May 122010

Last year I had the privilege of hearing ecologist Dr. Sandra Steingraber discuss the environmental links between cancer and reproductive health.  She is the author of Living Downstream:  An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment, which has also been made into a movie.

Steingraber is currently writing a series of essays on environmental health issues. In her latest essay, Escape from the Heartland—Atrazine, Susan G. Komen, and KFC, she weighs in on the damaging KFC/Susan G. Komen for the Cure Buckets for the Cure campaign:

When you are peddling fried chicken breasts in the name of addressing breast cancer, you are not only ignoring the role of diet in the breast cancer epidemic, you are distracting us from an ongoing battle about the use of a chemical possibly linked to breast cancer – atrazine – in the creation of that food.

Chickens are fed corn, and corn is sprayed with atrazine, and atrazine is a chemical that may be linked to breast cancer risk. Atrazine runs in the rivers and streams of Illinois and other states, falls in the rain over North America, and courses through the bloodstreams of children living in agricultural regions. We need to have a conversation about this. Don’t sell us fried fat and gravy. Come back to Peoria, Illinois, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and talk about atrazine.

Steingraber is absolutely right to call out Komen as well as KFC on this issue.  Komen takes far too many contributions from companies whose products have been linked to cancer, something I’ve written about numerous times before. The President’s Cancer Panel’s recent study calling the alarm about the impact of cancer-causing chemicals on our health should be a wake up call, but it is interesting to note that the ink was barely dry before the American Cancer Society, also the recipient of huge amounts of money from companies that add to our chemical load, was insisting that the Panel’s conclusions were alarmist (and obviously bad news for many of their corporate contributors).

That line of reasoning needs to be rebutted and Steingraber’s  expertise on this subject is yet another wake up call about business as usual in the American cancer industry.  You can read more of her excellent essays here.  Steingraber offers crucial expertise on a subject she knows all too well from personal experience and is an important voice that we need to be hearing.

 May 12, 2010  Posted by on May 12, 2010 Comments Off on Sandra Steingraber: Atrazine, Susan G. Komen and KFC
May 112010

The following is a trailer for the film Killing Us Softly 4 from Jean Kilbourne which is an updated version of her documentation of the damaging portrayals of women in advertising. I haven’t seen the full film but, particularly for those of you in academia, this looks like an excellent resource:

Ht/ to Julia Barry for bringing this to my attention.

 May 11, 2010  Posted by on May 11, 2010 Comments Off on Photoshopped Reality–The Damaging Impact Of Phony Images Of Women In Advertisements
May 102010

After a day of  omigawd how can our Socialist, Muslim non-American president appoint two women in a row to the Supreme Court because that amounts to discrimination against men, Ezra Klein says it all:

But more subtly invidious is the simple fact that people are so unused to seeing women appointed to the court that it’s somehow a scandal to see two of them named in a row. Two women and we’re talking about systematic discrimination. And that reaction means that even though the coin says there’s an even chance that Obama’s next pick will be a woman also, there’s probably not an even chance of it, as he’ll have to prove that he’s not favoring women. After all, it’s one thing to appoint 101 men in a row. But three women? Why, that’d be un-American!

And let’s not remember that now brings the total number of women on the Court to 4. Ever.  And with 3 of them serving at the same time, men will still make up 2/3rds of the Court.

 May 10, 2010  Posted by on May 10, 2010 Comments Off on Three Women On The Supreme Court = Overthrow Of Patriarchy. Not.
May 072010

Every year I write a post for Mother’s Day–it usually ends up being about children as much as about mothers, but I guess given the propensity of so many mothers, including myself to focus on their kids first and themselves second, that is not surprising.

This year however, I am suffering from major writer’s block due in no small part to being both a daughter and a mother.  My mother is recovering from a bout of assorted  ailments and has been at the front of my thoughts a lot lately. In the midst of this, not just one but both of my children are graduating in the next month–my eldest from college the day before Mother’s Day (who knew 22 years could go by so quickly) and then in a few weeks my youngest from high school after which he will be getting ready to leave for college and my nest will empty, a phase I feel ready for, but as the time is fast approaching, much to my chagrin I find my tear ducts somewhat unpredictable.  And so I am focusing on all of these life cycle events that happen to mothers and daughters and am thus a bit negligent with my writing time, all of which is to say my blogging will be a tad sporadic and unpredictable for the next few weeks.

Today, via Riane Eisler, I came upon a Time article  that talks about whether the GDP is an appropriate measure of economic progress.  As the article points out, the GDP does not measure a good many important things–something worth pondering as the DOW, at least until the last few days as I write this, has ‘recovered’ while so many people are still out of work and losing their homes and unable to get health care.

Since last summer the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has gone up — indeed, it grew at a surprising 5.7% rate in the 4th quarter — seeming to confirm what we’ve been hearing: the recession is officially over. But wait — foreclosure and unemployment rates remain high, and food banks are seeing record demand. Could it be that the GDP, that gold standard of economic data, might not be the best way to gauge a nation’s relative prosperity?

Since it became the prime economic indicator during the Second World War (to monitor war production) many have criticized policy-makers’ reliance on the GDP — and proposed substitute measures. For example, there is the Human Development Index (HDI), used by the UN’s Development Programme, which considers life expectancy and literacy as well as standard of living as determined by GDP. And the Genuine Progress Indicator, which incorporates aspects of social welfare such as income equity, pollution, and access to health care.

And as Eisler has pointed out many times, and why I am bringing it up now, the GDP does not measure caring work–the taking care of parents and children that so often mostly is the unpaid work of women.  And if we do not value that work, then we do not have an honest picture of our economic health and that is a detriment to all of us because there is real economic value to caring work and a real economic cost to that work not being attended to.  As we struggle to deal with current economic realities and find a path forward, we must revision our measurements of value to reflect what is truly important and the work that everyone does, not just how much was ‘produced’.

There is much more to be said on the subject of being a mother, a topic I’ve tackled elsewhere numerous times, but I will leave that to other writers this year.

And with that, whether you celebrate Mother’s Day as a child or as a mother, or both, there  are no more inspiring words on the subject of Mother’s Day than Julia Ward Howe’s immortal proclamation:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts,

Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:

“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn

All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country

To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.

It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,

Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means

Whereby the great human family can live in peace,

Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,

But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask

That a general congress of women without limit of nationality

May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient

And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,

To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,

The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.

 May 7, 2010  Posted by on May 7, 2010 Comments Off on My Mother’s Day Post–The Sandwich Generation Edition