Apr 292010

The other evening I was vegged out on the couch watching  Countdown’s Keith Olbermann chit chat with 3 other white middle-aged men about what it all means, the implicit assumption being that they are important guys who should be allowed to represent and explain reality to the rest of us. Liberal. Edgy. White. Male.

Most of the time, out of sheer exhaustion, I man up and put on my blinders, but this time it got to me.  So I went and checked out Countdown’s website  and there on Friends of Countdown, surprise surprise, all but 2 of the show’s “friends” are men and all but 2 are white and all of the sites that they link to are run by men.

Of course it isn’t just Olbermann, with rare exception that is still the way it is with most of the media, liberal or otherwise.  And it isn’t an issue that is limited to the U.S..  Last week The Guardian (UK) published a great piece of Tillie Olsen-esque cataloging of the extreme lack of women across British cultural and media offerings:

We no longer live in an age where female thinkers, writers, philosophers, academics, artists, theorists, activists or politicians are rare. The discrimination is obvious. All you have to do is count…Somehow, a decision is being made, probably subconsciously, about what is worthwhile and what is worthless. When I was judging the Orange prize last year we all noticed how major bookshops consistently stacked 10 men’s books to every one woman’s book on its “recommended read” tables – in whatever genre. In one bookshop, fellow judge Martha Lane Fox was told barefacedly by the sales guy that this was because men published 10 times as much fiction as women. But as everyone knows, chaps are heavyweight colossal conceptual geniuses of quite massive greatness and literary ladies are clever little fairies, handstitching our charmingly personal tiny tales out of skirting-board dust and featherweight neuroses.

…The establishment, patriarchy, the mainstream, whatever you want to call it, just doesn’t find women interesting. It makes sure that women are heavily outnumbered from the very beginning by offering us only a fraction of available opportunities, slots, placements, commissions, trips, panel places, star jobs, reviews. Later, it conveniently uses this to claim that there are not enough women “out there” to make a stronger impression higher up. It talks down women’s work. It is supported by a false mythology about the weakness, inconsistency, subjectivity and inconsequentiality of women’s creation, experience and perspective.

As the New Statesman pointed out  regarding the British elections, “with three white male leaders slugging it out in tv debates hosted by three white men will violence against women get the airing it deserves? Don’t hold your breath.”

Returning to Olbermann’s Countdown, in a major WTF moment,  one of the 2 women listed on the Friends page is Rachel Maddow.  She is listed as the host of The Rachel Maddow Show on Air America.  Which is now defunct and as Olbermann and MSNBC well know, she has a show on MSNBC that comes on right after Countdown.  And has for for quite awhile.  Hello Keith?  Might be time to update the website, not to mention that really isn’t a friends list for an enlightened guy like you to brag about.  Unfortunately, it does need to be said that the guest lineup on Maddow’s show is almost as discouraging.

Finally in the circular logic  department, there is the frustrating logic that women can’t be influential if we never hear or read about them and once again they are conspicuously underrepresented on the Time Magazine’s annual list of most influential people, comprising less than 24% of this year’s list, a significant drop from last year’s 28.5%.  But for women who do make it onto the list, the inclusion can be extremely patronizing.  In his write up about Malalai Joya, the Afghan Parliamentarian who is on this year’s list (and one of my personal shereos), Hirsi Ali writes,

But to get a seat in parliament and refuse to be silent in the face of the Taliban and warlord zealots shows true fiber. When Malalai Joya did this, her opponents responded in the usual way: expulsion from parliament, warnings, intimidation and attempts to cut her life short. She has survived all of it.

Malalai, 31, is a leader. I hope in time she comes to see the U.S. and NATO forces in her country as her allies. She must use her notoriety, her demonstrated wit and her resilience to get the troops on her side instead of out of her country. The road to freedom is long and arduous and needs every hand.

How to say this–the reason she is influential is because she doesn’t listen to men who tell her what to do and the implication of Hirsi Ali’s words is that she is being a bad little influencer by not playing along with the literally man-made rules.  Time needs to take a hard look at their routine under-representation of women on this list and at the belittling way women like Joya are referred to when they are included.

Tonight’s plan? perhaps a Jane Austen novel,  if you’re going to indulge in fantasy, it might as well be a good one.

 April 29, 2010  Posted by on April 29, 2010 1 Response »
Apr 292010

As IPS points out, women are still routinely being left out of conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts.  This address by Sister Joan Chittister at the International Gender Justice Dialogue convened by the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and Nobel Women’s Initiative is an example of why it is so crucial that women be included at the table–it is voices like this that so urgently need to be heard.

 April 29, 2010  Posted by on April 29, 2010 Comments Off on Why Women MUST Be Included At The Peace Table
Apr 282010

And they’re off, way off.  Here in Kentucky we have a little horse race coming up this weekend.  And nothing says Derby like big hats, mint juleps and mammograms.

Lauren Griffith had put off getting a mammogram for four years until last May, when she walked into a mobile clinic on the backside at Churchill Downs.

The free exam, provided in part by First Lady Jane Beshear’s Horses and Hope initiative, caught a tumor that led to a full mastectomy, said Griffith, 51, a security guard at Gate 5.

“I am the poster child for Horses and Hope,” she said. “I am the first cancer diagnosed through this program at Churchill.”

Griffith, of Louisville, is among the 213 horse track employees across the state who have received a free mammogram as part of Beshear’s two-year-old initiative.

(Beshear) said Horses and Hope has raised $161,000 for awareness efforts and mammograms, educated 146,844 race fans and 1,119 track employees through its “Pink Out” days and detected cancer in two backside workers, including Griffith.

Churchill pledges a dollar to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a national cancer awareness and research group, for every ticket sold to the Oaks and a dollar to Horses and Hope for every “Lilly” drink sold that day, a concoction named for the garland given to the Oaks winner. So far, those two efforts have produced $130,000.

Beshear, Sorrell and Griffith all said the focus on backside workers is significant because many are uninsured or underinsured and are from poorer countries where breast cancer awareness is nonexistent.“Many of them have never had a mammogram, ever; don’t even know what it is,” Griffith said.

Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher said the track has been pleased with the program.“They have pretty solid evidence they’ve saved some lives, especially in this industry, especially the segment of the racing population it targets,” he said. “It’s really been a tremendous thing for those people.” (emphasis mine)

Although the current focus is on backside workers, Beshear said she hopes to expand the program to other track workers, such as cooks and betting window clerks.

I was out running some errands yesterday and it occurred to me that it was simply impossible to walk into any major retail establishment these days without seeing something with a pink ribbon on it for sale.  The car repair place, the electronics store, the grocery–EVERYWHERE.  It is impossible not to be aware and darn near possible not to ‘show your support’ by buying some pink thingy where a few cents on the dollar will go for “The Cure”.  So once again, as I’ve said so many times before–we are aware that an awful lot of corporations are making out like bandits pinkwashing their merchandise, and we are going broke paying for absurdly expensive cancer drugs because our health insurance gets cut off if we get breast cancer and what is needed is to work on identifying the cause so we can more accurately treat this disease, not more shot in the expensive dark ‘cures’.

And sure as hell, providing mammograms on the backside of the Downs is no substitute for comprehensive health care for ‘those’ people.

 April 28, 2010  Posted by on April 28, 2010 Comments Off on My Little Pink Pony: Komen Does The Derby
Apr 282010

Facebook–fabulous social media tool and fun too, but several new features significantly compromise the privacy of the information you post on Facebook, which is of particular concern to women who need to safeguard information from potential stalkers or abusers.

The wonderful folks at Electronic Frontier Foundation (see their April 22nd post on the subject here) have posted this important video of how to protect your information, please watch it and take steps to insure that you are not giving out private information inadvertently.  And while it makes things a bit less connected, another option to consider would also be to delete the information from your profile even if that means you won’t be getting happy birthday wishes anymore :-)

 April 28, 2010  Posted by on April 28, 2010 Comments Off on Protect Yourself From Privacy Invading Changes On Facebook
Apr 272010

I have to confess that when I first heard about Boobquake, I wasn’t moved–boobs in your face as a form of protest, how un-feminist is that? But then I got to thinking that for all the times women are blamed for things because of what we wear, what we don’t wear, how we act, yada yada, maybe it is time once and for all to put all that to rest. So I clicked on over to Jen McCreight’s Blag Hag blog to read all about it, within 2 seconds I was on board.

So how did it go? You’re reading this aren’t you? Boobquake was organized to determine definitively whether women dressing immodestly caused earthquakes as an Iranian cleric recently claimed. McCreight details, quite scientifically, the surprising findings:

Not only did all of the earthquakes on boobquake fall within the normal range of magnitudes, but the mean magnitude actually decreased slightly!

Now, this change isn’t statistically significant, but it certainly doesn’t support the cleric’s claim. In fact, I think it develops an even more interesting alternative hypothesis: Maybe immodest women actually decrease the amount of earthquakes! Man, that would certainly be a fun way to provide disaster relief. Of course, before we can make any claims about that, we’d have to greatly increase our sample size. You know, I have this gut feeling that a lot of people would like to do our boobquake experiment again…

Obviously this study had its flaws. We didn’t have a large sample size, and we didn’t have a control planet where women were only wearing burkas. We didn’t have a good way to quantify how much we increased immodesty (what’s the unit of immodesty anyway? Intensity of red on blushing nuns?). Maybe women did dress immodestly, but we didn’t lead men astray enough. Maybe God really was pissed, but he couldn’t increase earthquakes for us because that would provide proof for his existence (or maybe it’s his existence that’s the problem).

Or of course, maybe God is just biding his time. If you hear a news report in the next couple weeks saying a bizarre Indiana earthquake killed a science blogger, well, then maybe we’ll have to rethink our conclusions a bit.

No word yet on further actions but if shaking it and showing it subverts the paradigm, count me in.

 April 27, 2010  Posted by on April 27, 2010 Comments Off on I Feel The Earth Move–Boobquake 2010