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Showing posts with label gender. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gender. Show all posts

23 May 2013

Review: Rebel on PBS


Loreta Velazquez was no normal little girl. Even as the young daughter of Cuban aristocrats, she railed against the injustice of being a girl in a world that privileged boys. Her story is told in ", premiering Friday, May 24th.

Velazquez was sent to New Orleans as a child to live with an aunt, who was supposed to "finish" turning Velazquez into a proper young lady. Alas, love had a different plan.

How this headstrong Cuban woman went from eloping with a Texan Army officer to becoming a Confederate soldier, then a spy for the Union is filled with tragedy and yearning. Velazquez fulfills her dream of following in the steps of her idol, Joan of Arc, but quickly realizes how unglamorous war actually is.

What is known of Velazquez we know from her 1876 memoir A Woman in Battle. She published it a few years after the Civil War ends and it is scandalous! So scandalous that the book is quickly labeled a hoax. Some who do admit that Velazquez was in the Army, accuse her of being a prostitute.

Velazquez is literally erased from history because her memoir challenges the view of Southern men, the valor of war and the real reason that the Civil War was fought. Her narrative does not fit the official view of the Civil War, on either side.

Her story is fascinating, but the controversy over her memoir is equally amazing.

After viewing "Rebel," you will be left pondering how history is written, what we know, and why. Which is exactly what writer and director Maria Agui Carter wants us to do.


Watch Rebel - Preview on PBS. See more from VOCES.

Velazquez's book is still in print and can be purchased from Powells or Indiebooks.  

Disclaimer: Latino Public Broadcasting provided me with a preview DVD of the episode. Book links are affiliate links and if you purchase a book, I might make enough money for a soy chai latte. 

19 November 2010

Star Wars can help Katie & other girls by doing more than just blogging

As a blogger, I am still constantly amazed at how fast some of our stories spread around our world. The story of first-grader Katie being bullied for liking "Star Wars," hit a chord with many SW fans. It went viral with such fury that Star Wars blogger Bonnie Burton responded:
As any Star Wars fan worth his or her weight in midichlorians can tell you, there is no one single “type” of Star Wars fan. Star Wars fans are both genders, all ages, all races and all nationalities. [...]

My point is, ladies love Star Wars too, and we should all support their right to geek out just like the guys. Little girls need to know they have every right to pick up a lightsaber as the rest of us.

Star Wars itself is full of strong, independent female characters who wouldn’t have taken any guff from 1st grade boys who clearly don’t know their Star Wars characters. 
To that I say "Hell yeah!"

But I also want to say to Star Wars & George Lucas...You can do more. You can show the world, boys and girls, that you really do mean the words that Burton writes. If Lucas & Co. are strong enough to get paid each time someone uses the term "droid," then they can insist that companies who use Luke, Leia, Darth & Yoda to sell us things from bedding to clothing, do it in a gender neutral manner. You gonna slap Yoda on a t-shirt? Sell it in both departments or a special Star Wars section. If you are going to hurray the return of Classic Star Wars on bedding, you need to control how it impacts kids. How can a little girl know that she can pick up a lightsaber if Star Wars bedding is located in the boys section of the Pottery Barn Kids catalog and not the girls?

If you head over to Target's online store, do a search for Star Wars. 116 items are under "Boys Toys" and 15 under "Girls Toys." Oddly, a girl can find MLB & NBA bedding at Target, but not Star Wars. Hint, it's located in the boys section.

Kids are kids. They are constantly learning and as anyone who has spent time with a kid for 10 minutes knows, they pick up everything you say and do. They might not show it right away, but a few days later when your precious 7-year-old throws an F-bomb, you flash back to your own f-bomb from Monday in traffic. How else does my daughter know to yell at cars to "move it!"

I can already hear people mumble or yell, "This doesn't matter!"

Tell that to the boys in Katie's class who think that Star Wars is a boy thing. Where do you think they learned it? From other boys, parents who say "Don't play with that, it's a girl thing!" and from stores that so cleanly label girl things with pink & glitter and boy things with black & red flames. Hey!

Yes, girls can shop in the boys section and I can buy things online from boys categories. That's not the point. The point is that each time we separate out toys, clothing, any item between girls & boys we send a message to kids. And they are freaking listening. Then we get stories where first graders are bullying and harassing a classmate over a freaking Star Wars water bottle because she is not confirming to what they believe girls should do and act. And when that happens, you break Master Yoda's heart.

PS: Dear Katie: You are an amazing young person. My daughter is 7 and has been Princess Leia for Halloween 3 times. Don't stop being you for anyone. Ever. Not when you're in first grade or when you are in college. I'm 35, almost 36, and I still try to do my hair like Leia. Much love and strength my fellow Jedi!

29 September 2010

Kendall College and gender roles in education


I got this in the mail today.

I get a lot of educational direct mail. I dunno if it's me or the fact that Chicago has so many schools. Either way, I usually just toss the mailers in the recycling box. But the kiddie drawing caught my eye. Congrats marketing artist! Then I did a double take...WTF?

Yup, Kendall College, an institution of higher education was trying to convince me to give them $250 a credit by using gender stereotypes. Um, yeah. Not so much.

19 May 2010

Feminist Parenting: Explaining old vocabulary

I am proud to say that I was a tomboy when I was growing up. I ran around, rode my bike, climbed trees, played in the mud, played sports...all the things one might think about when you think of a tomboy. The problem is that the term tomboy is outdated.

Back in the early 1980s the distinction between girly girls and tomboys was fairly rigid. At least it was to me. I played with the boys during recess and in trying to hang with them, I spent a lot of energy trying to prove that I wasn't like the other girls. Thus, I know what it means to be "one of the boys" and the games one plays to get there...including fooling yourself. When I was forced to wear dresses, I couldn't play the way I wanted. This drove home the distinction to me: Wear a dress, act like a girl; Wear jeans, act like a boy.

But today...I see not just my daughter, but many girls running, jumping, climbing and being active and sporty one minute, then they are like Wonder Woman (in reverse), magically turning into girly girls in dresses and primping their ponytails. I have told my daughter many times that she lives in an amazing time where this can happen. I tell her, she doesn't have to choose.

She has chosen to be girly, but not uber-girly. She loves her dresses, skirts, etc., but she also loves playing soccer, gymnastics and climbing.

But last week she came home from school saying that a friend called her a tomboy. "What's a tomboy?" she asked at dinner. BIG SIGH...Her dad looked at me.

I explained that it was something, back when mommy was a little girl, people use to call girls who liked to play sports, climb trees and just run around. I also explained that for me, I liked the word, that it wasn't a bad word. I could see she was hurt to be called a boy for her athletic prowess. I then tried to explain that we don't need to use that term anymore since all girls can play sports and still wear dresses. Then she rolled her eyes...that's when I know I'm covering something again.

I think she got it.

She then reported that her friend then said, "Oh, you're not a tomboy, you're a tomGIRL!"

Perhaps her friend was merely trying to find a term to tell the kid that she's an athlete and admires her abilities. I hope so. Even thou I remember being gender-policed at that age, it still amazes me when it happens to the kid. She's not going to stop being a total girly athlete, but neither is the gender police. Hopefully I can build her up so high that when people try to knock her down, she still stands tall.


This month is Latino Book Month. To celebrate, I'm giving away three books to one reader. To enter, just comment on any May 2010 post by May 31, 2010. I'm too busy to make you jump thru hoops. Comment!

14 January 2010

SCIENCE GRRL: Research proves girls & boys equally good at math…again

This was originally posted at Girl w/Pen


Do you ever think, “Duh!?” when you read a news story about how fattening movie popcorn or fast food is for us? I get that same feeling when I read that yet another research study has been published proving that girls and boys are equally good at math. How much more proof do we need?

Professor Marcia Linn’s paper focuses in on why there are differences in girls confidence around the world. The answer? Social expectations. [PDF link]
A society’s gendered division of labor fosters the development of gender differences in behavior by affording different restrictions and opportunities to males and females on the basis of their social roles….if the cultural roles that women fulfill do not include math, girls may face both structural obstacles (e.g., formal access to education is limited to boys) and social obstacles (e.g., stereotypes that math is a male domain) that impede their mathematical development.
Many people like to believe that we live in a post-feminist society. The evidence includes Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and women making up half of the workforce. But girls and boys still receive messages on a daily basis that they have roles to play and only those roles. As recently as this past holiday toy buying season, Toys R Us advertised three different magnification power microscopes and  telescopes, guess which one had the lowest power? Yup, the pink one.

Some will argue that we need to pinkify science things to attract girls, but do they also need weaker microscopes too?

And that brings us to another Duh moment…Pink often does stink.

23 December 2009

Girls Rule... Boys Drool?

This was originally posted on the AWEARNESS blog. 


Maria Shriver says that the battle of the sexes is over, but I think she's wrong. Not because I think that women and girls are better than those of another gender, but because there are still battles to be fought.

The SAT released their latest findings in gender differences on the standardized test and some want to interpret it as more proof that girls can't do math and science. OK, to explain why there aren't more women in science at least. Same conclusion in my eyes. Of course the flip side of that argument is that there aren't any gender differences. But wait a minute; medical science continues to prove that there are biological differences between men and women, this time in the arena of heart drugs. So what's the real deal with gender differences then?
pinkbrain.jpg
Dr. Lise Eliot tries to answer that question in a tome of a book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain. What I found in PBBB is simply yes, there are differences between the genders, but how those differences are interpreted is often within our control.

Eliot spends a lot of time in the book looking at gender differences in the womb and in early infancy, where there is minimal influence by meddling parents and the society. As the mother of a girl and two boys, Eliot was just trying to filter out bad media reports and misused scientific reports. She told me that she is a feminist who believes that there is a boys crisis, that classrooms need to be more boy-friendly and that competition is good for girls, too. But she also believes that the way we socialize infants and toddlers plays out in how well they do with caregiving and spatial tasks in the future.

So where does that leave us?

I guess that depends on whether or not you think that girls will be girls or you can raise a boy to be equally adept at math as he is at changing diapers. AND if you think you can have any effect on that outcome. As I said in my review, Pink Brain, Blue Brain, is a lengthy book, but I do think it's a fair book about the issues. As your parents told you about dinner, take small bites and chew slowly. That sage advice applies to exploring gender differences as well.

11 November 2009

Interview: Lise Eliot, Ph.D. Author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain


Lise Eliot, Ph.D., has been getting a lot of media attention about her latest book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain, and it was a pleasure to chat with her over the phone and an honor that she did it despite one of her sons being sick that day.This is far from a transcript of our conversation, but a summary of what we discussed.

VLF: Why did you write this book? 

LE: The size is reflective of my compulsive nature. My first book was on brain development and it was inspired by my pregnancies and children. I kept running into brain development stories and began to wonder what do we really know about boy/girl differences? What are the causes? There wasn't a book out there that could answer that question, so I decided to write it. I gathered all the studies and decided to write the book myself. I wanted to take a chronological approach from prenatal to puberty.

I was seeing a trend in parenting literature that seemed to be exaggerating sex differences between girls and boys. Compared to the peer reviewed articles I was writing. I knew that part of my job was to temper people's views. Yes, there are differences, but not as dramatic as we have been led to believe. In some areas there are big differences and in others areas very small differences.

It's a book of science and I wanted it to be precise and quantitative.

VLF: What as your most surprising discovery while writing this book? Scientifically?

LE: Well...That's a hard one.

VLF: What was the most surprising way people responded? 

LE: Oh, how adamantly people rejected that socialization makes a difference. I've read some of the comments on the blogs. People just revert to "Oh my son made a gun out of play-doh and my daughter made families out of her trucks." so therefore it is all hardwired. I try to make the point that some of the biggest sex difference are in toy selection. It's bigger than verbal, math, aggression and risk taking. I think it is misleading because parents see the difference in toy selection and draw a lin to everything else. Parents think that girls are so sensitive and appreciate others feelings and boys could care less about each other. Empathy has a very small difference between the sexes. The difference depends on how you measure it too. Self-ratings are skewed by our social expectations - women rate themselves more empathic than they are. If you test people objectively you see much smaller differences between men and women.

VLF: How can we effectively call a truce? Especially when something like the boys crisis comes up it makes girl advocates feel that all the attention and resources are taken from boys. And ditto for the flip debate. 

LE: There still is a boys crisis. It's blamed on the feminization of the classroom. I keep pleading that we need to appreciate each child as an individual. Any focus on gender at all is backfiring on us, it is leading to these stereotype notions. I do think that classrooms need to be more boy friendly with more men as teachers, recess, physical activity and competition. All of this will benefit girls too. It won't hurt them to move around more or get comfortable with competition. Teachers need to remain sensitive to gender issues.

VLF: What is your biggest critique of how science is reported in the  media? 

LE: The media is always biased towards what is new. The problem is that a study comes along and violates 20 years of work. The appropriate response is to average it all together, but the media likes news so things off the press looks exciting. In the case of gender differences anything about the brain is given more weight, attention and credibility. What we see from brain imaging is really just a reflection of years of behavioral experiments. There are a few beautiful experiments that have helped expand our knowledge. We still have never answered the question between nature versus nurture.

VLF: How much do you think we shortchange boys by toughening them up or allowing the idea of "boys will be boys" to prevail? 

LE: Some toughening up is good for everyone. There are some girls who ruminate a lot on their feelings is actually one of the big risk factors for depression. Managing your own emotions is one thing, applying that to others is inappropriate. We need to continue to cultivate boys' sense of empathy and caring. These things are learned. Children learn it by seeing it modeled by adults and other children around them.


VLF: You spend a lot of time talking about stereotypes and debunking them. But how can we effectively rise above them yet still give our girl pink Legos? 

LE: In this day of age it is hard to fight the pink. Just walk into any toystore. I would certainly fight it as long as you can. When girls are little, they don't understand that pink is for girls unless it is drilled into them. Once they know that pink equals girl you have to play into that. We need to get our kids to exercise the domains that aren't gendered - spatial skills especially. I am really amazed at the strength of the pink in our world. I saw pink Bears jerseys in the store the other day. It's become code of "I am woman." I do think unfortunately that in this society where youth culture is so strong, we have to try to hijack these things to get girls to try things.

VLF: Do you consider yourself a feminist? 

LE: Well, absoluately. I don't understand how feminist became a dirty word.

VLF: How do we overcome the idea that difference or bigger is better? 

LE: It's has been a contribution of the whole difference feminism as well as all the psychological research. Sex differences divide up fairly equally. Boys do have bigger hearts, livers -- they are just bigger. Everything scales up.

VLF: What is your take away message for parents? For teachers and advocates? 

LE: Parents want to treat kids in a gender neutral way. It's not easy, but keep at it. To realize that even when we are trying, it's not all possible. Children are difference and provoke different reactions out of us. Keep an open mind of how kids are spending their time. Think about how that is wiring them up for difference abilities. If your son takes a big liking to video games we might worry. But if it is done in a social group, it might be more of a bonding experience and that might outweigh the concern we have over the gaming. I hoped to open parents' eyes to the full range of intelligences, none of them are limited to boys or girls. Keep in mind this cross training that girls can benefit from - girls can benefit from spatial experiences and boys from verbal and social interactions. I was just at the grocery store and there was a little girl playing with the chain that separates things. I thought aw, that's just what my sons would have done as kids, but her mother was discouraging her. I thought, what a shame! The girl wanted to figure out how it worked. We should encourage tinkering and exploration.

Advocates need to be more proactive to encourage kids to cross these gender lines. We are so into "choice" and letting kids make their own choices. We give them a huge cafeteria of choices, but they will default to gender segregated roles early unless we do more encouraging and engineering. I've had people tell me that their girl wouldn't like woodworking because the class is full of boys. Teachers go too easily to gender segregation. We need to engineer beyond that. There is a lot to be learned by crossing over.

08 November 2009

Book Review: Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot


Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps - and What We Can Do About It by Lise Eliot, Ph.D. is a must read for all parents.

Eliot takes a much debated issue - are girls and boys fundamentally different? - and sets out with a well restrained heart. And that frustrated me the most. Yes, I was hoping that this book would lay down that law that there are no real differences between the genders. That the differences we see are all our fault. Yes, even this science grrl sometimes wishes against reality.

Eliot painstakingly goes thru all available scientific research and popular culture books to sort out the truth. Are men from Mars and women from Venus? In a nutshell, no.
What Eliot does is walk us thru the research, data and the facts about the differences. I say painstakingly because this 315 page tome has almost 40 pages of endnotes and 45 pages of bibliography and zero fluff. Some might find this book too much - to that I say, read the sections you want to read. Even a paragraph is worthy of your time. Take small bites if you must, you won't be disappointed.

By now I hope you get the idea that Eliot has given us a book that puts all the research in perspective. She's not far left nor far right. As the mom of two boys and one girl, she has personal interest in each side of the debate.

Eliot does a great job at taking the popular culture literature that tells us that boys and girls are so different they can't be taught together and rips it to shreds WITH DATA! Yet, she also acknowledges the boy crisis as a real phenomena WITH DATA!

And this is where I think the book is genius. Eliot gives us so much data to prove her conclusions that you find yourself nodding along with one idea, then she switches over to the "counter" issue and you nod along. Here's what I mean:

* Prenatal testosterone does make a difference to how boys and girls act and think, but not as much as we think. There are biological differences to the hormone levels, but it is not the end all be all reason why boys are more aggressive, better at math or whatnot.

    Eliot shows us that nature does give boys and girls their own small advantages in life, but it is our socialization that exasperates them to such an extreme that we think that bravery is masculine and the need for emotional attention is feminine. Example: In an experiment where moms were asked to guess how steep an incline their infants can climb down - face first - the moms underestimated the girls by 9 degrees. This suggests that even at infancy moms already believe that girls can't be as brave or agile at such a young age. "Girls attempted and successfully descended slopes ranging in angle from 10 degress to 46 degress, while boys attempted slopes between 12 and 38 degree (pp 66-67)." Thus no difference in performance, but a big difference in expectation. Does this mean that moms are holding back their girls?

    Eliot also points out that boys are, on average, larger at birth than girls. We usually think about how tough this might had been on the woman pushing an extra few pounds of baby out, but Eliot reminds us that this is tough on the newborn too. This could be why boys are fussier babies. Where our gender ideas come into play is that Eliot points to research that shows that parents are more willing to let baby boys cry longer than baby girls. This is the beginning of toughening our boys out AND where they start to learn that expressing their emotions doesn't pay. Are we shushing our boys into their un-emo ways?

    Eliot covers the gamut from in utero thru the teen years, from emotions to math skills.

    What I learned here is simple and honestly pretty much what I've been saying for years too. Yes, girls and boys are different, they have biological differences, but most of the differences we see are created. Eliot shows us the research that proves over and over that there are bigger differences within genders than between them. That the differences that are there are small. SMALL!

    But it also challenged me to reexamine my views of gender and how we are socializing our kids. This book didn't just reaffirm my beliefs, but it taught me a lot about how we see gender. 

    I was lucky to interview Dr. Eliot over the phone and will post it very soon.

    Get yourself a copy thru an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

    Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publishers by my own request. I saw a piece on Dr. Eliot on TV and knew I needed to read and review this book. Thank you.

    03 November 2009

    Want diversity? Start with diversity.

    Don't ask me to bring diversity to your organization, ask me to join your organization for my skills, my knowledge or because you just love me. Don't think that I'm the pepper to your bland mashed potatoes. I am the garlic to those potatoes - the first thing you put on the skillet after you start to boil the water. Where you dash on pepper, throw in some onion and make me a vital part of the dish....Not the afterthought. 

    ***

    Media itself is changing rapidly and in Chicago we have a new player in the game, the Chicago News Cooperative. Laura Washington gave them a tongue lashing for the total lack of diversity they are starting out with:
    Nearly every staff member they have named so far is white -- and male. The co-op's board is white, all but one male. I would venture there are vast swaths of the city they don't know and rarely traverse....

    If these reporters and editors check with the U.S. Census, they will discover that Chicago's racial and ethnic base is majority-minority. There are far more people of color than whites. Latinos are Illinois' fastest-growing minority group. A good half of the Chicago region is female.

    Some might call it arrogance, hubris or just plain racism. I don't know about that, but to me it's just plain folly.
    But wait! The Co-op responds:
    Jim O'Shea, the former Chicago Tribune managing editor who last week announced the Chicago News Cooperative...says he intends to have a diverse staff and board of directors....O'Shea envisioned eventually having 20 to 25 staffers. "I am interviewing a candidate as we speak who will bring to us some diversity," he said.
    As I wrote on a listserv about this topic, are they going to be hiring a Wiccan lesbian of color? A candidate? Come on...If this is the response that the Co-Op is going to send out after getting called out on their almost-all-dude, but still all white club, then I doubt that much will come from the Co-Op in terms of stories that truly reflect the diversity of Chicago.

    That said, I know many under or unemployed journalists in this windy city who can bring a world of difference to your project Jim. So once you're done hiring that one candidate who will bring you diversity, get to work on bringing in a whole team of diverse candidates.Then maybe I'll read what your team brings to the table. And believe me, I'm hungry.

    28 October 2009

    Wanted: Girls who like computer science - From AWEARNESS

    Originally posted at AWEARNESS

    Despite the rise of women attending college and becoming the majority of the workforce, one area that continues to be ignored by women and girls is computer science.

    There are many theories as to why girls love using computers (women are the majority of social media users) but don't want to learn how to program or build computers. There are those who chalk it up to gender differences plain and simple. Some believe it is because girls are repelled by geek or hacker culture. Universities and companies who hire computer scientists are constantly recruiting girls and trying to show them why computer science is a great option.

    One part of the theory why girls are excluded from hacker culture is that it is too "frattish" and misogynistic. That is why I find the lap dances at a recent Yahoo! event (Yahoo! paid for women to dance in skimpy clothing at a "brainstorming session") to be especially atrocious.

    Read the rest over at AWEARNESS please! Thanks. 

    19 September 2009

    Should High School Girls Have To Take Gender Tests? - From Awearness



    Last week, Caster Semenya's gender tests revealed that she has both male and female sex organs. This means that Semenya is intersex.

    Reacting to the findings, Lord Coe, a vice-president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (and a world-record-setting runner and former Olympian), wants a rule change in order to "eliminate competitive advantages." He's also concerned, he says:
    about protecting athletes like Semenya from "the risk of entering a championship and having this exploding all around them," as well as the other young women in sports: "We have to maintain confidence for girls to come into the sport and to think that they are competing on a level playing field."

    22 August 2009

    The Gender Police is still alive and well

    While my husband is quite the feminist, he's not an academic one or one who seeks out a lot of feminist theory. Who can blame him? He's got me! But seriously, watching his growth as a feminist is one of the most touching things in my life. Adding our daughter to the equation has heightened his feminist spidey sense.

    Our daughter had long hair until Saturday. I took her in to get a back to school cut, which should had been a bob up to her chin. It looks more like a long pixie cut. OMG, it is super cute! But to her it's a tragedy. We've done all we can do to help her feel better about her hair, but I'm sure you know what it feels like to have a bad cut or bad hair on picture day.

    She hasn't told us so, but her camp counselor told my husband that the boys are teasing her about her hair. "You look like a boy!" is their main chant. This led to a discussion about teasing, boys and gender. Sadly I have to admit that we immediately think "What are those boys' parents teaching them?" But I quickly recall that gendered expectations are pervasive in our sexist society. Girls|Boys, there is no in between.

    Despite all the feministy parenting I perform each day, my daughter still remarked at a Chicago Red Stars game, "She looks like a boy!" as she pointed to a player. *sigh* Heck in pre-school we went thru a period when she *had* to wear a skirt or dress because "or else I'll look like a boy!"

    I don't recall going thru a time when anyone questioned my gender. Heck, I grew up when it was pretty much an insult to be called a girl. I wasn't a girl! I was a tomboy. But my tough girly girl is going thru such a moment and it's breaking her heart. And thus our hearts.

    Even the toughest and biggest of girls get their hearts broken when their gender is questioned. AND IT FUCKING SUCKS!

    There are times when I think that it would had been great to be a girl today. Where we were so post-Title IX that women make up over 50% of college students, we closed the math gap in high school and we play sports the way my friends & I use to play school. Girls can do all this and still walk out of the locker room wearing lipstick and a cute skirt.

    But gosh darn it, despite all our progress on what we expect from girls, we still want them to LOOK like girls. No matter how strong we get, we still need to look good in that evening gown at the ESPYs. We take pictures of professional women athletes wearing lipstick, with their pregnant bellies (cause ya know, lesbians don't get pregnant) or wearing nothing at all. We do this because we need to know that despite their strength, they are still "just girls" underneath it all.

    But my daughter's hair will grow. In fact I bet it's at an acceptable length by the time school starts. I'll watch the stylist's scissors better next time - heck I'm thinking of finding a new stylist for her. Others are going thru gender issues that are far more difficult and can't be solved with a trip to Claire's for a hot pink headband with peace symbols.

    I do wonder what my daughter will take from this experience. Will she finally believe me that there really isn't anything like "boys hair and girls hair?" Or will this reinforce the fact that if you step out of line the gender police will stop you, whether you are 6, 16 or 26?

    I know those in my life wonder why I'm so touchy when I hear them say things like "that's a girl thing" or "boys just don't write as well." Gender is fluid and gender roles are as well. No matter how many boys you know who just won't sit still, when you say that "all boys need to get up and run around" you are doing an injustice to the boy who likes to sit and read. No matter how many girls you know who do better in reading, there is that one girl you are overlooking who kicks math's ass. When we say girls do this and boys do that, yet the girl or boy listening doesn't how do you think that makes them feel?

    Let's work together to free all our girls and all our boys from the gender police.

    14 April 2009

    Women Do Kill

    It was just a matter of time. It's just been a few days since the news of a woman being arrested and charged with the murder of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu and we already have a flurry of stories about "Why do women kill?"
    According to the Justice Department, roughly one in 10 homicides are committed by women. And when women kill, their victims are more likely to be someone close to them, like their children, boyfriends or spouses.

    Friend of Viva la Feminista, Jennifer Pozner has been writing about the gender imbalance in school, now mass, shootings since Jonesboro in 1996. Heck, one of my first pseudo-blogs back then was the keep a running photo memorial to the women killed in the shootings from Jonesboro to Columbine. Yet time again, shooting after shooting, the media scoffs aside the fact that MEN do most of the killing. Yet when a woman does kill, every media outlet pulls out a few psychologists to discuss WHY.

    Why not focus on the 90% of killing done by men?

    Why focus on the mom who kills, the latest because she thougth she was the anti-Christ, instead of the rash of killings by dads who have lost their jobs?

    Is it because we are so tied to the mythology that woman are all loving and protecting? Or do we, as a society NOT feminism, think so little of our men that we actually expect them to kill, so when it happens, we don't flich...too much anyway?

    We are already the most incarerated country in the world, so let's try to think of solutions that are beyond "lock 'em up."

    Let's start by examining our expectations. Yes, that means starting at how we raise our boys and girls. This doesn't mean we need to rid the world of all violent play, but let's see how far we let our boys versus our girls go with it. When I was a girl and I played "Star Wars" at recess, the boys would often fall into "Boys will be Boys" play and thus into a big wrestling pile. No worries. But once I started to partake in that THE MAN, ok THE WOMAN (who supervised recess) came down hard on me. Should girls be allowed to play "like boys" or should we even allow boys to wrestle like that? Where's the line and what does that tell our children?

    How do we raise our boys to deal with their feelings? Do we scoff at them when they want to take dance class or want to *gasp* talk about their bad day? Do we let them be loud while shushing our girls? Are we still raising boys to think they will be THE breadwinner, when in reality men and women are winning the bread nowadays?

    How are we crafting men's egos that they are so fragile that losing one's job sends them over the edge to murder?

    I don't have any answers to these questions, but I hope it's a start of a conversation that might help prevent future deaths.

    29 December 2008

    BOY am I tired of sexist boy stories


    Why yes, I am still wrestling with my review of "The Trouble with Boys" and it doesn't help that I feel like each week there is a story that makes me hurl with its gendered way of looking at the world, its demeaning look at boys, and its patronizing stance on girls. A few days before Christmas TIME & Yahoo! gave me a real treat:

    So why no modern manlings in the east wing? I have a theory, born of careful historical analysis and solipsism: It's impossible to be elected to the White House if you have young sons, because that would mean you have to campaign with them.

    Campaigning and raising sons are mutually exclusive. Campaigning requires lots of travel, enormous amounts of time in the public eye and months and months of sitting down quietly listening to the same guy talking while wearing your good clothes. It's like 11 straight months of being in church when you're the preacher's kid - with long car rides in between. It's torture on adults, let alone children. But it's worse for boys. Try this experiment: next month ask your son to be on his best behavior in front of other people, from now until November 2009. See how far you get.

    "Boys are generally more competitive, risk-taking and defiant, which makes them less manageable," says Meg Meeker M.D., author of Boys Should be Boys and Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters.

    Are you serious? The fact that two adorable and smart young girls are moving into the White House isn't good enough for some people? Why don't the Obamas have a son? Are boys a liability because, again, the theory is that they can't sit still.

    I guess that it is lucky for George HW Bush that lil George was grown and didn't embarrass his papa at conventions with his drinking, drugging & potty mouth. And heaven forbid if the Bush Twins acted like 12-year-olds towards the press like sticking their tongue out or something childish like that.

    During the past Presidential race, John Edwards campaigned with both of his young children, a son and a daughter. According to the NYTimes, both were less than happy to be listening to stump speech after stump speech. Did dear Emma Claire fall victim of her scampy brother? Or did she have her own feelings of boredom? And of course we'd never see the precious & well-behaved Obama daughters interrupt Daddy's work in public right?

    Sure, I'm not an elected official and I'm not campaigning for an office, but I do appear at my fair share of public events and being the feminist mom I am, I bring my daughter to them as well. She was about 2 when I gave a speech to a group of veterans on Memorial Day. As I stood at the podium staring out at men who had gone to war to defend our country only to be ignored once they returned home, my daughter was pulling at my leg. At an end of the year dinner a few years ago, my daughter brought her camera and made sure people knew she was taking photos. She also kept saying, "Shhh...mommy's talking!" Even as I type this, she's not sitting nicely & patiently even thou a trip somewhere is her reward for letting me work.

    Yes, boys have a repuation for being louder and girls have a similiar repuation for being quiet, but the reality is that both can be victims of "ants-in-the-pants-itis" when the cameras are rolling or a parent is in the spotlight. So please, can we stop this "boys can't sit still" crap? They can...I married one of 'em.

    20 May 2008

    The Boys' Crisis is BUNK

    The AAUW released a new report today detailing education trends between girls and boys for the past 35 years. And you know what? BOTH are succeeding...BOTH are going to college. Despite cries of terror from certain circles fueled by the media, boys are NOT being left behind.

    The NY Times covered the report (and astonishingly NOT in the style section!):

    • The report points out that a greater proportion of men and women than ever before are graduating from high school and earning college degrees. But, it says, “perhaps the most compelling evidence against the existence of a boys’ crisis is that men continue to outearn women in the workplace.”

      Linda Hallman...said the report was an effort to refocus attention on what she said were the real problems of education for poor and minority children, and away from a distracting debate about a so-called boys’ crisis. Ms. Hallman said the group’s members were concerned about arguments by conservative commentators that boys had become disadvantaged and were being discriminated against in schools intended to favor girls.

    As the good feminist/blogger/science nrrd I am, I read the entire report today and here are some highlights that I don't believe are in the executive summary, but you should know:

    • Gender differences cannot be fully understood without attention to race/ethnicity. (VLF: This is uber-important to note. The AAUW is calling out every data collection agency that they must be collecting as much data as possible including family income and ethnicity AND report it out that way. Don't hide those intersections.)
    • Boys' advantage in math does not supersede the more substantial advantage of students from higher-income families over students from lower-income families.
    • Among 12th graders in the 2006-07 school year, 1.5 million students, almost half of all graduating high school seniors (46 percent), took the SAT, and about 1.3 million (40 percent) took the ACT.
    • Gender gaps on the SAT and ACT math exams are most pronounced among Asian American, Hispanic, and white students and are much smaller among African American students.
    • Across races/ethnicities, boys tend to outscore girls in math
    • Girls earn more credits than boys earn in high school math and science and have a higher combined GPA in these courses. (VLF: ARGH!!!!! And yet we still have people who claim that girls don't like or want to do science!
    • While gaps by race/ethnicity are evident, the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds who have college degrees is generally increasing for every gropu except Hispanic men, who show no clear trend. The number of Hispanic men earning college degrees, however, is increasing.
    • The college enrollment rate of young women, 66.0 percent, was approximately the same as that of young men, 65.5 percent. (emphasis by VLF)
    And I will leave you with that last statistic. Men and women are going to college in record numbers. Oh...and all the lines above can be found in the report with their appropriate citations.

    What the AAUW is trying to tell us all, once and for all, is that education is not a zero-sum game. Yale and Harvard might be, but education itself is not.

    Technorati tags: education, equity, feminism, AAUW, boys crisis

    14 March 2008

    More thoughts on Ferraro

    My March article at Work it, Mom! is up and it is about Geraldine Ferraro. Please jump over, read, and of course comment.

    There is a harsh reality to affirmative action and diversity initiatives: They sometimes make people of color and women uncomfortable. While many of us support affirmative action, it really is a double-edged sword.

    This sword was in full view in the recent comments of Geraldine Ferraro. Well known as the first woman to run on a major party's Presidential ticket, she has also frequently and honestly said that she knows she was picked for the vice-president spot mostly because she is a woman. That doesn't mean that she wasn't qualified to be VP, but the Democratic party and Walter Mondale looked around and decided (most likely due to a poll) that they needed a woman for the ticket.

    The backlash against affirmative action is such that knowing you are chosen "just because" you are a woman or a person of color can be debilitating. You start to think others "know" why you got the job. You fail to remember your long list of qualifications and focus on your plumbing or your ethnicity. This is what anti-affirmative action forces want. This distracts you from noticing that someone's frat brother was hired or that, despite other worthy candidates, a Texan is chosen to balance a Presidential ticket. Sure he's qualified, but he will also deliver a wad of electoral votes.


    Read the rest at Work it, Mom!

    Technorati tags: Barack Obama, Geraldine Ferraro, racism, affirmative action

    08 March 2008

    Happy International Women's Day!

    And to celebrate, I shall blog about boys & men.

    This is a phenomenal time to be a feminist, it really is. So much of what we have fought for in the last 150 years is finally blooming. No matter which candidate you stand behind, you have to stop and smile at how feminism has made it happen. The Council on Contemporary Families released a briefing paper a few days ago with an update on how men are faring in relation to their daily chores. While we are not at parity, they are doing a larger share than ever before (althou, I might suspect that when families were on farms, things were pretty 50/50). Thank you feminism. Hidden in the chore pieces is this tidbit:

    The most dramatic increase in men's contributions has been to child care. Between 1965 and 2003, men tripled the amount of time they spent in child care (Bianchi, Robinson and Milkie 2005; Fisher et al 2006). Fathers in two-parent households now spend more time with co-resident children than at any time since large-scale longitudinally comparable data were collected (Coltrane 2004; Pleck and Masciadrelli 2003). In this period, women also increased their time spent in childcare and interaction with children, doubling it over the period from 1965 to 2003. This mutual increase in child care appears to be related to higher standards for both mothers and fathers about spending time with children.

    So there ya go...stop feeling guilty about the time you spend with your kids because on average us moms and them dads are spending more time with the kids then before (again, that farm family probably spent way too much time together!). Thank you feminism.

    Sometimes it is really hard to show people how feminism is not just about women. Yes, its basic premise is to bring parity. equity, equality, whatever word you want to use between the sexes. But what it really is doing and why the ultra-conservatives are in a tizzy is that feminism is breaking down gender roles. Yes, boys can still be boys and girls can still be girly. But those boxes are no longer sealed shut. I think we all know a girl out there who jumps in mud puddles with her pretty dress on, of course with stylish rain boots on her feet. I know moms who are very protective of their sensitive sons. Oh, they rumble with the best of them, but still have a very public and soft heart. I worry about them too. Will feminism help unseal boys' gender role boxes before they get called sissies or even worse, learn to suppress that gentle part of their soul?

    A lot has been written on how Hillary Clinton is running like a man. Being tough on national defense and not showing much emotion. That is how the second wave of feminists/women of the 60s grew up. That was their personal defense mechanism. Compare that to Barack Obama who is the epitome of what us gals have been wanting in a man. Strong yet sensitive. We know he can kick some ass if needed, but can still curl up with us to watch a chick flick and not roll his eyes. Marie Wilson notes this:

    I hope Obama's rise is accompanied by a new movement on the part of male leaders to ameliorate their leadership -- and that we can learn, as a nation, to truly accept women leading alongside them.

    If Barack is our candidate for the White House and gosh darn it, he better win, I do hope that one of the things he ushers in is a new model for masculinity. Here's hoping that we won't see photo ops of him hunting, chopping down trees, at a Monster Truck show, or anything else stereotypically manly if its not something that he already likes to do. Here's hoping that the partnership that is his marriage brings this nation further along in household egalitarianism that the Clinton marriage started 15 years before them (of course without any intern situations).

    No matter who wins, Barack or Hillary, if they win the White House, we all win. Feminism wins.

    Technorati tags: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, feminism, gemder roles, Marie Wilson, masculinity, Council on Contemporary Families

    23 February 2008

    Feminism is good for boys & men

    I vividly recall being in a meeting maybe six years ago trying to figure out what committees should exist for a feminist group. There was the usual call for a "diversity" committee, but I said that we needed a men's issues committee instead. I was quickly yelled down by a few key leaders of said group.

    So when I read , I said a little thank you to the Goddess! Thank you for showing me another sign that I wasn't insane for suggesting that feminists reach out to men in an attempt to bring down the patriarchy, to find new/more partners in our fight for reproductive freedom, and to end gender roles in society.

    That "acceptable femininity" has expanded in scope is unquestionably a good thing, and while we're not there yet, one can see the day coming when girls are considered girls simply for being girls, no matter their dress, interests, hair length, or sexual orientation.

    The same cannot be said for boys. Boys are still, to large extent, expected to fit into a very narrow range of "acceptable masculinity." Boys are supposed to like sports, rasslin', "kinetic activities." They're supposed to show toughness, supposed to show little interest in emotion or caring for others. Quite simply, boys are supposed to be boys, and any boy who dares step outside that box is going to be called a girl or a homosexual, not just by his peers, but likely by his own parents.

    The quote from Orenstein is heartbreakingly accurate: boys are as likely to want to play at parenthood as girls are to want to kick a ball. Boys are as likely to want to read quietly as girls are to roughhouse. Boys are, quite simply, no more likely to "be boys" as girls are to "be girls."

    But while we as a society have recognized that girls can and should want to be made of more than sugar and spice and everything nice, boys are still supposed to be all snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails. That this is a problem for boys is obvious; that this is a problem for girls should be.
    Thanks Jeff.

    Technorati tags: gender, boys, tagname, girls, Shakesville

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