Who gets to say someone is a feminist? And should we vote this woman out?

She’s gay, out and pro-choice.  So what’s not to like?  She’s a conservative radio talk show host.  Gulp.  Still….

I heard her this morning on being both conservative and pro-choice.  She was pointing out that it doesn’t make sense to be anti-government interference about everything except to put government in between a woman and her decisions about pregnancy.   It sounded really good.  Just imagine what the US could look like if the conservatives stopped requiring that their candidates support the religiously motivated anti-choice agenda.  Same-sex marriage might be next.

BUT she’s a conservative talk show host, and apparently that means continuing the destructive hate speech of those who have made their careers out of creating deep and emotionally reinforced divisions in the States.  Her latest?   Michelle Obama is “trash in the White House.”  She has a fake accent; she tries to sound like “a white girl.”

The host is Tammy Bruce and she gets called “a feminist”.  Ouch! 

So feminists don’t really form a club, still less are there membership rules.  But sometimes I think it would be nice if we could suspend a person’s license to be called one.

Recession and Family Friendly Workplaces

Apparently the recession is giving employers an excuse to demand old-style “ideal male worker” behaviour from their employees, even if they had previously begun to accommodate the shocking fact that workers may have family responsibilities.

“That’s what it feels like we’re returning to. Work as many hours as you possibly can. Make yourself indispensable. Don’t ever complain. Don’t ever ask for anything,” she said. “I’m just horrified we may as well just forget the last 20 years.”

For their part, many managers are doing little to calm those concerns, human resource consultants say. They tend to view options such as flex time and telecommuting as retention tools, experts say, and in recessions, fear of unemployment is just as effective.

In a way, this is unsurprising. But in a way, it’s a bit of a shock: after all, there have been lots of stories about employers *asking* employees to cut back to 4-day work weeks in order to avoid layoffs, which you’d think would fit well with accommodating flextime. And telecommuting can be a good way to save money. Some employers, apparently, are thinking this way.

A limited number of employers have turned to flex time and telecommuting to contain costs. Nortel Networks, for example, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, is encouraging employees to work remotely to cut real estate expenses, spokesman Jay Barta said. And FedEx, which on Thursday announced more job cuts and a sharp drop in profit, recently gave employees at four call centers the option to work remotely as a cost-saving measure.

But such thoughts are apparently rare.

Surveys show that, rather than granting employees flexibility to save costs, employers are more likely to freeze salaries, slash the travel budget or resort to layoffs.

For more, see here.

Culture minister’s push for equal participation in UK sport

In the UK news this weekend (bit late at getting to a computer!), this story about the poor coverage of UK sportswomen’s achievements (in swimming and cricket), and the connection between lack of positive sporting role models and women and girls’ (low) participation in grassroots sports.

On a positive note, though, its great to hear the culture secretary, Andy Burnhan, drawing attention to this, and exerting pressure on sports governing bodies to remedy this. From the report:

In this summer’s ICC World Twenty20 tournament, which will take place in June at four grounds around England, the women’s semi-finals will take place alongside the men’s.

“That’s such a strong message about equality in sport and the equality of interest in sport,” said Burnham. “There are lessons that other governing bodies could learn. We have to get rid of this thing about women’s sport being an afterthought.”

The Remarkable Kara Walker does spring

A piece of Kara Walker’s challenging art is featured in the NYT.  If you don’t know of her work, you might like the short piece about her from the Times.  We’ve described  her work here before, and one of our  pieces has a video about her it.  She has, among other things,  heroically survived a wide-spread condemnation of  her use of racial stereotypes, as she tries to make more explicit what’s in her and our heads.




“The Case Against Breastfeeding”

That’s the title of an article causing a huge controversy online. Its main contention is simply that there IS a case against breastfeeding, and that this deserves to be weighed up against the case for breastfeeding in each individual case– and that a decision not to breastfeed can be a reasonable and even good one. This shouldn’t be a surprising thought, really, or even a controversial one. But it goes against the widespread orthodoxy that breastfeeding is not only best but the ONLY acceptable decision. The thing that seems to make the case against breastfeeding so hard to see is that it requires taking mothers’ own needs and desires seriously. It requires seeing the following as expressing legitimate desires that deserve respect rather than expressions of contemptible selfishness:

I want to get back to my job.
I’m losing my mind from sleep deprivation and I want to sleep.
I don’t want to be hooked up to a pump for hours every day.
I want to share baby care equally with my partner.
My nipples are bleeding and I want the pain to stop.
I don’t like breastfeeding and I don’t want to do it.
My partner wants to be an equal partner in baby care and I want him/her to do that.

If these were seen as legitimate, it would be obvious that there are disadvantages of breastfeeding to be weighed against the advantages. But, all too often, they are not. Mothers are still supposed to do whatever they’re told to do for their babies, and any expression of a desire to do otherwise is emphatically not OK.
(I should note that the article also contains critiques of some of the science supporting breastfeeding. I’m not in a position to evaluate that.)

European Parliament outlaws ‘Miss’, ‘Mrs’

Well, no. Though that is what it says if you send this story on using ’email to a friend’. Instead, the Parliament have asked staff to use ‘Ms’ instead. Shock horror!

“Ludicrous”, one Tory MEP told the Daily Mail. “Political correctness gone mad”, he continued. Another, in the Daily Telegraph, branded it a “waste of taxpayers’ money”.

I gotta say, I kind of love the last criticism. Is there just some automatic right-wing
reflex to shout ‘waste of taxpayer’s money’ even when there’s absolutely nothing financial going on?

(Many thanks to all of those who sent this one to me!)