Five Women We're Thankful For

Posted at 3:07 PM Nov 26, 2009

By Andrea Grimes

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I just woke up from a 2-hour tryptophan coma to hear my family hollering downstairs along with the Dallas Cowboys game. In my dream, a vision: five women appeared to me, all of whom I am thankful for. And when I woke, I knew that this would be the post I would make. Just kidding. I had to pee kinda bad, so it was one of those where you keep trying to find a place to pee in your dream. And when I woke, I knew that I'd make a beeline for the bathroom.

Nonetheless, here are five women I'm thankful for:

5. Kate Gosselin

If it weren't for Kate, her massive passel of kids with Jon Gosselin and their eventual divorce, men who wear Ed Hardy clothes and date bimbos would have possibly been able to continue to believe they were more George Clooney than Giant Nerd. Now, they're forced to confront the idea that they might be "that guy." The slightly chubby, baldy jerk who looks sad, not sweet.

4. Miley Cyrus

I'm sure that if Miley didn't exist, some version of "Party In The USA" would have been released by whatever pop star happened to be massively popular at present. But Miley won the day, and "Party In The USA" won my ears. (Sorry Miley, I'm not posting your official video. Why would I, when I can post this?)

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Girl Crush: Nancy Northup

Posted at 9:57 AM Mar 25, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

The Food and Drug Administration is making the morning after pill available without a prescription to women 17 and older, thanks to Nancy Northup's indefatigable efforts.

A federal court has ruled that the FDA caved to pressure from the Bush administration to require a minimum age of 18 to get Plan B over the counter (the Senate confirmation of Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach as the agency's commissioner was reportedly threatened to be held up indefinitely unless the FDA played ball).

In Judge Edward Korman's ruling, he urged the FDA to consider lifting all age restrictions on over-the-counter sales of the pill.

Northrup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the suit against the agency, called the ruling a "complete vindication of the argument that reproductive rights advocates have been making for years, that in the Bush administration it was politics, not science, driving decisions around women's health."

The FDA has 30 days to comply with the ruling. Dr. Susan Wood, who headed up the agency's Office of Women's Health but quit in protest over the FDA's handling of the situation, called the decision a chance to "restore the scientific integrity of the F.D.A."

Girl Crush: Kay Bailey Hutchison

Posted at 1:00 PM Mar 19, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

More than 1,000 women were trained to be pilots in the U.S. military during World War II. And though they were (shocker!) barred from combat, members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) still winged it for a variety of missions, tested new planes and repaired old ones.

The 1,102 women who served were trailblazers - dames had never been entrusted with such typically "masculine" jobs before, and 38 died serving America. (While male military personnel who were killed along with the WASPs received all honors, their bodies were reportedly sent home in cheap pine coffins, with no official acknowledgment of their service). WASP was shuttered in 1944 after only two years in the air, and the program's role in the military became a classified secret for more than three decades.

Finally, in 1977, their role in the Air Force was leaked by members of WASP who were fed up with the secrecy and lies - Congress caved, their records were unsealed and living members were finally recognized as veterans.

And now, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, has introduced a bill in Congress to see that every single female pilot who served in World War II receives a Congressional Gold Medal. About 300 WASPs are still alive.

Pandemonium breaks out at America's Next Top Model audtions

Posted at 6:31 AM Mar 16, 2009

By Sharon Steel

When Tyra Banks announced that Cycle 13 of America's Next Top Model would be comprised almost solely of contestants who measured in at 5'7" and under, we were initially baffled. Then we realized that Banks is kind of like the fashion industry's token mad-scientist (except taller, with an impeccable weave, and an affinity for speaking with a faux British accent on occasion). She likes to churn out televised social experiments, and the shorties-only gimmick is her latest means of bringing out the crazy in individuals who were previously all but denied any kind of modeling aspirations. Crazy + Tyra + (shorties + long-term desperation) x the possibility of success = balls-out pandemonium.

The Daily News was on the scene at ANTM's open casting call in New York City over the weekend, and this is what they brought back. Note that they had three reporters on this 500-word feature, which was the first sign of trouble. And instead of a picture of petite young things lined up to be snap-judged on their walks, personality, and ability to please Tyra with their teary, "I want this more than anything in the world" speeches, we get a photograph of someone being taken away in a stretcher:

Screaming as they ran for their lives, hundreds of hotties in heels toppled over barricades along W. 55th St. after several people in the crowd started yelling, "There's a bomb!"

By the time the model madness ended, six women were injured and two women and one man were busted for inciting a riot, authorities said.

"The girls were running like it was 9/11 part two," said Jennifer Brown, 27, of Kensington, Brooklyn. "I feared for my life."

Yes, the ANTM auditions were just compared to 9/11. Here's what else happened:

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Girl Crush: Suraya Pakzad

Posted at 1:23 PM Mar 12, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

The "fall" of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 was billed as a coup for the country, especially women, who under the new constitution were officially recognized as "citizens" with equal rights and duties before the law." The 87% of women who were illiterate and the 30% of young girls who were denied access to education weren't expected to learn to read and enroll in school overnight, but after eight years, some say signs of progress are still too few and far between.

That's where women like Suraya Pakzad come in. In 1988, the mother of six founded Voice of Women, a secret organization to teach women of all ages in Afghanistan to read. She made the group public in 2001 and last year, Pakzad received an International Women of Courage award. The work of Pakzad and women like her have helped 2 million girls enroll in school in Afghanistan, and she isn't stopping there, despite the steep price she has to pay.

Pakzad's pursuit of equal rights and literacy has not gone unnoticed by anyone -- especially the Taliban.

These days, she regularly receives death threats for her no longer covert operation in rural pockets of the country still run by members of the Taliban. This week, she's on Capitol Hill reaching out to President Obama, who has said that he plans to initiate talks with moderate members of the Taliban in an effort to secure peace in the violence-shattered country.

In a hearing titled "Women Shaping Afghanistan's Future," Pakzad warns that any deal with the Taliban must include a pledge to uphold women's rights.

"My hope for my daughters, for the next generation ... is that they should enjoy their freedom," she reportedly said. "[I] hope they have a country free of inequality, free of violence against women, and hopefully they will get that opportunity."

Girl Crush: Reese Witherspoon

Posted at 2:00 PM Mar 05, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

March is Women's History Month, and sometimes it's easy to forget how far we've come; less than 100 years ago, we couldn't even vote - forget wearing pants, running for president, dyeing our hair purple, sexual freedom and any sort of power in our nation's boardrooms, halls of Congress or courts .... Much of that has changed.

Except how much really has? I've never been one to kick someone while they're down or play the victim blame game, and I'm not going to start here. I know nothing about pop sensation Rihanna's personal life - but from what I've gathered from even the less scurrilous media outlets, it's about as far from anyone's idea of women's progress as you can get without climbing into a time machine and heading back to the stone age.

That's why I was so relieved to see one prominent, laudable star (who young girls love) stand up and speak out against domestic violence. Reese Witherspoon has joined forces with the Avon Foundation in a campaign called Avon's Speak Out Against Domestic Violence Program.

You go, girl. And while you're at it, give Rihanna a call.

Girl Crush: Elaine Showalter

Posted at 5:00 PM Feb 26, 2009

By Kathleen Willcox

Elaine Showalter is gloriously mid-brow - she appeals to our grunting inner id with her work as a critic for the likes of People and then she fluffs our striving, perfectionist superego with her work as one of the founding, and still one of the best, feminist literary critics in America.

Showalter, as a celebrated professor emerita at Princeton and yet no foe of a little pop culture fun, is perfectly poised to make a resounding cultural splash with her magnum opus, A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx.

In A Jury of Her Peers, she traces the relationship in America between patriarchy and the public perception of female scribes, and compares it to our counterparts in England. In the 19th century, the U.K. was cranking out the likes of George Eliot, while we were cranking out domestic fiction that couldn't even begin to compete with her whip-smart cannon-worthy fodder. The notable writers we did produce from that era - from Kate Chopin to Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Louisa May Alcott - focused almost exclusively on matters of the heart and hearth.

Showalter points the finger at economic realities; in the U.S., women who wanted to write also had to raise children, keep house and cook, while even relatively poor women in the U.K. had oodles of household help.

In her book, she studiously avoids the common, and oh-so-tempting trap that many a feminist critic stumbles into, of dutifully wagging a mumsy finger at the great white male conspiracy against all things female and non-white. Instead, she sticks to the indisputable facts -- and nothing but the facts. The reading may be drier and less immediately relatable than a juicy, vitriolic assault on sexism in the literary world, but her scholarly approach ultimately delivers a more potent brew.

After all, we have Marilynne Robinson and Annie Proulx, both wonderful, ballyhooed writers, but ones who still focus on the domestic; England's got the likes of Doris Lessing - a wonderful, ballyhooed writer, who isn't afraid to write about ideas outside of a familial context. These days, we can't blame the lack of a scullery maid, head cook and butler on the dearth of (published and successful) work that aims straight for the brain.

Girl Crush(es): Harriet Harman, Hazel Blears

Posted at 6:00 PM Feb 12, 2009

Have you heard? The shizzle has hit the fan re: the economy. Oh, and this just in: maybe the old boys, sheer-fear-and-testosterone-fueled caffeine-addled 10-hour sprints through wild market fluctuations, my dick is bigger than yours comparisons after said sprints are over conducted while chugging innumerable Double Scotches on the rocks, followed by strip club-hoppin 'til dawn fun house that passed as many a financier's jobby-job is partially to blame.

In Britain, where women hold roughly 12% of corporate top jobs on the FTSE 100 stock (compared to women's roughly 17% in the States), Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, and Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, are leading the charge for a changy-change. And business leaders are listening, acknowledging a need for an estrogen-heavy shake-up that will actively promote women in the biz world.

"Clearly, something needs to change," Howard Archer, chief European and U.K. economist at IHS Global Insight in London, recently told The Washington Post. "You can argue that the men have made a right mess of it, and now the ladies should have a go."

Right-oh, old chap, let us have a go!

Now let's bring some of this thinking stateside - because while breaking through the glass ceiling thanks to a worldwide financial crisis may not be the best way to achieve parity in the workplace, as my Grandma always said, "Well, it's better than a stick in the eye." Which is basically what we're getting now.

Girl Crush: Jessica Garcia

Posted at 5:00 PM Feb 05, 2009

I'm not going to completely drink the Kool-Aid and attempt to crown Jessica Garcia the next Rosa Parks for the gay movement or anything, but she does serve as an essential reminder of not only how powerful one small act of civil defiance can be, but also how far our country is from openly accepting homosexuality, our wild and enthusiastic embrace of hyperbolically gay TV characters or no.

The 22-year-old Garcia was reportedly arrested for kissing her girlfriend (on the cheek) at the Rolling Oaks Mall in Texas the day after Christmas. After said smooch, the duo was allegedly approached by mall rent-a-cops who, Garcia said, told them that Rolling Oaks was a "family mall" and said they would "kick y'all out" if Garcia and her gal dared participate in such a revolting PDA again.

The couple was later allegedly caught sitting on a bench with their legs intertwined. (I know - can you imagine? How inappropriate!) They were ousted, and while Garcia and her girlfriend initially complied with the order, they decided to re-enter the mall shortly afterward in order to take the quickest route to their car. This is where it gets gray(ish), with Garcia and the officers in question disputing each other's versions of what happened next -- but one thing's clear -- officers ended up charging Garcia with trespassing, resisting arrest and assault on a peace officer.

She's due in court later this month.

Girl Crush: Meredith Chivers

Posted at 5:00 PM Jan 29, 2009

What do women want in the sack? According to recent research from psychology prof and scientist Meredith Chivers, we may know, but not all of us are telling. Reading through the lines of Chiver's findings, it seems many women tell others what they think is expected of them in terms of what turns them on - but their genitals tell a different (and much more interesting) story.

To wit: in Chivers' study, heterosexual women under-reported sexual excitement during visual representations of gay men having sex and scenes of lesbian intimacy than the plethysmographs (they measure genital blood flow) indicated. The opposite was true for heterosexual coupling. Results were similar with lesbian participants with the exception of lesbian coupling - in that regard, what they reported and what the plethysmographs reported were roughly on par. Men, on the other hand, accurately spilled the beans.

Chivers' research is essential not only because (duh) we need to gather as much information as we possibly can about our sexuality, but more importantly, providing a peek into what other women desire is bound to make "taboo" desires less so. It also forces us to face some tough questions: why are straight and gay men more comfortable talking about what turns them on and how can we find a way to get to that place?

Girl Crush: Ms. Magazine Publisher Eleanor Smeal

Posted at 3:40 PM Jan 15, 2009

By Kathleen Wilcox

obama ms mag.jpegPundits have been questioning the relevance of Ms. Magazine for years - and sometimes they even bring up a few cogent points.

Let's face it: Ms. was launched by Gloria Steinem as an activist bras a-blazin' feminist magazine when abortion was still illegal. The sense of urgency, incipient revolution and potential calamity that made it a must-read for our mother's generation has in many ways dissipated.

But just as I'm ready to dismiss it with an eye-roll and a pat on the head like an out-of-touch second-waver who uses the phrase "herstory" sans irony and passes around petitions to outlaw Manolo Blahniks, Ms., and its publisher Eleanor Smeal,
make it clear that the pub is more relevant than ever.

The latest issue (in a clever echo of Ms.'s first issue featuring the caption "Wonder Woman for President" above the crusading superhero) features a Photoshopped pic of President-elect Barack Obama as Superman, tearing away his "disguise" to reveal the caption "This Is What a FEMINIST Looks Like."

The cover has ruffled feathers, as all smart, controversial political images do. But the overly simplistic naysayers are missing the point: Ms. is hardly suggesting that women are no longer capable of being feminists - it's merely acknowledging that Obama (a self-declared feminist, according to Smeal) and progressive men in general can and should be recruited and commissioned to help us all keep fighting the good fight.

Saying women alone can be feminists is as preposterous and ultimately defeatist as saying that only people of color can fight racism. The fact that this needs to be explained speaks volumes about the long way baby we still have to go and the need for women like Smeal to help guide us through this thorny path.

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