Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jennifer Granholm talks about gender politics

Jennifer Granholm, the first woman to serve as a Michigan's governor, is leaving office after two terms. Governor-elect Rick Snyder will be sworn in on January 1.

Here are a few interesting excerpts from her "exit interview" with Detroit Free Press Deputy Editorial Page Editor, Brian Dickerson:

"Q: What have you learned about gender politics that women thinking of running for office should know?

"A: The gender issue is becoming more and more irrelevant, and I think that's healthy. For a woman running in 2011 or 2012, I still think it's important not to exploit gender in a way that calls attention to it. I mean there was that woman in Macomb County (County Commissioner Carey Torrice, who lost her August primary after a syndicated talk show named her the "hottest politician in America"), who may have used gender in an inappropriate way.

"Q: Or Sarah Palin in shorts on the cover of Runners World?

"A: I don't know, was that exploitive? I didn't see that as being sexist. I saw it as promoting health.

"Q: How angry did it make you when pundits said you'd made it impossible for another female to succeed you as governor?

"A: Those who were saying that, or who thought that, wouldn't have voted for a Democratic woman anyway. I mean, if people think my gender had something to do with Chrysler and General Motors declaring bankruptcy, then they have got more serious problems then we are discussing here."

And yet, if there are no other women waiting in the wings of Michigan politics, Granholm might be our last woman governor for quite some time.

Also see:  Granholm & Mulhern set an example of modern gender roles.

I Advocate Feminism's Woman of the Year: Kathy Patterson-Hawes

I can't think of a better choice for my first "Woman of the Year" than the woman who made me the feminist that I am today: Professor Kathy Patterson Hawes, a special lecturer at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

That's Kathy with me on the left.

She earned her master's degree in women's studies from Eastern Michigan University. She teaches "Introduction to Women and Gender Studies"classes at OU. During the fall 2010 semester she began teaching "Women in Transition" as well.

I first met Kathy in January 2009. Her class changed the way I saw, heard and thought about current events and the world. She later inspired me to minor in women and gender studies, and it turned out to be the perfect adjunct to my journalism major.

Kathy teaches her students the basics of feminist thinking -- and that it's not just for women. She lays a solid foundation by explaining the roots of patriarchy and gender conditioning. She also introduces significant -- yet not always well-known -- contributions of women throughout history.

Well respected by her students, Kathy earned a 5.0 rating in overall quality, helpfulness and clarity on, prompting one student to write:

"Katherine Patterson-Hawes is a wonderful professor. She has a way of connecting with students and gets her points across without offending people. She is eye opening and inspiring to women and men. Take her if you can you won't regret it!"

I could not agree more.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What can *I* do?: The Green Power of One -- A public service announcement contest

Attention all Oakland County junior ecofeminists -- Get your green on!

The League of Women Voters - Oakland Area is sponsoring a contest for high school students -- grades 9-12 -- who live or attend school in Oakland County.

The objective is to create a public service announcement (PSA) to emphasize the responsibility of every individual to conserve energy.

The entry can be in the form of a radio or TV spot, or an essay. Students may work in teams.

The winner in each category will receive a cash prize. Radio and television spots will be broadcast and the winning essay will be published.

The deadline for submission is February 25, 2011. Complete details and submission forms are on the League of Women Voters website.

Why not give it a try? I'd like to see your entries too -- so winners or not, send them to me. I will post video and sound and publish essays here on the blog.

Pass it on.

"Veiled Rebellion" chronicles patriarchy at its ugliest

"Afghan women suffer under the constraints of tribalism, poverty, and war. Now they are starting to fight for a just life."

The December issue of National Geographic has given the public a new insight into the plight of women in Afghanistan with a series of photo and commentary by award-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario.

The photos include a rare image of an Afghan wedding of which Addario says, "The sober expression on his wife's face reflects the fact that marriage is an enormous milestone in an Afghan woman's life, not just a celebratory event."

Another more disturbing image depicts 11-year-old Fariba who, "took the bottle of petrol and burned myself." Although her reasons for doing so are unclear, Addario says that "many Afghan women burn themselves because they believe suicide is the only escape from abusive marriage, abusive family members, poverty, or the stress of war."

An accompanying essay by Elizabeth Rubin mentions a collection of "landays," short two-line poems. The book is titled, "Suicide and Song." It is appropriately named, wrote it's author Sayd Bahodine Majrouh, because these two acts are how women protest their anguish.

An estimated 2,300 women or girls attempt suicide each year. Some choose self-immolation -- burning themselves -- while others choose poison.

Rubin makes an important point by asking, " ... which Afghans in this society are committing the violence? There are significant differences between the Hazaras, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Pashtuns (ethnic groups from various parts of Afghanistan.)"

In asking that question, Rubin raises an important aspect of global feminism: We must take differences into consideration in order to help these women negotiate their societal constraints -- regardless of our personal feelings -- and bring about change.

My favorite photo from the collection is this one titled "Daring to Drive."

"Even in relatively progressive Kabul," Addario says, "men and women glare, honk and scream at her. It provokes men in Afghanistan to see strong women. It symbolizes a freedom they just aren't comfortable with."

Check out the video "Daring to Drive" at and watch the reactions.
Take a look at "Veiled Rebellion" -- whether in print or online. Some images are beautiful, others are horrific -- but all are truthful.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Just for fun: It's time to get "Scrooged"

I love "A Christmas Carol," Charles' Dickens classic tale of redemption brought about by a supernatural experience. And it's still fresh over 160 years later.

There are many adaptations of the story that go from the stage to the silver screen of the movies, to the small screen of television.

All include the basic elements of the plot:

Scrooge, a selfish miser in some form, forced to confront the err of his ways when he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner and three other spirits of Christmases past, present and future.

Here are some of my favorite adaptations. Check them out over the holiday break, and enjoy:

My #1 Favorite: "Scrooge" starring Albert Finney and Sir Alec Guinness (1970.) This is our Christmas morning tradition. Songs like "Thank you very much" and "I like life" will have your toes tapping.

"A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carrey (2009.) Even though it is a Disney production, the motion capture animation technique makes it good and creepy -- like it's supposed to be. Features voices of Gary Oldman and Colin Firth.
"A Christmas Carol" with Patrick Stewart (1999). If you loved him on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," you'll love him in this version. Stewart used to do a one-man production. Classic.
"Scrooged" with Bill Murray (1988.) As a modern television executive, Murray just might be the meanest Scrooge of all. Also stars the late John Forsythe and Brian Doyle Murray.

Bonus: Cherie's "Scroogie" awards:

Meanest Scrooge (or Scrooge-like character): Bill Murray in "Scrooged." No rival.

Most delusional Scrooge: Albert Finney in "Scrooge." He almost doesn't get it.

Best Jacob Marley: Gary Oldman in the Jim Carrey/Disney version. Highest score on the ghost meter.

Best Ghost of Christmas Past: A tie. Joel Grey in the Patrick Stewart version -- he's the closest to Dickens' description --and David Johansen in "Scrooged" -- he's hilarious.

Best Ghost of Christmas Present: Kenneth More in "Scrooge." He calls Scrooge out and he sings.

Best Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come: Chaz Conner in "Scrooged." High-tech scary.

Best Overall Production: "Scrooge" with Albert Finney and company. Simply the best.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Positive feminine traits prevail in "A Christmas Carol"

I have loved Charles Dickens' novella "A Christmas Carol" since I was a little girl. I was perhaps five or six years old when I was first introduced to Ebenezer Scrooge, the Cratchit family, and the three famous ghostly visitors.

That's what made it so cool -- it was a ghost story at Christmas. The supernatural element of the story is what I found most irresistible.

"A Christmas Carol" has become a seasonal icon. Everybody knows the story. Even though Dickens could not have foreseen the invention of television or film -- the story is so masterfully written that it has successfully undergone many adaptations that will continue long into the future.

But, where are the women in Dickens' classic tale?

In the introduction to her paper "Dickens and the Daughter of the House," Hilary M. Schor says, "Feminist criticism has not been kind to Charles Dickens, scorning what Orwell referred to as 'legless angels' -- good daughters like Little Nell, Agnes Wickfield, Esther Summerson, and all their dutiful ilk."

I must confess, I am not acquainted with these women. I'm not a particular fan of Dickens, and "A Christmas Carol" is his only work I've ever read.

I'm not into Victorian literature -- and I admit it freely.

In "A Christmas Carol," the women are in the background, which was typical of the times in which it was written. First published in 1843, the story predates the Seneca Falls Convention by five years. And, it wouldn't be until passage of the Married Women's Property Act of 1882 -- some 39 years later -- that English women would have the legal right to buy and sell their property. Under the law, women were given separate legal identities and could sue and be sued. They were also responsible for their own debts.

What "A Christmas Carol" does show us is the value of the feminine qualities of kindness, compassion, nurturing and care when they are practiced by both women and men.

In the story, the deep love of Bob Cratchit for his family, poignantly illustrated when he weeps over Tiny Tim's death in Scrooge's unaltered vision of the future, shows his vulnerability, but does not negatively feminize his behavior or criticize it as such.

Another character, Scrooge's nephew, Fred, refuses to indulge in mean-spirited criticism of his uncle, even when egged on by his friends and wife. Rather, Fred expresses acceptance of Scrooge's curmudgeonly ways and still believes that, deep down, there is good in Scrooge because his mother -- Scrooge's sister Fan -- loved him.

Fan, sometimes called Fran, is a significant figure in Scrooge's time travel journey into his past. It was Fan who played intercessor between Scrooge and his estranged father producing a kind of healing in the relationship. Negotiating the patriarchal social norms of the era could not have been easy. It is later said of Fan that she had a large heart, a testament to the power of her love and compassion.

There are also some strong female personalities who jump out of the background to make their voices heard.

Belle, Scrooge's one-time fiancee, also shows great insight and power to speak her own mind. She sees Scrooge's "changed nature" as he is influenced by greed. She tells Scrooge he, "fears the world too much," and breaks off the relationship at a time when a woman's status is determined by marriage.

Mrs. Cratchit is a woman who speaks her mind. She can't comprehend her husband's sentimental toast to his stingy boss and makes her disapproval and dislike of Scrooge known. At the same time, she is shown to be a shrewd household manager, by acquiring a goose for the family dinner at a bargain price.

Martha, the Cratchit's oldest daughter, exemplifies a time before constructed childhood.
She works in a millinery to help support the family.

Different adaptations -- although basically true to the story -- take artistic license with sex and gender.

For instance, the ghost of Christmas past is often depicted as a woman, but in the original story appears as something like a little boy with the face of an old man.

In the end, it is only when Scrooge adopts a care-focused approach to life that he reaps the rewards of redemption. And to Dickens' credit, he does not negatively feminize after the transformation has taken place.

To achieve the best of our human nature, we must seek to incorporate both positive feminine traits and positive male traits into our personalities and behaviors. This is true androgyny, which has more to do with practice than it does with appearance.

Happy Yuletide.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cherie freelances on is a new online newspaper in the metro area. is affiliated with America On Line (AOL) and is a new start-up company. Its focus is local coverage, a new niche for online news.

So far, has rolled out over 800 cities and still going.

I am covering the Utica-Shelby area of Michigan as a freelance writer. I'm meeting new people and getting to know a new area.

Check out some of my first stories:

Posh Palace Brings Glamour to Shelby -- Dec. 20

Shelby in Pictures: Historian Gives City Gift in New Book -- Dec. 20

Shhh! No Yelling About Quiet Library Rules. -- Dec. 21

I'm taking a little down-time for the holidays, but I will be back with in January.

Pass it on!

Michigan governor-elect picks women to head state police, community health

From The Detroit News:

Lansing— Gov.-elect Rick Snyder is expected to announce Wednesday the appointment of the first female to head the Michigan State Police.

Snyder will promote from within to name Lt. Col. Kriste Etue the new head for the Michigan State Police and will retain Kirk Steudle as the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher confirmed Tuesday.

Snyder is to make the announcements at a news conference in Lansing.

Etue is a deputy director whose responsibilities include the police budget.

She will be the second woman named to head a department in the Snyder administration.

On Friday, Olga Dazzo was named director of the Department of Community Health.

Poetry Podcast: A short and sweet haiku by Richard Hill

I can't think of a better way to end a year of podcasts than with this little beauty.

This poem was an entry in a haiku contest by the Detroit Free Press. The prize was a M.A.C. cosmetics giveaway.

However, this was not the winning entry. But, in my opinion, it should have been.

It was written by Richard Hill of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Listen to the poem here:

Although haiku is typically thought of as a simple form of poetry, it is quite the opposite.

According to Wikipedia, "Haiku, is a form of Japanese poetry, consisting of 17 moras, in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 moras respectively.

"Although haiku are often stated to have 17 syllables. This is inaccurate, as syllables and moras are not the same.

"In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line and tend to take aspects of the natural world as their subject matter, while in English,
often appear in three lines to parallel the three phrases of Japanese haiku, and may deal with any subject matter.

"Previously called hokku, haiku was given its current name by the Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki at the end of the 19th century.

A mora is a linguistic term for a "unit of sound ... that determines syllable weight, stress and timing in some languages."

In its Japanese form, haiku contains a kigo -- a seasonal reference -- and a kireji -- a "cutting word."

Kireji doesn't have an English equivalent. At the end of a verse, it provides a "dignified ending." When used in the middle of a verse, it briefly "cuts" the stream of thought to indicate a pause and add emotion.

I'm printing Richard's haiku below. Make a copy, put it on a post card and mail it to a friend. It's a simple, yet personal, way to send a seasonal greeting.

May your stars twinkle

May your tranquility glow

this season of peace

-- Richard Hill
Sault St. Marie, Mich.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Girl-on-girl crime goes international: Germany at odds over definition of feminism, role of women

"Germany is still a man's world and when men see women bickering over petty things, they'll only say, 'Here they go again bitching.'" -- Marion Bredebusch, psychologist and gender expert

I began the year by writing about girl-on-girl crime -- the ugly way women treat and talk about each other. And now, here's an example playing out on the international stage.

At odds are Germany's minister for families, women and pensioners, Kristina Schröder and Alice Schwarzer, who is described by Time magazine as a "seasoned feminist intellectual."

Their on-going war of words over "sex, the role of women and feminism," has German politicos concerned about its "damaging consequences for gender equality and the division of the women's movement," according to an article by Time magazine.

The 33-year-old Schröder (right) is the youngest member of German Chancellor Andrea Merkel's cabinet. She told the German press that "(early) feminism overlooked the fact that partnership and children can provide happiness."

She continues, "For me, emancipation will only be truly reached if a woman can wear make-up and skirts without having her abilities doubted as a result."

Schröder criticized Schwarzer's theories as too radical saying, "For example, that heterosexual sex was hardly possible without the subjugation of women" and therefore society can't carry on without the subjugation of women.

The 67-year old Schwarzer (left) retorted saying it's thanks to the (early) women's movement that women like Schröder are able to achieve positions of power. Then, she goes on to call Schröder "incompetent" and criticize her lack of initiatives to help women and girls -- among other things.

This situation exposes the complexities of the feminist movement -- from its beginning to its present state.

The first complexity is the definition of feminism itself. It does not fit neatly into a package. There is no single group called "feminists" under one umbrella of theory.

When Schröder refers to early feminism, it's safe to assume she means the liberal feminist movement based in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.

The movement emphasized women's legal equality with men and defined working outside the home as the path to liberation and a means to achieve equality. The mistake the movement made was assuming all women are the same -- by virture of being female -- and that this path was right for all women. The movement also failed to take into account important factors of race and class. These two factors combine to create a flawed vision of feminism that has been perpetuated down through the decades.

Ugly stereotypes that still persist today are a nasty side affect of the early mistakes of liberal feminism.

And yet, even with its mistakes, the early feminists took brave first steps and made it possible for some women to benefit by attaining positions of status and power.

Schröder's other comments about Schwarzer's "radical views" have to do with understanding the radical feminist school of thought. Radical feminists are just that -- radical. They have some interesting ideas -- but they are out there.

Some radical feminists believe that the way for women to achieve liberation is through elimination of biological procreation. They view women's ability to reproduce as a weakness. These are the radical libertarian feminists.

At the same time, other radical feminists view women's abilities to procreate as a powerful strength. These are the radical cultural feminists.

The two camps also take opposing views on pornography. The radical libertarian feminists believe that women should be free to experiment with all kinds of sexual stimuli, while radical cultural feminists insist that pornography is harmful and degrading to all women.

However, it was the liberal feminists that pushed for women's education and laid the groundwork for what has become women and gender studies in universities and colleges -- not to mention the feminist research that was born out of that scholarship.

Still, the bottom line is that women should not be taking very public pot shots at each other over differences in theory. Why all the bickering over feminist thought? It just serves to hold all of us back and further divide us.

Marion Bredebusch is absolutely right.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Feminist quotebag

"Why don't we talk about the fact, for example, that I just did 'Arthur," and the cinematographer was a woman, the film operator was a women, the whole camera team were women? That's where we should be putting ourattention. The fact that I look good at the age I am is bloody irrelevant."

-- Helen Mirren at the Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment event where she received a leadership award.

"I wanted to lose weight, but I thought I was doing something more important than tending to my vanity. You look at your body totally differently. It created this life and brought it into the world."

-- "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi on postpartum weight loss. She also told Redbook magazine she was surprised to find she liked herself at a bigger size (emphasis mine.)

Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press

Art that speaks volumes: Oakland University senior thesis exhibit

If some of these images make you uncomfortable -- that's the point.

Art should push our personal boundaries and make us think.

These images are part of Speaking: Oakland University Senior Thesis in Studio Art Exhibition I going on through Dec. 19 at the OU Art Gallery in Wilson Hall on the university's campus.

The exhibition is aptly named, so I'll let the images and artists speak for themselves.

Artist Bianca Henderson
in her own words:

"Throughout history the African American culture has undergone torment and humiliation through inhumane measures. In retrospect, a culture that was once unified is now divided. As a discerning figure within the African American culture I aim to strengthen and reform its current existence in society. Using nursery rhymes and historical references by means of photography I want to educate and declare a transformation. In order to give homage to our past ... we must make reparations and thrive for our highest potential culturally as a whole."

Artist Lacy Skidmore in her own words:

"Many people think of race and ethnicity as merely black and white without considering the gray areas. As a woman of mixed race, I'm smack dab in the middle of the gray area, consistently fighting to be both white enough and Hispanic enough to be acknowledged as so by society. My work explores this area where race and ethnicity aren't always what they appear to be and our standard definitions of such do not apply."

Artist Danielle Tisdale in her own words:

"The human body can be used as an identifier. In a physical aspect, all humans have different skin tones, shapes and scars that make us unique.
By turning focus upon the inside of the human body, it is apparent we are all created in the same form. The inner workings of our bodies are an amazing machine. The human body can tell us what is wrong and how it feels, each layer working together."

Unfortunately, my photo does not do this next image justice. -- cwr

Artist Sarah Whitson in her own words:

"Looking at a person, one only sees an outer shell. No one really knows what emotions and struggles they contend with. I am interested in the identity of a person, finding out what lies underneath the surface of the physical. One's outer body can portray a perfect picture when the inner self may not be stable."

Look out, world! Cherie graduates from Oakland University

This is for all the nontraditional students everywhere.

It's never too late for reinvention -- if you can dream it, you can do it.

This is me on my graduation day, Saturday, December 11, 2010. My gold cord represents my Magna Cum Laude, "with great honors," status. The burgundy cord represents my journalism departmental honors.

That's Oakland University President Gary Russi shaking my hand. More images and video to follow.

Photo courtesy of GradImages

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ecofeminism in action: A Christmas tree rescue

Two years ago, I found this little tree in the remains of Walgreen's Christmas markdowns. I decided it would be my "act of green" for the day to rescue her.

Sold as "living Christmas trees," these plants are actually called Norfolk Island Pines, but that name is a little deceptive.

The Norfolk Island Pine -- Araucana heterophylla -- is not native to the United States. And, it's not really a true pine. What it is is a conifer -- a cone-bearing plant that produces seeds instead of fruit.

What distinguishes a pine is the way its needles grow. A true pine has needles that grow in clusters of two - five, while the needles of other conifers and evergreens grow individually, directly out of the branch.

True to its name, the plant is endemic to the Norfolk Island, located in the Pacific Ocean between Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. In its native habitat, the these trees can grow up 200 feet tall.

In the United States, Norfolk Island Pines can be found growing in southern Florida where they can grow to a height of 50 feet. They can also be found in California, where they can grow to be 100 feet tall.

As houseplants, however, their growth is limited by the size of their pots.

Indoors, the Norfolk Island Pine requires temperatures of 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. It needs about two hours of direct sunlight each day. It requires water when the top inch of the soil is dry.

Optimally, the Norfolk Island Pine likes 50 percent humidity, and that can be a challenge. However, my plucky little specimen has done just fine residing in my kitchen.

If you have an opportunity to "adopt" or "rescue" a Norfolk Island Pine this holiday season, do so. It will give you pleasure for years to come -- and it counts as an "act of green."

And that's ecofeminism in action.

Learn more about caring for a Norfolk Island pine courtesy of Purdue University, at Purdue Yard and Garden.

MSU cager takes a cheap shot -- shame on Draymond Green

This quip courtesy of Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press. He's talking about Michigan State University's men's -- and women's -- basketball:

"It's not politically correct, but here's what Michigan State's Draymond Green (right) said after Tuesday nights loss to Syracuse: 'We played like a bunch of girls.'

"He wishes. The MSU men are 6-3; the women are 8-1."

Need I say more? I don't think so.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

And the word of the day is ...

I've recently subscribed to Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day. What a great way to keep "green and growing" on a daily basis.

I wanted to share today's word -- ecotone -- because it relates to the earth, and my ecofeminist mission to keep it "green and growing," at least as much as it depends on me.

Subscribe to Merriam-Webster Word of the Day here.

a transition area between two adjacent ecological communities

Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds — in particular, those located in the ecotones along the edges of a mature forest.
"Thus for dung beetles examined in a Bolivian forest-savannah ecotone, almost complete turnover occurred between forest and savannah, with only two of the 50 most common species occurring in both…." — From T.R. New's 2010 book Beetles in Conservation

"Every modification of climate, every disturbance of the soil, every interference with the existing vegetation of an area, favours some species at the expense of others." As Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker observed in Flora Indica (1855), all ecological communities are subject to some kind of disturbance, ranging from the simple, yet significant, loss of a tree to a catastrophic wildfire. Each disturbance creates an opportunity for a new species to colonize or flourish within the ecosystem in a process known as "ecological succession." Scientists refer to the area of overlapping landscapes where the "foreign" species encounter each other and blend together as "ecotones," an apparent allusion to the tension created when competing species come together (in Greek "tonos" means "tension").