Posts Tagged ‘Women’

New site alert:

May 12, 2009

Salon Slate, one of my long-time favorite Web conglomerates, is beta-testing a new site,, for us double exes. (No, not dress size. Us women. Any url with a capital X in it is probably a porn site, eh?) It has a rather thought-provoking, not entirely positive essay on Elizabeth Edwards’ public humiliation and her reaction to it, as well as another essay on why the snarky is bad for women. Worth looking at.

Thanks for the correction, Jane. I can’t keep up with myself sometimes.


Women and Election 2008: A gut check

November 18, 2008

At the risk of flogging that dead horse, I renew the concerns expressed in my last blogpost by referring you to today’s The Daily Beast, which has an article that quantifies my uneasiness over the state of women following the recent election. According to its own poll:

• By an overwhelming 61% to 19% margin, women believe there is a gender bias in the media.
• 4 in 10 men freely admit sexist attitudes towards a female president. 39% of men say that a male is “naturally more suited” to carrying out the duties of the office
• 48% of women thought Hillary Clinton received fair media treatment and only 29% believed Sarah Palin was treated fairly. In contrast, nearly 8 in 10 voters thought the press gave fair treatment to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
• More than two-thirds of women said they were being treated unfairly in the workplace (68%)

And, it determined, “Women over 50, the first generation to have a majority in the workforce, see far more discrimination in every area of life than younger women.” (HA! I wasn’t just imagining it!)

So clearly I’m not the only one grinding my teeth over this issue. We seem to be running harder than ever, but are we just running in place? Our biggest enemy may not be a biased media, but our own ambivalence, since The Daily Beast’s survey also found that, “Only 20% of women are willing to use the word ‘feminist’ about themselves [and] only 17% of all voters said they would welcome their daughters using that label.” And while more than 90% of African-American voters supported Barack Obama, American women did not back either Clinton or Palin in such significant numbers.

Do we really want to succeed? If we keep thinking that “feminist” is a dirty word, do we need to rescript or relabel the whole endeavor?

“What will women do now?” wonders The Daily Beast.

The poll suggests that there is tremendous potential for an expanded, revitalized, and updated women’s equality movement. Certainly there would be considerable support for boycotts of news stations that carry sexist commentators or generally cover women unfairly.

I think it’s time to us women to start speaking up — in ways small and large, gentle and forthright, local and national — instead of hoping that our sheer numbers are going to speak for us.

Update: Social critic Daphne Merkin shares my pessimism.

Michelle and Hillary: Salt in the wound?

November 11, 2008

imagesI remember hearing a story once when I attended a women’s conference from a woman who had been working in the secretarial pool at one of the local law enforcement agencies. She had always been handy with electronics — one of those hardy types who could fix her own toasters and TVs — and when a job came up in the motor pool working on the police radios, one of the patrolmen who knew of her talents recommended her for the job.

She left her desk in the office and spent a heavenly week in the garage, up to her elbows in electrical wiring and enjoying the challenges of a new task — and then abruptly found herself back at her desk and her typewriter. Seems the other women in the secretarial pool were so angry that she had been singled out and protested her advancement so vociferously that the chief had rewritten the job description to include a certificate in electronics, which our heroine did not have.

As she sat, bewildered, at her desk, the woman who had complained the longest and loudest sidled up to her and sweetly asked if she’d be willing to share some recipes for the office cookbook. They’d clearly pulled her back in her place, like crabs in a bucket.

I thought of this sad tale when I read about Michelle Obama’s overtures to Hillary Clinton regarding how to be First Lady. I’m not the world’s biggest Hillary fan, believe me, but, after waging a hard-fought and very nearly successful campaign to become President herself, it must have been GALLING for HC to be asked by the victor’s wife about daycare and private schools. What happened to foreign policy and economic renewal? I appreciate the fact that Michelle is more concerned about her daughters’ transition to the public eye than she is about politics, but show a little sensitivity, okay?

I’m also peeved with all the whiny Republicans and McCain operatives who are trashing Sarah Palin. Please. I agree with Nancy Nall that, all the wardrobe nonsense aside, Sarah probably knows that Africa is a continent, not a country, and that a lot of the gossipy stories are likely taken out of context in a feeble attempt to cover some well-exposed red arses. If the Straight Talk Express broke down, folks, it wasn’t because Sarah tinkered with the wiring.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, with all the gains that Americans are cheering about with this election, did the cause of women move forward at all?

Lookism and the voting booth — and beyond

October 31, 2008

I promised myself I would not be upset or annoyed by any more news on the political front until after the elections, but the Associated Press neatly took care of that resolve:

Women running for top offices need to appear competent and attractive, according to a new study. For male candidates, seeming competent may be enough…

“For female candidates, it really matters if they’re perceived as competent and perceived as attractive. Those two qualities are sort of twin predictors of whether or not someone is going to be more or less likely to vote for them,” [the lead researcher] stressed.

I suspect this extends far beyond the voting booth. Not only are we less likely to vote for a woman who is perceived as “unattractive,” I bet we’re less likely to give her a leg up in any capacity. However, if a man looks like a gargoyle but spouts the right rhetoric, we’ll let him in.

And this goes beyond Sarah Palin and the flap over her Republican Party-financed makeover. A respondent to Morgan Felchner’s article in U.S. News and World Report suggested that, had Hillary been younger and more attractive, she’d be the one leading the ticket. Are you kidding me?

As a woman who never did get invited to the prom, literally or figuratively, I am really, really weary of this. First it was lookism, then sexism and now ageism. I can’t ever win. I had always hoped that, with experience, my net worth and my sense of self would grow, but it seems to keep eroding. The message seems to be that, for women, competence alone just isn’t enough.

Lauren Hutton

October 23, 2008

This is my current source of inspiration, shamelessly stolen from The Sartorialist, a wonderful street fashion site:

Isn’t she fabulous? Completely unretouched, just as God — and a full life — made her. That I should age so honestly and so well.

On Money: Mommyblogger meltdown

October 10, 2008

The Daily Beast, Tina Brown’s new excursion into tabloid online journalism, has an absolutely heart-wrenching collection of posts from women who have been slammed by the economic crisis. The last one, from a midlifer who calls herself The Accidental Housewife, really got to me:

The generations who survived the Great Depression were tough. They were resilient; they did not expect the government to bail them out of the hell that fell upon them…They boarded up their farms and loaded up their jalopies and headed out to find work. They did not stand around wringing their hands crying about what they didn’t have anymore they went out and worked. They were doers and savers and they made it.
My step-grandmother used to reuse her foil. She would smooth it out, wipe it off, fold it up and use it again and again until it eventually fell apart. My best friend’s grandmother would make a single chicken last through a week’s worth of meals. Each meal being different but made from that single chicken. They were resourceful. More important they MADE IT….
I am ashamed of my fellow baby boomers. I am ashamed that we have turned into such an entitled generation. I am ashamed that we have to have someone else make our morning coffee and we are too good or too busy to prepare our own dinner. That we feel entitled to drive vehicles that use more fuel in one week than a whole village in a third world country uses in a year.
So what do you say fellow boomers? Can we do it? Can we tighten our belts, knuckle down and use that knowledge that our forefathers and mothers gave us? Can we cook our own meals, repair our own roofs, make ourselves pay our own bills and not rely on the government to bail us out? I think we can. We just have to want to do it.

She captured much of my current angst. We as a generation have not been as careful as our parents. We’ve serially refinanced our homes and underfunded our retirements to pay for our lifestyles, and the payments are now due. Many boomers are spoiled and selfish and entitled, and some of us have passed those “values” on to our children. And we are all now in deep, deep kimchi.

But I am encouraged by some of the adjustments and accommodations and belt-tightening that I’m seeing around me: less driving, more brown-bag lunches, even a little more kindness and solicitude among my colleagues and neighbors. We are a well-educated generation with a lot of tools at our disposal. And one of those tools is the online communities we have built, which hold the promise of advising, supporting, sustaining and cheering us on (and up) during this bleak time.

Chins up, peeps. We’ll get through this.

Third World infertility: Helplessly horrified

September 16, 2008

Motherhood may be mostly behind me now, but the subject still has the power at times to make me want to weep. Newsweek has a story about the effects of childlessness on women in other countries, particularly the Third World:

“It is very, very difficult for people in the United States to deal with [infertility], and yet, when you go to other cultures, it’s even more devastating to people,” says Dr. David Adamson, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and a board member of the International Federation of Fertility Societies. Worldwide, the World Health Organization says about one in 10 couples experiences difficulty conceiving a child at some point in their lives.

In some developing countries, the consequences of infertility—which can include ostracism, physical abuse and even suicide—are heartbreaking. “If you are infertile in some cultures, you are less than a dog,” says Willem Ombelet of the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology in Belgium. Women are often uneducated, so their only identity comes from being moms. “It [infertility] is an issue of profound human suffering, particularly for women,” says Marcia Inhorn, professor of anthropology and international affairs at Yale University. “It’s a human-rights issue.”

The article reports that many infertile women in poor nations are shunned and banned from gatherings where they might “spread” their “affliction,” and even if the husband is the one who is infertile, the woman usually accepts the blame — and the ostracism. And, of course, Third World women have few recourses in treating infertility, which often has life-long consequences, since elderly childless women have no one to care for them and few other resources. Says Newsweek:

In the Hindu religion, a woman without a child, particularly a son, can’t go to heaven. Sons perform death rituals. Infertile couples worry that without a child, who will mourn for them and bury them? In China and Vietnam, the traditional belief is that the souls of childless people can’t easily rest. In India, the eldest son traditionally lights the funeral pyre. In Muslim cultures, the stigma follows childless women even after death: women without children aren’t always allowed to be buried in graveyards or sacred grounds

This article reminded me of the moment years ago when I stumbled across a little story in Time Magazine that reported on the estimated tens — and maybe hundreds — of millions of “missing” women in Middle and Far East populations due to abortion, infanticide and “honor” killings. I read and reread the article to make sure I wasn’t mistaking it. It was jaw-dropping.

What does one DO with information like that? I’m tired of being helplessly horrified by what I can’t fix or help. I’ve tried to teach my sons to respect and value women. I go out of my way to empower my female friends. I speak up for myself in the face of sexism and, when I can, for women who can’t. But, in the face of such monstrous discrimination and hatred, it seems so little.

That American culture could create a climate where Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin can be taken seriously should be seen as a victory, I suppose. But maybe the status quo is still just messin’ with us.

It’s a good day to be a girl

September 5, 2008

On this very Friday morning, Sarah Palin is hitting the campaign trail with John McCain, Barack Obama is sending out his A-list girl-posse to blunt their efforts, and Condi Rice is the first U.S. envoy to visit Libya in more than 50 years.

We rule.

Body betrayal: Taking care of yourself isn’t enough

August 13, 2008

I had lunch yesterday with a dear friend and traveling companion who has always been an inspiration to me. A a beautiful woman who just turned 60, she and several neighbors have been faithfully walking around the track at a nearby junior high school most mornings for more than 25 years, rain, snow or shine. She doesn’t drink or smoke, takes gobs of vitamins, drinks water or diet soda and watches what she eats. She is gracious and generous and good-hearted.

She has also just been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension. Oh, and her knees and back are beyond BAD.

EXCUSE ME? How fair is that? This woman has taken care of herself in ways that many of us (ME!) simply haven’t, and yet she is facing an uncertain future full of cardiologists, internists, in-hospital tests, physical limitations and expensive drugs. (She’s having knee surgery shortly, which, given her other conditions, really worries me.)

Her take on it? Genetics. Her parents and older sisters exhibited many of the same complaints, and she figures it’s just the luck of the draw. But I’m still fuming on her behalf. As with many other aspects of life (marriage and child-rearing come to mind), doing everything “right” isn’t any kind of guarantee.

Perhaps we need to lighten up on our expectations of ourselves and others as we age. There still exists a tendency for us to think that we midlifers may have brought our maladies on ourselves through bad choices and bad habits. I know I’ve been too quick to judge others of my generation based on their physical condition. “How could they ‘let themselves go’ like that?” I’ve thought, when in reality they may not have had much say in how their physical health played out.

By all means, don’t give up your gym membership, and try to stay away from the French fries if you can. But, please, don’t feel guilty if your best efforts can’t forestall a what may be a preset genetic determination.

About blogging: Are women bloggers taken seriously?

July 31, 2008

Sigh… As usual, I’m late to the debate. In a recent issue of Newsweek, technology columnist Steven Levy pointed out the lack of women and minorities in any substantive list of top blogs and bloggers, and argued for some sort of remedial action. (Oh, great. Affirmative action on the Internet. That’ll be a walk in the park!) Levy’s concern was sparked by a well-publicized comment by Keith Jenkins of the Washington Post:

My fear is that the overwelmingly [sp] white and male American blogosphere, hell bent (in some quarters) on replacing the current ranks of professional journalists with themselves, will return us to a day where the dialogue about issues was a predominantly white-only one.

Their argument has Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute (who ain’t timid, I’ll warn you) breathing fire in an article in the New Republic Online (I know, it’s Bill Buckley’s Conservative rag, but I tend to sniff a lot of flowers in the media bouquet). She argues for the Web as a haven for the voiceless: Read the rest of this entry »