Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

Lean In

I’m coming out of retirement for a short review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.

As a newly working mom (a couple years now), I was looking forward to reading this book. I had read an article about Sandberg in the New Yorker, and I liked the fact that she championed finding your career first before having children.

The career advice in this book is beneficial to both men and woman. Make sure your voice is heard. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Make sure you have a seat at the table. Be an advocate for yourself. Don’t be your worst critic. According to Sandberg these things are essential for a woman to advance their career. The short answer is of course this is sound advice.

On the other hand, there are huge things to consider before embarking on this approach. I myself have struggled from making $12 an hour to a good job as a Senior Software Engineer. I can’t stress enough that this was not an easy trajectory. And here is what I think needs to be emphasized. You can do everything that Sandberg recommends, and you can be an extremely talented person, but if you are in the wrong place it will fail spectacularly.

I have worked at least two places where being frank, bold, talented, smart, and outspoken worked against me rather than for me. At least one of these places was like this due to sexism. There are some work places that will resent you more for your talent. It seems bizarre. You would think most work places would want talented good employees, but some dysfunctional places would prefer a subservient employee who knows their place than a bold super performer.  Odd, but true. So here’s my advice. When you discover yourself to be in one of these places, get out. Don’t try to change them. Find a new place and hope to find one that is more amenable to your success. There are a lot of bad places out there. Don’t burn bridges but keep moving until you find a place that appreciates your talents. That is the best place to grow.

It’s been written already, but Sandberg focuses a bit too much on what women are doing wrong rather than the deficiencies of the system. I have known timid men who don’t get ahead. It’s not about characteristics of women that prevent them from getting ahead. I have known both men and women who have failed to get ahead due to being too afraid to lean in. So failure to “lean in” can’t be the only problem. I think Sandberg gives men an easy way to say, see we don’t need to change. It’s women who need to be bolder. That fails to take into account women who are bold but still experience the glass ceiling.

Not everyone can be a leader. Note to readers I am not a leader. This book is no secret formula. Some people just don’t have it in them to push ahead (lean in). They expect their talents to be noticed but don’t go out of their way to get themselves noticed. I think this usually happens due to some people being raised to be humble. Humility does little in the workplace.

I always use the Keanu Reeves example. I read somewhere that he dissed Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet to Branaugh’s face. Think about the character of Reeves. He’s one of the worst actors ever but he sincerely doesn’t know it. Think of all the people along the way that have noticed his extreme lack of talent. High school counselors, agents, directors, fellow actors, parents, friends. Many helpful people probably told him that he should pursue another interest. He didn’t listen. He became a successful actor. With no talent. Humility will prevent a good actor from getting ahead. Lack of humility can create a Keanu Reeves.

Sandberg’s chapters on men sharing more of the household work are spot on. Many of the couples I know now including myself are pretty equitable, so the good news is that this is a realizable goal for women.

A lot has been written about Sheryl Sandberg’s privileged and why this book fails to acknowledge that her experience is hardly transferable. True. She doesn’t exactly help herself by telling us Larry Summers approached her about being her adviser at Harvard. Then there was the treasury job with Summers. Then there was the job at Google and then an offer from LinkedIn. It’s a little tone-deaf because how many of us are going to even get in for an interview at Google or LinkedIn the startups with no experience. She had no experience.

And yet that is not the most tone-deaf part of the book. It comes when she talks about how important it was for her and her husband to stay in the same city so that they could raise their children and how her husband was struggling with flying from L.A. to the Bay Area on the weekends to be with the kids. Well readers when such a thing happens, don’t despair. All you need do is find a job at a new company and move that company’s headquarters to the Bay Area. Hear that? Work for Boeing and live in Bakersfield? Have Boeing move their company headquarters. Problem solved.

But wait there’s more. Sandberg’s husband’s company was SurveyMonkey in Portland. They are now based in Northern California. I live in Seattle. I like the Pacific Northwest. I don’t want to live in California. Maybe some SurveyMonkey employees felt the same way. So moving to NoCal might have helped Sandberg’s family, but possibly at the cost of some pretty decent Portland families. Yeah, life sucks sometimes.

Finally, Sandberg says you can continue the discussion by finding the Facebook Lean In page. Well guys, guess what? I’m not on Facebook and I’m not going on Facebook. So there you go. My review stays here.

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The first female gondolier in Venice.

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that the before picture in this lose-fat advert is something I aspire to. Either this is a brutal commentary on our culture or my own personal weight.


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This study came out last week. I may be overstating it a bit to call it explosive, but I think it could spark a big change in what type of contraceptives women use.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Young women who use oral contraceptives (OC) may not get as much out of their weight-lifting routine as women who are not on the pill, according to a study released today, which suggests that OC use impairs muscle gains from resistance exercise training in women.

“The factors that explain the differences in the magnitude of the responses to resistance exercise training between individuals are largely unknown,” Chang-Woock Lee, from Texas A&M University in College Station, told Reuters Health.

“The present study is meaningful in that we have identified a potential new factor that may be independently associated with the characteristics and variability of muscle responses to a controlled resistance exercise training program,” the researcher added.

In the study, 73 generally healthy women between 18 and 31 years old participated in whole-body resistance exercises three times per week for 10 weeks. Thirty-four of the women used oral contraceptives and 39 did not. The women were encouraged to eat enough protein to promote muscle growth.

In the article, which I highly recommend, they posit that women taking the pill may not have enough testosterone to build muscle.

Why do I think this is explosive? The pill is most popular with young women. Young women are more likely to care about their appearance and weight in such a way that they would be reluctant to use the pill as their contraceptive if it negatively impacts their workout routine. Think I am painting a vain and petty portrait of young women? Perhaps.

But given that the pill is advertised to women in such a variety of  petty ways, the advertising companies at least believe women would make their contraceptive choices on even flimsier grounds. Like the pill that will help with acne. Or the pill that you take once a month. Or every two months. Or every two weeks. Or every year. How about patch? Or a ring? Or an implant under your arm? It’s just so dang difficult to take a pill everyday. The pharmaceutical companies have taken one drug and turned it into a million different varieties of the same thing thereby creating multiple patents.

Will this lead  to an increase in non-oral contraceptives? More children? More abortions? I think it’s too soon to tell, but I’m interested in following this.

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I picked up a copy of the magazine Essense because Michelle Obama and her mother Marian Robinson were on the cover. I’m really impressed with this magazine. I’m not really sure what the non-ethnic specific magazine’s counterpart would be, but it’d definately not Vogue, Cosmopolitan or Vanity Fair. Maybe Womens World? I can’t say because I never read Womens World.

What I found that I liked about the magazine was that it was very empowering. Most of the articles deal with issues for self-improvement of some sort, but that self-improvement is really focused on Black (which they always capitalize) women — not how improving oneself can benefit your man or some other person. The health articles aren’t particularly vain which is one thing that I detest in so-called “health” magazines like Self where the whole magazine is how can I spend hours a day making myself beautiful for othe vain people.

Let me give you a selection of what this May 2009 edition includes:

1. An article on women entrepeneurs and what they did to get ahead.

2. 9 Ways to go Green. Here’s an excerpt. “Though many of us don’t fully relate to the green movement, we stand to benefit the most from it. More than 70 percent of Blacks live in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards.”

3. Our News. Witty humor about current event issues that deal with the Black community.

4. The Good Fight. An article bout Reverend Roy Malveaux fighting an oil refinery in his neighborhood.

And of course there’s that Michelle Obama/Marian Robinson interview. Good magazine.

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Clearly not as easy as it sounds. Highlights include:

Before her wedding last year, Huda Batterjee went abroad to buy her bridal lingerie — she just couldn’t bear the humiliation of discussing her most intimate apparel with a man. She had little choice: there are almost no saleswomen in Saudi Arabia. Now a group of Saudi women — sick of having to deal with male sales staff when buying bras or panties, not to mention frilly negligees or thongs — have launched a campaign this week to boycott lingerie stores until they employ women.

But in lingerie stores, that means men are talking to women about bras or thongs, looking them up and down to determine their cup sizes, even rubbing the underwear to show how stains can be washed out.

But buying them is another story. Fitting rooms are banned in the kingdom — the idea of a woman undressing in a public place with men just outside is unthinkable. So a woman is never sure she has chosen the right size until she gets it home.

“I have bras with sizes ranging from 32 to 38 because I can’t get to try them on,” said Modie Batterjee, Huda’s sister and one of the boycott organizers.

Read more about the women’s boycott of lingerie stores here.

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I’m sure I’m not the only one to have this thought. While race was certainly prevalent on people’s minds during the election, I never had as much of a sensation that Barack Obama was out of place than I had looking at this photograph. Even in a fairly white city like Seattle, there is enough diversity that Barack Obama would fit in just fine. At the debates, he looked like he fit in. On the stump, he looked like he fit in. Our nation no matter how you slice it is pretty diverse and certainly does not match the racial (and gender) ratio of the picture above. It’s startling.

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Why study home economics?

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Here in Seattle, the bars were full of people playing VP debate drinking games and Sarah Palin bingo. While the debate was somewhat predictable I couldn’t figure out why Gwen Ifill asked not one question about the issues important to 50% of the population of this country. I’m talking about women.

Pardon me but when a woman is put on the ballot for only the second time in history you would think that this would be a great opportunity to hear about the many issues in America where women feel they may lack representation. It was even more surprising because the moderator was a woman also.

Perhaps Ifill felt that asking a womens issue question would be baiting a social conservativce like Palin. I disagree. I suppose we know Palin’s opinion on abortion and contraception, but what about equal pay? What about having paid the same extended maternity leave that most of our peer nations have? What about childcare assistance for low income families?

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Jill Greenberg was hired by The Atlantic to photograph John McCain for a publication of the magazine. She did produce a photograph which The Atlantic will use; however, she also took photographs from the shoot for her own artistic exhibition which she shows on her web site.

I was interested in this wordpress blog which approaches this topic from standpoint of professional photographers. I have to admit, it never occured to me to think of the industry. It’s a good read.

Can a photographer be both an “artist” and a “commercial photographer”, simultaneously? Can they toe the line between the two disciplines?

Greenberg’s site is here.

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Here’s a hilarious article — at least for me. It’s all about married women who have decided to be stay at home wives even though they don’t have children. I’m sorry for laughing at these women, but I do think the writer of the article is making them sound absurd.

Ten years ago, she was an “overwhelmed” high school English teacher. “I didn’t have time for my husband, ” she says, “and I didn’t have a life.”

She presented the idea of staying home to her husband, a Web engineer. “I told him it was something I wanted to do, and he supported it. It was a great relief.”

Davis says her life isn’t luxurious. “Tuesdays are my laundry day,” she says. “I go grocery shopping on Wednesdays and clean house on Thursdays.” Mondays and Fridays are reserved for appointments and other errands.

But her schedule also allows for charity work and leisure: reading, creative writing and exploring new hobbies, like sewing.

“I was able to clip coupons, do all the chores and make nice dinners,” she says. “I was much less stressed and tense.”

To each his own.

One thing this article doesn’t mention is how not having a job can make a woman dependent on her husband. Gaps in your career will certainly be noticeable to prospective employers. When my parents first got married, my dad was insistent that my mother not get an education and not get a job. My mom did anyway and that freedom was what allowed her to leave an unsuccessful marriage. She knew she could make it on her own if she had to.

Some of my high school friends’ moms weren’t so lucky. I remember a friend from high school whose marriage was highly dysfunctional, but the mom had no skills and no where to go. She chose to stay. Luckily it wasn’t an abusive relationship, but her husband had no intention of being faithful to her and she had no leverage to get him to change.

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Smart Girls

I love this scene from The Big Sleep. It’s playful, risque and the woman is well read. What more could you want?

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Exactly how is a thirteen year-old girl who gets videotaped having sex with R. Kelly and gets ——– on by R. Kelly by any stretch of the imagination a vixen?

Is this what CNN deems objective media? That it’s merely an opposing view and not really a disgusting no holds barred attempt at a defense by Kelly’s lawyers. Nice going CNN.

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I’m one of those unappreciative women that grew up with equal rights and didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Perhaps because of my age, I found it hard to identify with Hillary. She’s nothing like me.

I am living the life that women of older generations fought for, and yet I am living it more fully than I perceive those women to be. I work in technology, a largely male dominated field. I am married to a partner who is every bit of my equal. We share everything and respect each other. I wouldn’t hesitate to end our marriage if either of us fell out of love and I’m sure my husband would do the same.

Though I am of mixed race, I have never felt that I personally was the victim of racism, but I can most certainly tell you that I have been the victim of sexism. It was my first job out of college and while I would prefer not to go into the details other than to say it was a boys club and my work was frequently credited to other men in the organization.

Hillary would have made a good president. She certainly would have kicked George W. Bush’s ass four years ago. It would have been nice to have Hillary be president if only so that the Rush Limbaugh fanatics would know that it was they who put her there.

As much as I would like to tell you that I voted for Obama because of his policy differences, we all know that there is very little policy wise to separate the two candidates — at least before the obliteration of Iran was brought up. My choice in Obama was identity politics. I completely identify with Barack Obama and I don’t with Hillary. I can’t point the finger at older women choosing Hillary based on identity.

I identify with the fact that Obama is of mixed race, of the education he received, of his desire to seek out religion in his adult life, of his optimism, of his understanding that the world is not made up of us vs. them. This had a profound effect on my psyche and it is why I voted for him.

It’s been nearly three months since I pledged to vote for Hillary if she were the nominee. I hope that this party can come together to bring about the end of this war, the end of America-the-tyrant, and move forward.

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A 19th-Century puff-sleaved knockoff with a 3 inch curled back bang (fringe) worn by the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints women?

FLDS Polygamist Sect Women

Or a designer couture jilbab and hijab?


Above two photos via Kuwait-Style.

Last photo via Alixianne’s Photostream on Flickr.

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Wounded Girl in IraqAn often used argument for electing women leaders around the world is that women by their nature are not warmongers and that the world would be more peaceful if ruled by women. It is said women and mothers in particular better understand the value of life because they have the ability to give life.

Yet in this election we have a woman, supported by many other women, who seems to be arguing that she should be elected president because she would lead this country, insofar as war is concerned, exactly as a man. Not only did she vote to give the Bush Administration war powers, and vote against delaying war powers were the U.N. to not authorize war, she now seems to be stirring the fires of a war with Iran.

Clinton further displayed tough talk in an interview airing on “Good Morning America” Tuesday. ABC News’ Chris Cuomo asked Clinton what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.

“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” Clinton said. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

Aren’t we just finishing the eighth year of this macho bullshit of dick waving? Whatever happened to diplomacy? Whatever happened to women being reasonable enough to avoid a commonly considered shortcoming of men — that the answer is always to fight. Have we forgotten the very reason why women would make better leaders?

Photo via dpatterson.blogspot.com.

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So Spike Lee is an Obama supporter, and I am an Obama supporter. Does that mean I have to like Spike Lee? The blogosphere has focused on only a small part of Spike Lee’s interview with New York Magazine where he says Hillary Clinton would lie on a stack of Bibles. The interview is well worth a read for anyone who liked Do the Right Thing as I did.

I’ve had a mixed relationship with Spike Lee films; either I love them or a hate them. I’d say I’m about 50/50 right now. Even with the films I like, I have a hard time. Like Do the Right Thing, a great film, but a film that I admit I don’t wholly understand. I think I have the response that Lee wants me (a non-black) to have in that I get angry when Mookie throws the trash can through the pizza parlor. How could Mookie do it and exactly what benefit does Mookie get that we should champion such a move, I ask myself.

As a woman, it’s even harder to like Spike Lee. He is a misogynist after all. But then I think Robert Altman was also a misogynist. Lee’s depiction of women in film is pretty sketchy. I find it odd admitting that my favorite Lee film is Girl 6 when the first five minutes depicts in the most humiliating way a woman being subjected to the casting couch. As a viewer I felt that by looking at Theresa Randle’s breasts on full display, I was as complicit in violating Theresa Randle the actor, as the director character QT was in violating the Theresa Randle’s character Judy. Perhaps it’s Suzan-Lori Parks amazing script that makes me forgive the direction.

Even Rosi Perez said she cried after filming the sex scenes in Do the Right Thing, but she felt really positive after her sex scenes in White Men Can’t Jump.

My first experience, of course, was ”Do the Right Thing.” And I had a big problem with it, mainly because I was afraid of what my family would think — that’s what was really bothering me. It wasn’t really about taking off my clothes. But I also didn’t feel good about it because the atmosphere wasn’t correct. And when Spike Lee puts ice cubes on my nipples, the reason you don’t see my head is because I’m crying. I was like, I don’t want to do this. I felt like Irene Cara in ”Fame.” It was like, Wait a minute, I feel so wimpy, this is not who I am. So that was my first experience, and it was horrible. But then I went and took my clothes off again for ”White Men Can’t Jump”! But that was because it was totally my decision, I felt totally comfortable, the director was so cool and Woody Harrelson was like, Well, whatever you want is cool with me. So there I felt empowered by it. But with ”Do the Right Thing” it was like, Now I’m the object, here’s the shot. And the reason why I cried was not so much because I felt violated as because I was angry at myself, because I wanted to say: ”Say something! Get up!” So that’s how I felt violated. I felt like I violated myself.

Compounding the violation was that Spike Lee was the “actor” in the scene with Rosie. In He Got Game women are portrayed as money-grubbing prostitutes, a thing to be avoided like drugs and violence.

So I guess what I’m saying is that Spike Lee is not the best advocate for Obama given that he seemingly deplores women. But Barack Obama doesn’t and I think that shows in his choice of partner. I like this quote from the interview:

Actually, Barack told me the first date he took Michelle to was Do the Right Thing. I said, “Thank God I made it. Otherwise you would have taken her to Soul Man. Michelle would have been like, ‘What’s wrong with this brother?’ ”

It’s true, Soul Man is a terrible film.

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The story:

The Kansas State High School Activities Association said referees reported that Michelle Campbell was preparing to officiate at St. Mary’s Academy near Topeka on Feb. 2 when a school official insisted that Campbell could not call the game.

The reason given, according to the referees: Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy’s beliefs.

While this could be a depressing story, it actually is inspiring in that the next two referrees to be asked to replace Campbell declined.

Campbell then walked off the court along with Darin Putthoff, the referee who was to work the game with her.

“I said, ‘If Michelle has to leave, then I’m leaving with her,”‘ Putthoff said Wednesday. “I was disappointed that it happened to Michelle. I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

Fred Shockey, who was getting ready to leave the gym after officiating two junior high games, said he was told there had been an emergency and was asked to stay and officiate two more games.

“When I found out what the emergency was, I said there was no way I was going to work those games,” said Shockey, who spent 12 years in the Army and became a ref about three years ago. “I have been led by some of the finest women this nation has to offer, and there was no way I was going to go along with that.”

BTW, it’s hard to find an image of a female ref on the internet that isn’t some sort of sexy Halloween costume.

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One of the reasons some people (female people usually) are giving for voting for Hillary in the Democratic primaries is that this could be the one and only chance to get a female president.

Hillary Clinton

For me the fact that so many people seem to be saying and thinking this is the main reason why I think it probably wont be true. There are lots of people who passionately want Hillary to win the primaries precisely because she is a woman, and in politics having a large passionate group of supporters is a huge advantage. Especially supporters who are emotionally committed enough to your cause that they don’t really care that much about what the details of your statements and policies are.

Its true that in a presidential election sexism could become a big issue, but in the Democratic primary the numbers of feminist leaning woman seem to heavily outweigh the numbers of sexist men. For proof of this I’d look at the fact that Hillary has done best in those demographic groups were you’d imagine sexism is more likely to exist, Latinos and blue collar Caucasians. The educated wine sippers who you would expect to have had sexism drilled out of them in their liberal art degrees have been voting for Obama.

If I was a female governor or senator in the Democratic party I’d be looking at all those Hillary die-hards and thinking that a good candidate could do a lot with that. Remember that in many ways Hillary is a weak candidate, she’s isn’t that charismatic and she has a huge amount of baggage. If she can achieve this much you’d think a more appealing female candidate with no divisive history could do a lot more.

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One of the things about Hillary Clinton that annoys me, aside from the fact that she might beat my choice for president Barak Obama, is that she keeps talking about how she’s the safe option because of her 35 years of executive experience. Yet she doesn’t have 35 years of executive experience. She has 7 years of senatorial experience (which isn’t really executive) and 20 years experience of being the wife of a governor and president. How is being married to somebody that has a difficult job the same as having a difficult job?

Clintons via BBC

Did she have to stand for election? Was her name on the ballot? Did she have the final say on what legislation to adopt? Was her name on any treaties? Sure she gave advice and suchlike, but there’s a world of difference between giving advice and taking it, the internet is full of people who give political advice. And even if you look at advisers to presidents, which is basically what she was, they don’t have to take full responsibility for how things turn out. If being adviser to somebody who accomplished something was the same as doing it yourself there’d be an awful lot of people in Washington who could run for president.

What’s really galling is that she is also standing (albeit quietly) as the feminist candidate. And while it would certainly be a nice change to have a female president, especially after the testosterone overload of the last 8 years, I don’t see what’s feminist about claiming your husbands achievements as your own. Isn’t this a throwback to the days when women were referred to by their husbands names? Vote for Mrs Bill Clinton, the experienced candidate. There are plenty of women in politics who have achieved a lot of success by doing things for themselves, and I’m sure that one of them will become president sooner or later. In Washington state we currently have a female governor and 2 female senators, and I don’t even know if they have husbands let alone what they do for a living.

I’m surprised the other candidates haven’t tried to call her on this, because at the moment she’s having it both ways. Vote for Mrs Bill Clinton for 4 more years of good ol’ Billy boy. Vote for Hillary Clinton for a strong female president. And they can’t both be true.

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