Saturday, June 27, 2009

And Hell Just Iced Over!

I'm still looking for the jaw I dropped when I read the latest David Brooks column in the New York Times, because Brooks has always been the go-to-boy on arguments that men and women are hard-wired a certain way, and he does start with that:

In 2000, Geoffrey Miller, a leading evolutionary psychologist, published a book called "The Mating Mind," in which he argued that the process of sexual selection among early human groups hardwired many of the behaviors we see in humans today. Some of the traits are physical. Men generally prefer women with a 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio (that's a 24-inch waist and 36-inch hips, for those of you reading this at the gym). Women generally prefer men who are taller and slightly older.

Some of these traits are more subtle. Men, Miller argues, tip better in restaurants, because they've been programmed to show how much surplus wealth they have. The average American adult knows 60,000 words, far more than we need. We have all those words because we like to mate with people who caress us with language.

Urgh. Gag. And so on, using only a handful of the necessary words. What utter rubbish, sigh, all of it. And wholly divided from the context.

But then (and here's where my jaw disappeared), Brooks continues:

But individuals aren't formed before they enter society. Individuals are created by social interaction. Our identities are formed by the particular rhythms of maternal attunement, by the shared webs of ideas, symbols and actions that vibrate through us second by second. Shopping isn't merely a way to broadcast permanent, inborn traits. For some people, it's also an activity of trying things on in the never-ending process of creating and discovering who they are.

The allure of evolutionary psychology is that it organizes all behavior into one eternal theory, impervious to the serendipity of time and place. But there's no escaping context. That's worth remembering next time somebody tells you we are hardwired to do this or that.

Well, yes. And men just might tip more because they have more money, on average, for example. But I must give credit where credit's due. Just as soon as I find my jaw.

Saturday Sasha Blogging

Courtesy of Doug

Friday, June 26, 2009

Killing widows (by Suzie)

This is a lily from the garden of my Aunt Bess, who died last week at age 96, the last of her generation. She had outlived the avocado and fig trees in her bountiful yard in a working-class neighborhood of West Los Angeles.

Like my mother, Aunt Bess was a knitting goddess, who held knitting needles as if they grew from her hands. In the winter, I pad around in red slippers that she knitted. On my bed is a fantastic afghan she knitted out of odds and ends, like a coat of many colors.

Although we kept in touch with cards and calls, the last time I saw her was in 1996. She had come to terms with the fact that my father had little interest in family or heritage, and he had married a woman who wasn't Jewish and didn't convert. She gave me books; we looked through a family photo album. She wanted me to understand where I came from.

When she died, I wanted others to understand where she had come from. These days, many newspapers charge for obits, and I ended up spending $684 for a small b&w head shot of her and about 35 lines in the LA Times. Because nothing runs smoothly, I ended up having to make a few calls. The money, plus the time and skill to navigate the system, weed out some people who might want to place similar obits. One reason this matters is that archived obituaries become part of the historical record. It is part of the question of who is part of history and who isn't.

I can just imagine what Aunt Bess would have thought about paying for obituaries. I hesitate to bring up this subject because of all the nasty talk about Jews being cheap. When I hear non-Jews make these remarks, I think of the terrible poverty of my ancestors, and how they had to get by, how my grandparents moved to a ghetto in Cleveland when that word was still associated with Jews. Poverty influenced their children in different ways. As a bookkeeper, Aunt Bess was good with money, and she carried herself with class. Although she had started in the jewelry trade, she usually wore only a small diamond necklace, a lavalier, that had belonged to her mother.

There was no room in the obit for such details. There was no room to write how she sent us homemade rugelach at Hanukkah and See's chocolates, which we couldn't get in Texas at that time.

Because I was paying by the line, I tried to reword any paragraphs that had only a word or two left over on the last line. In journalism jargon, this is "killing widows" (see this example). The term reflects society's view of a manless woman: She's just taking up space.

Before her third husband made her a widow, Aunt Bess had divorced two others. She had worked all of her life, starting as a child. The oldest girl of seven children, she helped care for the younger ones. My father, who would have been 91 today, thought of her as a mother. People said I looked like her, and at the end of his life, Daddy mistook me for her once and a while.

What interesting roles we put on and take off, daughter to sister to mother.

Intersectionality, and what constitutes feminism (by Suzie)

Feminists will never be intersectional enough. Why? Because so many variables make up an individual’s experiences.

I’m not saying that we should give up – that we shouldn’t look at the ways that oppressions intersect. But we should stop pretending that discussing broad categories of race, class and sexuality make our projects intersectional. It may make something more intersectional, but it is not definitive.

Now that I’m disabled, I find that a lot of people fail to consider the intersecting oppression of disability. But I also recognize that the category of “disabled women” covers women with all sorts of privileges and oppressions.

This is illustrated by passages from JeeYeun Lee's "Beyond Bean Counting" in "Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation":
Issues of exclusion are not the sole province of white feminists. I learned this very vividly at a 1993 retreat organized by the Asian Pacifica Lesbian Network. … This was a retreat where one would suppose everyone had so much in common – after all, we were all queer API women, right? Any such myth was effectively destroyed by the realities of our experiences and issues: We were women of different ethnic backgrounds, with very different issues among East Asians, South Asians, Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders; women of mixed race and heritage; women who identified as lesbians and those who identified as bisexuals; women who were immigrants, refugees, illegal aliens or second generation or more; older women, physically challenged women, women adopted by white families, women from the Midwest.
Look at the entry for intersectionality in Wikipedia:
For instance, according to intersectionality, domestic violence counselors in the United States that urged all women to report their abusers to police would be of little use to women of color due to the history of racially-motivated police brutality in that population, and those counselors should therefore develop a different approach appropriate for women of color.
I agree that DV counselors need to understand why some women don’t want to call the police. But if they assume all WOC will be hesitant, they may deny them options or support. Also, some poor whites have little use for the police, and some poor white women don’t want to report abusers either. Ditto for some white immigrant women. Other variables include women of any race whose abusers work for, or have connections to, law enforcement, and WOC who live in areas where the police share their ethnicity. All in all, it seems like the best DV programs consider different options for different clients, without assuming one model works for white women and another for WOC.

Inclusion is always a work in progress, not a done deal. No one is perfectly inclusive, no one has included every feminist issue, no one has considered every possible oppression. Some people do better than others, but no one can cover everything.

This brings me to the annual convention of the National Women’s Studies Association. The keynote speaker is Angela Davis, who the NWSA says “is known internationally for her ongoing work to combat all forms of oppression in the U.S. and abroad.” I could understand this from an undergraduate fan, but from the NWSA? Even superheroes who fly around the globe aren’t able to combat all oppressions.

This conference also will “examine how feminist intellectual, political, and institutional practices cannot be adequately practiced if the politics of gender are conceptualized (overtly or implicitly) as superseding or transcending the politics of race, sexuality, social class, nation, and disability.”

I think the NWSA is saying: You’re not being feminist if you think or act as if gender is more important or a bigger problem than race, sexuality, social class, nation, and disability. Is this list supposed to be definitive? Does this mean that it would be OK if the politics of gender superseded the politics of age discrimination, for example? If a woman in Kenya supports rape victims, with the belief that gender discrimination is the worst issue facing women, must we tell her that what she’s doing isn’t feminist? What if someone thinks that the politics of race or sexuality or whatever is more important than gender? Are they also booted from the feminist club?

In this interview, Angela Davis is less restrictive:
I don't think I would propose a single definition of the term "feminist." It is one of those categories/commitments that can have a range of definitions and I don't think that it is helpful to insist on prescriptions for feminism. But I do think we can agree that feminism in its many versions acknowledges the social impact of gender and involves opposition to misogyny. In my opinion, the most effective versions of feminism acknowledge the various ways gender, class, race and sexual orientation inform each other.

… Even though feminism may mean different things for different women (and men), this should not prevent us from creating movements that will put us in motion together, across all our various differences.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just To Tell You That

I really am of the girly persuasion: I'm going to spend this weekend hand-sewing 10 yards of fringe to the bottoms of the four curtains I made. What is more feminine than frill?

Except I don't like fringe at all (well, unless it's on a forehead), and this one is going on only because something like that is needed to make the curtains fall properly. A weight at the bottom seam.

Pennies don't work in this case, because I made the curtains out of fancy cotton shower curtains, bought at Restoration Hardware, and they just made the required length, with too narrow bottom seams. Hence the fringe.

The reason why all this makes economic sense should be clear as freshly-washed windows: To buy ready-made curtains for those windows, with proper tacked linings n' all, would easily set me back more than a thousand. The shower curtains (four) were about thirty bucks each and the fringe another fifteen. The lining material I reused from the old curtains. Hmm. I'm a tightwad.

In any case, the next step is to try to learn to live with fringed curtains.

Hey! Girls Do It, Too!

Dana Perrino (who used to mouth for president Bush) had something interesting to say about the lesson in the Sanford saga (not the Appalachian trail, after all, but the trail of tears):

Commenting on Gov. Mark Sanford's (R-SC) extramarital affair with a woman from Argentina, former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino writes in the National Review: "If the constant stream of these confessions by unfaithful husbands is any guide, we'll be treated to more and more of these stories." She then suggests an interesting solution:

While I am not able to explain, I do think I know the answer to all of this: Elect more women. No woman I know has the time for such trysts, nor do I know any who say the desire one. They're too busy trying to keep all the plates spinning at home, at work, and at the gym to make sure none fall and break.

Do click on the link to see what Grover (The Bathtub) Norquist has to add to this. You'll get a kick out of it.

I should grab Perrino's argument and run with it. Women elected everywhere! A female Pope coming soon! Yippee!

Except that there's an adding-up problem in all that, because Governor Sanford had an affair with a woman, and so did Senator Ensign. Unless we only focus on gay affairs we have to have a woman in the picture, too, and not only as the wife who usually stands by her man at the confession.

Perrino argues that the gendered division of labor leaves powerful women with too little time and energy to run around looking for juicy young hunks...

Where was I? Oh. The hunks. Well, it might actually be true, for some women. I mean being too busy with the multiple roles they have to juggle to have ever gotten to a position of power.

But I think something else shouldn't be ignored here, and that is the tradition of the locker rooms and the wider society, too: Men need a bit on the side, nudge, nudge, and did you see those tits walking by? The wife always nags etc.. Add to that the evo-psycho arguments about how men are hard-wired to have sex with many, many women and women are hard-wired to have sex with only one man (note the summing up problem again), and you get a different explanation:

Male infidelity, especially if it is of short duration, is not associated with the same societal punishment as female sleeping-around is. So men who become more and more powerful might find it easier to think that their affairs will be ignored and semi-approved.

What I don't understand is why they don't worry more about what happens when they get caught.

On Iran, Again

It's nearly impossible to find out what is actually happening. Banning journalists from reporting and meddling with communications technology tends to do that. Then again, banning journalists from reporting and meddling with communications technology tends to make me at least think that the government of Iran is not going to play nice.

I have seen truly awful rumors concerning the most recent events. I hope, hope, that they are exaggerated and preferably untrue.

One thing seems pretty certain: Women are playing a major role in the recent demonstrations. Ahmadinejad's last reign was not at all good for women's rights. And no, the women's protests are not about lipstick, silly ABC.

Thursday Dog Blogging

To balance all the bad stuff on this page. First, here is Widget, Doug's older puppy. Widget was a homeless dog for some time (hence the overly skinny frame), but he is beginning to turn into a truly handsome dog under the good care of Doug and his family.

And here he poses for us.

Finally, here is baby Sasha again:

Now, don't slobber.
Pictures courtesy of Doug.

TRIGGER WARNING! South Africa And Rape

One rapist's story about what made him do it and why. Well worth reading if you are OK with the topic itself, because what he relates probably applies to some other rapists, too. Besides, he regrets what he did, very much, and now works to stop rape.

South Africa has an enormous incidence of rape. That, alone, suggests that rape has not been viewed as a real crime and that the objectification of women is common.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Do A Reversal On This

From an early newspaper item about the Washington, D.C. train crash:

The trains crashed just after 5 p.m. on the Red Line of the Metro train system. Catoe said one train was stopped near the Fort Totten stop waiting for a train to leave the next station. The second train came up from behind. The crash propelled the second train on top of the stopped train.

Catoe said the female operator of the second train died.

Bolds mine.

Shallow Thought

I should probably write about how the Appalachian trail goes all the way to Buenos Aires.

Nah. Then I'd have to write all over again about hypocrisy and stuff.



From The No-Comment Files

Joseph Brooks, the Oscar-winning songwriter who wrote the 1970s ballad "You Light Up My Life" may be getting serenaded by a cellmate Tuesday. He was arrested, indicted and accused of raping and sexually assaulting 11 women.

Brooks is accused of having a Federal Way woman working as his personal assistant facilitate the sexual assault of nine of those victims. That woman, Shawni Lucier, 42, was charged in New York with criminal facilitation.

Brooks, 71, appears to have more indictments than he has major songwriting awards. He is facing multiple charges or rape, criminal sexual act, sexual abuse, forcible touching, assault, grand larceny and criminal mischief.

Link from which the above quote came. Joseph Brooks appears in the following YouTube version of the song by Patti Smith.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Fleeting Comment on Race And Unemployment Rates

I was listening to president Obama's press conference and noticed how (around 49 minutes or so) he was asked a question about African-American unemployment rates in a way which also made him bring up the unemployment rates of Latinos and Asians and, finally, of any group.

But the fact is that unemployment rates between those groups are very different. African-American men have traditionally higher unemployment rates than almost all other groups. Asians, on the whole, tend to do better in economic terms than the rest of the population. Latino unemployment rates are higher than Anglo rates but lower than African-American rates.

This is worth pointing out, because I have started seeing on the blogs and such a treatment of all minorities as experiencing the same economic problems.

Deep Thought Of The Day

Feminism really turns into something very different depending on what your basic definition might be, even if you are unaware of that basic definition. If you start from the ideal of equal treatment for men and women you get one set of conclusions. If you start from the ideal of supporting women you get a different set of conclusions. Sometimes. Not always.

It sounds very stupid when I write it down like that, but it's actually very important to understand. To understand that this is what is going on in many of the debates among feminists, with some other goals thrown in. Those goals can lead to further complications, including the case where some women's interests are opposite to other women's interests and so you have to take sides and no longer can support 'women' in some abstract sense. The sides are usually taken based on various additional aims and goals.

Neither basic starting point is enough on its own, but I usually start from the equality one and tend to favor it. It has led me into some dead-ends and paradoxes, true, but it's the clearest guideline for my thinking and often leads me to look at the system (economy, religion, culture) as a whole. On the other hand, the world necessary for equality doesn't exist in many places on this earth and then this particular starting point is pretty abstract, cold and unhelpful. On the third hand, this approach ignores the other ways in which people are given unequal opportunities in most societies.

But the other starting point has its problems, too. It's easy to go around in circles trying to figure out what supporting women means, and it's easy to end up in very odd places (such as asking whether I should support Ann Coulter's outrageous statements about women or whether it's a feminist act for women to 'choose' to subjugate themselves to their husbands).

Then there's the view of feminism as a general social justice movement, the idea that because almost all groups have women in themselves almost all issues are women's issues. War, for instance, or immigration. That these are also men's issues or everyone's issues is not important.

Of course almost all issues are women's issues, and it's important and correct to ensure that women participate in the discussions and decision-making about such issues and that nobody forgets that women are affected by these issues. But is feminism the same as just generally working for justice? That would be a very odd definition in my view, because we don't redefine other social change movements that way. The LGBT movement is not expected to work for general social justice but for a very specific subgroup of that.

You can probably see that I've been pulling my scales off thinking about this. It's a topic which I don't like to think about, because writing feminism is tough enough for me. Then to wonder if I'm writing the wrong kind of feminism! That's when I want to just stop, at least for a while.

Jon&Kate Plus Eight

If I understand things correctly, this is a reality show about a couple with eight children: a set of twins and another of sextuplets. And of course this is reality, but not anything 'average': most people don't have twins AND sextuplets, and this must be the reason why the couple was selected to star in a series. Being lookers must have been another requirement, I think.

Now Jon and Kate are getting divorced:

"Kate and I have decided to separate," Jon said, sitting alone on the couch.

"I was too passive," Jon said of their relationship. "I just . . . went along with everything. Now I finally stood up on my own two feet and I'm proud of myself."

Kate offered her own outlook: "It's very uncomfortable at this point because Jon has a lot of anger towards me and I would love to discuss it with him but he won't talk to me," she said. Before the recent strife, they were just a couple trying to manage a set of twins and rambunctious sextuplets. The combination of his cool and calm demeanor and her sometimes controlling and overly organized personality were first seen on the one-hour special "Surviving Sextuplets and Twins" on Discovery Health in 2006.

So he's calm and cool and she's controlling and overly organized. Ok, I guess. I haven't seen the show.

But this isn't the only show about a very large family. The Duggars have one, too. What the popularity of such shows means is hard to tell. Is it the unusually large families that people want to watch? Or are these shows intended to promote such family sizes? If so, are the viewers aware of the fact that it is the shows which give the families they portray enough money to live on?

Intersectionality in Practice: The Burqa Debate

So you may have read that Nicolas Sarkozy is proposing a debate about banning the burqa in France, by which he appears to mean banning those Islamic methods of veiling which cover the face (the Afghan burqa with a grille in front of the eyes and the niqab, common in Saudi Arabia, which leaves only the eyes visible). I found reading the comments threads attached to posts on this topic at and at feministe very interesting: Intersectionality in practice!

Except that this reveals one problem with intersectionality: by focusing on women and Islam we lose sight of the men and Islam, we lose sight of the long tradition of religious interpretation by men, and we lose sight of the question of women's roles in the three Abrahamic religions. Though intersectionality does help bring into light questions about colonialism and racism or xenophobia.

But I'd like to go a few layers inwards in the onion* that these kinds of debates really are, and to point out that the responsibility for modesty and sexual restraint is always put on women's shoulders. Now, a true believer probably accepts that and the differential rules of behavior for women. If that's the case, such a true believer might also believe that women ought to subjugate themselves to men. Some Southern Baptists believe this, for example. Probably some fundamentalist Muslim women do, too.

Then in rides the white knight in the form of the French President and valiantly puts his horse's hoof in his mouth. No, banning burqas would not help any women who are now forced to wear them, because the ban might force them to stay at home altogether. Banning burqas doesn't seem to help the women who have decided to wear them all on their own, either, though I can see some justification for banning burqas for driving (after experimenting a bit with a lace tablecloth). Banning certain forms of dress as a symbol of women's oppression may be misplaced. Even if it isn't, the ban itself is akin to thinking that breaking the thermometer will cure a patient with fever.

You know, men are not expected to wear burqas and we don't debate that issue, even though the rules about proper female dress have traditionally been made by men. That sentence looks like a silly one, but I was impressed by the way men are disappeared when this topic is debated. As if they don't exist, much.

* I think of this onion in these terms: The innermost layer consists of the religious teaching of a religion, when pared to its minimum. Much of this is not kind to women in the three Abrahamic religion. The next layer consists of the interpretations of this teaching over time. This is almost always done by men.

The third layer then consists of religious freedom, and this is the layer that I see mostly discussed in those comments threads. Individual women should have the same rights to practice their religion as individual men do, though of course religions themselves often make the religious duties of men and women different. Add to this the impact of cultures and of the political meaning of various apparently religious observances and you get an onion stew.

Added later: I'm trying to find out what French Muslim women's organizations think about all this. Here's one link (in French).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Here We Go Again

The headline:

Some moms resume substance abuse after their baby's born

The rest is as bad as it leads us to expect:

Women are pretty good about avoiding substance abuse while pregnant, but a new report suggests that their alcohol use remains high and that many resume drinking, smoking and using marijuana within three months of their baby's arrival.


Delany says the study highlights the importance of getting the message out to women to not resume substance use after pregnancy.

"It's just something we need to work better on as a nation," he says. "Women just aren't stopping the way we would hope."

Now, I understand that breast feeding may require longer abstinence for mothers. But this study doesn't even ask whether the fathers of newborn drink or smoke cigarettes or marijuana. Neither does it say anything at all about the rest of us, nosir. Instead, we are given a fairly explicit sermon directed only at mothers.



Strrretch time! Doug's Sasha shows how it's done.

What this means in blogging is a fluff post. Those are a necessary part of my weekly nutrition, because all work and no play makes Echidne mad enough to slay! Honest. It's not that I don't enjoy all writing, I do. But sometimes I don't want to write about the sad or the serious or the sensational. Just write, play with the words or the puppy. Make patterns. All life is a pattern, and we are all both the weft, the woof and the weaver. Sounds like a dog woofing, doesn't it?

Here's an old short story about the solstice, with some pattern-making. It's full of holes but I like some of the ideas.

So what did you do on solstice?

A Question About the Voting Rights

You may have read about the Supremes' decision on the Voting Rights Act:

The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to rule on the constitutionality of part of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act which sought to protect minorities in states with a history of racial discrimination.

The nation's top court instead ruled on a more narrow constitutional question, deciding that political subdivisions within a state can apply to be exempted from the Act.

I was listening to the public radio earlier today and caught a program on this. One of the callers to the program asked a question about what legislation stops states (and not just states with "a history of racial discrimination") from, say, assigning too few voting machines to predominantly minority residential areas. The experts on the program seemed to think that there's nothing at all to stop this! So Indian Reservations, for instance, could be provided with few and faulty machines, and so could predominantly African-American residential areas! Unless state laws forbid this, I guess.

This sounds like a Big Problem to me.

Trigger Warning! The Rape Game

Anthony McCarthy sent me the link to a blog post about an Internet rape game that has been sold in Japan (though it looks like such games might now be banned there, too):

Unfortunately, the Japanese production house Illusion seems to think it provides quality entertainment. In 2006 they released 'RapeLay,' after the previous titles 'Battle Raper' and 'Artificial Girl.' The premise… well, ready for this?

Players stalk a female character as she waits for a train in the subway station. Apparently, you can even virtually pray for a gust of wind that blows up her skirt to peek at her underwear and fondle her body while she tries to fight back. Sure sounds familiar so far–can anyone say post-traumatic stress?

Next, the goal is to rape the woman… followed by her two virgin daughters (pictured on the cover above). According to Persia:

One of them resembles a girl of about 10 and, horrifically, you can see tears coming out of her eyes. "Sniff… sniff… I w-w-want to die," is one of the comments she's automated to cry.

It still gets worse. Players invite friends to participate in gang-raping the children and if the woman becomes pregnant, she must be forced to have an abortion. Otherwise, she becomes more visibly pregnant with each subsequent rape. Should she finally have the baby… GAME OVER.

The comments to the linked post are interesting to read, because they bring up many of the old questions about whether 'thought crimes' are crimes at all, whether games like this are no worse than murder games (are those legal?) or war games (where the other side is at least armed).

But the most relevant comments are the ones who ask what the impact of such games might be. If people who play them don't actually get encouraged to rape women and children in real life, the thinking seems to go, then there's nothing really wrong in such games (though of course one would always avoid people playing them). What this boils down is that we must first show real rape victims and to show, very clearly, that they became victims only because the rapist played rape games first.

I doubt that such a study could be carried out unless there were a very large number of extra rape victims in a relatively short length of time, because of the problems inherent in conducting such studies. For instance, people likely to play these games are probably already more misogynistic and fascinated by the idea of rape. Otherwise, why would they play the games in the first place? Given that tendency, how would one go about proving that it is the games themselves which increase the likelihood of real-world rapes and not the pre-existing qualities of the individuals? That would require a comparison group of potential rapists who don't play these games. See how tricky all that research can be?

What arguments like the ones attached to the quoted post usually miss is the possibility that games of violence, including games of rape, make violence look more acceptable, more run-of-the-mill, more like a game. Such effects would be hard to capture in a study, yet they could be the way these games change the risks for women and children.

As an aside, I find it fascinating that so many commenters on that thread state very clearly that they would avoid anyone who chooses to play these games. But of course we have no idea who it is who plays these games, so nobody gets ostracized by all the virtuous ones among us. As long as such 'games' are played secretly they have no social disapproval attached to them.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Terry O'Neill elected NOW president (by Suzie)

I wrote about this election Friday. Here's more about O'Neill from NOW, including:
"NOW is the organization that fights for the rights of all women no matter the circumstances of their birth, their race or sexual orientation, no matter if they live in poverty or are trying to escape violence," said NOW President-Elect Terry O'Neill. "My experience with domestic violence, as an abused wife left me humiliated and embarrassed. I only began to talk about this publically five years ago as I realized that to keep quiet was to continue the abuse. I want to empower women and telling my story does just that. Women are fed up with persistent inequality and are ready for change. I am honored and eager to lead NOW in making that change."
The AP notes her age first and then her skin color, along with those of her opponent, Latifa Lyles. Other attributes got left by the wayside, presumably because AP didn't think readers were interested in any more.

The Indianapolis newspaper had a longer story. If you wonder why it quickly shifts focus to a man, it's probably because the reporter was looking for an angle, but it's an old and tired angle. Reporters in the 1800s were marveling at men's support for women's rights.

Here's an article from Maryland, where O'Neill is based. Here's NPR.

At BlueOregon, Kristin Teigen attacks Clinton supporters who criticized NOW President Kim Gandy for strongly supporting Obama after the primary. Gandy endorsed Lyles. Teigen writes that NOW remains strong and vital despite differences of opinion. But after her candidate lost, she updated the blog to say:
Sadly, Latifa Lyles lost the presidency tonight by a mere 8 votes, leaving many progressive, multi-issue, diverse feminists looking for a new home for their money and energy.
Valhalla, at Corrente, says:
I have to admit, I'd pretty much written NOW off a long time ago as an DC-insider suck-up organization. And Kim Gandy's choice of Obama-worship over substantive advocacy for women last year would have been a turn-off in any case. But the recent election of new NOW president Terry O'Neill has allowed me, well, a bit of hope.
Reclusive Leftist was joyous (and my thanks to her for bringing the election to my attention).

Greta Von Susteren hails the victory, saying NOW may reach out to all women now, no matter what their politics. (Huh?)

Veronica at Viva La Feminista live blogged the convention, and she supported Lyles. She says, "The Sarah Palin supporters swung this election." Feel free to suggest other links in comments.

Happy Fathers' Day

To all the fathers who might be reading here (*makes a very surprised face at the idea*). Cab Drollery has a link to a great photo gallery of good fathers in the wider animal realm.

Well, the pictures are great. Some of the texts aren't terribly clearly though out. For instance, though it's true that in many species it's the female who does all the parenting it's also true that in a very large number of species (insects, say) parenting doesn't amount to much from either parent and yet in others it's the herd or the pack which at least contributes to the parenting of all its young. But whatevah.

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

That old song goes well with the current political will to strip the health care change proposals from any mention of that nasty "public option" possibility. How far have we fallen! Wasn't it only a few months ago when a public insurance option seemed a certainty and even a single-payer system could be dreamt about?

Well, all that turns out to be the proverbial rose garden, the one we were not promised. Honest. And this is true, despite the fact that the majority of Americans surveyed in almost all the recent polls do want a public option. The most recent poll results:

Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.

Yet the survey also revealed considerable unease about the impact of heightened government involvement, on both the economy and the quality of the respondents' own medical care. While 85 percent of respondents said the health care system needed to be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt, 77 percent said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the quality of their own care.

That paradox was skillfully exploited by opponents of the last failed attempt at overhauling the health system, during former President Bill Clinton's first term. Sixteen years later, it underscores the tricky task facing lawmakers and President Obama as they try to address the health system's substantial problems without igniting fears that people could lose what they like.

Nate Silver has a good post on various health care opinion polls. His conclusion is that the majority of people do, indeed, want a government-provided insurance option to be included.

So why are the politicians so veryvery scared of that possibility? Draw your own conclusions, after checking out where the funding comes from and who meets whom at Washington D.C. cocktail parties. Or I may just be nasty here.

Nausea in Iran

Trigger Warning: Violence

She died in front of my eyes, on a video from Iran, a video I hadn't intended to click on and then it was too late. I'm bent over double with nausea. She was a young woman, demonstrating against her government. Now she is a young woman, dead. It's not a movie and she will not rise again, laughing while wiping off all that ketchup from her face. It's real. It's for good. And it's wrong, on so many levels.

My nausea is unimportant. But not the general nausea of these events, the nausea elicited by those Americans who use all this for political gamesmanship, turning it all against Obama or for Obama, checking first on blogs which side they should be supporting, checking if they should be for the demonstrators or for Ahmadinejad, based on the overall political value of each package. And I wasn't that far removed from those types of thoughts. Because on some level the total package does matter, of course, and on some level it's the clerics who are going to keep almost all the power, whatever the results of this election. And I wasn't at all certain that women's rights in Iran would be improved from their current level, whoever won the election.

But then she dies in front of my eyes and it doesn't matter how much I tell myself that people, women and men, are killed all the time for their political beliefs, all over this damn planet. She got butchered on the street, just like that, for demonstrating. And still the Iranian women go out there:

I also know that Iran's women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I've seen them urging less courageous men on. I've seen them get beaten and return to the fray. "Why are you sitting there?" one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. "Get up! Get up!"

Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of "Death to the dictator!" and "We want liberty!" accompanied her.

There were people of all ages. I saw an old man on crutches, middle-aged office workers and bands of teenagers. Unlike the student revolts of 2003 and 1999, this movement is broad.

"Can't the United Nations help us?" one woman asked me. I said I doubted that very much. "So," she said, "we are on our own."