Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"The Hangover Part II:" The joke's on patriarchy

Crystal at "The Hangover II" premiere
Warning:  This film might be offensive to humans and other primates.

$105.8 million. 

That's how much money "The Hangover Part II" took in over the Memorial Day weekend, according to studio estimates. 

Kristin Meinzer,  host of the Movie Date Podcast for "The Takeaway" (heard on WDET 109.1 FM in Detroit) blasted the film last week calling it offensive to Asians, humans and women.

But there's more.

According to Entertainment Weekly magazine, the film does not carry the familiar, "No animals were harmed ..." disclaimer.  The original film, however, did.

The American Humane Association's Los Angeles-based Film & TV Unit is the film and television industry’s only officially-sanctioned animal monitoring program.  It issues the trademarked disclaimer.

The association's website says, "With established filmmaking guidelines, detailed production reviews, certified safety reps and more, we help keep the cameras rolling and the animals safe."

American Humane offered to visit the "Hangover II" set in Thailand, but was turned down.  Also, the association was not granted a screening of the film.

At the center of the controversy is Crystal, A Capuchin monkey who appears in the film.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were particularly concerned about scenes with sexual humor.

"A joke is a joke," said PETA president  Ingrid Newkirk, "but leave the animals out of it."

Crystal is also shown smoking in the film, but actually she never held a lit cigarette.  The smoke was added digitally.

As an animal advocate and a feminist, my take on "The Hangover II" is this:  The movie -- like its predecessor -- shows patriarchy at its stupidest. 

If we re-frame all the offensive material,  we see it as an example of everything that is true about the destructive patterns of patriarchy:  perpetuation of stereotypes and gross disrespect for women and animals among other things.  Patriarchy is also hurtful to marginalized and feminized men.

And the public eats it up without a second thought. 

Still, I say the joke's on patriarchy, so go ahead and laugh -- for the right reasons.

P.S.:  I have no objection to Crystal's dress -- I think she looks beautiful.

Big Tobacco using empowerment to target women worldwide

Today is World No Tobacco Day

"We must pay more attention to the ways in which the tobacco industry is capitalizing on societal changes to target women, such as marketing cigarettes to women as a symbol of emancipation.  Women's empowerment must continue, but does the bad necessarily have to follow the good?" 
-- Sara C. Hitchman, co-author of "Gender empowerment and female-to-male smoking prevalence ratios."

While growing up in the 1970s, and also as a young adult in
the 1980s, I remember seeing glamorous Virginia Slims cigarette ads like these.  This was the ultimate campaign to market cigarettes to women as a symbol of empowerment. 

Smoking was marketed as a choice a strong, confident liberated woman could make for herself as an expression of her hard-won feminist freedom from patriarchal society.

As smoking becomes more of an American social taboo, we might think women have advanced far enough to resist the manipulation of Big Tobacco.  And yet, empowerment is still being used as a tactic to target women in developing nations.

According to a study published by the World Health Organization, millions of women in developing countries risk disease and early death in the coming decades as the tobacco industry exploits their rising economic and political status.


The United Nations Development Program measures empowerment based , such female representation in government, voting rights and comparisons of male-to-female income in each country.

The study shows that men are currently five times more likely to smoke than women in countries with lower measures of female empowerment, such a China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Uganda.
In countries with relatively high female empowerment, such as Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden and the U.S., the gap has been closed. 

Dr. Douglas Bettcher, Director of the Tobacco Free Initiative at WHO, says, "The tobacco epidemic is still in its early stages.  Strong tobacco control measures such as bans on tobacco advertising are needed to prevent the tobacco industry from targeting women."

Today is World No Tobacco Day.  It's part of the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative.  Get on board for the sake of women's health worldwide.

Smoking was down in the U.S. during 2010 -- for both women and men.  See the stats at www.quitsmokinghub.com.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sweet Tweets

Who's a sucker for a little blue bird?
I use Twitter for feminist news flashes -- and other important stuff -- I want to share news right away.  Be sure to check the Twitter Feed on the right, or follow me @cherwyro.

Wal-Mart's war on women

"This case stands for the collective right of every working woman to be paid what her work is worth." --Arcelia Hurtado, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates and plaintiff's co-council, Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether what could potentially be the largest class action lawsuit in U.S. history can actually go forward as a class action suit -- despite lower court rulings that granted class certification to the case.

It's been a decade since Betty Dukes filed suit against giant retailer Walmart, claiming that,"Wal-Mart discriminates against its female employees in making promotions, job assignments, pay decisions and training, and retaliates against women who complain against such practices."

In an interview with PBS Newshour's Gwen Ifill, Marcia Coyle of "The National Law Review" explains what a class action suit is and what's at issue in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.:

"Most lawsuits are filed by individuals, but sometimes, a group or a large number of people may be injured by the same defendant, company, person, and it's worth their while in terms of efficiency and cost to try to join together to bring a lawsuit seeking some kind of remedy for their injury,. And that's when they will turn to the class-action device.

"There are specific federal rules that judges must examine to decide whether that device works for this group of people. Its -- the rules are important to ensure fairness to the people who want to be part of the class, that their claims are going to be adequately represented, and also fairness to the defendant.
And the court itself, can it handle the class, depending on the size and the claims involved?"

In the same interview, Coyle said, "The court is focused on the rules for forming class actions. Wal-Mart's attorney Theodore Boutrous ...  said Betty Dukes and the other five women who want to represent this class don't have claims that are typical of all the women that would be up to half-a-million women who might be a part of this class.

"He also said that they had to show that there was some sort of a company-wide policy or practice that was across the board, all the stores -- Wal-Mart has over 3,000 stores -- and that would show that they had a common fact that linked them, that made them cohesive as a group to be class, and they did not show that."

Some feminist labor advocates believe that Wal-Mart wants is for each woman to file separately because they know many would drop their cases without the benefit of the class action device.

Corporations, civil rights groups and consumer groups will be watching this pivotal decision carefully.

In the meantime, here's a documentary that brings to light the fact that Wal-Mart's low prices come with a high cost of their own:

Related Links:

Supreme Court Hears Wal-Mart Gender Bias Discrimination Case (PBS Newshour)

Pearls from "Bossypants"

The wise Tina Fey speaks.

Tina Fey has it all.  At 41, she's smart,.  She's funny. She writes and produces a hit TV show ("30 Rock" on NBC.)

She wrote and starred in a movie ("Mean Girls") in addition to writing and starring on "Saturday Night Live" for nine seasons.

She has a successful marriage.  She has a beautiful daughter, with another child on the way in August.

And to top it all off, she's penned a bestseller.

In "Bossypants," Fey shares her life view, success secrets and beauty advice.  Her are a few of my favorite pearls:

Fey on the workplace:

" ... My unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this.  When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question:  "Is this person in between me and what I want to do?"  If the answer is no, ignore it and move on.  Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way.  Then, when you're in charge, don't hire the people who were jerky to you."

And if not?

"Do your thing and don't care if they like it."

Fey on Photoshopped magazine covers:

"Some people say it's a feminist issue.  I agree, because the best Photoshop job I ever got was for a feminist magazine called "Bust" in 2004....Feminists do the best Photoshop because they leave the meat on your bones.  They don't change your size or your skin color.  They leave in your disgusting knuckles, but they may take out some armpit stubble.  Not because they're denying its existence, but because they understand that it's okay to make a photo look as if you were caught on your best day in the best light."

Fey on beauty:

"If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important Rule of Beauty:  'Who cares?'"

Friday, May 27, 2011

More on equal pay: How to negotiate a base salary

Negotiation skills and research are vital to obtaining a fair base salary in any job market.  The initial salary amount  is important because it's the base for future incremental raises.  Employers value negotiation skills and they are seen as a sign of confidence.  Research provides "ammunition" for the process.

Oakland County NOW president Kimberly Beebe wrote and performed a skit to illustrate how to successfully negotiate a base salary once a job offer is made.  The skit was part of a pay equity event sponsored by NOW.

She also stressed the importance of knowing what benefits the company offers.  Benefits are worth money and can a key element in the negotiation process. 

Here's a clip from the skit:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pay equity preview

Free event sponsored by NOW

Despite legislation from the Equal Pay Act of 1963 up to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009,  it’s still a fact that women earn less money than men.  Nationally, a woman earns 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

The “wage gap” will be the focus of a pay equity event hosted by the Oakland, Wayne and Macomb chapters of the National Organization for Women, along with Michigan NOW.

The free event will take place tonight, May 19 from 6:30 – 9 p.m. at AJ’s Music Café  at 240  West Nine Mile Road in Ferndale.  Metered parking is available behind the café.  

Speakers will explore the laws related to pay equity and some reasons why women earn less than men. The program will also feature skits and advice on how to negotiate equitable pay.

“Pay inequity is a serious problem,” said Kimberly Beebe, president of the Oakland County Chapter of NOW, “… In Michigan it is even worse, we are 47th out of 50 for pay equity.  As if the issue isn't serious enough at face value, contemplate the lifetime loss and retirement status of this situation.”

Mary Pollock is a retired state employee from the civil service commission who will speak at the event. During her time with the state, Pollock was instrumental in a pay equity study that resulted in millions of dollars in pay adjustments for state workers.

Pollock says the Ledbetter law has “woke up” the pay equity issue for mainstream women’s organizations resulting in events such as a national Pay Equity Day.  

Legislation has played a big role in advancing pay equity, but there is still more to be done.  Loopholes that weaken the laws need to be closed while penalties under the laws need to be increased, Pollack said.

Pollock also says workers need tools that enable them to find out vital information such as salary figures for jobs with the same skills, responsibilities and required training. 

Although pay equity is a complex issue, Pollock says women’s career choices factor into the equation, but the reasons behind those choices uncover the deeper social issue of gender conditioning.
She says women are still steered toward traditional, lower-paying fields by educators and parents.

From Cherie's Kitchen: "Slop together" a hearty green bean casserole (vegetarian)

Traditional green bean casserole served as a holiday side dish.
Years ago, a friend gave me a recipe for a "pumped-up" green bean casserole that made a hearty dish to serve as a main course.

Well, I lost the recipe.

But, while foraging the pantry and the freezer for a quick supper, determined to "use what I have," I tried to recreate it from memory.  The result was quite tasty.

Green bean casserole is traditionally a holiday side dish with little protein.  This version can be enjoyed throughout the year and gets a protein boost from the soy crumbles (the original recipe called for turkey or beef.) 

This recipe is vegetarian, but not vegan, because the cream of mushroom soup contains dairy.

I call this Cherie's "Slop-it-Together Supper."  Enjoy.  Serves six.


1 (12 oz.) package Morning Star Farms Meal Starter soy crumbles
1 cup cooked white or brown rice
2 (15 oz.) cans French-cut green beans, drained and rinsed
2 (10 oz.) cans Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, undiluted
2 cups French-fried onions, divided


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare rice according to package directions and measure (a little extra is OK.) Prepare soy crumbles according to package directions until fully cooked.  Drain and rinse green beans. 

In a large bowl, combine soy crumbles, rice, green beans, soup and one cup of the onions.

Transfer to a two-quart casserole dish greased with vegetable shortening or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly around the edges. 

Remove top and sprinkle with remaining onions.  Continue baking, uncovered, for five minutes or until top is brown.

Serve with a fresh fruit salad.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

IMHO: Beyond Mother's Day: Honoring the one who gave you life -- every day

Today is my birthday.

We can't stop time, although many try in vain to resist its passage and groan at the start of another personal year.  As for me, I'm simply thankful for another year of life -- Blessed Be.

I cannot think of a more appropriate day to not only celebrate my life, but the woman who gave me life.

Traditional Mothers' Day has been a sore spot for me in the past.  I am a motherless daughter.  My mom, Marie, died when I was 20 years old.  So, it was awkward and sad when I'd see and hear all the hype generated by the department stores, restaurants and florists.

There are some of us who have experienced mother loss and others who are childfree by choice and have chosen not to experienced traditional, constructed motherhood.

There was a time when I was angry at a commercialized world that otherwise devalues care-focused work.  But, no more.

The road to recovery, and discovery, was long, but now I've arrived in a place where there is no anger or bitterness, and all that remains is love.

It was not an easy journey.  It required intense emotional work and self examination through therapy, reading, sharing and writing. 

But, it resulted in the greatest gift I could give myself.  That is the realization that relationships do not end at death, they continues on a different plane.  My mom and grandma are in my life every day.  They are there when I care for my cats, when I cook, when I water my plants, when I feed my birds.  They are never far away.

I have also discovered the mother within me.  Traditional motherhood is not for everybody, but we can all foster the nurturing, creative, supportive tendencies that make us human.  I cannot change the way our society views care-focused work, but I can become its advocate.

Another significant discovery was that there are other women who share my experiences.  I found solace in the books "Motherless Daughters:  The legacy of loss" and "Letters from Motherless Daughters:  Words of courage, grief and healing" by Hope Edelman.  both books are excellent examples of feminist research that are inclusive of women's experiences.

For a time, I attended a motherless daughters support group in the metro Detroit area.  Though I no longer attend, the group left me with another great gift, the friendship I share with fellow motherless daughter, Sharon Collins Apollo.  We share a similar mindset, belief system and lifestyle.

Sharon shares memories of her mom below.

So, happy birthday to me and thank you, Mom, for the greatest gift of all -- life.

Every day is Mother's day

By Sharon Collins Apollo

This was the 12th Mother’s Day without my mom. The last time I shared Mother’s Day with her was in 1999, when she was dying of breast cancer, although at that time I thought she would get better. However, she passed away on August 8, 1999. So, Mother’s Day has been hard for me since then, although it has gotten a bit easier as time passes.

Sharon's mom, Gerrie
Sometimes the hardest part is the casual “Happy Mother’s Day” from someone I don’t know, such as a cashier at the grocery store. I know the person is just trying to be friendly, but why assume that every woman is a mom or has a mom? I fit neither of these categories. At least I don’t get as upset by this comment as I did several years ago.

The passage of time has allowed me to step back and find ways to remember and honor my mom – and myself.

One simple way I honor her memory is to enjoy her favorite coffeecake on Mother’s Day. It’s a frozen Sara Lee butter streusel coffeecake that only requires 90 seconds in the microwave. My mom didn’t enjoy spending much time in the kitchen and neither do I. On a side note, I sometimes felt she had to defend herself to women who insisted that everything be “homemade,” although I always enjoyed the “store-bought” cupcakes she brought to school for special occasions.

Another thing I did to honor her on Mother’s Day was to volunteer at my local humane society. My mom loved this organization and loved animals, especially cats. She was a volunteer there too, but didn’t get to see the beautiful new shelter that opened last year. She would have loved to be a “cat comforter” like I am. Spending time with the homeless cats for part of Mother’s Day was the perfect way to celebrate the memory of my mom.  Volunteering allows me to nurture the cats, much as my mom nurtured me.

I should mention that I am childfree by choice. So, I am not saddened by “Happy Mother’s Day” because I am not a mother. Rather, I am saddened because I don’t have a mother anymore.

Although my mom died when I was 38 (and she was 62), I know I am fortunate to have had her as long as I did. Even knowing that, I still wish she would have lived much longer. There are so many things about her that I miss. I miss shopping with her. I miss talking to her on the phone during “Oprah” or “Martha Stewart” (two of her favorite shows). I miss going to Chicago and to Florida with her.

Mostly I miss her support. She was always my best cheerleader. Since I have been feeling very lost lately as I’m about to turn 50, I could really use my mom’s cheers and guidance. Time has not taken that away. I miss her and always will – on Mother’s Day and every day…

Sharon Collins Apollo is a writer and an adjunct lecturer at Eastern Michigan University. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and three cats.  

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Stephen Colbert gets it, Planned Parenthood is not all about abortion

Opposition to health center in Auburn Hills, Mich. continues

It seems Planned Parenthood is under fire on an almost daily basis.  

I was forwarded an email from Lindsay Maas, a field organizer with Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan concerning "an article highlighting local opposition to the new Planned Parenthood health center in Auburn Hills (Mich.)"  The article was supposed to appear in today's edition of  The Oakland Press, according to Maas.

I have not yet seen the article published on the newspaper's website, its Facebook page or in today's print edition.  It is unclear from the email whether this was to be a news article or an opinion/editorial piece.

Maas is asking for support for Planned Parenthood in the form of letters and emails to the editor, when and if the article runs, as well as a presence at the Auburn Hills City Council meeting on Monday, May 16 to "to speak directly to the Council concerning the importance of providing family planning services in the area."

She goes on to to say:

"In 2010, Planned Parenthood served 5,420 Oakland County residents, most of whom were uninsured and had no ability to pay.  However, these patients of course had to visit one of our neighboring health centers as their (sic) is currently no provider in Oakland County that serves low income men, women, and teens regardless of their ability to pay.  Oakland County is losing federal funds that would be available to provide much needed family planning services to area residents.  Planned Parenthood, America's most trusted reproductive health care provider, could fill this void and bring quality, affordable family planning services to Oakland County residents."

And she's correct.  All of Michigan's 19 Planned Parenthood Clinics are outside Oakland County. They are located in Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, Big Rapids, Brighton, Barton, Coldwater, Detroit, East Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids, Ionia, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Livonia, Marquette, Muskegon and Owosso.

In an accompanying email, Kimberly Beebe, president of the Oakland Country chapter of  NOW (National Organization for Women) says, "(the health center) is not even under construction yet.  It also has not been determined if abortions will be provided at this location - FYI abortion is only 3% of the services provided by PP, the remaining 97% is family planning and much needed testing and health care services."

She's right.  Here are the stats from Planned Parenthood's Fact Sheet dated September 2010 (left.)

This is the same graphic used by Stephen Colbert when he refuted remarks made by Arizona senator Jon Kyl and presented the facts about Planned Parenthood's services.

Watch Colbert here:

Related Links:

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan
Planned Parenthood's national website

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ride, Rosie, Ride: Napravnik first woman Kentucky Derby jockey since 2003

 "I don't think about first female to do this, first female to do that  ... I am proud of it, but it's not something I think about all the time."   -- Rosie Napravnik  
Rosie Napravnik courtesy of Mark Cornelison/McClatchy Tribune and the Detroit Free Press

    Out of a lineup of 20 riders in today's 137th Kentucky Derby, only one is a woman.

Anna "Rosie"  Napravnik, 23, will be the first woman to ride at Churchill Downs since 2003.  She will be riding Pants on Fire, who is owned by George and Lori Hall of Rumson, New Jersey.

Although there have been other women jockeys in the Kentucky, none has won the race.

Earlier in the year, Napravnik was the first woman to win the Louisiana Derby when she rode Pants on Fire to victory at the Louisiana Derby in March.  The Halls brought her back for the "run for the roses."

Modestly, Napravnik says, "I feel very lucky just to be here."

Other women Kentucky Derby competitors courtesy of the Detroit Free Press
So, the question is  "Why not more women jockeys?" in a sport where it  seems that men and women would be evenly matched in skill and ability?

Just a thought.

The race starts at 6:24 p.m. EST on NBC.

watch Rosie Napravnik and Pants on Fire win the Louisiana Derby:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Granholm & Mulhern set an example of modern gender roles

Jennifer Granholm and Dan Mulhern courtesy of TheMichiganinagurual on YouTube
Michigan's former first couple, Governor Jennifer Granholm and her husband Dan Mulhern, spoke with Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley about their changing family dynamics during Granholm's two terms as Michigan's first woman governor. 

Albeit not easy, they made it work by "keeping strict schedules, having date nights, ensuring that both attended all parent-teacher conferences" as well as going to church.

Could it really be that feminism is for everybody after all?

Mulhern told Riley:

" ... Having watched this blossoming of my wife in a time that couldn't have happened 20 years ago, I realize that for men, it really is our turn to figure that out.  So I hope to really play a role in that as a thought leader writer and speaker"

But there's more.

Mulhern also wrote a candid open letter to his son, Jack, in Newsweek magazine in response to the magazine's article "Dead Suit Walking ... can manhood survive the lost decade?" where he said this: 

"When your grandmothers were raised, being a woman meant being a housewife. But Mom and her generation seized new opportunities. As a prosecutor and attorney general, Mom developed extraordinary executive skills. I was proud, and learned to exult in her strengths. Her success freed me to see a man can be good—or great—without being a hero in war, sports, business, or politics. A strong man, Jack, is not threatened by others’ greatness. He’s comfortable with his own."

He continued:

"I have loved raising you and your college-age sisters. It’s been a gift. I stepped out of my male armor. I now cry when I’m sad, afraid, or just overwhelmed by the beauty of a sonata or a newborn baby. I don’t feel less of a man. I do feel more of a human being."

And finally ...

"If you lead like Mom, you’ll know how to persevere. You need not fear strong women, or dismiss gentle men. And if you so choose, you’ll be a great stay-at-home or lead parent, giving and receiving incredible lessons and profound joy. Either way, it’s a great time to be a man."

Yeah, he gets it. 
Read Rochelle Riley's interview with Granholm and Mulhern here. 
Also see Jennifer Granholm talks about gender politics.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"The Great Wall of Vagina:" A study of human individuality

One panel of "The Great Wall of Vagina"
 The big news out of England this week is not a royal wedding.  It's the debut of "The Great Wall of Vagina," at the Brighton Festival Fringe beginning on Friday, May 6.

The "Great Wall" is the work of plaster caster/artist Jamie McCartney.  McCartney owns Brighton Body Casting, a company/studio he opened to offer casting services to the public as a unique form of portraiture.  He also casts faces, torsos, etc.  in a variety of materials.

The project took five years and hundreds of volunteers -- about half from the Brighton area -- to complete.  Subjects included mothers and daughters, twins and transsexuals.  They youngest models were 18, the oldest was 76.

"The Great Wall of Vagina" in its entirety
The entire projects consists of 400 casts arranged into 40 panels.  In its entirety, the wall measures nine meters -- that's about 29.5 feet -- in length. 

On his website, McCarntey says the sculpture is " ... in no way pornographic, as it might have been if photographs had been used. One is able to stare without shame but in wonder and amazement at this exposé of human variety."

The vision, McCartney says," ... became clear to me whilst working on a not dissimilar piece for a sex museum that many women have anxiety about their genital appearance. It appalled me that our society has created yet one more way to make women feel bad about themselves. I decided that I was uniquely placed to do something about it. The sculpture comments on the trend for surgery to create the 'perfect' vagina. This modern day equivalent of female genital mutilation is a bizarre practice which suggests that one is better than another."

McCartney tried, unsuccessfully to find a victim of genital cutting to participate in the project.

"The more inclusive and complete I could be in this survey the more power this sculpture would have," McCartney said.

The Brighton Festival Fringe website describes the wall as "'The Vagina Monologues' of Sculpture."  The festival itself is is "one of the largest and fastest-growing open access arts festival in the world and the largest in England. It sets out to stimulate, educate and entertain a wide audience by providing a showcase for diverse art forms. No artistic judgment or selection criteria are imposed on participants, enabling the development of both new and established work to attract fresh audiences, press and promoters."

"The Great Wall of Vagina" will be on display until May 31.  It is rated as "suitable for ages 15+."

McCartney is in the beginning stages of marketing a do-it-yourself casting kits for vaginas as well as baby hands and feet, and adult hands.  The website promises a shopping cart system soon due to increased demand.  The kits include safe-for-the-skin alginate molding compound, casting plaster, mixing cup, brush, gloves and instructions all packaged in a bucket.

The "introductory price" for a vagina casting kit is the equivalent of approximately $64, plus shipping.

Artist Jamie McCartney talks about "The Great Wall of Vagina" and gives his favorite vagina euphemism:

Monday, May 2, 2011

A lesson in gendered language from the Associated Press Stylebook

In her book, "When Everything Changed:  The amazing journey of American women from 1960 to the present," journalist Gail Collins says, "One of the most energetic reeducation efforts of the 1970s involved teaching men not to automatically refer to a group of two or more women as 'girls' ..."

It might not seem so very important, but this was huge, because words mattered then and they still matter today.  Language is made all the more powerful through subtle connotations of words that perpetuate negative perceptions and stereotypes.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "girl" as "a female child."  The word "child" carries the connotation of immaturity -- that a female child, a girl, needs to be carefully supervised, coddled and rescued if she finds herself in a difficult situation.  And, of course, nobody really takes her seriously.

So, using the word "girl" when referring to a mature woman, is inappropriate, no matter how innocent or petty it might seem.

This is the stuff postmodern feminists, who realize the impact of language, attempt to root out through analysis and deconstruction.

Of course, there are occasions when the word "girl" is appropriate. 

Journalists look to the Associated Press Stylebook for guidance in current language usage.  Here are some AP style rules for gendered language that make sense to use in everyday writing and speech:

Girl:  "Applicable until 18th birthday is reached.  Use woman or young woman afterward." (The same rule applies to "boy" with "young man" afterward.)

Lady:  "Do not use as a synonym for women.  Lady may be used as a courtesy title or when a specific reference to fine manners is appropriate without patronizing overtones." (The same rule applies to gentleman.)

Women:  "Women should receive the same treatment as men in all areas of coverage.  Physical descriptions, sexists references, demeaning stereotypes and condescending phrases should not be used ... copy should not assume maleness when both sexes are involved (emphasis mine) ... Use the same standards for men and women in deciding whether to include specific mention of personal appearance or marital situation ...treatment of the sexes should be evenhanded and free of assumptions and stereotypes."

However, the book adds, "This does not mean that valid and acceptable words such as mankind or humanity cannot be used.  They are proper." 

And yet,

Man, mankind :  "Either may be used when both men and women are involved ... Frequently, the best choice is a substitute such as humanity, a person or an individual." (Emphasis mine.)

Female:  This is the preferred adjective, not woman. (The book does not make a comparable entry for "male.")

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Raquel Welch advocates sisterhood over girl-on-girl crime

I found this quote in today's Detroit Free Press and had to share it. 
Raquel Welch, 1972 courtesy of unrealitymag.com

Girl-on-girl crime is a frequent topic on this blog, because I feel it continues to hinder women's progress and success in society, politics and work as well as in their personal lives.

Sadly, it existed in the early women's movement and continues to perpetuate today.

Here, actress Raquel Welch , 71, tells popeater.com about feeling judged by the feminist movement in the early 1970s.  Her remark is valid:

"I guess at that time with the image I had I could understand it, but I didn't love the idea that women love to look down their noses at other women."

She extols the benefits of sisterhood and friendship:

Raquel Welch 2010 courtesy of unrealitymag.com
"I don't know what I would do without my women friends; the world would be a bleak place.  I think we should try and be a little more charitable to each other and try to be a little more understanding. It isn't a cakewalk to be born female, yet it can be so glorious, so entertaining, and so exciting."