In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Why fix the problem when we can push for a feel-good policy that won’t work?

Apparently, there’s still a horrible crisis in education.  And the answer according to some pundits is to go back to single sex schools.

Advocates of single-sex education for girls believe that, in general, many girls thrive when educated apart from boys. Research concerning the academic achievement of girls suggests that in coeducational classrooms they often defer to boys, are called on less frequently than boys, receive significantly less teacher attention than boys, and are less likely than boys to study mathematics and science. Evidence suggests that attending single-sex schools improves many girls’ academic performance and attitude toward less traditional school subjects for girls while encouraging them to assume non-traditional career paths.

Microcredit Pioneer Wins Nobel Peace Prize

This is awesome.

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their pioneering use of tiny, seemingly insignificant loans — microcredit — to lift millions out of poverty.

Through Yunus’s efforts and those of the bank he founded, poor people around the world, especially women, have been able to buy cows, a few chickens or the cell phone they desperately needed to get ahead.

Microcredit has been a most effective tool for lifting people out of poverty. It’s also a means of empowering women, since the overwhelming majority of the loan recipients are women who are trying to provide for their families but just don’t have the money to buy the one small thing that could help them start a business or just have enough resources to create a surplus of wealth that lets them get ahead rather than simply spinning their wheels. And it has broader effects, as well:

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A Step Backward

Wal-Mart, already under fire for its shoddy labor practices, low pay, locking cleaning crews in at night, nonexistent benefits, encouraging their workers to make up a living wage by seeking welfare benefits, antitunionism, et al., is sinking even deeper into the mire of worker exploitation by introducing wage caps and relying more on part-timers.

Wal-Mart executives say they have embraced new policies for a large number of their 1.3 million workers to better serve their customers, especially at busy shopping times — and point out that competitors like Sears and Target have made some of these moves, too.

But some Wal-Mart workers say the changes are further reducing their already modest incomes and putting a serious strain on their child-rearing and personal lives. Current and former Wal-Mart workers say some managers have insisted that they make themselves available around the clock, and assert that the company is making changes with an eye to forcing out longtime higher-wage workers to make way for lower-wage part-time employees.

It’s one thing for a highly-paid professional like a doctor or a lawyer to be available around the clock; quite another for a part-timer with no benefits who barely makes minimum wage to do so.

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What Was That About Gluttony, Again?

You know the drill. Someone’s fat, and someone else comes to the conclusion that the fat person got that way by stuffing his or her face with cheesecake or donuts or what have you.

Not so fast.

News Flash: Soda Is Fattening

Add a report from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition to the growing list of evidence that sugary soft drinks are adding pounds to kids. The report, a meta-analysis of others’ scientific research, says one extra can of soda a day can translate into 15 pounds a year. The report concludes: “Although more research is needed, sufficient evidence exists for public health strategies to discourage consumption of sugary drinks as part of a healthy lifestyle.”

And, as certain as night follows day, the sugar industry begs to differ.

Doesn’t take much to get fat if one spreads the calories out. There are only about 140 calories in a can of sugared soda, and most people can down one or two without giving a thought to the calories, and without any sensation of satiety.

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They Hate Us For Our Freedom

Conservatives, that is.

Check out this little gem from the Doubleday Web page for Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility For 9/11:

He argues that it is not our exercise of freedom that enrages our enemies, but our abuse of that freedom — from the sexual liberty of women to the support of gay marriage, birth control, and no-fault divorce, to the aggressive exportation of our vulgar, licentious popular culture.

This, frankly, is chilling. And the fact that this is a major publishing house putting this shit out and not some Scaife-funded wingnut welfare imprint like Regnery is doubly so.

Let’s think about this for a moment — this guy is actually arguing that women having sexual liberty and being able to control when they have children and how many is an abuse of freedom. And the same goes for support of gay marriage and no-fault divorce.

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Why don’t more women breastfeed, again?

If you had any doubts that breastfeeding in America is a luxury, this story should clear them up for you.

When a new mother returns to Starbucks’ corporate headquarters in Seattle after maternity leave, she learns what is behind the doors mysteriously marked “Lactation Room.”

Whenever she likes, she can slip away from her desk and behind those doors, sit in a plush recliner and behind curtains, and leaf through InStyle magazine as she holds a company-supplied pump to her chest, depositing her breast milk in bottles to be toted home later.

But if the mothers who staff the chain’s counters want to do the same, they must barricade themselves in small restrooms intended for customers, counting the minutes left in their breaks.

And Starbucks is generally very well-regarded for its employee benefits. Certainly, the fact that the stores are a lot smaller and serve a lot fewer employees than corporate headquarters has something to do with this. However, it’s not the whole story.

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New Orleans’ Women Being Left Behind

The Times-Picayune has a story about a study (pdf) from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research which shows that, as bad as everybody has it in New Orleans, women have it that much worse:

When it comes to economic opportunity in post-Katrina New Orleans, women, particularly African-American women, have been largely ignored, according to a report on the local labor market released Friday.

Because of the acute shortage of affordable housing across the flood-ravaged Gulf Coast, the study also found that few single-mother families have been able to return.

According to Avis Jones-DeWeever, the institute’s director of poverty, education and social justice, the storm made an already-bad situation worse for the women of New Orleans.

“Research suggests that long before Katrina, women were living at the bottom,” she said, “earning significantly less than men in the city at the same level of education, and earning significantly less than their female counterparts nationwide.”

And since the storm, data collected by the institute shows that men are benefiting more from the rebuilding effort than women, Jones-DeWeever said.

Consider some statistics:

  • Before Katrina, women made up 56% of the local workforce; now they make up 46%.
  • The number of families headed by single mothers in the metropolitan area has dropped from 51,000 to less than 17,000.
  • Food stamp usage by those single mothers who have returned has quadrupled.
  • Black women are not being employed in professional and managerial positions in New Orleans.
  • The median earnings for men in their lowest-paid occupations range from $15,150 to $23,500 annually, compared with women’s earnings of $11,400 to $20,000 in their lowest-paid occupations.
  • At the high end of the scale, men’s median earnings range from $38,700 to $130,000, compared with a high range of $30,000 to $63,000 for women.
  • The statistics in the study are disheartening, said state Rep. Karen Carter, who took part in the institute’s midday news conference.

    “This report is quite tragic,” said Carter, D-New Orleans. “It’s unacceptable. Women vote. Women pay taxes. And women deserve better. The city will suffer if immediate action is not taken. It’s a crisis within the crisis that people are dealing with in their everyday lives as they try to rebuild.”

    And that rebuilding is projected to take 10 to 15 years. One common theme of the report is that women must be given opportunities to participate in the rebuilding and trained and encouraged to take those opportunities, particularly in the high-paying construction trades.

    H/T: Broadsheet.

    Parenting and Depression

    And one I can relate to — Dooce writes about her depression, motherhood, and a new must-read book:

    I have received a lot of email about the things I wrote during that time, email that thanks me for sharing a glimpse into that darkness because it has made some other mothers feel as if they are not alone. But just as important as those notes are the ones from people who have thanked me for giving them insight into an illness they know nothing about, into the mind of their wives, or their sisters, or their best friends. Because of some of the things I shared, they say, they are now less quick to judge someone in their lives. It is this reason that I recommend Thompson’s book, because it is a compelling look into and analysis of what causes maternal depression, into why someone might, without cause, pick up a phone and scream obscenities at the most important person in her life.

    The Ghost in the House looks at how mothers today struggle to live up to unreasonable expectations, and suggests that “the bar has been raised in imperceptible increments, for such a long time, that much of the time we don’t even realize that we are holding ourselves to standards our mothers never had to meet.” Thompson surveyed nearly 400 mothers who have suffered depression, and combines those results with scientific studies to describe in exact terms what maternal depression is, how we can prevent it from harming the relationships we have with our children, and how we can cope with it through the “very specific stress” we face as mothers: “the ongoing demands of children.”

    And a quote from the author:

    Depression and poverty and motherhood are practically synonymous, in my opinion, and I based this purely on anecdotal evidence from reporting on welfare reform for the Washington Post and seeing a lot of dire poverty up close. These women just deal, and many of them deserve the Nobel Prize just for getting through the day. It is no surprise to me that many of them self medicate (lots of affluent women self-medicate–the only difference tends to be the choice of drugs).

    I’d write more if I weren’t so damned busy.