Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

28 November 2009

Fat Bitch

I promise a much better review when I get time to write it up, but for Chicagoans, TONIGHT is the last night to catch Erica Watson and you had better not miss her. 

Last night I got to watch an amazing show. Watson is genius at critiquing our weight & beauty-obsessed society (as she says, ugly fat bitches who lose weight just turn into ugly skinny bitches) as well as patriarchy. OK, she doesn't use the word patriarchy and that is where her genius lies. 

Watson is able to do what PhD students do in an entire thesis, but she makes you laugh the entire time and without academic speak. For someone who flunked out of UIUC with Ds and Fs, she should type up that routine and get handed the PhD. Dr. Fat Bitch!

And her use of the word bitch is partially empowering, partially not so much. But it's used well. 

While the audience was overwhelmingly African-American, us lighter skinned peeps were laughing just as loud with the jokes. She critiques race issues without resorting to stereotypes like other comics. 

TONIGHT's show has many specials attached:

1. Two for one tickets at the box office. That's two people for $15. Can't beat that deal in Chicago!
2. There will be a raffle for a pair of Bulls tickets versus the Charlotte Bobcats - 6 tickets for $5 was last night's prices. 
3. The after-party is at Funky Buddha!

Seriously, if you can make this show, do it. 

I got to see if on a media pass after Watson's agent contacted me after a friend in NYC sent her to me. But if I didn't almost pee my pants from laughing so hard, I would NOT tell you to go. 

I do have to warn you that the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts had some major heating problems last night. Wear an extra sweater if you want to take off your coat. It was COLD in there last night.

Erica Watson's Fat Bitch is playing at: 
Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green St., Chicago (handicapped access)
Some street parking one block west of Halsted (off Chicago Ave.)
$8 parking lot directly across Green Street next to Thalia restaurant
CTA Buses - #66 Chicago and #8 Halsted. CTA El - Red Line Chicago/State; Brown Line
Chicago/Franklin; Blue Line Chicago/Milwaukee/Ogden

24 November 2009

Oh WaPo, you got me good.

Yes, I entered the Washington Post's Next Great Pundit contest. I cobbled together a piece about adoption, abortion, feminism and my undying love for Dawn Friedman. Then Latinos in America was on and I sent in an entry about how much I did not appreciate that series. I knew it was a publicity sontest for WaPo, but the fact that they excluded already published op-ed'ers made me believe I had a decent shot.

When I saw that the ten finalists were 5 men and 5 women, I was fairly happy. Four of the dudes appeared to be white. Strike. The women seemed fairly diverse in ethnicity as well as kinda age. Althou someone on one of the many listservs I'm on said they felt the candidates skewed young. Point taken.

Then the final two came down to a white dude, Kevin, and a woman of color, Zeba. I guess I thought the feminist media community would throw it's weight behind Zeba - She worked on Obama's campaign and while her pieces weren't screaming feminism, she fit what I thought we'd want to see in a new op-ed voice. I admit that before the final two, I tweeted the contest without backing anyone. I was leaning towards Zeba, but also thought that having Courtney win would be fine too. Honestly I didn't have a horse in this race, but did think that if we could will it, a woman of color should win. Once it was a two person race, I tweeted my support for Zeba. Alas Kevin won. Zeba came up 600 votes short.

If Zeba had been a contributor at Feministing or Feministe would she had kicked ass in the final vote? Did we get tired of all the voting? On the last day? She was disconnected, from my POV, from the feminist media community despite having gone thru the Op-Ed Project and thus we didn't rally for her. Perhaps many of us were just disappointed that Courtney had been eliminated.

I am eagerly awaiting Courtney's reflection post on the whole process. She was called perky and I believe I read some comments about her voice. All things that are rarely, if ever, mentioned about a man.

As I said, I know that this whole thing wasn't set out to find that hidden jewel of punditry, but to jack up the hits at the WaPo. But they did have a golden moment when it had the opportunity to anoint Zeba or Courtney (the second runner up) as the next great pundit. A lot has been said about the contest and the quality of the finalists, but I still held out hope that the result would be different.

Or maybe America really does just want to hear from white dudes...But I highly doubt it.

Sponsor a Child this Holiday Season!


Mujeres Latinas en Acción provides a variety of structured activities during non-school hours for children and teens and we need your help to make this holiday season special by supporting our Annual Holiday Party for kids.

The Annual Holiday Party provides the children in our Youth Programs with holiday gifts of winter clothing and accessories, games, sports equipment and books. Many of the children in our programs only receive gifts from Mujeres during this holiday season. The youth and children served in our programs are 100% low income and live in the Pilsen/Little Village area. The majority attends public schools and qualifies for free or reduced meals.

Mujeres' Holiday Party

Gifts for the participants of our Youth Programs will provide resources so that families can take part in a cultural tradition with laughter, fun and memories.  Parents will appreciate that they have been able to access resources that provide gifts for their children.  Further, the festive celebration will be a moment of immense excitement for all.  Children and youth will enjoy receiving gifts as recognition of their hard work in the program.

How can you help?

Sponsor a child in the Peace or Proyecto Juventud program for the holiday season!

• Purchase a gift(s) by requesting a child's wish list;

• Provide a donation to
Mujeres Latinas en Acción towards the purchase of gifts and holiday treats;

• Distribute this information to others! Encourage your friends, family and coworkers to sponsor a child this holiday season or make a donation to
Mujeres Latinas en Acción.

For more information on how to sponsor a child or make a donation, please contact Alba Gómez at alba@mujereslat.org or 773/890-7664, or Linda Tortolero at tortolero@mujereslat.org or 773/890-7663.


**************
My family has received our wish list and the deadline for delivering gifts is December 11, 2009. So hurry up and drop Alba or Linda a line and make a kid's holiday. And for the Humbugs out there, the boy's wish list we received had items like gloves, sweaters and a coat on it. Nothing outrageous like a DS...Not that there's anything wrong with kid's wanting that. 

17 November 2009

There will never be closure in the Nicarico case

Originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog

There will never be closure in the Nicarico case as long as Jim Ryan continues to run for public office.

The Nicarico family never missed a court date. For years they sat in courtroom after courtroom listening to the lies from Attorney Jim Ryan's team as they refused to admit their mistakes and consider Brian Dugan as a suspect. Instead, Ryan kept the case rolling along to wrongfully convict two innocent men and send them to death row.

Jim Ryan is now running for Illinois Governor and "spent a decade as DuPage state's attorney, previously had said he based his case against Cruz and Hernandez on the best information available at the time, though Dugan had long been a suspect in the crime." As I have said before in this space, the Nicarico case made a significant impact on my life. As a child it taught me to make sure the doors are locked. As a teen it taught me the harsh realities of racism in our judicial system.

Now that Brian Dugan has confessed and been sentenced to death, Ryan is apologizing. Not to Rolando Cruz, not to the Nicaricos, but to the voting public. Will we accept it? I can't. I simply can't accept his apology, especially since he has never given one to Cruz.

The fact that Ryan continues to run for public office only reminds us of the miscarriage of justice that occurred. The pain that he put not just the Nicaricos through, but an entire generation of Chicagoans. And it's not over. This case will be an issue throughout the primary election. Dugan still has one automatic appeal owed to him: Illinois has a moratorium on the death penalty. Amazingly, the huge flaws seen in this case alone are still not enough to convince people that we need to abolish the death penalty.

According to Amnesty International "ninety three percent of all known executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA." I think that says a lot about the United States as a country. As our moms have said, we are judged by the company we keep.

I am opposed to the death penalty because it drags out court proceedings (thus wasting money), it is racist, but most importantly because we are flawed as human beings. The Nicarico case screams with our flaws. I don't believe any set of checks and balances can ensure that we won't make a mistake, especially in a country where we are still debating whether people have a right to NOT be framed or a right to DNA testing to prove innocence.

And sorry Jim Ryan, but no apology can make up for all of that.

15 November 2009

Book Review: Impossible Motherhood by Irene Vilar



The book is traumatic with a capital, bold T. At one part about 1/3 of the way thru, I threw the book down in disgust and decided I was done. You are warned.

Impossible Motherhood by Irene Vilar has received a lot of press and been a topic of debate on many a listserv due to the subtitle "Testimony of an Abortion Addict." When I first found out about this book my first thought was "Oh shit." Many people, including Vilar, believe that this book will be used by anti-abortion activists as proof of women using abortion as birth control and thus a reason for the procedure to be banned outright.

But if you read Impossible Motherhood, you'll soon discover that abortion is the hook not the heart of the story. Rather you find a sad story of a young woman thrust into an adult world and quickly found herself in a situation most of us would probably fall apart in as well. Depression soon engulfed her life, althou it was most likely merely lurking in Vilar's life after her mother's suicide.

Her 15 abortions didn't cause her depression, rather just like a 2008 American Psychological Association task force found, abortion can exacerbate depression that is already present in a woman's life. It was more of a symptom of her out of control life rather than a catalyst. And that is important to keep in mind.

While Vilar's life is more dramatic than most reality shows and it sometimes hard to believe, it does make you stop and wonder what you would do in her situations, especially as each abortion occurs.  She falls in love with a bully 34 years older than her who "enlightens" her that children and family weigh you down, so a free and independent woman must remain child-free and thus is her excuse for multiple abortions.

Interestingly Vilar claims the label of feminist. She reads feminist authors and talks about them. She finds some strength in them, but talks about how feminism had no answer for her. And honestly I believe she is correct.

What I took away from this book was that while so many of us will fight to the death for abortion rights, many of us would shun Vilar from the movement due to having 15 abortions. She turns to the same people in her life. Would you stand by her abortion after abortion? I honestly don't know. One or two we can forgive* support, but after that many of us start to blame the woman for not taking care of themselves, not protecting themselves, etc.

Another interesting aspect of this book is that this is Vilar's second memoir to cover the years she spent with her ex-husband (the bully). In her first, she talks says it was the happiest time of her life. Obviously in this one she takes a difference view of her marriage. With the number of memoirs being written by younger people (anyone under 50, I'd say) I think there is a lot that could change. Perhaps not as dramatic as Vilar, but think about how you looked at your 20s at age 30 then perhaps 10, 20 years later.

Do I think you should read this book? I'm not sure. It made me think and made me furious. The abuse she suffered in her marriage is what sticks with me far more than her abortions.

Politically you should read this book because I believe it makes a great case of why abortion can't be stopped by legality, if a woman wants one, she will get one. I also think the anti's will use this book and we should be aware of what Vilar actually says.

If you get a copy, please get one thru an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Fellow Girl w/Pen writer, Allison McCarthy, wrote a review too. 

If you have read this book and would be interested in an online chat or email discussion about the book, please leave your info in comments. A lot of us are conflicted about the book and a few of us have discussed this idea. Thanks!

Disclaimer: The only payment I received for this review was the copy of the book.  

* Read my comments to see why I changed this word. 

14 November 2009

Aren't Latinas women too?

Originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog

The Stupak amendment is the disappointment that just keeps on giving.
Monday morning, my inbox was flooded with emails from many organizations appalled by the passage of the House healthcare bill. One email stood out from the rest (including a few celebratory emails) and that was from the National Council of La Raza. It was celebratory and failed to mention the Stupak amendment, which would ban abortion coverage in public and private insurance plans:
"The health care reform bill passed by the House is a fundamental step toward making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans, including Latinos," said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO.
NCLR focused on some admittedly big gains won in terms of immigrant coverage, but oddly the next email was from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health which blasted the bill, and not just for the Stupak amendment:
While health care reform passed a hurdle in the House of Representatives, women and immigrants were left on the sidelines.

What is the difference? Is NCLR telling Latinas to stand back in favor of the other half of the community?

From an observer's viewpoint, I think it is fascinating that these two organizations are taking a vastly different view of the bill, yet are representing the same community. Which goes to further show that not all Latina/os are the same.

From a Latina viewpoint, it pisses me off. In the Latino community, women/mothers are the center of the family. I see eldest daughters put their dreams on hold to help with younger siblings (see Cindy's story in CNN's Latino in America series) and mothers walking their children to and from school each day. But their reproductive health is a bargaining chip? One not worthy of mention? NCLR mentions the flaws in the immigrant part of the bill, which tempers my anger at their celebration of a bill with so many problems. But there is no mention of Stupak at all. This invisibility hurts.

I honestly don't believe we can get undocumented immigrants covered, hell, we can barely get documented ones covered, but I do expect that women's full range of health care needs to be covered, and I wish the Latino community felt the same.

11 November 2009

Interview: Lise Eliot, Ph.D. Author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain


Lise Eliot, Ph.D., has been getting a lot of media attention about her latest book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain, and it was a pleasure to chat with her over the phone and an honor that she did it despite one of her sons being sick that day.This is far from a transcript of our conversation, but a summary of what we discussed.

VLF: Why did you write this book? 

LE: The size is reflective of my compulsive nature. My first book was on brain development and it was inspired by my pregnancies and children. I kept running into brain development stories and began to wonder what do we really know about boy/girl differences? What are the causes? There wasn't a book out there that could answer that question, so I decided to write it. I gathered all the studies and decided to write the book myself. I wanted to take a chronological approach from prenatal to puberty.

I was seeing a trend in parenting literature that seemed to be exaggerating sex differences between girls and boys. Compared to the peer reviewed articles I was writing. I knew that part of my job was to temper people's views. Yes, there are differences, but not as dramatic as we have been led to believe. In some areas there are big differences and in others areas very small differences.

It's a book of science and I wanted it to be precise and quantitative.

VLF: What as your most surprising discovery while writing this book? Scientifically?

LE: Well...That's a hard one.

VLF: What was the most surprising way people responded? 

LE: Oh, how adamantly people rejected that socialization makes a difference. I've read some of the comments on the blogs. People just revert to "Oh my son made a gun out of play-doh and my daughter made families out of her trucks." so therefore it is all hardwired. I try to make the point that some of the biggest sex difference are in toy selection. It's bigger than verbal, math, aggression and risk taking. I think it is misleading because parents see the difference in toy selection and draw a lin to everything else. Parents think that girls are so sensitive and appreciate others feelings and boys could care less about each other. Empathy has a very small difference between the sexes. The difference depends on how you measure it too. Self-ratings are skewed by our social expectations - women rate themselves more empathic than they are. If you test people objectively you see much smaller differences between men and women.

VLF: How can we effectively call a truce? Especially when something like the boys crisis comes up it makes girl advocates feel that all the attention and resources are taken from boys. And ditto for the flip debate. 

LE: There still is a boys crisis. It's blamed on the feminization of the classroom. I keep pleading that we need to appreciate each child as an individual. Any focus on gender at all is backfiring on us, it is leading to these stereotype notions. I do think that classrooms need to be more boy friendly with more men as teachers, recess, physical activity and competition. All of this will benefit girls too. It won't hurt them to move around more or get comfortable with competition. Teachers need to remain sensitive to gender issues.

VLF: What is your biggest critique of how science is reported in the  media? 

LE: The media is always biased towards what is new. The problem is that a study comes along and violates 20 years of work. The appropriate response is to average it all together, but the media likes news so things off the press looks exciting. In the case of gender differences anything about the brain is given more weight, attention and credibility. What we see from brain imaging is really just a reflection of years of behavioral experiments. There are a few beautiful experiments that have helped expand our knowledge. We still have never answered the question between nature versus nurture.

VLF: How much do you think we shortchange boys by toughening them up or allowing the idea of "boys will be boys" to prevail? 

LE: Some toughening up is good for everyone. There are some girls who ruminate a lot on their feelings is actually one of the big risk factors for depression. Managing your own emotions is one thing, applying that to others is inappropriate. We need to continue to cultivate boys' sense of empathy and caring. These things are learned. Children learn it by seeing it modeled by adults and other children around them.


VLF: You spend a lot of time talking about stereotypes and debunking them. But how can we effectively rise above them yet still give our girl pink Legos? 

LE: In this day of age it is hard to fight the pink. Just walk into any toystore. I would certainly fight it as long as you can. When girls are little, they don't understand that pink is for girls unless it is drilled into them. Once they know that pink equals girl you have to play into that. We need to get our kids to exercise the domains that aren't gendered - spatial skills especially. I am really amazed at the strength of the pink in our world. I saw pink Bears jerseys in the store the other day. It's become code of "I am woman." I do think unfortunately that in this society where youth culture is so strong, we have to try to hijack these things to get girls to try things.

VLF: Do you consider yourself a feminist? 

LE: Well, absoluately. I don't understand how feminist became a dirty word.

VLF: How do we overcome the idea that difference or bigger is better? 

LE: It's has been a contribution of the whole difference feminism as well as all the psychological research. Sex differences divide up fairly equally. Boys do have bigger hearts, livers -- they are just bigger. Everything scales up.

VLF: What is your take away message for parents? For teachers and advocates? 

LE: Parents want to treat kids in a gender neutral way. It's not easy, but keep at it. To realize that even when we are trying, it's not all possible. Children are difference and provoke different reactions out of us. Keep an open mind of how kids are spending their time. Think about how that is wiring them up for difference abilities. If your son takes a big liking to video games we might worry. But if it is done in a social group, it might be more of a bonding experience and that might outweigh the concern we have over the gaming. I hoped to open parents' eyes to the full range of intelligences, none of them are limited to boys or girls. Keep in mind this cross training that girls can benefit from - girls can benefit from spatial experiences and boys from verbal and social interactions. I was just at the grocery store and there was a little girl playing with the chain that separates things. I thought aw, that's just what my sons would have done as kids, but her mother was discouraging her. I thought, what a shame! The girl wanted to figure out how it worked. We should encourage tinkering and exploration.

Advocates need to be more proactive to encourage kids to cross these gender lines. We are so into "choice" and letting kids make their own choices. We give them a huge cafeteria of choices, but they will default to gender segregated roles early unless we do more encouraging and engineering. I've had people tell me that their girl wouldn't like woodworking because the class is full of boys. Teachers go too easily to gender segregation. We need to engineer beyond that. There is a lot to be learned by crossing over.

Living in a culture of rape - From AWEARNESS

Originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog:


Our culture is still in a state of shock over the gang rape of a 15-year old girl outside her homecoming dance last week. But what is even more upsetting to me than the news of this crime is the type of responses I have seen regarding her attackers and the victim-blaming. Fellow students (and administrators, and people who don't know the victim or have any real information on the subject) are saying the rape is the victim's fault because she was drinking, and that the rapists themselves are not to blame for their actions.

What should shock us is not only the victim-blaming taking place here, but also that this is not an isolated incident. It is not just an American tragedy. Rape is used a tool of fear around the world, and not just as a weapon in a declared war either. In the UK two 10-year old boys are accused of raping an 8-year old girl. In India, a tourist guide attempted to rape a 14-year old. Rape is a not rare occurrence in South Africa's high schools.

My reason for pointing out that rape happens everywhere in the world is not to belittle what happened outside that homecoming dance or to lessen the lifetime of guilt I hope the bystanders carry, but to say that it is not just our society, our kids, or even our problem (it is those things, but it is also more than that). Rape is a global issue that has even grandmothers are trying to protect themselves.

This is what is meant by living in a culture of rape. Each time a rape happens and we try to find blame in the victim, we continue the cycle. When we dismiss rape as not being "our problem," we continue the cycle. Each time we talk about rape as a result of sexual desire, we continue the cycle. Rape is about power, not just about sex.

Until we can get that first step down pact - rape is not only about sex, but power - then our culture of rape will continue to engulf us into a darkness too scary to comprehend.

10 November 2009

Will the recession change our view of homelessness? - From AWEARNESS

Originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog

Fellow AWEARNESS writer David Alm shed a light recently on the plight of teenage runaways. Having to cope with economic uncertainty ripping their families apart, and even sex slavery (that's what I call underage prostitution, especially when it involves 10-year-olds), many of our nation's youth are facing tough times that can result in homelessness. Even my favorite "Golden Girl," Bea Arthur, chimed in on the topic from the heavens when her estate revealed last week that she left $300,000 to a gay youth shelter. Now that's being a friend to the end. . . and then some!
But if there is any silver lining whatsoever to the cloud of homelessness, it's that the media are beginning to show homelessness in a new, human, light. The Chicago Tribune just profiled a family who goes between living in a storage unit and various motels. Why is this news? Because it is straining our education systems:
Ron O'Connor, Will County's homeless liaison, said this academic year has been like no other. 'Where we used to see single moms, maybe leaving a domestic situation, now we're seeing more and more two-parent homes that just aren't making it,' O'Connor said. 'That's never happened before.'
The Tribune profiled a working family. They aren't slackers, but people whose jobs were hit hard by the recession. This profile, and others like it, gives a face to the homelessness crisis and shows readers that not only lazy "bums" are struggling to find shelter. This is happening to families and individuals of all walks of life, and it could happen to just about anyone - even you.

This got me thinking. . . Will profiling families like this help the homelessness problem? Will we stop assuming that people live on the street because they are lazy and don't want to work? Can we begin to see them as human beings who caught a bad break or have other issues which require outside help? The face of a homeless person appears to be changing in the media, but many of the factors that contribute to the situation are the same. In fact, NOW on PBS updated their website on homelessness to reflect the new statistics on homelessness.

If one good thing comes from the current recession and the increase in homelessness, I do hope it is a change in our culture's notion of who is homeless and most importantly, why.

08 November 2009

Book Review: Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot


Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps - and What We Can Do About It by Lise Eliot, Ph.D. is a must read for all parents.

Eliot takes a much debated issue - are girls and boys fundamentally different? - and sets out with a well restrained heart. And that frustrated me the most. Yes, I was hoping that this book would lay down that law that there are no real differences between the genders. That the differences we see are all our fault. Yes, even this science grrl sometimes wishes against reality.

Eliot painstakingly goes thru all available scientific research and popular culture books to sort out the truth. Are men from Mars and women from Venus? In a nutshell, no.
What Eliot does is walk us thru the research, data and the facts about the differences. I say painstakingly because this 315 page tome has almost 40 pages of endnotes and 45 pages of bibliography and zero fluff. Some might find this book too much - to that I say, read the sections you want to read. Even a paragraph is worthy of your time. Take small bites if you must, you won't be disappointed.

By now I hope you get the idea that Eliot has given us a book that puts all the research in perspective. She's not far left nor far right. As the mom of two boys and one girl, she has personal interest in each side of the debate.

Eliot does a great job at taking the popular culture literature that tells us that boys and girls are so different they can't be taught together and rips it to shreds WITH DATA! Yet, she also acknowledges the boy crisis as a real phenomena WITH DATA!

And this is where I think the book is genius. Eliot gives us so much data to prove her conclusions that you find yourself nodding along with one idea, then she switches over to the "counter" issue and you nod along. Here's what I mean:

* Prenatal testosterone does make a difference to how boys and girls act and think, but not as much as we think. There are biological differences to the hormone levels, but it is not the end all be all reason why boys are more aggressive, better at math or whatnot.

    Eliot shows us that nature does give boys and girls their own small advantages in life, but it is our socialization that exasperates them to such an extreme that we think that bravery is masculine and the need for emotional attention is feminine. Example: In an experiment where moms were asked to guess how steep an incline their infants can climb down - face first - the moms underestimated the girls by 9 degrees. This suggests that even at infancy moms already believe that girls can't be as brave or agile at such a young age. "Girls attempted and successfully descended slopes ranging in angle from 10 degress to 46 degress, while boys attempted slopes between 12 and 38 degree (pp 66-67)." Thus no difference in performance, but a big difference in expectation. Does this mean that moms are holding back their girls?

    Eliot also points out that boys are, on average, larger at birth than girls. We usually think about how tough this might had been on the woman pushing an extra few pounds of baby out, but Eliot reminds us that this is tough on the newborn too. This could be why boys are fussier babies. Where our gender ideas come into play is that Eliot points to research that shows that parents are more willing to let baby boys cry longer than baby girls. This is the beginning of toughening our boys out AND where they start to learn that expressing their emotions doesn't pay. Are we shushing our boys into their un-emo ways?

    Eliot covers the gamut from in utero thru the teen years, from emotions to math skills.

    What I learned here is simple and honestly pretty much what I've been saying for years too. Yes, girls and boys are different, they have biological differences, but most of the differences we see are created. Eliot shows us the research that proves over and over that there are bigger differences within genders than between them. That the differences that are there are small. SMALL!

    But it also challenged me to reexamine my views of gender and how we are socializing our kids. This book didn't just reaffirm my beliefs, but it taught me a lot about how we see gender. 

    I was lucky to interview Dr. Eliot over the phone and will post it very soon.

    Get yourself a copy thru an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

    Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publishers by my own request. I saw a piece on Dr. Eliot on TV and knew I needed to read and review this book. Thank you.

    07 November 2009

    Gender Trouble Week - Update

    Sorry that I wasn't able to finish my Gender Trouble reviews when I said I would. I got a last minute opportunity to interview Lise Eliot. On top of that, my last two weeks have been pretty busy & I needed some down time. But the review will be up soon as well as my interview.

    Thanks for reading!

    03 November 2009

    Book Review: Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim


    The first real job I had out of college was working for one of the founders for the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. Which is ironic since I was not the "Woo, I'm woman, let me menstruate!" gal back then. And honestly I'm still not. That said...

    Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim is a riot.

    My period was a mystery to me until about college when I found women who pointed me in the direction of books and resources. No, I wasn't a lucky gal who grew up coveting her mom's worn copy of Our Bodies Ourselves, oh how I wish! Instead I was like Nancy Drew putting pieces of the puzzle together.

    Flow is not a replacement for OBOS, rather I would say it is a companion piece. It goes thru the history of menstruation and how our society has dealt with it or ignored it. Flow reminds/tells you of our awful past of douching with Lysol and hysteria diagnoses.

    But it also walks you thru the history of how we got to have disposable pads (left over supplies from WWI) and tampons AND their war against each other that resulted in our ongoing battle to rid out girly parts of any type of smell. Flow then reminds us that unless it's a horrible smell, it's probably a natural smell and a good thing. It's not a book that makes you feel bad if you say are on birth control that reduces your faux-period to 4 times a year *ahem* but it does talk about why that period is a fake one, why we would ever want to reduce our menstruation and what that means overall for womankind.

    Overall Flow is a beautiful book (coffee table worthy!) and quite educational, while keeping you laughing. There are some amazing factoids in here! (psst...There should be a trivia board game that goes along with this baby.) And the vintage ads are fab. Courteney Cox Arquette was the first person to say period in a commercial. I believe that Cybil Sheppard and Laurie Laughlin are in a few ads too. Did you know that the Hite Report didn't say anything about our periods? Lots of fun facts to wow your friends during the next girls night out!

    Althou I do have to say that Stein & Kim do try a bit too hard to be hip and cool. I also wish there was an index so I can better find things like what was the name of the marathon runner who completed while visibly bleeding? But I do believe it is worth the investment, even just to leave on the bookshelf for the woman-child in your life to stumble across one day. My copy will be presented to her along with all her other menarche gifties.

    Get yourself or the woman-child in your life a copy thru an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

    Disclaimer: The only payment I received for this review was the copy of the book.

    Want diversity? Start with diversity.

    Don't ask me to bring diversity to your organization, ask me to join your organization for my skills, my knowledge or because you just love me. Don't think that I'm the pepper to your bland mashed potatoes. I am the garlic to those potatoes - the first thing you put on the skillet after you start to boil the water. Where you dash on pepper, throw in some onion and make me a vital part of the dish....Not the afterthought. 

    ***

    Media itself is changing rapidly and in Chicago we have a new player in the game, the Chicago News Cooperative. Laura Washington gave them a tongue lashing for the total lack of diversity they are starting out with:
    Nearly every staff member they have named so far is white -- and male. The co-op's board is white, all but one male. I would venture there are vast swaths of the city they don't know and rarely traverse....

    If these reporters and editors check with the U.S. Census, they will discover that Chicago's racial and ethnic base is majority-minority. There are far more people of color than whites. Latinos are Illinois' fastest-growing minority group. A good half of the Chicago region is female.

    Some might call it arrogance, hubris or just plain racism. I don't know about that, but to me it's just plain folly.
    But wait! The Co-op responds:
    Jim O'Shea, the former Chicago Tribune managing editor who last week announced the Chicago News Cooperative...says he intends to have a diverse staff and board of directors....O'Shea envisioned eventually having 20 to 25 staffers. "I am interviewing a candidate as we speak who will bring to us some diversity," he said.
    As I wrote on a listserv about this topic, are they going to be hiring a Wiccan lesbian of color? A candidate? Come on...If this is the response that the Co-Op is going to send out after getting called out on their almost-all-dude, but still all white club, then I doubt that much will come from the Co-Op in terms of stories that truly reflect the diversity of Chicago.

    That said, I know many under or unemployed journalists in this windy city who can bring a world of difference to your project Jim. So once you're done hiring that one candidate who will bring you diversity, get to work on bringing in a whole team of diverse candidates.Then maybe I'll read what your team brings to the table. And believe me, I'm hungry.