Friday, January 28, 2011

"The Willendorf Project:" Art that speaks volumes -- literally

What's your first reaction when you see this picture?

Yep. That's what I thought.

Keep looking and you'll see an interesting artistic perspective on body image.

The artist is Brenda Oelbaum and the work is called "The Willendorf Project. It is currently on display through Feb. 18 at the River's Edge Gallery in Wyandotte, Mich.

The work literally speaks "volumes." Oelbaum has used thousands of donated diet books to comprise what is called "installation art."

According to, "Installation art is difficult to describe. In principal, it means taking a large interior (the exterior can be part of an installation, too) and loading it with disparate items that evoke complex and multiple associations and thoughts, longings, and moods. It's a huge three-dimensional painting, sculpture, poem, and prose work."

Indeed, Oelbaum's work delivers all these elements.

Her work is a critique of the diet industry as well as society's perception of beauty.

Obviously perceptions have changed since the days of the original "Venus of Willendorf" when a curvy body was revered and respected for its power of reproduction.

Oelbaum told “We need to be more accepting that people come in different shapes and sizes," she said. “It’s so easy to flip and doubt yourself when the world is telling you you’re wrong.”

She's right!

Read Melissa Ptak Moline's entire article on Wyandotte Patch

See the real me

A new year, a new look, a new life -- time for a new portrait to reflect the real me.

Blessed Be.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Here come "The Borgias:" What will they teach us about power and patriarchy?

It seems that Showtime is attempting to recapture the success of its smash hit "The Tudors" with a new "family drama," "The Borgias" that premiers in April.

While "The Tudors" was the perfect study of patriarchy, we'll have to examine "The Borgias" through a feminist lens to see what they can teach us.

I found this promo interesting, as it hints at the male-female power balance. See what you think:

Islam, women and agency

The "veiling of women" has been a point of contention between east and west for centuries. It is sometimes easy to condemn or criticize differences we don't understand when viewed through western eyes.

Global feminists promote an understanding of difference. The key to understanding difference is working one-to-one with women to determine their needs and the best way to negotiate existing societal norms if change is needed, or wanted. Agency plays a role in some cases.

Here's a quote I caught yesterday on NPR's "All Things Considered." The program was about the increasing number of women converting to Islam in Britain.

The quote was from Helen Brooks-Wazwaz. When reporter Philip Reeves asked her about the common belief that Islam oppresses women by requiring them to "cover up," she had this to say:

"It makes me feel actually liberated rather than oppressed. As a woman in a Western society, you're very pressurized to try and wear something that you look your best and that people will look at you and think, oh, they look nice, they look attractive. But in Islam, your body is protected. "

Reeves also interviewed Fiyaz Mughal of Faith Matters, an organization that promotes better interfaith relations.

His comments also reflected a global feminist viewpoint, " We need to stop just accepting the stereotypes about the other and start asking some questions about who we are and where we are going as societies."

Indeed, things are not always as we perceive them to be.

Listen to the "All Things Considered" segment in its entirety here:

On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade: Choice remains the issue

Thirty-eight years after the landmark Supreme Court decision that "legalized abortion," emotions still run high over the "A Word" and the stage is being set for a new set of justices to hear the issue again in a new millennium.

If we put emotions aside, Roe v. Wade gave women the right to choose. It did not bring about "abortion on demand," as some predicted at the time. It made a legal option available and made the decision to choose a private one among a woman, her conscience and her doctor.

I feel the term "pro-life" skews that element of choice and further charges the issue emotionally. Wouldn't the opposite of "pro-life would be "pro-death?"

If someone is "pro-choice," it does not automatically mean that she advocates abortion, or would choose abortion for herself. She also has the right not to choose to have an abortion. The point is, she has the right to choose.

What pro-choice does mean is support for reproductive rights as a collective concept. If the right to choose is relinquished, it opens the way for further regulation of women's bodies by a patriarchal government.

I was pleased that President Obama said, "Government should not intrude on private family matters."

He also said he also remains committed "to policies, initiatives and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption."

In other words, reproductive rights as a collective concept.

On the other side, Republican House Speaker John Boehner called Roe v. Wade a" tragic" decision that "tore asunder a right to life our Founding Fathers described so indelibly in our Declaration of Independence."

He went on to say, “The new House majority has listened to the people and pledged to end taxpayer funding of abortion. A ban is the will of the people and ought to be the law of the land.”

And here we go.

The National Organization for Women (NOW,) Oakland County chapter is hosting events that coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The Oakland Chapter is hosting a Peace, Love, Equality "Fun" Raiser next Saturday, Jan. 29 at Kim Bebee's House in Ferndale from 6-11:30 p.m. Contact Michigan NOW for details.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From Cherie's Kitchen: I try new recipe ... Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

I decided today would be the day I try something new for dinner. So, I told my husband, Chris, to expect anything. If it doesn't work out, there's always veggie burgers.

This recipe for Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie is courtesy of Vegetarian Times.

It's so easy to get stuck in a rut with our food options. Trying something new is a great way to push our boundaries right out of that rut.

VT subscribers are never short on options. In addition to the magazine, VT also publishes cookbooks and more recipes are available via email. I've amassed a vast collection -- it's time to start putting it to use.

I am pleased to say the turned out to be a culinary success. Try serving it with a hearty bread and a green salad.

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

Sweet Potato Topping
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced (1/4 lb.)
  • 1/4 cup fat-free milk or plain soymilk
  • 1 Tbs. nonhydrogenated margarine or butter
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 leek, white part thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 2 turnips, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 carrot, diced (1/2 cup)
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped (2 tsp.)
  • 1/4 cup white wine or water
  • 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 Tbs. shredded Parmesan cheese, optional

To make Sweet Potato Topping:

1. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add sweet potato, cover, and boil 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain, and return to pot. Mash with milk, margarine, cinnamon, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Set aside.

Cherie's note: I microwaved the sweet potato, let it cool, then peeled it carefully. It worked just fine.

To make Filling:

2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and leek, and sauté 5 to 6 minutes, or until leek is soft. Add turnips, carrot, thyme, and rosemary; cook 2 to 3 minutes more, or until carrot begins to soften.

3. Add wine, and cook 30 seconds to deglaze pan. Stir in beans and broth. Cover, and simmer 10 minutes, or until carrots and turnips are soft. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

4. Remove thyme sprigs from Filling, and discard. Pour Filling into 2- or 3-qt. casserole dish. Spread Sweet Potato Topping over Filling. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if using.

5. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place casserole on baking pan. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and cheese has melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

6. Frozen cooking instructions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover casserole, and place on baking sheet. Bake 60 to 75 minutes, or until filling bubbles and top is golden. Remove foil during last 10 minutes of baking. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Poetry Podcast: "Carry Me" by Doris Runey

Welcome to my first Poetry Podcast of 2011.

This poem was written by one of my favorite Oakland University professors, Doris Runey.

I met Doris in the summer of 2008. I took her modern literature class as a general education requirement.

In addition to being a gifted teacher who encourages new thinking among her students, Doris is a multitalented writer, poet, sculptor, translator and musician. She's also a filmmaker with a wonderful project the works called "Lorelei."

Doris is pro-life. She's also a mom. She wrote this poem for a coworker who was expecting a baby back in 1976. Since then, through the power of the Internet, that baby -- now grown up -- contacted her. It seems the poem has come full circle.

When she wrote the poem, Doris wanted it to express the thoughts and feelings of the child within the womb. It is a moving celebration of life. Enjoy.
Listen to the poem now:

Martin Luther King, Jr. in feminist perspective then and now

I am taking time to contemplate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on a day that has been set aside to honor him. I have made it known on my Facebook page that I believe observance of this day should mandatory for everybody.

More companies should be encouraged to close in observance of the day. On a day when the stock exchange is closed, government offices are closed, banks are closed, schools are closed -- and granted some businesses are closed, why do some still resist?

Could it be that King was a critic of the capitalist system that fuels a profit-based economy?

Maybe his ideas are just as threatening to certain people and institutions today as they were in his lifetime.

Today I was compelled to Google "Martin Luther King, Jr. and Feminism." I found an interesting paper by Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons titled: "Martin Luther King, Jr. Revisited A Black Power Feminist Pays Homage to the King."

The article was published in the fall of 2008 in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Volume 24, Number 2.

I urge you to read Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons' paper in its entirety. It can be found in the JSTOR database available at university libraries. Visit for a list of participating institutions.

In what she calls "part memoir, part historical reflection," Simmons talks about King in the context of the times in which he lived through her own personal experiences. She goes on to reexamine King through wiser eyes later in her life. Her account is truthful and frank.

"I came to know Dr. King as a volunteer and then as a field secretary in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) ..." Simmons says. "It was as an SNCC 'firebrand' that my new, less-favorable views of Dr. King were imposed upon my first glowing impressions of him as a magnificent preacher and beloved leader of the civil rights movement."

Simmons began to favor a more militant strategy to further the civil rights movement.

"My newly evolving militancy and sense of black nationalist pride permitted me to be rude in speech, arrogant in manner to Dr. King, and despairing of his ideas in person and behind his back," Simmons says.

Simmons says King was sexist, but wisely goes on to "contextualize it within the historical period." Judgments must be made in that context.

"Sexism was definitely a problem throughout all civil rights organizations. Dr. King, not surprisingly -- like most if not all men in the movement who were products of the Black Church and American culture was sexist. ... The civil rights movement was hardly a model of female inclusion in the area of leadership. Patriarchy plagued the black freedom struggle on all sides. ...All men had difficulty seeing women in leadership roles."

She goes on to say that "Kings inability to see movement women as his peers and even mentors prevented him from forging strong connections with radical black women who could have been his greatest allies in the struggle he was about to launch against economic oppression."

She is speaking here about King's "Poor People's Campaign for Jobs and Income (PPC)."

However, the wisdom of later life has prompts Simmons to say this, " ... I believe that if he had not been shot down in the prime of his life when his political and social thought was undergoing profound transformations, it is justifiable to think he would have advanced his consciousness about the social construction of gender roles and the injustice of patriarchy and sexism..."

She also expresses "shame and remorse" for her behavior in view of her "ignorance and lack of maturity at the time." Yet, there is no need .

Given the honesty, frankness, and accessibility of her paper, she is to be credited with her progressive thinking and wisdom.

We can only wonder what the world would be like today if Dr. King had lived or if he would have come aboard the women's movement.

As it stands, his "three evils" remain in place in U.S. society. They are racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.

Dr. King made the connection between these oppressions saying, "I don't believe capitalism as it is constructed (in our country) can meet the needs of poor people and that what we might need to look at is a kind of socialism, but a democratic form of socialism."

This statement is just as radical today. And it frightens people today just as it did then.

Keeping Dr. King's dream alive involves introspection as well as examination of national policies. It also involves advocating change in a nonviolent way.

King biographer Vincent Harding said King never advocated violence but, "he was urging the nation to examine itself and to correct its wrongs before it was too late."

It's still not too late, and if we truly "advocate feminism," we will continue to work toward the elimination not only of sexism, but the other oppressions associated with it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Feminist Quote Bag

"If you are aspiring to leadership, whether you're a biochemist like I am, or something else, you're going to have to work hard and commit to it. If you expect to be a world-class scientist, you can't take off six years to raise your children. ... If you've got your sights on the top, there are certain realities you just have to understand.

-- University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman at a breakfast hosted by Inforum, an 1,800 member business alliance, during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Cherie's two cents: Of course you have to work hard and commit to any profession -- aren't most of us already doing that? The reality in this statement is that the patriarchy is still firmly in place.

Follow the link to Rochelle Riley's column "Inforum gets candid on women's futures," from today's Detroit Free Press on my Twitter page @cherwyro

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Just for fun: The best girlfriend gifts ever

The true acceptance of a gift is in the use of it.

That doesn't mean it has to be expensive or fancy. The best girlfriend gifts I've received so far have been simple and meaningful. And they keep giving over and over again.

Cherie's best girlfriend gifts -- to give or receive:

1. Friendship: It sounds cliche, but it's not.

2. Knitting Pretty by Kris Percival: This book with its simple instructions and projects kept me focused and probably saved my life when I was depressed.

3. Pillow Talk 50th Anniversary DVD: Starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall. A cute story about gender roles -- both new and traditional -- and antiquated technology. It's been my bedtime story many a night.

4. Lavender sachet: Made with Michigan-grown lavender from Yule Love it Lavender Farm. If I'm nervous, stressed, or can't fall asleep, a few deep breaths of lavender chill me right out. Buy several while the farm is open in season.

5. Starbucks Gift Card: Great for those mornings when I want someone else to make my coffee.

All these gifts were courtesy of my friend for almost 16 years, Lisa Craig. And my goal this year is to be a better friend in return.

Feminist Theory: The crash course

I am liberal.

I am a feminist.

But, I'm not a liberal feminist.

Say what?

Two years ago, that's what I said, too, until studied feminist theory at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

This is where I learned that feminism isn't just one thing -- and "one size does not fit all." And yet, since the majority of educational institutions do not include feminist theory in their curricula, stereotypes centered around beliefs of what has come to be known as "mainstream feminism" persist -- and some of them are true.

During the class, I began to question if I wanted to be identified as a feminist. Some of the models are "out there," and even though they contain interesting ideas and valid points, I would say to myself, "If this is feminism, I don't want it."

That was until I found a model I identified with.

But you don't have to limit yourself to one specific model either.

I 'd like to introduce a new occasional series: "Feminist Theory: The crash course." Since I'd like to explore the state of feminism today, its prominence in society and whether it should be reinvented or scrapped in favor of a new social movement, I think it's important to look at different models and what we can learn from them.

I will be drawing on the writings of Rosemarie Tong, bell hooks and other great feminist minds. But my goal is to write in terms that everybody can understand. It's theory for "the rest of us."

So join me back here for the crash course. It should be interesting and enlightening.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Feminism in the year ahead

January is named for the Roman god Janus who has two heads. He is looking backward to the past and forward to the future simultaneously. There he is on the Janus Funds logo.

It's that kind of time in my personal life. I've just finished my long-neglected education and I'm now transitioning to freelance journalism all while keeping my home life in balance.

It's that kind of time for feminism too. Where does it belong in the political and social scene? Does it still have an identity or its own, or is it being absorbed into other movement? Do we still need feminism? Do we still call it feminism?

This is an exam essay I wrote pondering the question, "Where do I go from here with the knowledge I've been given?"

I tried to answer that question, and asked more questions. And sometimes, asking the question is more important than having the answer.

WGS 364

Final exam essay #5

Gender makes the world go around. Whether positive or negative, the effects of the roles men and women play on the international stage affect everything from the tourist industry, to the military, to social adjustment policies, to language, to consumption. It’s all connected and even our personal actions such as where we decide to take a vacation, or if we decide whether or not to eat meat have an impact on the lives of women around the world. We have also explored how governments and big business have twisted feminist principles to exploit women.

So, what am I supposed to do with all of this? As I leave Oakland University and embark on my media career, I take with me something that every journalist does not have -- a feminist perspective on world events. I look at world events and people differently with an understanding of how difference contributes to international, domestic, and personal relationships. And, I have the ability to recognize, respect, and accept difference. I can see the connections between oppressions of sexism, ageism, racism, and naturism that I did not see previously.

This is why I now say, “ I advocate feminism,” because it opens up the way for discussions to other oppression and difference.

As a journalist and media professional, I am a guardian of language and a conduit of knowledge to the general public. This is a weighty responsibility. Through writing --- through language -- I have the ability to educate the public and further make known the things I have learned. This feminist knowledge is so essential and yet is not part of the mainstream education curriculum – nor is it a topic for the mainstream media. For example, the only way people would know about different kinds of feminism is by taking a feminist theory class – which the vast majority of the public does not. So there is a need to make this information accessible.

I was most influenced by the postmodern analysis of Carol Adams in “The Sexual Politics of Meat” and the Marxist analysis of Hester Eisenstein in “Feminism Seduced.” Although their schools of thought are different, I believe both are useful.

While Adams uses the postmodern micro analysis of postmodernism to examine how language perpetuates patriarchy and the oppression of women, Eisenstein uses the macro analysis of broader social and political systems to examine how governments and big business have used feminist principles to achieve their neoliberal capitalist goals.

Eisenstein insists that feminist research needs to move away from the micro analysis of postmodernism that focuses on a few individuals. She says the feminist agenda must be broadened to bring more results to the working class women of the U.S. and women of the third world.

In my mind, I can utilize both. As an agent of language I can affect change by rooting out old stereotypes and patriarchal language that has become the norm. I can also do my part to see that new ones don’t come along to replace them.

The question in my mind going forward is – given the negative connotations surrounding mainstream feminism, do we try to salvage and redefine the word – or do we create new language? If we create something new, what would it be called? What issues would be at the center of the movement? What approach is best – radical or subtle? Should we try to “rewind” and include things that early feminists missed in the beginning – like including men in the movement?

The point of intellectual inquiry is to perpetually ask questions and be in pursuit of better and better answers.

My plan for the immediate future is to grow my blog into a formidable online publication that raises questions. The idea is not necessarily to get people to agree with me – but to plant seeds of knowledge that make them to think – and in turn ask more questions. And so on, and so on, and so on …

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sarah Silverman restores the absent referent*

I'm currently reading "The Bedwetter: Stories of courage, redemption, and pee" by comedian Sarah Silverman. I couldn't resist sharing this excerpt where Sarah finds out that the sumptuous Thanksgiving turkey is the dead flesh of an animal:

"We lived on a farm, but it wasn't operation like our neighbors' farms, which produced stuff; we bought our meat and vegetables from them. When I was six years old, my dad took me there to see the turkeys. The farmer, Vic told me to look at all the birds carefully and choose one that I liked. I saw a cute one with a silly walk and said, "Him!!" Before my pointing finger dropped back down to my side, Vic had grabbed the bird by the neck and slit his throat. Blood sprayed as the turkey's wings flapped back and forth in a futile attempt to unkill itself. Without realizing it, I had sentenced that turkey to death, and while maybe this sort of thing gave fat British monarchs a rush, to me it was horrifying. And though I'm probably projecting, I don't think it was in the turkey's top five favorite moments, either.

"I should mention that this was late November, so what I had witnessed was not random cruelty, but a long-standing American tradition. This wasn't just a random turkey killing, it was a thankful turkey killing. Until that day I didn't even know where meat came from, so if that trip to the farm was Dad's deliberate attempt to teach me about the food chain, I wish he'd used a tad more finesse. My parents taught me about where babies come from, but they didn't exactly force me to watch while my father bent my mother over the kitchen table. I'm not saying that children should be shielded from the facts of life, just that six-year-olds don't need them demonstrated in such visual detail.

"In hindsight, I'm sure my dad feels bad about our little excursion, but I see it as a gift. My father might not have realized or intended it, but that day he gave me the knowledge to make an informed decision for myself at a very early age: I would never eat turkey again. And once I figured out the connection between Happy Meals and cows, I would never eat beef again, either. Or any other meat."

*Through the violent act of butchering, the animal is made absent when its dead body is transformed into food. On top of that, we rename it. Baby cow becomes "veal and baby sheep becomes "lamb."

In her book, "The Sexual Politics of Meat," Carol J. Adams says, "One does not eat meat without the death of an animal, live animals are thus the 'absent referent' in the concept of meat (consumption.)"

The absent referent takes the focus off the real issues -- out of sight, out of mind. It also takes the focus of the heteropatriarchal mindset that legitimizes the domination of other “earthlings” for selfish sustenance and profit.

“Patriarchy sees not the flesh of dead animals, but appetizing food,” says Adams.

“If meat is the symbol of male oppression, its consumption represents the disempowering of women.”

Nuff said.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Michigan's governor's words could apply to feminists, but ...

Republican Rick Snyder was sworn in as Michigan's governor on Jan. 1. I thought these words from his inaugural address could also apply to today's feminist movement and could apply to what I like to call "girl-on-girl crime," that is the nasty, counterproductive way women treat each other:

" ... We need to move from negative to positive. We need to stop looking in the rear view mirror and look toward the future. We need to stop being divisive and become inclusive
... We have spent too much time fighting among ourselves and become our own worst enemy.

Now, here comes the but ...

Snyder says a lot without saying a lot. This is the criticism of Michigan democrats who, among others, want Snyder to produce a specific plan with solutions for Michigan's many problems.

WDET radio host Craig Fahle called Snyder "clever" for the way he talks around a question without really answering it.

During his campaign, here is what Snyder had to say about abortion:

"If you're pro-life or pro-choice, one of the best answers we can get is to create jobs because that helps abortions go down overall."

What the???

Speculation about Snyder's appointment of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan to head the Michigan's Department of Human Services is interesting because it will enable Snyder to make appoint a justice -- perhaps a very conservative one -- to replace the already conservative Corrigan.

Mark Brewer of the Michigan Democratic Party, expressed doubts about Corrigan's qualifications in an interview with Fahle. He wonders if subsequent choices/appointments will undercut Snyder's bipartisan rhetoric.

Only time will tell.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dilma Rousseff does the unthinkable in Brazil

The Associated Press calls her election "a feat that was nearly unthinkable a year ago."

But here she is, Dilma Rousseff, 63, the first woman to serve as Brazil's president -- the country's 36th president, to be exact.

She succeeds Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who left office at the end of his term limit. He was the nation's most popular president with an 87% approval rating.

And Brazil's economy is going strong with record-low unemployment and a currency that has more than doubled against the U.S. dollar.

Once on the brink of default, Brazil is predicted to be the world's fifth largest economy by the time it hosts the 2016 Olympic games -- that's only five years away.

But Rousseff says there's still work to do.

"There is still poverty that shaming our country," she says. "I will not rest while there are Brazilians without food on their table, homeles in the streets and poor children abandoned to their luck."

Rousseff was part of an armed rebel group for three years. She was arrested in 1970 and spent three years in jail where she endured brutal torture.

Known for her "tough demeanor," Rousseff will be one to watch in the coming year.

Left: Rousseff with President Obama in 2009.

Cherie's on Twitter

Another social media advancement.

Follow me on Twitter.

I'll tweet health alerts, acts of green, local news and other interesting stuff of daily life. I'm also looking for interesting sites and people to follow.

Pass it on.

Who's a sucker for a little blue bird? : )

Reproductive rights include more than abortion

I ran across this article by William Browning titled, "2010 Reproductive Rights Policy Year in Review" on Yahoo! News. The information is relevant and nicely compiled in a time line.

However, the headline is a bit deceptive. The article primarily focuses on abortion.

But, abortion is only one aspect of reproductive rights.

Only one sentence -- at the very end -- speaks to the efforts of Planned Parenthood to "expand STD testing, HIV testing and wellness exams for women nationwide."

This illustrates how the mainstream media emphasizes the abortion issue because of the emotions surrounding it. Other aspects of reproductive rights remain largely ignored.

The Center for Reproductive Rights lists contraception, safe and healthy pregnancy, censorship, the rights of young people, and women with HIV/AIDS among its issues.

According to the center's website, its initiatives "seek to transform how we think and talk about reproductive rights – by promoting legal scholarship and teaching, by connecting reproductive rights to human rights, and by developing new ideas and strategies."

These are not limited to abortion.

During 2010, the center produced an important work titled, "Dignity Denied: Violation of the rights of HIV positive women in Chilean health facilities." We simply don't hear enough about this type of reproductive issues in the mainstream media.

So, while abortion will remain a hot-button issue in the U.S. and around the world, it should not be an all-consuming issue in the reproductive rights arena at the expense of other issues that are equally important and deserve attention.

Here is William Browning's article in its entirety. It is worth a read.

Ever since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, abortion has been a hot topic in United States politics. 2010 was no different, as states enacted controversial abortion laws and embryonic stem cell research was ordered to stop and then start again.

Here's a brief look at abortion laws and policy in 2010.

March 21, 2010: Obama's executive order and health care reform law

With the health care reform law hanging in the balance, President Barack Obama signed an executive order explicitly stating the new health care reform law cannot be used to fund abortions. Even though the law as written did say as much, Obama's executive order reaffirmed precedents set in 1976 with the Hyde Amendment, which says services such as Medicaid cannot be used to fund abortions.

April 29, 2010: Oklahoma's abortion law goes into effect

Oklahoma's new abortion law went into effect in late April and was challenged in court. The Republican-led Oklahoma legislature overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Brady Henry despite possible legal challenges. The new law requires an ultrasound be given before an abortion and patients be read a description of the fetus. It also required an image of the ultrasound to be placed directly in front of the woman receiving the procedure. Oklahoma already requires women to have counseling 24 hours before getting an abortion; opponents of the new law said it went too far.

July 20, 2010: Judge blocks Oklahoma law

A ruling by a state judge in Oklahoma extended blocking the law and set a pretrial date for Jan. 21, 2011. Judge Noma Gurich had been asked by the Center for Reproductive Rights to declare it unconstitutional as it violates free speech and privacy rights. The order for a trial extended a temporary injunction issued in May.

Sept. 28, 2010: Appeals court upholds Obama administration stem cell research policy

In 2009, the Obama administration ordered funding for embryonic stem cell research until a court blocked the measure in August. The National Institutes of Health appealed the decision and an appeals court agreed with the assertion that embryos being provided by private clinics don't apply to the law. A 1996 law states embryonic stem cell research cannot destroy embryos. The Obama administration rules state scientists can use batches of embryos already created.

Oct. 15, 2010: New Nebraska law takes effect

A new law in Nebraska took effect limiting abortions to fetuses younger than 20 weeks old. Lawmakers used a disputed notion about the ability of the fetus to feel pain during a certain time in its development. Abortion rights groups plan on filing lawsuits to block the law while anti-abortion groups want to expand this type of law to other states.

Nov. 2, 2010: Colorado voters reject Amendment 62

The midterm elections saw Colorado voters reject a ballot measure banning abortions at any stage of development. Had Amendment 62 passed, it would have granted constitutional rights at the moment of conception.

Dec. 23, 2010: Planned Parenthood to expand abortion services

Planned Parenthood announced it wants to standardize services to all of its branches. That means more clinics will have abortions available. The expansion of services will be done over the next two years, according to company officials. Some clinics may opt out of offering abortions if special circumstances warrant the lack of service. Planned Parenthood also wants to expand STD testing, HIV testing and wellness exams for women nationwide.

William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics. Born in St. Louis, Browning is active in local politics and served as a campaign volunteer for President Barack Obama and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Friend me on Facebook

All right already!

One of my New Year's resolutions is to be a better friend. And these days, that includes Facebook.

I have resisted social networking in the past, mainly because I'm a private person. My conundrum is that I've chosen a career in media that requires me to be tuned-in to the latest social trends.

So, better late than never.

See you in cyberspace.

Banished words spell victory for postmodern feminism

Happy 2011, y'all

Let's start the year off with a small postmodern feminist victory.

Lake Superior State University has issued its 36th annual List of Banished Words for 2011.

Among them are:

"Man up" -- Nominated by Sherry Edwards of Clarkston, Mich. , the phrase was often used by former Alaska governor and republican vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin during 2010.

Other comments on the phrase:

"A stupid phrase when directed at men. Even more stupid when directed at a woman, as in 'Alexis, you need to man up and join that Pilates class!'" Sherry Edwards, Clarkston, Mich.

"Another case of 'verbing' a noun and ending with a preposition that goes nowhere. Not only that, the phrase is insulting, especially when voiced by a female, who'd never think to say, 'Woman up!'" Aunt Shecky, East Greenbush, NY.

"Can a woman 'man-up,' or would she be expected to 'woman-up?'" Jay Leslie, Portland, Maine.

"Not just overused (a 2010 top word according to the Global Language Monitor) but bullying and sexist." Christopher K. Philippo, Glenmont, NY.

"We had to put up with 'lawyer up.' Now 'man up,' too? A chest-thumping cultural regression fit for frat boys stacking beer glasses." Craig Chalquist Ph.D., Walnut Creek, Calif.

Another "Palinism," "Mamma Grizzlies" also made the list. It refers Palin's brand of conservative Alaskan feminism and has been adopted by her followers.

Mark Carlson, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. says, "Unless you are referring to a scientific study of Ursus arctos horribilis , this analogy of right-wing female politicians should rest in peace."

Indeed, language is powerful.

In her book "Feminist Thought," Rosemarie Tong says, "... language constructs reality -- a reality that depends on words for its existence."

In the case of "man up" and "Mamma Grizzlies," that reality would be the perpetuation of negative gender roles.

Postmodern feminists seek change through language. They aim to root out words that create oppression, dichotomies and stereotypes. They do this through deconstructing -- basically taking apart and analyzing -- language to reveal how such words and phrases that have become embedded in our speech and writing and are accepted as "natural."

Kudos to the LSSU team for its assist.

Read the complete "36th Annual List of Banished Words for 2011" here.

Cherie's nomination:

This one has most likely made it on to past lists:

"Beef-up." According to The Free Dictionary, this is a an informal phrasal verb that means "to make or become greater or stronger." Yet, in its usage, the phrase condones beef consumption, which is linked to the oppression of both animals and women -- not to mention all the cruelty and environmental destruction that comes with it. Inappropriate for use in the company of vegetarians.