Thursday, December 31, 2009

Liberal Feminism Today

Here at last is the liberal feminst podcast.

To listen:

1. Click on the title "Liberal Feminism Today" above. This will take you to

2. Once you are on the page, type "cheriewrolfe" - all one word (don't forget the "w")- in the search field in the upper right corner. Click "search."

3. Click on "Play now" to hear the podcast.


This podcast was part three of my JRN 411 -- reporting for the internet -- multimedia project.

Part one: "What Betty Did Write"
Part two: "Feminism going forward at Oakland U"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Unconventional Claus

One thing my parents did right: they never lied to me about Santa Claus. Santa was presented as a legend for the holiday and nothing more. By the time I got to kindergarten, all the kids knew there was no Santa --" it's your parents," everybody said breaking the last of the Santa Claus bubbles.

I don't believe people should lie to their kids. It undermines parental credibility. And that is not OK.

Yet, along the way I have found a couple of unconventional Clauses who are original and fun.

My favorite unconventional Claus just might be "Santa's Twin,"(1996) written by Dean Koontz ( and illustrated by Clarkston, Mich. resident, Phil Parks. Who would dream that a suspense/horror writer like Koontz, author of the recent "'Breathless" and "Intensity," could come up with a Christmas story? Originally, it was part of his novel ,"Mr. Murder."

The first major Christmas story in decades -- even before John Grisham's "Skipping Christmas"(2001) -- it's wonderful fun. Koontz wrote the story at the request on his fans. It's the story of two little girls, Charlotte and Emily, who set out to save Santa from his mischievous twin -- Bob Claus -- who stole Santa's sleigh and stuffed his toy bag with mud pies, cat poop, and broccoli.

These plucky little feministas take on Bob with gusto and end up saving Christmas.

Here's one of my favorite passages:

"Down in the living room, under the tree, Santa's evil twin is chortling with glee. He's got a collection of gift replacements, taken from dumps, sewers and basements.

He replaces a nice watch meant for Lottie, with a nasty gift for a girl who's naughty, which is one thing Lottie has never been.

Forgetting her vitamins is her biggest sin.

In place of the watch, he wraps up a clot of horrid, glistening, greenish toad snot.

From the package for Emily, he steals a doll, and gives her a new gift she's bound to appall.

It's slimy, rancid and starting to fizz, not even the villain knows what it is.

The stink could stop a big runaway truck, it's such gooey, gluey woozy making muck."

Don't worry , the girls are about to give Bob a run for his money.

Koontz clever rhyming prose are completely original. If you're not a fan before reading this book, you will be afterwards. Parks' clever artwork incorporates a snowman into each illustration. The challenge is to find one on each page. This is not a typical Santa story, which is what I personally love about it.

Koontz and Parks also teamed up for " The Paper Doorway," in 2001 and "Every Day's a Holiday" in 2003. The latter features a frog throughout the illustrations the same way "Santa's Twin" features the snowman.

What a wonderful way for Koontz to stretch his creative muscle in a completely opposite direction from his suspense/horror genre.

My other favorite unconventional Claus is Billy Bob Thornton's "Bad Santa" (2003). There are no feminist heroines in this story. In fact, it has nothing to do with feminism. It's quite the opposite. If you can't handle language, don't watch it. It has plenty of "F-bombs" and raunchy humor. In addition to Thornton, the film features two of my favorite people, both now deceased, John Ritter -- his last role -- and Bernie Mac. Watching the movie is just a little sadder now that Bernie is gone. Tony Cox is also hilarious as Marcus. I guarantee you've never seen a Santa quite like Billy Bob, and you might not want to again.

At our house during the holiday season, "Bad Santa" is on everyday from December 1 until New Year's Day when he goes back in his box until next December.

Merry Christmas to all -- and to all a good night.

Blessed Be.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Feminism going forward at Oakland U

As part of my JRN 411 multimedia project, I used this video I shot at the WGS fall luncheon in November 2009. Feminism goes forward!

Monday, December 21, 2009

What Betty Did Write: The Making of the Feminine Mystique

(The following article was part of a multimedia presentation for my reporting for the internet class. The basis for my presentation was "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan and its journalistic merit. Two other components, including a podcast discussing the significance of liberal feminism for today's world and a video about OU's WGS program will follow shortly.)

Betty Friedan did so many things right when she produced the Feminine Mystique in 1963:

· She asked questions.
· She analyzed the responses.
· She detected a trend.
· She wrote and rewrote.
· She did not give up.

Today’s journalists and authors do well to follow her timeless techniques.

“The Feminine Mystique” needs very little introduction. It is still discussed in women’s studies classes and available in bookstores. It is considered to be the quintessential feminist text.

Friedan herself is the stuff of feminist legend. Known for her abrasive personality, she founded the National Organization for Women and became its first president.

It is Friedan’s brand of liberal feminism that most people still associate with feminism today. Friedan and her followers envisioned legal equality for men and women achieved through reform of the current system. They were gender focused, challenging traditional societal roles. Their strategy for liberation was, “get a job, ladies.”

The book opens with the much quoted passage, “The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women.” (Friedan, p. 57) Friedan called this the “problem with no name.” She experienced it herself, and soon came to discover she was not alone.

Friedan was a psychology major at Smith College. She went on to advanced studies at Berkley. After she married her husband, Carl, and started a family, she began freelance writing for women’s magazines.

For her 15th college reunion, in 1957, Friedan was asked to prepare a questionnaire. She asked her classmates such soul-searching questions as:

· “What difficulties have you found in working out your role as a woman?
· What are the chief satisfactions and frustrations of your life today?
· How do you feel about getting older?
· How have you changed inside?
· What do you wish you’d done differently?” (Cohen, p. 89)

“I didn’t realize it at the time,” she said, “but I was asking the questions that were beginning to concern me.” (Cohen, p. 89)

As Friedan analyzed the responses, a trend became apparent. The answers expressed a sense of emptiness, guilt, shame, uncertainty, and indecision. Here, Freidan discovered, were educated women who were not happy with the domestic status quo as they were supposed to be.

Initially, Friedan used her data to write an article entitled, “The Togetherness Woman,” which she submitted to McCall’s. In her bold style, she blasted the idea of women living life vicariously through their husbands and children. Essentially togetherness was a fraud, she said.

Not surprisingly, the article was rejected.

She rewrote the article and submitted it to Ladies’ Home Journal where it was edited to make the opposite point. Friedan refused to let it be published.

Redbook expressed an interest in a piece based on her college questionnaires, but said it would need to be expanded to include younger women and more data. So, Friedan did more research and found the same results in younger women. She rewrote the piece again, but in the end was told it was not publishable because only “the most neurotic women” would identify with it.

Friedan became depressed, but regrouped and identified the problem – the women’s magazines themselves. By going through countless back issues, Friedan noticed another trend.
Between 1939 and 1949, Friedan found, “a change in the image of the American woman and in the boundaries of the woman’s world …” (Friedan, p. 85)

The heroines of women’s magazine fiction had lives of their own. They were career women, and almost never housewives. They maintained their individuality, and their men loved them for it.
Then, somewhere around 1949, “the image blurs …” Friedan said, and those bold, independent women “rushed back to the cozy walls of home” (Friedan, p. 89) to become happy housewives – and their real-life counterparts did the same.

Why, Friedan asked, when the boundaries of the human world were expanding, were women limiting themselves in this way? Was this domestic, “feminine mystique” being sold by patriarchal society keeping American women from growing with the world?

There was something bigger here, Friedan decided, and her project had to be bigger. It would be a book.

After approximately four more years of asking questions, analyzing the results, looking for trends, writing and rewriting, the rest, as they say, is history.

Of course, there is debate today about whether Betty Friedan’s brand of feminism is still relevant in today’s world. None-the-less, Friedan was unafraid to speak – and write – her mind undeterred in the face of rejection.

Cohen, Marcia. “The Sisterhood: The true story of the women who changed the world.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Friedan, Betty. “The Feminine Mystique (with an introduction by Anna Quindlen.)” New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc, 2001.

Childfree: The Choice Not to Parent

Parenthood was the theme of the feminist theory class I finished this past semester at OU.

For our paper, we had to pick one aspect of parenthood to analyze from four theoretical feminist perspectives. Since I don't have children, I chose to write about the choice to remain childfree. Don't get me wrong - I do not hate children, but I do believe that parenthood is not for everybody and everybody should not be a parent.

Is "childfree" a viable option for today's world? Have a read and decide:

Childfree: A Choice Not to Parent
(Parenthetical references are from "Feminist Thought" by Rosemarie Tong, Third Edition, and "The Price of Motherhood" by Ann Crittenden)

I met a woman at a writer’s workshop some years ago. As we became acquainted, the conversation led to family. I am married, without children.

"Oh, you’re childless, like me,” she said.

No,” I replied, “I’m childfree.”

To say I am childless would be inaccurate. It would imply that, for a biological reason, I am unable to bear children even though I want them. The term childfree conveys a conscious choice not to have children.

For me and my husband, the decision not to raise children was a lifestyle choice. We decided that our life was full as it was. We had purpose, we had fun, and we had goals that we wanted to further.

We believe parenthood is not for everyone, and that some people should not be parents. In fact, I have my doubts as to whether my own parents should have been parents and perhaps this had something to do with my choice.

Why all the emphasis on childbearing anyway? Because, even in the 21st century, parenthood is the norm. Those who choose to marry are expected to produce children. Childfree couples are seen as selfish because they choose not to fulfill traditional gender roles and are often judged harshly by the patriarchal society we live in. Those who choose to remain single are viewed as odd because they do not want to participate in the institutions of marriage and parenthood.
Actually, there is nothing selfish or odd about remaining childfree – with or without a partner – it has nothing to do with selfishness; it is simply another lifestyle choice.

Yet, how is the decision to remain childfree viewed from a feminist’s perspective? It depends on what kind of theoretical lens we use.

A liberal feminist might say something like, “If you have children, that’s fine; if you don’t, that’s fine too. Either way, your children – or procreation – shouldn’t be the focus of your life.”
The old-school liberal feminists, like Betty Friedan, felt a longing, like their lives were incomplete somehow even though they married and raised families. Friedan called it, “the problem that has no name.” “Women should want to do more and make an impact on society,” these early feminists said. Friedan encouraged this through outside employment. In other words, “Get out of the house and get a job, ladies!” Could a childfree existence lend itself to greater freedom and more consideration in the job market?

Certainly a story from my own experience implies that the answer is overwhelmingly yes.

I once interviewed for an administrative position at a property management company in Birmingham, Mich. During the interview, the owner proceeded to tell me his history. He was once a practicing attorney before he opened the property management firm. He made several comments that raised questions in my mind as to if I would want to work there at all. Then there was this:

“Do you have anything that would keep you from getting to work in the morning?” he asked.

"Such as?” I queried back.

To which his answer was, “Crying babies?”

I looked him in the face and said, “I think I know why you are not a practicing lawyer anymore, you probably weren’t a very good one.”

Friedan argued that the error of the “feminine mystique” was that it overvalued the institutions of marriage and parenthood as they are defined by our patriarchal society. A woman should not simply abandon her family responsibilities, but should be able to perform them while at the same time develop her human potential by seeing the institutions of marriage and parenthood as only a part of her life.

Radical libertarian feminists and radical cultural feminists offer the most polarized perspectives on parenthood by drawing a distinction between biological and social parenting. This opens up another option for the childfree. That is, we as women do not necessarily have to give birth in order to have children in our lives or impart our feminist ideologies to them.

The radical libertarian feminist takes biological reproduction out of the picture entirely. She believes that women can achieve liberation through the use artificial means of reproduction and gestation. There can be no economic liberation for women without a biological revolution, she says. (Tong, 75)

Further, biological motherhood does not necessarily result in good parenting. Yet, patriarchal society thinks that the woman who bears the child is the best suited to raise him or her. Sometimes birth parents are not in a position to give the child the emotional support or the encouragement he/she needs to develop full human potential. The birth parents’ modes of thinking might be outdated. They might overemphasize one religion or political view to the exclusion of other spiritualities and beliefs. A child might not be encouraged to explore other spiritualities or lifestyles, and as a consequence, never find his/her authentic self.

I sometimes joke that we have psychotherapists to help us undo what our parents did to us – but there is some truth in it. That’s where social parenting can play an important role. If parents can get past their possessiveness of their children and open up to a community of social parenting, children would receive a more diverse upbringing and be better able to accept difference. They might even learn to see past traditional gender roles.

From the radical libertarian feminist perspective, the decision to remain childfree might be perfectly fine, even liberating, and perhaps beneficial.

The radical libertarian feminist faults the patriarchal system as being woman’s greatest enemy. (Tong, 72) Patriarchal society uses the media and approved forms of social conditioning and psychological theories to perpetuate the “myth of the joy of giving birth” (Tong, 75) and persuade women to believe they need to mother in order to be fulfilled. Not wanting to be accused of selfishness or abnormality, women who might be happier without children submit to motherhood reluctantly and then become subject to society’s disfavor when they express any dissatisfaction with the mothering role. (Tong, 84)

Perhaps some women simply don’t have the need to mother and can serve society better and find happiness without motherhood. Motherhood does not guarantee happiness and is not always in the best interest of the mother and the child.

As Shulamith Firestone said, “If adults, especially women did not feel they had a duty to have children, they might discover an authentic desire to live with children.” (Tong, 85) Biological parenthood is not needed.

Radical cultural feminists, on the other hand, might say that choosing not to biologically reproduce compromises women’s ultimate source of power. Therefore, the decision to remain childfree could have societal impacts that go beyond the issue of personal choice. They argue that women’s oppression will not end if women give up the only source of men’s dependence on them – reproduction. In contrast to radical libertarian feminists, the radical cultural feminist insists that artificial reproductive technology will not liberate women. In fact, it would liberate men because they could have children without women. (Tong, 77)

The institution of biological motherhood created under patriarchy operates with the goal of keeping women under male control. If biological motherhood is viewed this way, then it is definitely something women should be liberated from. However, the radical cultural feminist would argue that it is not the biological mother-child relationship, which can set the standard for more caring relationships among people in general, that should be rejected. On the contrary, it should be perpetuated.

The fault lies once again in the ugly institution created by patriarchy with the goal of controlling women. Here, a radical cultural feminist might add, is what dissuades women from having children, at a loss to humankind. Thus, the decision to remain childfree, the radical cultural feminist might argue, should be carefully considered in view of its larger societal impact on women’s oppression.

Care-focused feminists acknowledge the importance of motherhood as a contribution to the world. It is important from the standpoint of, “who will raise the next generation?” “Who will carry on the work when we are gone?” They point to the mother/child relationship as a paradigm for an ethics of care to perpetuate a school of “maternal thinking” that can be practiced by men as well as women.

A care-focused feminist would say, “We should care about children, whether they are ours or not, because an ethics of care would mandate that we do.” She might say that it doesn’t matter if you don’t want to procreate children of your own, you can still adopt the mindset of maternal thinking. In other words, you don’t have to be a mother to practice maternal thinking. Caring is a practice we can all pursue, whether we are men or women.

Once again, what must be considered is the difference between the practice of mothering and the institution of motherhood as defined by patriarchy. Under the latter, patriarchy sets the standards which are not necessarily associated with the practice of motherhood. Examples would be that a mother has to be female, heterosexual, and totally self-sacrificing. She must live for and through her children. By contrast, if motherhood is viewed as a practice, it permits self growth and self realization beyond – or without – biological children. (Tong, 183)

In her book, “The Price of Motherhood,” Ann Crittenden points out that women are choosing not to have children for the wrong reasons. Perhaps radical cultural feminists and care-focused feminists would both agree that this is a serious public issue. Crittenden cites author Nancy Folbre who responds this way to the argument that having a child is purely personal choice, like having a pet: “I just remind people that when their Lab grows up, it’s not going to pay their social security.” (Crittenden, 81-82)

Here is evidence that we should care about children, whether or not they belong to us, and, as a society, put our money where our mouth is by assuming more costs associated with raising children, such as subsidized daycare.

Care-focused feminists contend that the lack of maternal thinking is the reason for many of society’s ills, including war. But perhaps the term maternal thinking needs to be altered because of the connotations associated with it imposed by patriarchal society. It’s possible that the word “maternal” feminizes the care aspect so that it is viewed as weak and less credible in the public mind. Maybe we should call it something else? How about “care-centered thought,” or “philosophy of the caring state?”

Because psychoanalytic feminists believe that the roots of women’s oppression are buried deep in the psyche, and psychoanalysis is necessary to resolve them, perhaps they would say that it’s perfectly fine to choose a childfree lifestyle, or at least postpone having children, until the internal oppression-related issues are resolved. In fact, at the end of analysis, it might be concluded that the choice to remain childfree is the individual’s best option.

Some people might never be psychologically ready for parenthood. The psychoanalytic feminist could argue that it would be better for such individuals to remain childfree and work on becoming a complete, mentally healthy individual who is better equipped to function in society.

Of these theoretical perspectives, radical cultural feminism and care-focused feminism use a “wide-angle” theoretical lens to consider the social implications of choosing to remain childfree. Under these theoretical perspectives, in order for women to maintain personal power, in order for society to continue, the decisions must be made with an eye towards a broader societal perspective that precedes personal choice.

Psychoanalytical feminism and liberal feminism use a theoretical “zoom lens” to focus in on the personal aspects of choosing to remain childfree. Psychoanalytic feminism encourages the individual to use psychotherapy to look deep within herself to resolve oppression issues. The focus of liberal feminism is the realization of an individual’s human potential through participation in the public realm and legal equality with men. In the end, it’s all about what’s best for the individual, and society will benefit residually.

Radical libertarian feminism seems to offer the greatest, support for a childfree lifestyle by advocating social parenthood as an alternative to traditional parenting within patriarchal norms by taking biological reproduction out of the equation. It is simply unnecessary.

However, no one theoretical perspective can tell a woman whether or not it is in her best interest to remain childfree; nor should she rely on a single perspective to provide answers. The bottom line from all the perspectives is that she has agency to decide for herself within her personal, social, economic and cultural circumstances.

Wyatt Family Toddy

Well, I'm feeling better after a bout with the flu. I am so getting a shot next year!

I remembered this recipe my mom used to make when anyone was sick at home. But, you don't have to have the flu to enjoy the "Wyatt Family Toddy."

1 12-oz. can regular Vernors ginger ale.
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 1-oz. shot whiskey or brandy

In a small sauce pan, combine ginger ale, lemon juice, and honey over medium heat until hot, but not boiling. Pour into a mug and drop in the whiskey or brandy shot. Makes one serving -- Cheers!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The gift of giving

I love to give. I do it because I want to, and I do it because I can. This time of year, it’s important to keep giving in perspective.

Nothing should be expected, especially in our economically challenging times. If someone can’t afford to give, no explanation should be needed and no judgment should be passed. I also believe that gifts are not quid pro quo. Give for the simple joy of giving and ask nothing in return.

Here are a few of my favorite things to give this season that won’t break the budget and support a good cause:

Women’s Empowerment Bracelet and/or Necklace from Avon. At $3 and $5 respectively, these are a bargain and net sales go to the Avon Empowerment Fund at the UNIFEM-managed UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. (Available while supplies last.)

This gift will even please the hard-to-buy-for teenage girl. I bought a set for my friend Yvonne’s daughter, Brenna. “She hasn’t taken it (the bracelet) off,” Yvonne said.

Rwanda “Path to Peace” Baskets from Macy’s. $25-$75. After seeing these featured in the Free Press, I’ve bought them for several friends as wedding, birthday, and thank you gifts.
The baskets in this collection are woven by survivors of the Rwandan genocide. The sales of these baskets, “put real, sustainable income into the hands of weavers and their families, changing their lives in remarkable ways,” according to Macy’s.

My friend Courtney loves her “True Unity” bowl. She hopes to decorate her kitchen with cobalt blue accents and says the basket will be a perfect match.

ChicoBags. $5-$20. Chris and I started our “I’ve gotta bag” campaign last year. Our goal was to reduce the use of those plastic grocery bags that are so bad for the environment. The ChicoBag is great because it folds down small enough to clip on a purse, belt, or keychain. According to the ChicoBag website, they also make great reusable gift wrap – why didn’t I think of that? Appropriate for everyone.

Happy Yuletide, y’all!
Blessed Be

What's the big deal about vitamin D?

If you live in the Midwest during the winter, there’s a good chance that your vitamin D level is low.

Why? Because, particularly during the cold season, we do not spend enough time outside in the sunshine for our bodies to manufacture it naturally. Hey, it’s cold! Who wants to go outside, let alone expose skin, when the backyard is frozen tundra?

Vitamin D level testing is the latest trend in medicine. Apparently a vitamin D deficiency can be the cause of everything from fatigue to cancer to osteoporosis. So, why all the hype now?

Because the latest and greatest test, called the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, has everybody talking about the importance of vitamin D. This test is big news because it is the most accurate way to measure vitamin D levels. So, everybody’s doing it and finding low vitamin D levels as a result.

Chris and I both tested low for vitamin D. We are both fair-skinned, and avoid the sun. Plus, Chris is lactose intolerant, so we try not to buy and consume a lot of dairy products that contain vitamin D.

Our personal physician, Dr. Jon Tosch, at Troy Internal Medicine , prescribed vitamin D therapy for both of us. We took 50,000 IU’s of vitamin D a week for eight weeks. Keep in mind, in high doses, vitamin D can be toxic. After completing the regimen, our levels returned to normal.

To keep vitamin D levels up, Dr. Tosch says we need 10 minutes unprotected sun exposure each day or a supplement of 1,000 IU’s daily. I’ve noticed that some multivitamins are adjusting their formulas to include this amount.

My cousin, Karen, who lives in Iowa, also tested low for vitamin D. After completing her D therapy, she says she noticed a difference in her energy level.

Is this just a passing medicinal fad – or could vitamin D really be the answer to many common ills? Only time will tell, but it might be worth a look.

To read more about women’s health and vitamin D, visit: