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mmo Noteworthy

June 2005

New reports:

U.S. lags behind more family-friendly nations in gender equity
World Economic Forum releases report on gender gap in 58 countries

Pop culture:

When dads take the heat
It's nice to know we're living in a day and age when fathers, too, are the targets of public scorn for their presumed shortcomings as parents

Wired women:

New web zine for young feminists launched
"The F-Word" is colorful, hip and feisty

Allison Crews, producer of Girl-Mom, has died

Elsewhere on the web:

Notable news and commentary on reproductive rights
from Women's eNews, Ms. Magazine, and more

Other news and commentary of note
from Women's eNews, AlterNet, and other sources

past editions of mmo noteworthy ...
new reports

U.S. lags behind more family-friendly nations in gender equity
World Economic Forum reports on gender gap

The World Economic Forum, an independent international organization "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas," has released the findings of an analysis measuring the extent to which women in all 30 OECD countries and 28 emerging markets have achieved equality with men in five critical areas: economic participation, economic opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment, and health and well-being. While the study's authors comment that "Even in light of heightened international awareness of gender issues, it is a disturbing reality that no country has yet managed to eliminate the gender gap," they found that the Nordic countries -- often the envy of mothers' advocates for their super-generous social policies to support maternal employment and shared parenting -- have been most successful at reducing gender inequality, with Sweden topping the list. Those nations are followed by New Zealand (6), Canada (7), the United Kingdom (8), Germany (9) and Australia (10), "countries that have made considerable progress in recent decades in removing obstacles to the full participation of women in their respective societies." The United States ranked 17th -- below Latvia (11), Lithuania (12), France (13), the Netherlands (14), Estonia (15), and Ireland (16).

Of course the MMO is shocked, just shocked, to learn that the good old U.S.A. is so far behind the curve in the gender equity department. But what is genuinely appalling is how little the U.S. is doing to address the gender gap in well-being as a national concern. Many of the countries where women are fairing well have formal government bodies charged with studying gender inequality and recommending policy solutions to correct it. But not the United States -- no, siree. But the WEF report also notes that even an exceptional commitment of public policy and resources is not enough to ensure women's social and economic empowerment: "Achieving gender equality… is a grindingly slow process, since it challenges one of the most deeply entrenched of all human attitudes. Despite the intense efforts of many agencies and organizations, and numerous inspiring successes, the picture is still disheartening, as it takes far more than changes in law or stated policy to change practices in the home." The full report and a detailed press release/summary of key findings are available from the WEF web site.

World Economic Forum

Women’s Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap
Augusto Lopez-Claros and Saadia Zahidi, May 2005

23 pages in PDF

To access the 16 May 2005 press release, use the World Economic Forum link, select "Media Centre" from the top navigation bar, then select "Recent Press Releases." Scroll down.

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pop culture

When dads take the heat

It's nice to know we're living in a day and age when fathers, too, are the targets of public scorn for their presumed shortcomings as parents -- a dubious privilege that, until recently, was reserved for mothers alone. In one of the latest episodes of Salon readers against normal parents everywhere, writer Neal Pollack gets trounced for mismanagement of his two-year old son's biting habit ("When toddlers get fired," Salon, 28 May 05). However, what really set people off was not Pollack's lack of contrition for his son's brutish behavior -- the boy was ejected from pre-school for biting and poking his little friends one too many times -- but the writer's admission that since no other source of affordable child care was readily available, he was dreading the thought of having a willful, high-energy toddler underfoot all day, everyday. "We've been forced into the challenge of caring for a smart, stubborn, high-strung 2-year-old. We love him very much, but that's not the kind of work either of us wants, at least not full time."

Now that I have enough distance from how much hard work and self-denial was involved, I do miss certain things about my sons being very small -- their cute little faces, their cute little clothes, those bright, chunky books and toys, no Little League and soccer uniforms to launder every other day. But the truth is, I think we're all much happier now that they're older and need me less. I can think of numerous reasons why the prospect of spending 24/7 with an intemperate toddler would put a perfectly decent parent off his or her feed -- especially for a couple like Pollack and his wife, who are both in creative professions and work from home. But from the tone of readers' responses to Pollack's essay, it seems that the ultimate parental transgression is to 'fess up to the fact that round-the-clock wrangling of a little hellion is not your cup of tea -- as Pollack's wife does when she moans, "I don't want to spend all summer with him! He's difficult! He's a difficult child! He wants too much from me. And you're going to go crazy if he's around all the time."

"Look, guys. This is your son. He's in trouble. He's angry. He's violent. He's also lovely and funny and charming, but he needs help," remarks one reader (Kathy Waugh, "Letters," 1 Jun 05). "At the very least he needs more loving, focused attention from the two people who decided to bring him into the world. …Just step up to the plate and do your job." That was actually one of the more compassionate replies to Pollack's article. As usual, the childless feel obliged to weigh in with their seasoned observations about child development: "Mr. and Mrs. Pollack evidently believe, without much reflection, in the market theory of raising Elijah: Throw money at the problem in the hopes that someone else will do the dirty work for them. …At the risk of sounding like an ignoramus -- no, I don't have kids -- why are they sending a 2-year-old to an organized school? Getting underfoot at home is what toddlers do best" (T.J. Cassidy, 1 Jun 05). Another impatient reader asks, "When did Salon turn into a confessional for parents who can't handle their kids? For every article that sheds some light on what's going on in the world, there seem to be way too many on the challenges of finding the right nanny or the politics of the playground" (Roy DeLaMar, 1 Jun 05). (Salon, of course, is one of the few news and lifestyle magazines anywhere that treats parenting and family life as topics worthy of serious discussion.) Then there was the de rigueur what's-wrong-with-these-over-permissive-parents-today rebuke: "There is much at fault with the way people raise children these days… The child in this article appears to have no boundaries, and yes, the parents are solely to blame… Children need to have a healthy amount of fear. Just as they need to be afraid of getting hurt from putting a paper clip in an outlet, so they need to be scared that Mommy or Daddy will spank them if they bite. It's for their own good" (Robert Dall, 1 Jun 05).

As has been typical of recent flaps over family life features on Salon, the first spate of letters admonishing Pollock and his wife for their parental ineptitude immediately generated a second, defensive round. "Oh, Jesus -- I should have known that there would be a flurry of letters over this article," wrote one reader. "It appears as though Salon gets slammed by everyone on the planet whenever it runs an article that deals with domestic issues in any way. 'How dare you! You're selfish. Maybe you should just have your eye poked out and see if you like it!' And I love the self-righteous 'You never should have had children, you selfish bastards' crowd, too." (Keiran Murphy, "Letters," 2 Jun 05). Other readers continued to offer helpful parenting tips; one enlightened mother suggested when the Pollock's son bit another child, they should discipline him by biting back (Jennifer Rexroat, 2 Jun 05). Others continued to criticize: "Complaints about a 2-year-old being annoying and not having enough 'me' time are better suited for shouting down a well or screaming into a pillow than publishing in a national magazine" (Joe Max, 2 Jun 05).

All I can say is, it's reassuring to know so many people have this parenting business all figured out. Because I sure as hell don't.

When toddlers get fired
"My 2-year-old son was booted out of his preschool for biting -- and now my wife and I are facing a summer of hell."
By Neal Pollack, Salon, 28 May 05

When toddlers get fired: Reader letters, round one

When toddlers get fired: Reader letters, round two

Previously in MMO Noteworthy:

Study finds pre-k students are three times more likely to be expelled than students in grades K-12

Also from Salon:

Mothers in chains
"Why keeping U.S. women prisoners in shackles during labor and delivery is the real crime against society."
By Ayelet Waldman, Salon, 23 May 05

Bad chemistry?
"After a lifetime of dealing with depression, I finally started taking medication -- a few weeks before I got pregnant. The drugs changed my life. But did they change my baby's, too?"
By Ayelet Waldman, Salon, 9 May 05

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wired women

New web zine for young feminists launched
The F-Word is colorful, hip and feisty

Melody Berger, a Women's Studies major at Temple University, recently launched a flashy new web zine, The F-Word, for teen and young feminist women. The first issue is now online, complete with vibrant graphics and original content, including interviews with feminist icon Gloria Steinem, reproductive justice activist Loretta Ross, and "Manifesta" authors Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards -- plus creative writing, a feature and commentary section entitled "Howling Harpies," special sections devoted to sexuality/gender and lesbian/gay/transsexual/queer issues, arts and entertainment reporting, and what have you. The F-Word Zine will appeal to young women who like their feminism served fresh and hot with an edge. Check it out and share it with your friends.

The F-Word Zine

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Allison Crews
Producer of Girl-Mom has died

Allison Crews, long-time producer of Girl-Mom -- a "politically progressive, left-aligned, pro-choice, feminist website to support young mothers, of all backgrounds, in their struggles for reproductive freedom and social support" -- and founder of the Coalition for the Empowerment of Teen Parents, has died. Crews is survived by her partner, Julie, and their two sons, Cade and Dylan. She was 22.

Crews was a ferocious defender of the rights of young mothers, although she was not one to romanticize the profound challenges of teen motherhood. "Face it, it's a tough path," she wrote in her intro to the Girl-Mom web site. "But we encourage all teens that wake to the call of 'mama!' before dawn breaks, to do all that they can to empower themselves and nurture their children… Together, we will change the face of 'teen parenthood.'"

Crews writing has been published in You Look Too Young To Be a Mom: Teen Mothers Speak Out on Love, Learning and Success, HipMama, Breeder: Real Life Stories from the New Generation of Mothers, Listen Up! Voices from the Next Feminist Generation, and in other anthologies and web zines.

Below are links to a selection of Crews' essays from Girl-Mom:

When I was Garbage

And So I Choose

The Reproductive Rights of Minors

Support, Community and Education for Young Moms

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elsewhere on the web:

Notable news and commentary
on reproductive rights:

Abortion Access Gains Backing as Human Right
By Asjylyn Loder, Women's eNews, 16 Jun 05
Human Rights Watch said Wednesday that lack of access to abortion violates a woman's human rights. Advocates see it as an important shift that may change how other mainstream human rights groups treat reproductive rights.

40 Years Later, Fight for Privacy Is Still On
By Elizabeth Borg, Women's eNews, 7 Jun 05
Forty years ago, the Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut established constitutional rights that paved the way for modern birth control. Elizabeth Borg says that all of that progress could be undone if powerful U.S. extremists have their way.

Pro-Voice Hotline Goes Nationwide
By Rebecca Vesely, Women's eNews, 9 Jun 05
A "pro-voice" peer counseling hotline for women who have had abortions has grown in the past three years. From an initial start-up fund of $500 to a $250,000 annual budget, Exhale is going national.

ACLU: Fed Chastity Program Ringed with Religion
By Cynthia L. Cooper, Women's eNews, 5 Jun 05
As hundreds of millions of tax dollars pour into chastity programs, the ACLU is tackling government support of one program in particular, the high-tech Silver Ring Thing, calling it old-fashioned religious indoctrination. Third in a series on religion.

As Privacy Fears Grow, Women's Lips Grow Tighter
By Ann Farmer, Women's eNews, 6 Jun 05
As the government shows more interest in seizing reproductive health histories, women are becoming more tight-lipped with doctors. The most recent governmental effort to access abortion records gained ground on May 30 in Indiana.

Restoring Virginity Becomes Risky Business
By Sandy Kobrin, Women's eNews, 22 May 05
Many women who seek hymen-repair surgery do so under threat of death if family members in religious fundamentalist households find out they are not virgins. Now, the U.S. doctors who help them are also being intimidated.

Public Triumphs, Private Rights
Estelle Griswold and Margaret Sanger helped women gain access to birth control and abortion — but just one Supreme Court justice could take it away
By Ellen Chesler, Ms. Magazine, Summer 2005

Women Waiting to Exhale
By Jennifer Baumgardner, AlterNet, 1 Jun 2005
A new approach to abortion counseling supports women who choose the procedure while letting them tell the complicated, emotional truth about the experience.
Readers Write: Women Waiting To Exhale
By Laura Barcella, AlterNet, 7 Jun 2005
The flood of comments provoked by a recent article on post-abortion counseling moved us to highlight them in a forum of their own.

Leave No Blastocyst Behind
David Corn, TomPaine.com, 9 Jun 05
"There are an estimated 400,000 orphaned blastocysts. They were created for couples using in vitro fertilization and then no longer needed. (Usually a fertility clinic produces several fertilized eggs for a couple seeking a child.) These blastocysts are the main source for stem cells. But to extract the stem cells from such cell clusters, scientists have to destroy the blastocyst (though a new method may get around this). And for Bush, DeLay and the others, this process is the same—or close to—destroying life."

By Katha Pollitt, The Nation, 13 Jun 05
"Penises were all over the news as I sat down to write this column. On May 22 faces blushed scarlet in New York State when it came to light that over the past five years Medicaid has handed out free Viagra to 198 sex criminals. …Need I add that men don't have to worry that their pharmacist will ask to see a marriage license or plug their name into the sex offender registry before handing over those little blue pills?"

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Other news and commentary of note:

From Women’s eNews (www.womensenews.org):

What Dads Don't Need for Father's Day
By Rivers and Barnett, Women's eNews, 14 Jun 05
Two parenting books -- John Gray's "Children Are from Heaven" and Laura Schlessinger's "Parenthood by Proxy" -- are off the Father's Day gift list say Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett. A feminist analysis of the books, they say, found them laden with stereotypes and scary stories that give contemporary fathers and families a bad rap.

New York Courts Untangle Domestic Violence
By Juliette Terzieff, Women's eNews, 6 Jun 05
Proponents say New York is setting an example for how to handle domestic violence cases prone to getting trapped in a legal quagmire. The state's new system--now spreading through its counties-- has a simple premise: one family, one judge.

From AlterNet (www.alternet.org):

The Fatherhood Demotion
By Amy DePaul, AlterNet, 17 Jun 05
The Republicans' new set of welfare reforms emphasize fatherhood in the context of marriage -- at the expense of economic issues.

The Future of "Security Moms"
By Kathy Plonsky, AlterNet, 26 May 05
"Security Moms," both Democrat and Republican, are looking for politicians who address the reality of women's daily lives.

The Kids Are Alright
By Cindy Kuzma, AlterNet, 9 June 05
An extensive research study confirms what advocates have been saying for over fifty years: children of gay and lesbian parents are doing just fine.

Star Wars III: The Curse of Pregnancy
By Kimi Eisele, AlterNet, 25 May 05
Why does Padme spend this movie sentenced to an idle life at home in tearful silence? Is this what pregnancy does to women?

Dispatches from a Teenage Feminist
By Aviva Ariel, AlterNet, 20 May 05
I want to make it so that when my daughter goes to high school and says she's a feminist, everyone in the school, just yawns and says, yeah, who isn't?

The Housewife Theory of History
By Rebecca Solnit, AlterNet, 9 June 05
By taking the qualities that are supposed to render them irrelevant and using them strategically, women have been slowly but surely changing the world. Editor's note: Solnit's analysis of women's activism falls on the maternalist side of the spectrum, but her points about collective action are interesting.

The Foreign Language of Choice
By George Lakoff, AlterNet. 2 Jun 05
Winning the debate over unwanted pregnancies requires Democrats to embrace four powerfully moral ideas -- and none of them have to do with 'choice.'
The Democrats' Woman Problem
By Martha Burk, AlterNet, 2 Jun 05
Is the Democratic Party's obsession with framing pushing women out of the picture?

From other sources:

Empire of the Alpha Mom
Does the world need a Martha Stewart of parenting? Isabel Kallman would like to submit her résumé.
By Randall Patterson, New York Magazine, 20 Jun 2005
Editor's note: An exceptionally disturbing article about hyperaffluent hyperparents gone mad.

More Than a Feeling:
Happiness, whininess, and motherhood

By Jennifer Niesslien, BrainChild Magazine, Summer 2005
Niesslien comments on Judith Warner's "Perfect Madness" and other books.

The Emperor's New Woes
By: Sean Elder, Psychology Today, April/May 2005
Man is no longer king of his domain. He's now supposed to be an equal partner -- and a good listener, too. Blindsided by the escalating emotional demands of marriage, guys wonder how love became a no-win proposition.

Housewife Wars:
The cultural conversation behind the hedges of Wisteria Lane

By Catherine Orenstein, Ms. Magazine, Spring 2005
Includes comments from Stephanie Coontz on her new book about the history of marriage.

Moms and Dads Seeking Out Parenting Lessons From Pros
By Eric Noe, ABC News, 8 Jun 05
"Parenting experts say an onslaught of media representations of bad parents and mixed-up children, including TV shows like "Dr. Phil" and "Supernanny," have over-stimulated and confused parents to the point where they're unsure of their abilities. That confusion has led to the expansion of parent coaching as a business."

The Diaper Debate: Are Disposables as Green as Cloth?
New British Study Adds to Conflicting Conclusions on the Greenest Way to Diaper Your Baby's Bottom
By Amanda Onion, ABC News, 26 May 05

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June 2005

previously in mmo noteworthy ...

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