Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Advocate Feminism's Woman of the Year: SlutWalker

Time magazine named "The Protester" as its 2011 "Person of the Year."  It is in that spirit that I have named feminism's most visible entity of 2011 as my Woman of the Year:  The Slutwalker.

She is personified here in my own original digital depiction (above.)

She started walking in Toronto in April, and before too long, her sisters were walking all over the world.  

She even has her own well-researched and documented Wikipedia entry which succinctly explains the movement and its criticisms this way:

"Participants protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman's appearance. The rallies began when Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, suggested that to remain safe, "women should avoid dressing like sluts." The protest takes the form of a march, mainly by young women, where some dress in ordinary clothing and others dress provocatively, like "sluts." There are also speaker meetings and workshops. Some objectors have remarked that this approach is an example of women defining their sexuality in male terms."

While SlutWalkers marched through downtown Ann Arbor to the University of Michigan Diag in October, SlutWalk Detroit, originally scheduled for June, never happened and its future is still up in the air.

And there lies the challenge for SlutWalk and all recent "occupy" and protest movements:  Will they remain a visible force for change, or just fade into history as another passing fad?

Related links:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas past meets Christmas present on Antenna TV

WADL, Channel 38.2 here in Detroit is home to Antenna TV, which broadcasts classic television shows.  I love classic TV, especially shows from the '70s when I was growing up.  Two of my favorites, "All in the Family" and one of its spinoffs, "Maude," are icons of an era when TV as a medium was pushing our boundaries.  By covering topics from racial prejudice, to feminism, to abortion, the shows made us uncomfortable -- and they made us think.

It was a different time -- or maybe not so much.

I found a case of Christmas past meeting Christmas present when WADL 38.2 ran holiday episodes of the classic shows during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I happened upon an episode of "Maude" titled "The Christmas Party," specifically, Season 4, Episode 14, original air date: Dec. 22, 1975.

Maude Findlay, played by the late Bea Arthur, was the fictional depiction of a strong-willed, liberal feminst woman at the heart of the '70s women's movement.  She was created as the antithesis of Archie Bunker, the ultimate blue collar, conservative patriarch of "All in the Family."  Maude was the cousin of Archie's wife Edith.

In this episode, Maude's old friend, Stephanie, a feminist writer and activist, comes to visit.  Maude's husband, Walter, is worried that feminism might not make and appropriate topic for his Christmas party with his employees.  Take a look (forward to 5:45):

While I respect Stephanie's passion, we do have to pick appropriate moments to express our views, especially with friends and family who we really want to see the importance of our cause.  Even Maude starts to squirm here and later tells Stephanie to "just relax for once."

However, I find it interesting that 36 years later, in 2011, we are still talking about the same issues Stephanie mentions:  male images as subtle put downs of women, feminism referred to as "women's lib jazz," or the like, and references to women as "guys" being passed off as "just an expression."

But there's more.  Here's the conclusion of "The Christmas Party":

 Here we see Stephanie, in the midst of a barrage of stereotypical jokes about women being "nags" and "hags," trying to make the point that language matters.  "Language reflects the way we think," she says.  She's right.  But the guests retaliate by calling her a "party pooper."  Even Maude calls her friend a "militant flake."

But in the end, Maude defends Stephanie saying that she has worked hard to defend "our dignity and our future as women."  The two friends embrace and Stephanie gives in saying she has no more righteousness left in her.  Everyone sings a carol around the piano and has a merry Christmas after all.

And 36 Christmases later, we could do the same show with an updated wardrobe.  And that really makes you think.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Face of Jesus: Is this what a feminist looked like?

Rembrandt's rendition of Jesus

"Jesus vigorously promoted the dignity and equality of women in the midst of a very male-dominated society: Jesus was a feminist, and a very radical one.  Can his followers attempt to be anything less?

-- Leonard Swidler "Jesus Was a Feminist"

Now through February 12, there's an exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts titled "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus."

The DIA's website says "The exhibition of 64 works includes approximately 52 small, intimate paintings, prints and drawings by Rembrandt and his students that illustrate how Rembrandt broke from traditional 17th-century representations of Jesus."

Actually, nothing is known about what Jesus looked like.  The only Biblical reference that alludes to Jesus' appearance in physical form as the messiah is found at Isaiah 53:2, cited here from the New International Version:

"He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
   and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
   nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." 

In other words, his appearance was quite ordinary.

There are many ways to "view" Jesus, other than artists' representations.  But whether you see him as God in human form, the Son of God, a savior, a prophet or simply an historical figure, there's one view of Jesus that is seldom discussed:  Jesus was a feminist.

In her essay "A Change in Women's Rights," Marilyn Adamson, director of, says, "In contrast to the Middle East culture that viewed women rather dismissively, we see Jesus giving great honor to women.  Constantly."

According to Adamson, in Jesus' day, women were treated more as property rather than as persons.  Their function was to serve the needs of their husbands and families.  And women's rights were not even a topic for discussion.

My personal favorite depiction of Jesus appears on a book cover
A man could divorce his wife for any reason.  She was given a bill of divorce and sent away without even a right to contest.  But, the wife could never divorce her husband on any grounds.

However, Jesus disagreed.  In his article "Jesus Was a Feminist," Leonard Swidler emphasizes that Jesus' views on marriage were quite different:

"His unpopular attitude towards marriage presupposed a feminist view of women; they had rights and responsibilities equal to men.  It was quite possible in Jewish law for men to have more than one wife, though the reverse was not possible.  Divorce, of course, also was a simple matter to be initiated only by the man.  Jesus rejected both by insisting on monogamy and the elimination of divorce.  Both the man and the woman were to have the same rights and responsibilities in their relationship toward each other."

While advocating marital rights, Jesus also taught women religious truths and the meanings of the scriptures, even though Judaism forbade it, and women were among his first followers.

Swidler calls Jesus' "extraordinary, deliberate decision" to teach women one that can be "properly appreciated only when it is recalled that not only were women not to read or study the scriptures, but were not even to leave their household, whether as a daughter, wife, or member of a harem."

In his teachings, Jesus often used stories, parables and similitude that featured women in a positive light. One of my favorites is the story of the Widow's Mite from the book of Mark, quoted here from the New International Version:

"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” 

A more controversial aspect of Jesus as feminist might be reproductive rights. 

"If one accepts the Bible literally, certain scriptures come to light which will lead you to the inescapable conclusion that Jesus held to the same beliefs as modern Pro-Choice advocates," according to, a website that professes free thought and atheism.

The reasoning is that Jesus agreed with the law of Moses, at least on the point that life begins at birth and a fetus is not equal to a human life, and termination of a pregnancy would not be considered murder.

The website's interpretation of Exodus 21:22-25 says, "... if a fetus dies and is expelled from a woman's body as the result of being struck by a man, then the man who struck her is fined a certain amount of money, which he must pay to the husband.  But, and here is the important part, if the woman dies, then the man who struck her shall be put to death (life for life.)"

The website cites John 5:46-47 as Jesus' endorsement of Mosaic law when he said, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.  But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

Of course some will find flaws in this reasoning and cite other scriptures as proof that life begins at conception.  

Still, Jesus' treatment and views of women during his time on earth was extraordinary.  He was an ally of women and not to blame for the abuses heaped on women and other marginalized people by the patriarchal, institutionalized religious institutions of today that claim to act on his behalf.  

Perhaps it is necessary to separate from Christendom when we visualize the face of Jesus for ourselves.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Buying it or #NotBuyingIt

As the holiday shopping season enters its final stretch, the producers of "Miss Representation," the documentary film exposing sexism in American media, want consumers to use their buying power to fight sexism.

The "Miss Representation" team wants shoppers to watch for offensive products that sexualize women and girls -- and Tweet about it.

The campaign is called "NotBuyingIt."  The film's website explains how it works:

"If you see a product or ad during the shopping season that misrepresents or degrades women, use Twitter to post a description or upload a picture of the offensive item. Use the hashtag #notbuyingit so that we can all follow along!"

The campaign can also be used to show toys and images that promote positive representations of women and girls.

Images can also be posted on the film's Tumbler page.

Here's a few examples:

 Susie Barr-Wilson posted this image from the Lego Friends collection launched by the company to broaden its appeal to girls clad in tank tops and miniskirts.

She says, "The minifigures are built to hold hairbrushes and handbags, they’re designed in pastels, and one of their building sets is a hairdressing salon.

While I applaud Lego for recognizing that girls like to build just as much as boys, perpetuating traditional gender stereotypes is NOT the solution to expanding their market. Create “girl” minifigures, sure, but why not make them astronauts or crime fighters (dressed in practical clothing for the job)? Or how about rock-climbers or world travelers on safari?

A company of such popularity has great potential to defy patriarchal gender norms, rather than promote them. Nice try, Lego, but until you create “girl” legos that don’t endorse traditional femininity, I’m not buying them."

Tessa Crisman Tweeted this image at right of baby close that emphasizes the importance of being "pretty."

Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of the Paley Center for media says it best when she reminds us:

"We have enormous power.  Eighty-six percent of the purchasing power in this country is in the pockets of women.  Well, let's use it."

Tweet on --  #NotBuyingIt.

Friday, December 16, 2011

As Ms. turns 40, women still can't agree on a definition for FEMINISM

"A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability to either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is or accept definition(s) that could serve as points of unification."  
-- bell hooks "Feminist Theory from Margin to Center"

Forty years ago this month, Ms. Magazine began as an insert in  New York magazine. The publication's cofounders Gloria Steinem and Letty Pogrebin appeared on NBC's Today show.

As a feminist and a journalist, of course I'm interested in the story of how this magazine got its start and has endured through the years.  And, of course, I respect the hard work and tenacity of these feminist pioneers.

But what I found even more interesting about this piece are the opening perspectives on the definition of feminism. Watch now, and come back for my analysis:

It was true then, and it's true now.  Mainstream feminism is a movement existing without a true definition. Much too often we hear "What feminism means to me" statements like the ones in the "Today" video.  These views contain verbiage that sound meaningful, and sometimes contain elements of truth, but they don't identify an underlying cause of discrimination and oppression.

Most importantly, without a baseline definition, there is no basis for unity.

Lack of a baseline definition has lead to a societal and political malaise surrounding feminism, as reflected in statements like these from the video:

"I don't see feminism as a really strong movement today."

"It's not really even totally meaningful to me in the sense that I take for granted the equal rights of women."

In her book, "Feminism is for Everybody:  Passionate Politics," feminist writer bell hooks does what liberal mainstream feminists have failed to do after 40 years, she offers a simple, baseline definition for feminism:

"Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression."

This simple definition works, and is needed, hooks says because it makes it clear that the problem is sexism.

"And that clarity helps us remember that all of us, female and male, have been socialized from birth on to accept sexist thought and action.  As a consequence, females can be just as sexist as men," hooks says.

This definition does not target men as the enemy, another commonly held belief about feminism.

"To end patriarchy (another way of naming the institutionalized sexism) we need to be clear that we are all participants in perpetuating sexism until we change our minds and hearts," hooks says.

It seems perfectly simple.  So, let's look at how a few other definitions offered in the "Today" video measure up.

"Feminism, or the word feminist, means to me that you're an independent woman who can take care of yourself."

Well ... First, every woman is not a feminist.  This definition implies that being born female and being a feminist automatically go hand in hand.  They don't.  There were strong independent women who took care of themselves long before the feminist movement, and there are strong, independent woman today who do not identify themselves as feminists, perhaps due in part to misconceptions and lack of a basic definition for the movement.

hooks adds that definitions emphasizing independence are "almost apolitical in tone" and are "the type of definition many liberal women find appealing" because they evoke "a very romantic notion of personal freedom that is more acceptable than a definition that emphasizes radical political action."

"Feminism is demanding equal rights in the workplace or in everyday life."

"(If the) Definition of feminism is men and women have equal rights, then I'm a feminist."

Equality -- specifically women's legal and or social  equality with men -- is a word that is commonly associated or even "equated" with perceptions of feminism.  Yet, hooks, asks the $1 million question in her book "Feminist Theory from Margin to Center": 

"Since men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to?"

Class and race are major factors that are left out of a "simplistic definition" limited to legal and or social equality, hooks says, and adds, "Feminism defined as social equality with men might easily become a movement that would primarily affect the social standing of white women in middle- and upper-class groups while affecting only in a very marginal way, the social status of working-class and poor women."

hooks concludes that "neither a feminism that focuses on a woman as an autonomous human being worthy of personal freedom nor one that focuses on the attainment of equality for opportunity with men can rid society of sexism and male domination."

Therefore, it is only when we commit to feminism as a movement against sexism that we have the opportunity to affect change that benefits both mean and women.

Defined this way, "Feminism is for everybody," hooks says, because it "aims to end domination to free us to be who we are - to live lives where we love justice, where we can live in peace."

Sounds good to me.

BTW:  bell hooks is the pen name of Gloria Jean Watkins.  According to, "Her pseudonym, her great-grandmother's name, celebrates female legacies and is in lower case because, 'it is the substance of my books, not who is writing them, that is important.'"

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Poetry Podcast: "A Christmas Cookie"

Sometimes the best gifts are the ones we don't ask for, or least expect.  Yet, if we accept them, they can change our lives forever.

My cat Cookie
That's the message of my poem "A Christmas Cookie."  It's the story of a little tuxedo cat that came into my life on Christmas Day in 2000 and has been a part of my family since.

Down through the ages, women have used poetry as a vehicle to record their stories, express their feelings and work through their issues.  "A Christmas Cookie" was one of my first forays into poetry writing, which is more challenging than it might seem on the surface.

It's a little corny, and the rhythm is a little "off," but it served a purpose:  to tell the story of Cookie that is unique to my own personal history.

And the sharing of it is my gift to you this Yuletide season.

Enjoy and Blessed Be:


Podcast Powered By Podbean

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ecofeminism in Action: Living with Feline Leukemia

Sometimes animals come into our lives needing our help.  At these times, doing the right thing is not always easy, but taking that course molds and changes you forever.  

This was the case with our cat, Peppermint Patty, when she came into our life six years ago, and I think it's finally time to tell her story.  I hope you enjoy and learn from it. -- CWR.

A first glance reveals nothing unusual about my cat, Peppermint Patty.  On the surface, there’s her sleek, black coat. A closer look reveals extra toes on her front paws. Concealed on her underbelly is a single white spot.  
Peppermint Patty

But, under the surface is a dark secret. Peppermint Patty has feline leukemia.  It’s a fatal disease, but not necessarily a reason for fear or despair. And in the six years she’s spent as part of our family, Peppermint Patty is proof that living with feline leukemia is possible with the proper understanding, management and acceptance of the disease.

Feline leukemia (FeLV) is a disease of the bone marrow.  It is classified a retrovirus, akin to HIV (AIDS) in humans, and its feline counterpart, FIV. The disease compromises the cat’s immune system leaving it vulnerable to cancers and other diseases.

Our veterinarian, Dr.Bonnie Burke, of Little Friends of Ferndale in Ferndale, Mich., says 85 percent of cats that test positive for feline leukemia die within three years of diagnosis.

Peppermint Patty is six years old, and Burke calls her “a miracle.” Although, she has seen FeLV- positive cats live as long as 15 years.

Still, the fatal aspect of the disease is all too real to our family. Peppermint Patty’s littermate, Pig Pen, who was also diagnosed with FeLV, died when he was only 16 months old.

The first diagnostic step is a simple blood test known as an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA test, also called a “snap” test, that’s administered and read in the veterinarian’s office.

Dr. Paul Maza, a veterinarian who teaches anatomy and does education and outreach for the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y., explains that this test checks the blood for antigens, in this case a protein, not antibodies.  

“If the protein is present, the virus is present,” Maza says. However, the infection might be “transient,” or temporary. 

It’s possible that a cat could “clear,” or fight off, the virus after exposure, so Maza cautions against jumping to conclusions from a single positive ELISA test result. He recommends retesting after a waiting period of at least four weeks. 

Burke says many rescue groups will opt to retest cats after an initial positive ELISA result, but adds that the test yields very few “false positive” results.

Another blood test, the indirect immunofluorescent antibody assay, or IFA, tests for antibodies. Burke calls this test the “gold standard” for diagnosis. For this test, a blood sample is sent out to a diagnostic laboratory.

A positive IFA result indicates a “persistent” or permanent infection. This is the case with Peppermint Patty.  

The feline leukemia virus is spread through bodily fluids like saliva, blood or semen. It can also be passed from a mother cat to her kittens through milk.  Because she was diagnosed as a kitten, it’s likely that Peppermint Patty contracted the disease from one of her parents, an infected male or female cat.

In a multicat household, social grooming, and even sharing food dishes or litter boxes pose a risk of spreading the disease. So, Peppermint Patty – who is also known as “Pep Pat” or “Peeps” – lives in her own “apartment,” a spare bedroom in our house. My husband and I both spend time with her there.  

The space is very much like a studio apartment. She has a couch, a water fountain, toys, a “turbo scratcher,” food and litter box.  A neighbor made her a custom kitty condo that sits in front of a window where she has a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood activity.  

Feline leukemia cannot be transmitted from cats to humans. The virus is fragile and does not live long outside of the cat’s body, so there’s no need to worry about transmitting it from clothing or skin to our other cats.  

Soap and water kills it, so we simply wash our hands after a visit with “Peeps.” I wash her food dishes and bedding normally.

We have chosen not to vaccinate our other cats against feline leukemia, although a preventative vaccine is available.  

Maza says that while the vaccine can provide “adequate protection,” just how “adequate” is unknown. Additionally, the vaccine poses a risk of causing an injection site sarcoma.

The decision to keep her separate from the rest of our feline family was, and continues to be, a difficult one. Yet, we believe it was the fairest and safest choice for all concerned, and gave Peppermint Patty a quality life she might not have had elsewhere.  

Sometimes, the decision is made to euthanize a FeLV-positive cat. And, while Burke supports our commitment to give Peppermint Patty a quality life, she recognizes it’s not possible in every case. 
Based on living conditions, she says, “For some people, doing the right thing is impossible.  There is no right answer.”

There is no cure for feline leukemia. Management of the disease includes good nutrition and preventative veterinary protocol. 

We feed Peppermint Patty a premium diet of both canned and dry food and she drinks from a fountain that recirculates and filters her water. We do not use any other supplements.

Wellness exams and vigilant health observation are also part of feline leukemia management.  Peppermint Patty has an annual checkup that includes a stool sample analysis and blood work. Her vaccinations have been suspended. 

I watch for changes in her eating and litter box habits, but Peppermint Patty has only been seriously ill once in her life. Vomiting and loss of appetite prompted a visit to our vet, where she received aggressive treatment. She recovered fully and has only suffered an occasional hairball since.

At her last checkup, Peppermint Patty weighed in at a healthy 14.8 pounds with normal blood work. We have every reason to believe she will remain healthy and live a normal lifespan. 

Yet, nothing is entirely certain when living with feline leukemia. But, in Peppermint Patty’s case, a compassionate conscience would allow me to do nothing less than give her the best quality life possible. Regardless of how long she might live, seeing her healthy and happy right now is the reward.

Related links:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Follow that blog -- with email!

Now you can get "I Advocate Feminism ... a mini-blogzine" delivered directly to your email in box and never miss another post.

It's easy.  Just scroll down the column on your right until you find "Follow by Email," enter your email address, click on "submit," and follow a few simple instructions. 

Of course I'd still love to see you as a fan, so feel free to click the "Join this site" button, too.

Cherie's favorite things

Thoughtful gifts that won't break the bank

"I love to give. I do it because I want to, and I do it because I can. This time of year, it’s important to keep giving in perspective.

Nothing should be expected, especially in our economically challenging times. If someone can’t afford to give, no explanation should be needed and no judgment should be passed. I also believe that gifts are not quid pro quo. Give for the simple joy of giving and ask nothing in return."

Those words were true when I wrote them two years ago, and they are still true today.

And it's in that spirit that I present my gift suggestions for the season.  Blessed be.

Dress like the Prez:  Here's where you can get one of these "This is what a feminist looks like" T-shirts and hoodies.  $22-$30. The Feminist Majority Store also has a great selection of jewelry, buttons and tote bags.

Prevent violence against women:  Buy the Avon Empowerment Bracelet for only $10 and 100% of the net proceeds ($8.03) will be donated to the Avon Foundation for programs dedicated to ending violence against women.  Add a matching ring for only $5.
A gift for the heart: Raise heart disease awareness and encourage healthy cooking with these heart-shaped measuring spoons from the American Heart Association. $10.  Add a "Red Dress"  lapel pin for $12.

The wonderful woman of Willendorf:  Restore the sacred feminine to the holidays with this replica from The eMuseum Store. Item number VEN01, $34.

A gift for the mind:  One of my favorite books by my favorite feminist writer, bell hooks.  "Feminism is for everybody:  Passionate Politics." 

Barnes & Noble says: "In this engaging and provocative volume, bell hooks introduces a popular theory of feminism rooted in common sense and the wisdom of experience. Hers is a vision of a beloved community that appeals to all those committed to equality, mutual respect, and justice."  $11.42.

 Three for the bees:  If you haven't yet seen this amazing documentary, take advantage of this special, limited-time offer to get three copies for $30. Keep one, give one to a friend and donate one to your local library or neighborhood school.

For our BFFs and BCFs (best feline and best canine friends):  
Vegan dog treats! Dogswell Veggie Life Vitality Sweet Potato Chew Treats.  Pack of six 5-oz. pouches, $15.23 at and some Target stores.
Cat Grass Plus, $4.99 at Petsmart stores.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Feminist Quote Bag

"Just like a rose is beautiful

so is a sunflower

so is a peony


All flowers are beautiful in their own way, and that's like women too." -- Miranda Kerr, Austrailian model encouraging women to embrace their uniqueness.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Should a woman be one of the "guys?"

It’s been one of my pet peeves for years, even in my prefeminist days, so when a  Facebook friend began her post with, “I need a little help, guys” it set me off.

The term "guys" is often applied to mixed companies of men and women.
“I’m not a guy,” I responded to the use of the all-to-common address used in mixed company.

“Guys is all-inclusive,” she said, “Which is obviously proven by Sloth in 'Goonies.'"

Say what?

Well, I admit I’ve never seen “Goonies,” but I would hesitate to cite a single movie from 1985 as obvious proof  that the term “guys,” as it applies to a group of men and women, is acceptable as all-inclusive.

What I would cite are are academic sources for proof that such language is indeed sex- and gender-biased and not inclusive at all.

I would start with The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  A section devoted to gender-sensitive language, explains it this way:

“Another common gendered expression, particularly in informal speech and writing, is 'you guys.' This expression is used to refer to groups of men, groups of women, and groups that include both men and women. Although most people mean to be inclusive when they use 'you guys,' this phrase wouldn't make sense if it didn't subsume women under the category 'guys.' To see why 'you guys' is gendered male, consider that 'a guy' (singular) is definitely a man, not a woman, and that most men would not feel included in the expression 'you gals' or 'you girls.'”

Language is important because its influence is so subtle.  Every time we speak we have an opportunity to either advance sexism or stop it in its tracks.  But, we first have to acknowledge that language is often overlooked as a factor in the perpetuation of sexism.

Feminist scholars agree.

A paper titled, "Seeing the Unseen:  Attention to Daily Encounters With Sexism as Way to Reduce Sexist Beliefs" published in the June 2011 issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly, concludes that both men and women tend to overlook – and perhaps even deem acceptable – more subtle forms of sexism they encounter on a daily basis, such as the use of sex- and gender-biased language.

According to its publisher, SAGE Journals, Psychology of Women Quarterly is "a feminist, scientific, peer-reviewed journal that publishes empirical research, critical reviews and theoretical articles that advance a field of inquiry, brief reports on timely topics, teaching briefs, and invited book reviews related to the psychology of women and gender."

Commenting on the paper, Science Daily makes the point that  "Nearly everyone can recognize the stereotypical scene of construction workers catcalling women as being sexist, but both men and women tend to overlook the more subtle daily acts of sexism they encounter ... Things such as calling women 'girls' but not calling men 'boys' or referring to a collective group as 'guys' are forms of subtle sexism that creep into daily interactions."

Science Daily goes on to quote the paper's authors, psychologists Janet Swim of Pennsylvania State University and Julia Becker of Philipps University Marburg, Germany, as saying "Women endorse sexist beliefs, at least in part, because they do not attend to subtle, aggregate forms of sexism in their personal lives."

And further, "Many men not only lack attention to such incidents but also are less likely to perceive sexist incidents as being discriminatory and potentially harmful for women."
What's more, says Science Daily, "The study goes on to differentiate the way men and women's beliefs change once they become aware of subtle sexism. Women need to 'see the unseen,' the authors note, to make corrections, whereas men need not only to be aware of the sexist behavior or comments, but also to feel empathy for the women targeted. These results are consistent with other studies which found that empathy is an effective method for reducing racial and ethnic prejudice."

So, do we correct the use of sex and gender-biased language when we hear it -- and thereby make "the unseen" obvious?  I say, yes.  Although, be prepared for repercussions such as being labeled an oversensitive, nasty, annoying feminist and being dropped as a Facebook friend.

Another question would be, "What -- if anything -- should we say instead?"

I found an online exchange from the women's studies email forum at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where a participant endorsed my personal favorite expression, "y'all," for a couple of reasons:

"I nominate "y'all" as a perfect feminist solution to two problems: the English language's lack of a plural "you," and the related issue of trying to create a plural "you" using gender-specific words like "you guys." Or worse, "gals" and "girls."

Or Goonies. 

"Friends" appears courtesy of NBC.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Best of the Blog: Celebrating two years online

Everybody does it.  From TV shows to rock bands, the concept of a "Best of ..." show, album or book is a popular way to commemorate career or lifetime milestones.

For me and "this little blog o'mine," that milestone is two years online.

But, what determines "the best?" For most artists, actors or authors, popularity is the criterion based on input from a fan base or sales.

For this particular "best of" feature, I've decided to showcase my most popular posts based on page views alongside what I personally consider to be some of my best-written and most important posts.  It's a great opportunity for exploration and examination.  Links are there for your convenience.  Thanks for reading.  Enjoy!

"I Advocate Feminism ... a mini-blogzine's top five blog posts:

1.  A different view of the Willendorf Project

2.  Of Frankenstein and Feminism

3.  Jennifer Granholm talks about gender politics

4.  Ancient people revered the sacred feminine 

5.  Equitable equine enthusiasm

Cherie's top Five Blog Posts:

1.  Sexism is at the root of girl-on-girl crime 

Defined as,"the ugly way women treat each other in social, business and political situations that result in a sabotage of success," I see girl-on-girl crime as as the number one reason women cannot achieve more in social, business and political arenas -- and even within feminist circles.  A great piece for self examination.

Possibly the best piece I've written in this venue.  My husband Chris paid me a high compliment when he said, "This should be in a magazine."

3.  An economy based on feminized labor?

Eye-opening information from the book, "Feminism Seduced."  Comment from the author is still a high point in blog history.

4.  Sexual Politics of Meat set to music
Nothing makes the connection between the oppression of animals and women or builds the case for a feminist/vegetarian connection better than Carol J. Adams' own voice.

5.  Pro-choice and Pro-abortion are not the same thing

At a time when reproductive rights are being aggressively challenged, the title of this post, combined with the common sense feminism of bell hooks, conveys a very important message that needs to be heard and understood.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

IMHO: Young feminists must comply with school dress codes

But -- fair enforcement free of discrimination is a must.
Take my poll!

Let's talk about pants.  Let's talk about yoga pants.  They're a hot topic among high school students.  At issue is whether students should be allowed to wear them to school and whether they violate school dress codes.

Here's a clip from Battlefield High School in Va.:

A similar situation recently took place in Loveland, Ohio.

Note that neither school's dress codes or rule book cite "yoga pants" as a specific violation, more generally naming tight or suggestive clothing.  But what is apparent, at least from these two videos, is that school administrators could be unfairly targeting female students for dress code violations and, in the process, disrupting their personal learning experiences.

In her blog, fitness expert Lisa Johnson writes,  "I drive by the high school regularly and have seen plenty of girls in outfits that make me cringe.  But never once did I do a double-take over yoga pants. Super-tight, low-cut jeans and tank tops that barely cover are always present, but what actually drives me the most crazy are pajama bottoms worn in public; that’s not sexy at all, just sloppy.

"I think having a general rule of conduct for both sexes that bans clothes that are too short or too tight is appropriate, but why are the girls being singled out here?  Is it a concern over the sexualization of female teenagers?  Lots of boys of high school age wear nothing but skinny jeans which can be nearly as form-fitting as yoga pants, but there’s no uproar or concern over that fashion choice."

Johnson goes on to explain that yoga pants are popular, "Because they’re ridiculously comfortable, very functional, and flattering! I can smoothly go from a Pilates session to the grocery store to school pick-up to coffee with a friend. I’m sure high school girls appreciate the same flexibility as they go from classes to gym to after-school activities to study dates with friends."

Locally, my young feminist friends, who are facing similar issues at their high school, tell me the same thing.  They want to be comfortable and they don't want to be unfairly hassled over their fashion choices.
But, negotiating school rules and dress codes is sticky.  It is true that public schools function "in loco parentis," meaning "in place of the parents" and can set certain standards and rules for students. 

The civil law firm of Modrall-Sperling, located in Albuquerque, N.M., has a some very comprehensive, generally applicable information on its website.  Modrall-Sperling confirms both the legality and constitutionality of dress codes:

"Dress and grooming codes are generally legally permissible. The wearing of a particular type or style of clothing usually is not seen as expressive conduct protected under the Constitution. Various school dress codes have been upheld including a prohibition against sagging pants, earrings, and clothing containing advertisements or objectionable statements."

The firm further explains:

"Public schools are delegated with the responsibility of educating students and maintaining an effective and orderly environment conducive to learning.

"An educational institution may prescribe reasonable dress codes. Recent court decisions have noted that an educational institution must demonstrate that the dress code is reasonable and rationally related to a legitimate pedagogical purpose.

"Many public school administrators maintain that dress codes reflect community values and create a positive educational environment. According to educators, dress codes promote student self-respect, maintain classroom discipline, discourage peer pressure to buy extravagant clothing, and make classrooms safe. Moreover, some educators have reported that dress codes have reduced the number of fights in schools and improved scholastic achievements and student attendance."

Still, fair enforcement remains an issue.

I found an opinion piece titled "High school dress codes shirt around fairness issue" written in 2009 Lilly Joynes, who was a sophomore at Mechanicsburg Area High School in Pennsylvania when her editorial was published by  She hit the proverbial nail on the head when she wrote:

"Unfortunately, there isn't a mutual agreement when it comes to dress code enforcement and what is or isn't appropriate for a learning environment.  Every school's dress code is different and, therefore, different rules are enforced.

"Clear rules need to be stated in every school's student handbook so a particular person or gender is not being wrongfully punished for their clothing choices. These rules need to be enforced fairly for both sexes."

And, her parting shot is still applicable:

"All students ask is that principals and teachers treat them fairly. So as a school authority, consider how many dress code violations your school has handed out this year. Were a majority of those to females? If so, it might be time to think more carefully when dishing out discipline to inappropriately dressed students, males included." 

It also jibes with Modrall-Sperling's recommendation to, "Apply dress codes impartially, consistently, fairly, and in equal manner."

I would also admonish parents to become part of the process.  Parents should talk sons and daughters about modes of dress that are appropriate and comfortable in the learning environment and watch to see that what they are wearing does not contribute to sexualization or objectification in or out of school.

Related links:
Yoga Pant Selections from Athleta
Yoga Pant Selections from Title 9
"Are High School Dress Codes Sexist?" -- a different view from Yahoo! Associated Content

What do you think?  Take my poll.  Leave comments below:

Friday, October 28, 2011

After a century, IBM has a woman at its helm

Women also making gains at Michigan corporations, but it's still a slow climb to the top

International Business Machines (IBM) has named Virginia "Ginni" Rometty as its CEO.  She is the first woman to hold the post in the company's 100-year history.

When Rometty, 54, steps into her new post on January 1, IBM will become only the 17th Fortune 500 company led by a woman.

Bobby Cameron, an analyst with Forrester Research, told the San Francisco Chronicle   "I think she's smart. She asks questions; she doesn't just come in with an agenda, and she's interested in the leading edge, not just what's driving volume — all those things are important for a CEO to have."

Rometty joined IBM as an engineer in 1991.  She replaces Sam Palmisano, 60, who will serve as the company's chairman.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press has reported that women hold "about a third of the board seats" at three large Michigan-based corporation according to Inforum, "a professional women's alliance," claiming 1,800 members throughout Michigan.
In its Women's Leadership Index report, Inforum acknowledged automaker General Motors, staffing firm Kelly Services and office furniture manufacturer Steelcase for their commitment to gender diversity.
To gather data for the Index, Inforum partnered with  Eastern Michigan University's College of Business.

Inforum has published The Women's Leadership Index every two years since 2003.
In a press release, Steelcase CEO James Hackett said, "We see women in leadership as a real strength at Steelcase.  I've seen a number of women rise through the ranks and bring major contributions to the company that has significantly impacted our business in a positive way."
Inforum's CEO Terry Barclay says that while these companies provide "glimmers of hope" for women aspiring to corporate positions, but says "the pace of change appears to be slow, some might say glacial."

For Michigan's top 100 public companies, the survey found that out of 662 executives, only 83 -- or 13.3 percent are women. 
And, only 88 of the companies' 849 board seats -- or 10.4 percent -- are held by women.  That number is up less than one percent since 2003.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Search the blog

With just a few clicks, I've added a handy "search this blog" feature. Try it out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Our Bodies, Ourselves" @ 40

1971 cover
2011 cover
It was first published in 1971 when it sold 250,000 copies.  Forty years, 20 translations and 4 million copies later, "Our Bodies, Ourselves," the classic feminist text on women's health is still going strong in it's 9th edition. It was written by women for women in frank language that brought in women's perspectives.

If you missed this great tribute piece on NBC Nightly News, watch it below.  And don't forget to visit the "Our Bodies, Ourselves" websiste.

Just for fun: My first foray into fiction, "Not My High School Reunion"

The date on this story is Oct. 27, 2003.  That makes it almost eight years to the day when I shared it fellow wannabe writers at "Taking Leaps," a workshop at the Troy, Mich. Public Library with my friend, mentor and fellow Oakland University alumna, Iris Lee Underwood.

Iris said the best thing about fiction writing is that you can break all the rules.  Yes, you can.  That's what makes the genre so much fun and different from the factual writing I do as a journalist. 

The inspiration for this story was the receipt of an invitation to a high school reunion that was, well ... not MY high school reunion.  I received another invitation this week from the same people who apparently never took me off their mailing list.

Reading through old writing is a great tool for self assessment.  I was such a different person when I wrote this story all those years ago.  I can see  and feel how much I've grown as a person and as a writer -- I hope.

It's been a long time since I've done a "Just for fun" post, so I decided to share this story in that spirit.

Enjoy "Not my high school reunion"

When I first got the invitation, I almost threw it away.  After all, it was a mistake.  My name was on the envelope, but it wasn’t for me.  They had me confused with someone else. 

It’s strange to think that there’s another Sherry Whyte out there.  She spells her name the same way I do, yet she’s a completely different person with another life shaped by different experiences.

            Besides, I didn’t graduate from Katy, TX High School twenty years ago.  In fact, I’ve never been to Texas in my lifetime.

            Still, I didn’t throw the invitation away.  The more I looked at the invitation to the Wildcats of Katy High 20Year Reunion, the more I wondered, “What if?”

            These people would probably be more fun than the people I went to High School with anyway.  I stopped wondering, “What if,” and began to think, “Why not?”

            I wasn’t popular in high school and really didn’t care to see any of my old classmates again; but, for some odd reason, the idea of attending this reunion intrigued me. 

For that one night, my past would not follow me.  I could go to a part of the country I’ve never been to before and be totally free – whoever I wished to be, anything I wanted to be - for one night.

            I could wear a daring dress, create wonderful adventures for myself and conjure up a fabulous career.  I would still be me, only different, with a few improvements and corrections.  It would be kind of like costume ball-Cinderella with a psychotic twist.

I scheduled some time off, booked a flight to Texas, reserved a hotel room from the block set aside for the Wildcat Reunion, and sent back my reply card.  With that I accepted the invitation to be part of their past, their party.

            I gathered a wardrobe appropriate for the hot, humid weather of Texas in July.  A daring halter dress and really cool sandals was the outfit I selected for the big night.

I decided I would be an entrepreneur with my own web design business.  Not too far a stretch, I thought, since I used a computer on my secretarial job and surfed the Internet hanging ten.

            Speaking of the Internet, I logged onto to check out my fellow Wildcats and make sure the other Sherry Whyte hadn’t signed in.  Fortunately for me, she hadn’t.  Maybe she felt the same way about her former classmates as I did about mine.

            As I scrolled down through the names, I saw the jocks, nerds, and cheerleaders of long ago.  I wondered how many of them had embellished their lives?

            At last the reunion was here.  I landed at the airport and stepped into the heat and humidity of Texas.  Katy was a small community, which in the days of the old west, would have been called a “one horse town.”  I took a shuttle to my hotel.  The same hotel where the reunion would take place that night.

            It was funny how I was so perfectly at ease with what I was doing, even though it was a total deception.  I rationalized it by telling myself I wasn’t hurting anyone else.  I was not a criminal.  The only risk was a confrontation with truth, and even then, I didn’t know these people and would never see them again anyway.

            Finally, it was time.  I made my way to the ballroom, all 5’3” of me, in my halter dress and sandals, with my hair in an up-do.  As I approached, I could hear music.  Outside the ballroom was a registration table where I checked off my name, picked up a badge, and went inside.  So far, so good.

            I got a drink and started to mill around.  Occasionally I would make eye contact and smile.  A tall, blonde man standing off to the side smiled back at me and waved.  Our eyes locked together.  For a moment, I felt exposed.   I turned and made conversation with a small group.

            “It was nice of you to come all that way,” said a woman named Angela, “what happened to your accent?”

            “I spent a lot of time in the Midwest,” I said, keeping it light.

            I turned back around only to bump into tall, blonde man. 

            “Oh, Sherry Whyte, I remember you.”

            “You do?”

            “You must’a shrunk, “ he chuckled with a light Texas drawl, “I’m Clint, Clint Tyler, I worked on the yearbook.”

            Uh, oh, I thought to myself.  This guy probably remembers everybody!  I also worked on my high school yearbook and I still can’t forget names and faces even after twenty years.

            "Great to see you, Clint.  Oh, I think I need another drink.”

            “Please, allow me,” he said.  I tried to hold it together as we walked towards the bar.

            We sat and talked through the music and dancing.  Actually, it turned out that he had a lot in common with the real me.  Plus, he was available!  Here was my Prince Charming, but he would have to know the truth, just like in the fairy tale.

            As the festivities wound down, I decided it was time to turn my glass coach back into a pumpkin.  I decided to tell him the truth.

            “Look, I have to be honest with you, I’m not Sherry Whyte.  At least I’m not your Sherry Whyte, I mean my name is Sherry Whyte, but I didn’t go to Katy High and…”

            “I know,” he said.  “Sherry Whyte was our exchange student who was sent back to England after first semester for too much partying.  Inappropriate behavior, they called it.  Besides, she was almost six feet tall.”

            “Why did you let me go on?” I asked.

            “I think you’re attractive and I have a thing about blondes in red dresses,” he laughed.  We both laughed.

            Clint and I have exchanged phone calls and e-mails since that warm night in Texas.  This Christmas he’s coming to Michigan, somewhere he’s never been before.  Maybe that invitation was meant for me after all.