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


For some damn reason, I can never, ever type “subpoena” correctly — or quickly.

So what do I get to do? Type “subpoena” a lot today.

What’s the hair crost *your* ass today?

Hair Politics

Erin Aubry Kaplan writes a very good column in the LA Times about the racial politics of hair. Her point is fairly simple:

Denial is still at the core of black hair fashion, which in turn is at the still-unstable core of black identity and acceptability in the United States in 2006. Although braids, dreadlocks and other natural black hairstyles have become more visible, perms, weaves and extensions for black women have become ubiquitous.

In short, the debate about the best choices for “black hair,” always charged, is flaring up again. A Louisiana sheriff said last week that anyone on the streets in dreadlocks “can expect to be getting a visit from a sheriff’s deputy” because a murder suspect answering that description remained at large. In April, Susan L. Taylor, the iconic editorial director of Essence magazine, canceled a campus speech when she discovered the college forbids its students to wear “unusual” hairstyles — including braids, which are Taylor’s signature look. This was noteworthy because the college was Hampton University, one of the nation’s oldest historically black campuses. Then it was discovered that Black Enterprise magazine had a similar ban for student interns.

The message is clear. If blacks want to have a chance in the increasingly unforgiving corporate world, they will have to shave off their edges — starting with their hair. To Taylor and to many others, including me, such a message implies a false choice between assimilation and self-affirmation. What looks like practicality is, in fact, more denial.

What’s troubling is that, by being forced to change their hair, black people once again are being forced to shoulder the burden of proof: We’re not as fearsome as we look. It’s up to us to mitigate our dark skin and ethnic features by framing them with hair that’s as neat and unethnic as possible.

Read her whole op/ed. The most interesting thing, though, has been to see how white people respond to her fairly reasonable assertions. Via punkassblog, we find these comments over at Kevin Drum’s place:

Read More…Read More…


A new study, apparently, has found that working long hours is worse for women than for men because women who work long hours tend to eat more unhealthy food and consume more caffeine than men who work long hours.

Now, nowhere do I see a mention of the home lives of these women. Because this jumped out at me:

“Women who work long hours eat more high-fat and high-sugar snacks, exercise less, drink more caffeine and, if smokers, smoke more than their male colleagues,” said Dr. Daryl O’Connor, a researcher at Britain’s Leeds University.

For men, working longer hours has no negative impact on exercise, caffeine intake or smoking,” O’Connor said in a statement released by the Economic and Social Research Council, which funded his study.

Emphasis mine.

Now, which of these things — drinking coffee, smoking or exercise — requires free time? And given that many, many working women also take on the bulk of childcare and housework responsibilities, it’s not really that difficult to see that a woman who works longer hours AND has to take care of the kids and the house when she gets home would be more stressed and wouldn’t be able to get in the nice stress-relieving workout that maybe her husband gets to do. So she turns to stress eating, coffee and smoking.

I haven’t seen the actual study, but the writeup by Reuters certainly sends a pernicious little message that working outside the home is bad for women.

“A Petri Dish of Capitalism”


That expensive blouse you’re wearing? It may have been sewn by a Filipina garment worker laboring in a factory owned by a Hong Kong mogul on a western Pacific island. The Northern Mariana Islands, a territory of the United States, offers the possibility of an American label — Made in Saipan (USA), Made in Northern Mariana Islands (USA), or simply Made in USA — to garment manufacturers, and throws in a unique exemption from U.S. minimum-wage and immigration laws.

Anti-sweatshop leaders and some members of Congress have long sought to increase wages and protect the islands’ garment workers, most of whom are women, from what amounts to indentured servitude. But their efforts were repeatedly stalled in Congress. And who was among the biggest opponents of reform? None other than the notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose tentacles reached deep into House Republican leadership. And who was one of the loudest congressional cheerleaders against reform? Tom DeLay, who praised the islands as “a petri dish of capitalism.”

Turns out that this petri dish of capitalism, so supported by conservative legislators, is actually a bastion of indentured servitude, with a side helping of coercive abortion and sex tourism.

Read More…Read More…


The Supreme Court unanimously upholds a worker’s right to sue for retaliation when the worker complains about bias, even when that retaliation does not take an ultimate form such as firing or denial of promotion.

Reassignment to a less attractive job or a temporary suspension without pay can constitute retaliation, the Court said in deciding Burlington Northern v. White (05-259). (The Court’s decision is available here; Justice Samuel Alito’s concurring opinion is here.)

The disagreement within the Court — between eight Justices and Alito — centered on the scope of the anti-retaliation provision in Title VII. The Court concluded that workers claiming retaliation could sue not only over action taken against them in the workplace, on their wages, hours and working conditions, but also acts by the employer “outside the workplace.” The Court cited as examples of this broader kind of retaliation a failure to investigate threats against an FBI agent who had complained and filing false criminal charges against an employee who had complained. Alito argued that the concept should be confined to workplace action. Alito, who joined only the result, also objected to the majority’s test of how severe retaliatory action must be; the majority said it would embrace acts that might dissuade a “reasonable worker” from complaining about workplace bias, even if the action did not go so far as firing or denial of a promotion.

Plaintiff Sheila White was made to feel very unwelcome as the only woman working in a railroad maintenance yard in Memphis. The New York Times describes what she went through thus:

Nine years ago this month, she was hired as a “track laborer,” a down-and-dirty job that involves removing and replacing track, cutting brush, clearing litter and other drudgery. Soon there was an opening for a forklift operator, and since she had operated forklifts before she was a logical choice.

But some of the men complained that a forklift was no place for a woman and made insulting remarks to that effect. The offenders included her supervisor, who was suspended by the railroad for 10 days and ordered to undergo training to correct his sexually harassing ways.

But Ms. White’s troubles were not over. Soon afterward, she was removed from the forklift job and given standard laboring tasks. The man who had hired her explained that other workers thought a “more senior man” should be able to run the forklift, according to court papers.

So Ms. White filed two complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, one alleging that her reassignment amounted to unlawful gender-based discrimination in retaliation for her complaining about sexual harassment, the other alleging that she had been placed under surveillance by the man who had hired her.

By this point, it was December. Ms. White had a run-in with another supervisor and was suspended without pay for insubordination. She filed an internal grievance, after which Burlington agreed that she had not been insubordinate after all. So she was put back on the payroll and awarded back pay for the 37 days she had been suspended. (Ms. White had filed still another complaint with the E.E.O.C. over the suspension.)

So, a terrific result, and a great victory for workers undergoing discrimination, harassment and bias on the job. And kudos for SCOTUS for the unanimous result.

Not Surprised

Jessica seems surprised that a federal court upheld the firing of a teacher at a Catholic school in Delaware after she signed onto an advertisement celebrating the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

A Court of Appeals ruled against Curay-Cramer, saying that Congress didn’t intend for the 1978 law to apply to religious schools. Cause apparently they’re allowed to discriminate.

Yeah, they are. No surprise. It’s a private school with a religious focus, and there are no free-speech rights with private employers. The teacher probably signed a contract with a morals clause or somesuch that stated that she could be terminated for taking any action in her private life that was contrary to Catholic teaching. And there’s no way she couldn’t have known the Church’s stance on abortion.

Now, if this were a public school, the teacher would have been protected, and the firing would have been a violation of her rights.

Lesson number one, kids: the First Amendment applies only to governmental limitations on free speech. It doesn’t apply to private employers, and it doesn’t apply in the comments section here.

Office Piranhas

Watch out, middle-aged men: They’re gonna getcha.

They are identifiable not by their short skirts or heavy make-up but by their unflinching devotion to their male bosses. They will work late for them, pick up their dry cleaning and even buy birthday presents for their relatives. They are single women who, stuck in their search for a personal partner, are ready to give their all to a professional one. What they want is a high-earning, high-flying, high-virility man – and one who they can drag to the altar. Welcome to the world of the “office piranha”.

Read More…Read More…

Will Work 4 Fud

Lauren here dropping in for a request. Long time no see.

I’m struggling to pay bills at this time and would like to take on a few design projects for WordPress-based blogs. Unfortunately, during a very rare moment this week which was not at all common nor a regular occurrence nor redundant, I accidentally deleted all the mail in my email account including several old requests for design work.

At this point, I am willing to take on the first five redesigns at an agreed upon rate to be discussed privately in an email exchange. Alternatively, if you do not have a WordPress blog, I am willing to discuss smaller projects such as banner and ad design. Another thing to consider if you aren’t willing to spend a lot of money is that I can clean up an existing template in remarkably little time. If you are interested in jazzing up your blog, please write me here. I may be talked into doing more projects at a later date.

Examples of my design work may be found at Pandagon, Bitch Ph.D., Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Slim Coincidence (professional site), and Punkassblog (banner). And obviously, Feministe.

Thanks to the crew for letting me bleg, and many grand, salutary gestures to anyone who answers this request. We’re in a bit of a bind and any little bit helps. Thanks again and back to your regularly scheduled goodness.

Misfortune 500

Check it out. This parody of the Fortune 500 by the Women’s Environment and Development Organization is chock full of information about the ways that companies treat women, children and minority workers. It’s not only extremely informative, it’s well-organized, with each entry providing relevant news stories and describing exactly how each company is falling short in its policies and practices.

Also included: information on women’s efforts to protest corporate malfeasance and companies that are getting it right — a short list, unfortunately.

Via Feministing.

If You Ever Wonder Why I Stay Anonymous…

Bloggers running into trouble during internships.

ON the first day of his internship last year, Andrew McDonald created a Web site for himself. It never occurred to him that his bosses might not like his naming it after the company and writing in it about what went on in their office.

For Mr. McDonald, the Web log he created, “I’m a Comedy Central Intern,” was merely a way to keep his friends apprised of his activities and to practice his humor writing. For Comedy Central, it was a corporate no-no — especially after it was mentioned on, the gossip Web site, attracting thousands of new readers.

“Not even a newborn puppy on a pink cloud is as cute as a secret work blog!” chirped Gawker, giddily providing the link to its audience.

But Comedy Central disagreed, asking him to change the name (He did, to “I’m an Intern in New York”) and to stop revealing how its brand of comedic sausage is stuffed.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. But a rookie mistake. You soon learn the cardinal rule, which is: Don’t Shit Where You Eat. There’s a reason that I’m anonymous, and also circumspect about where I work: if my bosses knew that I was writing a blog which occasionally referenced them, I could get fired. Also, I might have a hard time getting a job if I were “out” as a blogger, because interviewers might wonder, rightly, whether I might carelessly reveal privileged information or take a public position that was at odds with my employer’s or client’s.

There are circumstances in which it can be beneficial to be “out.” This was a topic that was discussed at Pro-Choice Bingo, where pretty much everyone but me was out and the question of posting photos taken there came up. I asked that my face not be shown. Most of the people there were either students, making a living from writing, or in the kinds of jobs where their blogging didn’t really matter. Scott Lemieux, an assistant professor at Hunter, said that his blog probably helped him in his job because it got his name out there and gave him opportunities to do things like write an upcoming article for The American Prospect on (IIRC — sorry, Scott) the case against the case against Roe. But he acknowledged that it’s a thorny issue for non-tenured faculty. He sticks pretty close to his area of expertise on LGM, but other non-tenured faculty — Bitch, Ph.D., for example — write extensively about their private lives and on topics that could not only be damaging when tenure decisions are made, but could also affect the way their students view them. So, they remain anonymous.

If you’re in the corporate world, too, it’s important to remember that when using company equipment, you have no free-speech rights:

“It is important that corporations make a choice as to what type of blogging they will allow,” said Alfred C. Frawley III, director of the intellectual property practice group at the law firm Preti Flaherty in Portland, Me.

While there are differences in laws among jurisdictions, from a legal perspective, he said, it is generally accepted that companies have the right to impose controls on their employees’ use of computers and other equipment used for communication.

As for content — information generated within a company — the law also allows employers to set limits, even on airing the company laundry outside the office, he said. Private employees do not receive the protection of the First Amendment because there is no government action involved, he said.

“If an employee deviates from the policy, it may be grounds for termination,” Mr. Frawley said.

My firm, luckily, is too small to have an IT person and too cheap to pay to have a freelancer trolling through hard drives and internet histories. Nevertheless, I’m careful to delete my cookies and files every night before I leave. I also don’t use firm email for personal communications — I’ve done too many document reviews where I’ve seen highly personal (sometimes pornographic) emails, some of which had been deleted (because they never go away) as part of a document request. And we see the ones that were deemed relevant (the porn one, I’m sure, was left in as character assassination), so we’re not seeing everything that was pulled from that person’s account. Though I’m sure their bosses are very interested in that.

But wait! This story is in the Style section, so that means the Times is just waiting to drop a cooked-up “trend” in your lap:

The problem for the employers is that, in a few highly publicized cases, public airing of workplace shenanigans has proved to be lucrative — and young people entering the workplace know it.

“The Devil Wears Prada,” Lauren Weisberger’s veiled account of her time working as an assistant to Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor, ushered in the modern “underling-tell-all” genre, abetted by other revenge-of-the-employee tales like “The Nanny Diaries,” by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. Both became best sellers that will be showing up on movie screens, with “Devil” opening next month.

Busted bloggers like Jessica Cutler (a former Capitol Hill intern whose blog, Washingtonienne, is now a novel), Nadine Haobsh (a former beauty editor whose blog Jolie in NYC earned her a two-book deal) and Jeremy Blachman (a lawyer whose blog Anonymous Lawyer is being released as “Anonymous Lawyer: A Novel” this summer) were all interns, entry-level employees and worker bees who traded up on in-the-trade secrets.

The generation entering the work world has noticed.

“Everybody I’ve read about that got fired for having a blog is on to such great things,” said Kelly Kreth, 36, who was fired from her job as the marketing and public relations director at a real estate firm in Manhattan last fall for blogging about her co-workers.

That’s because you only read about the ones who have gone on to great things, Kelly. Or, those are the only ones you choose to remember. Of course, we know that the Times is using your blinkered view of the world to bolster its “trend” finding. Not everybody gets a book contract out of it; some people just get a pink slip.