Friday, March 30, 2007

No TIME for Women Writers

So I know we're on issue two of TIME magazine's new redesign, but since I hadn't paused to take note of it when it hit the stands two weeks ago, I thought I'd stop now to point out something I've noticed about the new layout--which, generally speaking, I love. But here's a funny thing that's caught my eye: as part of this redesign, TIME's decided to run cute black and white images of their columnists and staff writers next to their articles. This is great, because, gosh, I always wondered what Lev Grossman looks like. The thing about having all these photos up there, though, is that it makes something pretty damn clear: TIME's got a woman problem.

In this week's issue, I spot one and only one picture of a woman writer (staff writer Lisa Takeuchi Cullen). And if you leaf through the magazine you will note that only an embarrassingly small number of bylined articles overall are written by women. This is no shocker--it's a trend that's happening all over the media. Folks at TIME know they have a problem: a few years ago I had lunch with an editor at the magazine who acknowledged as much without any prompting. But given how stark the disparity is between the numbers of male and female writers at the magazine, one can't help but wonder why the powers that be would choose to underline--no, broadcast--that disparity visually. Did they think no one would notice?

Umm, actually, that's probably exactly what they thought. Because, by my guess, the powers that be didn't notice it themselves. I'm betting that when John Huey, James Kelly and Richard Stengel looked at those shining photographs of their writers, they didn't think, "Hey, they all look pretty much like us--and that's a problem." (I'm not even going to start on the lack of racial diversity here.) They probably thought about a million other things having to do with circulation, ad sales, and maintaining the magazine's esteem in a competitive marketplace--but these issues of who is actually writing the content of the magazine, that group's lack of diversity, and what displaying that lack quite prominently might say to a diverse world audience... well, apparently that part didn't quite catch them as being a big deal. To me, it is.

That said, I'm not sorry they've done it. My hope is that enough people we see the faces behind the bylines and begin to wonder why they don't look more like their own. And then maybe they will start blogging about it, and writing letters, and making phone calls--until one day we'll all be able to say of the faces peering out of the magazine, "Hey, they look a lot like us, too."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sisters of 2007?

Couldn't really call myself much of a feminist if I didn't report to you that the ERA (that's the Equal Rights Amendment, folks) has been reintroduced in both the House and Senate--this time under a new, feistier name: the Women's Equality Amendment. Democrats are hoping that the changing winds in congress will finally allow for passage of the bill, which, we learn via Women's eNews, "was first unveiled in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1923 at the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Women's Rights Convention." The bill passed Congress (as some of you may remember from your women's studies classes) in 1972--but died after it was unable to achieve ratification by three-quarters of the states a decade later.

It should be pretty interesting to see whether the Dems are right and this year proves to be the one where we get our house in order. I, myself, am not so sure it will happen. I think there may be, among too many young, female constituents, a feeling that this was their mother's bill to win; I worry, too, that it may be very easy for the opposition to cite the many gains that women have racked up over the years and argue that the bill is therefore passe. They may be absolutely deluded, but I fear their counter may be seductive enough to take the wind out of the sails of this one. I really, really hope I'm wrong, though.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

To Do: Practice Compassion

I'm posting this not only because I love the cause, but because the invite came to me via GirlieGirl Events with one of the quirkiest subject lines I've yet seen: "What do you get when you cross Russell Simmons with Gloria Steinem?" I don't know, but if the event involves watching Moby pound "gourmet vegan hors d’oeuvres and cocktails" (vegan cocktails???) it might be worth checking out.

The Deets
Farm Sanctuary in the City presents a Benefit for Compassion
Saturday, April 7, 2007
8:00 p.m. ~ midnight
Jivamukti Yoga School
841 Broadway, 2nd floor, New York, NY

Chaired by Russell Simmons; hosted by Sharon Gannon and David Life. Special Guests include: Moby, Martina Navratilova, Ally Sheedy, Gloria Steinem

Special Performance by Nellie McKay

Tix start at $100. Visit: for more info.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Katie Couric: This Time, Gender Means Everything

Over at, viewers are making their voices heard over their displeasure at Katie Couric's interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards on this past Sunday's 60 Minutes. I missed the first airing of the show, so to get myself up to speed I took the time to watch it on the site itself. Granted, I went into my viewing experience knowing, thanks to my Daily News Feed from MediaBistro, that people were already ripping Couric to shreds over her callousness, and so, given that I can be somewhat contrarian, may have been predisposed to rebuttal. But if you've read this blog for any period of time, you know that I'm not exactly what you call a huge fan of Couric's show. So all in, I figured, I was walking into it pretty balanced--if I had come away feeling she was terrible to the poor people I would have been no more surprised than if I took out my earphones and thought, "What a fantastic interview."

In the actual event, neither of those things were what first came to mind upon shutting down my video window. What came to mind instead was how clear it is that
so many of these complaints have everything to do with Katie Couric being a woman--offering but one more irritating example of the lingering gender imbalance that colors our entire world. It's not that I believe that viewers don't have the right to complain about the media--indeed, I wish that happened more. But too much about both the tone and the terms of these particular complaints--which refer to her as "arrogant", "cocky" and "insensitive" to name a few--rings too close to an adage that was repeated to me just the other night by one of the pioneers of the feminist movement: "In order to be considered ruthless a man has to rape and pillage an entire country. All a woman has to do is say no."

Watch the interview for yourself and then let's get real, people, and start acknowledging the truth: Katie Couric did not ask a single, solitary question that any other respectable journalist, male or female, wouldn't also have asked. The questions were utterly predictable: tell us about your cancer, tell us about your kids, tell us about what you told your kids. And then the various versions of "How do you explain why you're staying in the race?" What else should she have--could she have--asked??

John and Elizabeth Edwards are not Joe and Milly Beecroft from Podunk, Michigan, hauled out as sympathetic, unwitting victims to give CBS's rating a boost. Edwards is running, for the second time, to be President of the United States. He has a campaign team that numbers in the hundreds, by my guess, and communications consultants up the wazoo. There is simply no way he and Elizabeth walked into that interview unprepared to face the "hard" questions, and if by some freak chance they did, then it's time for them to invest in better staff. You do the interview, if you are the Edwardses, precisely to answer questions like these, and to give the American people a chance to hear your rationale for staying in the game. Because the questions Couric asked are exactly the same questions we are all asking each other; better to control the flow of information by offering definitive answers than by allowing ordinary people to speculate and, given our too-often twisted media culture, pundits to wag their tongues in the wrong direction.

So why the sustained hew and cry over Couric's line of questioning? Well, without being too simplistic about it, it clearly has lots (too much) to do with both who Katie is (a woman) and what we expect from her because of that. Spend some time reading the rather mean spirited comments on the CBS site (there are currently 94 pages of posts--if you scroll to the bottom of this page, you'll see where the comments begin), and you begin to wonder if people were expecting Katie to wrap Elizabeth and John up in a blanket and rock them (and us) to sleep rather than conduct an interview. Because that's what women are "supposed" to do, you see: take care, coddle, patronize. Watching Couric ask for real answers to important questions about Edwards' candidacy seems to feel to too many people like having their own mother slap them on the hand; somehow, these viewers appear to be taking it as a personal affront that Couric had the chutzpah to actually do her job and demand answers to the questions we don't have the guts, or access, to ask the Edwardses ourselves.

But isn't that what the media are there for, after all? To ask the questions the average viewer would not dare? (Once upon a time, I hear, that was actually the case.) Is it that we've lost our sense overall of what "journalism" actually means, or is it simply that we're still (still!) unable to evaluate a woman's work on its merits alone? Because really: if Dan Rather had asked the same questions, would we even be having this debate?

It's time for the viewing public to realize that women journalists, just like their male counterparts, have every right to ask tough questions of the folks looking to serve in highest office--in fact, it is their responsibility to do so. All these complaints about how much Katie did or didn't smile, why she didn't bring her own personal experiences into the discussion (one poster calls her a "hypocrite" because she worked when her own husband was dying), and on and on, only make it more depressingly evident that women remain "women" first, and that, no matter how much folks talk about a post-feminist age, gendered expectations continue to put real limits on the ways that we are all allowed to behave, and, in this case, the questions we are permitted to ask. In a way I've never quite experienced before, I truly feel for Katie Couric today--probably more than anything because it reminds me of the proscriptions that exist for all of us women, whether we choose to pay attention to them or not. I hope she--and CBS--will remain brave enough to keep weathering these storms. All of our futures depend on it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Weekend Round-up

Whew! Has anybody else ever noticed how many people's birthdays seem to fall right around this time of year? The 25th alone is the birthday of 3 people I know (Birthday shout outs to Nettie, Jenn and Gloria), and there are more to come in the days immediately ahead. In any case, this birthday barrage meant that this past weekend was filled with candle-laden revelry: one party on Friday night, 2 on Saturday, and then another one on Sunday. Each of them was fun filled in its own right, but each very different from the others; the one thing they all had in common, though, was that each left me filled with a very profound sense of how lucky I am to be surrounded by family and friends whose company I truly enjoy.

Another bonus was being introduced to two fabulous new restaurants (new to me, that is) here in NYC. Cafe Noir is where Nettie's 31st birthday bash took place, and between the fried brie and the lamb meatballs I couldn't have been happier. Oh, and they make Mojitos so strong (and delicious) that Jessica was pink in the face and sweaty after about four sips.

The second restaurant, where Gloria had her party last night, is called Candle 79. It's a totally organic, vegan establishment, and despite what you might imagine the food was fabulous. I had seitan picatta--seitan being some form of pure gluten that has a very "meaty" texture and pretty much seems to take on the flavor of whatever sauce you put on it. Because I love picatta sauce (it's a lemon and caper blend, usually) this was a good thing. I'd highly recommend this place to anyone looking for a new food experience on the UES--and frankly, the food's good enough to travel for, too. (Don't forget to try the deserts!)

News on my mind:

Abortion or Adoption? The $500 Question: In Texas, a bill is on the table that would pay women who are considering abortion $500 to carry their babies to term and then give them up for adoption. So now the pro-lifers have turned to outright bribery? I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

Warner Books Warner No Longer: Looks like that big ugly "W" is flying the way of a Republican majority (if only I meant the human one). Warner Books now has both a new owner and a new name: Grand Central Publishing. I don't care what they call it--I'm still not buying books w puffy covers... unless I'm on my way to my yearly beach vaction and can't stand the thought of taxing my brain beyond subject, verb, object.

The Final Four is Set: Because I was busy partying last night, I missed the end of the of the Georgetown/UNC game where, according to Jessica, UNC went stone cold at the end of the game and into overtime, missing 17 of 18 shots from the field. Needless to say, Georgetown found a way to triumph. Jess is heartbroken, but I've had a soft spot for the Hoyas ever since John Thompson, Jr. was at the helm.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Episcopalians Stand Up! (Dis)Unite!

You may remember that a while back I told you about how the Episcopal Church is going through a bit of a crisis, and how the group of international bishops that runs the Anglican Communion had basically given the American branch an ultimatum: stop with the gays or else. Well, today, reports are out that the Episcopal Church of the United States has drawn its own line in the sand. The US bishops have rejected the Anglican Communion's call to install a council of international overseers to police the Episcopal branch of the church, and respond to the concerns of more conservative members who want nothing to do with the gays either.

Without being too crass, this is a bit like the Episcopal Church flipping the bird to its non-US brethren--and god bless them for it. How profound is it to see a religious body standing up for the rights of gays and lesbians to be included, rather than shutting the door on them as so many others do? And the Episcopalians had an out: because this move means that there will very likely be a cutting of ties between the Anglican Communion and the Episcopals, they could have very easily ducked out under cover of "The bonds of our community are too important to sacrifice over this issue." But they didn't. They haven't. They're standing up and fighting, saying instead, "Respecting the humanity of all of God's people is too important to sacrifice." What a radical concept. Once they're done fighting this war, it might be worth them having a conversation with some folks at the Vatican.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bye-bye, Rene, Bye-bye

I try not to do too much gloating over the misfortunes of others, but when justice is served I cannot help but feel glad about it. Today's dose of satisfaction comes by way of the news that Penn State's longtime women's basketball coach, Rene Portland, has decided to step down from her post, with 2 years still left on her contract.

Penn State's saying it was her own decision, but I can't think of too many folks who leave well-paying jobs that they're passionate about without being pushed out the door. And it's about time: the feathers tickling all this into action, of course, are the repeated allegations against Portland regarding her homophobic comments and behavior towards her players. A suit was filed last year by dismissed player Jennifer Harris that sought to take Rene to task for her behavior, and the University's only response (despite Harris' claims having been backed up by numerous alumnae of the program) was to slap Portland on the wrist with sensitivity training and a $10,000 fine. Now that she's posted 2 losing seasons in a row, though, they finally have the cover to clear the decks.

A shame they had to be so cowardly about it, but still glad to see this one sent packing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Anne Lamott is Back!

I hate days when meetings keep me so busy that I'm constantly away from my desk. Today was one of those, so the only thing I have to offer is this cover story from Salon, about the divine Anne Lamott, who always has something compelling to say. If you're a parent, or thinking of becoming one, and haven't read her book Operating Instructions, it's time to get with the movement already. She's funny, smart, irreverent and kind--all of my favorite qualities in a human being. And her new book is about faith... This may be who I really want to be when I grow up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Paid Sick Leave on the Move in Congress

It's one of America's dirty not-so-secrets that millions of our workers are currently entitled to NO sick leave without loss of pay or, possibly, employment. But the good people in the Democratic party are now making a move to change that. Late last week a bill was introduced to the Congress by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) that would ensure that every American worker who works more than 20 hours per week be given up to seven paid sick days per year. This only applies if the company you work for has more than 15 employees, but opponents are still going to argue that it's an assault on small business. Feh. It's an assault on our humanity that the US is so far behind in mandating these policies.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Weekend Round-up

Funny, isn't it, how life and art (or journalism) intersect? This morning as I was walking down Wall Street with a copy of this weekend's NYTimes Magazine griped firmly in my left hand, I noticed an absolute phalanx of combat ready NYPD officers clogging the street, the sidewalks, and the entrance to the number 1 train. Being that this is New York, and downtown NY at that, only blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood, seeing all this police activity made my heart race a little bit--and not in a good way. And then I heard the shouting in the distance, rhythmic and punctuated by an intermittent drum beat, and when I looked again and saw once officer with a camera to his face, snapping madly at the scene, I realized what was going on: a protest. An anti-war protest. It's the first one I've seen in person here in Manhattan and it made me wonder if we've finally reached a place where people are actually going to begin standing up and demanding real change... Which brings me back to the life/art connection, because what I was holding in my left hand, in that NY Times magazine, was this week's cover story on women and war--or, specifically, the female US soldiers who are returning from their tours with cases of PTSD caused not just by the trauma they are seeing in the war zone, but also by the sexual trauma inflicted upon them by their male counterparts in the military. To have been so fully immersed in the story on my subway ride downtown this morning, and to have had the sense, in reading it, that the shit is really about to hit the proverbial fan in regards to this war; and then to emerge from there straight into the middle of an anti-war protest... Well, it gives you the feeling that the war really is everywhere--that the chickens have come home to roost. And the most terrible part about it all is that, in so many ways, the damage has already been done. There's no going back for the thousands of soldiers dead or damaged. The only question left is: how many more lives are we willing to ruin in the name of oil and power?

On that happy note, a few items of note from this past weekend:

Let the Mudslinging Begin (Again): Barack's team may be disavowing it, but this video spot that parodies Apple's landmark "1984" commercial is the best piece of pirate political advocacy I've seen yet.

Is Ignorance Bliss?: From the NYTimes, a paralyzing article about one young woman's choice to find out whether she possesses the genetic marker for Huntington's disease (she does). Likely to provoke the "What Would You Do?" sentiment in most of us. For the record, I don't think I have the capacity to hold such knowledge about the limitations of my life expectancy and still live any full kind of life. When it comes to pain and suffering, I'm a wimp, quite frankly. So let me float off in a daze, all who are listening...

Pre-abortion Ultrasounds Could Be Required Under SC Law: In another move to limit a woman's right to abortion without being lectured to or coerced, a bill is now winding its way through the South Carolina legislature that would require women seeking abortions to view ultrasounds of their fetuses before actually going through with the procedure. Un-freakin'-real.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Disney's First Black Princess

Well, after all these years of keening after princesses with silky straight hair and blue eyes, those of us of a darker hue will now have our own Disney iconography to aspire to: "The Frog Princess", Disney's first animated feature starring a black main character is now in the works. The story will be set in New Orleans during the Jazz Age (1920s), and centers on a young black girl named Maddy, who is a chambermaid. According to the Wikipedia entry, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose and Alicia Keys are all battling it out for the lead.

I feel both a partial hurrah in me and a partial sense of dread. Hurrah because, frankly, it's long since been time, dammit. But the dread comes from my basic distrust of Disney narratives, and my fear that now millions of little black girls will be modeling themselves on a chambermaid. Just what we need.

Making Women's Opinions Matter

There's some old saying that I'll flub here about how half the battle is showing up... which somehow reminds me of something Winston Churchill must have said once. But anyway, point is, in all the talk about the unduly small number of women showing up on the op-ed pages, there hasn't, until now, been much mention of just how to increase the numbers of women actually submitting pieces for publication (apparently, only a fraction of the pieces submitted are written by women). But in yesterday's NYT, Patricia Cohen reports on the seminars Catherine Orenstein is now running to not only teach women how to write op-eds, but also how to frame themselves as experts--and believe in themselves enough to make such an assertion convincing.

I certainly find it reassuring that Orenstein is out there, helping women find their voices. But it also depresses me to no end to hear these stories of women--extremely accomplished women by any measure--who feel they don't have the authority to speak their minds in a public space, and have to be sternly guided to identify their areas of expertise.

Perhaps the next generation of women won't have these problems, but in order for them not to more of us women have to make a road for them by walking it, as another old saying goes. So the task for all of us smart women out there is to show up, and make equality a reality.
Putting words on the page is intimidating for sure, and it's true that working women just have less time than men do to spend writing (what with raising families, taking care of parents, and holding down jobs; see The Nation's "Care Crisis" article). But it's something those of us who want to see change must make an effort to do. So get writing already!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Harriet's New Do

Call me trivial, but has anybody else noticed that Harriet Miers got a new, spiffy hairdo? I guess getting raked over the coals for looking like a 50s era spinster had its effect... It must be so much easier to fire prosecutors without cause when you're sporting the pixie cut.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

In a Man's Game, Women are Paying the Price

All I've had time to read so far today has been this one article in the Times about retired professional football players who are suffering profound dementia early in life, presumably as a result of their repeated head traumas on the field. Until now, it's been ridiculously difficult for these players (who seem to have the worst pension plan of any professional sport) to get disability payments out of the league; now, due to some serious lobbying on the part of one wife of a former player there's a new plan in place to provide these men with some reasonable reimbursement for cost of care.

Why should this be of any interest to a blog that seeks to be mostly about women and politics? Because it's yet another example of how the real cost of care (and by that I mean emotional as well as monetary) is paid almost exclusively by women... Don't know if you were able to catch the article on this topic in The Nation a few weeks back (again, I can't get you the full text online, but if you email me I can provide it), but it was a powerful look at how we women get left carrying the freight of caregiving with very little help from the government or anyone else--and usually without even the thought that the government should be helping. In any case, for some reason, this article about these two declining men and, most importantly, their wives, struck me as being somewhat in the same vein, if only subconsciously so.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Devil & Ann Coulter

Great article on Salon today about the ills of conservatism in general and what Ann Coulter and her fellow hate-spewing GOP caricatures (O'Reilly, Limbaugh, et al) can tell us about the impending failure of that ideology. It's particularly important, as Gary Kamiya argues, to appreciate Coulter as the symptom of a larger diseased estate, rather than as one free-wheeling evil spirit pouring her own personal vitriol over anything with a liberal cast. Kamiya is more optimistic than I am that the majority of Americans will reject conservatism if it sticks too closely to Coulter and her ilk; still, good to see someone looking at the bigger picture here.

Do the Poor Deserve Beauty?

I think they do--though it's become clear to me that not everyone agrees. From the debate about why Oprah's students at her Leadership Academy in South Africa should be offered plush accommodation and access to a beauty salon, to arguments over enrichment programs in juvenile detention facilities it's obvious it that lots of people feel pretty strongly that some people deserve good, pretty things and others (usually the poor or otherwise compromised) do not.

For those of us who are more willing to share all the good things of this world with everyone in it, including physical beauty, this article in the Times today will be of interest: an architect named Michael Maltzan, who build homes for the likes of Hollywood honcho Michael Ovitz, has dedicated some of his vision and money to building housing for the homeless in Los Angeles. Beautiful housing, to boot. Three cheers for social conscience! It's nice to see that despite the Bush administration's best efforts, there are some people with power out there who still have one.

Monday, March 12, 2007

We Need More Stories Like This

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for highlighting this article about a bookseller in Baghdad whose life was brought to an end by a car-bomb that recently detonated in the city. It struck me, in reading it, how few stories we hear that tell us much about the real lives, and families, and losses of the thousands of Iraqi citizens who are suffering as a result of this war. My personal theory is that most Americans don't feel that the lives of Iraqis (and thus, their deaths) are worth as much as the deaths of American soldiers or civilians, but with more stories like this one, we may actually learn to appreciate any death, anywhere, as diminishing to us all.

Weekend Round-up, Tampa style

For anyone who's known me for more than about 2 years, what I am about to reveal is going to come as a significant shock: this past weekend I traveled down to Tampa, Florida to attend the ACC Tournament--and had an absolute blast. If you know basketball at all, you know that the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) is home to some of the best basketball in the nation. Duke, UNC, Maryland, Boston College, Virginia, Virginia Tech--all these schools are part of the conference, which means there's some pretty fierce competition to be crowned conference champions and get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

In any case, we went down because Jessica had to be there for work and we figured we'd make a weekend out of it (not least of all because it was 15 degrees in New York and 80 in Tampa--hard to beat that). Jessica flew down on Friday morning and I followed her after work that night; our friends Kerryann and Allison also came down for the fun. Jessica and I spent most of the day on Sat at the games and at the pool; then we met up with the girls for dinner in this outdoor mall-like place called Channelside. We ate at a restaurant whose menu featured sliders of many kinds (beef, turkey, tuna), freshly caught fish entrees and sushi. Oh, and the best beer battered fries I've had in a long time. Kerryann's sister and brother-in-law joined us for dinner, but peeled off afterwards when we decided to go seek out "Gay Tampa", smartly enough.

Let me give you this piece of advice: If you're ever in Tampa, just forget about seeking out the gay scene. Here's what happened to us: once we had enough alcohol in our veins (Allison, Jess and I shared a 64 oz. bowling ball filled w sangria; whether it was truly alcoholic is still a question in my mind, but we were happy) we hopped a cab from Channelside over to Ybor City in search of a bar whose name KA couldn't "quite" remember. After walking around for half an hour, asking any vaguely gay looking person we could find for directions, we gave up and got in another cab and headed to some place out in the boonies called Valentine's. Valentine's, when we got there, was a large space occupied by about 10 very sad looking gay Latinos, and if I recall correctly the wind chill in the place left the air temperature at about 20 degrees. It was cold. And dark. And scary. And we had no car to get us home. So we did what any good lesbians would do in that situation: we drank. And played darts. And drank some more. And by 2:30, when the place was packed with salsa dancing fools, we decided it was time to go home. A full night, by any standards.

Of course, Allison and Kerryann found some more fun later that night at a little club called Flirt. But that's their story to tell... All I can say is that I woke up on Saturday morning with a picture of a very comely trannie in my inbox.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Republican Hierarchy a Bunch of Hypocrites? Here's Proof.

Not that we need any more of it, but color me stupefied to find out that Newt Gingrich is now admitting that he was having an extramarital affair throughout the entire Clinton impeachment scandal. I wonder: can you only ascend to leadership positions in the Republican party if you promise to be the best rat-bastard you can be? I don't know why I should be so shocked, given this party's propensity for killing people, but somehow this just strikes me as beyond the pale. And Gingrich can argue all he wants about how the impeachment was a means of punishing Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice, but who can buy that nonsense now? There sat Gingrich and all of his cheating cronies, taking Clinton to task daily for his "moral lassitude"--and it was nothing but a ruse to hide their own moral disorder. I suppose we could have guessed as much but... yuck. This is also a good reminder that your name is your destiny; never trust a man named Newt.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hillary & Katie: Is Gender All That Matters?

On Slate, Rebecca Dana writes today about what Hillary Clinton can "learn" from Katie Couric's first few underwhelming months as the anchor of CBS' nightly news. Why should Hillary look to Katie for pointers? Because, Dana points out, they're both women--and apparently people respond to all "women in charge" the same way, whether they're running for president or running clips of dogs in party hats. I think the article is a reach, 1) because I don't buy Dana's central argument (see above) and 2) because she does nothing to address the issue of how, in the case of Couric, the actual content of her show--not simply the gender of its host--might have something to do with why people won't watch it.

This is not my way of saying that I don't believe that a certain percentage of the population has a problem with a woman being in charge--I absolutely do. But as both a loyal television viewer and a self-identified feminist who was over the moon that a woman was finally sitting in a seat of power, I'll tell you: I don't like the Couric show and I rarely watch it, and that has nothing to do with gender. It has to do with the fact that when I watch Couric's broadcast I don't feel like I'm actually watching the news. An evening version of The Today Show, maybe, but not what I've come to crave on the off chance I'm actually home in time to see what's on at 6:30. And I don't think I'm alone, either in my predilection for receiving a different version of what matters on a daily basis or my ability to separate the content I'm being provided from the perceived "authority" (that's a code word for gender) of my host.

I will agree with Dana on one point, and that is that what Hillary can learn from Katie is how and why "the material" matters. Though it may shape itself differently in the political ring than it does on the screen, what Hillary should be taking note of is the fact that folks really aren't as dumb as consultants sometimes make them seem. Substance does matter, and if Hillary can stick with providing us the proverbial meat and potatoes we want, she's got a good shot at making this bid work. And if she can''t... well, maybe CBS will be looking for a co-anchor.

ADDENDUM: Given viewer response to Couric's interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards, perhaps I'm wrong to assume that people can be as nuanced about their views as I give them credit for. 3/27/07

What Would Jesus Drive?

Evangelicals are, for me, a tough nut to crack. There are any number of times, almost daily it sometimes seems, when I find myself waxing irate about the theft of Christianity and its appropriation by certain groups who use it as a tool for hate rather than for good. Here, though, is an example of an Evangelical who is using his faith for global good. Jim Ball is an environmental evangelical, and though I'm sure he and I would hardly see eye to eye on many other matters, I find his passion for reducing global warming, and using the tenets of his Christian faith to do it, compelling.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Ann Coulter: Evil, Crazy Bitch

To be honest, every moment of my day today until this one has been taken up with the topic of HIV: I've had to write an op-ed for the organization I work for, and all of its grantees in this area, about how the CDC's policies have a negative and disproportionate impact on women and girls. I would go into more detail, except I really need a break from the topic (and remind me never to take a job in communications with the CDC--too much jargon.) But anyway, point is, my media landscape has been so severely limited today that the only thing I have time to report is this Ann Coulter craziness that showed up in my inbox today courtesy of HRC.

Short version is, she called John Edwards a f****t (yes, that old gay slur) in front of a huge crowd of conservatives, and then she called Bill Clinton gay on Donnie Deutsch's television show. In the first instance she looked absolutely enchanted with her own evil powers, but in the second, I have to say, she seemed pretty sheepish (if a wolf can ever seem sheepish). I think Donnie surprised her by taking her to the mat on a comment she initially made off-camera, and then when he wouldn't let it go it was like she had no idea what to do. Beautiful--except she's so disgusting all around that it's hard to even take any joy at her discomfort. Even in those moments all I want her to be is gone.

However, the best piece on all this comes from Letterman the other night. Those "Late Show" writers nailed this one right on the head. Another reason why I love America.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

PBS Panel Excludes Women Journos

Kudos to Alicia Shepard for addressing the fact that women in the media get short-shrift all around: from representation on panels, to bylines, to story sourcing, to the subjects of stories themselves, the number of female faces you'll see has absolutely no correlation to our numbers in the actual world--or even in the behind the scenes in the media. It's a problem that simply won't budge until we have more women in the executive ranks and behind the money in the media. When the day comes that there are as many women signing paychecks (and I mean, ALL the paychecks) as there are men, then we'll have a better shot at seeing something that looks like reality on the page, stage and set. Makes a lady leader want to head to business school, doesn't it?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Weekend Round-up

This past weekend was the kind there should be more of: full of friends, full of food, and peppered by not a little sports action on the television. The best part of the sports bit was that Jess and I got to watch the women of NC State show Duke who's boss, only to have them lose the ACC finals to UNC (the highs...the lows). The NC State coach, Kay Yow, is apparently a real trailblazer (a precursor to Pat Summit, even) and has spent this entire season battling breast cancer while continuing to coach. And when I say "battling" I mean "BATTLING": she's had to be carried off the court in a stretcher after practice, and has been hooked up to an IV in her office--just to be there, just to show a group of girls what determination means. It really was unbelievable to see her sitting there on the bench during that semi-final match, still there, still with them, after all that. As I said to Jess after their win brought Duke's unbeaten record to an end, "Well, how mad can Gail Goestenkors be at that?" Some things are bigger than basketball and from where I sat, this sure looked like one of them.

In other news, here are the articles of note from this past weekend:

The Science Behind God: I'll admit that I haven't had time to finish this one yet, but given that a variant of this debate took up a good portion of a small dinner party's attention on Saturday night, I figure it's a hot topic. Why we believe is at least as important an inquiry as whether we believe, right?

Jeff Wall at MoMA: The New Yorker review of the installation may be middling, but I think this exhibit is still worth seeing, 1) because most folks don't know who Wall is and 2) his work is startling and profound, in a way that stays with you for hours after you actually see the work. I can't even recall how long it's been since I first saw his "After: Invisible Man" piece, and I can still conjure the image in my head in an instant, so deep did it burn into my mind's eye. Well worth the $20 ticket.

Hillary & Barack March on Selma: Is it wrong that seeing Hillary turn up here, on Barack's heels and with Bill at her side, after being "non-committal" for weeks, makes me feel a little queasy? I cannot stand the thought that this is going to devolve into one of those internal wars that leaves everyone on this side bleeding and everyone on the other side laughing at us from the winner's circle, but it looks almost inevitable, doesn't it? (Except for that winner's circle bit--I'm not quite ready to concede that much yet.)

Friday, March 2, 2007

To Do: Spend $1,000 to Breathe Same Air as Barack & Michelle

I won't be shelling out the cash for this particular fundraiser (not because I don't support Barack, but because I am trying to support myself), but if there are any of you out there who are interested in seeing the junior Senator from Illinois and his wife up close, here's your chance. Next Friday, March 9th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, Barack and Michelle will attend one of their first major fundraising events here in New York, at the Grand Hyatt. If you're interested in learning how to get tickets (minimum donation: $1,000 per person), shoot me an email and I'll let you know more.

And for those who can't swing the price of that ticket, there'll be another event for the Obamas later that evening, where you can catch your glimpse for a more reasonable $100 a head. God bless those community organizing roots!

Health Care for All? Most American Say Yes

Over at the NYT, Robin Toner and Janet Elder are reporting that a new poll shows a majority of Americans support guaranteed health care for all citizens--even if it means increasing taxes today and killing all future tax cuts. 47 million Americans--that's a full 15% of the population--currently have no form of health insurance, and it seems that most of us understand that that's just unacceptable. In fact, in terms of domestic issues, health care issues out rank immigration, tax cuts and "values" on voters lists of concerns with regard to the upcoming election.

So does this give Hillary, with her strong health care background, any kind of edge? That bit is less clear, not least of all because though the poll demonstrates widespread support of coverage for all, Americans remain pretty divided about what that coverage should look like--i.e., whether it should be government sponsored (as the Clinton plan suggested) or managed by private entity. It's that old, Democrat/Republican split again, but still good to see that the issue is at the top of lots of minds, whether those minds run Red or Blue.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Yale's Most Beautiful People: An Oxymoron?

This little nugget triggered a recollection that has certainly been hibernating in the recesses of my brain since the day in May of 1997 that I was graduated from this particular institution: that no matter how dorky a group of people happens to be, they'll always try to find a way to separate the (relatively) pretty from the not so. I can't believe that I completely forgot that the Rumpus published this Most Beautiful People issue, because even if you disdained it, you couldn't help but grab the first copy you could find (to see whether you, or any of your suitemates) had made it. Anyone who can provide me with a copy of 1997's edition wins $20... and if you can provide me with inside information about what any of those BPs are doing now, I'll throw in 5 more.

To Read: "Crisis in the Village" by Robert Franklin

On The Huffington Post today, Jim Wallis blogs about a book just out called Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities. According to the publisher, the book aims to identify,
"the crises resident within three anchor institutions that have played key roles in the black struggle for freedom. Black families face a crisis of commitment evident in the rising rates of father absence, births to unmarried parents, divorce, and domestic abuse or relationship violence. Black churches face a mission crisis as they struggle to serve their upwardly mobile and/or established middle class paying customers alongside the poorest of the poor. Historically black colleges and universities face a crisis of relevance and purpose as they now compete for the best students and faculty with the broad marketplace of colleges."

Family, church and education. The core values don't get much more concrete than that, do they? Marian Wright Edelman and Cornel West both blurbed the book, and the author has Wallis stumping for him as well--so I'm guessing it's a pretty important read. And for those who imagine that a book about the state of the black community won't be of importance to them, I would offer the reminder that we as a society, are only as well off as the least among us. Time to broaden the worldview, wouldn't you say?

Co-Sleeping Isn't News to Me

Though the NY Times seems to think it's discovered the hippest, craziest thing since sliced bread in the idea of co-sleeping--that is, where parents and children share a family bed, either on occasion or permanently--it's a concept that's as old as time and more common than most people, until recently, were willing to admit. I stand before you as a one adult, at least, who grew up in a family in which sharing beds was more the rule than the exception: I feel almost certain that my brother and I spent more nights sleeping in our grandmother's king sized bed, or our mother's, than we ever spent in the perfectly good beds we had in our very own rooms. And as far as I can tell, we've both turned into perfectly fine, independent people despite (or because of) this fact.

To me, the compelling thing here is the story's rocket-like ascent to the top of the NYT's "Most E-mailed" list, which makes two things absolutely incontrovertible: 1) More people are covertly co-sleeping than we ever allowed ourselves to know before, and 2) The online edition of the NYT is read exclusively by mommies. Regardless, as someone who's had to defend the practice through much of my life, I'm glad to see the conversation starting in the public realm. It's strange how something that was so non-controversial--that was actually a necessity--throughout much of the history of time, has come to have so much stigma attached to it. I'm not sure why people feel so uptight about having (their own) children in their beds, but I'm blaming The Victorians.