Friday, January 29, 2010

Of gender and sex

It's surprising how often these words are used interchangeably.

And yet, they do not mean the same thing.

A couple of examples:

I recently watched "Blades of Glory" with Will Ferrell and John Heder. The movie is about two male skaters who team up to compete in pairs competition.

Personally, I think it's surprising that we haven't seen this occur in actual skating competition -- I mean, why not?

Anyway, in one scene, former skating star Scott Hamilton describes the duo as a "same gender sensation."

Recently, I participated in survey about leadership. One question pertained to mentoring. Specifically, it asked for the gender of the mentor.

Think about this:

Sex refers to a person's biology.

Gender refers to a role a person plays in society.

Now that you know this, pay attention to how these words are often misused in speech, as well as well as in written articles and books. You'll feel really smart :)

Coming Soon: Feminist Bookshelf

Language is power!

It is in that spirit that I am launching a new monthly feature entitled, "Feminist Bookshelf."

I will examine a new, or not so new, feminist text each month.

My first selection will be, "Odd Girl Out," by Rachel Simmons (2002.) The book explores the culture of aggression in girls. It coincides with her new PBS documentary, "A Girl's Life with Rachel Simmons."

Be prepared for some fascinating insights.

News flashes

Friday, February 5 is National Wear Red Day

February is National Heart Health Month and Friday, February 5 is National Wear Red Day. Women are encouraged to wear read to raise awareness heart disease among women.

According to WomenHeart:

* More women than men die each year of heart disease.

* Women can lower their risk of heart disease by as much as 82% just by leading a healthy lifestyle.

* By taking a few simple steps a day, like brushing with an antibacterial and fluoride toothpaste, women cannot only improve their oral health, but may also help maintain their heart health.

* Heart disease and severe gum disease have a number of common risk factors, which suggests there may be a relationship between the two.

* Female hormones can lead to a higher risk of gum disease.

* Gingivitis, an early form of periodontal disease, affects approximately 75% of adults in the US.

* Up to 30% of American adults suffer from severe forms of periodontal disease.

Read more at American Heart Association's Go Red for Women website.

France considers ban on the burqa

From CNN and NPR.

The veiling of women has been a point of contention between east and west for centuries mainly because westerners view the practice as oppressive.

Now France wants to ban the wearing of the burqa(or burka)in public. The burqa is an all-covering dress worn by some Muslim women, not to be confused with the head scarf, or hijab.

France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy told French lawmakers:

"The problem of the burka is not a religious problem. This is an issue of a woman's freedom and dignity. This is not a religious symbol. It is a sign of subservience, it is a sign of lowering. I want to say solemnly, the burka is not welcome in France."

Watch CNN video here:

Listen to NPR report here:

A different point of view from feminist writer Naomi Wolfe

New Study on Women and Math Anxiety

From the Associated Press.

Female elementary school teachers who are concerned about their own math skills could be passing that concern along to the girls they teach, according to Sian Beilock, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.

Beilock studied 52 boys and 65 girls in classes taught by 17 teachers, all women.

Student math ability was not related to teacher math anxiety at the beginning of beginning of the school year, but by the end of the year, the more anxious teachers were about their own math skills, the more likely their female students were to agree that, "boys are good at math, and girls are good at reading."

Ninety percent of U.S. elementary school teachers are women.

The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jackson & Perkins presents Disney Princess Rose Collection

Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and Snow White are the inspiration for Jackson & Perkins' new Disney Princess Rose Collection.

Love's Kiss is a pink hybrid tea rose inspired by Sleeping Beauty's pink gown. According to J&P, it has a "Strong, damask fragrance."

Beauty Within is a yellow floribunda rose inspired by Belle's (Beauty and the Beast) golden gown. It has a "moderate, spicy fragrance."

Fairest One, inspired by Snow White is red with white undertones with a "light, sweet fragrance."

All roses are $19.95 each. A special collection with one of each is available for $54.95 at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

IMHO: Textbook perpetuates animal objectification

I advocate feminism. That means I am dedicated to fighting all types of oppression and abuse. That fight extends to the non-human world.

That is why I was angry to find this sentence in a journalism text book as an example of an incorrect attribution that could be construed as opinion:

"Sodium phenobarbital injections provide a more humane way than compression chambers to dispose of pets."

Why would the authors include this sentence? Not only is it inappropriate and out of place, its inclusion treats the problem of disposable pets much to casually.

Millions of pets are "disposed of" each year. The problem is huge. The root cause is the way we view animals -- as objects.

Pets are not a box of junk or a bag of trash to be tossed out when they are no longer wanted.

These are living beings with emotions.

They form attachments.

They feel pain and loss.

They require a lifetime commitment from their caregivers.

There are people who are working toward a no-kill society. Others work tirelessly against cruelty and promote humane education. The biggest obstacle is the objectification of animals.

Verbiage like this perpetuates the objectification of animals.

The book is "Broadcast News Process, Seventh Edition" by James Redmond, Frederick Shook, Dan Lattimore, and Laura Lattimore-Volkmann (Morton Publishing.) It is not currently used at OU --and I hope it never will be.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The trust test

When it comes to our relationships with other women, trust is essential. It's important to instill this tenet early in girlhood to break the "the enemy is us" cycle that keeps women from achieving goals of liberation.

While at my therapist's office, I found a copy of American Girl magazine.

The magazine is published by the company that makes the popular American Girl dolls and is aimed at girls ages eight and up.

Inside I found an article that applies to girls and women alike because we all need to be vigilant about our relationships. It's a quiz entitled, "Can Your Friends Trust You?" by Dr. Lynda Madison , a Nebraska psychologist and author.

We all could benefit from taking this quiz. I've altered the format slightly for the blog:

"1. Your friend asks your honest opinion about a shirt that you think looks awful on her. You say, "I don't think it's your best color. But I love how blue looks on you.

A. Sounds like you
B. Nope, not you

"2. Your best friend tells you she's moving out of town and asks you to keep it a secret. You tell another friend but make her promise not to tell anyone else.

A. Sounds like you
B. Nope, not you

"3. Your friend tells you she likes a boy. She doesn't say it's a secret, but you ask her permission anyway before you tell anyone else.

A. Sounds like you
B. Nope, not you

"4. A girl at your lunch table says something untrue about your friend, who isn't there to defend herself. You take a deep breath and say, "Actually, I know her, and she's not like that at all."

A. Sounds like you
B. Nope, not you

"5. You tell your friend you will go with her to a sleepover this weekend because she doesn't want to go alone. But, on Friday, you say, "I don't really want to go. Maybe you can find someone else."

A. Sounds like you
B. Nope, not you


"Mostly A's: Your Trust Tally is high. your friends can count on you to respect their feelings and their secrets. When you're honest and follow through on promises, you set the stage for a long-lasting friendship.

"Mostly B's: You might need to put yourself in your friends shoes. How sould you want a friend to act in each of these situations? To boost your Trust Tally, treat others the way you'd like to be treated."

These situations could easily be adapted to adult life because the same situations repeat themselves long after we've stopped playing with dolls: Tactfully giving honest opinions, keeping secrets and promises, and refusing to perpetuate negative talk.

Use these simple reminders to keep relationships strong.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Poetry Podcast - "Polemic #1" by Honor Moore

Welcome to poetry podcast.

I think this is an awesome poem for our initial podcast featuring – but not limited to – feminist poems.

Listen to the poem here:

About this poem:

The poet, Honor Moore, edited a poetry collection entitled “Poems from the Women’s Movement,” published last year. The book contains 58 poetry selections, including this one by Moore herself.

Her personal collections of poetry include, “Red Shoes,” “Darling,” and “Memoir.”

What is (a) polemic?

Moore says, “So I write this polemic I call a poem and say, ‘Write poems, women’”

By definition, a polemic refers to an argument or controversial discussion or a person inclined to engage in argument or disputation.

Moore certainly makes her argument urging women to write outside of the male approval desire filter. She is also (a) polemic herself.

Related links:
Print a copy of the poem from Moore’s website archives here:

The poem mentions several poets. Use these links to learn more about them:

Sylvia Plath
Doris Lessing
William Butler Yeats
Hilda Doolittle

I selected this poem because it encourages women to write and make their voices known. What I’ve learned from my personal writing experience is that not everything has to be a masterpiece. Sometimes it’s just important to get the message on paper and release it to the universe.

Not enough of us are doing this. So, I echo Moore’s invitation, “Write poems, women.”

Submit a poem to poetry podcast. It can be a feminist poem, a favorite poem, or an original work. The only requirement is that I must be able to read it in 2-3 minutes. Email your poem to:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"A Girl's Life with Rachel Simmons"

While channel surfing, my husband, Chris, discovered what could be the most important documentary released this year -- especially for those of us interested in women’s issues.

If you know a girl between the ages of 12-18 -- a daughter, a little sister, a niece, or even the girl next door -- you need to watch it.

“A Girl’s Life with Rachel Simmons,” released January 5, is currently showing on PBS stations. Here's the link:

When they are little, girls outshine boys in all areas of development. In the preschool years they are confident and feisty. But then something changes. The crucial age for girls is 12-18, the middle school and high school years. This is the point in life when they begin to lose that confidence and their self esteem. The program examines some reasons why.

In addition, girls are maturing at a younger age than girls of previous generations. Additionally, they must also cope with pressures and problems that were previously unknown, or perhaps less prevalent, when their mothers were young. The program profiles four girls, each coping with a different issue.

Analuz is coping with body image. She is a young Latina preparing to celebrate her Quincenera, but has a hard time finding a dress because she’s a size 15.

The fact is, Simmons points out, that while 25% of girls wear larger clothing sizes, only 10% of teen clothing comes in these sizes.

Libby is a victim of cyberbullying. Girls use texting much more than boys and, according to Simmons, the “technology reinforces the social dynamics of hierarchy.” Cyberbullies can follow their victims anywhere and only 5% of girls will tell an adult about the problem, Simmons says.

Carla is a member of a “crew,” a girl’s gang. The requirements for membership are that a girl must be pretty, have money, dress well, or be able to fight. Violence among girls is escalating – up 60% in the last two decades. The sad part is that fights between girls are not taken as seriously as fights between boys.

Sonia is about to graduate from an innovative,all-girls public high school in New York – The Young Women’s Leadership School . The school claims that girls thrive in an environment without boys.

Rachel Simmons is an author, researcher, and founder of the Girl’s Leadership Institute. PBS recommends her 2002 book, “Odd Girl Out” as companion reading to the documentary.

“A Girl’s Life” not only sheds light on the complex issues girls face today, but also shares how a caring adult influence in their lives is the one factor that can truly make a difference.

(I would like to do a follow-up, reaction piece. I invite you to watch “A Girl’s Life” and let me know your thoughts. I’d also like to know if anyone has experienced these issues, or know someone who has experienced them. Email your responses to me at –Cherie)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Just for fun -- Cherie's "find"

I love Found magazine. It's a collection of notes and writings people have found.

It all started with a note that magazine founder and editor Davy Rothbart found on his car one night. Its intended recipient was a guy named Mario. The writer was a girl named Amber. In it, he found "an amazing mixture of anger and hopefulness." Davy started to share the note with friends who, in turn, shared stuff they found, and so on, until the magazine was born.

Real Detroit sometimes features items from the magazine's collection.

Recently, I had a proFOUND experience at the Troy Public Library. The Friends of the Troy Public Library operate a used book store in the basement. Money from its sales is used to fund library lecture series and workshops -- but that's not the best part.

Old stock is periodically moved out. These books are offered upstairs by the peace garden entrance/exit FREE. Of course, the selection is whatever happens to be there at the time.

Sometimes, there are gems to be found.

I recently spotted a copy of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Astrology" that was like new. I'm not a big believer in astrology, but sometimes it's fun, so I took the book.

Inside, I found the following poem written on a sheet of notepaper:

We Never Thought!

We never thought the first
time we met.

We never thought that we
would get.

We never thought that we would

We never thought till I
seen you walk (sic).

I never thought that
I would find

A good close friend
That I could call mine!


Love Always

So who was Tim and who was he writing to all those years ago? How did the note come to be in the astrology book? We'll never know, but it sure is fascinating to think about.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Coming Soon: Poetry Podcast

Postmodern feminists believe in the power of language as a tool for women's liberation. One of the most expressive, powerful, and beautiful ways we can use language is poetry.

It is in this spirt that I will begin Poetry Podcast as a monthly, interactive feature. Each podcast will feature a favorite or original poem to read and listen to.

Here's the interactive part: If you have a favorite or original poem to share, email it to me at The poem does not have to be feminist in nature, but if you can make a connection, it's even better. One suggestion would be to link the poem to an emotion -- something that makes you angry, or sad, or happy. You could also submit a poem that was inspirational or enlightening at a particular time in your life.

The only requirement is that I must be able to read the poem in approximately two minutes (a typical podcast length.)

As soon as I have a new podcast host site, Poetry Podcast will be good to go.

Stay tuned.

Ellen has an epiphany

Ellen DeGeneres was recently named woman of the year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) according to a tidbit that appeared in the Freep's Name+Faces column.

Also honored as man of the year was Tim Gunn, the creative director at Liz Claiborn, Inc. The company promotes designers who use faux fur.

"Tim Gunn and Ellen DeGeneres show us that one person really can make a difference in the world by rejecting cruel deeds in favor of compassionate acts," PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk told in a statement.

"Their message that animals must be treated kindly and respectfully has reached scores of people, and many of them have changed their buying habits, all because Gunn and DeGeneres spoke up for the voiceless."

"I educated myself on factory farming and cruelty to animals and suddenly realized that what was on my plate were living things with feelings," says Degeneres, who has been a vegan since 2008.

I wonder if she saw "Earthlings" and made the connection?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

From Cherie’s kitchen: A hearty vegetarian dish for a winter dinner

I advocate feminism – and also vegetarianism.

Some people aren’t ready to jump in and take the vegetarian plunge all at once. But, simply cutting down on the amount of meat you eat reduces the cruelty, objectification, and domination that pervades the meat industry and, by extension, affects other sectors of our society.

Going meatless one day a week is easy enough to do. It is simple to convert favorite recipes to vegetarian (or vegan) versions with just a few simple substitutions.

One example would be this recipe for “Hamburger” Soup. I found it in a cookbook from Strawbridge United Methodist Church in Kingwood, Texas. It was a gift from my cousin, Karen, when she lived there. The recipe was contributed by Melanie Johnston.

This soup is easy, nutritious, and economical. It quickly became a staple of our diet during the fall and winter. I substituted soy crumbles for the hamburger, vegetable broth for beef stock, and dry onion soup mix for the beef stock-based canned version.

So, here is my modified version – Soy Burger Soup. I hope you’ll give it a try.
(Note: This recipe makes a family-sized batch. It usually lasts Chris and me three dinners, plus a bowl for his lunch. If you don’t want this much soup, freeze some individual portions to heat up for a quick lunch or dinner later.)


2 12-oz. packages of meatless crumbles (Boca or Morningstar Farms)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 15 oz. can vegetarian vegetable broth (available in the soup aisle)
1 package dry onion soup mix (contains no animal products that I can see.)
1 package frozen vegetables for soup (I like Freshlike)
1 15-oz. can whole-kernel corn (use salt-free or low-sodium vegetables if salt is a problem)
1 15-oz. can peas
1 15-oz. can cut green beans
1 15-oz. can diced, stewed tomatoes
24 oz. V-8 vegetable juice
1 medium potato, diced
Salt, pepper, or other seasoning to taste.


In a non-stick frying pan, cook the meat crumbles according to package directions (add a little water, if necessary, to keep them moist.). Add the chopped onion and continue to cook until the onion is tender. Place the soy mixture in a stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the vegetable broth and onion soup mix. Mix in the frozen vegetables and all canned vegetables with their liquid. Add the tomatoes, the V-8, and the diced potato. Mix well, bring to a boil, and simmer for 45 minutes. Season to taste.

Enjoy with crusty bread, rolls, or biscuits.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Is the enemy us? Girl-on-girl crime - part two

(This post title was a bit confusing. Part one is actually my News Year's Day post.)

I’ve had some additional thoughts on the way we treat each other as women. What motivates this kind of girl-on-girl infighting that holds us back? This is an issue I want to further explore throughout the year.

Could it be jealousy? Could it be because we ourselves are threatened by a smart, assertive woman? If we adjust our thinking, we should see that these are exactly the women we need to align with. We can learn from them if we can be open enough to do it.

But it’s hard. Feelings become deeply engrained in our heads and hearts. It’s even harder when others are doing it to you, or you’ve had it done to you.

Perhaps we do it just to join in gossip behind someone’s back simply to join in a conversation or establish common ground with other women. In this case, would be better to remain silent or walk away than to do it at the expense of a third party and the bigger picture?

What my late mom, Marie, used to say seems trite, but true, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

We can expend a lot of energy on negative feelings – energy that can be channeled to other more important work and causes.

The postmodern feminists, who look to language as a way to women’s liberation (and speech is certainly part of it), have it right. The language we use each day profoundly affects our relationships and perceptions. “Pomos” are also constantly critiquing themselves and making appropriate changes in their platform. We personally should do the same.

Of course we don’t have to like everybody. We are drawn to certain personalities more than we are to others – that’s just human nature. However, it is possible, as Aristotle said, to be “a partner in virtue and a friend in action” to work together in unity for the sake of progress.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New year, new thought: Is the enemy us?

It's a funny thing about New Year's Day. There is nothing special about this day except the way we view it. Maybe it's watching that famous ball drop or just posting a new calender in the kitchen that signifies a fresh start with new hopes. However, we can have a fresh start any time we need it - at the beginning of a new day, a week, or a month. It's all in our perception.

I'm not one for making New Year's resolutions, but it is a good time to set goals and think about all I want to accomplish and what I want to change.

One thing that I want to work on this year is the way I talk about and treat other women.

I think of a scene from the movie "Mean Girls"(2004) based on the book "Queen Bees and Wannabes" by Rosalind Wiseman. "Girl-on-girl crime" is uncovered when the majority of girls admit that they've had something bad said about them behind their backs and have said something bad about other girls behind their backs.

I am guilty, guilty, guilty -- I admit that freely. It is a practice that is instilled early on in life and is hard to break. Little girls do it and big girls continue to do it.

Lately I've been thinking -- I've seen the enemy and she is us (myself included.) We can't accomplish any goals if we are constantly infighting and tearing one another down, whether face-to-face or behind the back. This applies to all women in our lives -- our sisters, our classmates, or coworkers, and our relatives.

We seem to do it without thinking. But, we must think in order to break the cycle. Once we are aware of how often we do things like call one another bitches or put another woman down based on her appearance, or degrade her because she's different, we can break the cycle.

It is important that we do so, because nothing will change until we change the way we treat each other. It's that simple. Think about it - make a new start.

Happy New Year!