Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jennifer Granholm talks about gender politics

Jennifer Granholm, the first woman to serve as a Michigan's governor, is leaving office after two terms. Governor-elect Rick Snyder will be sworn in on January 1.

Here are a few interesting excerpts from her "exit interview" with Detroit Free Press Deputy Editorial Page Editor, Brian Dickerson:

"Q: What have you learned about gender politics that women thinking of running for office should know?

"A: The gender issue is becoming more and more irrelevant, and I think that's healthy. For a woman running in 2011 or 2012, I still think it's important not to exploit gender in a way that calls attention to it. I mean there was that woman in Macomb County (County Commissioner Carey Torrice, who lost her August primary after a syndicated talk show named her the "hottest politician in America"), who may have used gender in an inappropriate way.

"Q: Or Sarah Palin in shorts on the cover of Runners World?

"A: I don't know, was that exploitive? I didn't see that as being sexist. I saw it as promoting health.

"Q: How angry did it make you when pundits said you'd made it impossible for another female to succeed you as governor?

"A: Those who were saying that, or who thought that, wouldn't have voted for a Democratic woman anyway. I mean, if people think my gender had something to do with Chrysler and General Motors declaring bankruptcy, then they have got more serious problems then we are discussing here."

And yet, if there are no other women waiting in the wings of Michigan politics, Granholm might be our last woman governor for quite some time.

Also see:  Granholm & Mulhern set an example of modern gender roles.

I Advocate Feminism's Woman of the Year: Kathy Patterson-Hawes

I can't think of a better choice for my first "Woman of the Year" than the woman who made me the feminist that I am today: Professor Kathy Patterson Hawes, a special lecturer at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

That's Kathy with me on the left.

She earned her master's degree in women's studies from Eastern Michigan University. She teaches "Introduction to Women and Gender Studies"classes at OU. During the fall 2010 semester she began teaching "Women in Transition" as well.

I first met Kathy in January 2009. Her class changed the way I saw, heard and thought about current events and the world. She later inspired me to minor in women and gender studies, and it turned out to be the perfect adjunct to my journalism major.

Kathy teaches her students the basics of feminist thinking -- and that it's not just for women. She lays a solid foundation by explaining the roots of patriarchy and gender conditioning. She also introduces significant -- yet not always well-known -- contributions of women throughout history.

Well respected by her students, Kathy earned a 5.0 rating in overall quality, helpfulness and clarity on, prompting one student to write:

"Katherine Patterson-Hawes is a wonderful professor. She has a way of connecting with students and gets her points across without offending people. She is eye opening and inspiring to women and men. Take her if you can you won't regret it!"

I could not agree more.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What can *I* do?: The Green Power of One -- A public service announcement contest

Attention all Oakland County junior ecofeminists -- Get your green on!

The League of Women Voters - Oakland Area is sponsoring a contest for high school students -- grades 9-12 -- who live or attend school in Oakland County.

The objective is to create a public service announcement (PSA) to emphasize the responsibility of every individual to conserve energy.

The entry can be in the form of a radio or TV spot, or an essay. Students may work in teams.

The winner in each category will receive a cash prize. Radio and television spots will be broadcast and the winning essay will be published.

The deadline for submission is February 25, 2011. Complete details and submission forms are on the League of Women Voters website.

Why not give it a try? I'd like to see your entries too -- so winners or not, send them to me. I will post video and sound and publish essays here on the blog.

Pass it on.

"Veiled Rebellion" chronicles patriarchy at its ugliest

"Afghan women suffer under the constraints of tribalism, poverty, and war. Now they are starting to fight for a just life."

The December issue of National Geographic has given the public a new insight into the plight of women in Afghanistan with a series of photo and commentary by award-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario.

The photos include a rare image of an Afghan wedding of which Addario says, "The sober expression on his wife's face reflects the fact that marriage is an enormous milestone in an Afghan woman's life, not just a celebratory event."

Another more disturbing image depicts 11-year-old Fariba who, "took the bottle of petrol and burned myself." Although her reasons for doing so are unclear, Addario says that "many Afghan women burn themselves because they believe suicide is the only escape from abusive marriage, abusive family members, poverty, or the stress of war."

An accompanying essay by Elizabeth Rubin mentions a collection of "landays," short two-line poems. The book is titled, "Suicide and Song." It is appropriately named, wrote it's author Sayd Bahodine Majrouh, because these two acts are how women protest their anguish.

An estimated 2,300 women or girls attempt suicide each year. Some choose self-immolation -- burning themselves -- while others choose poison.

Rubin makes an important point by asking, " ... which Afghans in this society are committing the violence? There are significant differences between the Hazaras, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Pashtuns (ethnic groups from various parts of Afghanistan.)"

In asking that question, Rubin raises an important aspect of global feminism: We must take differences into consideration in order to help these women negotiate their societal constraints -- regardless of our personal feelings -- and bring about change.

My favorite photo from the collection is this one titled "Daring to Drive."

"Even in relatively progressive Kabul," Addario says, "men and women glare, honk and scream at her. It provokes men in Afghanistan to see strong women. It symbolizes a freedom they just aren't comfortable with."

Check out the video "Daring to Drive" at and watch the reactions.
Take a look at "Veiled Rebellion" -- whether in print or online. Some images are beautiful, others are horrific -- but all are truthful.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Just for fun: It's time to get "Scrooged"

I love "A Christmas Carol," Charles' Dickens classic tale of redemption brought about by a supernatural experience. And it's still fresh over 160 years later.

There are many adaptations of the story that go from the stage to the silver screen of the movies, to the small screen of television.

All include the basic elements of the plot:

Scrooge, a selfish miser in some form, forced to confront the err of his ways when he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner and three other spirits of Christmases past, present and future.

Here are some of my favorite adaptations. Check them out over the holiday break, and enjoy:

My #1 Favorite: "Scrooge" starring Albert Finney and Sir Alec Guinness (1970.) This is our Christmas morning tradition. Songs like "Thank you very much" and "I like life" will have your toes tapping.

"A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carrey (2009.) Even though it is a Disney production, the motion capture animation technique makes it good and creepy -- like it's supposed to be. Features voices of Gary Oldman and Colin Firth.
"A Christmas Carol" with Patrick Stewart (1999). If you loved him on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," you'll love him in this version. Stewart used to do a one-man production. Classic.
"Scrooged" with Bill Murray (1988.) As a modern television executive, Murray just might be the meanest Scrooge of all. Also stars the late John Forsythe and Brian Doyle Murray.

Bonus: Cherie's "Scroogie" awards:

Meanest Scrooge (or Scrooge-like character): Bill Murray in "Scrooged." No rival.

Most delusional Scrooge: Albert Finney in "Scrooge." He almost doesn't get it.

Best Jacob Marley: Gary Oldman in the Jim Carrey/Disney version. Highest score on the ghost meter.

Best Ghost of Christmas Past: A tie. Joel Grey in the Patrick Stewart version -- he's the closest to Dickens' description --and David Johansen in "Scrooged" -- he's hilarious.

Best Ghost of Christmas Present: Kenneth More in "Scrooge." He calls Scrooge out and he sings.

Best Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come: Chaz Conner in "Scrooged." High-tech scary.

Best Overall Production: "Scrooge" with Albert Finney and company. Simply the best.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Positive feminine traits prevail in "A Christmas Carol"

I have loved Charles Dickens' novella "A Christmas Carol" since I was a little girl. I was perhaps five or six years old when I was first introduced to Ebenezer Scrooge, the Cratchit family, and the three famous ghostly visitors.

That's what made it so cool -- it was a ghost story at Christmas. The supernatural element of the story is what I found most irresistible.

"A Christmas Carol" has become a seasonal icon. Everybody knows the story. Even though Dickens could not have foreseen the invention of television or film -- the story is so masterfully written that it has successfully undergone many adaptations that will continue long into the future.

But, where are the women in Dickens' classic tale?

In the introduction to her paper "Dickens and the Daughter of the House," Hilary M. Schor says, "Feminist criticism has not been kind to Charles Dickens, scorning what Orwell referred to as 'legless angels' -- good daughters like Little Nell, Agnes Wickfield, Esther Summerson, and all their dutiful ilk."

I must confess, I am not acquainted with these women. I'm not a particular fan of Dickens, and "A Christmas Carol" is his only work I've ever read.

I'm not into Victorian literature -- and I admit it freely.

In "A Christmas Carol," the women are in the background, which was typical of the times in which it was written. First published in 1843, the story predates the Seneca Falls Convention by five years. And, it wouldn't be until passage of the Married Women's Property Act of 1882 -- some 39 years later -- that English women would have the legal right to buy and sell their property. Under the law, women were given separate legal identities and could sue and be sued. They were also responsible for their own debts.

What "A Christmas Carol" does show us is the value of the feminine qualities of kindness, compassion, nurturing and care when they are practiced by both women and men.

In the story, the deep love of Bob Cratchit for his family, poignantly illustrated when he weeps over Tiny Tim's death in Scrooge's unaltered vision of the future, shows his vulnerability, but does not negatively feminize his behavior or criticize it as such.

Another character, Scrooge's nephew, Fred, refuses to indulge in mean-spirited criticism of his uncle, even when egged on by his friends and wife. Rather, Fred expresses acceptance of Scrooge's curmudgeonly ways and still believes that, deep down, there is good in Scrooge because his mother -- Scrooge's sister Fan -- loved him.

Fan, sometimes called Fran, is a significant figure in Scrooge's time travel journey into his past. It was Fan who played intercessor between Scrooge and his estranged father producing a kind of healing in the relationship. Negotiating the patriarchal social norms of the era could not have been easy. It is later said of Fan that she had a large heart, a testament to the power of her love and compassion.

There are also some strong female personalities who jump out of the background to make their voices heard.

Belle, Scrooge's one-time fiancee, also shows great insight and power to speak her own mind. She sees Scrooge's "changed nature" as he is influenced by greed. She tells Scrooge he, "fears the world too much," and breaks off the relationship at a time when a woman's status is determined by marriage.

Mrs. Cratchit is a woman who speaks her mind. She can't comprehend her husband's sentimental toast to his stingy boss and makes her disapproval and dislike of Scrooge known. At the same time, she is shown to be a shrewd household manager, by acquiring a goose for the family dinner at a bargain price.

Martha, the Cratchit's oldest daughter, exemplifies a time before constructed childhood.
She works in a millinery to help support the family.

Different adaptations -- although basically true to the story -- take artistic license with sex and gender.

For instance, the ghost of Christmas past is often depicted as a woman, but in the original story appears as something like a little boy with the face of an old man.

In the end, it is only when Scrooge adopts a care-focused approach to life that he reaps the rewards of redemption. And to Dickens' credit, he does not negatively feminize after the transformation has taken place.

To achieve the best of our human nature, we must seek to incorporate both positive feminine traits and positive male traits into our personalities and behaviors. This is true androgyny, which has more to do with practice than it does with appearance.

Happy Yuletide.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cherie freelances on is a new online newspaper in the metro area. is affiliated with America On Line (AOL) and is a new start-up company. Its focus is local coverage, a new niche for online news.

So far, has rolled out over 800 cities and still going.

I am covering the Utica-Shelby area of Michigan as a freelance writer. I'm meeting new people and getting to know a new area.

Check out some of my first stories:

Posh Palace Brings Glamour to Shelby -- Dec. 20

Shelby in Pictures: Historian Gives City Gift in New Book -- Dec. 20

Shhh! No Yelling About Quiet Library Rules. -- Dec. 21

I'm taking a little down-time for the holidays, but I will be back with in January.

Pass it on!

Michigan governor-elect picks women to head state police, community health

From The Detroit News:

Lansing— Gov.-elect Rick Snyder is expected to announce Wednesday the appointment of the first female to head the Michigan State Police.

Snyder will promote from within to name Lt. Col. Kriste Etue the new head for the Michigan State Police and will retain Kirk Steudle as the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher confirmed Tuesday.

Snyder is to make the announcements at a news conference in Lansing.

Etue is a deputy director whose responsibilities include the police budget.

She will be the second woman named to head a department in the Snyder administration.

On Friday, Olga Dazzo was named director of the Department of Community Health.

Poetry Podcast: A short and sweet haiku by Richard Hill

I can't think of a better way to end a year of podcasts than with this little beauty.

This poem was an entry in a haiku contest by the Detroit Free Press. The prize was a M.A.C. cosmetics giveaway.

However, this was not the winning entry. But, in my opinion, it should have been.

It was written by Richard Hill of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Listen to the poem here:

Although haiku is typically thought of as a simple form of poetry, it is quite the opposite.

According to Wikipedia, "Haiku, is a form of Japanese poetry, consisting of 17 moras, in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 moras respectively.

"Although haiku are often stated to have 17 syllables. This is inaccurate, as syllables and moras are not the same.

"In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line and tend to take aspects of the natural world as their subject matter, while in English,
often appear in three lines to parallel the three phrases of Japanese haiku, and may deal with any subject matter.

"Previously called hokku, haiku was given its current name by the Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki at the end of the 19th century.

A mora is a linguistic term for a "unit of sound ... that determines syllable weight, stress and timing in some languages."

In its Japanese form, haiku contains a kigo -- a seasonal reference -- and a kireji -- a "cutting word."

Kireji doesn't have an English equivalent. At the end of a verse, it provides a "dignified ending." When used in the middle of a verse, it briefly "cuts" the stream of thought to indicate a pause and add emotion.

I'm printing Richard's haiku below. Make a copy, put it on a post card and mail it to a friend. It's a simple, yet personal, way to send a seasonal greeting.

May your stars twinkle

May your tranquility glow

this season of peace

-- Richard Hill
Sault St. Marie, Mich.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Girl-on-girl crime goes international: Germany at odds over definition of feminism, role of women

"Germany is still a man's world and when men see women bickering over petty things, they'll only say, 'Here they go again bitching.'" -- Marion Bredebusch, psychologist and gender expert

I began the year by writing about girl-on-girl crime -- the ugly way women treat and talk about each other. And now, here's an example playing out on the international stage.

At odds are Germany's minister for families, women and pensioners, Kristina Schröder and Alice Schwarzer, who is described by Time magazine as a "seasoned feminist intellectual."

Their on-going war of words over "sex, the role of women and feminism," has German politicos concerned about its "damaging consequences for gender equality and the division of the women's movement," according to an article by Time magazine.

The 33-year-old Schröder (right) is the youngest member of German Chancellor Andrea Merkel's cabinet. She told the German press that "(early) feminism overlooked the fact that partnership and children can provide happiness."

She continues, "For me, emancipation will only be truly reached if a woman can wear make-up and skirts without having her abilities doubted as a result."

Schröder criticized Schwarzer's theories as too radical saying, "For example, that heterosexual sex was hardly possible without the subjugation of women" and therefore society can't carry on without the subjugation of women.

The 67-year old Schwarzer (left) retorted saying it's thanks to the (early) women's movement that women like Schröder are able to achieve positions of power. Then, she goes on to call Schröder "incompetent" and criticize her lack of initiatives to help women and girls -- among other things.

This situation exposes the complexities of the feminist movement -- from its beginning to its present state.

The first complexity is the definition of feminism itself. It does not fit neatly into a package. There is no single group called "feminists" under one umbrella of theory.

When Schröder refers to early feminism, it's safe to assume she means the liberal feminist movement based in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.

The movement emphasized women's legal equality with men and defined working outside the home as the path to liberation and a means to achieve equality. The mistake the movement made was assuming all women are the same -- by virture of being female -- and that this path was right for all women. The movement also failed to take into account important factors of race and class. These two factors combine to create a flawed vision of feminism that has been perpetuated down through the decades.

Ugly stereotypes that still persist today are a nasty side affect of the early mistakes of liberal feminism.

And yet, even with its mistakes, the early feminists took brave first steps and made it possible for some women to benefit by attaining positions of status and power.

Schröder's other comments about Schwarzer's "radical views" have to do with understanding the radical feminist school of thought. Radical feminists are just that -- radical. They have some interesting ideas -- but they are out there.

Some radical feminists believe that the way for women to achieve liberation is through elimination of biological procreation. They view women's ability to reproduce as a weakness. These are the radical libertarian feminists.

At the same time, other radical feminists view women's abilities to procreate as a powerful strength. These are the radical cultural feminists.

The two camps also take opposing views on pornography. The radical libertarian feminists believe that women should be free to experiment with all kinds of sexual stimuli, while radical cultural feminists insist that pornography is harmful and degrading to all women.

However, it was the liberal feminists that pushed for women's education and laid the groundwork for what has become women and gender studies in universities and colleges -- not to mention the feminist research that was born out of that scholarship.

Still, the bottom line is that women should not be taking very public pot shots at each other over differences in theory. Why all the bickering over feminist thought? It just serves to hold all of us back and further divide us.

Marion Bredebusch is absolutely right.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Feminist quotebag

"Why don't we talk about the fact, for example, that I just did 'Arthur," and the cinematographer was a woman, the film operator was a women, the whole camera team were women? That's where we should be putting ourattention. The fact that I look good at the age I am is bloody irrelevant."

-- Helen Mirren at the Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment event where she received a leadership award.

"I wanted to lose weight, but I thought I was doing something more important than tending to my vanity. You look at your body totally differently. It created this life and brought it into the world."

-- "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi on postpartum weight loss. She also told Redbook magazine she was surprised to find she liked herself at a bigger size (emphasis mine.)

Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press

Art that speaks volumes: Oakland University senior thesis exhibit

If some of these images make you uncomfortable -- that's the point.

Art should push our personal boundaries and make us think.

These images are part of Speaking: Oakland University Senior Thesis in Studio Art Exhibition I going on through Dec. 19 at the OU Art Gallery in Wilson Hall on the university's campus.

The exhibition is aptly named, so I'll let the images and artists speak for themselves.

Artist Bianca Henderson
in her own words:

"Throughout history the African American culture has undergone torment and humiliation through inhumane measures. In retrospect, a culture that was once unified is now divided. As a discerning figure within the African American culture I aim to strengthen and reform its current existence in society. Using nursery rhymes and historical references by means of photography I want to educate and declare a transformation. In order to give homage to our past ... we must make reparations and thrive for our highest potential culturally as a whole."

Artist Lacy Skidmore in her own words:

"Many people think of race and ethnicity as merely black and white without considering the gray areas. As a woman of mixed race, I'm smack dab in the middle of the gray area, consistently fighting to be both white enough and Hispanic enough to be acknowledged as so by society. My work explores this area where race and ethnicity aren't always what they appear to be and our standard definitions of such do not apply."

Artist Danielle Tisdale in her own words:

"The human body can be used as an identifier. In a physical aspect, all humans have different skin tones, shapes and scars that make us unique.
By turning focus upon the inside of the human body, it is apparent we are all created in the same form. The inner workings of our bodies are an amazing machine. The human body can tell us what is wrong and how it feels, each layer working together."

Unfortunately, my photo does not do this next image justice. -- cwr

Artist Sarah Whitson in her own words:

"Looking at a person, one only sees an outer shell. No one really knows what emotions and struggles they contend with. I am interested in the identity of a person, finding out what lies underneath the surface of the physical. One's outer body can portray a perfect picture when the inner self may not be stable."

Look out, world! Cherie graduates from Oakland University

This is for all the nontraditional students everywhere.

It's never too late for reinvention -- if you can dream it, you can do it.

This is me on my graduation day, Saturday, December 11, 2010. My gold cord represents my Magna Cum Laude, "with great honors," status. The burgundy cord represents my journalism departmental honors.

That's Oakland University President Gary Russi shaking my hand. More images and video to follow.

Photo courtesy of GradImages

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ecofeminism in action: A Christmas tree rescue

Two years ago, I found this little tree in the remains of Walgreen's Christmas markdowns. I decided it would be my "act of green" for the day to rescue her.

Sold as "living Christmas trees," these plants are actually called Norfolk Island Pines, but that name is a little deceptive.

The Norfolk Island Pine -- Araucana heterophylla -- is not native to the United States. And, it's not really a true pine. What it is is a conifer -- a cone-bearing plant that produces seeds instead of fruit.

What distinguishes a pine is the way its needles grow. A true pine has needles that grow in clusters of two - five, while the needles of other conifers and evergreens grow individually, directly out of the branch.

True to its name, the plant is endemic to the Norfolk Island, located in the Pacific Ocean between Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. In its native habitat, the these trees can grow up 200 feet tall.

In the United States, Norfolk Island Pines can be found growing in southern Florida where they can grow to a height of 50 feet. They can also be found in California, where they can grow to be 100 feet tall.

As houseplants, however, their growth is limited by the size of their pots.

Indoors, the Norfolk Island Pine requires temperatures of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. It needs about two hours of direct sunlight each day. It requires water when the top inch of the soil is dry.

Optimally, the Norfolk Island Pine likes 50 percent humidity, and that can be a challenge. However, my plucky little specimen has done just fine residing in my kitchen.

If you have an opportunity to "adopt" or "rescue" a Norfolk Island Pine this holiday season, do so. It will give you pleasure for years to come -- and it counts as an "act of green."

And that's ecofeminism in action.

Learn more about caring for a Norfolk Island pine courtesy of Purdue University, at Purdue Yard and Garden.

MSU cager takes a cheap shot -- shame on Draymond Green

This quip courtesy of Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press. He's talking about Michigan State University's men's -- and women's -- basketball:

"It's not politically correct, but here's what Michigan State's Draymond Green (right) said after Tuesday nights loss to Syracuse: 'We played like a bunch of girls.'

"He wishes. The MSU men are 6-3; the women are 8-1."

Need I say more? I don't think so.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

And the word of the day is ...

I've recently subscribed to Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day. What a great way to keep "green and growing" on a daily basis.

I wanted to share today's word -- ecotone -- because it relates to the earth, and my ecofeminist mission to keep it "green and growing," at least as much as it depends on me.

Subscribe to Merriam-Webster Word of the Day here.

a transition area between two adjacent ecological communities

Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds — in particular, those located in the ecotones along the edges of a mature forest.
"Thus for dung beetles examined in a Bolivian forest-savannah ecotone, almost complete turnover occurred between forest and savannah, with only two of the 50 most common species occurring in both…." — From T.R. New's 2010 book Beetles in Conservation

"Every modification of climate, every disturbance of the soil, every interference with the existing vegetation of an area, favours some species at the expense of others." As Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker observed in Flora Indica (1855), all ecological communities are subject to some kind of disturbance, ranging from the simple, yet significant, loss of a tree to a catastrophic wildfire. Each disturbance creates an opportunity for a new species to colonize or flourish within the ecosystem in a process known as "ecological succession." Scientists refer to the area of overlapping landscapes where the "foreign" species encounter each other and blend together as "ecotones," an apparent allusion to the tension created when competing species come together (in Greek "tonos" means "tension").

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cafe Cherie: A discussion of T.C. Boyle's "The Tortilla Curtain"

This edition of Cafe Cherie discusses T.C. Boyle's 1995 novel, "The Tortilla Curtain."

The novel explores the issues of immigration, compassion, and human rights.

Give it a listen:

Leo at the iron

I could not resist posting this pic of Leonardo DiCaprio from a back issue of Esquire magazine.

Although the corresponding interview was mostly drivel, it's just great to see a man holding an iron that's not a golf club.

Feminist quote bag

In praise of strong women

"What's the alternative? Being a weak woman? What do you get from that? Nothing. I'm strong because I believe in what I do. When I put my head on the pillow at night, I know I have not hurt anybody. That's my message to people: Don't hurt anybody. Know what you're about. Keep learning. Don't shut down. Don't give in. Don't give up. Don't settle. Find what you like to do and do it."

-- Doris Roberts, actress, "Everybody Loves Raymond"
Courtesy of USA Weekend

In support of family

"It wasn't like a group consensus thing with my family ... We kind of all came to the natural conclusion that we didn't want to be part of a religion that didn't support him, so we just kind of left.

-- Anne Hathaway, actress, talking about her family leaving the Catholic church after her older brother came out as gay.
Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A new blessing for a cruelty-free feast

"& say, On this grace I feed, I wilt
in spirit if I eat flesh, let the hogs,
the rabbits live, the cows browse
the eggs hatch out chicks & peck seeds"

--- Virgina de Araujo, "The Friend ..."

Chris and I read this before partaking of our Thanksgiving dinner. Use it for your next vegetarian/vegan feast, you don't need a special occasion to celebrate the "grace" of eating plants ... and contribute to the destabilization of patriarchal meat consumption.

Blessed be.

Ecofeminism in action: Green products that really work

One of my ongoing goals is to replace my toxic household cleaners with environmentally-friendly products.

Yet, there is an issue of cost, availability and performance of some of these products.

I believe that by replacing the products I use frequently, and targeting the most toxic products, I can positively impact the environment.

Toilet bowl cleaner is very toxic. If you've ever gotten a drop on your hands while cleaning the bowl, you know it burns. So, I replaced the brand I've used for years with Green Works toilet bowl cleaner. It works great, it's affordable and it's widely available ($2.39 at Target.)

Dishwasher detergent is another product I use frequently.

My biggest challenge was finding a brand that cleans effectively.

Well, Eureka!

Enter Seventh Generation automatic dishwasher detergent. As dishwasher detergents go, it is a little pricey ($5.39 for 75 oz. at Target,) but I believe the results and the reduced environmental impact are worth it.

Chris put this product to the test this morning with a bowl containing the dried, crusty remnants of Cream of Wheat -- sound appetizing? Anyway, we were amazed when it emerged from the dishwasher sparkling clean with no trace of the cereal left and no detergent residue.

I've also notices my glasses becoming clearer with each successive wash. My old detergent left them covered with residue that the Seventh Generation product seems to remove over time.

I love the company's credo from the Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy: "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."

The company claims that, "If every household in the U.S. replaced just one box of 75 oz. automatic dishwashing detergent containing phosphates with our phosphate-free product, we could save 100 million pounds of phosphates from entering our rivers and streams."

While the mainstream detergent industry decided to voluntarily ban phosphates in its products in July, Seventh Generation has been working for 20 years to develop environmentally-friendly formulas.

According to Clean Water Action of Michigan, phosphates encourage algae bloom that kills fish and aquatic plants that clean and balance our ecosystems.

Seventh Generation is also chlorine-free. And while I'm not negating the efforts of the detergent industry's efforts, nobody is saying anything about chlorine, which is basically a pesticide used to kill living organisms and has its own list of associated health risks including cancer and heart disease.

I urge you to try environmentally-friendly products and make substitutions whenever you can. Every little bit helps.

And that's ecofeminism in everyday action.

New airport security measures carry risks for women


There has been much discussion this week as the new TSA airport security measures were unveiled; airline passengers do have a choice, but both options of airport security measures present health concerns for certain groups of women. Pregnant women, cancer patients and women with other health problems have concerns about the radiation risks of the new airport scanners; in addition, women who opt for the alternative “pat down” may feel uncomfortable, an invasion of privacy or, in some instances, humiliated or threatened.

The health implications of airport scanners

The new airport scanners introduced under the TSA airport security measures require that you step into a booth with your arms raised above your head. In order to produce a photo image of your body, the airport scanner will either use electromagnetic waves or low energy X-rays, depending on the type of scanner used.

Although official guidelines indicate that the amount of radiation emitted from the airport scanners is “minimal”, some people may feel that the risk is not worth it. In addition, women who are pregnant, have/had cancer or other associated health problems are more vulnerable to the perceived risks than others.

TSA airport security pat downs: Why some women will fear them

The alternative to the airport scanner is a “pat down” by a member of airport security. The “pat down” has sparked debate because of its “intrusive” nature of the patting down of “private parts.” Women may find this more distressing in certain instances. In addition, for women who have been a victim of abuse, or raped, the whole process of the “pat down” could be more than she could endure.

Women's health and airport security measures

Airport security is of utmost importance but the new TSA airport security measures may cause health problems, either physically or emotionally, for many women. Flying suddenly got a whole lot more “risky” in terms of women's health – if you suffer from the problems mentioned. Learn as much as you can about the new TSA airport security measures before taking a flight this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

World AIDS Day is coming Dec. 1

AIDS is still with us.

We all know what it is, but for the record, AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

It poses a threat to men, women and children around the world. The vast majority are from lower- and middle-income countries.

Wednesday, Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day. The theme for this year's event is "Universal Access and Human Rights."

World AIDS Day started in 1988 with the goals of raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education.

Oakland University is hosting a series of events on campus:

  • "Safer Sex Seminar" 12 - 1 p.m. in the Oakland Room in the Oakland Center.
  • "Positive about being positive: A conversation with Todd Heywood About Living with HIV" 5-6 p.m., Oakland Room.
  • HIV/AIDS awareness event "Rogue 3" 8 - 11 p.m. in the Gold Rooms.
Wear a red ribbon to show support.

Related Links: -- claims to be the world's most popular AIDS website

An economy based on feminized labor?

Feminism has been played by the corporate elites of the world to power their neoliberal, capitalist economic and political systems.

And what's worse -- most feminists don't even realize it.

That's the message of Hester Eisenstein's book, "Feminism Seduced: How Global Elites Use Women's Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World" (2009)

Eisenstein is a Professor of Sociology at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center. She explains the title of her book:

"I entitled this book "Feminism Seduced," because I felt that in the process of selling globalization, corporate leaders and other elites have been systematically trying to seduce women into embracing the expansion of capitalism ... corporate media publicize the achievements of women in high places. All of this has seemed to me to be an overall effort to smoothly fold feminism and feminist ideas into the corporate embrace."

It is indeed a seductive economic, social and gender-based tango on the domestic and international stage.

Here at home, Eisenstein traces the changes in the United States as the economy was radically restructured away from manufacturing and towards a low-wage, unorganized service sector where big corporations take advantage of a vast pool of predominantly female labor.

Need proof?

As of May 2009, statistics show fifteen jobs accounted for more than 25% of U.S. employment, but only three of those had mean wages above the U.S. average of $20.90 per hour, or $43,460 annually*.

Of those 14 jobs, nine would be considered feminized labor, or woman's work. I've ranked them by annual pay, highest to lowest:

Bookkeeper, accounting, auditing clerk, $34,750
Customer service rep., $32,410
Secretary, except legal/medical, executive, $31,060
Office clerk, general , $27,700
Retail Sales Person, $24,300
Stock clerk/order filler, $23,460
Waitperson, $20,300
Cashier, $19,030
Food preparation, fast food, $18,120

There are two feminized exceptions*:

Registered nurse, $66,530
Elementary school teacher, except special ed., $53,150

What Eisenstein refers to as mainstream feminism -- basically the liberal feminism of the 1960s and 1970s has affected gains for women, but it's a good news/bad news scenario. Eisenstein says:

" ... the good news for women as the result of the long and hard struggles by unions and by anti-discrimination lawsuits, was the opening up of access to virtually all areas of work. The bad news was that with overall economic restructuring, wage levels stagnated for decades.

"... government officials were quick to use feminist ideology, interpreted as women's rights to paid employment, as a way to gut the welfare legislation of 1935, thereby removing a crucial safety net that had helped to provide a floor for wages."

How clever was that?

We see a similar perpetuation of this same mindset around the nation today as more states -- including Michigan -- continue to overturn parts of their affirmative action laws.

The latest hot spot is Utah -- where a proposal would overturn affirmative action laws, not just as they apply to universities, but to public contracts and state employment as well.

You'll want to listen to this segment from "The Takeaway."

"So Long to Affirmative Action in Utah?"

*Sources (courtesy of the Detroit Free Press:) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. The third job exception is General operations manager, $110,550.

The transgender community: Invisible victims of violence

When it comes to violent crimes, there is one sector of the population that is virtually invisible. There are no statistics for the crimes committed against them and they often do not receive media coverage.

They are the transgender community.

I recently met Michelle Fox-Phillips, of Transgender Detroit during Oakland University's Anti-hate Week, which ran in conjunction with Transgender Remembrance week.

She says it is often hard to get local, mainstream media to attend conscious-raising events focused on violence towards LBGTIQ community.

Why the phobia? The reasons are many and range from simple misunderstanding, to prejudice to pure hatred.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines transgender as:

"of, relating to, or being a person (as a transexual or transvestite) who identifies with, or expresses and gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person's sex at birth."

I don't know if I necessarily agree with the inclusion of transexual or transvestite, but there are different thoughts on the issue -- and they are complex and personal.

In my mind, gender refers to roles men and women play in society. Sex refers to a person's biology. So in this context, perhaps the difference between transgender and transexual would be between someone who decides switch roles as opposed to someone who wants to undergo changes either through hormone therapy or surgery.

Perhaps my view is incorrect, or over-simplistic.

I think transgender activist, writer and web designer Gwendolyn Ann Smith puts it beautifully:

"I'll gladly admit that I did not grow up like many other women. I have a history that some would regard as incongruent with the gender I inhabit today. As such, I have an adjective -- transgender -- that sits in front of the word woman. It's a modifier for the modified, I suppose, but it does not diminish the value nor the importance of the word "woman" in my life.

I absolutely love the Wikipedia entry for transgender and encourage you to check it out. It is well documented, although the neutrality of a couple of sections is in dispute.

Yet, the bottom line should be nonjudgment -- that is unconditional acceptance or at least an attempt to understand. After all, we are all human beings.

Related links:

Gwendolyn Ann Smith's website
Gwendolyn Ann Smith's essay, "Transmissions: Ain't I a Woman?"
Transgender Detroit's website

New avatar Cherie

I decided my avatar needed an update for the next phase of my life after my upcoming graduation from Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

So, here she is -- same attitude, different hairdo.

You can make one too. I'd love to see it.

Just go to

Happy Tofurky Day -- a new tradition

Chris and I are getting ready to celebrate our third meatless Thanksgiving.

Don't worry, I'm not taking any shots at the carnivores out there -- this time.

In Carol J. Adams book, "The Sexual Politics of Meat," she says family dinners where meat is being consumed might not be the best place or time to aggressively advocate vegetarianism.

I agree. Pick your time and place carefully, especially where friends and family are concerned.

But why not think about starting a new tradition?

Here is the meatless, cruelty-free menu for the Wyatt-Rolfe family:

  • Tofurky vegetarian feast pack complete with gravy and "wishstix."
  • Mashed Yukon Gold potatoes.
  • Green bean casserole
  • Sweet potato-cornbread stuffing (from Whole Foods Market)
  • Whole Foods Holiday Salad.
  • Vegan pumpkin pie -- also courtesy of Whole Foods.
Yum! So delicious -- and nobody gets killed.

Have a happy and peaceful Tofurky Day.

Blessed be.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

At last ! A heart study that focuses on women

For years research on cardiovascular disease -- and the recommendations based on those studies -- have been focused on men. Feminist researchers have been working to include women in these medical studies.

According to this article from, here is the longest, major study to look at stress in women -- who now make up nearly half the workforce in the United States. says the study analyzed job strain in 17,415 participants from the Women's Health Study, a U.S. project that began in 1991 and ended last year. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

The article includes some interesting verbiage, I think. It defines stressful positions as "demanding tasks with little authority or creativity." Basically, this refers feminized labor -- those jobs typically categorized as "women's work." It does however, acknowledge that previous studies focused -- almost exclusively -- on men.

NEW YORK - Women with high-stress jobs face about 88 percent more risk of a heart attack than if they had low workplace strain, according to Harvard researchers.

The scientists defined the stressful positions as those with demanding tasks and little authority or creativity .

Those jobs were also associated with a 40 percent greater chance of getting any kind of cardiovascular disease, according to a study presented Chicago at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions.

Job strain, social isolation and some personality traits have been recognized as raising risks in both men and women, according to the Dallas-based heart association.

Past studies that focused on men, the traditional breadwinners, found that higher job stress raised heart risks.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One year later -- I'm still advocating feminism

"Welcome to my blog. I hope you find it a mind-blowing, eye-opening, or at least through-provoking experience."

Those were the words I wrote exactly one year ago today.

As I pause to look back on my work, I gives me great pleasure to say, "It is good."

The funny thing about a blog is that you never know who's looking. You never know who you can touch, affect or change.

My most profound experience came as the result of a poetry podcast I did back in April. The poem was "I am a woman in ice" by Martha Courtot.

The only criteria I have for selection of my monthly poetry reading and commentary is that the poem speaks to me. This particular selection spoke loudly and clearly. It spoke of emerging out of a frozen state into the light.

In the course of research for my commentary, the Internet revealed very little information about the late poet. She didn't even have a Wikipedia entry -- so I mentioned that I'd liked to give her one.

I got chills when I was later contacted by her daughters who periodically Google their mother's name to see if anyone is studying her poems or writing about her. They were delighted with the idea of giving her a "wiki." I have one in process and hope to polish and publish it after I wrap up my studies at Oakland University in a few weeks.

The really cool thing is, I now have a picture of Martha to share with the world. When I read poetry or literature, I like to have a face to go with the writer's "voice." Seeing her image and
reading her words brought her to life for me in a profound moment.

I hope the family won't mind if I share Martha's photo here.

I've also found that there's no telling what people will read.

My post titled, "The Tudors: A lusty study of partriarchy" has surpassed all my other entries in terms of number of hits.

It is followed by "All aboard the 80s musical time machine," which featured a couple of my favorite songs from Peter Gabriel's 1986 album "So."

Another popular post is "The Cinderella Syndrome and Other Tales of Gender Conditioning" -- a paper I wrote way back when I first started my adventure into women and gender studies on the way to becoming the angry feminist I am today.

Over the course of the year, I've registered the blog with and I do believe this connection has enabled me to broaden my audience and I am thrilled to see hits from all over the world where women's movements are growing.

If I can open just one mind, or touch just one life -- then I've done my job.

But, I don't want to stop there. I want to take my blog forward with me as I leave my Oakland University family and venture out into the brave new world of media and feminism.

It's going to be an exciting journey -- and I hope you will join me. If you like what you're reading, follow me and encourage others to do so. Together we will grow and continue to make a difference.

Welcome to my blog, welcome to my world.

Blessed be.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The UGG alternative

UGG brand boots continue to be hot.

I see them worn by young women all over Oakland University's campus. I've even seen them worn by women closer to my own age.

UGGs are not new. They have been worn in Australia and New Zealand for almost 200 years.

Here in the U.S., UGGs are big business and come with a price tag between $100 - $200 a pair.

But in actuality, the cost is much higher because they are made of fleece and sheepskin leather -- the skin of a dead animal that was stripped off while it was alive and would continue to decompose if it wasn't treated with oodles of chemicals.

If that makes you cringe, I've found a cruelty-free alternative from Alternative Outfitters Vegan Boutique out of Pasadena, Calif. Here they are on the left.

According to the the website, the boots are made of micro-suede uppers and lined with faux fur. They are available in camel and black for $48 + shipping. But the best part is -- nobody gets killed.

Alternative Outfitters says "all products are non-leather and comply with the vegetarian and/or vegan ethic." The company also strives to make sure products are manufactured under fair trade conditions.

Why not try a pair? Alternative Outfitters also offers other vegetarian/vegan products and apparel.

And nobody gets killed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Of Frankenstein and Feminism

Feminist connections can be found in the most unusual places.

Frankenstein's monster has become one of our most enduring cultural icons -- from the old Boris Karloff movies (right,) to Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live, to Peter Boyle in Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein."

The monster -- or rather the Creature -- is often portrayed as a clumsy, inarticulate hulk.

And yet, in the original Mary Woolstonecraft Shelley novel, he's not only articulate, but quite advanced in his thinking.

In her book, "The Sexual Politics of Meat," Carol Adams calls attention to the creature's vegetarian nature -- a much overlooked, and yet deeply fascinating aspect of the story -- and to the novel's "feminist/gender issues."

However, these themes are not so surprising once you know that "Frankenstein's" creator Mary Woolstonecraft Shelley (left) was the daughter of feminist philosopher Mary Woolstonecraft who wrote "A Vindication of the Rights of Women" in 1792.

In the chapter titled "Frankenstein's Vegetarian Monster," Adams says the Creature's vegetarianism makes him "a more sympathetic being who considers how it exploits others."

She explains how the Creature extends his moral code to include animals. In the novel he says:

"My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid, to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment. My companion will be of the same nature as myself, and will be content with the same fare. We shall make our bed of dried leaves; the sun will shine on us as on man, and will ripen our food. The picture I present to you is peaceful and human."

Adams says, "the Creature's futile hopes for admittance into the human circle reflect the position of that time's vegetarians and feminists; they confront a world whose circles, so tightly drawn, refuse them admittance, dividing us from them."

There are also other "Frankenstein/Feminist" connections found in the book. According to Adams:

  • Actress Elsa Lanchester (right,) who played "The Bride of Frankenstein," was the daughter of feminist, suffragette, socialist and vegetarian Biddy Lanchester, who challenged the false naming of meat. Elsa sometimes referred to meat as "offal" and explained, "Biddy the vegetarian inspired the use of this word, that's what meat was to her." Merriam-Webster defines "offal" as the trimmings of a butchered animal, or rubbish.

  • Actor Marty Feldman (below,) who played Igor in Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein," is quoted twice in the book.

    Of the meat-masculinity connection, Feldman said, "It has to do with the function of the male within our society Football players drink beer because it's a man's drink, and eat steak because it's a man's meal. The emphasis is on 'man-sized portions,' 'hero' sandwiches; the whole terminology of meat eating reflects masculine bias."

    Later, Feldman talks about his father who was in the army during World War II, "(he) could not eat meat because he was an Orthodox Jew. He practically starved to death and was treated with great contempt by the other soldiers because a soldier should eat steak."
The Frankenstein-Feminist connection lie dormant for more than 100 years. But now that you can see it, ask yourself, "Who is the real monster?"

Monday, November 8, 2010

Speaking of rice ... join my team to end world hunger

In the spirit of Fran Winant's poem, "Eat rice and have faith in women," here's a fun, free way fight global hunger. is a nonprofit website run by the United Nations World Food Programme in partnership with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

It's goals are to provide free education to everyone and to end world hunger by providing free rice to hungry people.

It's simple. You can hone your skills in the areas of art, English, chemistry, geography or math. For every correct answer, 10 grains of rice is donated through the UN World Food Programme.

You'd be surprised how quickly the grains add up and you can do it while you eat lunch or listen to music.

I've created a team for my followers and readers. I invite you to join me in an effort to "Eat rice and trust in women." Here's how:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on "groups," then select "find groups" from the pull-down menu.
  3. In the search window, type "Eat rice and have faith in women."
  4. Click "join."
  5. Play.
Those grains add up fast. I earned 700 over lunch.

Dr. Ruth Seymour has encouraged her grammar for journalists class to earn extra credit quiz points by practicing grammar and earning rice. One thousand grains equals one point up to 20,000 maximum.

Thank you, Dr. Ruth, for turning me on to this.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"The Sexual Politics of Meat" set to music

I just finished studying "The Sexual Politics of Meat" -- 20th anniversary edition -- by Carol J. Adams for my gender and international studies class at Oakland University.

My professor, Dr. Laura Landolt, played this song for the class. The group is"Consolidated." The CD is "friendly fa$cism." The song is -- what else -- "The Sexual Politics of Meat."

What's interesting about this track is that it includes Carol Adams' actual voice making connections between the domination of women and the consumption of meat. It effectively packages the message into a three-minute nutshell.

Get up and dance and check it out:

Thank you, Dr. Laura.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Poetry Podcast: "Eat rice and have faith in women" by Fran Winant (b. 1943)

Listen to the poem here:

About the poem:

I found excerpts from this poem in Carol Adams' book, "The Sexual Politics of Meat."

In the book, Adams discusses how meat consumption perpetuates the exploitation and violent treatment of animals and -- by extension -- perpetuates a similar violent exploitation of women.

If you think this is a stretch, think about this:

Have you been referred to -- or heard of other women referred to -- as a "piece of meat" or a "piece of ass?"

Well, then you can start to make the connections between these oppressions.
As a postmodern feminist, Adams examines language. She specifically addresses the concept of the "absent referent" whereby -- through language -- women and animals are stripped of their living essence and become simply a benign piece of flesh.

By taking the living being out of the meat -- so we don't have to think about the fact that it was once a living, breathing earthling -- it makes meat consumption -- along with the exploitation and violence associated with it -- an acceptable, normal, natural activity.

The same applies to women. Through language they are cheapened and commoditized just like the animals and -- by extension -- violence against women becomes legitimized.

In the context of Adams' book, the poem "Eat rice and trust in women" speaks to adopting a kinder lifestyle that does not perpetuate violence, oppression and exploitation. Part of the way to make this happen is to eliminate -- as much as possible -- the meat consumption that fuels the cycle by eating rice.

This poem also advocates sisterhood and the way women should treat one another. It is so easy to become like the woman in the poem who is "too busy" for others and adopts a selfish attitude as a defense mechanism.

But, if we are not there for one another, if we do not teach and support one another, building up instead of tearing down -- how will we truly affect change? How will we ever begin to shake the foundation of the patriarchal systems that bind us and uphold the status quo?
Nothing will change until women begin to nurture one another instead of harboring spite and petty jealousies.

It is only then that we will be able to "have faith in women."

About the poet:

According to

"Poet, painter and activist Fran Winant was one of the early participants in the Stonewall-inspired gay rights movements of the 1970's. Through her poetry and visual art, she helped define the role and sensibility of lesbians in the contexts of gay liberation and radical feminism, especially during the 1970s and early 1980s.

"Winant had a natural affinity for the convictions driving the gay and feminist consciousness-raising efforts of the 1970s. She had been writing poetry since childhood, but had been unable to share her deepest desires. To express her feelings about women, and keep her classmates from discovering them, she invented a secret language, which she describes as 'a metaphor for an inner language of the socially inexpressible.' The new political fervor of the 1970s afforded a long-awaited opportunity for Winant to speak out.

"A member of the Feminist Lesbian Art collective (FLAC,) Winant began exhibiting her paintings in 1974 ...

"The secret language she invented in childhood, a blend of math and Greek-like symbols, is often worked into the backgrounds of her paintings. Her passion for animals is inextricably linked to her feelings about how gay men and lesbians are denied full humanity in society that allows the 'murder' of less visible, and therefore unprivileged species."

Related links:

Carol Adams' website

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What's a witch supposed to look like?

It has to be the most enduring female stereotype -- the witch with her long nose, warts, broken teeth, a tall black hat, and a broomstick.

But who says witches -- who were originally wise women healers persecuted by the patriarchy -- ever looked like this?

That was the question raised way back in 1964 on the classic TV show "Bewitched" starring Elizabeth Montgomery (left).

In the episode "The Witches Are Out," Samantha's ad man husband, Darrin, encounters a client -- Mr.Brinkman--who wants a "highly-identifiable trademark" -- in the form of the traditional witch stereotype -- to promote his line of Halloween candy.

After some urging from Samantha, Darrin proposes a different approach to his client, which challenges the stereotype.

It takes some convincing, but in the end Mr. Brinkman buys the new campaign and it's a huge success.

Is the new image a little sexist -- maybe.

And yet, I think the theme of discrimination based on gender stereotyping clearly shines through.

Click on the link above to watch the episode -- courtesy of hulu -- and see what you think.