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.

"A Murder of Crows:" More evidence of intelligent life on earth

FYI: A "murder" refers to a group of crows.

My husband Chris drew my attention to what he called, "the best thing I've ever seen."

He was talking about a "Nature" program titled "A Murder of Crows" he watched recently on our PBS affiliate WTVS 56 in Detroit.

We watched it online together -- and I have to agree.

When we moved to Troy 10 years ago, the black crows were a common sight in our backyard.

(The West Nile Virus killed many of the crows in our area, but they are making a slow comeback.)

As we came to know them, we learned that they are familial birds and are highly intelligent.

Humans construct intelligence on their own terms with the belief it affirms their superiority over other species.

I believe intelligence is fluid across species and just because a life form is different does not give us the right to presume dominance over it. Instead, we must respect it because if we don't, this type of thinking can perpetuate other forms of oppression.

Crows have more in common with humans than you might think and the earth is as much theirs as it is ours.

Watch "A Murder of Crows." It will convince you and blow your mind!

Chapter 1:

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Chapter 2:

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Chapter 3:

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Chapter 4:

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

It's time to rethink the witch: "The Burning Times"

Here's something to ponder over your Halloween weekend:

We forget that Halloween wasn't always "trick or treat." Originally it was called Samhain (pronounced saw-when) and was a time to remember our ancestors.

Correspondingly, we forget that the word "witch" -- and connotation surrounding it -- has also been distorted and lost with time.

Unfortunately, the denotations -- dictionary definitions -- that remain are ones similar to this one from Merriam-Webster:

1: one that is credited with usually malignant supernatural powers; especially : a woman practicing usually black witchcraft often with the aid of a devil or familiar : sorceress — compare warlock
2: an ugly old woman : hag
3: a charming or alluring girl or woman
4: a practitioner of Wicca

And yet...

We forget that the women branded as "witches" were also once considered healers. In fact, many of the drugs we use today were used by these wise women long before the age of patriarchal medicine and capitalist drug companies.

This particular definition is interesting on two counts. First, Merriam-Webster includes "charming ... girl or woman." It is true that not all wise women -- later branded witches -- were old.

Second, the fact that it equates the word "hag" with an ugly old woman. Back in the days when older women were revered and respected, a hag was considered to be a wise woman.

Somewhere along the way, something changed. That would be around the time of the Renaissance when Europe went into a "witch craze."

What the history books don't tell us -- and history classes don't teach -- is that an estimated nine million women were killed over a 300-year period that included the "Christianization" of Europe.

Effectively, this was the "Women's Holocaust."

Do not confuse these events with the Salem witch trials -- these were different events within their own context.

I had never heard this story before until I took introduction to women and gender studies with Professor Kathy Patterson-Hawes at Oakland University. She showed an amazing film called "The Burning Times."

I'd like to share it with you now. I could not find the entire production available to embed here. What I did find was the film broken into 10-minute segments on YouTube thanks to the efforts of DMSelina. Watch a little, or watch a lot, but once you start, I think you'll want to finish this important -- and for the most part -- untold story.

So this weekend, take a few minutes to remember your ancestors, including all these wise women of the past who died because of the constructed definition of "witch."

Happy Samhain and Blessed Be.

"The Burning Times"

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Related links:

Starhawk's homepage:

Read an interesting etymological discuss of the word "witch."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Just for fun: All aboard the '80s musical time machine

While searching for music to accompany a recently-aired editorial on WXOU, a long-forgotten melody came to mind and would not leave.

The song is "Don't give up," a duet by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush from my favorite '80s album "So" released by Gabriel in 1986.

I found the video on "YouTube" and for six minutes I was back in the 1980s. I was a different person living a different life with different thoughts -- far from the person I am today.

I wonder what I would say to my younger self and what she would say to me?

It was a different time. There were no cell phones, no Blackberries, and no Internet. Even fax machines were still rare. People still used typewriters and wrote letters.

Technology aside, life was not easy. There was unemployment, financial unrest, depression, and the pressures of everyday life. Some things never change.

"Don't give up" is not a catchy, inspirational tune. It's a soft, haunting melody with poignant lyrics that are as fresh today as when they sailed the airwaves in 1986. The raspy voice of Gabriel balanced with the angelic voice of Bush gave me hope and kept me going through some of the more challenging days of my young adulthood.

On a different note, the same album gave the world "Sledgehammer," a funky tune accompanied by an award-winning video that defined the MTV generation. Another track, "In your eyes," was used in the 1989 movie "Say Anything" starring John Cusack. In the film, Cusack's character serenades a young woman by blasting the song on a giant boom box he holds over his head.

Fast forward to the present day. In the 2010 release "Hot Tub Time Machine," Cusack and friends take a trip back to the '80s only to find out that things weren't exactly as they remembered. So, while it's fun to reminisce, I don't like to spend too much time celebrating the so-called "glories of the past." I'd much rather be alive in the here and now looking forward to the future -- even with all my current challenges.

However, if you'd like to take a trip back in time for just a few minutes -- here are the videos for "Don't give up" and "Sledgehammer." Tubular!

BONUS: Cherie's favorite '80s-themed films:
"The Wedding Singer" with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore
"Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion" with Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

IMHO: Fear of difference perpetuates abuse

Why would someone choose to end his/her own life? Why -- when people who face death fight so hard to live -- would someone choose death over life?

These are questions that many Oakland University students are asking today in view of the suicide of one of our fellow students, Corey Jackson, 19, of Warren.

Jackson was found yesterday and the OU family was informed last night via email. Today, the medical examiner confirmed suicide as the cause of death.

Jackson was gay. OU police are denying that bullying was a factor in his death. Yet, according to a family member, "He said 'I don't know what's wrong. Ever since I came out people are treating me different. I don't know what to do. I don't know where I belong.'"

I did not know Jackson.

I do not know the situation that drove him to take his own life. I do not judge his decision or condemn the act. I can only try to understand, empathize,and, in the process, perhaps help others.

I am a depressive. It runs in my family. Depressives are often considered to be at risk for suicide. When I initially started therapy nine years ago, one of the first questions I was asked was, "Have you ever had suicidal thoughts or tried to commit suicide?"

I could honestly answer no.

And the one thing that has kept me on track is something so simple -- "It (suicide) is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

No matter what struggles we face in life, someone else has lived through it. And it will continue to be that way -- but it's only temporary. Whatever circumstances we must endure -- they will be resolved, but we must not give up.

However, when you are the one who must endure, it isn't always so easy and I can empathize with Jackson.

As a young person I was teased relentlessly through middle school and high school.

I wasn't like other kids. I saw things differently and chose to express myself freely through actions and dress. I marched to a different drummer, and because I didn't conform, I was targeted for abuse and vicious rumors.

When I think back now, it scares me how intolerant young people were of even superficial differences -- let alone a different sexual identity.

Many of my teenage peers would have been considered homophobic. Homosexuality was a concept that scared them. They didn't understand -- or try to understand it. I don't think they even knew the full meaning of the word. They simply created an "other" to pick on to somehow confirm their "normativity."

Back at Royal Oak's Kimball High School in the early 1980s, it was a huge insult with a lasting stigma to be called "gay." It violated the ultimate norm as set by teenage society in Royal Oak at that particular time.

Now I wonder how many of my former classmates have "come out" over the years? I wonder too if others have grown up and developed a more accepting attitude?

Some never will and the perpetuation of ridicule and abuse that so affected Corey Jackson is proof.

When we think about oppressions and biases that divide us -- racism, sexism, ageism, naturism, etc. -- we have to realize they are all connected and perpetuate each other. If we oppose one, are we allowing another to continue?

We must continually check our own thoughts, language, assumptions, and actions. Even something as innocent as a joke can perpetuate oppression and hatred.

Also, it is not enough to simply be tolerant. The word tolerance implies that we simply don't want to talk about an issue and with silence comes perceived neutrality. We need to aim for acceptance -- through our actions, thoughts, and words.

Blessed Be, Corey.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What scares Wes Craven?

Here's a great quote from horror filmmaker extraordinaire Wes Craven who gave us "Scream" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street."

It's not Freddy Krueger who has him scared.

He told USA Today there's a much bigger monster afoot:

"The biggest thing I'm scared about is where this planet is going ... we're on a collision course with something awful."

He goes on to say "(humans) are chewing through the ecology of the planet at a breathtaking rate."

As an ecofeminist, this scares me too -- the monster is US.

Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press

Friday, October 15, 2010

"The Cinderella Syndrome and Other Tales of Gender Conditioning"

While pondering the role of gender in society -- I happened to find a paper I wrote last year.

At that time, my journey into women and gender studies was just beginning. I was not yet the angry feminist I am today :)

As we progress intellectually, it's interesting to look at some of our early works to see just how far we've come in our thinking.

When I found this paper, I can tell I did not possess all the knowledge I have now, but the fundamental premises are correct.

I still believe this is a solid, honest work and I would like to share it with the universe.

Here, then, is "The Cinderella Syndrome and Other Tales of Gender Conditioning" by Cherie W. Rolfe -- written in March 2009.

My friend divorced the same year I married. Shortly after the birth of her daughter, she found herself alone with two small children after eight years of marriage. At the time, I remember her saying, “This wasn’t supposed to happen, if I’d have known it was going to end like this, I would not have done it (married and had children).” Her experience altered her perception of the myth of marriage, and understandably so.

When her daughter, who is now 13, asks if she will be able to get married and have a family someday, my friend responds with the realistic, honest answer, “If it’s possible.”

Female children are susceptible to the “Cinderella Syndrome.” Little girls are still conditioned early on through films and literature to expect that a prince will come, rescue them from their current situation, marry them, take care of them, and together they will live “happily ever after.” The Disney versions of the classic children’s tales reinforce this idea not only through books and film, but also through mass marketing. My friend and I were sold a bill of goods as female children; we were conditioned to believe would marry, have babies and live “happily ever after.”

Gender conditioning for both males and females begins at birth and is perpetuated through the social institutions of family, school and church. It shapes our self perception and our perception of others. The 19th century ideology of separate spheres still exists today. The home, the family, and the private belong to women; the public, the political, and the economic belong to men. Two centuries later, the spheres have been negotiated, but not fully integrated.

My family was traditional in the extreme sense and kept the gender roles and separate spheres well intact. Mom and dad married young and children followed. My father worked. He was the provider. He paid all the bills and controlled the finances. My mom stayed at home, cooked, cleaned, washed and cared for the children – that was her sphere. Dad’s sphere was the working world and all things traditionally defined as masculine – the outdoors, cars, lawnmowers, tools – and never did the two spheres meet.

Dad never helped around the house. “Why should I?” he said, “I have three daughters and a wife.” When my dad joined Weight Watchers, he told me that, “a man gets four slices of bread per day (a woman was allowed two) because a man works.” To him, it was just that simple and clearly defined.

Mom had no desire to work outside the home. Dad “took care” of her. I looked to their marriage- although it was hardly idyllic - as an example. I assumed that my marriage would be the same. It took me years to finally realize that the world had changed, but mom and dad had not.

Additionally, there are no healthy relationships where one partner “takes care” of the other. A healthy relationship is mutually supportive.

I recently found a piece of paper I wrote as a child. “When I grow up I want to be a mother to a little boy or a little girl” it said. My mother wrote on the back, “Second Grade, 1972.” Obviously, the gender conditioning was taking root.

My parents were completely unprepared to step into each other’s roles. This became painfully evident when my father was hospitalized for almost two months. My mother had no idea how to handle the household finances and struggled when the car broke down. “I don’t know what we’d do without your father,” she lamented day after day. At the time I remember thinking, “I never want to be like her, entirely too dependent on someone else.”

Yet, I’m sure she was a victim of her own gender conditioning just as my father was a victim of his. Their situation reversed a short time later when mom died shortly after dad returned home from the hospital. Dad was suddenly alone and had no idea how to cook or wash his clothes. He called me on the phone one day to ask, “Cher, do you know how to run the washer?”

I was the youngest of three children – the baby of the family. According to the story, I was my parents’ last hope for a son after two daughters. In fact, the obstetrician told my mother I was going to be a boy. When I was born, my mother said, “Where is that boy you promised me?” The doctor just shrugged.

As a result of my sex and my birth order, perhaps my parents’ expectations were lowered; here was yet another girl who would need “taking care of,” at least until she found a husband to take care of her. Then, she would have a home and family of her own. What never occurred to them was that the world was changing. What if that perfect scenario did not happen right away – or never happened at all? Shouldn’t she have a contingency plan?

I received an eye-opening in school when my sixth grade teacher told the class, “I believe men should be able to cook, clean and take care of the children, but women should also be able to earn a living and be self-reliant.” This was startling on two fronts; firstly, this teacher was a man and secondly, he was expressing the idea that the separate spheres should at least overlap. I was amazed at how different and enlightened he was.

Yet, this was the scene at home: I was sitting at the kitchen table working through my high school algebra homework. “It makes you think, doesn’t it,” said my father, on his way out to accompany my mother on a shopping trip. Right behind him, mom chimed in, “It’s harder for girls,” meaning higher mathematics. Her words stuck in my head from that moment onward.

I accepted her statement as the reason I did not excel in math – although I did not suck at it either, an insight I lacked at the time. From that point on, I felt discouraged to continue studies in math and subsequently science, since they overlap, thinking that those courses would be “too hard” for me because I was female; although, some of my female peers seemed to catch on to the concepts with no problems at all. What did they have that I did not? I wonder if my peers had mothers at home who told them math was hard for girls.

Everyone has different individual gifts and different strengths and weakness; and yet, if my mother had not spoken those words to me, would it have made a difference in the way I viewed my math and science studies? Maybe. I truly believe that this significant shift lowered my self expectations and as a result, perhaps closed avenues of opportunity that would have otherwise remained open to me.

My cousin recently told me that she chose Wayne State University because, at the time she enrolled, there was no math requirement. “We’re just not a math family,” she told me. Recently I took a math class at Oakland University as part of my general education requirements. I could have skirted around it and filled the requirement with a course other than mathematics, but I felt the fear and did it anyway. I passed the course a little above average, but I did pass, and learned some interesting and useful information along the way.

The perception that women are somehow lacking in the area of mathematics still persists today. At Oakland, I see many of my younger, female classmates trying to schedule a way around a math requirement by selecting an alternate class or enrolling in an alternate program. I try to encourage them to take a math class, because I’m proud that I did it.

My parents did not encourage participation in team sports; in fact, they totally discouraged it. Mom considered sports, any sport, too risky and feared that I might be injured. Yet, risk taking is essential for success in life. Would sports participation have helped me to become more confident and socially developed? Would my parents have encouraged a son to participate in sports? Over protection, it seems, is a definite hindrance in the development of daughters which occurs much less frequently in the development of sons.

My parents did insist on life skills, which have served me well. Part of self-reliance is being able to prepare a meal and feed oneself, shop economically and maintain a living space. I also learned traditional crafts, such as crocheting, which I still enjoy today for relaxation. My husband, who grew up in a family environment similar to mine, told me those were some of the traits he wanted in a wife and partner. Because the traditional gender roles and separate spheres remain in place, traditional feminine, and traditional masculine, qualities remain attractive and desirable, if only on a subconscious level.

Because my parents refused to send me to college after high school – they did not think I needed to go since I would eventually get married and be taken care of - I wandered through a series of low-paying, unfulfilling jobs. At 20, I was wearing support hose because I stood on my feet all day in a department store. “If you can just type, you can get a job,” my mom told me, “you don’t need a degree.” Sadly, I bought into it. So, I took up office work – another female avenue to the “pink collar ghetto.” I also found this unfulfilling. I found one “sticky floor” job after another with no possibility of promotion.

I have since learned that it takes much more than typing to get a job – today‘s world requires technological skills, knowledge, ability to adapt to change, and that degree that mom told me I didn’t need, thus I returned to college at age 43.

If I had been that “promised boy,” I wonder if my parents would have been more supportive of higher education? I suspect I would have been encouraged to take up a trade. My parents believed in work after high school. My dad worked in a tool shop and most likely he would have followed in his footsteps. Yet, as a daughter, maybe I did not need to have the financial security or greater sense of self worth that a trade would have provided.

The brainwashing I received from my fundamentalist religious background furthered the female subordinate gender conditioning. Headship was the rule, based on a scripture 1 Corinthians 11:3 that says, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ, in turn, the head of the woman is the man, in turn, the head of Christ is God,” (New World Translation).

Women were not allowed to hold positions of church leadership; this was reserved for the “capable brothers.” Women were not allowed to teach in the congregation or give public discourses. Slacks were not allowed to be worn at meetings as they were considered to be the dress of a man. If a woman conducted a Bible study or on occasion had to perform a function usually performed by a man, she had to do so with a head covering based on the scripture at 1 Corinthians 11:7, 10: “For a man ought not to have his head covered as he is in God’s image and glory, but the woman is man’s glory…that is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority upon her head …” (NWT.)

Once in awhile the women of the congregation were pacified with the scripture at Psalm 68:11 which reads, “The women telling the good news are a large army,” (NWT). Indeed the women were a large army, but a subservient one under the headship of men.

To their credit, however, my parents never imposed any of society’s artificial standards of beauty on me. While there was pressure on young women to be thin when I was growing up, I was always encouraged to be healthy. My mother always worried that I was getting enough vitamin C rather than if I was able to fit into a size 4. Subsequently, I always had a positive body image. I wasn’t skinny, but I wasn’t fat, and I was happy that way. I was never told that I was anything but beautiful. If this was the only bite of positive conditioning my parents afforded me, it was an important one. It wasn’t until later when I put pressure on myself to maintain society’s ridiculous standards of beauty out of self-imposed insecurity and fear of abandonment after my parents died.

Growing up female allowed me to develop a strong feminine relationship with my maternal grandmother in my formative years. She lived with us and taught me appreciation for the earth and nature as we gardened together and I learned the names of the flowers. Through her I established a connection to my family and heritage that I might not have had if this feminine bond not been established. Grandma was thoughtful and saved letters, cards and Bibles that tell our family’s history.

I love being a woman. I am comfortable in my own skin and in my psyche, and I am happy. Yet, I sometimes feel resentment that conditioning was imposed on me and that I bought into it. I feel cheated out of years of life that might have been more productive, contributory and intellectually stimulating. Paradoxically, there is still a part of me that wants to be “taken care of,” that would like to remain at home in the domestic sphere. Perhaps the biggest battle we fight as 21st century women is internal – finding a balance between our own spheres once we become aware of the effects of gender conditioning.

"The Left Hand of Darkness" raises gender issues and predicts the future of media

When written works from the past remain as applicable as they were at their date of publication, it's a sign of two things.

First, it's a sign of good writing. A well-told story in language that remains accessible is timeless.

And yet, it can illustrate that some social issues remain perpetually open, perhaps to never be fully examined or resolved.

Gender is one of these issues.

In her book, "The Left Hand of Darkness," science fiction writer Ursula K. LeGuin explores a world where gender -- meaning the typical roles men and women play in society -- is fluid.

Although the story presumably takes place in the future, it was published in 1969. A new 40th anniversary edition has just been released.

As I wade further into the society of the planet called Winter, I reflect upon gender conditioning in our 21st century Earth society. So much depends on men and women continuing to play their traditional roles. The power of gender drives everything from politics, to conflict, to business, to personal relationships.

But what if roles could be chosen or transposed -- how would it change the scene of our world?

That question remains as intriguing as it was in 1969.

On a different point, I found this description of the people of Winter:

"(They) do not read much as a rule, and prefer their news and literature heard not seen; books and televising devices are less common than radio, and newspapers don't exist."

The novel was written long before the Internet was widely used. Yet, considering the state of the media and journalism today -- in a world where technology makes attention spans ever shorter -- I find this to be strangely prophetic.

Who would have ever thought that a vision of the future written in the past could so aptly reflect our society today?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"The Tudors:" A lusty study of patriarchy

"Patriarchy in its wider definition means the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family and the extension of male dominance over women in society in general. It implies that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and that women are deprived of access to such power ..." --- Gerda Lerner, "The Creation of Patriarchy"

The final season of Showtime's "The Tudors" is now available on DVD. As a fan of the series, based on the reign of King Henry VIII, I began preparation by rewatching the first three seasons.

The story of Henry VIII and his six wives is common knowledge and is certainly the most intriguing aspect of Henry's public and private lives.

The series itself is stunning to watch -- with beautiful costumes, attractive people, complex plots, romance, and sex. The Tudors has it all.

The series has been criticized for its historical inaccuracies. And, yes, the writers have taken some dramatic license with the characters and plots. Some of it is true and some of it isn't. But then, we should go to Showtime for entertainment and not for a history lesson.

License is also taken and adjustments made for time and flow. The story advances by years.

Although I've seen the previous seasons' episodes before, watching them through feminist's eyes, I see the element of patriarchy that would make for a fabulous content analysis.

Series goes to show how patriarchy is harmful to women -- as well as men.

Thousands of people lost their heads during Henry's reign -- two of his wives -- Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard -- as well as some of his close friends and advisers -- Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell -- among them. Nobody was safe once they fell from Henry's favor.

Throughout the series, the major institutions of patriarchy -- government, church, and, yes, marriage -- are all in play along with its tools of power, wealth, war, and sex.

We also see male/female, man/woman, son/daughter dichotomies firmly in place as well as traditional gender roles. In fact, patriarchy depends on women playing classically defined, feminine roles and things get sticky when they don't.

In Henry's time, royal marriages were made to secure political and family alliances. Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon, after the death of his brother, was done to keep Katherine's dowry and the Spanish alliance in place.

Katherine was one of Henry's most intriguing and intelligent wives, yet he didn't want her opinion on international relations.

In season one, Henry tells Katherine she is his wife -- not his adviser and not his diplomat.

When his second wife -- the sexy, intelligent, and outspoken Anne Boleyn -- became too bold in her reformation beliefs -- and could not bear him a son -- Henry had her framed and decapitated.

Jane Seymour, his favorite wife, was not exempt either. In season three, when she brings up the subject of restoring Henry's daughter Mary to the line of succession, he asks her if she's lost her senses and tells her to "remember what happened to the late queen (Anne.)"

Having a son was very important to Henry.

Even today, sons are valued more than daughters.

In season two, there's a scene between Henry and Anne Boleyn where she apologizes for the birth of their daughter, Elizabeth. Henry says something like, "We're still young and boys will follow," before abruptly exiting the room.

When his son Edward is born from Jane Seymour in season three, Henry's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, are shown talking.

"Father still loves us?" Elizabeth asks, to which Mary replies, "Boys are more important."

Even though they both went on to become powerful queens, they both bought into this essential dichotomy and masculinized politics.

Now, at last the time has come. The story of the Tudors has already been written, so the series must end.

Unfortunately, patriarchy continues.

Other links:

Check out The Tudors Wiki. It links back to the official Showtime site.

Watch a behind the scenes video from "The Tudors" season four. If this doesn't hook you, nothing will:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Equitable equine enthusiasm

"I don't think it's a feminist agenda. I think it's more of an equality agenda ... recognition for your deeds, not for what you look like while you're doing them."

Diane Lane on Secretariat owner Penny Chenery's fight to succeed in the male-dominated world of horse racing. Lane portrays Chenery in the new Disney release "Secretariat."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pledge to go veg during October and win $$$

Reduce, reuse, recycle -- and go vegetarian.

Adopting a vegetarian diet is one of the most sustainable things you can do for the planet.

There are many other great reasons to do it too. Vegetarianism is a political, feminist, and humane issue.

We have the opportunity to make a statement, take a stand, and make a difference every time we eat.

Although it doesn't get the as much press coverage and promotion as other causes, October is Vegetarian Awareness Month.

Why not give it a try and pledge to go veg for a day -- or even a week? Even just reducing the amount of meat you eat can make a difference and might win you some money.

The North American Vegetarian Society is offering non-vegetarians a chance to win $250 when they pledge to go meatless for one day, or $500 when they pledge to go meatless for one week during the month of October.

There's still plenty of time to pledge on-line at

According to NAVS, every meatless meal can ...

>Reduce the risk of killers such as heart disease, strokes, and cancers while cutting exposure to food-borne pathogens.

>Provide a viable answer to feeding the world's hungry through more efficient use of grains and other crops.

>Save animals from suffering in factory farm conditions and from the pain and terror of slaughter.

Going veg doesn't mean eating only lettuce and carrots.

Start with simple substitutions like a veggie burger instead of a hamburger, or a soy dog instead of a hot dog. Drink soy milk instead of cow's milk, or try soy yogurt.

Check out vegetarian-friendly restaurants such as Subway (veggie or veggie patty sub,) Noodles & Company, or P.F. Chang's. You can order a veggie pizza too.

You don't have to do it perfectly -- but every little bit helps.

And nobody gets killed!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

News Flashes

Sex American Style

From the Chicago Sun-Times

A new survey published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine paints one of the most complete pictures of Americans' sexual behavior in recent years.

The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior was based on a responses of 5,865 Americans between ages 14 and 94.

It turns out that many people are developing a more diverse and complex sex life.

• Seven percent of women and eight percent of men identified themselves as something other than heterosexual. Five percent of women identified themselves as lesbian or bisexual and just under seven percent of men identified themselves as gay or bisexual.

• About 40 percent of men and women ages 25 to 39 say they have vaginal intercourse a few times a month to once a week.

• About 10 percent of women ages 18 to 39 masturbate alone two to three times a week. One in five men age 25 to 29 said they masturbated four or more times per week.

• About a third of young men 16 to 17 reported receiving oral sex from a female. Some 23.5 percent of young women 16 to 17 reported receiving oral sex in the last year from a male partner.

• Four in 10 men age 25 to 59 say they have engaged in anal intercourse in their lifetime; the female percentage was similar for women 20 to 49.

• About 85 percent of men reported that their partner had an orgasm during their most recent sexual event, while 64 percent of women reported having an orgasm.

Oakland University provost addresses breast cancer

Dr. Virinder Moudgil, Oakland University's provost, in conjunction with the university's women and gender studies program, will present as special program titled "Hormones in Health and Disease: Advances in Breast Cancer.

The program will on Thursday, October 21 from 12-1 p.m. in the Oakland Room of the Oakland Center on Oakland University's campus.

In addition to being a supporter of Oakland's women and gender studies program, Dr. Moudgil has been investigating the molecular mechanism of steroid hormone action for more than 30 years with the support of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Moudgil is the series editor of Hormones in Health and Diseases and chairman of the Scientific Committee, Meadow Brook Conferences on Steroid Receptors in Health and Disease.

For more information, contact Professor Jo Reger at 248.370.2575

Fifty best Feminist Blogs, an extension of the NetworkedBlogs Facebook Application, has listed its top 50 feminist blogs.

The number one blog, "Sense and Sensuality," claims over 800 followers.

This web site is still in its early stages. With time, it plans to add more features and more information from outside of Facebook.

More on stem cells

Here is a great piece I just found over at Newsradio 950 AM in Detroit. It includes links and info on the benefits of stem cell research and its potential impact for Michigan -- pass it on:

World Stem Cell Conference in Detroit

Monday, October 4, 2010

Depoliticizing Stem Cells

The 2010 World Stem Cell Summit is going on right now in Detroit.

The event featured a public education day at the Detroit Science Center.

There are so many benefits to stem cell knowledge research -- from revolutionizing human organ transplants, to cures for cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease, to economic benefits for everyone.

Stem cells are a new and dramatic discovery that can bring hope for the future, and hope to those who live with these conditions now.

Yet, the biological has become political through language.

Postmodern feminists -- who deconstruct language to discover how it perpetuates oppression -- would surely agree.

I caught "Stem Cells -- Untold Stories" on NPR while driving home from school.

On the program "Being," host Krista Tippet talks with Dr. Doris Taylor of the University of Minnesota.

Taylor believes that the whole political debate over stem cells could have been avoided if different vocabulary had been used at the onset and that "divisive flashpoints" and moral confusion surrounding stem cell research is due to "miscommunication and misunderstanding of the facts."

Taylor dispels fear surrounding the terms "embryonic stem cells."

The perception that a human fetus is used to create these cells is simply not true, she says. This perception is "based on fear and misconception."

Fetal cells are not stem cells. Fetal cells are too old to be stem cells as they have already differentiated and to form organs. And stem cells do not come from aborted fetuses.

Embryonic stem cells come from fertilized human eggs that were stored for possible
in vitro fertilization.

Taylor points out that if these cells are not used for reproductive purposes -- they are simply thrown away and the opportunity to learn more about our bodies is lost.

Also fertilized eggs with diseases or genetic mutations that would never be implanted provide an opportunity to discover how these genetic differences occur.

To his credit, President Obama lifted the ban on federal funding for stem cell research. If we apply Taylor's explanation, we can see that his decision was based on facts and not on the emotional connotation of rules.

Listen to Krista Tippets interview with Dr. Doris Taylor in its entirety. It's time well spent.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The power of pink

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and pink is everywhere!

The pink ribbon has become one of the most salable emblems for a cause of all time.

And it keeps growing. Everybody wants a piece of pink.

While thumbing through an Oriental Trading Company catalog, I noticed it featured 11 pages of pink ribbon party merchandise available for parties, fund-raising, and awareness-raising events.

When I did the Komen 3-Day for the Cure 60-mile walk in 2006, the catalog featured only two pages of pink ribbon items.

Yesterday, I received a Herrschners catalog. For anyone who doesn't know, Herrschners is the premier source for crafts from knitting to paint-by-number.

This year, Herrschners features "Think Pink" yarn, a "Hope" latch hook rug kit, a "Think Pink: Crochet for the Cure" book of patterns. A portion of the sales from the book go to breast cancer research.

Because it's so recognizable, the pink ribbon has been extremely successful in promoting awareness and raising funds. Since its inception in 1982, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has raised over $1.5 billion dollars for cancer research.

This year alone, the Detroit Race for the Cure raised $1.5 million.

So what is the attraction of the color pink?

When I see a display of products featuring the pink ribbon, I am drawn to it like a magnet. I have to go over, check out the products, pick them up and examine them. And yes, I've brought my share of them -- and will continue to do so.

Pink is somewhere between the innocence of white and the passion of red, and just maybe somewhere in that mix is the power of pink.

According to the article "Color therapy and your wardrobe - wearing your emotions," by Phylameana lila Desy:

"Most people associate pink with babies, little girls, and feminine energies. But more than feeling feminine, wearing pink conveys compassion and an open heart. When people are wearing pink, whether they are male or female, they appear approachable and capable of loving others. If you want to feel heart-connected reach for that pastel pink sweater from your closet to wear."

Pink has the power to connect us, and within the breast cancer community there is a powerful sense of connection -- that's what brought me into the cause.

"Year's ago, I met a coworker who was a breast cancer survivor. She told me her story. We walked in the Race for the Cure together.
"Now everyone in this office has a connection (to breast cancer,) she said, "because they know me."

I wrote those words back in 2006 when I began my 3-Day journey and I still feel the same way today.

The pink ribbon keeps us connected to a cause -- breast cancer awareness -- and by doing that it keeps it in our sight and in our minds -- and saves lives in the process.

Cherie's pink pick: Breast Cancer Crusade Lips for Life Novelty Tote ($5 at 100% of net profits donated to Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

Other links:

Men are not immune from breast cancer -- Peter Criss of the rock band "Kiss" shares his story here: Men get breast cancer too.

Also check out -- Breast Cancer Myths: 8 biggies debunked.

Both links -- as well as the cute bra photo -- courtesy of CBS News.