Thursday, January 31, 2008
Recently, I have found myself in conversations with friends about Juno, and the recent line of movies with a similar theme. (For example Knocked Up, Waitress). Among friends, there has been some anecdotal discussion on the "conspiracy theory" that perhaps religious organizations are funding some of these movies. Or perhaps they are merely reflecting social values and the persistent unwillingness of media and community to create realistic pictures regarding abortion. As opposed to realiwood.
A New York times article cited that 2/3 of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion. The same N.Y. times’ article suggests that media, namely television and film, have sidestepped the issue in far of loss of advertising profits. The article also suggests, of course, those plot lines that end in termination of a pregnancy are generally the result of a miscarriage.
As far as storylines go, the prevailing message seems to be that "storylines end at abortion," that there is no story after abortion. So, I wonder what are the ramifications of this message to people? Perhaps it reinforces the rhetoric that women are not whole, meaningful, fulfilling their prescribed role, absent motherhood.
Also worth noting is another film entitled Children of Men. This film dealt with a futuristic society where women could NOT conceive. (note that it was women whose reproductive systems failed them and not men). This film also hazed on a critique of immigration. What is most notable about the story line is the downfall of the human race rests on reproduction, reinforcing many biblical themes. Of course, there is truth to that statement, but it is also the ensuing chaos, terrorist alerts, and immigration "camps" that appear to arise out of women's loss of reproductive capability.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
There’s even porn out now geared at women. And some women actually enjoy watching it. But just as we were starting to feel like we, too, could be part of the porn world, a new breed of porn has come along to say, no, us boys are still in charge.
Some call it “gonzo” porn, but I prefer to call it degradation porn. Don’t ask me how I know about it. I have four older brothers and a good number of male friends, so the topic is pretty much unavoidable. This recent article in the Toronto Star (http://www.thestar.com/living/article/296391) gives us a nice breakdown. It is, for the most part, porn that shows women being completely dominated, abused and forced into acts of violent sex. The acts are seemingly consensual, but in looking at these images one has to wonder.
It seems that porn viewers, mostly men, have gone the way of anyone with any sort of addiction. Naked women won’t do it for the addicted men anymore and neither will just plain old sex. Or even untraditional sex. No, now it has to be different, crazy, and pushing the limits.
Now with a few clicks one can watch women choking on their own vomit as they perform oral sex. Or being gagged and slapped and degraded verbally as they are, as the author of the Star piece put it, “Impaled by multiple swords.” Some women, I suppose, are into this. But I am going to go out on a limb and say the majority are not.
We all know that pornography is considered protected speech. But at what point does it begin to become socially irresponsible? At what point do we say “This is going to incite violence against women and it should not be allowed for public consumption?”Granted, on the internet it is hard to stop anyone form showing anything, but we have criminalized looking at pornographic images of children and we do prosecute it. So why should we not say that pornographic images that depict violence are illegal? That perversion may be just as dangerous as looking at children, and may be more widespread.
This is a complicated first amendment issue, but at some point it is going to need to be addressed. A few years ago we never saw women being beaten in mainstream porn, so who’s to say simulated snuff films aren’t next? We need to draw the line somewhere before our social norms start to change. The question, of course, is where?
- a woman's vote is better predicted by life stage than by age; the commentators noted, for example, that among a group of 42-year-old women, one might be a grandmother (did you know the average age of a first-time grandmother in this country is 46?), one might be the mother of a young child, and one might be a never-married childless woman
- women supporting Obama are generally slightly better educated than women supporting Clinton
- most women are undecided about who to support in the general election, and they will make their decisions much closer to election time
- most significantly, women voters will decide who our next President is
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Bodies, Politics, Revolution:
How the Women's Health Movement Changed and is
Changing Perception, Policies, and Medical Treatment
Executive Director, Our Bodies, Our Selves
Co-founder of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Carole Joffe, Professor of Sociology, UC Davis, will moderate.
Judy Norsigian, renowned women's health activist and Executive Director of Our Bodies, Our Selves, will discuss the shifting challenges that the women's health movement has faced in combating the dissemination of "disinformation" about women's bodies and health.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
Singer puts the book's success in temporal context:
The success of “How Not to Look Old” comes on the heels of disparaging comments about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton made by the radio provocateur Rush Limbaugh, who last month said: “Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis? And that woman, by the way, is not going to want to look like she’s getting older, because it will impact poll numbers.”Singer goes on to report studies documenting discrimination against aging women, which has me wondering what economic necessity will be demanding of us next . . . .
Although Mr. Limbaugh’s comments drew widespread criticism, they underscored the idea that older women in the work force are vulnerable to age prejudice.
What's largely missing from this story is the gender component, which we also debated on Tuesday. The story features this anecdote, which like most of the article treats the flex time phenomenon as a work-family issue, NOT a gender issue.
At other points, Belkin makes fleeting, almost incidental mention of gender. One of the many examples of new family-friendly policies is a law firm with longer paid parental leave times for women than for men, but the bigger point seems to be that male associates are also getting parental leave. Belkin goes on to document client demand for changes to billable structures and also the "generational component" as reasons law firms are finally budging.
A harbinger of changing times might well be the brief filed by the hard-driving white-shoe firm of Weil Gotshal & Manges of New York, asking a judge to reschedule hearings set for Dec. 18, 19, 20 and 27 of last year.
“Those dates are smack in the middle of our children’s winter breaks, which are sometimes the only times to be with our children,” the lawyers wrote.
The judge moved the hearings.
Belkin's observation that women's demands alone were insufficient to bring about these changes is interesting, but I'm surprised that her mention of gender is merely in passing and that she does not mention the "mommy track." After all, Lisa Belkin is the journalist who famously brought us that NYT Magazine cover story in 2003: "The Opt-Out Generation." It depicted scores of highly educated, high-powered women opting of out their careers to stay home with their children. That story created some controversy among feminists, some of whom thought Belkin had been a bit too selective about those she featured in the story. Some thought she was too keen to prove her point and had overlooked evidence contrary to her thesis about women's choices.
Perhaps only time will tell whether this new generation of family-friendly policies will have highly gendered consequences -- that is, whether they will prove to be "mommy tracks" by another name. I am all for more options, but if many more women than men "choose" flex time (with its salary and promotion downsides), then women will continue to be economically marginalized (compared, that is, to others with similar education, within their socioeconomic stratum) and the ideal (aka male) worker will still reign in the legal profession.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
35 Years after Roe v. Wade:
The Impact of the Federal Abortion Ban in 2007
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Memorial Union, Garrison Room
-Food and refreshments provided-
Please join us for this engaging forum, film screening,
and panel discussion with key speakers
from the medical and legal fields.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
September 5th 2005 18 year old Ghazala Khan ran away with her boyfriend of 3 years Emal. They were both living in Denmark, but Ghazala was originally from Pakistan and Emal from Afghanistan. They ran away because Ghazala’s family could not accept Emal as Ghazala’s husband. On September 21st 2005 they were married.
Two days later they were shot in front of the railway station in the city of Slagelse. Emal survived but Ghazala died immediately. It was Ghazala’s 30 year old brother who had shot them.
On May 15th 2006 the case against the persons involved in Ghazala’s murder began. Nine people were on trial. There was no doubt that Ghazala’s brother would be convicted of her murder. After all he was the one that pulled the trigger, which surveillance pictures from the railway station also showed.
The cases against the rest of the accused, which included Ghazalas father, other brother and aunt (married to Ghazala’s mother’s brother) were more controversial, because it was of course harder to prove that they had been involved and no one had ever been convicted of an honour killing before without doing the actual killing.
All nine were convicted of the murder of Ghazala Khan and they received very harsh sentences from a Danish standard. In Denmark you can be sentenced from 5 to 16 years in prison or prison for life when found guilty of murder. The life sentence is usually only used if the person is convicted of more than one murder. Ghazala’s brother, who had shot her, was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Her father was sentenced to life in prison. Her aunt, who allegedly lured her to Slagelse and told the rest of the family where she was, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and expulsion (she was not a Danish citizen).
The rest of the accused, who were all related to Ghazala or friends of her family, were all sentenced to prison between 8 to 16 years. Their roles in the murder was everything from planning the murder to just being aware of plans of the murder and driving the aunt and the brother to and from the place of the murder (most of them were taxi drivers).
From American standards of conviction of murder these sentences might not seem that harsh, but from a Danish standard they certainly are. 4 of the 9 were sentenced to 16 years or more (life), which is a length of prison sentence that is usually only used in cases of very brutal and ruthless murders.
But in my opinion (and the court's) this certainly is a very brutal and ruthless murder, not in its execution but in its reasoning. She was killed only because she wanted to decide for herself who she wanted to marry, only so that her family’s honour could be saved. Of course there can never be a good reason for murder, but the family’s reason for killing Ghazala is so totally unacceptable in the modern western society where everybody’s right to choose for themselves are highly regarded, also for women. And the harsh sentences send that message, and were meant to send that message I believe.
As interesting as the case might be from a strictly criminal lawyer point of view (and criminal law is one of my biggest interests), I find the case more interesting from a broader social point of view, because not only does the case tell us what is possible in terms of convicting accomplices that has not actually participated in the act of killing. It also tells us that that kind of treatment of women and that that norm regarding the self-determination of women are totally unacceptable in Denmark, and those who follows that norm will suffer serious consequences.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Herbert writes provocatively that misogyny is our true national pastime. Here is an equally provocative excerpt:
We’ve become so used to the disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous and even violent treatment of women that we hardly notice it. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed against women and girls every day. Fashionable ads in mainstream publications play off of that violence, exploiting themes of death and dismemberment, female submissiveness and child pornography.
Here's the part of the story that intrigued me most. The author writes: "Whereas polls suggest that Mrs. Clinton has done well with working-class women who see her protecting their economic interests, her peers -- liberal-minded, upper-middle-class professional women-- have been a much tougher sell." Maybe that explains my allegiance to Hillary. I became a Hillary fan as a teenager growing up in a working class family in Arkansas. Hillary was engaged in education reform as the First Lady of Arkansas, and she was my first professional role model -- from a distance, of course. Now I'm one of those "upper-middle-class professional women," but unlike (apparently) many others in my set, I still think Hillary is amazing. Maybe my sentiments go back to those early years (when, incidentally, I declared publicly, at the age of 14, that I planned to be the first female President.) Maybe it's like other things we get attached to in our childhood and youth, which then don't wear off easily. My instincts are still to believe in Hillary - in the authenticity of Hillary, the power of Hillary, the idea of Hillary.
Few of these contributors address Mrs. Clinton’s record as a senator (why did she vote last year to urge the Bush administration to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization?), practical electoral matters (just how electable is she?) or questions about her managerial style (how would the controlling, poll-driven instincts of her campaign team inform her approach to running the White House?). Instead, like voters and commentators obsessed with the “likability” factor, these writers zero in on vague feelings about Hillary’s karma, her self-presentation or her femininity.
Monday, January 14, 2008
It's surely no surprise that women -- especially those of color -- are disproportionately affected by the subprime debacle
"Though women and men have roughly the same credit scores, the Consumer Federation of America found that women were 32 percent more likely to receive subprime loans than men. The disparity existed within every income and ethnic group. Blacks and Latinos are also more likely to get subprime loans than comparable white borrowers.
I know some of you have -- both during law school and afterwards. The UCD Women's Resources and Research Center is sponsoring a day-long program on the topic on February 8. It's called "Women in the Running." Featured speakers include Rosario Marin, the 41st Treasurer of the United States and the highest ranking Latina in the President's administration and Liz Figueroa, former State Senator and Assemblywoman, now on the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.
Hope to see you there!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
I haven't yet seen the movie, "Juno," though it's been well reviewed and on several of the lists of top films for 2007. Something about a film that takes a "comedic and jolly" approach to teenage pregnancy makes me a bit uncomfortable, I guess, but this op-ed piece in today's New York Times takes up some of the film's more serious moments. As contributor Caitlin Flanagan writes, the scene when young Juno tells her father of her "condition" is one of them. He responds with a disappointing shake of the head and says, “I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.” Flanagan then reminds us of that enduring consequence of biology: women (including pubescent ones) bear the consequences of sex in a way that men never do.
In spite of its serious themes, Flanagan calls Juno a "fairy tale" because of the ease with which she parts with the baby she gives birth to. Flanagan writes that "Juno finds a yuppie couple eager for a baby, and when the woman tries to entice her with the promise of an open adoption, the girl shakes her head adamantly: 'Can’t we just kick it old school? I could just put the baby in a basket and send it your way. You know, like Moses in the reeds.'” Juno's sentiment "turns out to be genuine," as she and her boyfriend "resume their carefree adolescence, the baby -- safely in the hands of his rapturous and responsible new mother -- all but forgotten." Flanagan opines that seeing "a young daughter, faced with the terrible fact of a pregnancy, unscathed by it and completely her old self again was magical."
Flanagan continues: "As any woman who has ever chosen (or been forced) to kick it old school can tell you, surrendering a baby whom you will never know comes with a steep and lifelong cost. Nor is an abortion psychologically or physically simple. It is an invasive and frightening procedure, and for some adolescent girls it constitutes part of their first gynecological exam. I know grown women who’ve wept bitterly after abortions, no matter how sound their decisions were. How much harder are these procedures for girls, whose moral and emotional universe is just taking shape?"
But what is the source of the regret that women who have abortions may feel, or that women outside the "Juno" fairly tale may feel about giving up a baby for adoption? Is it biological, as Kennedy and others suggest? or do the regret and angst stem from socially and culturally created expectations about how all would-be mothers should feel in these circumstances? Further, given the power, the reality of social expectations about motherhood (or perhaps more precisely, who should feel like a mother), does their source matter? It seems futile to question the legitimacy of these expectations of "motherhood" (including when it begins) when they are virtually unassailable in our culture. For, whatever their origin, it is these collective, social expectations about motherhood that make "Juno" a fairy tale.
Friday, January 11, 2008
It won't be the last word on Hillary's tearful moment, but Judith Warner offers an important observation
[I]f victory came for the reasons we’ve been led to believe – because women voters ultimately saw in her, exhausted and near defeat, a countenance that mirrored their own – then I hate what that victory says about the state of their lives and the nature of the emotions they carry forward into this race. I hate the thought that women feel beaten down, backed into a corner, overwhelmed and near to breaking point, as Hillary appeared to be in the debate Saturday night. And I hate even more that they’ve got to see a strong, smart and savvy woman cut down to size before they can embrace her as one of their own.Per my post of January 9, I fear that Warner has hit on something that is crushingly true. She sees that female voters identified with Hillary in her "moment" because the vast, vast majority of us are, in some sense, beaten down and backed into a corner, particularly when it comes to our public, working lives.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
I, of course, cannot say definitively that Hillary did not plan the "moment," as Dowd and others have alleged. I do know, however, that I've experienced tearful moments in public places and in the presence of bosses, under pressure and exhausted. What pleases me out of all of this is that many female voters apparently rallied around Hillary. Maybe they did so because of her "moment," because they empathized. Maybe they did so because of derisive and caustic comments from the likes of Rush Limbaugh (and now Maureen Dowd) in the wake of her show of emotion. Maybe those women, like me, know just how natural these emotions, these "moments," are. Perhaps their emotional displays have been used to undermine them, too.
Some feminists are wary of such solidarity among women-- at least as it might be seen as the reason to vote for her. Even Hillary's campaign seems wary of the downsides, given recent statements focusing on her debate performance as the reason for her N.H. victory. Of course, solidarity among women is not a bad thing per se, but these feminists want to send a clear message that women vote on the issues. They thus steer clear of any suggestion that women would vote for Hillary based on her gender, based on empathy for her "bad day" and the attacks it engendered (pun intended). I agree that women are informed and care about the issues, but if emotion didn't matter in Presidential politics, why would there be so much talk about Obama's charisma? Sure, emotion has always been a double-edged sword for women, but I don't feel the need to "clean up" women voters by disassociating them with the type of emotions that led them rally around one of their own -- especially when that one is so spectacularly qualified to be President of the United States.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Among the commentators on the topic are Gloria Steinem, whose op-ed piece in the New York Times was the top emailed story much of today. Katha Pollitt of The Nation weighed in, as have many voters on blogs.
In the aftermath of New Hampshire, we are seeing news coverage that indicates women voters rallied around Hillary, perhaps in particular in the aftermath of her Iowa loss, perhaps also because she teared up on Monday in New Hampshire. I heard speculation in the run up to the Iowa caucuses that Hillary, because of her vast experience, transcends gender -- that gender is no longer an issue in this campaign. Think again.