Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Job discrimination? Legal? yup.

Below is a story from (check it out! it's a great advocacy organization for family-friendly laws in the workplace, for healthcare, etc.)

The gist is that in PA (as well as many other states), discrimination on the basis of marital status and children is legal-- there is a bill circulating in the state to end hiring discrimination, but for now this story is common... here are excerpts (it's not so well written, but the actual content is interesting)


***********KIKI'S STORY: GETTING REAL IN PA***********

A single mother of two, Kiki moved to a small, one stoplight Pennsylvania town in 1994. She was truly on her own. Her husband had left several years earlier, when her children were two and four years old.... Kiki left Long Island City in search of a smaller city with a lower cost of living.

With this move, Kiki and the kids were alone in a new town that had just two supermarkets and several diners serving a variety of aromatically enticing pork, sauerkraut, and dumpling dishes. It was just the change she wanted. Kiki was able to buy a Dutch Colonial Cape Cod house at the top of a “small mountain” in the Poconos with nearly two acres of land for a fraction of the price of her old house. It seemed ideal, until she started looking for a job to support her family.

On a hot, humid August day, at an interview for a legal secretary position in a one-story brick building, Kiki sat down in a hard wooden chair to face a middle-aged attorney... “The first question the attorney asked me when I came in for the interview was, ‘Are you married?’ The second was, ‘Do you have children?’”

It was the eleventh job interview in which she’d been asked the very same questions since moving to Pennsylvania. After answering eleven times that she wasn’t married, and that yes indeed, she was a mother of two, Kiki began to understand why her job search was taking so long.

She decided to address the issue head on this time, “I asked him how those questions were relevant to the job, and he said my hourly wage would be determined by my marital and motherhood status.” Kiki then asked the next obvious question: “How do you figure out an hourly wage based on these questions?”

His response was as candid as it was horrifying, “He said if you don’t have a husband and have children, then I pay less per hour because I have to pay benefits for the entire family.” The attorney noted that a married woman’s husband usually had health insurance to cover the kids, and since Kiki didn’t have a husband, he was very clear that he “didn’t want to get stuck with the bill for my children’s health coverage.”

...It was the first time Kiki pushed for an explanation, and she was appalled by the answer. “I said to him, ‘You mean to tell me that if I am doing the exact same work, typing the same exact subpoena as a coworker, you’re going to pay me less because I have no husband and have kids?’ And he very smugly told me, ‘Yes, absolutely.’”

He couldn’t do that, it was illegal, Kiki wondered, wasn’t it? The attorney countered that it was perfectly legal—and as an attorney, he ought to know. He invited Kiki to check out the law herself and then ushered her out the door (without a job, of course).

She found out that the lawyer was right. The questions were legal, as was paying a single mother less than other applicants.

Pennsylvania, like scores of states, does not have state employment laws that protect mothers.

The sad truth is that Kiki isn’t struggling alone. Recent Cornell University research by Dr. Shelley Correll confirmed what many American women are finding: Mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers who have the same résumé, experience, and qualifications; and mothers are offered significantly lower starting pay (study participants offered non-mothers an average of $11,000 more than mothers) for the same job as equally qualified non-mothers.

The “maternal wall” is a reality we must address if we value both fair treatment in the workplace and the contributions working mothers make to our economy.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Rape Allegations Against Duke Lacrosse Players

It's been awhile since we've blogged about the rape case brought against three Duke lacrosse players in March, so I tried to collect a few news links for some quick updates. The case has been moving slowly, complicated by (among other things) accusations against the district attorney, Mike Nifong, that he has not fully disclosed his evidence and the incohesive statements given by Kim Roberts, the woman who worked the athletes' party alongside the accuser. DNA tests have been inconclusive.
From USAToday: Duke lacrosse players thought DNA tests would end rape case Duke rape case D.A. faces big questions

A quote from David Evans, 23 (one of the three men indicted on the rape charges), that appeared in several recent news articles:
"I was naive, I was young, I was sheltered," Evans said. "And I made a terrible judgment. In five months I've learned more than I did in 22 years about life."
Makes you wonder what he was learning in the first 22 years of his life.

A few editorial comments:
Michael Lewis: The Duke 'Rape' Case in Black and White
Page Rockwell: Accused Duke players go on "60 Minutes"


Wednesday, October 18, 2006



We've gotten complacent. Think that violence against women is a bad thing? You're right. I would venture to say that most of us agree that violence against women isn't good for our society--our women, our men, our everyone. But do we really pay attention to it? Do we really cry out when there is violence against women?
How many of us heard about the school shootings in Pennsylvania, where the attacker specifically allowed the boys to go free, keeping girls in the classroom with the intent to sexually assault and kill them—but didn't think about it in a gendered context? That is, how many of us read that news story, but didn't think "violence against women"?

On the other hand, maybe the problem is that we did think, "violence against women...again."

Why does the storyline seem normal to us? Crazy man goes into Amish school with a gun, lets the boys leave but keeps the girls there so that he can rape them. Seems obvious. If he's crazy and he has a gun, he's going to kill someone...and if he is crazy and has plans for sexual assault, he's going to keep the girls around.

Seems like a logical sequence. There's the problem.

Read Bob Herbert's thoughts on this.


Monday, October 16, 2006


Fight the System

A recent conversation made me question the way I think about feminist societal change. What is the best way to bring about change? What is the most ethical? Do these two necessarily coincide?
Let me explain:
As a feminist, should I work within the current system—that is, go along with whatever I need to, brush aside my objections to whatever the status quo is and do my damndest to achieve a higher position of power—in order to catalyze change? Or do I reject the status quo and instead attempt to create a new system from scratch: one that tears down the current markers of achievement and creates alternate pathways to power? Is the second option even viable if you are not already in a position of power?
"Working within the system" could involve all sorts of things: exploiting any advantages women do get in the workplace (i.e., if flirting helps you get somewhere, go for it!), following Carly Fiorina's model (gritting your teeth through business meetings at strip clubs), and generally actively allowing 'the system' to continue unabated until you garner enough clout to truly make change...What I fear is that once you get high enough in that chain, any impetus you had to make change will be gone. You will be too comfortable, losing sight of the inherent oppression that the 'system' creates.
"Fighting the sytem" constitutes an active attempt to reform the system before you even enter (although you could argue that we're all already in that system by virtue of being alive), refusing to accept the norms that structure the system, believing that society systematically exploits groups of people (including, but not limited to, women) and actively seeking to avoid being an agent in that exploitation.

Are these two approaches too simplistic? Too complicated? Unrealistic?


Thursday, October 12, 2006


Cooking With Feminists

Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda on the Colbert Report! This clip is absolutely hilarious—plus, Steniem and Fonda manage to throw in a few good points about feminism. A must-see.

An excerpt:
Colbert: Gloria, if you'll grab some of those McIntosh apples and explain to me, what is the state of American feminism?
Steinem: (laughs) Well, it's sort of like this apple. It's extremely healthy, full of vitamins, meant for everyone, transforms everybody's life and one a day and you'll keep the revolution away!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The Rise and Fall of Carly Fiorina

Maureen Dowd wrote an interesting op-ed for the New York Times today about Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Fiorina's new memoir, Tough Choices, recounts her time at Hewlett-Packard, from her unprecedented corporate ascent to her subsequent ousting from the company. I haven't read the book, but the quotes Dowd uses certainly provide an interesting glimpse into the lives of corporate women. I was taken aback by the scenes Fiorina describes—but I am also very interested and optimistic about the new theories on the complementary leadership skills of men and women (check out the part of the article about the new additions to the Columbia business school curriculum).

"How Carly Lost Her Gender Groove (And Will She Get It Back?)" by Maureen Dowd (The New York Times), October 11, 2006

Carly Fiorina prided herself on being adept at succeeding in a man's world without whining about sexism.

In her new memoir, ''Tough Choices,'' the expelled C.E.O. of Hewlett-Packard -- the first female head of a Fortune 20 company -- describes how she insisted on going along to a business meeting at a Washington strip club when she started out as an ambitious young woman at AT&T.

''I was scared to death,'' she writes, adding that she wore her most conservative dress-for-success business suit and little bow tie, carried her briefcase like ''a shield of honor,'' and repeated the mantra, ''I am a professional woman,'' even when her cabdriver asked her if she was the new act for the club, where babes in see-through negligees danced on tables.

''In a show of empathy that brings tears to my eyes still,'' she recounts, ''each woman who approached the table would look the situation over and say: 'Sorry, gentlemen. Not till the lady leaves.' ''

On her first day at HP, she proclaimed, ''The glass ceiling doesn't exist.'' But she now concedes that the glass trapdoor might.

''I think somehow men understand other men's need for respect differently than they understand it for a woman,'' Ms. Fiorina told Lesley Stahl on ''60 Minutes.''

The male-dominated board's handling of her exit was ''heartless in some ways and disrespectful in other ways,'' she said. ''Maybe they took great pleasure in seeing me beat up publicly for weeks and weeks.''

Other controlling blondes, like Hillary Clinton, Martha Stewart and Tina Brown, were slapped back after great success (in a trend that The Times's Alessandra Stanley dubbed blondenfreude), and Ms. Fiorina now thinks she was victimized by gender.

''In the chat rooms around Silicon Valley, from the time I arrived until long after I left HP, I was routinely referred to as either a 'bimbo' or a 'bitch,' she writes. ''Too soft or too hard, and presumptuous, besides.'' She adds: ''I watched with interest as male C.E.O.'s fired people and were hailed as 'decisive.' I was labeled 'vindictive.''

She reels off things that offended her: The editor of Business Week asked her if she was wearing an Armani suit. She felt adjectives such as ''flashy,'' ''glamorous,'' and ''diamond studded'' were meant to make her seem superficial. (Who doesn't like being called glamorous?) Stories referred to her by her first name. There was ''painful commentary'' that she'd chosen not to have children because she was ''too ambitious.''

''When I finally reached the top, after striving my entire career to be judged by results and accomplishments,'' she concludes, ''the coverage of my gender, my appearance and the perceptions of my personality would vastly outweigh anything else.''

One of her foes was Tom Perkins, the 74-year-old rich venture capitalist on the HP board who also tangled with Patricia Dunn, the former board chairwoman. Being married to the romance novelist Danielle Steel and writing his own steamy novel, ''Sex and the Single Zillionaire,'' did not improve Mr. Perkins's skills in dealing with women, it seems.

With several of the few high-profile women at the top tanking, it's interesting to note that Columbia Business School has introduced a new program that teaches the importance of a more empathetic and sensitive leadership style in globalized business, as opposed to the command-and-control style that has dominated the White House and Pentagon for, lo, these many messed up years.

Students learn how to read facial expressions, body language and posture, and get coaching on their brain's ''mirror neurons'' -- how what they're thinking and feeling can affect others.

''This less autocratic leadership style draws on capabilities in which women are as good as men,'' says Michael Morris, a professor of psychology and management who is running the business school's new program.

Daniel Goleman, whose new book ''Social Intelligence'' is being taught in the program, points out that ''while women are, in general, better at reading emotions, men tend to be better at managing them during a crisis. Women tend to be more sophisticated in reading social interactions but also tend to ruminate more when things go wrong.''

And that can lead to score-settling memoirs -- Ms. Fiorina fillets both her male tormentors on the ''dysfunctional'' board and Ms. Dunn -- and to the sort of awful judgment and sneaky behavior that Ms. Dunn exhibited.

Neenu Sharma, an M.B.A. student in the new Columbia program, says the moral of the story is that leadership works best with both sexes involved. ''You need the woman there to know what's actually going on, but you need the man there to deal with the critical emotions at the time.''

Emergency Contraception Around the World

In Septmember, Chile began distributing emergency contraceptive pills, FREE OF CHARGE, to teens: How Chile Handles the Morning After

Michelle Bachelet on the state's responsibility to prevent unwanted pregnancies:
"There are roles that the family undertakes and which no one can replace...But naturally the state has another role to fulfill, and that is to offer a range of alternatives, which people can choose between — according to their own family values and principles."

Plan B

For those of you who haven't heard, on August 24 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (finally) approved the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B for sale WITHOUT PRESCRIPTION to men and women over age 18. Previously, the pill had been available only with a prescription. Plan B—also known as the "morning after pill"—is a type of birth control that you can take to prevent pregnancy AFTER sex.

The Basics:
The phrase "Plan B" is the brand name for emergency contraception (EC) in the U.S. The pill itself contains the same hormone found in regular birth control pills (progestin).
Plan B can be taken up to five days after intercourse, but is more effective the sooner a woman uses it; it can reduce her chances of pregnancy by 75-90%.
Plan B does not protect against STDs.
Plan B is NOT the same as RU-486. It is NOT an abortion pill; Plan B will not work if a woman is already pregnant.

The makers of Plan B have said that it will be available over-the-counter by the end of 2006, but they have not set an exact date; as of now, women can receive Plan B with a prescription from their doctor or (in Massachusetts) through a specially trained pharmacist.

On Men & EC:
Last week, a representative from the Massachusetts EC network came to Tufts and held an informal workshop on EC (what it is, where to get it, etc). The workshop drew twentyish women but only ONE man (a Daily reporter, at that!). Given that birth control affects both men AND women, why aren't men on campus interested in learning about Plan B? Do they know that in the future, they'll be able to purchase Plan B for their girlfriend/lover/one night stand?

The Politics of Plan B:
In 2003, the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory and Nonprescription Drugs Panels voted 23-4 to recommend over-the-counter status for Plan B, yet it took THREE YEARS of political meandering to get Plan B fully approved as an over-the-counter medication; even with this approval, Plan B only available over-the-counter to women and men 18 years of age or older. Teen girls still need a prescription—even though Plan B is just as safe and effective for them as any woman over 18! Further, the age restriction means that 18+ women who want Plan B have to ask for it at the pharmacy counter (instead of grabbing it from an aisle, as you do with condoms) and show ID to prove that they are over 18.

Monday, October 02, 2006



I'd like to welcome you all back to GADFLIES. Amanda and I, as co-chairs of Tufts Feminist Alliance, would love to encourage all of you to start reading regularly-- we have a great, beautiful, talented blogmaster (who knows how to do this type of thing, because I fall short) who's going to keep you guys updated on everything that's going on, from international to campus issues. And! If you want to join in on the effort, and join the voice of TFA, feel free (email me at if you're interested). Also feel free to use your/make a blog username and contribute (or contribute anonymously)! We want to hear what all of you have to say.

Browse through past entries and you'll see that responses have ranged from agreement to appall to ambivalence. Always feel welcome to throw in your knowledge, your opinions, and your feelings.

The blog has some exciting things in store for you this year-- next on the agenda is a forum on Emergency Contraception, stay tuned.

At the TFA meeting last week, we decided that our goal for the year was to really BE the women we want to see in the world (along with being the change we wish to see, thanks Gandhi).

So here's to a year of being our own best role models, whatever that means to you.