Monday, March 31, 2008

Wam 2008 Wrap Up

Well I’m back from my weekend adventures in Boston (which went swimmingly until I left my bag on the shuttle to long-term parking in Baltimore resulting in an hour and 45-minute roundtrip drive to retrieve it. Ah well.) I've learned that if I want to blog and travel I'm probably going to have to buy a laptop sometime this year...

First off let me say the Center for New Words, and Jaclyn Friedman rocks. This was my first time attending the Women, Action & the Media Conference (official name of WAM! 2008) and apparently it’s doubled in sized since 2007. Roughly 600 attendees came this year and yet somehow Jaclyn made putting on a conference look easy. I have no idea how she did it, but I was impressed how smoothly everything ran. Plus they fed us at every turn and you can’t help but appreciate it.

Going to a conference like this can be totally energizing, and also really helpful to see the good that my organization, American Forum and the National Women’s Editorial Forum, does. (Here you can see women talking to my coworker Sui Lang after our panel discussion "You in the Commentary Continuum: Crafting an Op-Ed." Great smile Sui Lang!)

I ran into so many women who have written for us and I talked to a lot of great women who are also eager to write op-eds. I encouraged a lot of people to consider applying for our May media training session in Washington, DC. (Anyone interested in learning how to get their messages out in the media, print/TV/radio, should think about applying. We’re looking for candidates from across the country and there are scholarships available to offset travel costs.)

I also grabbed some neat “conference swag” from Planned Parenthood. This is an array of flavored lubes including mint, watermelon, strawberry-kiwi, bubble gum (?!) and pina colada. Ahh, I love freebies like these.

As for the panels, one of the best ones I attended was “Breaking the Frame: Revitalizing and Redefining Reproductive Rights Media Coverage” with Emily Douglas from RH Reality Check, Aimee Thorn-Thomsen, executive director of Pro-Choice Public Education Project, Cristina Page, author (and columnist who’s written for American Forum) and Amada Marcotte, host of RealityCast and blogger on Pandagon.

One thing I noticed as a bit of theme for the weekend was how frequently progressive media is not entirely supportive of women. It’s a trend I’ve noticed from backdoor stories about how some liberal organizations still seem to think that women’s issues are secondary, or “fluffy” or that having one woman author amongst a sea of white men is somehow progressive. Its sad to think we have to continue these discussions with what should be already supportive partners. It's hard to continue these conversations with both mainstream publications and alternative voices.

In any case, I prefence that to bring up the fact that during the panel Cristina Page mentioned that Jon Stewart’s booker told her “Jon’s never going to do an episode on abortion, it’s just not funny.” Which Page rightly pointed out that what is naturally “funny” about Iraq? Moreover, if the issue is just to “avoid” talking about controversial topics, Stewart had no problem bringing on Ramesh Ponnuru to talk about his book “Party of Death” which is about the Democratic Party’s commitment to keeping abortion legal. So it’s apparently not controversial to bring on anti-abortion authors, but pro-choice...phweett! “Not funny.”

Amanda Marcotte brought up what I thought was an interesting point that talking about abortion also means talking about sex. I think Americans, if we’re not prudish exactly, are happily judgmental about other people’s sex lives. I mentioned to the panel an op-ed column in the Washington Post a couple years ago by a well-to-do 42-year-old woman who found out it was hard to get emergency contraception and then ended up getting an abortion because she became pregnant. A lot of the commentary and the live chat that followed her column chastised for not living her life perfectly (and for having the abortion) proof that the public can always figure out how someone else could have run their lives.

It’s sad because I sometimes thing we need to talk more about personal abortion stories. Ms Magazine had the “We Had Abortions” issue but it was just a list of names, not stories. As Cristina Page pointed out on the panel “We have statistics, and [anti-choicers] have heart-breaking stories.” It’s not that I think we should engage in tit-for-tat narratives -- because part of being pro-CHOICE means that I don’t have to endorse your choice -- I just have to allow you the agency to make that choice yourself about whether to become a parent. (Frankly sometimes I think a lot of people shouldn’t have become parents...)

But, because it's extremely difficult to talk about later-term abortions (where the anti-choicers have shifted all the rhetoric) and the reasons why they may be performed, I think our side does need to present some personal stories to help explain why abortion is a personal story for every woman.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Feminist Cats

This week we have yet another of my Portland friend's cats. This one is Humphrey (as in Bogart), posing with a Portland Mercury.

I'll let Melissa explain:

Humphrey is the biggest of the three brothers from the litter, and has the most unique eyes. Many folks comment on how beautiful he is, but he does seem to be aware - as he's the most aloof. Notice the one white cheek, which makes him the most asymmetric of the bunch - hence the name Humphrey Bogart. His sister Ingrid Bergman has been the ONLY adopted kitty from the litter of six, living here in Portland with my friend Emily and her son Jade.
In any case I am off to Boston for the weekend of feminism activism at WAM!2008. I'm hoping to post some pictures and reports of what I see, but lacking a laptop, we'll see what kind of updates I can manage.

Monday, March 24, 2008

R.I.P. Television Without Pity

I'm coming to this funeral way late, but the founders of Television Without Pity, Wing Chung, Sars and Glark, earlier this month announced they were leaving the site almost exactly a year after Bravo acquired it.

There were rumors that Miss Alli (a long-term recapper) was potentially going to take over day-to-day management but on March 17 she announced (via Survivor recap) that she was also leaving the site. For those who are interested, Bravo apparently thought that many of the long-term recappers would be happy to keep working for the same rates that Wing, Sars, and Glark paid them, despite the fact the nature of the work now had entirely changed. This is how corporations think, that talent is interchangeable.

I've been reading Twop since it was Mighty Big Television back in 2000 (and have a yellow messenger bag with old Indian Chief Test Pattern logo, that I carry around everyday to prove it). In all honestly I believe reading the recaps actually taught me something about critical analysis. Some of the best recaps I've ever read were about horrible shows or horrible episodes. For example, M. Giant's recap of this episode of 24 from its fourth season, was a perfect valve for my rage at the sheer fascist worldview of its showrunner.

And Jacob's recap of The Apprentice finale from season four (also known as the Randal and Rebecca season) I felt brought the universe back into the proper order where we can acknowledge that Donald Trump is a giant asshole even though he's got a TV show where people grovel at him.

I started reading Twop just after college and in a way it was the first bit of analysis that taught me pop culture, and its messages matter. That even shallow shows reflect a point-of-view and that often reality TV is hiding a lot from its viewers (especially shows starring Jeff Probst).

I don't think I can really even say, without sounding sappy, how much perspective Twop ultimately gave me and how I feel like I watch TV smarter than I used to.

But I suspected when the founders agreed to let Bravo buy them, it was pretty much the beginning of the end, but, they were small business owners. Who was I to tell them "no, I forbid you to ever make money off your backbreaking creative endeavour." If someone offered me a lot of money to buy my blog, I doubt I'd be able to say no.

In a way, I feel like it was inevitable. People usually get burnt out running organizations. Things that start small on the internet blow up and burst (or mature and change). The body of Twop will likely live on for quite a while, but the spirit is going to die. Without the founders the spirit of the site is gone.

Television Without Pity is Gone. Long Live Twop! ---catrina (my Twop name)

Update on "Pushing Out Legals"

Last week the Washington Post wrote a story about Nelson Lopez, a legal Virginia resident who was possibly going to be denied the right to in-state college tutuion fees because his parents are illegal immigrants.

Well shortly after the Post's story appeared suddenly the University of Virginia decided to grant him one of the special circumstances waivers, so the kid gets to pay the same rate as every other legal Virginia resident.

Apparently the state attorney general's office responded to a request for clarification as to when such waivers could be granted.

"I think in circumstances where an applicant has spent his or her life in Virginia, has been educated in Virginia schools, has gotten his or her driver's license in Virginia -- even though financially dependent on their parents -- that individual has done all that he or she could do at that age to establish a domicile independent of their parents. I think the memo was helpful to us in pointing the way," [said Andrea Leeds Armstrong of U-Va.'s committee on Virginia status.]
I get the idea that they would like to look and see how much of a resident the student is, getting a drivers' licence, etc. But why should becoming financially independent of their parents and establishing a separate home be part of those requirements?

The only explaination I could even think of is that the state wants the legal (adult) children of illegal immigrants to make sure that they aren't tainted by their parents somehow. Seriously, why else require they not be like every other 18-22 year old who gets help for college from their parents, including sometimes living at home to save money.

By the way, I'm not sure exactly what Lopez's circumstances are, but this is the description of his family from the original story.
He says his family, five people squeezed into a two-bedroom apartment, could never afford out-of-state rates.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why is SNL Dissing The Daily Show?

Twice in one week now I've read a quote from someone at SNL taking a potshot at The Daily Show.

First in Entertainment Weekly Seth Meyers is quoted:

''We're the only people that dramatize the news,'' says head writer Meyers. ''We can go to a place where The Daily Show can't.''
And then my friend just pointed me to a interview with Tina Fey in Reader's Digest.
RD: What pleases you more, applause or laughter?
Fey: Laughter. You can prompt applause with a sign. My friend, SNL writer Seth Meyers, coined the term clapter, which is when you do a political joke and people go, "Woo-hoo." It means they sort of approve but didn't really like it that much. You hear a lot of that on [whispers] The Daily Show.
Is SNL suddenly insecure about its place in the political commentary spectrum? I don't understand why when for the first time in years people are actually talking about its political skits.

I'm sorry SNL, The Daily Show does it four times a week, 46 weeks a year. In the same EW article Lorne Michaels is quoted saying he's going to tough it out by putting on four shows IN A ROW. The first time its been done since 1976. Whoo-hoo.

Sometimes one show gets more credit simply by creating more product for fans to digest.

But really, Meyers/ don't have to be jealous of Stewart/Colbert. It's not like SNL is 30 Rock and The Daily Show is Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip. You can both be good shows with good political commentary. I just think The Daily Show is better.

Does The LA Times Op-Ed Editor Hate Women?

Sometimes editorial judgments can’t be called into question until you notice a pattern. Publish one widely-criticized questionable woman-hating op-ed, and maybe you can just say it’s a goof.

But I’ve been reading the Los Angeles Times op-ed pages for a month now as part of my job’s Women’s Monitor project (wherein we encourage people from across the country to monitor their newspapers op-ed pages and count how many women are published on any given day. Hint: The answer is always few if any) and the LA Times editorial pages really are making me questions if they know how much their editorial choices reflect how much they hate women?

Is any one particular op-ed? Like the one on February 24 by Heather MacDonald that says basically “rape crisis? There’s no rape crisis…its just women having one-night stands and regretting it.” Which wasn’t all that different from (the unfortunately widely reprinted) Meghan Daum’s column which should have been titled “Sluts, I see sluts everywhere! Damn you feminism!”

Or its staff columnist Rosa Brooks who decided to get angry at Hillary Clinton over Elliot Spitzer’s behavior? (But not McCain or Obama…just Hillary).

Or Patty Kelly who seems to think that the model for decriminalizing prostitution is Mexico?! And absolutely not Sweden (which actually might have the best solution for balancing women’s rights and safety). Everything she wrote makes me wonder if actually spoke Spanish to the women she interviewed. Sample bit of cluelessness:

Of the 140 women who worked at the Galactic Zone, as the brothel was called, only five had a pimp (and in each of those cases, they insisted the man was their boyfriend).
I guess she doesn’t know its pretty common for women to think of their pimp as their boyfriend.

Or maybe its having that Elizabeth Wurtzel write about feminism. Here’s a sample:
Feminism, which was meant to be fun, has lately started to seem so sour. Men, particularly married men, often dislike Hillary Clinton, and I suspect that it's because she represents the unsexy wing of the women's movement. She comes across as nearly neutered, as the woman whose husband would cheat on her -- and, in fact, we know he did. But it cannot be the case that we went through all that bra-burning and consciousness-raising to be left choosing between, yet again, the madonna or the whore.
Because feminism today is all about herself and what she can write without doing any research. And, no, having someone write a “Blowback” response column isn’t the right response either. Now it become a pitted debate: “Feminists, do they suck or actually do some good? You decide!”

And sometimes the editorial choices are just stupid. Like the University of Washington professor who felt the need to argue that expecting men to be monogamous is like asking them to be like worms or something. And yes, here’s the rebuttal column they ran several days later.

This seems to be the pattern. Run some terrible outrageous column that discusses some aspect of femaleness or women’s sexuality, and then, as the outraged letters appear, run a response column. Presto! Now you have balance. Something shitty said about women and something said to refute it. Great. I guess as long as you run a response column everything is okay.

It wasn’t until I started counting the day’s columns for the number of women authors (which many days there weren’t any, and many days the only woman printed wrote something derogatory about women’s behavior) that I started to get really angry at the LA Times and what they think their Op-Ed pages are for. What kind of debates and ideas do they want discussed on them and frankly, who qualifies to talk about what subjects.

Sure, Joel Stein writes a really shitty column about women, but if you look at the Op-Ed pages over time you figure out that’s just par for the course at the LA Times. He’s not an outlier, he fits right in.

God Rewards Evildoers

God, why does anything good happen to Joe Francis?

Joe Francis reached out to Ashley Alexandra Dupre, now 22, with an offer of $1 million to appear in a non-nude spread for his company's new magazine, plus a chance to join the "Girls Gone Wild" tour bus, his company announced Tuesday.

But Francis said someone had a revelation at the Tuesday morning staff meeting: Did anyone think to check the archives?

They did, he said -- and there she was.

"It'll save me a million bucks," Francis said Tuesday. "It's kind of like finding a winning lottery ticket in the cushions of your couch."
Serious, the universe is unjust when evil like his gets rewarded and his smug assholism is once again in the news for exploiting women.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pushing Out "Legals" Are We?

So when can you be a resident of a state, a tax-paying citizen and still be denied the right to in-state college tutition? Apparently if your parents are illegal immigrants.

Until I read the story in the Washington Post today that in my home state of Virginia, American citizens ages 18 to 24 are being denied in-state tuition at state colleges and universities if they can't prove that their parents are also legal citizens. (Why 24? Because apparently that's the age everyone thinks you are no longer financially connected to your parents. Yeah, I know a lot of people who have been screwed out of going to college or had a very difficult time because of this rule. Many states demand tax statements from BOTH parents, despite the fact that a lot of people don't have two parents involved in their lives.)

I cannot think of a valid reason for this law to exist. Even if the blah-blah-blah "they're illegal!" reason is the excuse, that shouldn't apply to the 18 to 24 years olds who are in fact, born in this country. This is not even about scholarship funds or any kind of hand-out. It's simply about whether someone who attended school in Virginia, and is a legal resident, should be allowed to pay the same in-state tuition fees that any other legal resident of Virginia is asked to pay.

I keep asking myself if there's a way to be anti-illegal-immigrant without being, at some level, kind of racist. My gut tells me (and also a lot of examples) that scratch just a hare-breathe beneath the "they're illegal" whining you find someone is really just want to keep non-white, non-Christians out of their town/state/country and focusing on the "illegal" part because that is socially-acceptable.

Otherwise please explain to me what is the motivation for blocking LEGAL CITIZENS the right to attend college?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Overpaying for Sex

One of the most annoying comments about the Elliot Spitzer prostitute scandal so far has come from Slate's XX Factor blog. Liza Mundy said that Spitzer "overpaid" and Rachael Larimore's comment:

The other factor that sets this apart is the same thing that attracted our attention to so many of the rich-guy criminals who Spitzer busted as A.G.: the dollar signs. Spitzer's alleged that $4,300 night with a prostitute is as outlandish to most of us as Dennis Kozlowski's $6,000 shower curtain.
What grates is the notion that sex with a woman shouldn't be worth *that* much. I'm neither advocating for prostitution nor against it, but if the free market will support $4,300 for a night in the hay, then that is what the job is "worth" to Spitzer, and more importantly, that's what having sex with Spitzer was worth to the women who did it.

This is like arguing who is the most overpaid NBA player, but instead now it's about whether that woman's vagina is really worth all that money -- and if you can't see why that's actually insulting to all women, the point is that womens' vaginas don't have a set value anymore than anyone else's skills.

It's true that many, if not most prostitutes and call girls work for far less than that, but that isn't because the inherant value of sex work is somehow set below $100 or $500 or whatever anyone think Spitzer "should" have paid for sex.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: More Portland Cats

Another week of cats from my Portland friend Melissa. This is what she adds:

This is Rex Harrison, named after the late philandering silver-haired actor.

I named this litter of six kittens after celebrities, just as they name the polydactyl cats at the Hemingway Home in Key West, FL. (Rex is Oscar's brother.)
Rex is posing on top of a Willamette Week.

So it's been another week without posts. So what's happening NewsCat?

Work, life, the usual. Last Sunday I was going to write about the idoicy of the Washington Post's decision to publish Charlotte Allen's opus "Women are Stupid" in their esteemed Outlook pages. But by the time I got my thoughts together other people had said everything that needed to be said. If there's been any silver lining to the Charlotte Allen piece, it's that I discovered Lauren Rozen's blog, War and Piece, which is a sharp piece of writing.

Maybe next week I'll have more time to write, or the world will be less stupid. One can always have hope either way.