Friday, July 30, 2010

Snapshot of a life ...

In four words, that's the definition of an obituary.

Many people are not aware that most of what we see in the papers and online are paid death notices usually placed through a funeral home.

An obituary, however, is an article written by a professional journalist.

There are journalists who have devoted their careers to obituary writing. There is nothing morbid or macabre about it.

Unfortunately, not everybody gets an obituary. It must be requested or there must be some unique, noteworthy aspect of the person's life.

The Detroit Free Press states that it will honor the request if possible, but cannot guarantee when the article will appear in print/online.

In the case of Julia "Judy" Schwanitz of Sylvan Lake, it was her long-time dedication to community and an email from a friend that prompted the publication of her obituary -- and it was my sincere honor to write it.

OBITUARY: JULIA SCHWANITZ: Tour organizer remembered for her design sense -- The Oakland Press 26 July 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Geena Davis champions feminist research

Actress Geena Davis, 54, has been Davis has been appointed to California's Commission on the Status of Women by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Davis is a Democrat.

While this is great news for the women of California, its not the most interesting part of Davis' story. Hidden in the standard press release verbiage is some much more compelling feminist research.

While watching TV with her young daughter, Davis ("Thelma and Louise," "A League of Their Own") made a keen observation: a striking imbalance in the ratio of male to female characters in children's programs.

She founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and went on to raise funds for the largest research project ever undertaken on gender in children's entertainment.

The result was "Gender Stereotypes: Analysis of popular films and TV" by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and Crystal Allene Cook.

What makes this research feminist?

First, if we boil down the term "feminism" to its most basic definition, what we have is a movement against sexism -- one that seeks to change our society.

Research is an impetus to change.

A hallmark of feminist research is to find things that need to change and then find ways to make that change.


Feminist research names an issue -- in this case the imbalance of male to female characters in children's movies and television programs.

Why this is a feminist issue is obvious -- gender roles and self perceptions are shaped early in life and children learn what they see. They are also great imitators and perpetuators of what they see.

Feminist research goes on to discover the extent of the issue -- through various methods both qualitative and quantitative.

And uncovers the dynamics and makes recommendations for change.

The Geena Davis institute's research does these things and much more.

Powerful stuff.

Cherie at the Oakland Press

I will be finishing up my internship at The Oakland Press in two weeks.

I've been writing about everything from the Port Huron to Mackinac boat race to custom doggy houses to the library crisis.

Fashion show, pet house auction benefits animal adoption center -- 27 July 2010
Blog exclusive -- never before seen video:

Highland Township Library looks for millage renewal on Aug. 3 ballot -- 23 July 2010

Local man steers boat to victory in Mackinac race -- 19 July 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why not a woman in that role?

I often find myself watching movies and television programs and thinking -- what roles could have been played by a woman instead of a man?

And not necessarily big, starring roles -- even little ones that might seem inconsequential can have an impact on gender stereotyping

Well... some Hollywood writers, directors, and casting executives must have had the same thought.

Direct from the pages of Entertainment Weekly, here are some roles that were originally "written for men, but played by women," Including Angelina Jolie's new release, "Salt," originally conceived for Tom Cruise.

>LOUISE FLETCHER in Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

Yes, it's one of the worst sequels ever made, but don't blame Fletcher (who took the role of Linda Blair's shrink after George Segal was considered). She's the best thing in it.

>SIGOURNEY WEAVER in Alien (1979)

That's right, the greatest action heroine of all time was originally written as a dude — although it's hard to imagine Ridley Scott's sci-fi classic being half as good with a male Ripley.

>HOLLY HUNTER in Copycat (1995)

In an early draft of this serial-killer thriller, the detective was played by a man — a man romantically involved with a stalked, shut-in criminal profiler played by...Sigourney Weaver.

>ZHANG ZIYI in Rush Hour 2 (2001)

The Chinese actress' role as a Hong Kong assassin in the Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker action sequel was conceived as a male gangster. We're guessing a less sexy one.

>JODIE FOSTER in Flightplan (2005)

Sean Penn was supposed to play the parent who loses a child at 30,000 feet. Oddly, eight years earlier, it was Penn who took over Foster's role in David Fincher's The Game

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cherie wins Oakland University's "Freedom of the Press" scholarship

This is for all nontraditional students everywhere who -- like me -- are back in school reinventing themselves.

I am pleased to announce that I am a winner of the Bunting and Briggs Freedom of the Press Scholarship presented by Oakland University's Department of Communication and Journalism.

A special thanks goes out to Cathy Shaffran, who made me aware of the scholarship, and to Garry Gilbert, who urged me to apply.

My goal has always been to encourage just one more person to go back to school. It's never to late for reinvention, so don't be afraid to go for it.

Boo Yah!

New blog feature -- pass it on

I've just added a new feature to my blog posts.

Now you can share them with friends and family through email, Twitter, or Facebook.

At the bottom of each link are "share icons." Just click on your method of choice and pass it on.

Of love and marriage

Couples who cook together stay together

from the Detroit Free Press

A recent survey of 1,500 couples found that those who cook together view their relationship more positively than those who said they did not spend time together in the kitchen.

The survey was sponsored by the appliance company Kenmore in conjunction with relationship expert and author John Grey ("Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.")

Enquiring minds want to know -- is your marriage heading for divorce?

from the National Enquirer

Fifty percent of today's marriages end in divorce. Are there any warning signs?

According to relationship expert, Dr. Gilda Carle, here are six of them:

1. Money problems. Couples with no assets at the beginning of a three-year period were 70% more likely to divorce by the end of that period than couples with at least $10,000 in assets.

2. Divorced parents. Adults mimic the first relationship models they see as children. Children of divorced parents are 40% more likely to divorce.

3. Smokers marrying nonsmokers. "People who take care of their health often don't respect partners who don't," says Dr. Carle.

4. If you live in Utah, Arkansas, Kentucky, or Oklahoma. These states have the youngest average age for marrying couples. "The younger you are, the less you know what you really want and the greater the chance that you and your mate will part," she says.

5. Second marriage. Breakups can result from "complicated interactions with step families."

6. Age differences. A huge age difference can lead to sexual discord.

Other factors that can determine marriage success or failure:

> Couples who have twins or triplets are 17% more likely to divorce than those with single-child births.

> Women two or more years older than their husbands are 50% more likely to divorce than if he were one year younger or up to three years older.

> Male same-sex marriages are 50 percent more likely to end in divorce than heterosexual marriages. The odds for a female same-sex marriage is worse.

About Dr. Gilda: On her website,, Gilda Carle is described as an "internationally known relationship expert" who addresses corporations, adults, teens, and tweens.

She holds a doctorate from New York University in Educational Leadership with a concentration on psychology, sociology, and social psychology.

Her television appearances include "Dateline", "The O'Riley Factor," "The View," and "Oprah." She has also given numerous print interviews.

You too can talk to Dr. Gilda. She charges $75 for up to three email interactions or $95 for a 30-minutes of phone advice.

Kutcher deems vow renewal unnecessary.

from the National Enquirer

When actress Demi Moore, 47, suggested that she and her husband of five years, actor Ashton Kutcher, 32, renew their wedding vows, she got the following response:

"I didn't know they'd expired!" the usually romantic Kutcher said.

He explained that he'd committed completely to their vows the first time around and saw no reason to repeat them.

Argentina approves gay marriage -- with full legal rights

from the Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press

Despite an opposition campaign by the Catholic Church and other evangelical groups, the Argentine senate voted 33-27 to make gay marriage legal in that country.

Argentina becomes the first Latin American country to grant same-sex couples the legal rights, responsibilities, and protections as heterosexual marriages.

Although anti-gay sentiments still run strong in primarily Catholic Argentine society, Maria Rachid, president of the Argentine Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual and Transgender Federation, says that passage of the law has made Argentina a "more just and democratic country."

However, same-sex couples from other countries will need to live in Argentina before becoming eligible and the necessary residency documents can take months to obtain.

Some gay business leaders anticipate an economic ripple effect from an increase in gay and lesbian tourism.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Before there was "Twilight," "Little House" inspired tween girls to read

The release of the most recent film of the Twilight saga, "Eclipse", has teens and tweens swooning over vampires and werewolves.

Of course, by now the world knows that the films are based on a series of novels by Stephenie Meyer.

But before there was the Twilight saga, there was a series of books that inspired a similar, although perhaps less fanatic, "revolution in tween girl reading."

They were the "Little House" books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder some 80 years ago.

And, there was nothing supernatural about them. In fact, they remain innocent and timeless.

When the books inspired a TV series that ran on NBC from 1973-1983, it was the first show that specifically attracted tween girls.

Every week we visited with the Ingalls family in frontier America and watched the dynamic of a tween girl relationship between Laura Ingalls and Nellie Oleson.

In Nellie, played by actress Alison Arngrim, America saw a new kind of child character that was not "sweet and compliant."

I remember Nellie. She wasn't very nice-- but she was a powerful female character.

Arngrim, now 48, has written a book titled "Confessions of a Prairie Bitch."

In the following discussion on NPR's "The Take Away," she discusses the enduring popularity of the "Little House" phenomenon along with Patrick Henry Bass, senior editor of Essence magazine.

Listen to "The Take Away" here:

We now live in different times. It's an age of media hype and marketing. Much of it is aimed at an impressionable tween and teen girl audience with the goal of making huge profits. Yet, the messages contained in what girls read and watch formulates their self perception and shapes gender roles.

And of course we could go on and debate the gender roles portrayed in "Little House" and examine its feminist significance and impact in view of the social and economic times in which the series aired and the books were reintroduced.

I'm not saying that girls should be like Nellie on "Little House" or like Bella in "Twilight." But, it is important to view what we -- teens, tweens, or adults -- are reading and watching through a feminist lens.

And yet, "Little House" still endures. It is now on DVD in several languages and syndicated around the world in 140 countries.

Nellie lives! Will Bella do the same? Only time will tell.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cherie at The Oakland Press

This week I'm writing about hydroplaning and some raunchy Michigan parodies.

Michigan spoof ads deemed not so pure -- 17 July 2010

Quake on the Lake thunders into White Lake, Waterford -- 15 July 2010

Poetry Podcast: "Her First Toy" by Sylvia Parker

Listen to the poem here:

About the poem and the poet:

While waiting for a prescription, I browsed the clearance end caps at Target. I make a point to check the toy department for bargains on cute, classic toys that we can give to "Toys for Tots" come the holiday season.

I spotted this threesome. What struck me about them is the variety of skin tones and hair types. It's wonderful to imagine a little girl on Christmas morning with a doll that looks like her. We are not all blond-haired, blue-eyed, and model thin, and we don't have to be. Dolls should reflect differences and diversity too.

Then, I found this poem by Sylvia Parker.

It reflected my thoughts exactly. What a coincidence.

Unfortunately, Sylvia Parker is an enigma. I do want to continue to search the annals of feminist literary theory for more clues to her identity, but I want to share this poem now.

The only clue I found was that the poem was published in Black Woman Talk Poetry published by Blackwoman Talk in 1987.

According to the second edition of "Feminist Literary Theory: A Reader" edited by Mary Eagleton, Blackwoman Talk is/was a collective of women of Asian and African descent living in Britain.

The collective felt that the publishing industry ignored and silenced the views and ideas of black women in Britain.

In a statement from 1984, the collective said, "As black women, we experience oppression due to our sex, race, class, and sexual orientation. This is reflected in every area of our lives and the publishing industry is no exception. It is a powerful medium for communication and it reflects the racism and sexism of this society."

The collective began as a group of unemployed women who formed a publishing cooperative with the goal of "providing a means to publish work and encourage more black women to write their life experiences and provide a greater knowledge and understanding of the lives and history of black women in the wider community and make alternative materials available in schools."

That goal is still valid 26 years later.

And it can start with a simple toy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ecofeminist Excursions: Box Turtle art

As part of the"Adopt a Critter" program at the Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center in Troy, Mich., adopters receive a piece of original art created by the critter.

Chris and I adopted a female box turtle -- yet to be named -- and decided to record the creative process.


New friends reach out to wounded vets

Meet U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Myke Adkins(left)and Captain Mike Erwin (right.) They are two of the amazing people I've talked to and written about during my summer internship at The Oakland Press.

They have created a new organization with a mission to help wounded veterans by matching them with sponsors on a personal level.

Read about Team Red, White, & Blue and find out about the Joel C. Gentz M-1 Challenge coming to Michigan in October:

Veteran organizes run, needs community's help -- 11 July 2010

Support WDET - Detroit's NPR affiliate and a friend of feminism

WDET (101.9 FM) is in the midst of a mini summer fundraiser.

WDET is the National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate in Detroit. NPR is such a great friend of feminism and its programs are often featured on this blog.

This is a great opportunity to say thank you and keep the great programs -- such as "The Takeaway," "Tell me more," "Sound Check," and one of my favorites, "The Craig Fahle Show" -- on the air.

You can do it for as little as $5 per month -- I did.

Do it now --

Sunday, July 11, 2010

IMHO: The library changed my life

"A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life."
-- Henry Ward Beecher

The fact is that the Troy Public Library will close next summer unless a proposal for funding is placed on November's ballot and approved by the voters.

Yesterday, I attended a rally held by the Citizens to Save the Troy Public Library.

As a journalist, I must be impartial. But, as a citizen of Troy who loves the library, I am partial to the cause.

Here is what I can do: I can present the facts in a timely, accurate manner. So, that is what I will do.

That said, here's a fact -- the library changed my life.

I haven't always loved living in Troy. Like every city, it has its positive and negative aspects. Yet, when I count my blessings, I find that Troy has given me opportunities that I might not have found in another city.

It began with a writing workshop offered at the library called "Taking Leaps." I thought the title was very appropriate because I was taking a midlife leap into self discovery.

The workshop was presented by author, journalist, and farm girl Iris Underwood who became a source of great encouragement as well as an exemplar.

The first thing I learned was that poetry was not for wimps. One of the first projects I wrote for the workshop was a sestina -- a complex form of poetry. I went on to write short stories, and feature articles. I repeated the workshop again -- and again half-way.

The ultimate goal was to take the leap into publishing. It took some time -- along with a lot of rejection -- but finally I published a series of columns in Suburban Lifestyles about my experience training for and participating in the 3-Day breast cancer walk in 2006.

I also attended several more of Iris' wonderful workshops -- all presented free thanks to the Friends of the Troy Public Library. These included journaling, memoirs, and exploring women in literature.

Having rediscovered my love of writing, I decided to pursue a latent dream of studying journalism. I finally found the courage to return to college in the fall of 2007. I will graduate from Oakland University this December.

My experience at Oakland reaffirmed where I belong. I found kindred spirits in the journalism department and later in the women and gender studies program. Although the scene of the world continues to change -- I'm on my way. Who knows where my journey will take me.

And it all started at the Troy Public Library.

How many other lives have been changed because of the library, I don't know. But, what I do know is that others will not have the same opportunities if the library closes permanently.

Cherie at The Oakland Press

I've been covering the efforts of the Citizens to Save the Troy Public Library's efforts to keep the library from closing permanently next summer.

These two articles present the facts on proposed library organization and funding:

Supporters rally to keep Troy library doors open -- 11 July 2010

Troy library supporters rally in red -- 8 July 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

They still call it "childLESS"

National Public Radio (NPR) is a great friend to women.

If there is a viable base for a feminist media, it would begin with NPR.

Such programs as "The Takeaway," and "Tell me more" address many feminist issues that are simply not given prominence in the mainstream media.

Case in point is the following broadcast about the choice and circumstance behind the decline in birthrates for women over 40. The current research discussed here examines the racial, ethnic, and educational components of the issue.

What I found interesting, however, is that throughout the piece, women who chose not to have children were referred to as "childless."

The connotation that comes along with the word "childless" is a barren, empty womb incapable of producing offspring. Often, it induces sympathy or sadness.

If a woman chooses not to bear children, why not call her "childFREE?"

As one of the childfree, I believe this word is a much more accurate reflection of the choice involved and the options now available to women that were not available in the past.

The choice not to have children is a personal one and has nothing to do with being selfish or unselfish.

And yet, old gender roles and traditions die hard.

As the concept of being childfree is slowly becoming more acceptable -- so should the evolution of the word used to describe it.

Listen for the language and think about it.

Sacrifice and survival: Continuing to honor our female veterans

Patriotic holidays aren't the only time we should think about the sacrifices service women have made.

Here is an excellent website: American Women in Uniform, Veterans too!

This site is full of stories about amazing women doing amazing things from the Revolutionary War down to the present. It also has a section to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

This is one of those sites where it's possible to spend hours browsing -- even if you're not a history fan or war buff.

It's also a great resource for American history and women and gender studies students.

I spent some time this past weekend going through pictures of fallen vets honored by The Detroit News.

As I paged through 200 photos and biographies it struck me how many of them -- so young -- could be my children.

And, how many my same age could be my brothers and sisters.

Holly's sacrifice

This is Pfc. Holly Jeanne McGeogh of Taylor, Mich. She would be 25 now.

Spc. McGeogh was killed on January 31, 2004 near Kirkuk, Iraq.

According to, "Pfc. Holly J. McGeogh aimed for the Army from early in high school. She spent four years as a cadet with the JROTC before joining up after she graduated in 2002.

“She was totally dedicated to going into the Army — that was her destiny,” said her high school guidance counselor, William Teller. Teller said the uniform she wore to school once a week was festooned with medals.

The 19-year-old light-truck mechanic from Taylor, Mich., was killed Jan. 31 when her vehicle struck a homemade explosive device near the northern Iraq city of Kirkuk. She was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.

“Holly is another reminder that our freedom truly is not free. Holly and her friends paid the ultimate price for all of us, without complaint or regret,” the family said in a statement."

Anysia's survival

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to interview Oakland University graduate Anysia Gray, 27.

She tells her story of her tour in Iraq from the perspective of a young, African American woman whose experience of difference and loss changed her forever.

"Nobody can really understand what you went through ... they have to be there with you," Anysia said.

"You never fully reacclimate. Your life changes ... some nights I can't sleep at all."

I urge you read Anysia's story in it's entirety here:

Veteran shares Iraqi stories -- The Oakland Post 23 March 2010

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Females fighting for freedom deserve care and respect

from Time magazine

During World War I, the phrases "our soldiers" and "our boys" were synonymous.

No more.

More than 230,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past nine years. Women account for 15% of active-duty military.

Over two million women are veterans.

Still, old stereotypes and gender roles still apply.

June Moss, an army driver and mechanic, recently told Time magazine, "I don't know where people get the idea that women aren't out there, they don't see anything, they're just support."

Another reality is that when female veterans return home, they face a "byzantine" veteran's hospital system where they struggle to get help with posttraumatic stress disorder, musculoskeletal problems, reproductive disorders, and even routine exams. They might also encounter doctors who are not accustomed to treating female patients.

The VA is trying to improve its system, as the number of female veterans being treated by the VA has more than doubled since 2004 and is expected to double again by 2015.

Later this month, the VA will hold a forum at Arlington National Cemetery to discuss the quality of care for female veterans and ways to improve access.

Already, the VA has ramped up women-only treatment centers and add all-female therapy groups.

Also added during the past two years are mini-residencies for health-care providers featuring presentations from women's health experts.

Senator Patty Murray (D - WA) says, "Women veterans have earned their stripes. They have earned their benefits. They should not feel like they're asking for a handout."

Murray spearheaded a bill - passed into law in May - that authorizes a report to congress on the effects the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on female veterans' physical, mental, and reproductive health.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Fun for the Fourth: ID4

Remember that Fourth of July when Bill Pullman was president and Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Randy Quaid teamed up to save the world from an alien invasion?

Of course I'm talking about the movie "Independence Day" (1996.) The film has become one of my summer holiday favorites.

A testosterone fest it is. But, ID4 pays homage to so many science fiction films and stories of the past -- from "Alien" to "War of the Worlds" -- that I'm willing to overlook the typical depiction an intergalactic conflict of two species fueled by pure masculine aggression.

It also includes a couple of over-the-top performances from Harvey Fierstein ("Duplex" and "Death to Smoochy")and Brent Spiner ("Star Trek: The Next Generation.")

So, Happy Fourth of July -- enjoy one of my favorite scenes from the movie here:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rally for Troy library Saturday, July 10

Saturday, July 10 will be the first Saturday in many a year that the Troy Public Library will be closed.

Instead the Friends of the Troy Public Library will be holding a rally from 10-1 at the library to emphasize the reality of a permanent closure next summer

Due to a failed millage in February, the library has cut staff and scaled back hours of operation.
The library could get a new lease on life if a millage expressly for the library's funding goes on November's ballot and is approved by the city's voters.

Follow the link to read my article, which also appears on the Friends of TPL webssite. I plan to cover the rally too.

Group fights to keep Troy library running --
The Oakland Press 30 June 2010