Archive for August, 2009

Corporal Punishment in schools is legal in 21 states! That means that in 21 states it is okay to hit students who have misbehaved.

Check out this policy from an Oklahoma School District:


Corporal punishment is administered to students according to the following policy:

1. Corporal punishment is a form of discipline when the infraction by the student is considered serious or is a repeated infraction of school rules.

2. Corporal punishment will be administered by a certified staff member in an office or designated area and in the presence of another certified person. Punishment must be appliedto the buttocks only. The witness should be informed of the infraction in the presence of the student.

According to this publication by Human Rights Watch, corporal punishment is disproportionately applied to students of color.

This fact both shocks and disgusts me. How am I living in a country that still tolerates this behavior, and why isn’t this a bigger issue?

Also check out this post on Feministe, for a mother’s perspective on the issue.


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Craigslist as Art

I came across Sophie Blackall today on Etsy. She creates art based on the missed connections postings on craigslist. What a great idea! Also check out her blog here.


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VeryYoungGirlsPosterLast night I watched the movie “Very Young Girls,” which aired on Showtime last year. This documentary (which you can watch on your computer on Netflix instant) details the lives of teenage girls who are coerced in prostitution in NYC.  The documentary focuses on the organization GEMS, which provides safe housing and counseling for many of these girls. The documentary is incredibly sad, powerful, and informative, and it demonstrates exactly why these girls need to be rehabilitated instead of incarcerated.  Until the recent passage of the New York Safe Harbor Act, teenage girls who were arrested for prostitution were treated as adults and faced imprisonment. This is despite the fact that girls under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to sex in the state of New York. The Safe Harbor Act creates a presumption that girls who are arrested for prostitution should be treated as the victims of coercion and sent to safe houses and rehabilitation facilities. What is especially sad about this documentary, however, is that despite the help that many of the girls receive, they often return to a life on the streets, not able to resist the coercive power of their pimps.  We spend a lot of time worrying about trafficked and exploited women in other countries, but this documentary really drives home the point that we need not look farther than a few blocks to find women desperately in need of help right here in the US.

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I just finished reading this piece by Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn, for this week’s issue of the New York Times Magazine.  Called “The Women’s Crusade,” it discusses why helping women across the globe become financially independent and sufficient will help to solve the world’s problems. Kristof spends a great deal of time discussing the merits of microfinance organizations, which lend small amounts of money to (mainly) women living in poverty in order to help them start their own business and become financially independent. Kristof also discusses how the Obama administration is starting to realize that the well-being of women and girls should be a central issue, not something tangential to other mainstream policies.

The rest of the issue is dedicated to women as well (although admittedly I have not gotten through all of it yet).  I have to commend the NY Times for publishing these articles, but it is certainly not the first time that journalists are writing about microfinance institutions and why we need to help women and girls. I hope this article will help call more attention to the thousands of bloggers, journalists, and researchers who are writing about these issues every day. But for now, this article is a great start.

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I Want…

this subscription to colored pencils.  colored pencilsSo I am not an artist in any sense of the word, but this picture of colored pencils is so visually appealing to me, that it makes me want to pay the $33/month to get 25 colored pencils delivered to me for 20 months.  I’m not sure I would do anything except line them up on my desk and stare at them every now and then, but I feel like just that would make me extraordinarily happy.

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Read this article thanks to a friend, about why Zooey Deschanel’s character in (500) Days of Summer may in fact be a backwards look at women. I wrote a post weeks ago about how much I loved the movie, and while I don’t take that back, I do think the article is quite insightful.

The author writes:

For Summer turns out to be the bewitching villain in this story, breaking Tom’s heart without a second thought. When Tom finds out she got married, he asks her how she was able to get engaged to someone so soon after they’d broken up; after all, she’d told him many times that she wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. “It just happened,” she says, batting her big blue eyes at him. Thanks for the closure.

What about a romantic comedy about a woman who actually has opinions, who doesn’t play hard to get, who articulates her hopes and dreams and expects her boyfriend to get excited about those, too? Or is that too much to ask even from indie Hollywood?

I must say that Summer getting married at the end was the most disappointing part of the movie. It really destroyed her image as an independent, self-sufficient woman, since she just ran to another man when the first one didn’t satisfy her. The movie would have been perfect if she was living life happily, and successfully without him. I think, unfortunately, it would take a woman to write that script, and until Hollywood starts working harder to promote more female screenwriters, we’ll just continue to see more characters like Summer.

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Just a quick post, even though I know I’ve been particularly bad about posting lately. I’m heading back to CA today, and once I get there I promise I’ll start blogging more regularly.

I questioned the NY Times’ motto this morning (“All the news that’s fit to print”) when I read this article about how potbellies are the new hip fashion statement among the Brooklyn hipster set.  The article explains that many of these Brooklyn hipsters are sporting potbellies with their v-neck t-shirts, fedoras, and ray-bans.  The article suggests that this new devil-may-care attitude about body image might be a reaction to Obama’s passion for exercise and health, as hipsters, according to the article, like to be contrarian.

Personally, I could care less what the hipsters are wearing these days, but what bothered me about this article was how quickly the author dismissed the fact that men don’t have to care nearly as much about their body image as women do:

Women have almost never gotten a pass on the need to maintain their bodies, while men always have, said Robert Morea, a personal fitness trainer. (Full disclosure: my own.) It would be too much, he added, to suggest that “potbellies are suddenly O.K.,” but as lean muscle and functionality become the new gym mantras, hypertrophied He-Men with grapefruit biceps and blister-pack abs have come to resemble specimens from a diorama of “A Vanished World.”

The Times could have at least taken a moment to explore this phenomenon, or at least taken a moment to suggest that maybe potbellies aren’t the new fashion accessory to strive for. Not to mention that Obama’s emphasis on physical health is something that everyone in this country should be emulating rather than rebelling against.

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There is a fabulous piece in this week’s NY Times Magazine, by Peggy Orenstein, about female superheroes.  Orenstein introduces the article by talking about her daugher’s new distaste for Disney Princesses and new love for Wonder Woman.  She goes on to discuss the allure of superheroes, but also why it may be so unusual or difficult for women to embrace them. Female superheroes, often, she notes do not have compelling back stories, and they certianly do not receive the same kind of attention from movie studios as male superheroes do. Orenstein also suggests that superhero play may be useful for little girls, who may learn from them to be more assertive and more willing to stand up to authority because of the lessons they learn from superheroes.

I always love articles that discuss the inequities in this type of mainstream media. What is the hold up of the Wonder Woman movie? Why can’t there be more female superheroes who receive the same kind of success and attention that male superheroes do? I don’t have much more to add, other than that you should go and read Orenstein’s article. It’s an important commentary on the gender stratification of children’s culture.

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