Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feminist bookshelf: "Odd Girl Out" by Rachel Simmons

"Sugar and spice and everything nice - that's what little girls are made of."

And that 's what girls are expected to be in our society -- nice.

Nice girls never express anger or aggression -- it's just too messy. In fact -- aggression is discouraged and even punished.

It's part of a double standard. The rules are different for boys. Their popularity is determined in a large part by their willingness to play rough. In girls - displays of aggression are punished with social rejection.

So what do girls do to cope with these feelings that are simply part of being human?

In her book, "Odd Girl Out" researcher Rachel Simmons claims that because society refuses girls open conflict - they resort to what she calls "alternate aggressions."

These are nonphysical, covert forms of aggression that, on the surface, can appear harmless and are often invisible to the adult eye. They are not taken seriously and dismissed as "a phase," or "just the way girls are."

"Odd Girl Out" was published in 2002. Simmons drew upon individual interviews and focus groups she conducted with teen and tween girls. Additionally, she draws on her own experiences as a young woman. She returns to reexamine old relationships through a feminist research lens.

Simmons contends that a complex culture has evolved surrounding the alternate aggressions practiced by girls. It is a culture powered by dualities that range from love and cruelty to passive and powerful.

A language of mean looks and non-verbal gesturing contributes to confusion and fear of solitude and isolation.

These behaviors are formed as early as preschool and destroy female relationships making it harder for women to break stereotypes that impede the fight against sexism.

Humor is an especially popular tactic employed in the culture of alternate aggression. As Simmons says, "(Jokes) provide a membrane of protection around the perpetrator as she jabs at her target."

"We were just kidding," is a convenient verbal out along with, "Can't you take a joke?" or "Don't be so uptight."

Because boys have a wider range of opportunities for direct aggression, humor is clearly distinguished from real, serious moments of anger.

For girls, the line is blurred. A 13-year-old told Simmons: "What you say when you're joking is really what you mean, but you're too afraid to say it. Humor doesn't work unless both people know it's true."

In the culture of alternate aggression, girls self-enforce societal norms -- what Simmons calls the "hidden curriculum" that teaches girls to value silence and compromise. A good girl is nice beyond anything else.

The "odd girl out" is the one who resists these norms. She is outside of what is considered "nice." For example, girls don't want other girls to be confident because it makes them feel threatened -- confidence is outside the norm.

Other terms used to describe the odd girl out are brainy, bookish, opinionated, pushy, professional, independent, serious, and strong. Ironically, these are all traits used to stigmatize successful, assertive women.

If invisibility is the key to the power of alternate aggressions -- exposure is the key to their defeat. Simmons calls for "public language" to address conflicts, acknowledge the hidden culture, and enable girls to negotiate conflict and define relationships in healthier ways.

These behaviors are not new to the 21st century, but by naming them -- a hallmark of feminist research -- Simmons has taken an important step towards thwarting their perpetuation.

To find out more about Rachel Simmons, visit her website:

Friday, February 26, 2010

From Cherie's kitchen: Makin' it vegan -- Mom's blueberry wheat germ muffins

It is possible to take a great, old family recipe and make it even better by eliminating the animal products it contains - and makin' it vegan.

This recipe for blueberry wheat germ muffins was a breakfast staple in the Wyatt house for years. I still have the original hand-written recipe card from my late mom, Marie.

Not only is this recipe a classic - the recipe card is a cool family "artifact."

A few simple substitutions were necessary.

The first is easy enough, I substituted vegetable margarine for butter.

Second, I replaced regular milk with soy milk. Soy can be substituted directly in any recipe that calls for milk.

Lastly, I replaced one egg with 1/2 banana, mashed.

Keep in mind that eggs perform different functions depending on the recipe. In cakes, for example, eggs serve as a leavening agent to make the cake light and fluffy.

In cookies and muffins, eggs add moisture and act as a binder to "glue" all the ingredients together.

The fewer eggs a recipe contains, the easier it is to use a substitute.

In this recipe I used 1/2 banana mashed. A quarter cup of applesauce will work too.


Marie's Blueberry Wheat Germ Muffins
Makes 12 muffins.


1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 banana, mashed
1/2 cup soy milk
1/4 cup vegetable margarine, melted and slightly cooled.
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen. (If using frozen, rinse berries to thaw.)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift together into a mixing bowl the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.

Stir in the wheat germ.

In a small bowl, beat together the soy milk and mashed banana. Then, stir in the margarine.

Add this mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring just enough until they are moistened. Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into greased muffin pan (or use paper cupcake liners.)

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until done.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

IMHO: PETA has a point

Two protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) were booed and escorted out of the Westminster Kennel Club's dog show last week in New York.

The two women held up signs that read, "Mutts Rule," and "Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs' Chances."

Well ... they're right.

Watch the protest here:

My husband Chris and I love all animals, but are partial to cats.

In the past, we enjoyed attending the Mid-Michigan Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) show. It was fun to see the different breeds of cats, watch demonstrations, and sample new cat products.

As time went on, and we became more involved with the no-kill and rescue movements, we stopped attending the cat show.

Our reasoning was - in a world where there are too many "disposable pets," why support an industry that "manufactures" animals?

As an ecofeminist, I am dedicated to fighting all kinds of oppression that affect both the living and innate world. Is there oppression involved with animal breeding the the purchasing of pets from breeders and pet stores - my answer is yes.

We assign hierarchies to animals -- and people. In the human world, this is known as classism. And classism is a form of oppression.

A friend who purchased a dog at a pet store told me she opted for purchase over adoption of a shelter animal because, with adoptions, we don't know "the history of the animal."

Wake up!

That can be said of 90% of the animals on the planet -- both human and nonhuman.

A pedigree does not guarantee a better pet. Many pedigreed animals are surrendered to shelters also. Papers do not give these animals exemption from the "disposable pet" mentality.

I won't repeat the sad numbers connected with how many unwanted pets are euthanized every day of every week of every month of every year -- those facts are readily available and speak for themselves.

PETA is not considered to be a feminist organization. It takes flak for using naked women in its campaigns against fur.

But could it be that in these advertisements they are linking together exploitation of animals and women and thereby showing the connection between the two oppressions? Think about this -- it makes quite a statement -- whether it's PETA's intention or not.

All oppression is connected.

In her book, "The Creation of Patriarchy," feminist Gerda Lerner links the commercial domestication of animals to oppression of women by making reproduction a commodity.

Does this mean that we -- as feminists -- should not keep animals as pets? Of course not. What we should object to is the institution of breeding solely for profit.

The bottom line: Regardless of public or feminist opinion of PETA -- or the appropriateness of this demonstration -- in the case of Westminister -- PETA is right -- DON'T SHOP -- ADOPT.

Other Points of view regarding PETA and feminism:

The Informed Vegan

Can you be a feminist and support PETA's marketing strategies? by Elana Centor

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Poetry Podcast - "Valentine" by Carol Ann Duffy

Welcome to Poetry Podcast.

Listen to the poem here:

About this collection

While searching for feminist poetry titles, I found "I Wouldn't Thank You for a Valentine -- Poems for Young Feminists" edited by Carol Ann Duffy.

Of course, I thought, "How perfect is that for February's Poetry Podcast?"

This is a very cool collection for feminists of all ages. Although it includes works several well-known feminist poets - Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, and Duffy herself -- there are a number of fresh names and voices speaking from the pages.

About this poem:

I simply love the message here -- who says love has to be expressed with roses and chocolate? Why not an onion? Why not a hot pepper? Why not broccoli?

About the poet

According to Wikipedia, Carol Ann Duffy was appointed Britain's Poet Laureate in May 2009. She is the first woman and the first openly-bisexual person to hold that position.

Today, Duffy told Britain's The Daily Telegraph, "poetry is what love speaks in ... every aspect of love has been celebrated, mourned, praised, and preserved in poetry ... we are most likely to turn to poetry when we are in love, or troubled by love, and many of our greatest poets have produced their finest work when writing love poems."

Related links:

More "Carol Ann Duffy on Love Poems" from The Daily Telegraph.

Duffy also wrote a wonderful poem called "Virgil's Bees" in connection with the Copenhagen summit on the environment last year. It includes some beautiful imagery.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cruelty-free bird feeding

I love to feed the birds. In the winter, when food is extremely scarce, suet is a great energy source to provide for our feathered fellow earthlings.

According to Drs. Foster and Smith, suet provides fat -- a concentrated form of energy that provides more than twice the caloric energy of protein or carbohydrates of equivalent weight.

This is important, say Drs. S & F, because birds have very high metabolisms and fat helps them sustain energy longer between meals.

However, suet is essentially beef fat. For those of us who strive for a cruelty-fee lifestyle, this is a conundrum.

While it is not up to us to impose our lifestyles or eating habits on other species, a happy medium is possible in this case.

I found this "psedosuet" recipe in the January 2010 issue of Birds and Blooms. It uses vegetable shortening in place of animal fat. I mixed up a test batch to see how well it works for my Cardinals, Blue Jays, and woodpeckers.

Perfect as Pie "Suet" (submitted by Carla Doering, Mora, Minn.)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup wild bird seed

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and shortening with a pastry mixer until "crumbly." Note: This step could also be done in a food processor.

Add water as needed to make the mixture easy to shape into balls or cakes.

Use a spoon or plastic spatula to mix in the peanut butter and wild bird seed.

Divide the mixture in half and form into two balls -- or mold cakes to fit a standard suet feeder

For my project, I used mesh bags left over from oranges and onions. Tie the ends securely and hang from a tree branch or feeder hanger.

It will take the birds a while to discover the feeder, so give it time and see what happens. Now if we can only make these squirrel-proof :)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Feminism in space: Part 1

I caught this episode of "Lost in Space," entitled "The Colonists," on WADL, channel 38. It presents an interesting perspective on feminism in the context of the time of its original broadcast.

"Lost in Space" ran on CBS from 1965 to 1968 and was created by Irwin Allen.

It was the story of the Robinson family who are on a mission to explore the possibility of life in other galaxies. Their destination is Alpha Centauri. Their spaceship, the Jupiter 2, is sabotaged and they end up, well, lost in space.

Meet the Robinson family:

Professor John Robinson (Guy Williams)
Maureen Robinson, his wife (June Lockhart)
Judy Robinson, their daughter (Marta Kristen)
Penny Robinson, their younger daughter (Angela Cartwright)
Will Robinson, their son (Billy Mumy)

Then there's Major Don West (Mark Goddard), a graduate student; Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), the saboteur who is responsible for the Robinson's "detour;"
and the series' break-out character, the Robot (voiced by Bob May.)

In this particular episode, the Robinson's are captured by the noble Neolani- a leader of a female warrior nation whose goal is to colonize the planet where the Robinson are marooned.

In this society, women rule and are privileged -- it's a matriarchy.

These ladies have no use for men, who are only valued for their strength, and turn them into drone workers.

Watch the episode here. Then come back for part two of "Feminism in Space."


Feminism in space: Part 2

Danger! Danger!

This post contains spoilers. See "Feminism in Space -- Part 1" if you haven't already.

What if society swapped patriarchy for matriarchy? Would the world be a better place?

The episode of "Lost in Space" entitled "The Colonists" raises these questions.

At the time this episode aired (March 15, 1967,) "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan had been out for three years and second wave feminism -- focusing on legal equality with men -- was in its early stages.

That context is interesting. Perhaps there's some social commentary by writer Peter Packer contained in this episode.

In almost any other episode, the boy genius Will Robinson can play on my team anytime. He's the one you'd want to team up with for a space scavenger hunt.

In this episode, however, the kid starts taking sexist pot shots at his sisters. It's the robot who steps in to defend the girls' intelligence.

OK, so this is a 10 year old boy -- and it was the 1960's. Still, where does Will pick up this kind of talk way out there in the universe?

Certainly not from his father -- Professor John Robinson -- who's all class. Professor Robinson is respectful towards other lifeforms and enjoys a warm, respectful relationship with his wife, Maureen -- who's also a scientist. He always calls her "darling," but with a ring of genuine affection, not sexism.

When we watch the roles of the Robinson women in other episodes -- we see that gender roles remain much the same -- even in space. The women are often seen preparing meals, doing laundry, and working in the hydroponic garden.

In "The Colonists," Robinson daughters Judy and Penny receive feminist instruction from Neolani while the men are forced to work to prepare a landing pad for the arrival of the rest her matriarchal race.

In the end, the Robinsons foil Nihilani's plan and the colonists are not able to land on the planet.

Neolani laments that she has been, "disgraced, humiliated by mere males." Upon her return to her home planet, she will be punished with cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child rearing.

Obviously, these females aren't so advanced because they still place no value on child rearing and housework -- in fact, they've made it a punishment.

Maureen Robinson's parting words to Neolani are, "It's not defeat to admit that men are just as good as women -- equality of the sexes has advantages you might have overlooked."

Is Packer's commentary really about matriarchy vs. patriarchy -- or -- does it depict his perception of feminists as "man haters." Maybe it's both -- or neither.

Just for Fun: Cherie's art gallery

"Art is not living -- it is the use of living." -- Audre Lorde

The late feminist Audre Lorde encouraged women to express themselves through art and poetry.

Here is my adventure in art.

During the 2008 fall semester, I took Studio Art 102 with Martyn Bouskila. This was a challenging and time-consuming class. On the first day, Martyn told us, "If anyone thinks this is a blow-off art class -- it ain't!" I worked hard and pushed my personal boundaries. Best of all, I had the opportunity to meet some very talented OU artists.

These are some of my creations -- try not to laugh -- but if you do, it's OK :)


"Quote and Unquote" was one of my first creations. It was a study in proximity.

"Disecting Crosses" was a study in repetition.

"Shoe Tree" was a study in cross-hatching -- a pencil technique.

"Tool Box Trinkets"

"Together" as study in abstraction.

"Harvest Time" (see the sickles?) is a notan -- a study in positive and negative space.

Not a notan -- but still cool I think.

"Tree Tops"

"Bikini Girl" (as well as "Tree Tops) was supposed to be a study in distortion. According to Martyn, I missed the mark and drew "a cartoon." Oh well!

"Rainy Day" was inspired by Jackson Pollock.

"Swans With Signets" was supposed to be a study in focal point. Some of my fellow students thought these were ice bergs.

"Bagels and Bananas" was a study in color theory.

The sculpture "Crayons" was my masterpiece -- I still have it on display at home.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Getting your mammies gramed

Periodically, I receive emails from girlfriends poking fun at the alleged pain of mammography. Some are cartoons suggesting exercises for mammogram preparation like slamming your breasts in the refrigerator door or the toilet seat.

For some people, joking about a procedure can eliminate the stress of anticipation or the unpleasantness of the procedure itself.

But for others, it can heighten the fear of the procedure and anticipation of the pain.

So, let's stop perpetuating the myth of pain surrounding mammograms.

I had a mammogram this morning at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Mich.where I have always had a good experience. Scheduling is easy, the wait is minimal, the technicians are great, and the procedure is fast -- and painless.

Years ago, an older friend told me, "It (the mammogram) hurts!" Consequently, I anticipated the worst.

But, when I had my first mammogram at age 40, the Providence tech was quick to dispel the association of pain.

"You will only feel compression," she told me, "and the machine lets go as soon as the x-ray is complete."

She was right. I know some women have had painful experiences with mammograms. According to Theresa, the technician who administered my mammogram today, "A lot depends on the tech and (her) technique." This is why I like the Providence techs.

If breasts are tender, or sensitivity is an issue, just take two Ibuprofen tablets, like Motrin, about an hour before the mammogram.

There's no reason to dread having your mammies gramed. It could save your life.

New guidelines were announced last year -- but do they downplay the importance of mammography? Cancer columnist, and two time breast cancer survivor, Shirley Ruedy says they are way off base.