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25 February 2010

"Mini-Marketeers" Need Media Literacy, Not Junk Food

This was originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog.

It was just a matter of time until marketers got their hands on their real desired recruits -- kids. In some social media circles, there's no need to woo mom bloggers with free samples of the latest snack chip, instead kids are doing it on their own:
In some cases children as young as seven have been offered the chance to become "mini-marketeers" to plug brands by casually dropping them into postings and conversations on social networking sites.
They can earn the equivalent of £25 a week for their online banter -- sometimes promoting things that they may not even like. Among the products being pushed are soft drinks, including Sprite and Dr Pepper, Cheestrings and a Barbie-themed MP3 player. Record labels are also using the marketing technique to promote performers such as Lady Gaga.

In a time when First Lady Michelle Obama is campaigning to help our children get healthier, this targeting of kids should make us sit up and notice. It should also demonstrate that we can rid our schools of brand-name clothes and junk food and it just doesn't doesn't seem to matter. As we continue to debate the benefits of milk, our children are online being paid to talk up junk food. And I think we know that our kids don't need to be talked into the latest concoction from a chip company.

While I don't like that FLOTUS Obama is touting BMI as a way to keep track of our children's pot bellies, I do hope that within her campaign to keep our children healthy she pushes for every school to include media literacy as a part of their curriculum. I know that each time my daughter has a project that asks for her to flip through magazines for pictures to cut out, I hover over her like a hawk due to the images that live in between the covers.

It's not enough to talk about how chubby someone is or isn't, what their BMI (I call it a bullsh!t mass index, as evidenced by Kate Harding's BMI project) is or to restrict kids from the yumminess of peanut butter cups. Instead we need a wholesale reorganization of how school lunches are funded and to teach our kids how to sniff out the B.S. in marketing and commercials. We need to stop seeing physical education and recess as something only good, wealthy and/or smart kids get to engage in.

For the record, parents should keep all their "chubby" comments in their head, and marketers should keep kids out of their chip-pushing strategies.

Now let's get moving!

24 February 2010

Is there love after abortion?

Over two years ago, way before I started writing for Girl w/Pen, Alison Piepmeier wowed me with an essay about getting an abortion and how her decision made with her husband was a love story:
...the story I most want to tell—and one I have never heard—is of abortion as an intimate part of a couple’s life together.  Our abortion was a love story. I’d worried that Walter and I were rejecting a gift from the universe.  What I discovered, though, was that when we stripped away the distractions of everyday life so that we could make this difficult decision together, it bound us together as surely as if our choice had been different—and as it turns out, that was the gift.
Every once in awhile their story returns to me. I often don't know why it stumbles into my brain and says, "Hey! Ponder me!" but it does. This morning it returned to me yelling, "Why?!"

I was half-listening to WBEZ's 848 and some story about a man running away from his life. Original, I know. But what hooked my brain to jolt me from my grant writing was a line about how when he was 22 his girlfriend got pregnant. The story begins with him recalling how happy his girlfriend just was, despite her belief that she wouldn't had been happy. Then he runs off in the car and comments about how if he just admitted that he didn't want the baby there would be an abortion and "well, that would be the end."

I'm taking that line to mean that would be the end of their relationship. See, that's where Alison & her husband come in. Why? Why would having an abortion mean the end of a relationship? Are Alison &  her husband the only couple to abort a pregnancy (not for medical reasons anyway) and remained in love? I just don't believe it.

Are we socialized to believe that despite study after study saying that women overwhelmingly feel relief after an abortion, that two adults in love must break up? That having an abortion dooms their romance? The story on 848 ends without conclusion about the pregnancy, so I have no idea what happened. What if he returned and confessed his true feelings and she admitted that she felt the same way? Alison seemed to have talked herself into wanting to carry the pregnancy to term, but realized it wasn't the right decision.

Doing a web search for abortion stories, I ran across this story of a married couple with children who chose to abort and she's at peace with her decision. At the Feminist Women's Health Center's website, there are story after story of women who had abortions. Some stories are of women who stayed with the man, as one woman put it, "who fathered the child who was not to be."

This leads me back to the question from two years ago: Can abortion be a part of a love story? I still think it can.

On Glee, what if Quinn had decided to have an abortion? Would that had given her some honest time to strengthen her relationship with Finn? Or would that have driven him into the arms of Rachel sooner? I'm sure there are other and perhaps better what-ifs in pop culture, but seriously, what if an abortion was what saved a relationship instead of dooming it to be feel like a forced marriage? Allowing the characters to reexamine their lives and move on together?

Now who's brave enough to let us see that relationship blossom after a sunny morning at the local abortion clinic? 

Um, yeah...here's example #36,423 of "I think too hard."

Don't call me a Supermom

Life's been pretty good the last few years in terms of accolades, but with each accolade, I get asked "How do you do it all?" or get called a Supermom.

Answers? I don't. I'm not.

If I did it all, I wouldn't miss important networking events. This is the area where I really shortchange myself. I know I should be going to more networking things to get to know y'all, but when I spend 1-2 nights out doing activist stuff, I just can't bring myself to take another night to grab a drink. Not that I don't love ya, ok?

If I did it all, I'd spend 15 minutes a day on the elliptical keeping myself not in shape, but healthier than I currently am. I really should be. I'm 35. I'm my mother's daughter and she was about 38-39 when she was told she was diabetic.

Supermom doesn't need sleep. I do,

Supermom has it all "up here." I have an electronic calendar and if something's not in there, it ain't getting done.

Supermom keeps house. I don't. I am a clutter queen. And really, organization divas/mavens, don't even try pitching me. It's really a question of priorities and it's not one of mine.

If I did it all, my husband would be bored. He's a father and a wonderful partner. He's no slacker, so juggling all of our schedules is an Olympic event and the kid's only 6 1/2. Without him, I wouldn't be able to do half of what I do. Ditto for my chosen family members who are there for us when we need a babysitter, I need a pick me up or when I need someone to jump up & down in celebration of me.

Part of my rejection of "doing it all" or being a Supermom is that I know I fall way short. The other part is that by focusing on what I do so I can achieve a certain level of success is to ignore the work that those who love me do.

I truly, truly appreciate the accolades and the love people share with me. But I never want anyone, especially aspiring feminist moms, to think that I do this alone or single-handed. My wins are team wins...even if there is an I in Veronica.

Yes, I edited the supermoms in this post. that's what I get for writing quickly so late at night. 

23 February 2010

The Right Birth Control Method is Just a Click Away

No matter our age, many women have questions about which birth control method to use. We might have started on the pill in our 20s, but considered switching to a non-hormonal method. We may have different needs now than we did when we first considered birth control, or we may be looking into our options for the first time. But how do we figure it out without spending all day at WebMD?

Well Planned Parenthood has a widget for that!

21 February 2010

Women Olympians Face Unique Challenges

This was originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog. 

The only Winter Olympics event in which women cannot compete is ski jumping. Why? Apparently it's because women are "too fragile," along with an outdated system of rules that allow the International Olympic Committee to keep "American Lindsey Van, who holds the world record for the single longest jump by anyone, male or female" from competing for a gold medal. When the IOC tries to explain that women can't compete because there aren't enough women jumping, the conversation circles around to, How can we increase interest and participation if women's ski jumping isn't allowed at the Olympics?

On the ice, at least, we continue to see a few women hockey teams rule. After Canada whipped Slovakia 18-0, buzz started that perhaps women's hockey wasn't up to snuff, that maybe the sport is too lopsided. We've heard this type of talk surrounding women's Oympic events before - about softball (which was cut) and soccer.

In other female Olympian news, we have a pregnant curler! I love, love, love that her team was supportive of her staying on the team and competing in Vancouver.

What we are seeing with all this turmoil is a growing pain in women's sports. Women in the USA have played under Title IX since 1972, less than 40 years. We have seen huge strides made in women and girls' participation in the USA, but we have a ways to go, and many nations have an even steeper uphill climb than we do. I think that for another few Olympic cycles we'll still see a dominance in non-traditional women's sports of a few countries, but some countries are battling social norms. For instance, "People in China think [hockey] is too physical and too rough for girls." In hockey, as with many winter sports, there is also a price-point to get past. Hockey is an expensive sport.

Patience. That's what the IOC needs when it comes to women's sports. Women's sports have a history of having to fight to even be played. For the IOC to put up barriers, like barring the women's ski jump, for sports to be on this big stage is just plain short sighted. Give women's sports a few more years and things will settle down. History has shown that in other sports for both men and women.

20 February 2010

I'm in the Bitch "Old" issue

Not old as in an old issue! The new issue's theme is "old." 

On page 11 you'll find a short an interview I did with Rana Husseini, whose memoir, Murder in the Name of Honor [indie or Powells], about her leadership to bring awareness to so-called honor killings in her homeland of Jordan and around the world. We chat about how Western feminists should handle these crimes in the USA and other countries. I also asked her how Western feminists can support her work better.

If you're not a subscriber (become one today!), head on out to your local bookstore and grab a copy!

Also don't miss my friend, Keidra's review of Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture on page 60!

A Chicago Teacher Finds His Parents in Haiti - Now What?

This was originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog. 

A short note from a friend asked for my attention over the weekend. Her son's preschool teacher returned to his homeland of Haiti to search for his parents. He found them, but that is just the first part of what appears to be a long journey through immigration bureaucracy.

Jean-Paul Coffy is currently with his parents at a hospital and somehow was able to get their passports reissued, but now he is awaiting judgment from the American government as to whether or not he can bring them to his adopted hometown of Chicago:
...he had an appointment scheduled for Thursday with the United States Consulate in Santo Domingo to apply for temporary visas to take them to Chicago. Another possibility would be humanitarian parole, a special temporary immigration category that is rarely granted.
His case will be particularly difficult, immigration experts say, because Mr. Coffy, while a legal resident with a green card, is not a United States citizen.
I'm sure that Coffy's story is merely one of thousands just like it. Sure, he's not a U.S. citizen, but if Coffy and other Haitians living in the USA have a home and the ability to help heal their loved ones here, we should let them. We seem to be all too willing to allow orphans across borders, but here we have two elderly people with a son that already supports them from his home in Chicago, and who can offer them safety and shelter during a difficult time. I hope that our government will allow the Coffy family to come home to Chicago where they can get the medical treatment they require and give Haiti time to heal itself as well.

You can keep up to date on the Coffy family at their blog, Help Coffy.

18 February 2010

Translating the F-Word:Defining Feminism in a Multicultural Society

Come on out and discuss feminism with us!

This panel discussion will examine feminism through the lens of race, class, gender, and sexuality, discussing both their work and their personal experiences.

Panelist will include:

Siobhan Brooks, Postdoctoral Fellow of Gender Studies at Lawrence University.

Courtney Martin, award-winning author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters.

16 February 2010

Judge Resigns Over Bias Against Domestic Violence Survivors

This was originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog. 

It's sometimes hard to tell non-advocates how biased the judicial system can be towards women. And some days all you need to do is watch a video. It takes a lot to get a judge removed from the bench, so I applaud the advocates in Houston, Texas for a job well done.

Advocates were able to gather enough evidence of Judge Reagan Helm being biased during domestic violence cases that he has stepped down. You really need to watch the video of the Houston ABC News network to see for yourself how biased he was (unfortunately I was not able to embed it here). Here are some key quotes from the former judge:
In a case involving a man who was about to be deployed to Iraq and accused of beating his girlfriend, the motion says Judge Helm indicated the country needed men like him to fight for their country and asked the prosecutor if she wanted him here attacking women or fighting the enemy abroad.
In another case, according to the motion, Judge Helm asked a woman seeking a protective order against her husband, "'How are you going to pay for groceries without him around?'"
What gets my goat is that he puts the burden of responsibility back on the survivor. It is essentially victimizing the woman again. "You don't want to be responsible for another woman being beaten? So suck it up." The issue of judges being unable to understand domestic violence issues is critical not just to people, mostly women, seeking orders of protection or convictions, but the issues are brought up in divorce courts and when parents are seeking custody.

Again, bravo to the advocates in Houston, especially one of my twitter friends who can be seen in the video.

I want to add another video of my fabu twitter friend...


15 February 2010

Feminist Parenting: Courageous

Courageous. That word was on the kid's spelling list last week. Even if the teacher called the entire list bonus words, she worked hard to learn all ten words including this one that stumps me once in awhile. I won't find out until Friday if she spelled them all correctly, but she worked hard, could spell them for us and felt great afterward. That's all I can ask of her for bonus words.

Part of asking kids in first grade (even if they are doing second grade work) to spell a big word like that is that we have to define it for them. I can't remember exactly how I defined it for her, but I'm sure I said something about doing something even thou you are afraid.

On Friday I took her out to Vertical Endeavors and she did this:

We rock climbed for about three hours and had a blast. At first she was scared of going too far up and definitely of sitting back to glide down. If you've followed the tales of my kid, you know she's not a fearful one. But standing at just 4 feet tall and looking up at 40 foot walls, well, I was a bit hesitant once I got climbing too. In the picture above she's about half way up. She eventually got all the way up 3-4 times on two different lines.

When she started to show signs of fear, I told her to be courageous. She giggled and tried one more time to inch her way up. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Near the end of our time, I was really pooped. This mama is way out of shape and rock climbing doesn't help my carpal tunnel. Hell, my knuckles still ache! But she had shimmed down on her own and I was stopped. I told her I was ready to come down and she yelled back, "You can do it mommy! Be courageous!"

Do you have any idea what that does to a parent?

I made it to the top of that wall. And then called it quits for the day.

It took courage for me to take her out there. Yes, I'm still a tomboy at heart and take enormous pride in her climbing and bad ass skills, but each time I see her do something like this I'm torn. Instead of picturing a devil & angel wrestling on my shoulders, picture me cheering her on versus me telling her to get her butt down. I am so afraid of her getting hurt as she discovers what her body can do.

It took courage for her to trust me. I talked her thru a few tough spots. Spots where most people, including myself, might have just said screw it and stopped.

At the end of the day what she got out of the day was a new sense of what she can do. I can only imagine what it would had been like to be 6 1/2 and accomplished something like that. The only equivalent I had growing up was walking up the metal giraffe without using my hands. Anyone remember those?

But you could see the pride in her smile. Not only the pride she got from climbing to the top of the wall, but every half hour or so, someone would walk into the area and say, "OMG! Look at the little girl!" You can't buy that kind of self-esteem boost. OK, maybe I did for $15 + $10 rental of harness, shoes & the chalk bag she adored. But I didn't buy one step of her climbs.

I encourage every parent to let their kids push themselves to the limit. For your kid it might be on a rock climbing wall, for others it might be in a band. Whatever your child is good at, push them to discover a new level. And then step back. Don't hover, don't helicopter, don't put doubt in their heads. They will fall, but they have to learn to pick themselves back up too. There are plenty of times the kid has fallen and walked away as well. But at least she tried and I didn't limit her.

As parents we need to be courageous...Even if it means watching them climb far out of reach.

BTW: The staff at Vertical Endeavors were awesome and super kid-friendly. I do picture us returning there, perhaps during Spring Break. Hopefully we're not on the same schedule as the schools out there.

Gender Roles to Rainbows: A Mother's Love

RH Reality Check asked me to write a short something for Valentine's Day about love and raising the kid. Here it is!

I have loved my daughter all my life. It's corny but it's true.

Growing up I knew I would be a mom, somehow. I knew one day I'd be responsible for another human being that goes beyond my wildest dreams. While most women day dream about cute dresses and those adorable ruffle-bottomed tights, I dreamt of teaching her to keep score at a baseball game and to hopefully avoid the pitfalls that continue to consume me.

Six and a half years ago I had my little girl. She's as girly as they come, yet as rough and tumble too.

My daughter has already gone head to head with classmates who spout strict gender roles. While it breaks my heart to see her struggle, I love talking to her as a human being about what people expect of others, how we believe things in our home and how to react to difference. Again, she's six, so I have no idea how far our talks go, but she gives me glimmers of hope. There was the time she ranted to my best friend about how unfair it is that public restroom sinks are far too high for little kids to effectively use. During the Emmys last year she asked if the writers category was broken into boys and girls since all the nominees were men. "No, mija, but very good observation."

Most of all, I love that I am raising the next generation in a long line of stubborn and strong women.  

I love complimenting her on her intelligence. I love watching her discover how awesome her body is on the soccer field and on the gymnastics floor. I love teaching her to solve a math problem. I love that she knows the scientific origins of rainbows and still thinks that they are miracles.

Through all of this, she is also helping me to truly love myself.  

She loves my squishy fat belly.
She loves that we look so much alike.
She loves watching me give a speech.
She loves spending time with me (hey, she's six!).
She loves to cuddle with me so I can read her a Nancy Drew book.
She loves helping me in the kitchen.
She takes care of me and Dad as much as we take care of her.

If there really is a cycle of life, we're spinning through it each day.

Book Review: Girl Power by Marisa Meltzer

I am totally unqualified to review this book as I totally missed the Riot Grrrl moment. On the other hand, I totally dove into the Lilith Fair moment, so I think that I could write the rebuttal or sequel to Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music by Marisa Meltzer, as Meltzer says she never attended Lilith Fair. But I don't hold that against her.

Girl Power is a quick read. In fact I dare say that it's a must have on your summer 2010 reading list. It's not fluffy, but at only 145 pages, it delves thru the 1990s women's music scene quickly and in fairly accessible language. In other words, Meltzer doesn't compare Avril to Courtney by using uber-academic jargon. Because of that, I'd also say that this would make an awesome book group selection. I can only imagine the music throw downs at the Women & Children First Feminist book group.

As someone who missed the Riot Grrrl moment, I really appreciated reading about how it came about, got popular and then essentially killed itself thru a media boycott. Meltzer ponders if that would have been conceivable in today's media soaked culture. I concur.

But what I found most intriguing about the book was how Meltzer outlines how a group of feminists grabbed guitars, drums and the mic and launched a very real music revolution and then how that revolution was so successful that it is quickly evolved into what we typically think of as "Girl Power" music.

From Alanis to the Spice Girls, few pop "Girl Power" acts are left un-examined as to how well they stay true to feminism and the benchmark of Riot Grrrl. Meltzer also looks at how some Riot Grrrl acts moved into the mainstream and how that impacted their music. One could use this book to examine just about any grassroots, indie movement to see how it evolves into something vastly different in a short amount of time.

The immediate thing I thought of was mom blogging. How we went from moms using blogging as a medium to reach out and find intelligent adult conversation while raising our fab kids to a community where we are thought of as idiot product whores. Meltzer discusses how once Riot Grrrl peaked, others joined in, but not to spread radical ideas such as embracing our sexuality as women, but to cash in on fame and sometimes money. People started to see newbies rocket to stardom while those who paved the path were left behind, sometimes willingly. This is a familiar plot line from many movements.

I didn't agree with many of Meltzer's conclusions such as grouping P!nk with Avril as bullies. She points to "Stupid Girls" as being problematic by calling out specific "stupid girls" instead of calling out society. I think that's exactly what P!nk does by calling out "tiny dog" accessorizing celebs. Maybe I'm just still reeling from Meltzer making a great case as to why the Spice Girls were a good thing and not P!nk. And reeling in the sense that I think it's an excellent case and one we should all reexamine.

Girl Power also made me stop and consider how do we want girls to discover feminism. Or more to the point, how do we think we can get them to discover feminism?

My daughter has taken a liking to this book solely due to the title.

The kid has asked me how I have liked the book, what it's about and tried to read over my shoulder. This is a book I do plan to leave on a shelf for her to have easy access to when she's around 10. Maybe a bit sooner, but 6 is still too soon for me to discuss rape with her. But the thing is that she knows "girl power" and what it means to her. I asked her and she said, "That girls can play soccer, girls can play chess and girls can play guitars!" Then she laughed and confessed that she cribbed that response from the cover of Girl Studies. I tell ya, she's a smart cookie. But if even 75% of girls her age know "girl power" as a slogan that translated into "Of course, I can do X!" then isn't that a good thing?

I guess it can be a not-good thing if the girl in question doesn't have someone in her life to build upon that feeling and reinforce it.

Hopefully you get that the bottom line of this review is that it was a good read, a fast read and one that did make me ponder if it's feminist to "go down in a movie theater" or not. So whatacha waiting for? Grab a copy thru an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Edited on 2.26: I had to add this link to the kid's debut at Feministing. 

Disclaimer: The only payment I received for this review was the copy of the book. I met Marisa years ago when she was with Bitch magazine, but I highly doubt that it is why when I asked for a review copy, her peeps sent one.

12 February 2010

Why Can't We Walk Away from Our Mortgages?

This was originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog.

There is a reported rise in people simply walking away from their mortgages. To me, that's pretty darn scary. And what's more, considering that the Obama-backed refinancing program isn't all it's chalked up to be, I can picture more people doing this. And why shouldn't they? Businesses do it without much repercussion. Well, the big stick in this picture is our credit history. Walk away from your mortgage and who knows what the future has for you?

The credit risk is high and akin to smashing a mirror on purpose -- back out of a mortgage and get yourself seven years of bad credit. There's also the theory that by walking away from your dream home that is underwater, you start to sink your neighbor's dream as well. That's a lot of guilt to manage.

On a recent NPR segment,
a caller named Bill said he thought that paying one's mortgage was the morally correct thing to do. Brent White, law professor from the University of Arizona, responded, "I think this works to the advantage of lenders who actually understand that a contract is not a moral document, it's a legal document."

What I don't understand is how an abandoned business doesn't impact the value of my home, but a foreclosed condo does. The inequality in the economic landscape between businesses and individuals continues to grow and grow... At least in our awareness of the inequality anyway.

11 February 2010

I am getting an Impact Award!

The Chicago Foundation for Women is marking their 25th anniversary by awarding 25 women and men of Chicago Impact Awards for working hard to make the area better for women and girls. OK, that's how I sum up the award. That's because that's one of my goals...To make Chicago a better place for women and girls.

There is program to honor all 25 of us in March and I can't wait to meet the other awardees:

Gaylon Alcaraz :: Tracy Baim :: Marca Bristo :: Salome Chasnoff
Fay Clayton :: Joyce Coffee :: Terry Cosgrove :: Patricia Crowley, OSB
Dr. Melissa Gilliam, MD, MPH :: Samir Goswami :: Joan M. Hall :: Anne Ladky
Sharmili Majmudar :: Soo Ji Min:: Brenda Myers-Powell :: Maria S. Pesqueira
Wendy Pollack :: Diane Primo :: Hedy M. Ratner :: Daphnee Rene
Janice Rodgers :: Sheli Z. Rosenberg :: Ruth M. Rothstein :: Jane M. Saks

The ones in bold are ones whom I have worked with before, including one of my mentors, thus I am even more honored to be sharing a moment with them.I've met a few more and admired others from afar, but some I have yet to meet. See, I don't know everyone!

I'm still overwhelmed at this award so despite having a lot to say about how I got here (not that it's a peak, just a moment to reflect), I'll just end this post with a big thanks.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks for pushing.

Thanks for listening.

08 February 2010

Erica Watson Surfs into NYC on a New Wave of Black Comedy

This was originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog

Erica Watson is fat and she isn't afraid to tell you either. In fact, her one-woman show is called "Fat Bitch" and if you attend you'll learn a lot more than just how big she is. You'll learn about her 21st birthday party with a major stripper fail and how she thinks that being a cute fat chick is just too much pressure. "People are always telling me that if I just lost weight, I'd be sooo much prettier." I could see the eye roll from a dozen rows back when I saw the show in November.

Watson and other "new wave" black comics don't "relentlessly rip audience members who sit too close to the stage" the way one might see comedians do on Comedy Central. Now don't read that wrong: if you do sit close to Watson, she just might put you on the spot to ask if you like to date fatties. Her destruction of our fat/size-obsessed society is the foundation for the show, but she goes further...much further.

What I loved most about Watson's show was how feminist the show was, even without uttering the F-word. One segment was about how she had penis envy and the whipsmart conclusion is straight out of hundreds of women's studies dissertations. I laughed and chuckled my way through that bit and almost died laughing at how funny and spot-on her analysis was.

Her race analysis through a character "Super Mammy" was just as brilliant. I want to tell you everything funny about "Super Mammy" but it'll ruin your trip to her show. And if you are in New York, you're lucky because "Fat Bitch" is opening on February 11th.

Watson is brilliant and brilliantly funny. Not bad for a woman who flunked out of her first college. Yes, her analysis is amazing, but don't think that makes the show dull or academic - the attendees at the sold out preview show were hooting and hollering like nobody's business. She is one funny woman.

footnote: The best part of this review is that Erica loved it!

06 February 2010

Cohen Watch

Scott Lee Cohen's tune seems to be changing. The media is digging more into his story and painting an uglier picture. Early on Friday he was sticking to his stance that the people of Illinois had voted for him and he was staying. On Twitter a bunch of people were saying the same thing. Warning that if we let the party nudge someone off the ticket for being unsavory or unlikeable, well then democracy would start down that slippery slope of ethics into a place where party bosses would hand pick candidates.

What the hell do people think already happens?

Cohen represents not a victory for independent candidates winning out against the machine or party, but rather another prime example that if you blanket the airwaves and stuff enough propaganda into our mailboxes, your name sticks out on election day.

While many a people are in a huff over Mark Brown being an accomplice to Cohen's shenanigans by not reminding us that he had domestic violence in his past, it should be more clear to people that the Democratic party also failed us. Steve Rhodes at The Beachwood Reporter points out that the party started to worry as it looked more likely that Cohen might actually pull this baby out. Did they stand up and ask him to drop out at that point? Privately, who knows. Publicly? Hell no. Did they get together and pick a candidate to throw their weight behind? Again, privately who knows...Publicly, another failure of leadership.

But now, now that the people know who Cohen really is, what he has done in the past and perhaps is still doing by not paying alimony and child support on time, the party leaders are coming out and asking Cohen to step down. Sadly my own alderman is STANDING by his endorsement, while Ald. Waguespack and Personal PAC have revoked their endorsement of Cohen. And while he didn't endorse him, Da Mayor won't ask Cohen to step down. Cohen's website removed the list of endorsements, but I took a screen shot and WBEZ copied it down. Take a look, if someone on that list represents you, give them a call.

While Cohen may be spending the weekend trying to walk away from this embarrassment with a shred of dignity, this isn't about his dignity or the dignity of the Democratic party for me. It's about how the media, politicians and others view domestic violence.

The Chicago Foundation for Women held a press conference with Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Voices and Faces Project, Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and Rape Victim Advocates to denounce HOW domestic violence was being treated in the Cohen situation. Kelly White, Executive Director of Chicago Foundation for Women: "Domestic violence is not about having a bad day, or going through a rough patch in your life. Domestic violence is not about falling in with the wrong crowd or taking a bad drug. Those are excuses and platitudes that we’ve heard too many times and we shouldn’t accept in our families, from our neighbors or certainly not from public officials.”

Cohen's story does not just involve hitting his ex-wife or threatening his ex-girlfriend, but that ex-girlfriend works at a massage parlor known for prostitution. Massage parlors, in general, are often sites for not just prostitution, but human trafficking. According to a 2007 Cook County report [PDF], 90% of the "$14 billion dollar industry...occurs through supposedly ‘legal’ establishments such as escort services, strip clubs and massage parlors." The CFW press release frames the issue: "Large numbers of women residing in Illinois thus experience domestic and sexual violence. Every day 16,000 women and girls are involved in prostitution and sex trafficking in Chicago, the vast majority of whom experience high levels of violence and exploitation."

The ability for so many people before and after the election to wave off Cohen's actions speaks volumes to how we view domestic violence. Other candidates knew of Cohen's issues, others in the media must have known as well. Brown couldn't had been the only columnist to know as well. But clearly, clearly the party knew what was up and did nothing.

Yes, as voters we need to know who we are voting for, but we also rely on the so-called Fourth Estate to keep citizens informed. I am trying to figure out how must of this is a failure of the press versus failure of how far the media has fallen in terms of lack of staff, researchers and plain old space in the newspaper.

In the end, my objection to Cohen being on the ticket is that he is an abuser. He has admitted that he abused his ex-wife and I don't accept the excuse that he was full of roid rage. Yes, people change, but his actions and words from the past few days tell me that he's still got a lot of growing, learning and changing to do. And I don't want to pay his salary as he's doing it.

05 February 2010

Just what Illinois politics needed: Scott Lee Cohen

Blago. Burris. Stroger. We thought we had finally turned a corner Tuesday night. Even with the weight of Alexi's family's bank saga, we at least were moving away from embarrassing politicians. We cheered the defeat of Todd Stroger and wished Toni Preckwinkle all the luck of a field of four-leaf clovers, cause she's gonna need it to clean up the mess of Cook County. Then we woke up on Thursday to news that 212,902, er, 212, 901 voters didn't do a good Google search of their candidate.

Scott Lee Cohen admits to choking his ex-wife and violence against his ex-girlfriend. He didn't fess up after someone dug it up either. He TOLD us...a year ago. Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times, details how he and the rest of the media brushed aside Cohen's admission of domestic violence:
Let the record reflect that on the very day last March that Scott Lee Cohen announced his campaign for lieutenant governor of Illinois, he voluntarily disclosed he had once been arrested in what he described as a domestic battery case involving a live-in girlfriend.

Please, take a minute to click over the read the entire column. It outlines a failure of the media to remind us of important information about a candidate (compare to Chicago's media all buy telling us to NOT vote for Blago in 2006), failure of voters to do adequate research on the person they were going to vote for (don't just go by endorsements) and his candidates for not making this an issue.

Now that he is the Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, the press is running with the story and the Democratic party is asking him to step down. Nope, says Cohen, "The people voted for me."

And sadly he's right.

He made the rounds on Chicago media to tell his story and why he's not stepping down. I missed the WTTW interview, but the comments are on fire! I can't wait to see the actual interview. But it was his interview with ABC7 that sealed the deal for me. Here's how he responds to charges of being abusive to his ex-wife:

"You don't stay with somebody for 26 years when they're hittin' and beatin' you. You don't," 


He could be the greatest man in the world, but no one, no one who truly believes what Cohen said on TV (go watch the clip) can truly represent Illinois and be, as Eric Zorn said, "one heartbeat or one federal indictment away from becoming governor of Illinois."

Illinois' women's health page on domestic violence states that leaving a violent relationship is dangerous. "In 2000, intimate partner homicides accounted for 33.5 percent of the murders of women and less than four percent of the murders of men." And women know that. We might not know the exact stat, but we know that there is a sliver of reality when a man says he'll kill us or we'll never see our kids again if we leave him. I won't go on as I'm sure one of our fab domestic violence organizations will cover this soon.

Even if the allegations were false, someone with this mentality about domestic violence should not be this close to being the Governor of Illinois.

I'll be awaiting the press releases of everyone on the endorsement list disavowing Cohen and demanding that he step down.

I urge anyone who did vote for Cohen to demand that he step aside.

I agree with Progress Illinois, this is just the latest in a long series of embarrassments. Who would have thought that Alan Keyes wouldn't even be in the top 10?

04 February 2010

Want to adopt a Haitian orphan? WAIT!

This post was written right after American missionaries were arrested and originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog. 

I admit that my husband and I had "the talk." The "Can we adopt a child from Haiti?" talk. Of course it was out of sheer love for the children who need help, but we quickly snapped back to reality: Now is not the time to get in line for a child.

Apparently some people think otherwise. Ten Americans were arrested over the weekend for child trafficking out of Haiti. Of course they say they were just trying to help by scooping up children and taking them across the border to an orphanage, but hey, I think that is the definition of child trafficking.

I get it. I also want to jump on a plane and bring a bunch of kids home with me. I want to clothe them, feed them and love them. But I know that they are Haitian and Haiti is their home. I also know that people have been displaced. Children were at school when the earthquake hit. How do we know if their mother was one of the people flown out of the country for medical help? Or is in the refugee camp on the other side of the city? We can't know all of the facts. The Independent has a good Q&A on the ethics of disaster adoption.

When we've had conversations about adoption, I've found myself focusing on whether or not I have the emotional strength to guide a child along the path. A newborn or an older child will question their adoption at some point. I can only imagine the emotional wounds that will need to be addressed for all the people of Haiti, much less a child airlifted from their homeland and extended family.

But I continue to reject the notion that I know how to provide a "better life" for a child. I think that once you start to believe that you can overlook the formalities that go with international adoption, like, say making sure that no one in their biological family can care for them. Airlifts of children have happened before, such as Operation Peter Pan, and some of those children are grown now and mad as hell about the thought of the same thing happening to Haitian children.

Instead of running out to adopt a Haitian child, I suggest giving to an organization that is focusing on helping to rebuild Haiti and reuniting families. There will be a time when adoptions will be the answer for some children. Until then, let's wait.

Sean James and Al Joyner respond to the Tebow Super Bowl ad

Warning...Feministas, grab a tissue before you watch this amazing and beautiful video.

Welcome to my new Laughing Liberally friends. This is the video Matt & I talked about last night.

From Planned Parenthood:

Matt asked me what dudes can do to help in the fight and I said, be aware and then I talked about this video. Men, be aware of how your actions impact our lives. Of your privilege that allows you to not worry about being raped when you walk around a corner to get to your car after a fun night with friends. How you have to decide if you'll ask for a friend to talk with you, if you'll go it alone or if you will call your partner who is waiting for you and he virtually walks you to your car. How ads like the Focus on the Family one is really telling women around the country that "Why, we don't trust you to make your own decision, oh no." Just be aware.

I'll add in that you need to stand up next to us, stand up against the hate, stand with us as we try to get our voices heard even when networks try to censor us.

01 February 2010

TODAY: Fem 2.0 Radio on Latinas & Family

VI. Work/Life and Latino Families
How Are Latino Families Changing as Latinas Bring Home the Bacon?
Monday, February 1, 1:00 PM EST, here

Host: Veronica Arreola
Ana Roca Castro, Founder, Latinos in Social Media
Catherine Singley, Economic and Employment Policy Analyst, National Council of La Raza
Marisa TreviƱo, Publisher, www.latinalista.net

The Great Recession has impacted every family and Latino families are no different. Or has it been different? Join in the conversation as four Latinas from policy, punditry and community organizing discuss the impact of the recession on Latino families. What does a Latino worker look like? What are the contributions of Latino workers to the economy?  Can the government do more to encourage job creation? As more Latinas take on more jobs, who is caring for their children? How are Latino families changing to make room for Latinas who brings home the bacon?


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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