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mmo Noteworthy

November 2006

Research & reports:

Adoption report stresses protection for birthparents' rights

U.S. comes up short in new gender gap index
Plus: related articles

Politics & Public Policy:

Post-election euphoria, movement on the minimum wage, progress on same-sex unions in New Jersey, who's behind campaigns to kill affirmative action, more.

Work & family:

Update on FRD fight in Pennsylvania, opt-out reporting, women's wages, extreme jobs, more.


Notes on the Motherlode Conference

Reproduction of the rich and famous, breeding God's army, when assisted reproductive technology goes wrong, more.

Women's issues:

Why media matters, alpha girls, more.

Reproductive health & rights:

When assisted reproductive technology goes wrong, states say no to abstinence-only education funding, women missing in stem cell debate, more.

past editions of mmo noteworthy ...
Research & reports:

Adoption report stresses protection for birthparents' rights

A new report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute corrects misperceptions about the characteristics of women who place their infants for adoption and calls for greater legal protection for birthparents. The report, Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process (November 2006), includes a number of important findings and recommendations, including the finding that more adoptions take place in the U.S. than is commonly perceived or reported. The Institute estimates that more than 135,000 U.S. adoptions take place each year, with between 13,000 and 14,000 involving babies who are voluntarily relinquished by parents domestically.

"Adoption's history of secrecy has left us with too little accurate information with which to shape the most ethical and humane laws, policies and practices," said Adam Pertman, the Executive Director of the Adoption Institute in a November 19 press release. "With this project, we have set out to change that reality and, we hope, to instigate improvements in the lives of millions of people."

Although the research on adoption is incomplete -- the report notes that there are "no current studies that have examined a representative sample of women (or men) choosing to place their children for adoption today" -- the Institute concludes that women who place their infants for adoption are likely to be in their twenties and to have completed high school; many have other children. Contrary to outdated stereotypes of birthmothers as women "who crave anonymity and oppose contact by children placed for adoption," most birthmothers want, at a minimum, to receive information about their children and many desire ongoing contact.

The report also concludes that laws in most states do not protect birthparents' right to be fully informed of their legal rights and options at all points in the adoption process, or ensure the enforceability of private adoption contracts. The Institute also recommends modifying state laws on the timing of relinquishment and revocation so that birthparents have "several weeks" before the decision to place a child for adoption becomes final, and stresses more aggressive protection of birthfathers' rights in the adoption process, including better systems of reporting and notification. Finally, the report emphasizes the need for further research on birthparents' needs and preferences and a "broader array of post-adoption services" for birthparents, including counseling or mediation services to facilitate open-adoption arrangements.

The full report, which includes a summary of current research on adoption and the well-being of birthparents, is available from the Institute's web site.

Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute

Major New Report on Birthparents Finds Flawed Stereotypes, Practices
Press Release, 19.nov.06

Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process
Susan Smith, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, November 2006
Executive Summary
Full Report, 68 pages in .pdf

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U.S. comes up short in new gender gap index

A new analysis of gender inequality in 115 countries ranks the Unites States in 22nd place -- behind Canada (15), Australia(14), and nearly every country in Western Europe. The report, published by the World Economic Forum, uses new methodology to measure gaps in men's and women's outcomes in economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival indicators, and political empowerment. While no county in the world has managed to eliminate the gender gap, the Nordic countries have made the most progress, with Sweden having closed 80 percent of its gender gap. The ten countries with the smallest gender gap are Sweden (1), Norway (2), Finland (3), Iceland (4), Germany (5), the Philippines (6), New Zealand (7), Denmark (8), the United Kingdom (9) and Ireland (10).

Although the United States ranked in the top ten on measurements of economic participation and health indicators, the nation lost ground on gender gaps in educational attainment (65) and political empowerment (66); among global economic leaders, only Italy and Japan a had lower ranking in women's representation in political leadership.

Unlike a similar analysis conducted in 2005, the 2006 Gender Gap Index does not include maternity leave policies or access to government-provided childcare in key gender equity measurements, although information on childcare, maternity leave benefits and other indicators of women's wellbeing and access to opportunity are included in the detailed country profiles.

There are other caveats on the conclusiveness of the Index rankings. Since the study does not measure cultural factors, it is impossible to know how ideological constructions of male and female difference continue to impact women's security and social inclusion, even in countries with the smallest gender gaps according to technical measurements. But the critical missing variable in the new index -- possibly because no consistent cross-national data exists for a comparison -- is the gender gap in time spent on unpaid caregiving and household work.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2006 covers all current and candidate European Union countries, 20 from Latin America and the Caribbean, over 20 from sub-Saharan Africa and 10 from the Arab world. Together, the 115 economies cover over 90 percent of the world’s population.

World Economic Forum

The Global Gender Gap Report 2006
Index page with links to press release, report highlights, an interview with co-author Saadia Zahidi and related resources

The Global Gender Gap Report 2006
Ricardo Hausmann, Laura D. Tyson, and Saddia Zahidi, World Economic Forum, November 2006. Full report, 156 pages in .pdf

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Related articles:

U.N. Women Primed for Stronger, Central Agency
Bojana Stoparic, Women's eNews, 24.nov.06
A U.N. report urges the creation of a single women's agency with higher standing. The study follows another U.N. report on global violence that may spur the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign starting Nov. 25.

Thanksgiving Tastes Sweet and Sour to U.S. Women
By Peggy Drexler, Women's eNews, 22.nov.06
With a Madame Speaker of the House arriving in the New Year, women have a political horn of plenty to enjoy this Thanksgiving. Peggy Drexler says Tuesday's Global Gender Gap report shows how far U.S. women still have to go.

Failure to Thrive
Judith Stadtman Tucker, The Huffington Post, 20.nov.06
"This month's election was an unmistakable signal that the voters across America, and especially in New Hampshire, are ready for a new direction in government. But let's be clear: the welfare of women and working families really isn't at the top of the agenda. And if we want to put key family and economic justice issues on the political map for 2008, we've got a lot of educating and organizing to do. The good news is that it may finally be possible to get lawmakers to comprehend the urgency of these issues."

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politics & public policy:

Post-election euphoria, movement on the minimum wage,
progress on same-sex unions in NJ, who's behind campaigns to kill affirmative action, more.

Women's Rights Advocates Cheer New Speaker's Agenda
Statement of NOW President Kim Gandy, 13.nov.06
"Feminists continue to celebrate the results of the 2006 midterm elections and recognize the hard work and resolve that brought many new women's rights supporters to Congress. As much as we enjoy a good celebration, it's not too soon to ask: What next?"

San Francisco Voters Pass Paid Sick Days Measure,
Paving the Way for Change the Country Urgently Needs

Debra L. Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families, 8.nov.06
Press statement. "This first-of- its-kind measure is critically important, with San Francisco now poised to lead the way in demonstrating that a minimum standard of paid sick days makes sense for businesses, families and communities. Paid sick days are the next frontier in the work to make America’s workplaces more famil- friendly." 2 pages, in .pdf

Paid sick leave may be next big cause
Christian Zappone, CNNMoney.com, 17.nov.06
National movement gets lift after San Francisco passes ordinance mandating leave to all workers.

Minimum wage trends:
Understanding past and contemporary research

Liana Fox, Economic Policy Institute, 25.oct.06
"There is a growing view among economists that the minimum wage offers substantial benefits to low-wage workers without negative effect. Although there are still dissenters, the best recent research has shown that the job loss reported in earlier analyses does not, in fact, occur when the minimum wage is increased. There is little question that the overall impact of a minimum wage is positive." EPI Briefing Paper 178, also available in .pdf.

Growing the Minimum Wage
Peter Dreier, TomPaine.com, 27.nov.06
"With the Democrats now in a stronger position in Congress, many union leaders and community groups want them to push not only to raise the federal minimum wage, but also to include a path-breaking cost of living adjustment, so that inflation doesn't continue to erode its purchasing power."

Congress, states pledge wage hikes
Christine Vestal, Stateline.org, 15.nov.06
"In the wake of overwhelming voter approval of minimum wage initiatives in six states on Election Day, politicians in at least three more states – Illinois, Iowa and New Mexico -- have vowed to raise wages as soon as their legislative sessions open."

New Jersey to recognize gay unions
Kavan Peterson, Stateline.org, Updated 25.oct.06
An informative article about legal developments in same-sex civil unions and marriage and pending legislation in the states.

America 101
Bill Moyers, TomPaine.com, 1.nov.06
"The neglect of urban education -- a capital moral offense in its own right -- is but a symptom of what is happening in America. We are retreating from our social compact all down the line."

School Integration on Trial: Whose Money Is Pushing This?
Jennifer Millman, Diversity, Inc., November 2006
"Will voluntary school integration be axed? Michigan voters' decision last week to ban affirmative action made many wonder which state would be next. But another, perhaps more insidious, question emerges from the debate. Parents in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle, Wash., are taking their public-school districts' enrollment policies to court."

Single-Sex Ed 101: Welcome to the latest educational fad
Meghan O'Rourke, Slate, 15.nov.06
"Behind what has been billed as a pragmatic decision lurks a more programmatic (and pseudoscientific) agenda. Invoking murky neurobiological data about innate gender differences, these advocates leap to cut-and-dry classroom prescriptions--ones that may ultimately provide less pedagogical variety for students themselves. It's one thing to offer students the option to learn the same things in separate classrooms. It's quite another to urge that all students learn in programmatically gender-tailored ways--and possibly even learn different things."

Laws prohibit smoking around children
Emily Bazar, USA Today, 27.nov.06
Anti-tobacco forces are opening a new front in the war against smoking by banning it in private places such as homes and cars when children are present.

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Work & family:

Update on FRD fight in Pennsylvania, opt-out reporting, women's wages, extreme jobs, more.

Pennsylvania Moms Fight Hiring Bias
Joel Rose, NPR, All Things Considered, 21.nov.06
Pennylvania mothers rally against a form of job discrimination. Their state is one of many where it's not illegal to refuse ask about marital or family status during a job interview. Joel Rose of member station WHYY reports.

Stop the Press Spree Against Working Moms
Sheila Gibbons, Women's eNews, 15.nov.06
Elizabeth Vargas returned to TV on Friday to probe employer bias against working mothers. Sheila Gibbons says this and other media, research and political developments, should stop the recent spree of off-kilter "opt out" coverage.

The truth behind women 'opting out'
Marilyn Gardner, Christian Science Monitor, 30.oct.06
Two reports show a weak labor market and inflexible work policies as the main reasons women are staying home.

The Wage Gap for Women
Debra Katz and Justine F. Andronici, AlterNet, 27.nov.06
It's time to abolish the "she-didn't-ask" defense for wage discrimination.

The Permanent Middle Class
Caryl Rivers, AlterNet, 25.oct.06
"The low-wage/high-work world and the two-earner world are with us for the foreseeable future. As is the rapidly growing world of shift work, with mom working one shift and dad another. American families are facing enormous stress, and a reasonable society would be looking at ways to shore up the family with something other than platitudes."

Changing How America Works
Andy Stern, AlterNet, 2.nov.06
Something's wrong when only the rich are getting richer, and average folks are feeling the squeeze. The answer isn't more education, or simply electing better leaders. We need widespread change.

Workers' Rights Are About Dignity As Much As Wages
Barbara Ehrenreich, AlterNet, 27.oct.06
CEOs use shame and intimidation to keep workers "productive," but the real shame is on executives who make eight-figure incomes while their lowest-paid employees trudge between food banks.

Tag-Team Parents Avoid Pricey Child Care
Betsy Stark, ABC News, 31.oct.06
From Day Shifts to Night Shifts, Working Overtime at Home, Moms and Dads Juggle Jobs and Parenting. "Karen Frisch's 12-hour shifts as a respiratory therapist and days as a stay-at-home mom have left her chronically sleep-deprived. And studies show tag-team parents are at a higher risk for divorce than couples who work the same hours."

Extreme Jobs Mean Long Hours, Little Sleep -- A Lot of Money
Betsey Stark, ABC News, 27.nov.06
"A new study in the upcoming issue of the Harvard Business Review estimates that 1.7 million Americans now hold extreme jobs. The study defined "extreme" as any job that requires more than 60 work hours per week and fits various parameters regarding work flow, travel, responsibilities away from the office and outside commitments.

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Notes from the Motherlode Conference

I'm having a tough time processing the reality that it's already been a month since I returned from the blockbuster 10th Annual Conference of the Association for Research on Mothering in Toronto (October 26-29). The Motherlode Conference exceeded all my expectations for quality thinking, writing and discussion about motherhood as a social issue. Favorite friends of MMO, including Debra Levy and Joanne Brundage of Mothers & More, Ann Crittenden, Faulkner Fox, Andi Buchanan, Linda Jurgens and Patrice DiQuinzio of the National Association of Mothers' Centers/MOTHERS, Linn Baran of Mothers Outlaws, Cooper Munroe of MomsRising PA and her business partner Emily McKhann, Beth Osnes of Mothers Acting Up, Amy Tiemann of Mojo Mom, Ivana Brown of Rutgers University, artist and writer Brenda Clews, Elena Taurke Joseph and of course Andrea O'Reilly and René Knapp of ARM, were there -- but with seven plenaries, a literary gala evening, a reception and launch for ARM's new imprint, Demeter Press, and fifty sessions over a four day period, it was hard to find time for lengthy conversations. In fact, it was hard to find time to sleep and eat.

It was, in short, a remarkable event. (Read blog posts by Ann Douglas, Andi Buchanan and Amy Tiemann for other enthusiastic reports on the conference.) There were fantastic presentations on the rise of motherhood blogging, negotiating the "breast is best" message (May Friedman's essay in this issue is from that session), men and mothering, mothering and literature, mothering and pop culture, mothering and spirituality, the politics of motherhood memoirs, and a full day on mothering and resistance, including a number of sessions and workshops on maternal activism. I also crammed in a quick meeting for conference-goers interested in the future of the mothers' movement, and we all agreed there's an urgent need to organize a U.S. conference for movement leaders and supporters. There's a wealth of vision, talent and energy in our midst, and we need to figure out a way to put it into forward motion.

I had the pleasure of chairing the Friday afternoon plenary with Ann Crittenden, who spoke about her book If You've Raised Kids, You Can Do Anything, Beth Osnes, who described her work with Mothers Acting Up, and Andi Buchanan, who spoke about her work with Miriam Peskowitz on the Mother Talk project. That evening, I gave a presentation on how the popular discourse of "choice" conflicts with the transformative discourse of change, and how we can begin to strategically shift the dominant discussion on mothering and motherhood in a productive direction. During the same plenary session, Patrice DiQuinzio gave a thought-provoking presentation on the challenges of organizing an inclusive mothers' movement. Patrice's full paper, "The Politics of the Mothers' Movement in the United States," is included in the new double issue of the ARM Journal on "Mothering and Feminism" (Winter/Summer 2006). "As the mothers' movement grows it will in effect articulate an understanding of motherhood, whether or not it does so consciously," she writes. "But without conscious consideration of its self-definition, goals, strategies and tactics, the movement risks reconsolidating ideas about motherhood that have proven to be exclusionary and often not especially empowering in the past." (The Mothering and Feminism journal also includes an essay on the future of the mothers' movement by Heather Hewett -- plus other important reading -- and is definitely a volume worth owning).

Other highlights of the conference included plenary presentations by Sara Ruddick, author of Maternal Thinking, and Loretta Ross of Sister Song on the Reproductive Justice movement, and the release party for Until Our Hearts are on the Ground, an anthology on aboriginal mothering and resistance edited by Dawn Memee Harvard-Lavell and Jeanette Corbiere Lavell (published by Demeter Press).

It's always a powerful and enlightening experience to connect with other mothers who want to talk about the personal and social complexity of motherhood, and every ARM event I've attended has provided an opportunity to expand that conversation. There is a feeling of momentum, of being at the epicenter of where ideas and action come together, that I haven't encountered anywhere else, and I'm grateful to my friends at ARM for all the work they do to organize these conferences. I encourage MMO readers to consider becoming part of the ARM community -- membership is open to everyone with a serious interest in motherhood, not just scholars and activists, and journals are included in the membership fee. For more information, please visit the Association for Research on Mothering web site.

-- JST

Association for Research on Mothering

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Reproduction of the rich and famous, breeding God's army, more.

The ones who weren't
Joyce Maynard, Salon, 23.oct.06
Fertility was never a problem for me -- I have three wonderful children. But I've never stopped thinking I am two babies short.

Evangelical Group's Motto: Breed to Succeed
Kathryn Joyce, AlterNet, 14.nov.06
Women in the 'Quiverfull' movement are kept at home -- away from the evils of feminism -- where they birth armies of God's soldiers.

Don't justify my love
Mary Kane, Salon, 25.oct.06
Madonna will soon find out it's tough enough to be an adoptive parent without being accused of "baby buying."

Reproduction of the rich and famous
Daniel Harris, Salon, 20.nov.06
Forget golden statuettes. In the new, family-friendly Hollywood, the real status symbols are sonograms and diamond solitaires.

Marriage is Alive and Well Among Foreign-Born Americans
Pueng Vongs, AlterNet, 27.oct.06
The decline in marriage has gripped the headlines of late, but the reports don't mention that marriage is holding its own among Americans who were born abroad.

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Women's issues:

Why media matters, alpha girls, more.

Why Media Matters for Women
Jennifer L. Pozner, Common Dreams, 1.nov.06
From content to production to policy, media is a feminist issue in election years and beyond. " The demonization of women and the near invisibility of progressive feminists’ perspectives in American media are the result of institutional factors, including: the financial and political agendas of mega-merged media monopolies; the pandering of news networks and entertainment studios to advertisers’ profit motives without regard to the public’s interest; the limited access of women, people of color, low income people, LGBTQ people, Native people, immigrants and other marginalized constituencies to the means of media production, distribution and technology; decades of right-wing investment in media messaging, production and advocacy; and, funding restrictions of independent media alternatives."

Is Overachieving Bad for Girls?
Courtney E. Martin, AlterNet, 16.nov.06
A new book praises hyper-achieving 'alpha girls.' But their behavior may be symptomatic of a larger trend in outwardly high-achieving and inwardly self-hating young women.

Young Women Say Generation Labels Need Not Apply
Courtney E. Martin, Women's eNews, 31.oct.06
Young women who might be described as third-wave feminists aren't necessarily satisfied with the term. A new anthology, a traveling exhibit and the International Museum of Women all probe the question of generational identity.

Progressive Women Outnumber 'Blue Dog' Dems
Allison Stevens, Women's eNews, 21.nov.06
Post-election punditry often touts the growing power of Democratic conservatives. Women's rights activists parry that, saying politicians and caucuses of their choice are in fact outflanking the media-favored Blue Dogs.

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Reproductive health & rights:

When assisted reproductive technology goes wrong, states say no to abstinence-only funding, women missing in stem cell debate, more.

The wrong egg
Angela Valdez, Salon, 16.nov.06
When a fertility clinic mistakenly placed a client's sperm in the wrong woman, the man sued for the right to be called the baby's father. Trouble is, the law says he's nobody's daddy.

Is There a 'Middle Ground' on Choice?
Julian Sanchez, AlterNet, 14.nov.06
Finding a "compromise" on abortion is a bad idea, no matter what certain prominent Democrats say.

Stem-Cell Debate Ignores Women
Marcy Darnovsky, AlterNet, 30.oct.06
Stem-cell research is dependent on women who are willing to donate their eggs for research. But nobody's talking about the donors.

Some States Abstain From Abstinence-Only Funding
Rebecca Vesely, Women's eNews, 23.oct.06
An abstinence-only approach to sex ed has been a staple of federal education policy during the past six years. But some states are starting to reject funding so their schools can offer more comprehensive programs instead.

FDA's Plan B Ruling Doesn't End Battle for Access
Annie Tummino, Women's eNews, 25.oct.06
Women had reason to celebrate when the FDA ruled the morning-after-pill could be sold to women ages 18 and up. Now, Annie Tummino says she and others are continuing to battle the FDA to end all age and access restrictions to the contraceptive.

November 2006

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