Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

24 March 2011

100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

My friend, Alida Brill, and her friend, artist Susan Springer Anderson, have collaborated on a project to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and which they call simply:

11.03.25.11

The show A League Of Our Own, with both Susan and Alida interviewed by Fran Spencer will air Thursday, March 24th from 6 pm to 6:30 pm EST. It can be heard on 88.7 FM in Nassau and western Suffolk and some parts of Manhattan, but it can be heard worldwide at WRHU.org. Here is the exact link to listen online: http://live.streamwrhu.net/

A "virtual event" will happen on Alida's website on Thursday before the radio show and will remain up throughout the weekend and throughout next week.

Susan's piece is a creative reinterpretation of a shirtwaist of the time, using Tyvek, a building material. Her choice of "fabric" has special meaning and is discussed by Susan in the radio interview and will be described fully on the website Thursday.

What appears to be floral embroidery designs on the piece are actually the individual names of each of the 146 victims. Susan used an embroidery calligraphy style pen to sign each and every one of the names of those killed that day. The shirtwaist is the style the girls and women would have been wearing, but none of them would have had embroidery or embellishment on their garments. Those were reserved for the women who could afford them, and indeed, resemble closely what the women were making for the wealthy and more privileged women of 1911.










They will be updating with live photographs on Friday the 25th from a variety of memorials as well as photographs of the CHALK project names.

There was also a HBO documentary earlier this week that is awaiting me on my DVR. 

23 March 2011

Feminist Parenting: Searching for a Superhero

This post is part of the WAM! It Yourself Blogathon! WAM! It Yourself is a multi-city decentralized conference on gender and media run by Women, Action & the Media. Events are taking place in seven cities and online from March 20th to March 27th. Check out the full schedule of events here!

I hiked down to McCormick Place to attend the second annual Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo on Saturday. I was able to attend by requesting a press pass. I'm not writing this because it was a condition of the pass though. OK, disclaimer out of the way. How did it go?

It was fun. I could only attend for a few hours, but it was fun to sit and watch all the fans walking around. The families passing on their love of comics & comic-related entertainment to the kids. The geek couples dressed up and holding hands. The groups who dressed up in themes or didn't dress up at all. But the group that drew me in the most were the dads walking around with their daughters. 

After my pass was in hand, I headed to the expo floor to make a bee line to Dark Horse, the home of Buffy Season 8...and soon Season 9. I was disappointed at the lack of Buffy stuff, but I did get to spot a mock-up of the Buffy lunchbox, to be released in the summer, which may find a home in my kitchen. I did get to play with Dark Horse's app, which is freaking awesome. Alas, no eReader of any kind in my hands, so I'll leave the awesomeness to others. 

Then I ran to the theater to catch a discussion on "The Walking Dead" and after that a panel on "Dollhouse." It was fun to hear from the actors. The funniest parts were when the actors realized that there were kids in the audience. This usually was preceded by an actor swearing (Jon Bernthal) or describing something in a sexual manner (Eliza Dushku, "I'm so going to hell..."). 

So I offer these suggestions:

* Parents: If you are going to a comic book convention or such, please remember that there will be adult language and most likely adults dressed up in costumes not suitable for children's eyes. Some ladies like to wear corsets and fishnet stockings. Some guys do too. 

* Actors and others we pay money to gawk at: As much as you might think, "Oh, my work is too violent for a 5-year-old!" There's a 5-year-old in the audience because her mom thought it was ok to watch your movie or because his dad loves your work so much, the kid is playing on the floor. 

*Somewhere in there is a nice middle where we can be comic geeks and parents all at the same time.  

As the mom of a girl (who was not with me, she had prior commitments) I did keep an eye out for kid-friendly and especially girl-friendly comics. I found a few that I'll check out, but no real stand outs. Then I saw a few more dads walk past me with their young daughters. "What is he thinking?" So I asked. 

I walked up to a man who had two young girls in tow. "Are you the dad of these young women?" "Yes, I am." I introduced myself and asked him what he thought of comic books and the comic industry having two types of women characters, (ditzy) girlfriend or sexy hero. "They were just talking about that! Girls, you were just talking about this." He introduced me to his daughters who were about 10. Sorry, I was short on time and didn't ask vitals. They went on and on about how they were in search of a superhero. One of the girls had chosen Poison Ivy ("She's evil!"), but wanted another woman character to love. Her sister was hesitant about Poison Ivy, so was far more eager to identify a woman comic book character (didn't even have to be a hero) who was smart and wasn't "just the girlfriend." The dad also talked about the need for strong women characters for girls to read about. He was definitely disappointed about the current crop of offerings. 

If I had spent more time at the expo, I would had asked a mom with a son about what she thought comics were teaching him about women. Although, I feel like that question might feel a bit attacky if I didn't know the person. "So what do you think this busty woman is teaching your 10-year-old about women? Huh!?" 

Sunday has been kid's day and they get in free. Hopefully if the cards align properly, we'll plan a family trip to C2E2 2012 on kid's day and wander around asking parents these questions while the kid tries to find her own superhero. I really want to know more about how parents navigate this territory. Comics not only have depictions of adult bodies that are totally unrealistic, even for guys, but they are also high on violence. Are the parents who bring their kids to shows like C2E2 the "cool" parents? Or the "sketchy" parents?A little of both?

The kid knows who Buffy and Xena are. She has seen bits of Buffy, but we don't let her watch scenes that are too violent or even too "gross" looking. For example, she can't quite handle zombies right now. So vamped out vampires might not go well. While Xena is bloody and a little sexy, it's also super campy. And I want to share them with her!

Bottom line is that I just want her to have her own Buffy and Xena to obsess over. Is that really too much to ask?

19 March 2011

Viva la Feminista made it on "To the Contrary"


Watch the full episode. See more To The Contrary.

Thanks to friend of VLF, Kim Gandy for mentioning this blog while discussing mom blogs on this week's episode of "To the Contrary." Bonnie Erbé starts the conversation about mom bloggers off at 9:45 in the video. The focus starts with women's purchasing power and how some mom bloggers are "an advertisers dream come true." Kim jumps in around 12:10 in the video.

It's a great topic that Bonnie introduced, one that many of us mom bloggers have debated on and off-line for years. Where is the line between suggesting products that work to your friends/readers and just using them to pitch junk to so you get paid? And what does that do to our community? So Bonnie, if you want to continue this conversation, let me know and I'll high tail it to DC. Even if I did just get back from DC on Friday. There's also PunditMom in your backyard. But she does have ads on her blog, I don't. So there....reason to have us both on your show. Call me!

18 March 2011

Anti-Choice Bill Subjects Rape Survivors to IRS Audits


The anti-choice leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives is waging a War on Women, and the attacks keep getting more extreme. 

Mother Jones is reporting that H.R.3, the dangerous "Stupak on Steroids" bill, could subject survivors of rape and incest who choose to terminate their pregnancies to audits by the Internal Revenue Service.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, which helped break this story, called the bill a callous assault on women's freedom and privacy:

This bill gets more outrageous and insulting by the day. Not only would a woman have to describe her sexual assault to the police, but she could then be forced to relive that horrifying experience with an agent from the IRS. The 221 members of Congress who signed their names to this egregious bill must explain to their constituents why they want to give the IRS authority to audit rape survivors.

Why, indeed?

It's yet another way these anti-choice politicians are pushing for more government intrusion in our personal, private lives--not less. 

17 March 2011

On Girl Geniuses and the magic of 29

[Patti] Smith was 29 when she recorded Horses. Joan Didion was 29 when she wrote her first novel. Tina Fey was 29 when she was named head writer of SNL. bell hooks was 29 when she published her first major work. Oprah had just turned 30 when she got her first local TV talk show.

There is a reason “boy genius” rolls off the tongue more naturally than “girl genius.” By the time most of us accept the fact that we have earned this label for ourselves, we are most decidedly no longer girls.
The concluding paragraphs of this 'girl genius' article by Ann Friedman really punched me in the gut. Of course I started to reflect on where *I* was at 29. Look at how awesome these women were at 29. I tease a lot that I'm a total slacker. 29? Pfft! What the hell was I doing then? 

Um, a lot. I had a one year-old on my hands, a new job in a new field and had just purchased my first home. But I was also being wooed. By my current job. 

When the wooing became serious, I sprinted towards one of my mentors. "Do you think I can do this? I'm only 29!" I swear to the Goddess I said that line. She chuckled and said, "Of course you can. I look forward to watching."

Part of my hesitancy of  knowing I could do the job was the fact I knew I'd be working with faculty who were not only older than me, but could remember me being in their class. Of course things worked out well, but it's funny how Friedman's article had me going, "Yeah, hell, yeah...YEAH!" and then, " ooooohhh...." 

Was it my experience? My youthful looks? My actual age that made me pause? Would I had questioned my readiness if it had been a few months later and I was the big 3-0? Who knows. Maybe not. There's something magical about turning 30. That idea that you are a grown up, the 20s are over and time to take life by the horns and all. Hmmm...

There's no big conclusion to this post. It's just me rambling on about me. And I guess my way of saying thanks to Ann for this piece. So thanks.

13 March 2011

Some quick book reviews of books I'm still reading

I've gotten to a point where the number of books I'm "currently" reading has overwhelmed me. This is because I've been trying to read for "fun" in between reading for class. So instead of waiting another year or three to review this great books, I'm just going to tell you to go get a copy now. I think I've read enough of each of these to give my thumbs up. So what am I trying to read?


I love Coontz. She's written some of my fave books and this is certainly going to join them as a favorite. Coontz visits with women and a few men who read "The Feminine Mystique" to see how the book touched their lives. She also revisits the facts Friedan uses in the book as well as the reality that was the 1960s. I'm only a few chapters in and it's fascinating. I'm not only a fan of women's history, but a fan of re-examining that history to peel back a few layers to figure out what really went down. Coontz takes a bold stand to say the feminist revolution would have happened without "The Feminine Mystique" and I'm sure there are those who will say she is wrong. But so far, Coontz is making her case quite well. A must read.


I met Mary over the summer and have taken time here and there to connect with her passionate and strong character Nonna. This YA fiction book takes us on a journey where Nonna is a young woman gifted with amazing art skills, yet she lives in a time where young women only aspire to their arranged marriages. When we meet Nonna, she was disguising herself as a young man in order to apprentice under a great artist. When her secret is revealed she somehow finds another artist to take her under his wing. It's a tale we all are familiar with, but it's the journey you want to invest in. Imagine that, a YA book with a smart and strong young woman as the main character!? While I stalled half-way through this book, I did peek at the end and was fairly happy with it. This will be a great summer re-read.



Jane Addams is a huge figure in Chicago, but many of us only know Addams after she arrived in Chicago. Knight walks us through the youth and education of Addams. What I most identified with was her yearning for a path not taken. She spent most of her early life considering "what if..." a lot. I'm sure most of us have done or still do that. I like to be reminded that even the mightiest of our heroes didn't walk a well plotted out path. Knight also shows us the intellectual journey Addams struggled with. As a woman of means, she struggled with her place in the working class fight. When she settled in Chicago, she had one point of view. With each meeting, event and incident, Addams reexamines her beliefs, strengthens some and adjusts others. Knight presents them all in a manner that asks the reader to do the same.


This book just arrived and due to my backlog (see above) know I won't get to anytime soon. This YA book is organized in small chapters about 26 women who fought against the Nazis during World War II in their own way. So I picked a few random women, read their stories and was blown away. The bravery and courage was expected, but the manner their stories were told was not. The introduction does an excellent job at discussing how the stories are not of names that should all be in history books, but are a sample of the every day women who did what they could to resist the hate that swept across the world. While some may say that they should be in history books, I prefer to take this as an example for the young people in our lives that they don't need to be President of the USA or leading an army to make a difference.

My apologies to the authors for not doing a full scale review of your books, alas my schedule has been so chaotic that your books did not get the attention they deserved.

Disclaimers: In order of appearance, I requested a copy from the author, the author requested a review, the author offered a review copy and a publicist offered a copy.

* Book links are affiliate links. If you buy your book here I could make a very small amount of money that goes towards this blog.

11 March 2011

Sen. Rand Paul Supports the Right to Choose...Toilets



His right to choose toilets, that is. When it comes to a woman's right to choose abortion care, Sen. Paul is against that--even if the woman has been raped or is the survivor of incest.

The senator's exchange with Kathleen Hogan, a Department of Energy official, was so bizarre that we're sharing it here with you for full effect:

So, if we understand Sen. Paul, he essentially says that women should have greater rights at the appliance store than in their doctor's office, where they will make profoundly personal decisions. 

Meet Breast Cancer Action's new Exec Director

Breast Cancer Action, the organization that brought us "Think Before You Pink," has a new executive director. BCA is a great organization that talks more about preventing breast cancer than the others. Yes, they are seeking a cure, but they really want us to consider why breast cancer is on the rise or seems to be. Each time I hear of a friend of a friend discover she has breast cancer, that friend says, "Seems like it's getting worse." I feel more like it's zeroing in on us...Ya know what I mean? I'm tired of buying trinkets to save our lives. I want action. It's nice to have rabblerousers in the mix reminding us to push harder.

If you have had experience with BCA, please share!

02 March 2011

Join me for lunch with Donna Brazile!

It's time for the annual Women Employed Working Lunch! And this year Donna Brazile is the keynote speakr. AND...I'm on the host committee.

Event Details:When: Thursday, May 19, 2011
Where: Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park
200 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago

Networking Reception: 11:00 a.m. - Noon
Luncheon & Program: Noon - 1:30 p.m.

I've attended one lunch and it was a great time.Which is one reason why I agreed to be on the host committee this year. It's a great event to catch up with some of the fab women of Chicago whom I only see at events like this, but also a great way to meet NEW fab friends. It is a bit pricey ($125) but the money goes to an amazing organization that works on issues around women in the workplace and getting women the training they need to move into better paying jobs. They don't focus on just issues about white collar work, but also issues that working class women are fighting for like paid sick days.

And since I'm on the host committee, I do have a goal for selling tickets. If you do purchase one, please let me know so I can get credit! Plus so I can look for you on the 19th.

01 March 2011

Sarah Palin was right! Evidence of death panels in Chicago

Palin just got the location incorrect. Rather than death panels being a part of health care reform, death panels are alive and well in current insurance policies:
In the days after a football injury left Eisenhower High School running back Rasul "Rocky" Clark paralyzed from the neck down, he was showered with attention from medical professionals and assured by school officials that he would be well taken care of, he said.

For nearly a decade Clark enjoyed superb medical care — nurses in his home around the clock, access to pain medicines and prescriptions and a storeroom of supplies.

Now the $5 million insurance policy that once covered Clark's medical care has reached its lifetime maximum and come to an end — and along with it, many of the benefits he once enjoyed. Those benefits may have kept him healthy enough to surpass the life expectancy for most quadriplegics, his mother and primary physician said.

"I was told I'd be taken care of all of my life," Clark, 27, said from his bed in his modest house in south suburban Robbins. "That was one thing that brought me comfort. I knew I'd be OK.

"Now it seems like I'm being penalized for living too long. That's how I see it."
I'm sure that the lifetime cap was set by a team of actuaries who figured out the average or maybe even the best case scenario for someone who becomes a quadripledic. Only that medical care has advanced enough to allow this young man to live for much longer than expected.

Yes, he's being punished for living too long.
Yes, the insurance company's decision is a death sentence.
But no, I don't see Sarah Palin jetting out to rally with this young man and his tired mom. She won't be fighting for his life. Nor can I imagine any of the Republicans who went on and on about death panels or swear they are pro-life.

But I sure would love to be proven wrong. Come on Sarah, prove me wrong!

BTW - If anyone knows of a site where people can donate to Clark's care, please leave it in the comments. Thanks!