Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"I Advocate Feminism ... a mini blogzine" wins WGS scholarship award

I am proud to announce that I am the co-recipient the the Women and Gender Studies Scholarship Award at Oakland University.

I submitted the blog, along with the following essay, and came up a winner of the $50 prize.

My thanks to the OU Women and Gender Studies program where I have found so much encouragement and support.

The Feminist Mission of Cherie Rolfe

I am proud of my blog. In fact, it’s not just a blog, it’s a blogzine – an online magazine with content that ranges from poetry, to recipes, to opinion, to book reviews, to news. And it all relates back to feminism. That is the common thread I keep from post to post – whether it be ecofeminism, liberal feminism, global feminism – or other areas of feminist thought that apply.

I work hard at providing quality content for my blogzine. I do not use it as an “online diary.” I do not publish anything unprofessional. I do not bitch. I do not take pot shots at people. Although there is more leeway in blog writing – opinion pieces are clearly labeled as opinion. And yet, I try to leave room for fun and humor. I believe it is also important to have layers within the content. That’s why I offer audio as well as components to fully utilize this medium.

The great feminist bell hooks, in her book “Feminism is for Everybody,” says we need a feminist media network – not just a women’s network or a women’s channel – but a feminist one – with the goal of taking the feminist movement back to the general public.

I agree.

My personal goal is to combine my journalism major and my women and gender studies minor to keep feminist issues in the forefront of the mind of the public. There are many misconceptions about what feminism is and what it is not. I want to share with others what I have learned – that feminism isn’t just one thing. There are liberal feminists, conservative feminists, socialist feminists, ecofeminists, and global feminists – just to name a few. Additionally, there are further subdivisions within those areas.

The media is changing. It is a brave new world for journalism. I am taking steps to prepare myself for convergence – a coming together and crossover of all media forms. Because of my carefully chosen curriculum, I am prepared for print, radio, television, as well as web media.

I see my blogzine as an important first step into this brave new world. I see it as an important tool for reaching the general public on a level it can understand. Currently, I have labeled it a “mini-blogzine.” I hope to continue to keep it growing and evolving into a prominent, respected feminist forum.

I try to blog at least twice a week. The blog can be found simply by “googling” my name, Cherie W. Rolfe. I have named it “I Advocate Feminism,” also following the wisdom of bell hooks. She says by saying, “I advocate feminism,” we leave the way open for discussion of other forms of oppression that are connected.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Feminist bookshelf: "The Ladies' Room Reader" by Alicia Alvrez

As a rule, I'm not a fan of bathroom reading -- but that's how I discovered "The Ladies Room Reader" by Alicia Alvrez (2000).

Just for fun, my cousin, Karen, placed the volume in her guest bathroom when Chris and I visited her in Kingwood, Texas some years back. I was hooked, and the volume somehow made it into my suitcase for the return trip home. (I hope she didn't mind.)

This volume is a compilation of fun facts running the gamut from cosmetics, food, pets, chocolate, and sex -- all in a woman's day ;)

Here are some fun things I learned in just a few minutes in the reading room:

;) The folks at L'Oreal claim the average woman brushes her eyelashes over 300 times with mascara every morning.

;) Films featuring women and food: "Babette's Feast," "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover," "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman," "Eating: A Very Serious Comedy about Women and Food," "Home for the Holidays," "Like Water for Chocolate," "Tampopo," and "The Wedding Banquet."

;)Overwhelmingly, women are responsible for pet care -- in 72% of pet-owning households, the task falls to females.

;) When 105-year-old artist Beatrice Wood was asked the secret of her longevity, she replied, "Chocolate and young men."

;) Studies continue to confirm that men reach their sexual peak in their early 20's and then slowly decline, while women peak in their early 30's and stay that way until their 60's.

Alicia Alvrez is a pseudonym of a San Francisco Bay area writer who specializes in compiling facts about women and writing for and about women. She is also the author of "Big Book of Women's Trivia (2008), "Mama Says" (2004), "The Ladies' Room Reader Revisited" (2002).

Feminist content -- there's some, but we don't expect to find serious feminist theory in the powder room anyway.

Even though this volume is dated, it's fun to see how things have changed -- and how they've stayed the same.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cherie's Angry Vagina

Recently, I had an opportunity to perform in Oakland University's Women’s Issues Forum production of “The Vagina Monologues.”

(Here's me in my "Vagina Warriors 2010" t-shirt.)

Every year, during the months of February and March, productions are staged at college campuses across the country as part of V-Day – a movement to prevent and end violence against women.

Proceeds raised from ticket sales go to women’s charities aimed at violence prevention.

OU's production benefits two such organizations: Alternatives for Girls and Turning Point.

It's never too late to support the cause. Make your donation here:

Alternatives for Girls

Turning Point

My monologue was titled, "My Angry Vagina." It is a comical discuss of the indignities the female body is made to endure in our modern world: tampons, thong underwear, and those annual gynecological exams.

Fun was had by all who checked their preconceptions and misconceptions at the door.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reexamining the flexible workplace

The 9-to-5 office routine is not for everybody -- including many Generation X-ers and Millennials both male and female, single and married, with or without children.

Even first lady Michelle Obama has acknowledges the need for "family balance."

This three-part series from NPR takes a fresh look at flexibility in the workplace -- something feminists have advocated for a long time.

For your listening pleasure -- I have embedded all three parts here. They are well worth a listen:

Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

Part Three:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poetry Podcast -- "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou

My gift to you for Women's History Month. Listen to the poem here -- and enjoy the celebration:

About the poet:

Maya Angelou.

She needs almost no introduction.

What can I say about her?

She's been a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, civil rights activist, producer, and director.

She is often described as a "global renaissance woman."

And that about says it all.

About this poem

"Phenomenal Woman" was first published in 1978.

Lyman B. Hagan, who published "Heart of a woman, mind of a writer, soul of a poet: A Critical Analysis of the Writings of Maya Angelou (1997)," says of the poem:

"The woman described is easily matched to the author herself. She has a strong personality and a compelling presence as defined by the poem."

Hagan points out that Angelou uses repetition to stress certain phrases in the poem "to give it flow and make it familiar and lyrical ... most of her poetry could easily be set to music."

Monica Stark, a Vancouver-based freelance writer and editor for january magazine says of the poem, "'Phenomenal Woman' is an anthem of women's strength in their own womanhood. The almost childish rhyming cadence is haunting in its simplicity."

Simple, yet powerful.

The lessons: Attractive personality trumps attractive genetics --- and --- let quality standards of character be the only standards by which we as women judge ourselves and others.

Nuff said.

Related links:

Maya Angelou's official website
january magazine -- books, news, reviews, interviews

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cherie goes "down there" with "The Vagina Monologues"

I will be performing in the Oakland University Women's Issues Forum production of "The Vagina Monologues" on Friday, March 19.

The performance will be at 201 Dodge Hall at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 and are available at the student events window in the lower level of the Oakland Center. Money goes to support Alternatives for Girls.

This presentation is part of a larger movement -- called V Day -- to raise awareness of and prevent violence against women. Performances are presented on college campuses around the country during the months of February and March and proceeds go to women's charities.

I will be performing "My Angry Vagina" one night only.

Until then, enjoy this sketch from MAD TV:

More news flashes

Mark these dates

From the Detroit Free Press and U.S. News and World Report

Saturday, March 20: Michigan's governor, Jennifer Granholm, has declared Saturday, March 20 as Michigan Meat Out Day. In conjunction with the Great American Meatout, Michiganders are encouraged to go meatless, even if it's just for that day. VegMichigan -- the state's largest vegetarian advocacy group, applauds the declaration.

Saturday, March 27: Observe Earth Hour by turning off your lights between 8:30-9:30 p.m. Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia and has become a global movement to raise climate change awareness. Read more, pledge support, and make a virtual lantern at

Follow-up: National Institutes of Health address high C-section rate

From the Detroit Free Press

With C-section rates at an all-time high across the country -- as well as in Michigan -- the National Institutes of Health are calling for a revision of hospital guidelines that will allow women to avoid repeat C-sections and instead opt for a vaginal birth.

Vaginal birth after a Cesarean is referred to as a VBAC.

Dr. F. Gary Cunningham, chair of the Institutes' consensus committee, says VBAC is "certainly a safe alternative for a majority of women," but more research is needed to determine how factors such as weight and age affect a woman's ability to undergo natural childbirth.

Author blames feminism for bad dates

From Newsweek magazine

Lori Gottlieb, author of the book, "Mary Him: The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough," can't find a date -- and she blames feminism.

Gottlieb is quoted by Newsweek columnist Julia Baird as saying,

"I know this is an unpopular thing to say, but feminism has completely f--ked up my love life."

To that, Baird retorts, "I know why it's unpopular, because it's completely unfair. Feminism is a centuries-old social movement, not a self-help book -- we can't blame it for bad decisions we make about men."

She goes on to say, "The problem, as Gottlieb sees it, is that women were told they could have it all, which meant not compromising in any aspect of life, including dating (which is odd because people who can't compromise aren't feminists -- they are just unpleasant people.)"

Baird says the presumption that women "got so fussy that they 'empowered themselves out of a mate' makes my head hurt. The only evidence offered to prove that women expect too much is anecdotal."

"Feminists fought for respect and equality, they never promised a perfect world," concludes Baird, "but it doesn't mean you have to settle or give up on love."

WWII women pilots honored for service -- finally

From the Detroit Free Press

Six surviving Michigan Women Airforce Service Pilots -- WASP -- received Congressional Gold Medals, the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow, in Washington this week.

When male pilots were sent overseas during World War II, the women stepped in to move material and flying training exercises in the U.S. More than 30 women died during exercises.

The honor was a long time coming, said Sylva Granader, 89, of Beverly Hills. "It's too long because, unfortunately, 1,074 of us graduated and there's just a very small percentage represented here."

There are about 300 surviving WASP.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Women and Gender Studies Film Festival features "Lioness" and "My Home -- Your War"

Two films - two different points of view. That's one way to sum up the selections for the Women and Gender Studies Film Festival on Saturday, March 13 at Oakland University.

The program runs from noon to 5:30 p.m. and will be followed by a panel discussion with OU faculty members Patricia Wren, Flora Dallo, and Kellie Hay. Also joining the panel will be Marta Prescott of Columbia University.

“Lioness” (2008), a film by Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers, is a study of the emotional and psychological effects of war as told through the experiences five women – known as Team Lioness -- who served Iraq for one year.

In addition to participating in combat missions, including traffic control points (TCPs,) the women performed what were called Lioness Missions. The female soldiers would search out women and children and try to communicate with them.

Watch the "Lioness" trailer here:

"My Home -- Your War" (2007), a film by Kylie Grey, was filmed in Iraq over a three-year period. The film looks at the war through the eyes of Layla Hassan who lives with her husband and son in the district of Adhamiya at the heart of Sunni resistance.

Hasan participated with the filmmakers without the consent of the Iraqi government.

Watch the "My Home -- Your War" trailer here:

What gives these two films a feminist perspective is that, in addition to focusing of women's lived experiences, they both make the political personal by putting faces on both sides of the Iraq conflict.

Both filmmakers employ distinctly feminist methods of personal interviews, journal excerpts, and archival footage.

The result is powerful.

The 27th Annual Women and Gender Studies Film Festival runs Saturday, March 13, from noon - 5:30 p.m. in 156 North Foundation Hall. The event is free, but donations are appreciated.

News flashes

Study finds women's rights improve in the Middle East

From Yahoo News

According to study by self-described watchdog group Freedom House, women's rights have improved in 15 out of 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa during the last five years.

Yet, violence against women is still widespread in that part of the world.

Tunisia and Jordan provide women with the most rights - along with legal protection against domestic violence.

Yemen and Saudi Arabia are significantly behind in women's rights.

And, due to internal conflict and a rise in extremism, women in Iraq, Yemen, and Palestine are now worse off, according to the study.

Slayings, rapes and kidnappings of women "significantly escalated" in Iraq last year. Sometimes these are classified as "honor crimes" committed by a male relative to protect family reputation.

Women made significant political gains in Kuwait, where they have the same political rights as men. Four women were elected to Kuwait's parliament last May for the first time in that country's history.

Queen's tomb found in Egypt

From Yahoo News

What was described as a "very rare" find, French archaeologists unearthed a 4,0000-year-old, 8.5-foot pink granite sarcophagus in the Saqqara necropolis south of Cairo in Egypt.

The sarcophagus belonged to Bahnou, one of the queens of the Sixth Dynasty which ruled Egypt from 2374 to 2192 BC.

Very little is known about Bahnou. She thought to be the wife of Pharaoh Pepi II.

C-sections on the rise -- but are they necessary?

From the Detroit Free Press

A major medical conference taking place this week is expected to produce new guidelines for women and their doctors involving Cesarean birth.

At issue, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press, is whether vaginal birth is safe following a Cesarean birth.

The Freep says C-section rates are rising and nearly one in three babies are born by C-section nationwide -- the highest rate ever.

But, there's more to the story, according to Dr. Richard Smith of Henry Ford Hospital. He says women are choosing to have C-sections because it gives them more control over delivery and labor. It is possible to schedule a C-section delivery and thus avoid prolonged labor.

Other factors include doctor's fear of lawsuits due to complications of labor, and fewer training opportunities for doctors to learn how to deliver babies in difficult circumstances.

Additionally, some small- and medium-sized hospitals have policies against natural delivery of a baby after a prior C-section because of a 2004 recommendation that hospitals without anesthesiologists and obstetricians available round-the-clock not attempt natural delivery after a prior C-section.

Michigan's rate of C-section deliveries has risen from 21% in 1999 to 31% in 2008.

Japanese women are thinner -- but perceive themselves as fat

From The Washington Post

Social pressure and media images are part of a complicated, competitive, and subtle equation that's making Japanese women too skinny for their own good according to an article from The Washington Post.

Since 1984, according to Japanese government data, all age categories of women from 20-59 have become thinner with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18.5

Not so for Japanese men. Sedentary workplaces, processed foods, and lack of exercise are causing them to gain weight. Currently, 32% of Japanese men over 50 are overweight -- up 20% over the last 25 years.

Hisako Watanabe, a child psychiatrist and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo says Japanese women are outstandingly tense and critical of each other and have a habit of monitoring each other's "slimness"

Sakiko Ohno, 40, thinks she's "very fat." She has a BMI of 19.5.

"Japanese women want to be thin so that they can look at themselves in the the mirror and compare themselves to other women," she says.

Japanese women also believe that Japanese men prefer petite women and that fashionable clothes are sized for thin women.

As a result of the pressure to be thin, Japanese women who are cutting calories are facing slower metabolisms, lower birth weights for babies, and a higher risk of death in case of serious illness.

Utah bill makes miscarriage a crime?

From The Political Carnival

A bill passed by the Utah House and Senate will make it a crime for a woman to have a miscarriage or an induced abortion if signed into law by the state's governor.

The bill does not affect legally-obtained abortions, but makes women legally responsible for miscarriages caused by "reckless behavior."

Read all about it at The Political Carnival website

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dan Rather reports with a feminist perspective

In his recent installment of "Dan Rather Reports" for HDNet, the former CBS news anchor presents a look at look at conflict and peace from what he calls "a different perspective."

And indeed it is different -- it's a feminist perspective.

The program -- "Dan Rather Reports: Women and War" -- addresses issues of difference and gender and their respective roles in conflict and the quest for peace.

Rather mediates two panel discussions with women from two countries that have experienced genocide -- Rwanda and Bosnia -- and two with ongoing conflicts -- Labanon and Pakistan.

U.S. Ambassador Swanee Hunt joins in both panels.

Watch a clip from Rather's report here:

Areas of discussion include:

Can women contribute to peace negotiations in ways that men can't -- or won't?

Quotas for women in representative governments.

How are women uniquely poised to eliminate ethnic tensions?

Gender parity in the 21st century

The role of forgiveness in the peace process.

Religion's role in perceived oppression.

Feminism comes across in the theme, tone, and language used throughout the program. A couple of times the panelists acknowledge difference by insisting there is not generic category of "all women."

By bringing in societal factors and encouraging respect for difference beyond a Western perspective, Rather and company present a 55-minute lesson in global feminism.

He plans to host more programs on feminist topics throughout the year. Stay tuned.

Two bucks well spent: Get the entire episode -- or choose from other interesting titles in the "Dan Rather Reports" series -- at HDNet. All titles are available for iTunes for only $1.99.

Learn more about Ambassador Swanee Hunt's Institute for Inclusive Security at