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31 December 2013

#365FeministSelfie -- Are you in?

2015 UPDATE: This challenge will continue on into 2015. I started something that can't go back into the bottle, so let's do this! Read more at my EOY post. 

When Jezebel posted a ridiculous piece about selfies being a "call for help," I was well aware that the selfie was under attack from other parts to society. A few days ago the amazing Nina Garcia, of Marie Claire & Project Runway, shared an infographic over Twitter about selfies making us more narcissistic. President Obama looked like he got in trouble over a selfie. Selfie is the word of the year. The funeral selfie apparently is the worst we can get. 

But what about positive selfies?

Yesterday I saw a mom and her maybe-5yo-daughter taking a selfie. They were making silly faces and snapping pics. Those were memories being made, moments of love that both will likely remember forever. I take those with Ella for the same reason - we are marking a moment in time.

Then there are the countless pieces that claimed some selfies as feminist - WOC rarely see themselves reflected in media, people over a size 4 are told to hide themselves, transgender persons want to be seen...hell, a lot of people responded to anti-selfie moments by saying, "I do not see myself represented in the media, so I'm making my own!" Also Jamie Nesbitt Golden (@thewayoftheid) and Kate Averett (@convergecollide) started the #feministselfie hash tag that this project builds on.

And if you had told me that I'd be quoting James Franco, I would had laughed, but I am...His NYTimes op-ed on selfies is full of gems:
Attention is power.

Of course, the self-portrait is an easy target for charges of self-involvement, but, in a visual culture, the selfie quickly and easily shows, not tells, how you’re feeling, where you are, what you’re doing.

In our age of social networking, the selfie is the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, “Hello, this is me.”
All of this ruminating on selfies came at not only the end of the year, but my birthday was on the 28th. In 2008 I participated in a 365 project. That was something I needed to; I just didn't know it then. The hardest part of being in the media is dealing with your own image. I use to hate how I sounded, then I did a lot of radio and I listened to it. I hated how I looked on TV, but I did that and felt more comfortable. And the same for photos. After that 365 project, I don't love how I look, but I am far more comfortable saying, "I look good today. I look good in this outfit." This has helped immensely as I have gained a lot of weight during the stress of graduate school.

For 2014, I started a #365FeministSelfie group on Flickr and am inviting you to join. And if you aren't on Flickr, just use the hashtag #365FeministSelfie every day on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

So are you in? I hope so.

Edited to add: I am getting feedback that a daily selfie is too overwhelming for many to even imagine, so I am suggesting you go with weeklies. Maybe you'll get hooked and go for dailies! Do what you can, but remember the photos are about the real you. They aren't supposed to be the glam-you (although those are welcomed). I say more below...

Edited to add: Fear. When I mentioned this to one of my besties, she mentioned fear as one reason she's never tried to tackle a 365 challenge. And yes, that's the foundation of this challenge. Conquer that fear of seeing yourself every.single.day. We might look at ourselves to put our contacts in, even make-up on, but taking a selfie and posting it means REALLY looking at yourself. And hopefully at the end (or much sooner!) you will find it less painful and more enjoyable. I don't want to turn us into Paris Hiltons, but rather individuals who don't cringe when we need to take a photo.

Jeni at Joy and Woe is finishing up her own 365 challenge and has a list of tips on how to get through your own. Thanks, Jeni!

Libby at Moments in my Head has some excellent points about posting photos of ones self as an expression of self-love. She asks us why shouldn't we share photos of us as we experience happiness?

I get asked how I do it all...a lot. I hope that sharing photos when I am exhausted and crying will help shatter any myth that I do it all...or at least gracefully.

30 December 2013

2014 brings hope to end parental rights for rapists

As we approach January 1st, the Tribune reminds us of new laws such as a statewide ban on tanning beds for those under 18, increased penalties for using social media to organize "flash mob attacks" and that sex education must include discussion of birth control (schools can still opt to not teach sex ed at all). But the new law I am excited to see is a law that better restricts rapists parental rights:
On January 1, 2014, IL Public Act 098-0476 becomes effective. This new law has many added benefits to victims of sexual abuse who give birth to a child conceived of that abuse. Public Act 098-0476 amends 750 ILCS 45/6.5 by broadening the restrictions to include “men who father through sexual assault or sexual abuse” rather than only “sex offenders.” This important amendment means that victims no longer have to have to wait for a conviction of their attacker, which may never come, in order to terminate parental rights of a rapist. To protect against false accusations in cases where there is no conviction, there is new language that provides for a fact-finding hearing to be held to establish if a person “is found by clear and convincing evidence to have committed an act of non-consensual sexual penetration or his conduct in fathering that child.”

Additional aspects of the new law allow mothers or guardians to deny maintenance or support from the father. The father is no longer allowed to inherit from the child without the mother’s or guardian’s consent. Further, notwithstanding the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, no other family member (parent, grandparent, great grandparent, or sibling of the father) will have standing to request custody or visitation with the child without the mother or guardian’s consent. The final addition in the law details how a child’s mother or guardian may file a petition as an affirmative defense in any proceeding regarding the child initiated by the sexual offender.

During the discussion about Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment, the issue of rapists having parental rights bubbled up. Shauna Prewitt, a Chicago lawyer, was the most visible voice around the issue. Now on January 1st, women who have survived and recovered from a rape and made the decision to carry their pregnancy to term will have more power to ensure that she is no longer tethered to her rapist.

I really hope that other states use our law as a model. I hope that anti-choice legislators around the country rally around it. I'm sure that when deciding to carry a pregnancy conceived by rape, weighing whether or not you want to see your rapist on a regular basis or allow them to be alone with your child, goes into that decision.

Shauna...Thank you for your courage and outrage.

29 December 2013

Saving P.L. Travers from Walt Disney

Ella & I saw the trailer to "Saving Mr. Banks" before "Frozen"...I think...anywho, we saw it, looked at each other and knew we had to see the movie. We were so sold on it, due to our love of "Mary Poppins," that I didn't even do research on the movie. So when we went to see it we were unprepared for the actual movie.

We went in expecting to see a funny & sweet movie about how a control-freak author deals with Disney's team of screen & song writers to create the masterpiece Ella & I love. And in all honesty, this is kinda what you get with the movie.

But within the first five minutes, I smelled a rat. I know, I know, what else should I expect from Disney? I'm not that cynical. But the depiction of P.L. Travers, the author of the series of Mary Poppins [disclaimer: that's an affiliate link there] books, was just down right one-dimensional that I knew too much was missing from her side of the story.

Since our viewing two pieces have hit my social media feed that call out the depiction of Travers. 

Victoria Coren Mitchell writes that Travers would be spinning in her grave over this film. Mitchell created a BBC biopic of Travers that delves into Travers' unorthodox journey into motherhood (Saving Mr. Banks leaves you with the sense that Travers was afraid of motherhood) and the aftermath of the success the film had for Travers. Mitchell writes of the contradiction Travers was...of a woman who was controlling of her art in every regard, not just with Disney, but at the same time left it up to astrology to select her adoptive son.

Amy Nicholson takes a stronger stance on the sexist portrait of Travers that the Disney film paints. She writes that "...Travers was a feisty, stereotype-breaking bisexual — a single mom who adopted a baby in her 40s, studied Zen meditation in Kyoto, and was publishing erotica about her silky underwear 10 years before Walt had sketched his mouse."

Neither Nicholson nor Mitchell reject the idea that Travers was a control freak. Mitchell contends that Travers held too tightly to her dark stories and was unable to see that to bring the characters to a movie screen, had to lighten them up. Perhaps today someone could bring a true Mary Poppins to the screen. But as Nicholson points out, it can't be a Yankee...that was written into Travers' will.

From these two short pieces on Travers, one can truly see that Travers was far more complex than just a brokenhearted Daddy's Girl who rejected the decadence of having cake towers at writing sessions. Yet, I wonder if the true Travers was not quite the heroine that some are reaching for. Sometimes I feel that in our journey to point out sexist depictions of women in the media, we are too willing to label someone a hero.

For the record, I think "Saving Mr. Banks" is an excellent movie. Colin Farrell steals the movie with his depiction of Travers's alcoholic, yet loving father. It is definitely flawed, but as a story it is beautiful. Emma Thompson shines as always. I was just telling a friend, only she could make me love a clearly problematic depiction of a woman. Seriously, despite knowing zilch about her, I knew the Travers in the film was mostly bullshit, yet I still loved Thompson's portrayal!

Now to see if I can watch the BBC biopic on Travers...She seems like a mystery I need to unravel.

23 December 2013

Review: EOS Hand Lotion & Lip Balm

A few years ago a weird looking lip balm was in the Blogher swag bag. I remember thinking, "This is too weird to take off." Cause who would want a lip balm that is shaped like a ball. You can't tuck that into your pocket!

Well, I was super wrong. According to Ella, my 10yo daughter, a lot of the girls at school have EOS lip balm. And well, I finally tried mine and fell in love. It's not too greasy, just enough moisture. I buy another line for my super chapped lip days, but my daily lip balm is EOS mint.

This is why I responded with a resounding "YES!" when I was asked if I wanted to do a review of their new line of hand lotion (that's me holding "fresh flowers").

Winter is tough on my body. My skin gets dry very easily and the fact that I adore hot showers doesn't help. I keep lotion in my office desk and in most of my bags. It's one of those items I am always on the hunt for the "perfect one."

EOS hand lotion is a great product.

First, the design. Opposite of its lip balm, the lotion is perfectly designed. See how it fits into my hand? Love that. It also fits into the back pocket of my jeans. JSYK, it is also the perfect size to prop up a smart phone. I carry enough stuff on a daily basis, I need my stuff to multi-task!

The lotion itself is not greasy and absorbs right into my hands. It's not super thick like lotions that are for super dry hands either. But what I really liked is that I didn't feel as if I needed to go back and reapply just an hour later.

EOS products are also free of animal products (except beeswax, lip balms do have that), paraben-free and gluten-free.

Either project would be a great last-minute stocking stuffer!

Disclaimer: I received two hand lotions for review. No further compensation was offered or accepted.

20 December 2013

4 songs that prove Dolly Parton is a genius

I grew up listening to country & western music in the late 70s and early 80s. I still feel like it is a classic period for this genre and Dolly Parton is certainly one big reason. While people only see a walking Barbie doll, I see a lyrical genius. And yes, this is totally a result of me seeing all the other lists posted on people's FB pages and me thinking, "Oh, these should be a list of..." So here you go:

1) Coat of Many Colors:  
"My coat of many colors that my momma made for me, made only from rags, but I wore it so proudly."

2) Jolene:
"Your beauty is beyond compare, with flaming locks of auburn hair, with ivory skin and eyes of Emerald green. Your smile is like a breath of spring, your voice soft like summer rain, and I cannot compete with you, Jolene."

3) 9 to 5: So many great lines in this one!
"Pour myself a cup of ambition"
"For service and devotion, you would think that I would deserve a fair promotion"
"They let you dream, just to watch them shatter"

4) I Will Always Love You:
"Bittersweet memories that is all I am taking with me"

19 December 2013

Dining ethically is more than just a good tip

Anyone who has ever eaten out knows that you should tip your server. But most of us most likely do not know WHY we need to leave a fair tip. For the record, I usually tip around 20%. The closest I have been to being a restaurant server was my summer at Santa's Village putting french fries and pizza puffs on people's trays. I did not wait tables to make my way through college. Why? Cause I knew I would totally and utterly suck at it. Thus, I tip as generously as I can, especially when very much earned, because I admire anyone who can remember my order, check on me and all that jazz that makes a meal out a happy event.

I was shocked to learn, a few years ago, that because servers work for tips, their minimum wage is $2.13. What the WHAT?! And that hasn't changed in 22 years. I did know that most of them do not have access to paid sick days. Which of course means people who serve you lunch have to decide to go to work sick (possibly making you sick) or staying home and losing money. What would you choose? But how can we make any difference in this situation? Well, I have a tip for you!

ROC United has released their 2014 Diners Guide [pdf] and in it I learned that there is an alternative restaurant association being built. Sadly only two Chicago restaurants are members: Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique and Uncommon Ground [pg 9-10 of the guide].
ROC United asked restaurants about their practices with regard to:
a) wages for tipped workers and non-tipped workers,
b) paid sick leave policy,
c) advancement opportunities for workers to move up the ladder.
Restaurants could earn up to 5 points or stars. In the guide itself theses Chicago restaurants earned at least a two-star rating:

DIMO’S PIZZA - 2 stars
FIG CATERING - 3 stars
HOULIHAN’S - 3 stars

They also ranked national chains including:
OLIVE GARDEN - Not only zero stars, but a sad face! In fact all Darden restaurants get the sad face because "in 2011, workers filed several federal lawsuits and legal charges against Darden for workplace violations such as discrimination and wage theft." Page 9 of the guide 

But since we all can't only eat at the restaurants who are doing a decent job in relation to their workers, ROC United includes a few business-card-sized notes you can leave with restaurants to let them know that you care about their workers. There is also a page that lists all restaurants by state, so no need to try to figure that out yourself.

18 December 2013

Today in rape culture...

A Woodstock, Illinois police officer has been given a 30 day suspension (that he can take one day at a time over the course of a year) for texting his then-girlfriend's preteen daughter and asking for sexy pics:
The girl's parents are furious about what they say is light punishment for a city insider who they think should have been fired. Her father, who the Tribune is not naming to avoid identifying the girl, accused law enforcement officials of hypocrisy.
"He's no better than who he's arrested," the father said.
And sadly it appears that the fact he used an official database to do a background check on the ex-girlfriend may be more illegal than trying to sext a 12-year-old girl. 

Then people wonder why women don't trust the police. It's not just the action of this man, but the fact his superiors weight his years of service versus his violation of this girl's personal space. Good gawd, I'm so furious I can't even find the right words.But you know what I mean...

At a public meeting on the matter, some guys from Anonymous showed up. In Woodstock!

More from the Woodstock Independent.

Photo from Northwest Herald

Book Review: The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie

Making dinner is a chore for me. I hate having to figure out what to make every...single...day. Ugh! But baking? Oh, that is where I shine. Cupcakes, cookies, brownies...oh, my! And of course when I was asked if I wanted to review "The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie: Recipes, Techniques, and Wisdom from the Hoosier Mama Pie Company" by Paula Haney and Allison Scott, I said "YES!!!!"

First of all, the book is beautiful and sturdy. You won't have to worry about it being on your counter as you bake up a storm.

But while I was excited to get the book, once I opened it and started to read through the recipes, I started to feel overwhelmed. The only time I've tried to bake a pie I have used store bought crusts. And well, the results were so bad that I haven't tried making a pie in ages. But I'm committed to bringing you, my dear readers, reviews based on my experience! And then something happened...Ella took over.

Yes, my sweet 10-year-old daughter took over the pie making as we prepped for Thanksgiving.

We visited the Evanston Hoosier Mama Pie Company store at the beginning of November. She had the banana cream pie and I had the pumpkin pie. Both were DELISH. But she chose the pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. OK. We got all the ingredients together and decided to make the crust on Tuesday night and the pie filling on Wednesday night.

Usually she's my helper, but she quickly reversed our roles. So I am here to tell you that my 10-year-old daughter made the whole pumpkin pie, with my assistance. See the pics up there? That's her pie. AND IT WAS SOOOO GOOD!

Obviously some of the recipes are more complicated than pumpkin, especially given that the pumpkin pie recipe uses canned pumpkin (there's a whole page devoted to WHY!). And we had some issues with "pulsing" the butter for the crust, but it still turned out. So there you go, you don't have to be perfect to get a yummy pie crust.

Bottom line...If you have a pie lover in your life or want to encourage someone to take the pie leap, get them this book. Hoping to bring you more pie adventures in 2014!

Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing your book of pie through Powells or Indiebound.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from a publicist, but I went to the pie shop on my own!

16 December 2013

Book Review: The Book of Jezebel

The Book of Jezebel, edited by Anna Holmes and written by Kate Harding and Amanda Hess has been called a feminist text/coffee table book that will be on the coffee table of every third-wave feminist. NPR suggests you choose it over the latest Bridget Jones book! I suggest that you should instead send the $27 to your local abortion fund, Planned Parenthood or other fave feminist organization.

I rarely ever write a negative review of a book. But I feel compelled to write this review because:
  1. The site Jezebel is the current crown-holder of feminist sites according to mainstream media;
  1. Anna Holmes says this book was conceived to "brand the site in book form"; and
  1. People who might not claim feminism as a label, but are discussing feminist issues because of the blog or book most likely see Jezebel as representative of today's feminist movement.

Basically, I wanted there to be a review that said, "We can do better feminism."

Is Jezebel a feminist blog?
The first question is if this is even feminism in play at. I ask this because sometimes a Jezebel writer will flatly state or respond on social media to criticism by feminists by saying it is not a feminist blog/site [1, 2]. If you read reviews of "The Book of Jezebel" or interviews with Holmes, Jezebel (site) is clearly identified as a feminist site. And when Jezebel recently published a post praising a new R. Kelly song, Colorlines called Jezebel an "allegedly feminist blog." Many others have called into question Jezebel's feminist status over the years. So is it a feminist site or not?

As I said, mainstream media calls Jezebel feminist:
  • "Jezebel is the closest thing we have to an engaging and mainstream feminist news outlet. That is something to be grateful for. Jezebel may sometimes be mean, petty, biased, and irresponsible — but it is utterly necessary." - NPR
  • "The site, while feminist, wasn’t the Germaine Greer “cunt”-reclaiming type of space." - The American Prospect
  • "Jezebel soon became one of the Internet’s most popular feminist forums" - Fast Company
  • "the blog has emerged as one of the biggest feminist websites in the world in the last seven years." - Daily Life

When I pointed this out on Twitter, I was told that Jezebel can’t be held responsible for what other media outlets say about it. To an extent that is true, but saying that the site is a “women’s site with feminist sensibility” is walking a very thin line. And on Jezebel's about page, you learn more about their comment policy than their philosophy. That's why I asked, over email, the founder of Jezebel, Anna Holmes, if she started Jezebel as a feminist site and she responded:

If your definition of a feminist website is a website whose primary reason for existence is to advance feminist (often academic/activist feminist) conversation - and that's MY definition - then no, Jezebel is not a feminist website. This is why I have consistently rejected the phrase "feminist website" when it has been used to describe the site or positioned alongside outlets like Feminsting, Feministe, Shakesville, etc., which I consider to be "feminist websites."
What it is (IMO): A website with a *feminist sensibility*, one for which feminist issues are important but not sole reason d'etre. I created it to be a pop culture and politics website that would look at issues from a critical but non-academic feminist POV.
So in short: No, I do not think Jezebel is a feminist blog going by my definition of "feminist blog." Nor did I start it to be a "feminist blog."
I think that Katelyn M. Wazny says it best in her 2010 paper on Jezebel: “Despite the original intent of the website, Jezebel has become a feminist website in its content and character, and one that seems poised to further contribute to developing the thoughts of feminists online for the foreseeable future.” One cannot claim to reignite feminism, help to make it fun and at the same time disown the label for the kindling to that flame.

Jezebel cannot continue to run from the feminist label when they are being held accountable for what it publishes. It has proven to be as much of a feminist outlet as Bitch, Ms., and Feministing. Some may disagree with its feminism, but it is a feminist blog site. And one where many non-feminist-card-carrying women get their lady news from. In two interviews done with Anna Holmes about the book, Jezebel is identified as a feminist site - one with Jill from Feministe [...there's little argument today that Jezebel fits on the list of mainstream, popular feminist blogs.] and one with Mikki Halpin at Glamour [...a snarky, sharply funny website that provides a feminist viewpoint on everything that's happening in the world...].

Thus any book that is being framed as the physical branding of the website must be evaluated as to how well it upholds a feminist ethic.

The Book of Jezebel
Admittedly, as a critic of Jezebel, I went in wanting to not like the book. I tried to talk myself into being fair, especially after I saw that Kate Harding was a lead writer on it. As a disclaimer, Kate & I went to high school together, have hung out a few times since reconnecting at a Shakesville meet-up and she's bought Girl Scout cookies from my daughter. I also admire her brilliance. So the book can't be that bad, right? I went right for my personal music moment in the book...To the L's!

WHAT?! No Lilith Fair? OK, they covered it under Sarah McLachlan then...WHATTHEFUCK?! After cryptically posting to my FB page about this egregious error, I was told that an online second edition would be created and this error would be corrected. And it has. While I won't spend time outlining every person or idea I feel was left out, I will say that I do not think those left out on purpose, but as Anna Holmes points out in an interview with the Washington Post, "just were not thought of."

Thus began my journey to read the book in order, cover to cover. Come on with me as I Frodo this book...

It starts off strong with a full-page photo of Bella Abzug. Then I read the first entry on Aaliyah. Oh, my...I was not a huge fan of Aaliyah, so for me to read it and think, "This does not do justice to her legacy," says a lot. So let's move on my precious...We get to a pretty good entry on Abigail Adams. Jezebel defines her as "the baller behind President John Adams who was the real brains behind the American Revolution (p 6)." I chuckle. Then I hit "adoption" and I throw the book like Frodo tosses the ring:
"If you're pregnant and cannot raise the child yourself, antichoicers would have you believe this is a relatively easy process and morally superior alternative to abortion, even thought it means enduring forty weeks of pregnancy, labor, and any complications that might arise from those, then handing the baby over to stranger while you're physically exhausted and maximally hormonal (p 6-7)"
Now I've written about adoption before and the idea that feminists are best suited to look after the birth mother. I think everyone should read, "The Girls Who Went Away," before saying adoption is the best choice for an unwanted/planned pregnancy. But this description is offensive and not just in the normal Jezebel offensive manner. OK, deep breath...let's keep moving.

Overall I did end up pretty "meh" about the whole book. There are some excellent entries (A League of Their Own, Buffy Summers, Venus & Serena Williams, and Princess Diana), but also some low points such as summing up Deidre McCloskey's awesomeness with this entry: "As far as we know, the first out trans woman who's also a famous economist (p 179)." For me, she's important to know because lately she's been calling into question the idea of "statistical significance" and I think as feminists, we like people who question science in a manner that ensures that good science prevails.

I asked a few #NoJez folks what they would look up in "The Book of Jezebel," and the most requested idea was cis/transgender. I will say that I think their entries on these terms are fairly good despite the McCloskey entry.

But overall, the "meh" feeling came from a sense that some entries were just super shortchanged. That some individuals received well-rounded entries and others did not. I know not every entry can be perfect, but some glaring omissions did occur:
  • Alice Walker's entry is mostly about being a bad mother and Oprah.
  • Dr. Ruth's entry is so short that it's mind-blowing.
  • Xena's entry is totally focused on the sexuality of the show.
  • Queen Elizabeth's entry forgets that she drove ambulances during WWII. I think that's a nifty factoid that I often include in discussions about her.

I also feel that the time and energy given to riot grrrl over all other musical genres was short-sighted, to say the least of the amazing feminist work in hip-hop, country and rap, not to mention the aforementioned Sarah McLachlan and her contemporaries. There were also entries that were rightly critical of the person or idea (Helen Thomas, Naomi Wolf), but others did not get that same critical eye (Gloria Steinem, SlutWalk).

Overall, "The Book of Jezebel" is uneven in how it treats lady things, presents some ideas in too snarkastic of a light and overall is just ok. It's not a terrible book, but if you are looking for something to give a young woman who might need a nudge towards claiming the feminist label there are plenty of other gift ideas. 

#NoJez Readers Gift List:

10 December 2013

This and That Tuesday

This is what you get when I'm trying to clean out my inbox and no time to write a lengthy piece about these stories:

    • Voto Latino and Planned Parenthood Federation of America convened a panel discussion on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the Latino community. The event was especially timely as the federal government and community partners on the ground prepare for the rollout of the Spanish language enrollment website, www.cuidadodesalud.gov, this month. Every year, more than 600,000 Latinos -- mostly Latinas -- visit Planned Parenthood health centers to access health care services, including important preventive services like well-woman exams, breast health services, and cervical cancer screenings.

    • Soroptimist, the global women's organization, presents the annual Women’s Opportunity Awards, which provides cash grants to women for education and training. The 2013 Women’s Opportunity Award winner is Aziza Kibibi.  Aziza was held prisoner and sexually abused by her father, an MTV award winning director affiliated with The Fugees, who was recently convicted to 90 years in prison because of what he did to his daughters. TW: rape, sexual abuse

    • Women left behind in the economic recovery: A short video discussion with Kate Gallagher Robbins of the National Women's Law Center with Nia-Malika Henderson about women's economic struggles since the recession ended in 2009, and the dramatic rise in their ranks among low-wage workers. (The Washington Post)

    • There's no better way to start debating the state of public education in the US than the PISA results. This is an international assessment of 15-year-olds on their math, reading and science knowledge. According to this assessment the US is getting smoked. But the Education Trust reminds us that if we look "deeper at the data from within the U.S., gaps between African American students and their white peers are equal to more than two years’ worth of learning in math, while gaps between Latino and white students exceed one year. Gaps between U.S. students in low-income schools and those in wealthier schools are even more alarming: Students in the lowest income schools lag behind their peers in the highest income schools by about two and a half years’ worth of learning in math." Dan Montgomery, the president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, claims if we rank results by poverty rates, the US actually comes out on top. This is both awesome, but depressing. Awesome that we can do so well despite our lack of addressing the roots of poverty, but depressing that the US ranks #1 in those who participate in PISA.

    • The US Department of Labor is marking its 100th anniversary by creating a list of "Books that Shaped Work in America" and they want your suggestions!  

    09 December 2013

    Music Review: Wise Girl

    I always chuckle when I get a pitch to review music. I think I have a weird taste in music that often goes for the most commercial sounds, as I listen to more music on the radio than hitting clubs to discover something new and indie. Yet I also love rock music that is mostly guitar and screeching boys (see: The Offspring) and folk music (see: Dar Williams).

    Which is why I rarely do music reviews. Anyone I do review means that they touched me in some way. For Wise Girl, they made me dance!

    I was identified as a reviewer because in a guest blog post for Infectious Magazine, Abby admitted, "It is tough being a woman running the show, especially on the business side of things," and in an article for The Sound Alarm, she advised women to "love yourself for who you are no matter what shape or size, don’t listen to what the media says is standard." I especially loved her definition of "being one of the boys."

    So crank up your speakers or plug in your ear buds, because it is Monday morning and we all need something peppy to dance to.

    03 December 2013

    Giving Tuesday

    The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and CyberMonday is Giving Tuesday. It started a few years ago by people who thought the focus on consumerism was getting out of control. So let's give back on Tuesday!

    As always, I have compiled a list of my favorite non-profits, charities and even a few crowd-funding projects that are worthy of your time. Some, like the Chicago Abortion Fund, may be simply a reminder to donate to your local abortion fund. Others are unique and deserve your love.


    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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