Apr 272010

Winning a Nobel Prize is a pretty big frigging deal, it sort of screams out that you are doing something of import and people ought to be paying attention to what you say and do, NOT what you wear (which so far as I know has neve been a criteria for winning the coveted prize), unless you happen to be a woman who has won a Nobel Prize. Therefore we are awarding a big misogynist media boo hiss to the Corvallis (OR) GazetteTimes for trivializing the importance of Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams‘ work by devoting the entire first paragraph of an article about what she wore and how she wore it:

Nobel laureate Jody Williams sat on the stage, wearing a T-shirt, jeans and black cowboy boots with teal stitching. She dangled one leg over the edge, swinging her foot as she spoke to an audience that packed the Memorial Union Ballroom.

Yup, knowing about that teal stitching is why we know that Williams is mega-awesome. Anyone know what color the stitching was on Ronald Reagan’s cowboy boots? The boots that were part of Dubya’s faux brush clearing outfit? I think not. But we’re talking about a woman here and who really cares about her work with landmines so long as know what she’s wearing. Aaarrrggghhhh.

 April 27, 2010  Posted by on April 27, 2010 Comments Off on Would The Opening Paragraph Of An Article About A Male Nobel Prize Winner Be Devoted To What He Wore? I Think Not.
Apr 262010

Fair warning, this post should probably be sub-titled “Women’s Health Care, How Much More Seriously Effed Up Can It Possibly Get”

You would be in good company for instance if you thought Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) was no longer routinely considered an option for women going through menopause after we found out that when we quit taking it, breast cancer rates immediately fell–think again–Martha Rosenberg vivisects the New York Times for revisiting it as a medically acceptable option here.

And funny story, seems that never mind that we just spent how many months passing a watered down health care bill that was supposed to solve all our ills–getting and keeping health insurance while female is still some sort of Kafka-like joke.

WellPoint CEO Angela Braly got a 51% raise last year and now has a compensaton package that totals more than $13 million according to the LA Times.

Got breast cancer, kiss your health insurance goodbye.  Via Reuters:

One after another, shortly after a diagnosis of breast cancer, each of the women learned that her health insurance had been canceled…
…None of the women knew about the others. But besides their similar narratives, they had something else in common: Their health insurance carriers were subsidiaries of WellPoint, which has 33.7 million policyholders — more than any other health insurance company in the United States.

The women all paid their premiums on time. Before they fell ill, none had any problems with their insurance. Initially, they believed their policies had been canceled by mistake.

They had no idea that WellPoint was using a computer algorithm that automatically targeted them and every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies, according to government regulators and investigators.

Once the women were singled out, they say, the insurer then canceled their policies based on either erroneous or flimsy information.

Read the whole story, it gets much, much worse.  I particularly found this quote illuminating:

“It’s not like these companies don’t like women because they are women,” says Jeff Isaacs, the chief assistant Los Angeles City Attorney who runs the office’s 300-lawyer criminal division. “But there are two things that really scare them and they are breast cancer and pregnancy. Breast cancer can really be a costly thing for them. Pregnancy is right up there too. Their worst-case scenario is that a child will be born with some disability and they will have to pay for that child’s treatment over the course of a lifetime.”

No really, that is pretty much the same as hating women, at least until men start giving birth.  Pissed off (and if you aren’t, what the hell is wrong with you)?  Tell WellPoint what you think here.

(H/t to RH Reality Check for pointing to this story.)

Before we leave the subject of breast cancer profiteering, our friends at Breast Cancer Action are none too happy at Kentucky Fried Chicken’s form letter response to their protest of the KFC Buckets for the Cure pink-washing campaign. The response from KFC read in part,

“You should know that our partnership with KFC is designed to help reach millions of women we might not otherwise reach with breast health education and awareness messages which we consider critical to our mission. This additional outreach is made possible through KFC’s 5,300 restaurants (about 900 of them in communities not yet served by a Komen Affiliate).”

Breast Cancer Action’s awesome reply addresses the huge inequities in health and health care that exist because of poverty in this country, saying that KFC has:

targeted underserved communities whose residents often struggle to stretch their food dollars and are dependent on cheap meals. If you want to serve underserved communities, work with the community health clinics, economic development corporations, and community coalitions that are working to reverse the damage KFC and others have done.

KFC and other fast food restaurants are disproportionately located in low-income communities (especially those of color) for very specific reasons.

Low-income neighborhoods are underserved by grocery stores with healthier options, and therefore are “prime real estate” for fast food restaurants that provide inexpensive, already prepared options.  Faced with a lack of options, these already vulnerable communities are prey to large companies like KFC that offer the least amount of nutrition for the most profit.

In response to KFC’s claim that the campaign focuses on healthy diet choices such as grilled, not fried chicken, Breast Cancer Action declares bullshit:

By placing the responsibility for our crisis in diet on the consumer, they reveal a disturbing lack of insight and understanding related to social inequities in this country. This is shameful.
In addition, the claim that the partnership focuses on healthy options is outrageous. A menu with one or two salads does not a “focus” make! And it is equally outrageous that they claim to be educating people to make healthy food choices by encouraging them to eat at a fried chicken franchise.

KFC is currently embroiled in a suit related to their chicken’s high levels of PhIP, a byproduct of the grilling process listed on the state of California’s list of carcinogens.  While there is much that isn’t known about PhIP- Komen’s representative acknowledged that the NCI has not established safe or unsafe levels for its consumption- it seems both ridiculous and unethical to frame the breast cancer epidemic as something “curable” through repeated consumption of these ingredients. And in terms of prevention, we cannot imagine feeding people carcinogenic grilled chicken that raises the risk of heart disease and breast cancer and then expect them not to become sick.

Returning now to health care reform and the small issue of whether or not you can get affordable health care insurance in the first place, remember gender ratings–weren’t they supposed to be a thing of the past once we passed health care reform?  Maybe….eventually…

In the meantime, not to worry, Sue Lowden, a would-be challenger against Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada suggests that you can always barter for health care with chickens:

(Note:  For a hilarious response to Lowden that tells you how many chickens it will cost for your particular ailment, click here.)

And finally– just for the guys–want to get with the flow when it comes to your lady friend’s menstrual period–there’s an app for that, several of them actually, marketed specifically to menJodi Jacobson points out why, after 5 seconds of eye-rolling laughter there are a few ever so problematic aspects to this cutesy idea:

But that it is so popular is a reminder of our cultural schizophrenia around sex, power, and gender. On one hand, despite record numbers of sexually transmitted infections and despite still-too-high levels of teenage pregnancy, we can’t get the federal government to stop spending money on failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Networks and cable stations will sell sex 24-7, but many still refuse to air responsible ads for contraceptive methods or such controversial things as condoms, or information about sexually transmitted infections…

…And it is worth noting the the current wave of laws at the state and federal level and the general level of hysteria around women’s rights to choose pregnancy and childbirth in the United States has a lot to do with control over their bodies…

…It is also worth watching how well this app does elsewhere in the world.  I am not kidding.  Yesterday, for example, a story on Apple’s first-quarter profits indicated that sales of the iPhone and iPad are booming in places like China, India, Pakistan and elsewhere.  These are cultures in which women’s periods are indeed more openly the source of control (here, we like to pretend we are protecting “life,” not controlling women’s lives.

Taken by themselves, every one of these stories is deeply troubling and messed up. While the profit opportunities (even with health care reform) abound, the reality is that our commodified health care system is damaging and too often deadly, especially for women.  Despite all the health care debate ruckus of the last year, we have accomplished very little.  Much, much more remains to be done, and the only starting point from which that can be accomplished is one that sees the health care of all as a human right, not a commodity that can be bought and sold.  And as of yet, there is no app for that.

 April 26, 2010  Posted by on April 26, 2010 Comments Off on No Health Insurance For You Unless You Have 2 Healthy Breasts, And Even Then It’s Going To Cost You, But Hey, How About A Prescription For HRT
Apr 222010

Last Sunday my morning newspaper seemed to include a lot of ads in a peculiar shade of green. As I was waiting for the coffee to percolate, I couldn’t figure it out–St. Patrick’s Day has been and gone, what was up with the green?  After the caffeine made its way to my brain cells I finally figured out that a whole lot of companies want you to buy stuff for Earth Day. Truly cause-branding at its oxymoronic best.

Fortunately I had an alternative reading opportunity, my recently arrived latest copy of World Pulse Magazine which was devoted to discussing women and the earth.  Here is what World Pulse founder Jensine Larsen had to say in her essay, The Unsilent Spring,

Everywhere women are on the frontlines of ecological destruction. As the primary caregivers, providers of sustenance, and agricultural producers, they work most closely with the natural environment and are most impacted by its degradation. Mothers hold contaminated water to their children’s mouths and care for family members with birth defects, cancers, and illnesses due to toxic pollution. Young girls spend their days scouring for firewood that has become scarce. Women farmers find their land eroded by thinning topsoil, baked dry or washed away due to climate change. Just as rape plagues womankind, the rape of the Earth strikes a double punch.

Yet with the most at stake, women have become increasingly motivated to protect the Earth. Millions of modern-day Rachel Carsons are stepping out from the shadow of mining pits, blasted mountains, dumping grounds, and scorched forests to mobilize their communities.

These women leaders are a potent immune system for the Earth. They, and the solutions they bring, are poised to lead the environmental movement into its most formidable chapter yet.

If you can’t find the print magazine, part of it is online as well as other web resources.  Highly recommended.  The voices we need to be hearing are those like Larsen, Wangari Maathai,  Terry Tempest Williams and Helen Caldicott to name a few.  What neither we or the earth needs is  corporate greenwashing that is nothing more than corporate profiteering disguised as do-good altruism.

And because they should be called out, here are a couple of this year’s most revolting examples of corporate opportunism at the expense of Mother Earth:

Yes it's Walmart


Not sure which is worse, this or the pink cans they sell in October


No really, turning your cans green doesn't make you one of the good guys

On Earth Day , listen to women like Jensine Larsen, plant seeds, use little and ignore the faux corporate ecology.

 April 22, 2010  Posted by on April 22, 2010 Comments Off on On Earth Day–The Mandate Of A Women-Inclusive Understanding Of Ecology
Apr 212010

As I’ve pointed out before (most recently here) and as this Alerta 2010! report makes clear, women’s bodies continue to be an integral part of the battleground of war and sexual violence is a systemic part of militarism.

According to the Alerta 2010! Report on Conflicts, Human Rights and Peacebuilding, sexual violence was used as a weapon in most armed conflicts taking place in 2009. In addition to the report, the School for a Culture of Peace of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona also published the Yearbook 2010 on Peace Processes. This year the report includes a Human Rights Index which measures the level of non-compliance of states regarding their obligation to protect human rights. The index is headed by Myanmar, Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Thailand, Russia, Somalia and India. The report additionally analyses the 31 armed conflicts registered in 2009, most of them found in Asia (14) and Africa (10). In its ninth annual edition, Alerta 2010! analyses the state of the world in 2009 in connection with conflicts and peacebuilding, and documents global tendencies in armed conflicts and tensions, peace processes, human rights, humanitarian crises and the gender dimension, while also identifying five opportunities for peace in 2010.

A decade after the passing of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, obliging states to protect the rights of women and girls and guarantee their participation in peace processes, the School for a Culture of Peace alerts of the breach of formal commitments and measures and the resulting practical consequences. The report points out that violence against women, including sexual violence as a weapon of war, was a constant in all armed conflicts. In cases such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sexual violence reached chronic stages. Moreover, personnel from the armed forces of countries such as Colombia, Myanmar and United States used sexual violence and other abusive practices against women. The report also condemns the fact that most peace processes continue to ignore these issues, even though it is one of the main threats to the peace and security of these populations.

Despite many obstacles, women did play a key role in numerous civil peace initiatives in the DR of the Congo, Colombia, Turkey, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to Vicenç Fisas, director of the School for a Culture of Peace, “there is a need to expand how we deal with the impact of wars and resolution mechanisms, since the experiences and contributions to peace by women are key to achieving inclusive, long-lasting solutions to conflicts”.

You can read more about the Alerta report here.

 April 21, 2010  Posted by on April 21, 2010 Comments Off on Violence Against Women–A Constant In All Armed Conflicts
Apr 202010

Way back when I had just gotten out of college, I worked in an office where I was the only woman on staff.  When my birthday rolled around, the guys wanted to make me feel like one of the gang, so they gave me a cake with a great big frosting penis on it.  Of course since I was the only woman, they gave me the knife to cut the cake.

I very sweetly gave them each the teeniest tiniest pieces.  What I was too naive to understand then was that no matter how big the sugary cock was, it wasn’t going to make up for the fact that I was probably earning less than the usual 77 cents on the dollar that women seem to persistently make. Such a cake these days would probably lead to a lucrative discrimination suit.

Today is Equal Pay Day and no amount of frosting is going to make up for continuing unequal earnings that women still have to contend with.  Time has a multi-paragraph piece  asking why oh why equal pay is still a problem.  Really, it isn’t all that complicated.  The reason is that we live in a persistently misogynistic, patriarchal world and until we figure out that is a bad idea, we’re just getting the cake crumbs.

Want a bigger slice, click here.

 April 20, 2010  Posted by on April 20, 2010 Comments Off on The Frosted Penis And Equal Pay