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Review: How to Love the Empty Air

30 October 2009

Good riddance to Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

I hate it because it is all about the million pieces of junk we can buy that are pink.

The pink ribbon is everywhere. Ironically it is on things that just might cause breast cancer!
Breast Cancer Action calls these companies "pinkwashers." BMW, for example, gives $1 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure each time you test-drive one of their cars, even though pollutants found in car exhaust are linked to breast cancer.

Breast cancer is far too dangerous and serious of an enemy to be defeated by pink cleaning rags. From the earliest record of how a breast cancer patient feels to today's survivors who are saying "No thank you to the pink ribbon," it is clear that breast cancer can radicalize you.

It's easy for me to "Think Before I Pink" because I have issues with that uber-girly color. But even I had to do a double take when I saw that Dr. Susan Love has joined forces with Avon to launch Army of Women. Is this more pinkwashing? Or a real move to adjust the conversation from a cure for breast cancer to preventing it in the first place?

I honestly haven't a clue, but my first question is "What is in Avon cosmetics and could it give me cancer?"

29 October 2009

Fundraiser: The Advantage and Disadvantage of Zine, a funding proposal

If you read my blog at my blog, you may have noticed a little box over there >>>>

That is a ChipIn widget for fellow Chicagoan, feminist and in her own right, total bad ass, Anne Elizabeth Moore. So it's not me asking for your dollars for me or my own sake, but rather for Ms. Bad Ass. Here's what she's fundraising for:
Advantage and Disadvantage of Zine is a long-term, multifaceted collaboration with a group of young women college students in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I first met these young women when I was offered a residency in their dormitory, where I lived for two months during the winter of 2007-2008. (To read more about this work, scroll down to the right-hand section of this blog, Camb(l)o(g)dia, Condensed.) During my time there I initiated a close relationship with all 32 residents, and together we created two seperate bodies of self-publishing work and initiated an international dialogue about human rights and young women in developing nations. I intend to return in December to continue this work during a time of tremendous need.

So click on over there or fuck it, here's the widget and the full funding proposal:

Give $5, yes the cost of a fancy coffee, and help send Anne back to Cambodia to organize a fabulous group of young women. Or buy the booklette! So what are you waiting for?

Where to send the girls who do like computer science

Originally posted at AWEARNESS


I can't believe the response my post about girls and computer science on Wednesday received on Twitter. Thanks. Many of the retweets were of "don't forget us too!" variety, so to follow up on the popular post, here is a quick run down of just a handful of the amazing groups working to recruit girls to computer science and keep them interested. Please, please add additional ones in the comments!
  • Anita Borg: This is a powerhouse organization that works to connect tech companies to women. ABI offers workshops, publications and information aimed to develop leadership skills; celebrates and highlights the success of women who are changing the face of technology; and provides programs that change the way technology is created, learned and taught. One peek at their board and you'll see that the movers & shakers of technology are gathering at ABI to bring more women to the keyboard.

Read the rest of the resource list over at AWEARNESS please. Thanks!

28 October 2009

Book Review: The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre

The problem with The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre is that it is a good book wrapped up in so many stereotypes it is difficult to find the true nuggets of knowledge.

As a grown up tomboy who ended up marrying a man who sat still as a young boy, I find dealing in stereotypes completely unhelpful to the conversation. In fact I am so allergic to them that it takes a lot of data for me to say uncle. Tyre claims to want to rip the myths to shreds, but I fear that she merely reinforces them.

One myth that needs to die is that boys are violent. Boys may be rougher than girls in their play, but violent shouldn't be tolerated. There is a line and we need to keep our boys on the proper side of that line. Tyre correctly blasts against zero tolerance rules, but we still need to deal with violence in our classrooms or the emergence of violence. Star Wars = ok, bloody murder scenes NOT ok.

Hands on learning is essential to all students, girls as well as boys. Tyre repeatedly talks to teacher after teacher about how boys learn better when they get their hands on something, they run around or put theory into action. Just because girls learn better than boys in a "sit down and be quiet" way does not mean that they can't also benefit from hands on activities. In fact it is hands on activities that will help girls break thru the glass beaker ceiling.

And this is where recess comes into play. Or rather a discussion of how recess is becoming more of a luxury than a staple. Yes, boys need to run the ants out of their pants, but girls need exercise too. From just learning to discover the power of their bodies to staying healthy, we shouldn't paint recess as a solution just for boys. But this was one point where I did learn how horrible our boys do have it with the quick to diagnose ADHD and the insistence that they have the wild rumpus medicated out of them. Again, this is where girls do benefit for being "good" and it sucks. That said, my daughter can't sit still to save her life, so I'm a bit worried of the ADHD verdict as well.

Tyre does tackle the "reading is for girls" stereotype by calling men out for not doing more reading with their sons and the boys in their lives. Her example of a firefighter coming in to read to classes is an excellent way to address the issue. Much different than say my nephew who improved his grades once he saw that some of the pretty girls were also smart! Or the teacher on Donors Choose who sought to entice the boys to read by getting the girls to fall in love with women authors. Oh, the bad well-meaningness of it all!

On the other hand Tyre blames those who championed "children are all the same" for the ramblings of Michael Gurian. Gurian's theory is that boys and girls brains are fundamentally different, so different that single-sex schools are needed. The problem is that no well-regarded scientist will back him up. Tyre's explanation for his success and popularity? That parents of boys NEED to have validation that their boys are different. OK, your boy is different than my girl, but difference can be managed.

And here's where I agree with Tyre. Our schools are in trouble. Boys and girls are suffering from standardized testing and the ramping up of education that goes along with it. Yes, I want all of our kids to read at grade level, do math well and graduate on time. But that doesn't mean that we need to have our first graders doing third grade work or pre-schoolers in professional tutoring to prepare for kindergarten.

Tyre spends a lot of time trying to discredit anyone who claims that the boy crisis is overblown (which I agree). On page 43 she takes Kim Gandy, past President of NOW, to task for drawing a line between how boys (men) are reacting to the changing role of girls (women) and rape. "How can concern about boys in the classroom be linked, even tangentially, with rape?" It's pretty simple to a woman who was pinned to a classroom desk in biology class by a boy while the teacher just stood there. It's about power. Girls are exerting their power in the classroom, yet a boys will be boys mentality still rules in life. Yes, there are zero tolerance policies, but I'll get to those later. Rape is a tool of power or more precisely a lack of power. It's really not that hard to see that aggression against women and girls can start right in the classroom.

Tyre does a great job at running the college admissions numbers. There has been a lot of whining about how hard it is to get into college, but the simple fact is that we have a record number of men and women entering college period. Colleges, especially state schools just cannot handle the increased capacity and thus making colleges even more competitive to get into.

Ironically we are at a point where we can say that boys just might be the canary in the coalmine when it comes to schools. Schools are so scheduled that there is little time for physical activity that is critical for boys and girls. Art and music is pushed out in favor of double reading and math time. Administrators can't fully grasp what it means to have actual sexual harassment occur so they set up zero tolerance rules rather than work to address the reason why boys (more often than not) feel entitled to touch or harass girls.

Boys are different, yes they are. But as Lise Eliot (her book is next!) says in Pink Brain, Blue Brain, the different among boys is far greater than between girls and boys.

I do recommend this book for those of us without sons. It is amazing what our society has done to boyhood, not just in trying to squash it, but also to romanticize it ala a conservative right-winger longs for a return to "Leave it to Beaver" days. If you can keep licking that block of salt, you will learn things that will knock your socks off. For those of you with sons, I fear this would only feed into your fears. Eliot's book is more up your alley.

Need to get yourself a copy? Try an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Wanted: Girls who like computer science - From AWEARNESS

Originally posted at AWEARNESS

Despite the rise of women attending college and becoming the majority of the workforce, one area that continues to be ignored by women and girls is computer science.

There are many theories as to why girls love using computers (women are the majority of social media users) but don't want to learn how to program or build computers. There are those who chalk it up to gender differences plain and simple. Some believe it is because girls are repelled by geek or hacker culture. Universities and companies who hire computer scientists are constantly recruiting girls and trying to show them why computer science is a great option.

One part of the theory why girls are excluded from hacker culture is that it is too "frattish" and misogynistic. That is why I find the lap dances at a recent Yahoo! event (Yahoo! paid for women to dance in skimpy clothing at a "brainstorming session") to be especially atrocious.

Read the rest over at AWEARNESS please! Thanks. 

27 October 2009

Book Review: So Sexy So Soon by Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne

Britney. Bratz dolls. Thongs for girls. Those are the things we think about and blame for the sexualization of childhood. In So Sexy So Soon, Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne teach us about how commercialization and consumerism is quickly destroying childhood.

First of all, one might think this is a book for those of us with daughters. Nope! This is one is for parents, period. While there is a huge focus on the sexualization of girls, there is also great conversations about boys and how toys and media are screwing with their sexuality.

Levin & Kilbourne don't lecture parents. They are sympathetic to our situation, but they are stern in pushing us to assert our power as parents. It's not all about saying no in here, but they talk about how to say yes, how to talk with our kids about the decisions we make and how to make stores, marketers and product producers accountable.

Take child thongs for example. Look up blog posts about them and those who aren't outraged by them say things like, "If you don't like them, don't buy them for your kid." Well, it's not as simple as that. There is an excellent list of 12 reasons why it's not as simple as parents saying no. #10 sums it up: "It lets the media & marketing industries completely off the hook." So far, so good in my home, but saying it is all up to us as parents minimizes the huge market forces pounding on our children every single day. My daughter didn't see one scene from "High School Musical" or "Hannah Montana" before she was 4, but she knew who they were because kids in her preschool were bringing items plastered with them. And what kids see, kids want.

Honestly it's tiring saying no to everything, so many of us weigh things and say yes to things we think are the lesser of two evils. Levin & Kilbourne enlighten us to how even the lesser of the evils is setting up our children to end up right where we don't want them. There is an excellent discussion about princess culture and how that sets up girls to see beauty and their outward appearance as their source of validation and that sexiness is our goal. Princesses and "tame" teen shows teach girls and boys what it means to be sexy and they strive for that. What the media, schools and parents aren't teaching our kids is what sexy means and how it is different than sex. There's a sick logic to how we go from Bratz dolls for pre-tweens to seeing high school girls embrace Playboy as empowering. 

Levin & Kilbourne discuss how children's minds evolve and how to talk to them appropriately AND how to figure out how they jumped to a conclusion without going batshit. For me, this was one of the best parts of the book. Where do kids get such crazy ideas? Well they put it together from what they see, but how much logic goes into it depends on their age and development. Again, it is hard for an 8-year-old to understand the difference between wanting to have sex with someone and dressing up to be sexy. Media and as an extension, toys, are blurring that line that many of us wrestled with in high school.

As for boys...Even though I don't have a son, I have two nephews and a gaggle of boys to love from my godson's family. Levin & Kilbourne discuss how professional wrestling and hyper-masculine toys are screwing up how boys see sex and how that then screws up their ability to deal with the girls in their lives. We all know that adult images are just a few clicks away on the internet. This increase in the rise of sexual images in media coincides with the decline in real sex ed in the schools.

This book is far from anti-sex or prudish. Rather, Levin & Kilbourne are repeatedly talking about the need for sexuality education. Let's teach kids about not the how-to of sex, but the how-to-feel of sex. What does it mean to love someone? What does it mean to have sex with that person? How do you know when it's being done right? For over a decade, abstinence-only sex ed has been telling our kids to "Just say no" to sex, yet TV, movies, music, billboards and even their toys are telling them to be sexy. Talk about a tease! "But sex in commercial culture has far more to do with trivializing and objectifying sex than with promoting it, more to do with consuming than with connecting (p 9)."

Too often the answer to how to deal with the sexualization of childhood is to either stop showing anything with sex in it or to loosen up, they are just kids. Levin & Kilbourne find that uncomfortable middle that does put a lot of agency in parents, but they also arm us with a lot of helpful data and knowledge.

This is a must-read.

Please get yourself a copy thru an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: I received this book directly from the publishers on my request over a year ago.

EVENT: Media Democracy Day -- Chicago, 2009

Join fellow progressive media professionals and activists to discuss how we can work together to create more media democracy and media justice, important steps to building a just society.

The Metro Chicago Progressive Media Network …
invites you join us for ...

2009 Media Democracy Day - Chicago
Date/Time: November 7, 2009, 1-4-pm
Location: Grace Place, 637 S. Dearborn Ave, Chicago, IL
See: www.chicagoprogmedia.org





Initially Media Democracy Day (MD day) was organized by local Toronto and Vancouver groups of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. In 2002, events were held in cities around the world. A Media Democracy Day has been held in Chicago in the past.

Today the tradition of MD Day is carried on by local citizens and student groups in Canada and around the world. This year a group of media activists and professionals is planning for 2009 Media Democracy Day - Chicago with the objective of including representation and participation from all around the Chicago area. The timing of the event is planned to coincide with the date of Media Democracy Day in Vancouver, Canada.

Goals of 2009 Media Democracy Day - Chicago:
1) to bring together area progressive media professionals and media activists to share their perspectives on how we can promote a media system that informs the public on important issues and provides media access to all segments of society.

2) to create coherent messages and media initiatives to draw public attention and broaden and strengthen dialogue around serious issues and challenges facing the area, the nation, and the planet.

Part I - Panel The event will feature concise (5-7 minutes) presentations by key area media activists, media professionals, media-related organizations and academics covering the full spectrum of the reform media map:

1) mainstream media itself, its content, structure, sources, balance, etc..

2) alternative media of all types, including TV, radio, print, internet, performance, and graphics,

3) public awareness and education about the media, and

4) the media environment, including legislation and regulations.*

The panel is also planned to include media representatives from the Latin-American community, the African-American community, women, youth, and the GLBT community.

Part II - Working Groups and Skills sharing
Tract 1 - Working Groups The second part of the event will consist of facilitated breakout working groups, tasked with
1) discussion and then
2) formulating actionable items.

Tract 2 - Skills Sharing, such as blogging, video, and editing

Part III - Report-back The last component will be a facilitated report-back session. A summary of the report-back will be made available to interested attendees. LIST OF

Mitchell Szczepanczyk, Chicago Media Action
Joel Bleifuss, Editor, In These Times
Tim Wais, HumanThread
Veronica Arreola; Educator, Blogger (vivalafeminista.com)
Larry Duncan, Labor Beat
Robert Koehler, Syndicated Columnist
Mike Barr, Documentary filmmaker
Karen Bond, National Black Coalition for Media Justice The Metro Chicago
Kevin Gozstola, documentary filmmaker completing a Film/Video degree at Columbia College

Progressive Media Network (MCPMN), which was formed in November 2007, is an area networking group of media professionals and media activists,

*Source: Hackett, Robert A. and William K. Carroll, Remaking Media: The struggle to democratize public communication. 2006

26 October 2009

Gender Trouble Week

This week I'll be sharing reviews of books that deal with the gender of our children and our parenting.

I am the mother of a six-year-old girl and as long time readers know, I keep on eye out on how girls and their toys are sexualized. As an advocate for education equity, I keep tabs on the changed that our sons and daughters are making n the classroom.

As a feminist I get told that we're post-feminist, the battle of the sexes is over and it's our boys who need a revolution.

To that I say hell no and hell yes!

Women may be the majority of workers but we still are paid only 78% to a man's dollar (even less so for women of color), tracked into low prestige and low wage careers and we still carry the burden of caregiving for our families. The feminist revolution is far from over.

The next stage will be to free our brothers from the claustrophobic gender role box. If you read media depictions of why boys are falling behind you see feminists being blamed, but also painting boys as lazy and unwilling to learn. The boy revolution will free them from the testosterone ball and chain.

The books I will review this week include:

So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood, and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids by Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne, The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre and Pink Brain, Blue Brain: how small differences grow into troublesome gaps--and what we can do about it by Lise Eliot.

As an introduction to this week's reviews, I want to emphasize that while I went into the books very biased, I learned a lot from each one, especially Tyre's The Trouble with Boys. That book gave me such a brain cramp that it's taken me a year to write a review because I've been processing it and trying to figure out how to say what I want to say. Things are changing and we need to change with it.

I do believe that in some sense the battle of the sexes are over -- And I mean that as we need to stop pitting our girls and our boys against each other, especially in terms of education equity because there should be enough education to go around.

21 October 2009

EVENT: Evolution of Activism

A fellow feminista friend of mine is on this amazing panel. So if you are free that night, get yourself over there!

Lecture and Panel Discussion: Evolution of Activism
Thursday, October 29, 2009, 7:30-9:30pm
e-mail c-cantu@neiu.edu for more info

19 October 2009

Review: The House on Mango Street

And I'm not talking about the book either!

Tanya Saracho of Teatro Luna, has adapted Sandra Cisneros's classic coming of age tale, The House on Mango Street, into a play. Yeah, I know, like wow. Amazing eh?

I went to see it on Friday night for a fundraiser for the Chicago Foundation for Women's Latina Leadership Council. It runs until November 8th and tickets are already limited, so get some today.

It's been a few years since I read the novel so it wasn't like I knew how every scene should or could go. I sat back and enjoyed the show. Saracho includes some great songs as well to string the story together.

To see Esperanza come alive on stage was moving. Yes, I was in tears many times. The scene where Esperanza is assaulted was handled perfectly. The theme of women in windows was played out in heart-wrenching beauty on the stage.

It is amazing that a story that takes place over 30 years ago is still so fresh on so many levels. There's a joke about the mayor never fixing Chicago's public transit system that got a lot of laughs. But the struggle of Latinas growing up in a macho culture, wanting to be free enough to dance where we want, when we want and yet finding that we are "too beautiful" to be seen.

Ultimately for me, THoMS, is about home and what that means. I was just watching "Latin Music USA" on PBS and  Lin-Manuel Miranda of "In the Heights" said it best. He said something like, "Home is a very tricky word for us Latinos. We're not really sure where home is. Is it where we grew up? Where our families came from? Where we are now?" Esperanza is always looking to get out, to leave Mango Street. And I soooo get that. I was pretty much raised to get out of our lil suburb, to aspire to "be more" and all that. That's one reason why it is so hard for me to go back and see my old house. It's no longer yellow and my favorite tree is gone. It was home for so long, yet it was always just a stop on my way somewhere else. Oddly I don't think I've felt at home until our apartment on Fletcher, which was our 3rd apartment in Chicago. Home.

There was a Q&A that I skipped out on, but someone reported that some of the men found the show to be man-bashing since it questions how Latino men have treated women and our macho culture. Guess it's a good thing I skipped it.

In conclusion...Go see this show if you can!!

16 October 2009

FTC, Bloggers & Publicists oh my!

Yesterday I attended the Publicity Club of Chicago's monthly lunch discussion. I never thought I'd say that because it was a room full of PR execs and while I do my fair share of publicity for feministy things, I just don't see myself as  PR person. That said, I had the luncheon info sent to me by one of the husband's coworkers and the AWJ-Chicago listserv. OK, I'll go!

And I'm really glad that I went. I totally felt like a mole because the topic was "Are Bloggers Journalists? Dealing with the Legal Implications of Today’s Media." Dum, de, dum! To top off the mole feeling was the fact that they start off the lunches with a few minutes of speed networking. "Hi, I'm Veronica a blogger." ha!

The panel was moderated by Paul Rand and had Esther J. Cepeda, Toure Muhammad and Daliah Saper as the experts. First props to the organizers for having such a diverse panel and an excellent moderator. They kept the conversation going, even if Daliah could have just given a lecture because she was the lawyer on the panel.

Considering the timing of the FTC guidelines release of last week, the conversation was heavily focused on that. Over at the Guardian, I got a lot of smack for calling myself a mommy blogger and asked why being a mommy blogger was relevant to the conversation. Well, even at this fab panel, mommy bloggers were still the main character in the conversation. I think that the media that mommy bloggers have received makes us an easy frame of reference. But it wasn't a bad thing either.

So what did I learn?

* Toure made a great point to remind us that blogging took off because so many of us were leary of corporate media. Many bloggers started off, including myself, as critiquing news segments. Now that we are seen as influential, whether we have 40 followers or Twitter or are an A+ list blogger, we have to remember that our credibility is connected to our transparency.

* Daliah talked a lot about how the guidelines may lead to a chilling effect in terms of publicity. The FTC guidelines not only spell out that bloggers are responsible for being transparent, but the publicists and marketers are responsible for screening us and making sure we are transparent. I immediately recalled the pic I snapped at Blogalicious of a sign reminding us that we need to be transparent. But she ended up saying that publicists shouldn't change their practices, other than screening us, and to just be honest.

* Esther stressed the fact that publicists should know the bloggers they are dealing with. "Read their blog, is that the person/outlet you want representing your brand?" And really, aren't we all saying that we're tired of getting pitches that say, "Dear blogger..." Now that the FTC will hold publicists to a higher standard, we might get less pitches, but more meaningful pitches.

* Toure took us on a history lesson by connecting this current moment with multiple other moments when the line between advertising and editorial content were debated in media. We need to see bloggers are tiny media outlets. Instead of having Jane in advertising and Veronica in editorial working here, we have just Veronica accepting the advertising pitches and the editorial. I know that I won't be asked to join ABC campaign because I blog about how sexist ABC is as a company.

* Now Esther took on the "what about the TV, newspapers and magazines" question. I believe her answer was as simple as they have editors who watch out for liable AND that those journalists aren't relying on free products for income. If I got that wrong, I'm sure she'll let me know. But is that true? Is anyone really milking this for real income? I think a few elite ones are. I hear that some of the original Wal-Mart Moms have made a living out of being faces for brands. But I'd love to hear from y'all.

* The only jaw-dropping moment for me was that Daliah said that Google bombing could be seen as trademark infringement. Perhaps this is old news to some of ya, but not for me. So blogging about product X and then linking to their competitor is clearly trademark infringement. But remember back when bloggers linked pro-choice orgs to George W. Bush? I wonder what the courts would say about that if we linked say Planned Parenthood to a named crisis pregnancy clinic?

* Daliah was mad smart. I'd love to organize a discussion night with her and a few bloggers, especially some of us activist bloggers who might be skirting legal issues. We may still skirt them, but at least we'll know what we're up to.

* Daliah also said that the legal ramifications are piling up quickly with social media and employment. Can you prove discrimination because your Facebook profile is public and outs you as a minority or lesbian and you don't get hired? Who owns your LinkedIn contact list if you use it for work purposes? At that point my mind was spinning.

* But Esther had a great message for the publicists. You can't control your message anymore. You can control who you work with, but not the message.
     It was a lot of fun and hopefully you also learned a bit of what is going on in the minds of publicists.

    Blog Action Day: Our Kids Are Turning Green - From Awearness

    Originally posted at AWEARNESS

    And I love it!

    I have a six-year-old daughter and she's been quite the green cop for the past couple of years. It started off innocently enough when recycling was implemented in her day care. The teachers always included the kids in their activities. It really is a hoot to see 2-year-olds toddling down the hall pulling a garbage bag. So when recycling came to daycare, the kids were asked to rinse out plastic items and told why they were doing it. Soon the kid started to tell us to rinse our plastic and ask why we didn't recycle at home.*

    Then came Happy Feet with its tale of overfishing. A peek at viewer comments and you see that some people thought that Happy Feet went overboard with the environmental message.

    I can only imagine what they thought of Wall-E and its literal message that we're throwing Earth away as we sit on our La-Z-Boys getting fat. Last weekend my husband took our daughter to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs which has its own climate change message.

    Don't think that kid's movies are the only place where they are getting the "Go Green!" message. In the past week we have read Judy Moody Saves the World and Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew - Earth Day Escapade, both obviously with green plots.

    Last night as we read Nancy Drew, the mystery partly unraveled in the girls restroom when a character flushed the toilet three times, used a wad of paper towels and left the faucet running. The horror!! And for a six-year-old with a budding sense of the environmental justice it was a horror. Her face got that "OMG" look. It was pretty cute.

    I know there are people out there who will complain that we are allowing schools and entertainment to brainwash our kids about climate change. But you know what? Climate change is real, it is happening and they will be the ones who will have to truly deal with the ramifications. I do worry that by teaching her so young, she'll come to me one day and ask why i didn't do more to stop it all. Keeping her ignorant might buy me a few years, but that's not how I want to raise her.

    The best part of the greening of my daughter? Each time she leaves her bedroom light on, I get to say, "If you're going to be green, you need to turn off your light!" It's a twist on the old "You're wasting energy" line. She still keeps us on our greening toes by reminding us to rinse out plastic and asking if this or that is recyclable. And I really love that.

    For a list of great environmental websites for kids, check out more4kids.info.

    *We live in Chicago and didn't have any real home recycling programs until this past February. We did paper recycling because we had a collection site nearby, but not much for glass and plastic.

    [Image: Moreforkids.info]

    15 October 2009

    Just so you know, my phone works in the middle of night

    I was fast asleep at three in the morning when I got the payphone call,
    And she said, ’did I wake you up,’ I said, ’hey, no, not at all.’

    ~Dar Williams "The Blessings"

    I am almost speechless folks. I seriously can NOT believe that anyone, much less an advice columnist, would say it was ok for friends to NOT come and get you in the freaking ER in the middle of the night. Especially if you are calling because someone drugged you at a club. Did I mention that you are supposed to be best friends with the cold-hearted slackers? 

    Thankfully Amy Benfer read the riot act perhaps three times over to unnamed "advice columnist" - you can get all the info in Amy's post.

    I know everyone says the internet is our new permanent record and we should watch out what we say, but I blog to not just get my opinion out there, but to also share my hard learned lessons.

    So I was left at a club once. I went to the bathroom and my friends left me. We were an odd numbered group. A pair had gone off to get a drink and left a trio. I had to pee reeeeeaaaaalllll bad. So I said, "I'm going to the bathroom. Wait here!" I swear I was gone just a few minutes. I grew up in a house with two sisters and one bathroom - we peed fast. But when I got back I couldn't find them...Anywhere.

    I was lucky. I decided to hang out with a bachelorette party and not to leave the club.

    Thankfully my friends knew where my then-fiance was hanging out with his buds and a few hours later they showed up at the club.

    So my friends - those of you I have met in the flesh and those of you who are still just an avatar - if you need me at 2 am, 3 am or whenever to come get you at a club, the ER or some random street corner of our world, I'll be there. The only reason I'd ever not come is if I'm home alone with the kid.

    I don't need to be your BFF to promise this. I won't sit there while you cry on the phone and think, "I have a 9 am meeting!" or "What has she done for me?" Instead I'll grab my baseball cap and car keys as I run out the door.

    This whole incident makes me want to know WTF the woman's so-called friends were thinking, are thinking today? WTF does the advice columnist define as friendship?

    Clearly she said that only blood-relatives are expected to come running in the middle of the night. Well wouldn't most of us be pretty darn screwed since most people don't live anywhere near blood relatives? Does this columnist know how many of us are crafting our own families? That because we don't live a few blocks from Mom and our Aunties that we surround ourselves with trusted and loving friends for times just like this? I have no idea how I would get thru my life without my husband and chosen family.

    So I know what it feels to be left behind and scared (althou luckily not drugged!). Because of that, I'll answer my phone and come running. Just call and I'll be there.

    It's been a busy month for science grrls!

    Originally posted at Girl w/Pen

    It seems like every other story in the past month had a science grrl at its core. Some were good, some not so much. I honestly couldn’t make up my mind on which story to write about, so I’ll write a little about all of them:
    • Elinor Ostrom is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics. The best part of her story? That her high school advisor told her that she couldn’t take trigonometry because she was a girl. It’s been quite some time, but if that advisor is still alive, I hope they give her a call to apologize. Otherwise, girls take note. My high school advisor was horrible my freshman year, so I switched. If you don’t feel supported, find someone else to talk to!
    • Ostrom topped off what has been a banner year of women winning the Nobel. We had the first time two women won a Nobel together (in medicine). The advisor-former graduate student pairing makes my heart a flutter. Now that’s Sisterhood NOT Interrupted! In addition, Ada Yonath won in Chemistry.
    • The motive for the murder of Annie Le is still to be revealed, but for me it doesn’t take much to see this crime as a possible crime against women in science. While I was still pondering the role that gender in the lab played in the crime, another woman was attacked in a lab. Sadly women in science history holds one huge dark chapter: In 1989 a man massacred 14 women as he “fought feminism” in Canada.
    • In animation land, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is telling young girls to not dumb themselves down and embrace their geekdom. My husband took our six-year-old daughter to see this movie while I was out of town over the weekend. She’s certainly not dumbing herself down…yet…but my money is on the fact that she’ll remember that the main character’s dad dies rather than she should be herself.
    • Considering the high participation of women in environmental science and public health, we could see more women winning Nobels if some new awards are added in the future.
    • And while she does fall under science FICTION, I think that Octavia Butler deserves to close out this post. Her novels paint a bleak picture for our future, but the way to avoid most of it are also laid out in her novels. She uses science to craft her stories, even in her last unfinished story arc on vampires science is a huge character. And now the Huntington Library is where her papers will be stored (PDF link). I eagerly await a biography on this genius who was taken from us way too soon.

    13 October 2009

    All Women Need to Stand with Erin Andrews - From Awearness

    Originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog

    Michael David Barrett has been arrested for videotaping and stalking ESPN reporter Erin Andrews.

    If you haven't heard, an illegal videotape of Ms. Andrews was made as she was undressing in a hotel room and then leaked on the internet. Andrews was the victim of a crime.

    A little background: Erin Andrews is often not taken seriously by other journalists. They believe that Andrews relies far too heavily on her sexiness rather than her skills. USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan was caught on Facebook and Twitter essentially blaming Andrews for what happened, writing "I wish it didn't happen to Erin, but I also would suggest to her if she asked (and she hasn't) that she rely on her talent and brains and not succumb to the lowest common denominator in sports media by playing to the frat house." I can't read Brennan's Facebook page, so I can't verify. But that statement is pretty sad--and I normally love Brennan. Of course, Brennan tried to reframe her comments, saying she was speaking generically, but the damage was done. Only Carol Slezak of the Chicago Sun-Times stepped up to defend Andrews, decry the emphasis on her looks and tsk people who think this is all a joke.

    Read the rest at the AWEARNESS blog...

    10 October 2009

    Shiny new Feminista

    And no, it's not from the free cosmetics that are in my Blogalicious swag bag.

    If you are reading me at my blog, you see that my template has changed. I believe that I'll need to tweak things here and there, so if you see any issues, just do let me know.

    Hopefully this new template does what I want it to do thou.


    07 October 2009

    My take on the FTC guidelines for bloggers

    is over at the Guardian's Comment is Free section:

    I'm a mommy blogger. For the past six months or so that was akin to saying I was a used car saleswoman. No, it had nothing to do with the stereotype that all I write about is my daughter, how cute she is and what we did that day. It had to do with the pile of freebies that I apparently live under and the idea that I lie about them.

    They call it blogola – payola for bloggers – the term for free stuff that bloggers get to review on their site and even the cash that some accept for those reviews. Those "offers" can also take place on micro-blogging sites such as Twitter, as exemplified by the recent controversy surrounding the #nestlefamily event – in which bloggers have agreed to take part in a promotional event organised by the multinational company. After months of warning us, the US Federal Trade Commission addressed the situation.

    Read the rest over at Comment is Free.

    Gotta say that it's crazy and interesting how the conversation is so focused on me calling myself a mommy blogger. Hmmm...I feel like when I do that it's always an experiment to see how fast the respect level drops and how quickly the shit flies. I wonder how the comments would be if I had called myself a book blogger instead? Or a feminist blogger? But since the media is focusing on mommy bloggers when discussing the FTC, I wanted to put that label in first. Aw, language, how I love you. 

    06 October 2009

    Women Tweeting Women

    Women Employed, a fab Chicago organization,  is doing a 24 hour Twitter campaign called “Women Tweeting Women” on Wednesday, October 7, 2009.

    The idea is to post information about inspiring women throughout the day. On Twitter please use the hashtag #wtw09 when tweeting about the inspiring women in your life.

    This should be a lot of fun!!

    Even thou I don't quite have a "I'm a feminist ask me how" button on, other women just seem to know and I get asked questions about career development. One nifty aspect of Women Employed is their Career Coach. Now I love my job, but I know I need to up my ante soon. For me that means finally getting my butt in gear to start a PhD program. But a few years ago I had no idea where I was headed. Luckily I have a great mentor in my boss, so she was a world of help. But I also know that many of us have dreams and aspirations that isn't the same as our day jobs. So why not try Career Coach to get started on your plans? I don't think electronic tools like this will give anyone the answer, but it can be a good first step and sometimes, that's what we all really need help with.

    Book Review: Time for Kids: President Obama: A Day in the Life of America's Leader

    You are warned: I bet this ends up being the next thing conservative parents will cry about on CNN and FOX News.

    Why? Because today TIME for Kids launches their book, President Obama: A Day in the Life of America's Leader, on President Barack Obama and it's awesome.Not only do I love this book, the kid loves it too. This is a book I would have begged my parents to buy me when I was a kid. During the 4th and 5th grade I went thru my Presidential phase. I not only read most of a totally age-inappropriate biography on JFK (in other words, it wasn't a picture book) and made a zine of First Ladies (oh, what I'd give to still have that!) but I seriously was hooked on the White House.

    This book gives kids a peek into the White House, the First Family and all the offices that make up the cabinet and the people who work there. It's a great primer for kids to learn about the three branches of our government, but especially the Executive branch. It even covers the primaries and the election. But the vast majority is focused on President Obama and how he's working to make our country better.

    And that's where I suspect the controversy will come from. On page 41, the book tackles the economy with this line, "Obama and his chief economic advisors worked with Congress to draft and pass an important piece of legislation designed to help the economy." Then there is page 58 about executive orders that mentioned Gitmo and the White House Council on Women & Girls. You know that some far right wing critics of the President will cry foul and accuse TIME of brainwashing our kids. But note that socialism isn't mentioned once.

    Of course if there was one about John McCain, I'm sure I'd roll my eyes thru most of it.

    So, parents to the left of Olympia Snowe, go grab this book for your kids. If your kids are Barack/Michelle/Sasha & Malia-loving kids, they will love this book AND learn something about the way our government is meant to run. But don't fret conservative parents, there are a few scowling pics of Secretary of State Clinton, a smiling John Boehner and Senator McConnell.

    Please get yourself a copy thru an indie bookstore or Powells.com. At the moment it isn't appearing on the Scholastic website, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was on an order form soon.

    Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book thru a publicist. But I pretty much knew I'd love this book when it was offered. It exceeded my expectations.

    05 October 2009

    The Olympics

    Quickly...Yes, I'm happy that Chicago didn't get the Olympics, but I'm not happy that so many people are disappointed. Someone on WBEZ said something about wanting the games for the civic pride. I was right there. I wanted to invite the world to our big small town for one hecka party too. But I just didn't think we could do it without hurting us at the same time.

    The press keeps asking if there is anyway for us to keep this Chicago love fest going in order to improve our schools, public transit, etc. I sure hope so.

    02 October 2009

    I'm in the Guardian!

    I had my first (yes, I plan on more) op-ed published in the Guardian yesterday and it's about Chicago's Olympic bid. By the time you read this, I'm sure a decision will be made.

    If it's yes, us Chicagoans need to hunker down for a bumpy ride.

    If it's no, whew!

    01 October 2009

    What Is "Consensual" Sex? - From Awearness

    Originally posted at AWEARNESS

    Can you have consensual sex if you have been given drugs and alcohol? What if the person is your father?

    Kristen Meinzer at YourTango didn't pull any punches when it came to breaking down Mackenzie Phillips' admission of "consensual" sex with her father. "Despite Mackenzie's choice to use the word "consensual" in describing her relationship with her father, it never really was," she writes, noting that Mackenzie describes their first encounter as rape, which taints the subsequent acts, that she consistently describes negative feelings about the relationship (which her father dismissed), that she was being fed drugs and alcohol by her rapist, and that sex between a parent and child is, a priori, non consensual.

    This fact has been entirely lost in most of the media coverage of Mackenzie's revelation. Many stories have describe Mackenzie and her father as "sleeping together" rather than use the word rape. This is rampant in the media, as well as in the Phillips family.

    Read the rest over at AWEARNESS...


    This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.

    What I'm Currently Reading

    I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
    The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
    Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

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