New York Review of Books tells you who’s important: men

This from VIDA on intellectuals/ thought leaders:

New York Review of Books’ Summer 2013 issue. So, VIDAs, wouldn’t you say it’s time to cancel your subscription or write to the editor or something? I mean, WTH??


A couple things really get me about this snobby sexism:

(1) Progressive does NOT equal feminist. A couple weeks ago a study came out that the New York Times, that bastion of liberalism, quotes 3.4 men for every woman. Slate reports:

The endless trend pieces about how women accessorize, parent, and hook up today have failed to materialize into equal representation across the newspaper. In the Times, men are individuals who are quoted to represent countries, corporations, academics, and citizens; women are quoted to represent other women.


The UNLV students who did this study conducted a similar study in 2010 about NPR with similar results. Did you read that part about NPR?

I write a lot about how PBS, the “education/ liberal/ progressive” station is just as male focused in its shows for kids as Disney.

(2) Feminine does NOT equal artsy unless absolutely no status is involved. If you are in kidworld, you deal a lot with stereotypes about how boys are active and girls are artsy, as if this is a biological truth. This “reality” has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with raising, affirming, and validating quiet and well-behaved girls. When it comes to artists in the grown-up world with big shows who make lots of money, they’re almost all men. J. K. Rowling, already hiding her gender with one name, just used a made up male name to write a detective story. Don’t get me started on “chicklit” versus literary geniuses. Who decides who is a genius? Why, the New York Review of Books, of course!

To complain email or Tweet:  Where are the women? #NotBuyingIt

Gloria Steinem gives thumbs up to Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’

Today, in response to the massive criticism from feminists and others that Facebook exec Sheryl Sandberg is too privileged to give career advice to women, Gloria Steinem posts on her Facebook page:

Having read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, I can testify that it addresses internalized oppression, opposes the external barriers that create it, and urges women to support each other to fight both. It argues not only for women’s equality in the workplace, but men’s equality in home-care and child-rearing. Even its critics are making a deep if inadvertent point: Only in women is success viewed as a barrier to giving advice.




YAY Gloria. I fucking love Gloria Steinem.

I haven’t read “Lean In” yet, and I don’t know much about Sandberg, but the vitriol directed at her has rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe Sandberg’s advice won’t apply to you, won’t help you, and won’t affect you, but maybe, it will. Here’s a woman who is writing a book telling you how she got to the top, what it looks like up there, and what her advice to you would be. Not many women get that vantage point, not to mention write about it. Maybe the negative reaction to Sandberg’s book is part of the reason why. This book is based on her experience. Maybe she sounds a little controlling in her directions about how you should apply it to your life. But you’re a big girl. Use your discretion.


If your fear is that, as I’ve read, that companies, elected officials, whomever, will quote Sandberg to prove the problem here is all women’s fault, and not institutionalized sexism, they might. People often misuse information and take quotes out of context to further their own purpose. Do you think any writer would be able to write anything if she had to analyze all of the ways that someone might manipulate and misuse her information? If Sheryl Sandberg had to do that, she’d never write a book. No one would.

I will be buying “Lean In” and after I read it, I’ll let you know what I think. I hope you do the same.


The New York Times and The Washington Post quoted Sheryl Sandberg out of context, making her look like a spoiled brat. The New York Times printed a correction. The Washington Post has not.

The quote, printed in both publications and then all around the web, has Sandberg saying: “I always thought I would run a social movement.”

Obnoxious, right? The woman who has everything now wants a social movement as her new toy. How pretentious and demeaning of the little people can you get? What a bitch.

The Washington Post piece is headlined:

Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ campaign holds little for most women

Here’s the lede:

”She had it all — a husband, children, a beautiful home, a seat on the board of a billion-dollar company, a nine-figure net worth of her own. But there was one thing Sheryl Sandberg didn’t have. “I always thought I would run a social movement,” Sandberg said in the PBS/AOL documentary series “Makers.”


While checking the links for the blog above, I noticed a correction had been added to the two (Jodi Kanor’s and Maureen Dowd’s) NYT pieces. Here it is.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 26, 2013

An article on Friday about efforts by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, to start a national discussion and movement to help women excel in the workplace quoted incompletely from an interview she gave for “Makers,” a new documentary on feminist history. In a video excerpt, which accompanied the article online, she said: “I always thought I would run a social movement, which meant basically work at a nonprofit. I never thought I’d work in the corporate sector.” She did not merely say, “I always thought I would run a social movement.” Maureen Dowd’s column on Sunday, about Ms. Sandberg’s plans, repeated the incomplete quotation from the news article. The article also referred imprecisely to the location of a book party planned for Ms. Sandberg. While Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will host the party, he will do so at the offices of the Bloomberg Foundation, on East 78th Street — not at his private residence a block away.

Ah, Sandberg wasn’t saying she wants a new toy. When she was being interviewed about her career, she explained that she always thought that she would work at a non-profit and not in the private sector.

Still, apparently, the Washington Post feels no need to make a correction to the article.

It’s ironic that feminists and social activists are so concerned that quotes from Sandberg‘s book will be misused and pulled out of context, yet that’s just what they’re doing all over the internet to Sandberg.


New York Times hasn’t approved my comment

I just checked the NYT site and my comment asking to print Jyoti’s name, quoting her father, and asking why they are following India law in reporting news has not been approved yet. I’m kind of shocked. I wish I had made a copy of it so I knew exactly what I wrote. Maybe it will come up?

I don’t see the comment from Beth either who posted on Reel Girl’s FB page that her comment was not approved. She wrote: “Her name is Jyoti.”

I did see one great comment:

Her name is Jyoti, and her father has said that he wants the whole world to know who she is. Just because India is a sexist, misogynistic culture and therefore refuses to publish Jyoti’s name does not mean that the NY Times should participate in silencing her.

Her name is Jyoti Singh Pandey, and how dare you leave it out.


I take that comment to illustrate that the US is also a sexist and misogynistic culture.

Here’s the comment from Disgusted that I referenced earlier:

I was watching a PBS news program on Asia just before dinner when it showed a news headline with the photo of her father saying something to the effect that he wanted the world to know her name, and he gave it: Jyoti Singh. Her name is all over the internet now; hope it is acceptable here.

This was presumably to protest how shame has always attached to the victim, but he was breaking that assumption by proudly announcing her name. There was a photo of her, a wonderful smiling one.

So please get moving NYTimes with the Jyoti Singh Memorial Fund, NOW. Surely that is not beyond your legal expertise. Of course, of course you don’t want to establish a precedent for every heartbreaking story you run. Or some one or entity might decide in future to sue the NYT for its handling of monies.

The legal and accounting beagles must have those contingencies in hand by establishing a liaison to a reliable non-profit in India with impeccable credentials. Whatever the in’s and out’s, the paper of record can negotiate them, right?

I would be suspicious of corruption, but there must be a way.


Other than those two, I seen none referencing the censoring of Jyoti’s name, though I haven’t read through every single one.

I don’t think the New York Times has ever not approved a comment of mine before. Maybe I shouldn’t be offended, maybe it happens all the time, but it seems odd, and I have to wonder how many people have posted similar comments that aren’t being shown.

Have you asked the NYT to print Jyoti’s name and why an American publication would follow India law in how it reports on a crime?


New York Times refusal to print Indian rape victim’s name is America’s rape culture

In a post about the family of Jyoti Singh Pandey, the Indian woman who was gang raped and murdered in India, the New York Times refused to print her name. Here’s the publication’s explanation for why:

The daughter — whose name is being withheld because it is illegal to name a rape victim in India without permission from the victim or her next of kin — showed as a very young girl a love for school, her father remembered.

In covering this story, the U.S. media has widely referred to India’s “sexist culture.” So why in reporting this crime would The New York Times adhere to the laws of a sexist culture? Why would an American publication follow Indian law on how to report on rape? At what other time does a country’s laws dictate how its news is reported in The New York Times? If India’s law applied to political dissidents, would the New York Times refuse to print names?

Not only is this capitulation startling, but days earlier, Jyoti’s father, Badri Singh, told The Mirror that he wants the world to know his daughter’s name:

We want the world to know her real name,” says Badri Singh Pandey, an airport worker who had just returned home when a Delhi hospital called to say his 23-year-old daughter had been in an “accident.” “My daughter didn’t do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself. I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter.” Indian officials have refused to name her, and mainstream Indian media still refers to her as “Amanat,” or “treasure.”

Singh’s nameless daughter, “a treasure,” had an “accident.”

If a country cannot speak of rape, how can it stop it? And why is the U.S. news coverage of rape just as lopsided and distorted as India’s is?

Ten years ago, I was working in talk radio, when two teenagers, Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris were reported missing. Their pictures and identities were broadcast everywhere as a means of saving their lives. And it worked. Once the teens were rescued, they were discovered to be rape survivors, and TV stations began digitally obscuring their faces. Newspapers like the New York Times rushed to delete the names and photos of the girls from the next day’s paper. Some publications, like USA Today, had already gone to press, and printed the story with photos and names on the front page.

Newspapers and TV broadcasters explained the shift as a matter of courtesy. Most  mainstream U.S. media observes a self-imposed policy, like India’s legal one, of withholding the names and faces of sexual assault victims. But in working so hard to mask these women who everyone knew, it was clear that the implication was that rape is so intimate and horrendous, they should not be seen. The media is promoting the belief that when sexual assault is involved, the victim is partly — or wholly — to blame, and should be hidden from view.

Soon after, Marris appeared on KABC, the local Los Angeles news station, to talk frankly, without embarrassment, about her ordeal. She revealed, among other details, the fact that she and Brooks had tried to escape by stabbing their abductor in the neck.

A few days later, Brooks and Marris both appeared on the “Today” show to tell the story of their capture and captivity, a gripping account in which they described being threatened with a loaded gun, smashing their abductor in the face with a whiskey bottle, and later watching him die.

When asked why they chose to talk about their experience, Brooks said that she wanted to do it, and came forward with the support of her parents, who braved some criticism about the decision. She and Marris, Brooks said, “want to get the message across to everybody to never give up on anything. If you ever give up, you’ve lost. Whatever obstacles you have, you’ve got to fight your way through it.”

This past week, Sohalia Abduhali wrote about her rape in India in an op-ed for the New York Times:

THIRTY-TWO years ago, when I was 17 and living in Bombay, I was gang raped and nearly killed. Three years later, outraged at the silence and misconceptions around rape, I wrote a fiery essay under my own name describing my experience for an Indian women’s magazine. It created a stir in the women’s movement — and in my family — and then it quietly disappeared. Then, last week, I looked at my e-mail and there it was. As part of the outpouring of public rage after a young woman’s rape and death in Delhi, somebody posted the article online and it went viral. Since then, I have received a deluge of messages from people expressing their support.

 It’s not exactly pleasant to be a symbol of rape. I’m not an expert, nor do I represent all victims of rape. All I can offer is that — unlike the young woman who died in December two weeks after being brutally gang raped, and so many others — my story didn’t end, and I can continue to tell it.

The media rushing to taking away women’s names or voices because they have been raped doesn’t protect them. Surely, no one can pretend that hiding Jyoti’s name serves her. So why do we keep we doing it?

In 2002, I wrote about Marin and Brooks for Salon in 2002 in “The ‘Shame’ of Rape.’ Parts of that post are reprinted here. You can read the original Salon piece here.



Why do parents buy into gender segregated toys?

The New York Times reports on the gender Jim Crow that dominated Christmas shopping for children:

IMAGINE walking into the toy department and noticing several distinct aisles. In one, you find toys packaged in dark brown and black, which include the “Inner-City Street Corner” building set and a “Little Rapper” dress-up kit. In the next aisle, the toys are all in shades of brown and include farm-worker-themed play sets and a “Hotel Housekeeper” dress.

If toys were marketed solely according to racial and ethnic stereotypes, customers would be outraged, and rightfully so. Yet every day, people encounter toy departments that are rigidly segregated — not by race, but by gender. There are pink aisles, where toys revolve around beauty and domesticity, and blue aisles filled with toys related to building, action and aggression.

When I write or speak about this stereotyping as gender Jim Crow, it is not uncommon for a white, educated dad to tell me that I’m trivializing segregation.

About this article, Melissa Wardy, founder on Pigtail Pals comments on her Facebook page:

I still am unable to understand why this generation of parents – the most educated, most informed, most well-traveled, most well-rounded generation of parents to ever raise children accept the gender divide in the marketplace and believe it to be biological truth.

I have no doubt that humans in the future are going to look back on the radical gender segregation of children, babies, fetuses, accepted and ubiquitous, and wonder how loving parents became so brainwashed.

When CNN interviewed me yesterday about stereotyping gender in media for children, I was asked: “Isn’t it getting better?”

It’s getting worse. It really freaks me out how accepted it is. From the NYT:

What’s surprising is that over the last generation, the gender segregation and stereotyping of toys have grown to unprecedented levels. We’ve made great strides toward gender equity over the past 50 years, but the world of toys looks a lot more like 1952 than 2012…But by 1995, the gendered advertising of toys had crept back to midcentury levels, and it’s even more extreme today. In fact, finding a toy that is not marketed either explicitly or subtly (through use of color, for example) by gender has become incredibly difficult.

Read the NYT post for details of the research.

Why is this happening? Reporter, Elizabeth Sweet, writes:

On a practical level, toy makers know that by segmenting the market into narrow demographic groups, they can sell more versions of the same toy. And nostalgia often drives parents and grandparents to give toys they remember from their own childhood.

In her book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein delves into great research about how segmenting any market drives sales. When I read her book, I thought about face cream, how instead of buying one jar, you’re supposed to get 5– night cream, day cream, eye cream, serum, and sunscreen.

I like how Sweet brings up “nostalgia” of parents because this is an important factor. Not only with toys but with stories. We remember and love the stories we read in childhood and want to share them with our kids, often ignoring the stereotyped gender roles the narratives promote. The result is, as Orenstein writes in her book, children are saturated with gender stereotypes as their brains are growing and developing. At the very least, parents are priming the next generation to be “nostalgic” about sexism.

If the brain development issue is hard for you to buy, think about this:

But if parents are susceptible to the marketers’ message, their children are even more so.

So true. If you, a grown-up, are influenced by all of this, how do you think it affects your little kid?

Here is my favorite part of the article:

Moreover, expert opinion — including research by developmental and evolutionary psychologists — has fueled the development and marketing of gender-based toys. Over the past 20 years, there has been a growth of “brain science” research, which uses neuroimaging technology to try to explain how biological sex differences cause social phenomena like gendered toy preference.

That’s ridiculous, of course: it’s impossible to neatly disentangle the biological from the social, given that children are born into a culture laden with gender messages. But that hasn’t deterred marketers from embracing such research and even mimicking it with their own well-funded studies.

I am so happy she wrote this! It is so amazing to me when biased “experts” create biased studies on biased children and then call it objective science.

I better stop pasting or the NYT will come after me, but you should read it. It’s a great piece.

Update Elizabeth Sweet comments on Reel Girl’s FB page:

Thank you, and thank you for the important work you do! I think the term you use, “gender Jim Crow” is so fitting. It’s de facto versus de jure (though that seems to be coming right back too in regards to women’s rights), but what troubles me the most is how untroubled so many are by it. And it’s happening on all fronts–media, products, science…

Reel Girl’s Letter to the Editor

I emailed this to the editor of the New York Times piece “What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress” today, though so far the New York Times email isn’t working for me and the one I made up, last name isn’t working for me either. I emailed something similar to the “corrections” department yesterday, which you send in the same way you post a comment.

Dear Ms. Titunik,

In the New York Times post “What’s So Bad About A Boy Who Wants To Wear A Dress,” journalist Ruth Padawer writes:

“Of course, had Alex been a girl who sometimes dressed or played in boyish ways, no e-mail to parents would have been necessary; no one would raise an eyebrow at a girl who likes throwing a football or wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt.”

Kids and adults do much more than “raise an eyebrow” when young girls stray from gender norms. Stories that received a great deal of media attention about pressuring  girls include Katie, the girl who was bullied for bringing her beloved Star Wars lunch box to school, “a boy thing;” and more recently, Our Lady of Sorrows baseball team forfeited a championship rather than play a girl. You can find the links to those stories on my blog Reel Girl which I created, as the mom of three young daughters, in response to that “raised eyebrow.”

As in those two stories above, the pressure for girls to conform often comes through bullying, but it can also be more subtle as well. That subtlety makes the sexism more insidious and harder to call out and change. For the New York Times to print “no one would raise an eyebrow at a girl who likes throwing a football or wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt,” in a story about gender no less, is untrue and irresponsible.

Margot Magowan
Reel Girl

The reason this is so important to me is because the gendering of childhood is everywhere.

Just today A Mighty Girl posted about boy and girl magnets/ words:

All we can say to this one is WOW — in case girls and boys had any confusion as to what their appropriate interests should be, these gender-divided magnet sets will help clarify matters. According to this toy manufacturer, “boy words” include bike, swinging, forest, caterpillar and swimming while “girl worlds” include lipstick, jewels, clothes, glitter and dancing. How very limiting for both girls and boys!

Children are segregated; without recognizing the Jim Crow in kidworld, it’s impossible to have a real discussion about gender.

Gender-fluid piece in NYT insulting to girls and women

The New York Times piece on gender-fluid kids reinforces so many stereotypes, I’ve got to go through them.

Let’s start with sentence #1:

The night before Susan and Rob allowed their son to go to preschool in a dress, they sent an e-mail to parents of his classmates. Alex, they wrote, “has been gender-fluid for as long as we can remember, and at the moment he is equally passionate about and identified with soccer players and princesses, superheroes and ballerinas (not to mention lava and unicorns, dinosaurs and glitter rainbows).”

Here, the writer, Ruth Padawer, sets up a series of stereotyped binary/ boy-girl opposites: soccer players and princesses, superheroes and ballerinas, lava and unicorns, dinosaurs and glitter rainbows. I waited for her to explore any reasons why our culture promotes this symbology. Unfortunately, I waited for the whole article.

Why are princesses considered to be the epitome of femininity? Could it, perhaps, have little do with with genes and everything to do with the fact that perpetuating the image of a passive, “pretty” female  is popular in a patriarchal culture? Just maybe?

A few more sentences down:

Some days at home he wears dresses, paints his fingernails and plays with dolls; other days, he roughhouses, rams his toys together or pretends to be Spider-Man.

Most kids on Planet Earth would paint their fingernails if they weren’t told and shown by grown-ups that it’s a “girl thing.” Nail polish has nothing to do with penises or vulvas or genes, or even anything as deep and profound as “”gender fluidity.” To kids, nail polish is art play, brushes and paint. That’s it. Oh, right, art is for girls. Unless you’re a famous artist whose paintings sell for the most possible amount of money. Then art is for boys.

On an email that Alex’s parents sent to his school:

Of course, had Alex been a girl who sometimes dressed or played in boyish ways, no e-mail to parents would have been necessary; no one would raise an eyebrow at a girl who likes throwing a football or wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt.

What? Does this writer have young daughters? Has Padawer heard about the boy’s baseball team from Our Lady of Sorrows that recently forfeited rather than play a girl? Or what about Katie, the girl who was bullied just because she brought her Star Wars lunch box, a “boy thing,” to school?  Does Padawer know Katie’s experience isn’t unusual? How rare it is to find a girl today who isn’t concerned that a Spider-Man shirt (or any superhero shirt or outfit) is boyish and that she’ll be teased if she wears it? My whole blog, Reel Girl, is about that “raised eyebrow.” Has Padawer seen summer’s blockbuster movie “The Avengers” with just one female to five male superheroes? The typical female/ male ratio? Or how “The Avengers” movie poster features the female’s ass? Think that might have something to do with why females care more than males about how their asses are going to look?  You can see the poster here along with the pantless Wonder Woman. Does Padawer get or care that our kids are surrounded by these kinds of images in movies and toys and diapers and posters every day? How can Padawer practically leave sexism out of a New York Times piece 8 pages long on gender?

First sentence of paragraph 3: (Yes, we’re only there.)

There have always been people who defy gender norms.

No way! You’re kidding me. Like women who wanted to vote? Women who didn’t faint in the street?

Moving on to page 2:

Gender-nonconforming behavior of girls, however, is rarely studied, in part because departures from traditional femininity are so pervasive and accepted.

Um, wrong again. Been to a clothing store for little kids recently? Ever tried to buy a onesie for a girl with a female pilot on it? Or a female doing anything adventurous? Check out Pigtail Pals, one of the few companies that dares to stray from “pervasive and accepted” femininity. One of the few. And we’re talking toddlers here.

The studies that do exist indicate that tomboys are somewhat more likely than gender-typical girls to become bisexual, lesbian or male-identified, but most become heterosexual women.

Is the writer really writing a piece on gender fluid kids and using the word “tomboy” without irony?

Next page:

Still, it was hard not to wonder what Alex meant when he said he felt like a “boy” or a “girl.” When he acted in stereotypically “girl” ways, was it because he liked “girl” things, so figured he must be a girl? Or did he feel in those moments “like a girl” (whatever that feels like) and then consolidate that identity by choosing toys, clothes and movements culturally ascribed to girls?

Hard not to wonder. Exactly! Finally, the writer wonders. But, not for long. Here’s the next sentence:

Whatever the reasoning, was his obsession with particular clothes really any different than that of legions of young girls who insist on dresses even when they’re impractical?

Once again, I’ve got to ask: Does Padawer have a young daughter? Legions of young girls “insist on dresses” because like all kids, they want attention. Sadly, girls get a tremendous amount of attention from grown-ups for how they look. Today, my three year old daughter wanted to wear a princess dress to preschool, because she knew that if she did, the parents and teachers would say, “Wow, you’re so pretty! I love your dress.” And if it’s not a girl’s dress everyone focuses on, it could be her hair, or perhaps her shoes which are probably glittery or shiny or have giant flowers on them because that’s what they sell at Target and Stride Rite. Unfortunately, focusing on appearance is how most adults today make small talk with three year old girls.

The next two graphs are the best in the article so I will paste them in full, though notice the use of “tomboy” again with no irony.

Whatever biology’s influence, expressions of masculinity and femininity are culturally and historically specific. In the 19th century, both boys and girls often wore dresses and long hair until they were 7. Colors weren’t gendered consistently. At times pink was considered a strong, and therefore masculine, color, while blue was considered delicate. Children’s clothes for both sexes included lace, ruffles, flowers and kittens. That started to change in the early 20th century, writes Jo Paoletti, a professor of American studies at the University of Maryland and author of “Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys From the Girls in America.” By then, some psychologists were arguing that boys who identified too closely with their mothers would become homosexuals. At the same time, suffragists were pushing for women’s advancement. In response to these threatening social shifts, clothes changed to differentiate boys from their mothers and from girls in general. By the 1940s, dainty trimming had been purged from boys’ clothing. So had much of the color spectrum.

Women, meanwhile, took to wearing pants, working outside the home and playing a wider array of sports. Domains once exclusively masculine became more neutral territory, especially for prepubescent girls, and the idea of a girl behaving “like a boy” lost its stigma. A 1998 study in the academic journal Sex Roles suggests just how ordinary it has become for girls to exist in the middle space: it found that 46 percent of senior citizens, 69 percent of baby boomers and 77 percent of Gen-X women reported having been tomboys.

The piece is riddled with more gender assumptions that aren’t questioned.

When Jose was a toddler, his father, Anthony, accepted his son’s gender fluidity, even agreeing to play “beauty shop.”

But why is beauty shop feminine? We all know beauty toys and products are marketed to girls, but why? Here’s that Avengers ass poster again. In a male dominated world, women are valued primarily for their appearance. They are taught to focus on how they look and that if they do so they can get power and prestige. Appearance is the area where girls are trained to channel their ambition and competition. Oh, sorry, girls aren’t competitive or ambitious. That’s a boy thing.

On gender fluid child, P.J., the author writes:

Most of the time, he chooses pants that are pink or purple.

Wait a minute, didn’t she write a few pages back about Jo Poletti’s book Pink and Blue? Remember, pink used to be a “boy” color; it’s only recently that it’s perceived as a “girl” color?

Here might be the most fucked up quote:

When a boy wants to act like a girl, it subconsciously shakes our foundation, because why would someone want to be the lesser gender?

When Miss Representation posted that on its Facebook page  above the link to the the article, angry commenters immediately began to respond:

i am NOT the lesser gender!
why can’t people see how insulting that is? i mean, who would *openly* call a race or ability or sexual orientation “lesser” and not largely be considered a bigot?

It was that comment that inspired me to write this post, because the whole piece is insulting to girls and women. I hope it’s insulting to boys and men as well.

Read my email to the New York Times editor here.

Read my response to comments on this post here.

OpEd on gendered toys in Sunday’s New York Times

The New York Times is reporting on it! It must be a serious issue, right?

From Cinderella Ate My Daughter’s awesome author Peggy Orenstein:

Every experience, every interaction, every activity — when they laugh, cry, learn, play — strengthens some neural circuits at the expense of others, and the younger the child the greater the effect. Consider: boys from more egalitarian homes are more nurturing toward babies. Meanwhile, in a study of more than 5,000 3-year-olds, girls with older brothers had stronger spatial skills than both girls and boys with older sisters.

At issue, then, is not nature or nurture but how nurture becomes nature: the environment in which children play and grow can encourage a range of aptitudes or foreclose them. So blithely indulging — let alone exploiting — stereotypically gendered play patterns may have a more negative long-term impact on kids’ potential than parents imagine. And promoting, without forcing, cross-sex friendships as well as a breadth of play styles may be more beneficial. There is even evidence that children who have opposite-sex friendships during their early years have healthier romantic relationships as teenagers.

Read the rest here.

When Oprah called, SF non-profit answered

About-Face is a San Francisco based non-profit whose mission “is to equip women and girls with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect self-esteem and body image.” About-Face has received all kinds of recognition for its great work. Most recently, as you can witness all around San Francisco, teenage girls in About-Face’s programs led a project to put “static-cling” stickers on dressing room mirrors with empowering messages such as “YOU: absolutely no Photoshopping necessary.” This effort is going national and was just featured in O The Oprah Magazine.

Jennifer Berger, Exceutive Director of 

Jennifer Berger, Executive Director of About-Face, “Quit Playing Barbie” shirt available at About-Face

Jennifer Berger is the Executive Director. This is my interview with her:

What is the main challenge for About-Face right now?

There’s awareness of media’s impact on girls and women’s sense of self-worth and some notable positive examples, but not enough action to really create change. And somehow most people seem to think that sexism is over. We can hear about celebrities who admit that they have had eating disorders, or that they feel pressure about their weight or appearance, but they aren’t going so far as encouraging an improvement of the system itself. And Lane Bryant’s lingerie commercial does something positive for women of size and challenges fatphobia. But that needs to be more than a one-off campaign here and there. About-Face is leading the charge in terms of actually changing culture. Awareness is awesome: action is better.

I blogged about Lane Bryant — I was happy to see another body image on TV and shocked that network executives were so offended by real breasts that they censored that commercial, but I was not so psyched about the whole idea that larger women can be exploited on TV too! Yay! Getting women of all sizes in the Victoria’s Secret show is not a goal of mine. I don’t get the whole fat women beauty contest thing, like Mo’Nique hosted a few years ago. I don’t think that’s empowering.

I have to agree with you. This need for women (and now men) to compete against each other around beauty is so ancient but so useless right now. I would like to see us all walk around, with both men and women finding beauty in each other’s diverse shapes and sizes. Another vision is for us to simply not be so concerned about outer beauty as a culture.

I love how About-Face is action based. Instead of just criticizing and reacting, About-Face is actually doing something to create change. What are some of your projects?

Our Gallery of Offenders, where we give addresses and tips on writing productive complaint letters, is the most visited part of our web site. It’s really interesting to look at and fun to put together.

Activism is at the heart of About-Face, so our major method of creating change is our Take Action groups, where we inspire and enable teenagers to take action in their own ways. The girls come up with all of the ideas for their action, and we help them make it happen. One group created these awesome static-cling decals for fitting rooms and then slapped them up all over San Francisco. There’s a great video on our web site.

Of course, that kind of brazen activism isn’t for everyone, and we introduce the idea of media-literacy and critical analysis in classrooms all school year long. This past school year, we worked with 1,200 young women and young men in schools and we’ve seen some fantastic results.

Panasonic ad from About-Face's Gallery of WinnersPanasonic ad from About-Face’s Gallery of Winners 

About-Face was recently mentioned in O The Oprah Magazine. What do you think of Oprah’s public battles with her weight and numerous talk shows on the topic?

As we all know, Oprah has had a problem with her feelings about her weight for years and years, probably brought on by the intense media scrutiny she experienced earlier in her career. She’s a woman whose natural weight is probably on the heavier side, but she’s in the spotlight constantly, so she feels the pressure so intensely. Every time there was a fashion designer on with models, she’d make a comment about how she could never fit into those clothes. It made it OK for women everywhere to hate their bodies because Oprah did.

Last year, in a show in January 2009, I think it all came to a head when she announced on her show that she had “fallen off the wagon” as far as controlling her weight. It was like she said, “I’ve been so bad, and if you’ve been bad too, you can understand, right?” Personally, I sat on the couch and cried while watching that show. Here was the most powerful woman in our culture, arguably, saying she STILL wasn’t good enough. And the cover of her magazine showed the current Oprah standing next to the skinny Oprah. It was like she smacked herself in the face!

But in a recent show in mid-May and in her magazine, she interviewed Geneen Roth, author of the book Women, Food, and God, and seemed to have a revelatory breakthrough around weight. Oprah blew me away when she said, “What I realize when I look at that cover is that I publicly shamed myself. And in that cover, what I was saying is that the thin me deserves all the praise and the accolades. The thin me deserves to be loved, but the fat me does not…It’s your own self-loathing that does that.”

I have hope for Oprah and her own healing. I support her all the way, but I would love to see her also help shape our culture in a way that incites us to accept ourselves as we are.

Ad for Element skateboard's from About-Face's gallery of WinnersAd for Element skateboard’s from About-Face’s Gallery of Winners 

What do you think about Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity campaign?

Yeah, I’m glad you asked that, because I worry that my answer to the previous question sounds like I think health is not important. The concerns around the “obesity epidemic” are around health, and we are concerned about health, too. But physical health only comes from mental health. Self-acceptance leads to healthier behaviors, because you love yourself more and treat yourself with respect.

Our message is to encourage girls and women to see themselves from the inside out, not from the outside in. That is, eat and exercise healthily because you have respect for yourself and your body, not because you want to get thin or avoid being fat.

Did you see, a few weeks ago, the Sunday New York Times cover story on obese moms delivering unhealthy babies? I was thinking: that’s just what overweight women need to hear– you’re bad moms too!

I’m not an expert on OB/GYN issues, but when we see a statement like this, from the New York Times article, we should pick it apart and be fully informed:

“And medical evidence suggests that obesity might be contributing to record-high rates of Caesarean sections and leading to more birth defects and deaths for mothers and babies.”

And unfortunately, there could be some avoidance of fat women happening among doctors. I have heard more than one OB/GYN say to me directly that they don’t want to deal with an obese woman. Could the doctors be deciding to do C-sections because they don’t want to “deal” with a woman’s body that is unwieldy for the medical staff? That’s just a guess on my part, but my point is that we need to look at all sides of this issue and really challenge our own beliefs.

Gray Lady leads with sensationalist sexism

Yesterday, The New York Times reported on an exciting, potential political candidate with a stellar resume. Which of these two photos do you think appeared on the paper’s front page?


Diana Taylor

Diana Taylor and Michael 

Diana Taylor’s career began as an investment banker with Smith Barney; she then became superintendent of banking under Gov Pataki, emerging as a prescient watchdog who predicted the mortgage crisis; she was chair of Action, a leading microfinance lender which has distributed more than 23 million worldwide, and since last July, has been a member of the board of directors of Citigroup.

But New York Times readers don’t learn any of this information about Taylor’s credentials on the front page of the paper. Reading through this muddled article, whenever I found an actual fact on Taylor’s career, I felt the kind of joy of discovery I see my on my kids faces during a scavenger hunt.

It’s not only the cover photo of Taylor in evening wear with her boyfriend, the Mayor of New York, along with the late placement of her substantial qualifications, but the language of the article that continually sexualizes and trivializes Taylor’s ambition and her candidacy.

The headline reads: “She has the Mayor by her Side, But Politics is Wooing Her, Too.” When has politics ever “wooed” a male candidate? When considering a senatorial bid a few years ago, this dreamy lady “muses” what kind of “relationship” she’d have with then senator Chuck Schumer. Bill Paxon, former congressman, recalls a “previously undisclosed meeting…at the Ritz Carlton hotel,” but details of Taylor’s “flirtation” with the senate run have “remained hidden.” Is this a story about a tryst or a political career?

When The Times finally gets to reporting on Taylor’s professional history, page A-3, she “mixes” with global leaders, sounding as if she were flitting about various soirees. Describing her position as chair of Action, there is no quote from Taylor from that time, but instead rockstar, Bono, saying: “Diana, you know how I feel about you. But don’t tell the mayor.”

Isn’t the New York Times supposed to be a bastion of the liberal media elite and sensitive to sexism? I guess when it comes to reporting on women, the only party that matters is the kind you dress up for and running for office is just like dating.