Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Whose Voices Get Heard? Gender Politics in the Blogosphere

Some of you probably remember a survey I distributed among you a little over a year ago. At that time, I was doing a study of gender in blogging practices. Recently, I presented the results of the research at CCCC, and I posted my presentation on my blog. As many of you were participants in my study, it would mean a lot to me if you'd look at my results. Thanks a lot for helping me out and giving such thoughtful responses on the survey. Please note: If I use names, they are not the real names of the bloggers I quote, and all data is from one year ago. I think there have been some changes since then. Do you? I'd like to continue the conversation.

Republicans Under Investigation

Daily Kos || Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.

The Daily Kos has a great list of all the Republican bigwigs currently under investigation.

He'd have listed the Democrats, too, but there aren't any.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Big Bush Lies -- New Anti-Bush Book

Congratulations to the brilliant Jerry "Politex" Barrett of BushWatch fame, creator and editor of the soon to be published (May 1, 2004) Big Bush Lies: 20 Essays and a List of the 50 Most Telling Lies of George W. Bush. (Full Disclosure: I'm proud to be one of the book's 19 contributors, having used the lawyer side of my recovering lawyer brain, to write the education lies chapter.)

As you can see from Big Bush Lies' front and back covers, it features twenty original essays by academics, activists, legal experts, financial leaders, and journalists. The essays document Bush lies and inconsistencies about Iraq and WMD's, foreign policy, the environment, energy, health and science, religion, education, women and minority policies, national security, 9/11, campaign lies, and other topics.

I've posted links to all the contributors here.

How DO you run during a contraction?

Loaded Mouth takes on the prison system and its decision to leave women in shackles during childbirth.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Anita Roddick on International Women's Month

My boss-lady and fellow Blog Sister, Anita Roddick, is honoring International Women's Month by periodically posting profiles of amazing women activists from around the world. Besides it being cool just anyway, the profiles she's posting come from my last book! So I admit to some self-servingness to this post (so sue me).

If you're interested, check out the profiles of Aborginal rights activist Isabell Coe and Indian anti-globalization activist Vandana Shiva. More coming soon ...

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Picturing Women: An exhibition about how women are figured, fashioned, turned into portraits, and told about in words and pictorial narrative.

Picturing Women: An exhibition about how women are figured, fashioned, turned into portraits, and told about in words and pictorial narrative.



I found this on the Code Pink site and wanted to Share.

Quote from Nazi Hermann Goering:

"Naturally the common people don't want war, but after
all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the
policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag
people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist
dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist
dictatorship.  Voice or no voice, the people can
always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This
is easy. All you have to do is to tell them that they
are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for
lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.
It works the same in every country."

Technology: Audio expert profiles iPod users

As an owner of her third iPod, one from each generation, I am either a person of great taste, a control freak or both, according to an expert on users of audio in the contemporary urban environment. I choose the cooler designation, person of good taste, of course. Some technologies are off-putting, but I haven't found the iPod to be one of them.

Lecturer Dr. Michael Bull is "the world's leading -- perhaps only -- expert on the social impact of personal stereo devices," according to The New York Times.

Bull, a lecturer in media and culture at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, is the author of Sounding out the City: Personal Stereos and the Management of Everyday Life, a book Bull calls the "definitive treatment" of the impact of the Sony Walkman and its descendants.

Now Bull has turned his attention to Apple's iPod.

Bull is currently interviewing iPod owners about how, when, where and why they use the iPod, and how it integrates into their everyday lives.

The interviews will be the basis of Bull's forthcoming book, Mobilizing the Social: Sound Technology in Urban Experience. The book, to be published next spring, will examine the impact of cell phones and car sound systems, as well as the iPod.

Bull believes a cigar is more than a cigar. According to him, our avid approval of a device that allows us to decide when and where we listen to music is a way to control our environments.

WN: But does it make people antisocial? Is music less of a social experience than it used to be? The New York Times ran an article last week about New Yorkers using their iPods to block out the city. But isn't that the point of personal stereos? What's different about the iPod that wasn't true of the Walkman?

Bull: People like to control their environment, and the iPod is the perfect way to manage your experience. Music is the most powerful medium for thought, mood and movement control....

The Times asked what becomes of the public space when the public space becomes privatized. What about the others -- the person in the supermarket checkout you don't recognize is there? It asks whether the public space becomes colder as the personal space becomes warmer through music.

There's a lot of studies in the literature that demonstrate with the urban space, the more it's inhabited, the safer you feel. You feel safe if you can feel people there, but you don't want to interact with them.

Music allows people to find pleasure in the place they're existing. (Personal stereos) make the user's life much better. It helps them manage urban life.... Urban life is one of the reasons they're using these devices. How often do you talk to people in public anyway?

As some of you know, I have written about public and private space topics often because they intrigue me. I agree with Bull that this is another form of the issue. I believe some limitations on public space, such as Starbuck's rule against patrons taking pictures in their establishments, do make public spaces colder. However, I don't see that occurring with the iPod. I usually listen most when I am in transit, especially when walking or taking public transit, which consists of buses, trolleys and trains where I live. If I were not listening to music on the iPod, I would be reading a print magazine or book, or, tellingly, reading the news, a periodical or a book on my PDA. So, the iPod is replacing a noncommunicative behavior. Furthermore, there are other forms of current technology that use space in the same way, such as the previously mentioned PDA and cell phones. One of the attributes of the iPod is that it is private. Unlike talking on the phone, I am not forcing other people sharing the public space to share my experience when I'm listening to music. An interesting side effect of being into the iPod for two years is that I find leakage from portable CD players and lesser MP3 devices more annoying than I did before. I have come to believe that, unless asked to share, one should keep one's music to oneself.

But, what of Bull's belief the iPod can be used as an avoidance mechanism? That is true some of the time. When I am listening to my iPod, with the white earbuds in my ears being so noticeable, I am able to thwart some unwanted social contact. As recently as yesterday, I deflected a hopped up panhandler. I watched him annoy a man from several feet a way. The vagrant, who was filthy and smelled like sewage, walked alongside the man and kept tugging at his elbow while demanding money. I was next. My response was to look straight ahead as if I had not even noticed him. The earphones made the pose credible. The panhandler left me alone and sought out another person a few feet ahead of us. He went through his routine of pestering the mark again. Such experiences aren't unusual. If one is listening to the iPod and affects the 'in another world' look required, people one does not want contact with get the message.

A new twist is that the latest generation of iPods have a truly functional remote. One can have the earphones on, but have turned the iPod off by remote. So, you do hear what is going on around you. But, unless he is hip to the remote, the observer does not know you can hear everything going on. The user gets to grant permission to other people to talk to him or her. Or not.

I may be atypical. I do talk to other people in public. Not every stranger I see, but enough to share public space and meet new people. I look forward to seeing how Bull supports his belief that most people want to avoid interaction with others in his book.

If you are an iPod owner, you can participate in the study by contacting Bull.

Note: This entry also appeared at Mac-a-ro-nies.

Amplification: The researcher is looking for female iPod users. So, if you are an iPod owner, he wants to hear from you. Bull can be contacted on his webpage

Sunday, March 21, 2004

What's in a name?

Katie Roiphe writes in Slate:
"...it may also be that the maiden name is no longer a fraught political issue. These days, no one is shocked when an independent-minded woman takes her husband's name, any more than one is shocked when she announces that she is staying at home with her kids. Today, the decision is one of convenience, of a kind of luxury—which name do you like the sound of? What do you feel like doing? The politics are almost incidental. Our fundamental independence is not so imperiled that we need to keep our names. The statement has, thanks to a more dogmatic generation, been made. Now we dabble in the traditional. We cobble together names. At this point—apologies to Lucy Stone, and her pioneering work in name keeping—our attitude is: Whatever works."

Now, aside from my knee-jerk response (I'm part of that "dogmatic generation," I believe) to her knee-jerk feminist bashing (what would she rail about if not for us?), I'm inclined to agree with her. That is, inasmuch as the "we" she refers to as having "fundamental independence" is limited to women of a certain class and educational background like her own (I'm part of that group too). I wouldn't say that for me, the politics of my decision to keep my birth name (I hate "maiden") were incidental, in fact quite the opposite. Because of my feminist politics, as well as the fact that I had begun to publish and develop a professional reputation before I got married, my husband and I never really considered my changing names. When our son was born, we had a brief conversation about what his name would be, and when it became apparent to us that it meant a lot to my husband to give our child his name, that's what we did. Once he started school, my son asked me why I didn't have the same name as he and his father did, and I told him I didn't want to change my name, and that was that. (Well, that's not entirely true . . .I did flirt briefly with the idea of changing my last name to my son's middle name in a moment of annoyance with my father, but that passed.) At the same time, when his teachers and friends and friends' parents refer to me as Mrs. W---, instead of as Dr. G---, I rarely correct them because in this context (as Roiphe's essay seems to suggest) it is incidental, my independence isn't imperiled, and it is sometimes just more convenient. Once I get to know people, I do clarify my name, and no one has ever seemed to care, one way or another. But I do think that Roiphe's acknowledgement (or rather, begrudging concession) that feminists who did fuss about this, and who insisted on their right to retain their own names and the privileges that come with the recognition of independent female personhood, should be recognized and appreciated by those of us who are their beneficiaries.

(cross-posted at Distracted)

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Judge Orders Release of Abortion Records

A month ago Ashcroft ordered the release of abortion records (edited of course) during the course of an investigation of partial birth abourtion. Well, a 'federal judge ordered the University of Michigan Health System on Friday to turn over edited abortion records for possible inclusion in a case about a law that bans a particular abortion procedure." The Justice dept. is claiming that these records are central to the claim by some doctors that the procedure may be, a times, medically necessary. Excuse the conspiracy theorist in me, but I have a hard time believing that under the current administration any such records would be used to further an argument against the wishes of the White House.

All of that aside, is it ever okay to infringe upon the privacy (even if their names are inked out) of women? I believe that the personal is political, but I also believe that people should have the right to choose their battles.

Judge Orders Release of Abortion Records

cross posted on my blog

Saturday, March 13, 2004

In Praise of Old People

A fellow graduate student recently remarked, "It's so difficult to get tickets to any of the cultural events around here because so many old people get all of them early." Although I emphasize with him (I've been hard-pressed trying to get tickets too) this only illustrates all too well why we "whippersnappers" shouldn't underestimate the elderly.

There's a lot nitpickers and economists alike could find to complain about in the over-the-hill population. They continue to drive when their reflexes have deteriorated. They're stubborn and set in their ways. They're a tax on the health care system and the younger members of their family. Some of them dress funny. And others may have taken the youth-obsessed culture a little bit too much to heart and have dressed up like teenagers. And at worse, they regress back to the point of infantilism. Many of these reasons, though, can be thought of as fears about aging. People don't want to lose control. They don't want look into that mirror of the inevitable future.

But older people aren't sacks of potatoes with a mouth. They're people who have been around for a while. They're wiser and if not that, at least they have more experience. They're living bits of history--something a textbook or a video could never replicate. But is this really the reason that we go on living for a couple more decades after our reproductive fitness has declined to zero?

Other animals don't have the benefit of social security checks, but that doesn't explain why after they produce their last offspring, they soon die. In the extreme case, there are insects that emerge into their adult forms for one day. They mate like mad, lay the eggs, then die. There is no such thing as old age for our six-legged friends. One theory on why humans have a longer life much past the reproductive peak is that it confers survival advantage to an individuals offspring. This makes sense if one thinks about it--some insects don't take care of their offspring, instead they let their eggs fend for themselves. Humans on the other hand are more social animals and take care of their offspring for far longer. First hand evidence are college kids. Theoretically, they're old enough to go out into the world by themselves, but in reality most of them still have some sort of financial support from their parents.

In a recent Nature article by Lahdenpera et al. (PubMed abstract) this group explores the fitness benefits conferred to the offspring of post-reproductive women. The grandmother effect was first proposed by George C. Williams in 1957 (Evolution, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 398-411):

In the human male and in both sexes of other animals, reproductive decline is a gradual process, as is the senecence of other systems. In the human female, however, it is rather abrupt, and some special explanation is required. At some point during human evolution it may have become advantageous for a woman of forty-five or fifty to stop dividing her declining faculties between the care of extant offspring and the production of new ones. A termination of increasingly hazardous pregnancies would enable her to devote her whole remaining energy to the care of her living children, and would remove childbirth mortality as a possible cause for failure to raise these children. Menopause, although apparently a cessation of reproduction, may have arisen as a reproductive adaptation to a life-cycle already characterized by senescence, unusual hazards in pregnancy and childbrith, and a long period of juvenile dependence. If so, it is improper to regard menopause as a part of the aging syndrome.

Lahdenpera et al. propose that the grandmothers become "helpers" by both taking care of their children and grandchildren, thus giving both survival advantages. They give experimental evidence to the theory through statistical sampling of two pre-modern populations in Canada and Finland. Controls for various factors such as age, offspring sex, geography, socio-economic status were taken into account by using a general linear model. From the data, both sons and daughters who had mothers living past menopause were able to raise more children to adulthood independent of wealth. However, less grandchildren were born if the grandmother did not live in the same place and a grandmother's beneficial effect to survival did not kick in until after the child was weaned.

Well, what about men? By just eyeballing some numbers, we can immediately see that men don't live as long as women (although there are articles trumpeting that the lifespan gap is narrowing). Williams also mentions this in his paper. Unfortunately, there is no "grandmother effect" equivalent in males because they are exposed to more risks such as fighting each other and spending too much energy on courtship displays.

Cross-posted at Syaffolee.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Mad Kane Hires An Ombudsman

For years I've been flooded with emails challenging the accuracy of MadKane.com. At first I did what most publications do -- I ignored them. But as time went by, I realized that something had to be done. So in keeping with recent trends and in the interest of sound journalism, I've appointed an ombudsman who'd like to be known only as "Bud." Here's part of Bud's first report:

  • The poem entitled Dubya's Poetic Injustice states that during George W. Bush's Election 2000 campaign, Bush promised to be a "compassionate conservative" and to have a "humble foreign policy." After this poem was published, we learned that Bush was "crossing his fingers" whenever he made those promises, so "they didn't really count." We regret this error.

  • According to a State of Disunion crossword puzzle clue, President Bush believes that raising twins is even harder than waging war. While Bush did in fact make that statement, he has since changed his mind and now acknowledges that waging war is "an itsy-bitsy bit harder than raising twins." We are sorry for failing to keep up to date on this issue.

  • In Dubya's Don't Blame Me Song the lyricist itemizes several things as not being George W. Bush's fault, including the jobless rate, 9/11, the mission accomplished banner, and the lack of WMD's. We have since learned that many more things weren't the President's fault and we regret our lack of comprehensiveness.

The rest of
Ombudsman Bud's first report is here.

Monday, March 08, 2004


Everybody's favorite blog, Feministe, has "made it". People magazine wants to interview it's author, ms. lauren, for a piece on the "unintended consequences" of blogging. If you haven't checked out her blog yet, do so now. She's a bright, insightful young woman. feministe: Holy Crap

Cross posted on my blog

My Beatles Birthday and International Women's Day

I'm celebrating both here,, where..

Today is International Women's Day. I remember well when, in the mid 70s, during the first International Women's Year, so many of us young American women counted on the energy of our IWD efforts to truly change our worlds.

In her speech at the First International Women's Year Conference, Betty Ford reminded us that "The long road to equality rests on achievements of women and men in altering how women are treated in every area of everyday life." From where I sit and read and watch, we haven't moved very far down that long road in those 30 years since.

Instead, each week there's some additional TV program touting the miracles that plastic surgery works on the lives of poor, plain, unloved females. Instead, more and more women strive to unleash the power of Victoria's Secret, buying into yet another misleading fantasy about what it is to be truly female and powerful, attractive and persuasive.

Today, while other places in other parts of the world at least acknowledged the importance of what this day symbolizes, American voices were mostly silent and unaware..........

Saturday, March 06, 2004

American Experience | The Pill

I finally got around to watching the PBS special American Experience | The Pill that I ordered from interlibrary loan forever ago. And I have to say that I was seriously disappointed. I know that it was just an hour special that aired on Public Television, but there was a glaring lack of serious critique of the people behind the pill, the social and political implications, and the testing practices involved. There was never a mention of eugenics anywhere near Margaret Sanger who was hailed as the savior of women all over the world. No one said anything about what it meant that the pill (with dangerous levels of hormones) was initially tested on women in the housing projects of Puerto Rico. And there was only a brief mention of why African American women who had been the victims of sterilization abuse in the south for years were skeptical of the pill. I also found it interesting that the documentary claims that the only African Americans who were opposed to the pill were those belonging to "militant black power organizations".

I was disappointed that the sections on Puerto Ricans and African American women can be missed if you blink twice. It's interesting that while there are numerous white women who took the pill when it was first approved were interviewed but not one African American or Puerto Rican woman (or anyone from the families of the women who died during the trials) were interviewed. Just some initial reactions, but I won't talk too much about it because I see that it is being aired on PBS again on March 22 at 9 p.m. so I'll let you judge for yourself.

cross posted on my blog

Friday, March 05, 2004

"The Passion" is rooted in controversy

The National Catholic Reporter has tried to put paid to one of the controversies over actor Mel Gibson's reportedly reactionary movie, "The Passion of the Christ." Gibson and others in his circle claim the Pope, John Paul II, approved the film's interpretation of the death of Christ, saying: "It is as it was." However, other persons in positions to know deny the Pope made such a statement.

Vatican reporter John Allen explains the episode from its beginning.

I sympathize with those weary of the controversy surrounding the alleged papal reaction, "It is as it was," to Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ. Not even the most rabid ultramontanist believes papal infallibility extends to movie reviews, so the film will rise or fall on its own merits, apart from anything John Paul thinks. Moreover, the increasingly farcical he said, she said nature of the story is hardly edifying.

Yet there are times when a story is important not so much for its content as for what it reveals about the players involved, and the institutions they serve. Such is the case with the pope's alleged comment, and I'm afraid it doesn't reveal much flattering about anyone.

Allen explains how he believes the 'confusion' arose.

Here's how we got here.

On Dec. 5 and 6, a Friday and Saturday, John Paul II watched “The Passion of the Christ” in his private apartment along with [papal secretary Archbishop Stanislaw] Dziwisz. On Monday, Dec. 8, Dziwisz received [Steve McEveety, the movie's producer] and his wife along with Jan Michelini and Alberto Michelini, Jan’s father. Their conversation took place largely in Italian, a language McEveety and his wife don’t speak. The Michelinis afterwards translated for McEveety what they believe they heard Dziwisz say, namely, that the pope’s reaction to the film was, “It is as it was.” Later that night, McEveety screened the movie for Navarro.

That the Michelinis had access to the pope is not difficult to explain. Alberto Michelini is a well-known Italian journalist and politician, who in 1979 accompanied the pope on his first trip to Poland.

. . .For the record, both Alberto Michelini and Navarro are members of Opus Dei.

Members of Gibson's inner circle promoted the claim the Pope had smiled on the film. The Vatican, through Dziwisz, issued a statement Jan. 19, denying that had occurred. Gibson's people still say they have information proving their claim of approval by the Pope is true, but haven't released it.

Allen is inclined to hold the Vatican more responsible for the controversy over the alleged statement by the Pope, than reporters, who he feels were misled.

The Vatican has made, as the expression goes here, the worst brutta figura. It comes off looking bad. Even if officials were acting for the noblest of motives, they have stretched the meaning of words, on and off the record, to their breaking point. Aside from the obvious moralism that it’s wrong to deceive, such confusion can only enhance perceptions that the aging John Paul II is incapable of controlling his own staff, that “no one is in charge” and the church is adrift. These impressions are not healthy in a time when the church’s public image, especially in the United States, has already taken a beating on other grounds.

Dean of religion Dwight Moody has been thinking about another controversy related to the film -- the claim that it is anti-Semitic because it assigns blame for the death of Jesus to Jews. He warns readers the relationship between passion plays and hatred of Jews is well-established.

“The Passion of Christ” hits the big screens Feb. 25. Mel Gibson is the writer, director and producer of this movie. He weaves material from a medieval mystic into the biblical narrative of the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life.

The Gibson movie has received much more attention than the Bratcher movie. Many Catholic and Evangelical leaders have attended preview showings and have come away with glowing endorsements.

Others are not so sure.

Passion plays have a long history of anti-Jewish bias. For centuries, the worst time to be a Jew in a Christian community was during Holy Week, when passion plays incited the religious fervor of the people. Too often this fervor was directed against the Jews who were called “Christ killers.” About a decade ago, the Vatican released new guidelines on passion plays, including a prohibition on assigning blame for the death of Jesus.

Moody prefers to view the death of Christ as multi-faceted. According to how one approaches it, responsibility can be placed on all the parties, humankind and even Christ himself.

Religion scholar James Martin has been interested in Opus Dei for years. He is considered an authority on the organization. Understanding OD may mean understanding why and how these controversies arose.

Opus Dei Is the most controversial group in the Catholic Church today. To its members it is nothing less than The Work of God, the inspiration of Blessed Josemaría Escriva, who advanced the work of Christ by promoting the sanctity of everyday life. To its critics it is a powerful, even dangerous, cult-like organization that uses secrecy and manipulation to advance its agenda. . . .

His [Escriva's] group grew rapidly, spreading from Spain to other European countries, and in 1950 received recognition by the Holy See as the first “secular institute.” Over the next two decades The Work, as members call it, moved into Latin America and the United States.

Escriva, who was sainted shortly after his death, is said by his critics to have been anti-Semitic and have ". . . pro-Nazi tendencies."

Martin's criticisms of the sect, based on interviews with members and former members, emphasize the secretive, cult-like behavior of Opus Dei and its manipulation of college students.

The controversies that have dogged the movie reflect those that have been associated with Opus Dei. The unsubstantiated claim of approval by the Pope seems typical of Opus Dei leaders' arrogance and overreaching. Nor is the charge of anti-Semiticism new.

It is tempting to say the allegation of anti-Semitism will be resolved when the film is released. However, that platitudinous perspective is not necessarily so. Instead, the matter may become more pregnant than it is now.

Note: This entry also appeared at Mac-a-ro-nies.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

File under D for Duh

According to a University of Helsinki study published recently in the American Journal of Public Health, obese women, especially those with higher education or in upper white-collar positions, earn an average 30% less than their thinner counterparts. Read the whole article here, or if that link doesn't work, try here.

Might I just say: Welcome to the wonderful world of double-whammy prejudice!
Like simply being a woman in this society isn't enough of an uphill battle, those of us who have the effrontery to be not only women but also fat women get socked in the pocketbook as an additional punishment for our heinous crime of corpulence. It ain't news to me, honey.

Cross-posted on my blog.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Political Dish Crossword Puzzle

I had such a good time creating my first interactive crossword puzzle (about Bush's State of the Unon speech) that I decided to do another. I hope you enjoy my Political Dish crossword puzzle.

Okay, sisters.

Does anyone know what the difference is between The Diva Cup and The Keeper? Both are "menstrual cups" that serve as an eco-friendly alternative to tampons and pads, but I can't decide which one is better. I'm pretty sure The Keeper has been around longer, but I don't know that for sure. Does anyone know more about this than I do?

Monday, March 01, 2004


Jobs are AWOL, and so's my brain. I say that because in my flu-frazzled state I forgot to mention my latest satirical poem. It starts:

By Madeleine Begun Kane

Our jobs are disappearing
To nations far and wide.
While Dubya has no plan at all
To stem this risky tide.

His people make up numbers
Of jobs they will produce.

The whole poem is here.

What to do with teenagers when roller skating gets old? SkyZone!

As the mother of a teenage daughter, figuring out activities that give ME a break, are nearby, don't involve computers and cell phones...