remix.

I wrote this in 2010.  But as I was bitching the other night, at my husband, of course, about how I had done all the figuring out of the presents, all the shopping and all the wrapping, while teaching a course, rehearsing for a play, preparing a huge talk and teaching yoga ON TOP OF MY DAY JOB, I thought it might be fun to revisit it.  And I'm just not ready to write about another school shooting where the majority of the dead are girls and women and the killer is a young white male.  (It will come, I promise). 

I watched a re-run of Family Guy last night. In this episode, Lois freaks out because she is exhausted from Christmas preparations. She sets fire to their tree and goes on a rampage through the town of Quahog. This episode really resonated with me, even though I don't have children. I have done the majority of the shopping for the approximately 40 people on our list, many of whom are nieces and nephews on my husband's side of the family. It's now up to 50.  How the hell did that happen?   Last Saturday I spent hours wrapping all of those presents. And I'm still not done. I have to pick up something for my Dad, find the perfect book about trains for my Godson, get something for my neighbors who were overly generous last year, a gift certificate for my brother in law and his wife, go to Target and get dog toys for nine dogs, and maybe something else for my mother. I'm way ahead of the curve this year.  I did most of this last weekend as we are leaving today for New Hampshire to do my family's Christmases so I had to be ready.  I did spend Saturday baking shortbread cookies and Sunday grading papers, making two lasagnes for a Christmas party, and wrapping most of the gifts.  And there are still three more things to buy, which coincidentally have been on my husband's To Do list for a week--pick up two gift cards and a bottle of white wine.  Guess who will probably be doing that?

Then I have to buy the ingredients to make a Christmas Eve dessert, develop a shopping list for Christmas dinner, which will include making another dessert, and finish wrapping the gifts I haven't finished wrapping, including some I need to wrap when my husband is elsewhere. This part is easier this year as we tried NOT to buy anything for each other so I just have a couple of things to throw in his stocking for Christmas morning. And I won't wrap them.  I'll make my pie tomorrow am when I am in New Hampshire and we'll come up with something to bring to Christmas Eve that morning after we're back. 

Christmas has become a race to exhaustion. And while I love to buy Christmas presents, I wonder if we have stepped too far afield of its meaning. While we hear all the time that we have to "get back to the real meaning of Christmas," like a new group on Facebook called "Let's keep the Christ in Christmas," none of this addresses the pressure that, in most cases, women face during this time of year.

And why does the holiday pressure fall on women? I know I am the one who nagged my husband about decorating the house. This year our tree was up without lights for a WEEK.  And when he finally got motivated to put them on, while I was out at an event one night, he couldn't find the lights.  he spent most of Saturday looking all over town for white lights and we ended up with colored ones.  There is one fake stupid looking wreath hanging on our garage.  Our house really looks blah. But I am really over it.  I was the one who wanted our house to look "pretty" in my neighborhood. I was the one who went to get a tree and then decorated the whole thing while he cooked dinner one night. I did manage to get him to come shopping with me for some of our nieces and nephews, but I couldn't get him to move at the pace I needed. Am I the one who puts this pressure on me? Do women bring this on themselves? Or are men happy to let us take charge?

I often get a good cold this time of year. Women run themselves into exhaustion, staying up late wrapping presents or baking cookies or decorating. I wonder if next year, instead of getting back to the real meaning of Christmas, maybe we could begin to think of an equality of Christmas, where no one person in the home takes full responsibility for the increased chores that come with this beautiful season of lights.

So yes, I wrote that paragraph two years ago.  Did it happen?  Clearly not.  I think the best Christmas I had, so far, was the year we went away to New York to have Christmas with my birth family.  I think it was fun because I wasn't worried about pleasing my family in anyway.  Maybe we need to start spending Christmas in the Caribbean.  Now there's an idea.  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is Representation a U.S. Problem?

Yesterday I did my first ever keynote presentation at The James J. Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education.  I'm sure some of my readers are like "WTF?  Math Education?"  Dr. Parker knows NOTHING about that. 

My talk was titled "Choosing Science:  Succeeding without Visible Role Models" and I looked at the representation of women across the STEM fields and then examined the representation of fictional scientists in Hollywood and television.  The talk will be available in the next week or two as a download. (As an actor and director, I will watch it and critique everything I did wrong, to improve upon it for future use).

But what resonated with most, the day after, was a comment made by a Ph.D. student from Turkey, who stated that women's representations as scientists in Turkey is more equal and she questioned whether these issues were western or U.S. based.  This comment gave me pause.  Of course I think media representation issues are based in the U.S., but I don't think I have thought enough about this from a global perspective.  When I think of France, I picture a similar advertising to the US, but does that play out the same way in commercials? 

We do know that in politics, the U.S. lags behind many European countries in how women are represented.  England and Germany have had women as their leaders, for example.  But what kind of commercials are shown and who runs their media.  One comment from a colleague, from England, was that he felt as if the U.S. is spewing it's crappy media across the pond towards Europe; that every time he goes home it feels more like the U.S.  I guess I need to ask some of my friends in Europe--I have two in England, one in France, and one in Switzerland what their experience is. 

If you have any ideas on this subject or suggestions, please send them my way.  This work I am engaged in, on representation seems to get more expansive the more time I spend on it. 

I think in my next blog I will do a mini study on representation of women and girls in Christmas movies.  Or will there be nothing to write about?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

End of November Rant

I maintain a list of blog ideas to write about.  Today I'm going to spend a short time ranting on a few of them, just in time for the Holidays!

#1.  I don't really give a flying fuck that some General had an affair.  The only reason this is news is because our warped news media has decided it is news.  Many other Generals and politicians cheat on their partners.  It happens ALL THE TIME.  What people do behind closed doors is their business.  Certainly if he is giving out state secrets to his lovers, that is a different story, but I could really care less about the whole drama.  And it is weird that it is the man who is called out for cheating but his mistress isn't?  She has a spouse too.  As Joe Nocera wrote in his Op-Ed in The New York Times, "the Petraeus scandal could well end up teaching some very different lessons. If the most admired military man in a generation can have his e-mail hacked by F.B.I. agents, then none of us are safe from the post-9/11 surveillance machine. And if an affair is all it takes to force such a man from office, then we truly have lost all sense of proportion" (  To fight this loss of proportion, don't spend any time watching the news about this stupid story while a war between Israel and Palestine rages--AGAIN.

#2. The fact that stores were allowed to go around Blue Laws and open on Thanksgiving night just represents the sad state of this country.  We are so obsessed with consumerism that we can't even pause for a DAY to be with friends and family.  I mean, you can take all that crap with you to the grave, right?  Whoever dies with the most toys wins, right?

#3.  Sophia Vergara, of one of my favorite television shows, Modern Family, stars in a horrible commercial for KMart where she  transforms women in a library with their fall 2012 collection called "Smart is Sexy."  She takes these dowdy "librarian-looking" women and "sexes" them up.  So the message to girls here is that you can spend a lot of time and money on clothes and make-up looking sexy but it doesn't mean you can't be smart, too. It saddens me when role models, like her, cave to the themes of modern media.  

#4.  Susan Venker's article "The War on Men" made me throw up in my mouth.  This writer has run into scores of men who say they don't want to get married because "women aren't women anymore."  She continues by stating that the media and all the books and even television put women front and center and put men and children in the "backseat."  WHAT?  Clearly Ms Venker has not done any research on the representation of women in the media.  She says that men are tired of being blamed for women's happiness.  Men are pissed off because they are unable to support their families because it is in their DNA.  WHAT?  Women FINALLY are outnumbering men in college and the workforce and it's so sad because men want to "love" women, not "compete with them."  WHAT?  She goes on to say that feminism has allowed men to have sex at "hello" and live with their girlfriends with no responsibilities.  THIS is what feminism has given to men?  Are you fucking kidding me.  But her simple answer to this problem is this:  "women have the power to turn everything around.  All they have to do is surrender to their nature--their femininity--and let men surrender to theirs."  (Venker article).  Mostly, I wonder what editors even think this writing is worthy of being published and factual in anyway.  I'll let you read the full article yourself, but make sure it isn't right after breakfast. 

#5.  I want to end on a positive.  Please shop local.  It's a movement we can all get behind.  My goal this year is to try to by presents for my friends and family that are locally made and hand made.  
Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.

Read more:
It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women, not compete with them. They want to provide for and protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them.

Read more:
All the articles and books (and television programs, for that matter) put women front and center, while men and children sit in the back seat. But after decades of browbeating the American male, men are tired. Tired of being told there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told that if women aren’t happy, it’s men’s fault.

Read more:
All the articles and books (and television programs, for that matter) put women front and center, while men and children sit in the back seat. But after decades of browbeating the American male, men are tired. Tired of being told there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told that if women aren’t happy, it’s men’s fault.

Read more:
All the articles and books (and television programs, for that matter) put women front and center, while men and children sit in the back seat. But after decades of browbeating the American male, men are tired. Tired of being told there’s something fundamentally wrong with them. Tired of being told that if women aren’t happy, it’s men’s fault.

Read more:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


The ABC Series, Scandal, now in it's second season, is a must watch for any feminist supporting television watcher. I will provide you with three reasons you really should watch this show. 

First, Kerry Washington, the lead actor, who plays Olivia Price, is the first female Black lead on a major network since the 1974 show Get Christie Love starring Teresa Graves.  Other shows with leading Black women have included cable's TNT’s HawthoRNe produced and starring Jada Pinkett Smith and HBOs The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency starring Jill Scott. Both of these drama's were short-lived, with HawthoRNe pulled after three seasons.  Diahann Carroll was the first African-American woman to star in a sitcom, Julia, which debuted on ABC in 1968 and ran for three years.

Next, Scandal is also the first dramatic network television series written and produced by an African-American woman for an African-American woman in the lead role. Shonda Rhimes, the creator, head writer, and producer of Grey's Anatomy and it's spin-off, Private Practice is a role model for other women in television writing and production.  Another first is the show’s inspiration, Judy Smith, Washington, D.C. crisis communications pro, now co-executive producer of the show.  Smith served as Special Assistant and Deputy Press Secretary under the first Bush Administration earning a "reputation for being straightforward, honest and hard working," along with being "instrumental in . . . controversies surrounding the nomination of Clarence Thomas . . . and the Gulf War." Smith started a company "Smith & Company," specializing in crisis management and media relations.  Some of her clients include Monica Lewinski and Michael Vick.

The third reason you should watch this show is because it is really good.  It is a political thriller with twists and turns that constantly leave you guessing.  I have only watched part of Season two and am counting the hours until the weekend when I can get caught up on the rest of the season as well as finding a way to watch Season one.  

I owe my inspiration for this blog to my friend and colleague, Cynthia Cummings, who encouraged me to watch the show as part of my exploration into women's miss-representation. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Halloween Tale

Last night on my drive home from performing in a staged reading of The Seagull and dinner with a friend, I heard this story on WGBH, Boston Public Radio about the first witch trail in the Hamptons.  What interested me was a study that found those accused of being witches were often women about to come into inheritance, thus making them independent women. Women, who were accused of witchcraft, "often were spinsters, barren, ugly, extremely successful, independent, reclusive, litigious, or willful" (

In Connecticut, there are known to be 35 witch trials "between 1647 and 1697, as well as two more in the 18th Century, of which a total of eleven resulted in executions" (  We also know of the case in the East Hamptons in 1658.  And approximately 80 people were accused between 1648 - 1663 in Massachusetts, executing 19 of them.  The numbers vary, but the closest "guesstimate" is about 30 women and a few men were executed during this time.  (Compared to thousands in Europe prior to this).  Women who did not confess to witchcraft were the ones most often put to death.  Those who did confess were given a break but then ostracized from their communities.  

So why am I carrying on today about the witch trials, other than the fact that it's Halloween?  If we look back and see that most of those executed were women and that "most of those women had somehow manifested an independence or insubordination deemed inappropriate and even potentially disruptive or dangerous, should provide one of the most telling explanations of all. It is also worthy of note that most of the accused were middle-aged, without sons or brothers; they thus stood to inherit property and to live as autonomous spinsters, an existence that in and of itself threatened to defy or unseat the carefully maintained and cherished patriarchal order of this seventeenth-century society" (  

We are about to possibly elect some Republican men who would probably fit in quite well in 17th century New England.  Let's do a quick recap of the last few months.  Todd Akin, a congressman running for U.S. Senate in Missouri, said rape survivors don’t need abortions because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Joe Walsh, a House incumbent in Illinois, asserted that “with modern technology and science, you can't find one instance” where abortion is necessary to protect a woman’s life or health. And most recently, Richard Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer and Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, who Mitt Romney has endorsed, stated that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen" (  

This complete dismissal of women owning their bodies feels like we've traveled back in time to Salem.  And the misogyny of these Republican candidates is not just about rape and reproductive rights.  It is also about the old evil spinster who will live into her 90s and have no access to Medicare or Social Security because her benefits will be destroyed.  Most of the policies being proposed by these men are about keeping women in their place, witch is exactly what the witch trials were about.  When asked about pay equity for women, Romney could not answer whether he thought it was important, but that women needed "flex time" so they could get home to their children to make dinner.  What I surmise from this statement is that he is not concerned with women getting equal pay, but concerned that we stay in our "proper place."

So on Halloween I ask you to pause and reflect on all the women (and men) who were killed in the name of Patriarchy and to think hard about what choices you will make next week at the Polls.  Will those choices include expanding the rights we have as citizens (equal pay, medical marijuana, national healthcare, reproductive rights, marriage equality, euthanasia,  gays serving openly in the military) or will it be about shrinking those rights and sending women back to a time when speaking our mind could end in burning at the stake or a long trip to the insane asylum?  Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hollywood's MISS Representation

Since winning this big grant to educate college, high school and middle school students on the paucity of women in the media, I have begun stumbling upon new websites, blogs, and video blogs that address this issue.  And boy, am I learning a lot! 

As a theatre person at heart, I do not spend a lot of time studying film, movies or Hollywood.  It has just never appealed to me.  I like a well written, well acted, and well directed movie, but my first love is for plays and live theatre.  Interestingly, people often assume if you like to act or direct than you want to do film.  This may be because so many Hollywood "stars" come back to Broadway to do plays, now more than ever.  But I have done some small film work and found it mind numbing.  (See the side of my face as an extra at the airport in 27 Dresses.  I walk in front of Malin Akerman).

This week in my research I stumbled upon Melissa A Fabello's video blog on women's representation in horror movies.  She and her friend discuss the Bechdel test.  From there I found the v-blog Feminist Frequency,  run by Anita Sarkeesian, who also talks about media representation and the Bechdel test.   One of my best friends, who is a filmmaker and movie buff, knew all about it.  But I'm writing about it today because I don't think the general public does, and you should! 

Basically it was started, kind of tongue-in-cheek, by Alison Bechdel, in her famous comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (Mo Movie Measure).  The "rule" or test, goes like this:  (1) there has to be at least two NAMED women in the movie, (2) they have to talk to one another, (3) about anything other than a man.  In last year's Academy Awards nominees, only two of the nine movies nominated met the test. And as Anita Sarkeesian said, "Let’s remember that this was made as a bit of a joke to make fun of the fact that there are so few movies with significant female characters in them. The reason the test has become so important in recent years is because it actually does highlight a serious and ongoing problem within the entertainment industry."

What has also been illuminating for me in this research and work I am now consumed with is that "chick flicks," often fail this Bechdel test.  Wouldn't it be great if before we went to the movies or downloaded that movie to our television we could make sure they pass this test?  Anita Sarkeesian has suggested adding another question to this test; (4) Do the two women talk to each other for at least 60 seconds?  When you add this fourth question, even more movies fail the test. 

While I do my best in this blog to critique pop culture and educate my readers, there is NOT always a takeaway in terms of social change.  Today I am trying more than ever to live what I preach.  After winning my award I decided I couldn't subscribe to my favorite local theatre because they are producing no plays by women this year.  So in this case, don't go to movies that fail the test.  Do go to movies that pass, particularly those with women directors.  Go on the Friday of opening weekend.  This is the date Hollywood uses to judge how well the movie did.  There's a rumor out there that some amazing feminist film folks are developing an app for this.  I can also recommend subscribing to Melissa Silverstein's Women and Hollywood if you are into the indie/women/film scene. 

If we don't start using our consumer voice to tell the world how WE want it, those in control will continue running it the way they want to see it:  white, male, with women serving as prop pieces. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Romney is Not a Friend to Women

Last week I defended Obama's poor debate performance by suggesting that he had a job that might possibly take up some of the time that Romney spends preparing for the debates and running for President. 

This week I am pleased that Obama seemed back in the game and Romney seemed more like himself.  You know, the self who can't stand women.  This guy actually suggested that single mothers are to blame for gun violence.  WHAT?  And when asked about pay equity, the now famous "binders full of women" phrase was invented.  Rather than address actual documented pay inequity, he felt compelled to address the need for flex time so that women can get home and cook dinner and take care of their kids after their long day at the office.  WHAT?

We can also talk about how Romney does not support contraception or the right to an abortion.  This man is no friend to women.  I love it when Republican women are interviewed on NPR and they say that they aren't "one issue" voters and that they need to look to larger issues, like the economy in their decision on how to support for President.  I'm sure the right to control your family size has NOTHING to do with economics, right? 

I also like how the notion of reproductive freedom, rights or choice is always lumped into "one issue."  This topic is full of issues from the access to birth control for poor women, coverage for abortion, the right to prenatal care, the right to make decisions about your birth plan, the right to stay in a hospital after you have a baby, the right to have a vaginal delivery after a C-section, and the right to be sterilized, or not. 

As a woman who has never been pregnant, I take this "one issue" pretty seriously.  I see my friends in their mid-30s and early 40s trying to get pregnant in a country where hormones have over populated our food.  I see young women, where I work, unclear how to advocate for themselves as fertile women who don't yet want to have a baby.  I see young men refusing to wear condoms.  I see couples struggling over whether they can afford a second or third child. 

I religiously read Margaret and Helen, a blog by two women who have been friends for 60 years.  She recently wrote this about Mitt Romney being a liar "I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose… Roe v. Wade has gone too far… I am pro-choice… I am pro-life… I never really called myself pro-choice…When I am asked if I am pro-choice or pro-life, I say I refuse to accept either label…"  

Beware of this man when you head to the polls on November 7th.  He is not a friend to any woman, except maybe Ann Romney.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Obama Has a Job, Romney Doesn't.

Obama won the debate.  I think I have heard enough punditry (is that a word) on that topic.  I get it.  I watched.  Yes he was distracted, yes he wasn't "on his game,", yes he looked down too much.  Gee, I wonder what could cause a person, like the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES to be distracted.  Could it be something that we don't even know about, some top secret terrorist, or Middle Eastern crisis causing him to worry?  Perhaps?

Jon Sununu, former NH Governor actually referred to Obama as "lazy" on Andrea Mitchell's  MSNBC show.  She was shocked.  We all should be shocked.  Not only is that an inappropriate word to call the current president (maybe appropriate for former President George W. Bush), but downright racist. 

What does Mitt Romney do all day?  Hmmm.  I think his job is RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.  He doesn't have a job.  He gets to run around the country all day and make speeches and meet people and spend hours and hours and hours at his beautiful NH lakefront home preparing for his three debates. 

And while Romney is preparing for his debates with the President, before we get too critical on how he did in the first debate, spend some time imaging a day in the life of both of these men as we move toward the election.  Obama cannot spend nearly as much time preparing for the debates as Romney as he has to run the country.  Why has this point not come up during any of the criticism of him?  Why hasn't one of the so-called brilliant journalists we have on all these news stations thought of this?  Let's cut him a little slack. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Celebrities Not Needed

I read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide when it came out in 2009.  The book, written by writer couple Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDun, details atrocities done to women and girls all over the globe.  It focuses on rape, sex trafficking, maternal mortality, female genital circumcision, and access to education.  It is an illuminating yet frustrating book.  Kristof and WuDunn spend time in each chapter detailing the work being done in these areas to help girls and women.

This week, on Monday and Tuesday, the documentary version of their book came out.  There was a big media blitz about it on the Internet, including emails to Women's Centers, like mine, to hold screenings.  It was too short notice for us to hold a screening, not to mention, too late for me to stay at work on a Monday or Tuesday night.  The film aired from 9-11pm ET.  But I was so disgusted with the Monday night viewing that I couldn't force myself to watch the second half, which I'm sure will now be airing on PBS all month.

The film opens with a statement by George Clooney.  Fine.  Then there are clips interspersed with Kristoff's intense interviews or investigations in each of the areas mentioned above.  Also fine.  Each one of the places that Kristof visits in the film, where he focuses on a specific issue to women and girls, he had a celebrity with him.  It was so odd at first, almost unsettling.  There is no explanation why Meg Ryan is with him going to a safe haven for girls who have been sold into sex slavery.  Was this an issue she was already interested in?  Was this a cause she had been working for?  As they drive up to this haven, where all these young girls welcome them in uniforms, Meg Ryan says "Aw.  They look so cute."  WHAT???? Cute?  These girls were just sex slaves and we're going to immediately respond to them in terms of their bodies and how they look?  Who the hell edited this thing?

When you go to the half the sky website, you can click on a drop down menu of Celebrities/Advocates.  There you can see what this person does on behalf of women.  Gabrielle Union, who visits Vietnam with Kristof, is described as

"being an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, as well as her support for the Young Survivor Coalition (YSC) and the Rape Treatment Center (RTC) at UCLA. Union often travels on behalf of Susan G. Komen and the YSC to share her story of losing a friend to breast cancer and works to inspire others as well when she visits the RTC to talk to young women. She also helped found a program called "A Step for Success" in 2004, which helps raise funds for the economically challenged Kelso Elementary School in Los Angeles. The program holds fundraisers to help pay for books, classroom supplies and many other daily needs that teachers have fallen burden to paying for themselves. Union traveled with Nicholas Kristof to Vietnam to visit John Wood at Room to Read." 

Nowhere in her bio does it talk about why she would be going with Kristof to Vietnam, nor her interest in John Wood's organization.  And this seems to be the case with all these famous female actors.  Eva Mendes bio on the site lists nothing about her interest in fighting rape.  She gives a young rape survivor a necklace, which makes the viewer very uncomfortable.  This is the case with all the celebrities featured in the film.

If you click on each of the celebrities names, that page features a picture of them with one of the women or girls interviewed in the film, with a big smile on their face.  The complexities of race and class in these pictures are unsettling.

I would have been perfectly fine viewing this documentary with the clips of "experts" interspersed with Kristof's intimate interviews with women and girls who have survived horrible circumstances, but adding celebrity women to bring viewers to the television seems forced and inappropriate.  WuDunn was an articulate and intelligent voice throughout the movie and she was all the celebrity I needed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Should Politicians Have to Take a Test?

So by now we are all just sick and tired of the election.  Sick of seeing the same old commercials of how Warren is better than Brown and Romney is better than Obama and this one didn't do this and that one didn't do that. 

And I am certainly the last person to say I have given up and I won't vote because our political system has become too irrational for the everyday person, but this year (or maybe it really is every year) I keep getting this nagging sense that there needs to be some kind of test or requirement or schooling that some of these people need before they start running for office.

Todd Akin who sits on the House Committee for Science, Space and Technology thought that a woman's body rejected pregnancies caused by "legitimate rape."  You've got to be fucking kidding me.  Sorry, I really had to swear here.  Todd has a B.S. in Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a Master's in Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary.  I'm not sure either of these degrees qualifies him to provide medical statements on rape and pregnancy.

Mitt Romney, my former Governor of Massachusetts, who has helped many of my friends get health insurance continues to bumble.  His latest tape revealing he doesn't care about 47% of the electorate, as they don't pay taxes and thus won't vote for him makes one wonder if people running for President should have a degree in Economics.  Romney has a Bachelor's in English and a J.D. and MBA from Harvard.  Maybe it's the English degree that makes him struggle with math. 

We can certainly question the folks who advise these "brilliant" men.  Or question the brilliancy of men who hire people who give them terrible advice.  These same would-be politicians will continue to hire people if elected; people who might continue to provide poor advice as well as incorrect information.  Whatever the case, I'm just looking forward to Thanksgiving when all this will be behind us, for another two years. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Leave Sandra Fluke Alone!

I was fortunate to see Sandra Fluke live this past April when I brought five students to the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Young Women's Leadership Conference.  She spoke passionately about her experience testifying before a panel of men about women's need for birth control.  She is a true reproductive justice activist.

I was thrilled the DNC invited her to be one of their speakers, not only because of her passion for reproductive rights, but also because she is a young outspoken woman who TELLS THE TRUTH.

Should I be surprised at the aftermath of her speech?  Should I be surprised that the right wing CHRISTIANS used sexualized language to critique her?  I guess I shouldn't, as Rush Limbaugh's horrible attack of her after her Congressional Testimony where he stated,"What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps."  (If you want to read more about the Rush Limbaugh attack, read David Frum's article) It doesn't make sense to me that a party who extols the virtues of Christianity would say some of the horrible things they have been saying about this woman.  Honestly, I would be embarrassed if I was a pro-choice Republican woman.  Here are a few of them:

Before the speech, the lovely Ann Coulter tweeted, "Bill Clinton just impregnated Sandra Fluke backstage."

The rest of this I quote from David Frum's CNN column "Slurs only Bolster Sandra Fluke's Cause." 

Stephen Kruiser:   "Tricky camera work to keep TV audience from seeing (David) Axelrod's hand up Fluke's a**." 

Steven Kruiser: "Sandra Fluke has been blessed with a quarter-million dollars of elite education ... and she has concluded that the most urgent need facing the Brokest Nation in History is for someone else to pay for the contraception of 30-year-old children."

James Taranto:  "Seriously, the party of Andrew Jackson and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman chose to showcase someone whose claim to fame is that she demands that somebody else pay for her birth control."

Joe Walsh: "Think about this, a 31-, 32-year-old law student who has been a student for life, who gets up there in front of a national audience and tells the American people, 'I want America to pay for my contraceptives.' You're kidding me. Go get a job. Go get a job, Sandra Fluke."

Sandra Fluke's original testimony was about student's having access to birth control at Catholic Universities, like Georgetown, where she is a law students.  This was not about taxpayers paying for birth control, although that's what one would think it was about if you read all the pundits responses to her.

What remains for me, however, is what these attacks on Fluke tell us about the way women are represented in our culture.  A smart, young woman cannot get up in front of a group of men, only men, and talk intelligently about the needs of young woman without being sexualized and demonized.  Women can't run for office without being ripped apart about how they look and what they wear.  Hillary cries a tear, she's emotional and clearly can't be President.  Elizabeth Warren looks like a librarian and thus isn't "hip" enough to be a Senator.  Michelle Obama is gorgeous and has style so she should be on the 2012 ticket.  And people wonder why more women don't run for office.  What smart woman wants to put herself through THAT kind of scrutiny, opening herself up to being called a slut or ugly or emotional, none of which has anything to do with her politics and her leadership ability.

In the years that I have observed the world through my purple-hazed feminist glasses, I don't recall it being so crude, so mean, and so trivial.  For male conservative leaders to use sexual language to critique a person's opinion instead of intelligent critique backed up with facts only demonstrates who is really the idiot in the room. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Crazy Dating Site

I heard about this dating website on an academic listerve. is a site where people bid on dates.  For example, if I was interested in dating you, I'd offer you $50 and you can accept my offer.  The site talks about "generous" people and "attractive" people.  Your photo has to be approved to allow you to register.  The site also maintains a blog.  This blog got me fired up.

Step by step guide to being a lady

I don't even think there is any need to comment on this in 2012. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Don't Scratch a Sister, Because the System Will Do It for You!

I recently spent a three day weekend in Maine with one of my best friends and her closest friends.  There were six of us that weekend and we got along the entire time.  Someone I told about this was amazed.  Six women getting along?  Like it was impossible.  We came up with a term "banana" that we would use whenever one of us was getting pushy, snippy, or just domineering.  It always made the woman being called out pause, smile and say "you're right!" 

A few years ago, we planned our whole semester around women supporting each other.  Recently, a graduate who experienced that semester found this list on Tumblr called "How to Be Friends With Women."  It's kind of sad that someone has to write about this, but much in here was so honest, I thought it would be a nice post.   Here is the original link

I particularly like many of the statements in number 6. 

1. Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be toxic, bitchy or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses—pretty but designed to SLOW women down.

1A. This is not to say women aren’t bitches or toxic or competitive sometimes but rather to say that these are not defining characteristics of female friendship, especially as you get older.

2. A lot of ink is given over to mythologizing female friendships as curious, fragile relationships that are always intensely fraught. Stop reading writing that encourages this mythology. 

2A: The female friendship in Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? is actually awesome and powerful. If you read it as otherwise, ask yourself why.

3. If you find that you are feeling competitive, toxic, or bitchy toward the women who are supposed to be your closest friends, look at why and figure out how to fix it and/or find someone who can help you fix it.

4. If you are the kind of woman who says, “I’m mostly friends with guys,” and act like you’re proud of that, like that makes you closer to being a man or something, and less of a woman as if a woman is a bad thing, see Item 3. It’s okay if most of your friends are guys but if you champion this as a commentary on the nature of female friendships, well, soul search a little.

4A. If you feel like it’s hard to be friends with women consider that maybe women aren’t the problem. Maybe it’s just you.

4B. I used to be this kind of woman. I’m sorry.

5. Sometimes, your friends will date people you cannot stand. You can either be honest about your feelings or you can lie. There are good reasons for both. Sometimes you will be the person dating someone your friends cannot stand. If your man or woman is a scrub, just own it so you and your friends can talk about more interesting things. My go to explanation is, “I am dating an asshole because I’m lazy.” You are welcome to borrow it.

6. Want nothing but the best for your friends because when your friends are happy and successful, it’s probably going to be easier for you to be happy.

6A. If you’re having a rough go of it and a friend is having the best year ever and you need to think some dark thoughts about that, do it alone, with your therapist, or in your diary so that when you actually see your friend, you can avoid the myth discussed in Item 1.

6B. If you and your friend(s) are in the same field and you can collaborate or help each other, do this, without shame. It’s not your fault your friends are awesome. Men invented nepotism and practically live by it. It’s okay for women to do it too. 

6C: Don’t tear other women down because even if they’re not your friends, they are other women and well, this is just important. This is not to say you cannot criticize other women but understand the difference between criticizing constructively and tearing down cruelly. 

6D: Everybody gossips so if you are going to gossip about your friends, at least make it fun and interesting. As a corollary, never say, I never lie or I never gossip because you are lying.

6E: Love your friends’ kids even if you don’t want or like children. 
Just do it. 

7. Tell your friends the hard truths they need to hear. They might get pissed about it but it’s probably for their own good. The other day my best friend told me to get it together about my love life and demanded an action plan and well, it was irritating but also useful. 

7A: Don’t be totally rude about truth telling and consider how much truth is actually needed to get the job done. Finesse goes a long way.

7B: These conversations are more fun when preceded by an 
emphatic, “GIRL.”

8. Surround yourself with women you can get sloppy drunk with who won’t draw stupid things on your face if you pass out, and who will help you puke, if you over celebrate and who will also tell you if you get sloppy drunk too much or behave badly when you are sloppy drunk. 

9. Don’t flirt (too much), have sex, or engage in an emotional affair with your friends’ significant others. This shouldn’t need to be said but it needs to be said. That significant other is an asshole and you don’t want to be involved with an asshole that’s used goods. If you want to be with an asshole, get a fresh asshole of your very own. They are abundant.

10. Don’t let your friends buy ugly outfits or accessories you don’t want to look at when you hang out. This is just common sense.

11. When something is wrong and you need to talk to your friends and they ask you how you are, don’t say, “Fine.” They know you’re lying and it irritates them and a lot of time is wasted with the back and forth of “Are you sure?” and “Yes?” and “Really?” and “I AM FINE.” Tell your lady friends the truth so you can talk it out and either sulk companionably or move on to other topics.

12. If four people are dining, split the check evenly four ways. We are adults now. We don’t need to add up what each person had anymore. If you’re high rolling, just treat everyone and rotate who treats. If you’re still in the broke stage, do what you have to do.

13.If a friend sends a crazy e-mail needing reassurance about love, life, family, or work, respond accordingly and in a timely manner even if it is just to say, GIRL, I hear you. If a friend sends you like thirty crazy e-mails needing reassurance about the same damn shit, be patient because one day that’s going to be you tearing up GMAIL with your drama. 

14. My mother’s favorite saying is “qui se ressemble s’assemble.” Whenever she didn’t approve of who I was spending time with she’d say this ominously. It means, essentially, you are who you surround yourself with.

I would look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter.  I know I have always been nervous around women who say they never want to have girls because girls are so difficult.  Or that they would rather be friends with guys because women are bitchy, emotional, you fill in the word here.  My life is fuller and richer because I have some of the most amazing women in it:  Heather, Kristen, Melissa, Lisa, Kim, Nicole, Stephanie, Cynthia, Hannah, Maureen, Susan, Cullen, Susan . . . .

And that amazing weekend in Maine, while those women weren't all MY closest friends, I can guarantee, as we parted on Sunday, we WERE close friends, even the newbie, Amy!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What I Hate About the 2012 Olympics

Here is one of those list blogs.  I have always loved the Olympics, particularly gymnastics, as I competed in high school and as a girl watched USSR Nadia Comaneci win all her gold medals with awe.  I wanted to be her.  But I guess I have grown up and am a bit more media savvy than I was at 12.  

Let's just start with uniforms.  Why do many women's sand volleyball teams wear itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini's but men wear shorts and tank tops?  Why do female gymnasts wear a leotard for all four events but the men change their bottoms depending on the event?  During the floor exercises, they wear shorts, during the pommel horse, the rings, and the parallel bars, they wear pants.  And above we have a picture of women running in bikinis. The men will run in tight fitting tanks and what look like bike shorts.  Are we trying to go back to the original Olympics where the Greeks competed in the nude? 

Second I reference the plethora of comments about Olympic women who also happen to be moms.  See a great article on this here.  Moms Have it All 
No one is talking about all the Olympic men who are dads and have had to sacrifice their relationships with their kids.  These comments, by the NBC Commentators, are sexist back handed judgments that mothers really shouldn't be Olympians.  I mean, how can you possibly be a good mother if you spend the majority of your time working out and competing.  Bad woman!  Get in your place. 

Thirdly McDonalds is the number one sponsor of the Olympics.  Are you kidding me? A friend of mine said she heard someone say "that is like having cigarettes be the sponsor of cancer."  There is nothing more to say about that.

Fourth, the NBC Commentators are horrible.  My husband and I watched men's gymnastics the other night and they literally could not name ONE type of back flip they were doing.  The female commentator said "the energy level is very different tonight."  That's it. She didn't elaborate as to whether it was better or worse, higher or lower.  I could have done a better job being specific about what was happening, rather than these vague comments that make absolutely no sense.

Fifth, this "Thanks Mom" campaign by Proctor & Gamble is also sexist.  There were no Dad's out there shlepping their kids back and forth to the gym?  No Dad's paying for all that training?  No, of course not, parenting is a WOMAN'S job. 

So, maybe I won't ever be able to watch the Olympics again, wearing my feminist lens's, but at least NBC could hire some commentators who know how to comment accurately on the sport they are watching!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

NCAA Makes a Statement

I'm listening to the news Tuesday morning of the NCAA sanctions of Penn State.  It's mostly good news for those of us who work for victim rights and an end to sexual violence.  But what does this say about all the sexual assaults that go un-reported and pushed under the rug under the guise of college athletics at many, many universities?
At a conference on Title IX and sexual assault two years ago, one of the keynotes, David Lisak, a Professor at UMass Boston who researches rapists, showed us a video, which is available on You Tube, on how to get a woman drunk so that you can have sex with her.  Dr. Lisak stated that if this was a video on how to get a child to submit to sexual abuse them it would be taken off the internet immediately by the Feds. 
Do you see where I am going here?  What happened at Penn State was horrible.  The abuse of children is horrible.  And our reaction as a culture to this horrific crime is appropriate.  But rape of women is JUST AS HORRIBLE as sexual abuse of children.  Until we, as a culture, begin to change our mindset that this is the case, the statistics I will quote below will continue to be relevant and perhaps worsen.  
"The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years (Fisher 2000)."
"Also disturbing is the lack of prosecution for those who commit rape; according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) only 9% of rapists face prosecution, and a mere 3% of rapists ever spend a single day in jail. 97% odds of evading jail time are not significant enough to deter sexual violence." span style= font-family: Georgia, serif;">These statistics should HORRIFY the NCAA.  Imagine the cultural change that could occur should national collegiate organizations like the NCAA were to take plain-old-every-day-sexual-assault and treat it with the same concern as what happened to those boys under Jerry Sandusky.  
The Center for Public Integrity and NPR have been investigating college sexual violence over the last few years and have learned the following:
— Colleges almost never expel men who are found responsible for sexual assault. Reporters at CPI discovered a database of about 130 colleges and universities given federal grants because they wanted to do a better job dealing with sexual assault. But the database shows that even when men at those schools were found responsible for sexual assault, only 10 to 25 percent of them were expelled.
— The U.S. Department of Education has failed to aggressively monitor and regulate campus response to sexual assault. The department has the authority to fine schools that fail to report crime on campus. In 20 years, the department has used that power just six times. And the department can also find that a school has violated a law that prevents discrimination against women. But between 1998 and 2008, the department ruled against just five universities out of 24 resolved complaints.
— Colleges are ill-equipped to handle cases of sexual assault. Most of the time, alcohol is involved. Local prosecutors are reluctant to take these cases, so they often fall to campus judicial systems to sort through clashing claims of whether the sex was consensual or forced.    ~Findings of the Center for Public Integrity and NPR News Investigation
If these facts are true, and I expect they are, having worked at a university for almost 18 years, organizations like the NCAA and the Department of Education need to change their approach.  The Office of Civil Rights has recently required universities to be much more comprehensive as they address sexual violence but the movement toward change, particularly on a college campus, is slow.  State universities, do not have the funding to throw all their eggs into the sexual violence basket to quickly establish these changes.  
We need all the players, so to speak, to be at the table to end sexual violence on college campuses (and in the world).  We need the NCAA, the DOE, the OCR, and state agencies to see this issue as important, significant and horrific.  Until the culture which allows sexual violence to be quietly swept away shifts towards a world where a video on how to get a young woman drunk so she can be raped is swiftly taken off the internet and a fine or jail time imposed on the person who uploaded it, the rape of women will still remain further down the hierarchy of what is bad in our society.  And if raping women isn't so bad, then why pay her equally for her work or provide her with adequate family leave or even allow her full participation in politics and the media.  Until women are considered equal to men, I sadly don't think any of this will change.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Providence Restaurant Week

So, yes . . . I consider this blog The Feminist Critic on all things pop, political, etc., however this week I thought it would be fun to critique our first outing for Providence Restaurant Week.  I may be a feminist, but I am also, most definitely, a foodie! 

To learn more about restaurant week, check out We took my husband's parent's out to dinner on Sunday, the kick off of restaurant week, for their 33rd wedding anniversary. We looked at numerous menus on the list and decided on four places we liked. Two of them, when we called for reservations, were not open on Sundays. So we ended up at the Waterman Grill. I had just had drinks there over a week ago, which I thought were good.

We sat inside, with a water view, because it was quite warm outside. We were given the Prix Fixe restaurant week menu and their regular menu, which also has a Sunday through Thursday Prix Fixe menu for only $24.95. Restaurant week's price is $29.95.

They brought us water. The server came over and took our drink order.Then they brought us amazing fresh baked herbed bread. I thought that was a good sign. After fifteen minutes, he came back to take our dinner order as our drinks were still being made. Jeff and his parents ordered off the restaurant week menu and I ordered off the regular Prix Fixe menu. I ordered the mussels, salmon with beluga lentils, and the flourless chocolate cake.

Twenty minutes after we arrived we got our drinks. I thought mine was a martini so I sent it back because it came served on the rocks. The server told me I should have told him I wanted it up even after I told him that was how it was served to me a week ago. I don't take too kindly to debates with the servers.
The mussels came and they were a little underdone, kind of slimy.  I had Jeff eat one to make sure I wouldn't get sick.  The broth they came in was very bland, just some onions and a little butter.  Jeff's mussels are MUCH better.  But I shall try for the sake of restaurant week not to compare everything to Jeff's talented culinary skills.  His mom had the coconut shrimp and he and his dad had the fresh mixed greens with goat cheese.  

I asked for a wine list so that I could order a glass of wine with my dinner. I ordered one. He brought me the glass and over 15 minutes went by before he returned with my wine. I said to the server, "the bar services is extremely slow." He went on to blame it on the bartender, saying something like "she's a nice person and all . . ." I also noticed the manager stop at the table near ours, with the upscale looking foursome and ask how everything was. I turned to Jeff and said "he should ask us."

Our meals came. My salmon was excellent . I loved the beluga lentils. Jeff had the pork tenderloin with apple slaw and baked beans. My mother in law had the linguine and clam sauce. She thought her pasta was a bit too al dente. My father in law had the pan roasted fluke. During dinner, Jeff ordered another glass of wine and it came right out.

Dessert was simple. The flourless chocolate cake had a ganache on top that I felt ruined the richness of the torte. Jeff had a banana cake with butterscotch topping. His dad had cheesecake.

When we got our bill, I saw I was charged twice for my drink as I had sent it back to have it made up. We decided not to mention it when we noticed one of our entrees was not listed. I figured it was a bonus. But the server came over and said he thought he'd charged us twice for the drink. He brought the bill back and it was exactly the same. So we paid it and left. When we looked it over at home, we were charged for the fourth entree but it wasn't listed. And we were charged for my drink twice, so we paid $8.50 more than we should have.

All in all, the food was pretty good but the whole process was slow and the drinks took forever to get to us. I am not sure if I will go back there. It also seems like a nice place to go in the winter as they have a fireplace and a lot of wood grilling.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Feminist Intensive--Day II

Day II of our Intensive, with the theme of Media, started at The Women's Media Center. "Founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem–it has the goal of making women visible and powerful in the media.  The influence of the media is the most powerful economic and cultural force today.

By deciding who gets to talk, what shapes the debate, who writes, and what is important enough to report, the media shapes our understanding of who we are and what we can be. The Women's Media Center works to create a level playing field for women and girls in media through our monitoring, training, original content, and activism."  We spent almost three hours talking about becoming media experts in our fields and having a mini-workshop which mimics their Progressive Women's Voices training.  I hope to apply to this in 2013.  Their website is chock full of statistics on the lack of women in the media.  I'm also planning to invite their Vice-President to be part of my Feminist Media Literacy conference in Fall 2013 as part of the Zuckerberg Leadership Award I just won!

Then we went to AOL to see the trailer for the upcoming three-part PBS movie Makers.  This documentary chronicles over 100 women who were instrumental in the women's movement (all of them alive).  Their website is amazing.  You could spend a day just watching all these interviews with amazing women.  The first one we watched was Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.  Most of us teared up.  Her story truly is one of women pushing the boundaries of patriarchy and changing the world forever.  It was kind of cool to be in a very corporate NYC office, like AOL, although one of the members of our group called their 3 story office a "sad Google."

From AOL we went to Women's eNews.  If you don't subscribe you should.  They are an excellent source of honest news reporting on women around the world.  I love the "Cheers & Jeers" section.  They cover topics related to women that one would rarely find in the patriarchal news media.  

From there we were off to dinner with at Gloria Steinem's lovely home with Marcia Ann Gillespie, the former Editor of Ms Magazine, and random houseguest of Gloria's, Sheila Tobias.   

"Marcia Ann Gillespie is a trailblazer in the magazine industry, a leader in the women’s movement, a champion of gender of racial justice. A provocative writer and thinker, hers has been a consistent eloquent voice affirming the human potential for good, challenging inequality, pushing herself and others to hope, dare and strive for a better world. She is the author of Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration, an authorized biography published by Doubleday in April 2008, and is currently writing a memoir titled When Blacks Became Americans. She has been a driving force behind two of this nation’s most important women’s magazines, as the editor in chief of Essence from 1971-1980 and most recently as the editor in chief of Ms. from 1993-2001. Marcia is the current Professor of Diversity in Residence for the Johnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute at Bennett College." I was thrilled she remembered me from coming to campus in 1997, I think, as our keynote for Women's History Month

"Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, editor, and feminist activist. She travels in this and other countries as an organizer and lecturer and is a frequent media spokeswoman on issues of equality. She is particularly interested in the shared origins of sex and race caste systems, gender roles and child abuse as roots of violence, non-violent conflict resolution, the cultures of indigenous peoples, and organizing across boundaries for peace and justice. She was a cofounder ofMs. magazine as well as Voters for Choice, the Ms. Foundation, the Women’s Media Center, the Women’s Political Caucus and many other pioneering feminist organizations. She is the author of several best-selling books, including Revolution from Within and Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions." She remembered coming to Woodland Commons five years ago and being in the strange concrete building.  

What resonated most from our talk with these amazing women, for me, was her focus on female friendship and how this is such an important aspect of organizing and feminism in general.  If we can't support each other, how can we even begin to change the world.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Feminist Intensive--Day One Overview

Last week I attended Soapbox's Feminist Intensive for staff and faculty.  This event is normally run for 5 days for students in January and June called Feminist Boot Camp.  Soapbox is a feminist speakers bureau I have used since they began.  It was founded by writers & activists Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner.  They are the authors of Manifesta:  Young Women, Feminism and the Future, which is an excellent book I have used in many of my classes. 

Each day we met with activists and of feminist organizations in NYC.  On the first day we met with Equality Now 's Global Director, Yasmeen Hassan.  This 20 year old organization focuses on four areas:  Discrimination in Law, Sexual Violence, Female Genital Mutilation and Trafficking.  Their mission is to achieve legal and systemic change that addresses violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world.  They have offices in NYC, Nairobi, and London with plans to expand.  The work specifically with organizations in the countries where a woman is in need of help, to provide legal and other support. 

You can join the organization and get on their Take Action list.  Equality Now

We ended up next for lunch at the home of Joanne Sandler. She is a consultant on women's issues worldwide.  She was the Executive Director for UNIFEM and had a role in creating a space for women at the United Nations.  She talked with us about the difficulty in getting the UN to understand the importance of women.  What sticks with me about her conversation with "we got what we asked for."  She meant that women have gotten to part of patriarchal institutions but we need to now take it a step further.  She also spoke of having younger women step in to lead feminist organizations and that it is time for her generation to allow for that space.

We spent our next meeting with Women's World Banking's VP of Development Jane Sloane.  Women' s World Banking "is a non-profit, microfinance institution, consisting of 39 financial organizations in 27 countries, providing low-income women access to financial services and information. WWB helps microfinance institutions move away from a strictly credit-led approach toward providing a broader array of financial products and service, including savings and insurance to help the poor build comprehensive financial safety nets."  We learned a great deal about micro-finance and financial investing with a "gender lens."  What this means is looking not only at what companies do, but how they treat their employees, for example, investing in a company that has equal pay for its female workers.

We ended our first long day at a restaurant in Brooklyn with Robin Morgan and Irshad Manji.  

"Irshad Manji is a New York Times bestselling author, professor of leadership and advocate of liberal reform within Islam. Irshad directs New York University's Moral Courage Project, which teaches people worldwide to challenge political correctness, intellectual conformity and self-censorship. As a faithful Muslim, she emphasizes Islam's own tradition of "ijtihad," or independent thinking. The Jakarta Post in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, identifies Irshad as one of three women making a positive difference in Islam today. Her latest book, Allah, Liberty and Love, is sparking fierce debate internationally."  She spoke of how a woman was arrested for selling her new book before she had even sold it.  

"Robin Morgan is an award-winning poet, novelist, political theorist, feminist activist,and best-selling author, who has published more than 20 books, including the now-classic anthologies Sisterhood Is Powerful, Sisterhood Is Global, and Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women’s Anthology for A New MillenniumA founder of contemporary US feminism, she has been a leader in the international women’s movement for 25 years. She has traveled--as organizer, lecturer, journalist--across Europe, to Australia, Brazil, the Caribbean, Central America, China, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, Pacific Island nations, the Philippines, and South Africa; she has twice spent months in the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, West Bank, and Gaza, reporting on the conditions of women. In 1990, as Ms. Editor-in-Chief, she re-launched the magazine as an international, award-winning, ad-free bimonthly. Recently, she co-founded The Women’s Media Center," where we start day II.  More to come . . . .