Friday, October 02, 2009

Promote Healthy Life-Long Lifestyles: Top 10 Tips

Last night I learned what the acronym BPA (Bisphenol A, a chemical compound commonly found in plastic drink and food containers) means. I also found out that Himalayan rocks combat negative computer-generated ions! These are just a few of the facts I learned during the "Women’s Preventative Health Panel: Women Who Health" conference sponsored by the Younger Women’s Task Force-New Jersey Chapter.

Speakers included Joan Denzer, Sierra Club; Founder Kathy Morris, Inner Journeys; Program Director Sheila Quarles, Inner Journeys; Certified Personal Trainer Gretchen Vogel; and YWTF-NJ Board Member and Field Director Jackie Cornell-Bechelli, Planned Parenthood.

We discussed ways to ensure and promote healthy lifestyles through education and awareness. The strategies that the presenters shared to promote healthy life-long lifestyles were relevant, useful, and attainable. Here are my top 10 tips, which I plan to incorporate into my daily life:

1. Use glass bottles instead of plastic bottles to avoid BPA.

2. Eat the bigger-sized fish sparingly (if at all) to avoid high levels of mercury (the bigger the fish the more mercury it contains).

3. Visit Shopper's Guide to Pesticides and What's On My Food? to learn which foods contain the most pesticides.

4. Eat organic foods and fruits whenever possible (less pesticides and synthetic chemicals).

5. Stop worrying about weight and the numbers on the scale and instead strive for a body fat of 22% (body fat below 29% is average; 22% is optimal).

6. Reduce intakes of white flour, sugar, and rice (low nutrients, high glycemic foods).

7. Stay hydrated to stay healthy (healthier heart, skin, and water's an appetite suppressant - sometimes you think you're hungry but you're really thirsty) by drinking ½ my body weight in ounces daily.

8. Exercise more effectively: three times a week strength training and three times a week movement/cardio.

9. Get massages regularly. Massages are not a luxury, but a necessity.

10. Research and use natural remedies to alleviate stress and anxiety (burning lavender oil eases stress and reduces anxiety).

Hope you find these strategies just as useful as I did!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

MURDER is Murder

I am sure that I am not the only one who is still saddened and angry about the murder of Dr. Tiller. As a feminist, I feel morally obligated to support the men and women who are in the position of risking their lives to provide women with safe, legal medical procedures.

Sue Wicklund, who wrote This Common Secret about her experiences as an abortion provider, is one of the few doctors providing abortions in western states (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho). Over the many years of her practice, she has been harassed and threatened. When she looked into adding more security precautions to her clinic last month, she realized it would take her six months to raise the needed funds. You can shorten that period of time if you donate here.

I am sure there are other clinics that we can support--Sue is one of my heroes, but if you have another one who needs our help, please list them in the comments.

When the religious fanatics don't have one of their own in office, they will go to extreme lengths to "protect the rights" of a fetus. When I was a teenager (in the mid-90s--Clinton years), I wanted to volunteer at the local abortion clinic and my mom supported me--until she heard the words "bulletproof vest." With pro-choice supporters in top levels of our federal government, I’m not scared of losing my rights--I'm scared that more doctors will lose their lives.

Rebecca Andruszka is Director of Communications at Younger Women’s Task Force—NYC Metro Chapter. This post represents her personal view and opinion, which is not necessarily endorsed by YWTF or its affiliates.

Cross posted at Feministing Community

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sexing up Children's Movies

I just came back from watching Bedtime Stories. While I thought the movie was okay overall, it really annoyed me that the female character Adam Sandler attempts to save in all of his fantasy stories was a Barbie-doll type blonde heiress who looks young enough to be his daughter. Her sole purpose seemed to be to appear in every scene in an extremely sexy outfit in slow motion for male satisfaction. This might not have struck me as surprising if it weren't for the fact that this was a children's movie and they could have still kept her character virtually the same (pretty, princess type) without the overt sexualization. It's as if the men taking their children/nieces/nephews to the movie, need some type of reward. It's telling that there's no male equivalent. In fact, all of the male characters are buffoons (but they all get the pretty women). At the end of the film, Sandler amazingly discovers that the slightly older, bookish brunnette type is the "fairest of them all."

What also annoyed me about this (besides the fact that the whole idea centered around who was prettiest even though what was considered pretty might have changed a tiny bit) was that it gave into the sexy, dumb blonde vixen versus the nice, smart, pretty-but-not-very-sexy brunette dichotomy. It reminded me of when I first saw Beauty and the Beast as a kid. The three blondes were overtly sexy but dumb and shallow while Belle was modest but smart and kind. And the effects aren't lost on children. The two girls I took (one seven, the other ten) were arguing after the movie over who could "be" the pretty, blonde girl, with the seven year old brunette remarking that she's was actually blonde initially but her hair was dyed in the womb. Neither cared much about anything except the fact that one was more fashionable, "prettier" and therefore cooler. This in comparison with the seven year old boy in the film calling his fourth grade crush "hot" and the way the girls I work with constantly discuss the levels of prettiness of every female possible while totally ignoring the physical appearance of all males, makes me want to bang my head against a wall. A children's film should be about entertaining children, not giving men erections or depicting women in limited ways that will begin psychologically damaging them before they hit puberty.

Francesca Casamento is an active member of Younger Women's Taskforce (NYC Metro Chapter).

Doubt and Gender

Doubt is an excellent film that portrays complex characters handeling a crisis during a time of change in one of the most male-dominated, sexist institutions in history--the Catholic Church. This film takes place during the 1960s when liberal Catholics were making progress by creating a Church that was modern in its outlook. The film portrays the different ways men and women use their power in the Church and how a conflict between a man and woman is resolved with the imbalance of power.

The priest, Father Flynn, is the character who thinks the Church needs to be more open and welcoming. The priest is the one who tries to make the sermons relevant to modern life and it is he who avoids simplistic black and white views of morality and faith. The priest is the only one who goes out of his way to build a relationship with the first black boy in school (who is gay).

The priest protects the young man from being displaced as an altar boy when he is caught drinking wine, an act of kindness and forgiveness that the tradition-favoring Sister Aloysius Beauvier does not find acceptable. The priest wants to redefine the roles of the clergy in the community and attempts to bridge the gap between the secular, modern world and the Catholic faith community. The priest passionately advocates for a church that is built on a love for humanity over one that sees itself primarily as an institution about control and discipline.

Father Flynn's demeanor and methods give credibility to the idea that men in power can be kind and understanding and still be effective leaders. He also defies stereotypical behavior for men and is not at all apologetic for it. Sister Beuvier, and others, thinks it is strange that he keeps his nails long (because it is "womanly") and for keeping pastel-colored flowers in his bible. There is definitely a fear of homosexuality present, which to some automatically implies pedophilia.

Most of his personality traits challenge the rigid way we think about gender; tellingly, this is one of the reasons he is accused of abusing the young boy. And he admirably encourages the young nun to not stop caring so much for her students, even though others may misinterpret things. But the priest is no feminist. It is he who takes the nun's seat in HER office when she invites him to a meeting to interrogate him. And he is the one who chastises her for going against the Church hierarchy by contacting a fellow nun in his previous parish instead of the parish's priest.

The movie also depicts the ways women use their roles in the Church and it is interesting to note how this could influence society's perception of women in positions of power. My father often rehashes the ways in which the nuns in his Catholic school in the 1960s would use humiliation in front of peers as a method of controlling students. Great films like The Magdalene Sisters showcase the way many nuns unfairly treated those they were given control of, often resorting to all kinds of abuse and manipulation. It is easy to stereotype them, and for some, to draw conclusions about what their behavior means about giving any power to women in general. Doubt effectively avoided playing into that stereotype by having different sisters with different personalities.

Meryl Streep gives a phenomenal performance playing an authoritarian nun who values order and tradition while simultaneously defying the Church hierarchy by independently investigating her suspicions of a priest abusing power. And while one may find flaws with Streep's unflinching character, she is still portrayed as a strong woman who isn't afraid to follow her convictions to the right thing and protect innocent children from what she perceives to be a threat.

Her strong will may ultimately be a weakness, but it is a trait that is most often associated positively with powerful men and she never attempts to abuse that power. However, it is important to question whether or not she would have been less hell-bent on being one hundred percent sure of her suspicions and may have been open to a more effective approach to dealing with every one involved in the scandal if she had more official power and room for maneuvering to begin with. She knowingly makes a comment in the beginning that she is unable to do things another way because she is a woman and will not be taken seriously.

For the vast majority of the movie she does not even admit to having the smallest doubt about what she believes because she knows that any sing of supposed weakness on her part would be used to discredit her all together. Father Flynn delivers the powerful sermon in which he declares that doubt is as strong of a bond with the divine as unflinching faith is. He is also continuously willing to take more risks with his clerical functions but his sex has given him the freedom to do so, while Beuvier must be careful out of necessity. One leaves the theatre wondering how things may change if women are given more power in the Church and society overall. Although the film was set in the 1960s, the issues it presents regarding gender and institutional power is just as relevant today as it was over forty years ago.

Francesca Casamento is an active member of Younger Women's Taskforce (NYC Metro Chapter).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Younger Women’s Task Force-NYC Metro Chapter hosts monthly book club meetings. See the end of this post for more information.

Let’s begin with some statistics and facts:

  • After implementing changes in their sexual education programs (removing abstinence and supporting contraception), Sweden managed to significantly reduce their teenage birthrate. (They now have half the teen abortion rate that that of the United States) (80-81).

  • The Netherlands reduced their teenage birthrate by 72% using similar methods to Sweden. They also maintain the lowest teenage abortion rates in the industrialized world (80).

  • In a 2001 survey conducted by UNICEF, the United States had the highest number of teenage pregnancy compared to the rest of the industrialized world (60% higher than the rate in the United Kingdom, which placed second) (79).

Summary: The United States, a country that is and has been on the forefront of so much progress and improvement the past few decades, is profoundly terrible at sexual education. The reason for this is the premise for Cristina Page’s book, How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America.

In it, she analyzes the pro-life movement and brings to light much of the rhetoric that they use to further their agenda. And what exactly is their agenda? Well, anti-abortion, of course! Scratch under the surface a bit, and you will see differently. As Page writes, “In recent years, [the pro-life movement] has turned itself into the anti-birth control movement – and indeed, the antisex movement-whether it avows it or not” (xii). But that really isn’t logical at all, is it? Why, or more importantly how, could a movement against abortion also be against birth control, something that is an extremely successful method of preventing abortions? The answer is because the pro-life movement is ultimately against our modern day sex lives: “Indeed to be pro-life today means to be inside a movement that finds fault with every kind of birth control, from the Pill…to the condom…To be pro-life means to favor abstinence until marriage, in part because they believe that sex is supposed to be for one purpose only: to procreate” (3).

It is the small elite of the pro-life movement that is furthering this agenda, and it is incredibly astounding how much influence they have exerted in this country thus far. Page recounts the chain of events in 2004 that resulted in the Bush Administration pulling funding for an essential UN program called UNFPA. This program provides “life-saving interventions in the reproductive field: delivering babies, creating healthy births…dispensing emergency contraception to women who have been raped during military conflicts” and much more to the people in many third world countries (124). Also important to note, this organization does not perform abortions. However, one pro-life group, Population Research Institute, took up issue with the emergency contraception UNFPA provides, and through fact-spinning, rhetoric, and sympathy from other pro-life lawmakers in Washington, they were able to see President Bush pull the plug on United State funding for UNFPA. This made “the United States the only donor country to deny funding to UNFPA for non-budgetary reasons” (128). Yet another reason why the world has not been too thrilled with America all these years.

Additionally, the reason Plan B took so long to become available over-the-counter was because of well-placed pro-lifers within the Reproductive Health Drugs Committee, a division of the FDA, who stalled the approval process with objections that ignored science and that were comprised of fabricated consequences. The list of these types of incidents goes on and on.

But we are now about to begin a new age in the United States, an age that once again involves a pro-choice president. Cristina Page herself has said that had McCain won, we would most certainly be preparing for an overturn of the keystone that our modern day women’s reproductive rights rest on: Roe v. Wade. Luckily, that bleak future is not so near anymore, but that still does not mean we can sit back and relax. There is still much more work to be done on this front. If this book has taught me anything, it is how much goes on behind the scenes in Washington, how much we as citizens do have at stake, and thus, how important it is to be active, involved, and educated.

To get more involved in the pro-choice movement, please visit:
Naral Pro-Choice America:
Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
The Pro-Choice Public Education Project:

For more information about the book and Cristina Page:
Birth Control Watch and Cristina Page’s Blog:

Pro-Choice Movement:

YWTF-NYC’s December book club meeting will be feature Birds of America by Lorrie Moore. Check out our Meetup site for more info on upcoming meetings.

Jessica Perl is an active member of YWTF-NYC.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Stand Up For DC Women!

By Shannon Lynberg

Each year an estimated 1,735 women living in D.C. will be raped (U.S. Census Bureau's 2006 American Community Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and according to the National Institute of Justice, 1 in 5 women will be raped during their lifetime. Thus, more than 61,000 of the 300,000 women living in D.C. will likely experience rape at some time during their lives.

The only person who can prevent a rape is the perpetrator. Yet, it is often the victim, usually a woman, who receives the blame for her sexual assault. Sexual assault victims are re-victimized when they are denied proper treatment and the justice they deserve.

In Washington, D.C. and across the United States rape victims have been reporting that they have been ignored by law enforcement officials, turned away by hospitals and denied the forensic medical exams (rape kits). These essential steps are required to confirm that a sexual assault took place and subsequently press charges against the attacker.

Due to systemic problems concerning how sexual assaults are handled and lack of media attention, it is impossible to know just how many women have not received the support and resources they deserve.

Beginning in 2009, new legislation will go into effect that will better protect the rights of sexual assault victims. However, many women are unaware of these laws. In an attempt to fight these injustices, YWTF created Stand Up for DC Women!

It is our hope that through this campaign, YWTF will educate the community on the legislation that protects the rights of sexual assault victims as well as what to do if your rights are denied.

Through collaborative partnerships and educational outreach, Stand Up for DC Women! will raise awareness about injustices in the treatment of sexual assault victims and ensure that they receive adequate care.

In January 2009, YWTF will begin distributing bi-lingual wallet sized cards that will explain the new legislation, victims' rights and what to do if your rights are denied. This information will also be made available on our website at

This is a nationwide problem and upon successful completion in D.C. , the Stand Up for DC Women! model will be implemented in communities across the U.S.

If you are interested in learning more about Stand Up For DC Women!, email

Friday, November 21, 2008

This is an article on MSNBC on 11.21.08. An article like this sooo disturbing on so many levels. I feel like it produces outrage, sadness, disbelief and just a general sense of rage. In case you haven't read it, the article details the case of man who had a case brought against him by over 10 women claiming he date raped them. The first time he was tryed it was for 3 cases and he was acquitted and the second time he was tryed was for all 10 and he was basically given a slap on the wrist. There were a lot of factors and the article is actually great becuase they have experts talk about how juries often don't sympathize with rape victims and why. Though the article is disturbing, I am so glad they posted it. I was almost surprised that they chose to. It is just so disturbing to know that it is so easy for men to get away with a crime like date rape and that we are still today fighting so hard to be taken seriously after we are victimized. I had a lot of reaction to the article after putting it up in my gmail box and on Facebook, one male friend even said he wanted to find the guy and sodomize him and see how they guy took it.

Rape is I believe now considered a war crime when it's purpotrated against hundreds or thousands, but if it is just against a few women then it is considered some kind of joke. The defense (sickening I know that human beings could event defend this man's behavior) basically used the argument that he is a "playboy" and because they were at restaurants with alcohol it becuame all about the women wanting to go out and get drunk. Although I know this isn't an uncommon story, it is still horrifying, especially when you learn that the man had over 50 women listed in a "Calender of Women" on his computer. It is simply outrageous that these women were treated so poorly and that a man was basically treated as an innocent because he was considered a man with a raging libido. You can of course draw your own conclusions, but this was simply too upsetting for me to read and forget about. I tried to post it everywhere I could. I can only hope that when people read it they are more sympathetic to the cases of rape vicitms.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Effective Networking Tips from Missy Quinn

Missy Quinn, Director of Recruitment for Contemporary Staffing Solutions, spoke at the October YWTF Philly networking panel. She shared her wealth of expertise with those in attendance. Among the key tips she offered were:

1. Begin with a plan...Why are you attending?

2. Have your 30 second commercial prepared about yourself/your business. Make sure you've practiced so you come off confident.

3. Bring your business cards. Nothing should be crossed off on your card.

4. Wear a watch so you can keep track of time. Get what you can and the move on.

5. Try to get a list of the people who will be attending, then make a plan to meet them. Make sure you know something about their company/business.

6. Pass leads first. If you do, you will have it come back to you tenfold.

7. Name tags should be worn on the right side of your suit jacket so they're easily read when you shake hands.

8. Wear a suit jacket with two pockets or carry a business card case with two sections. Put their cards in the left pocket and your own cards in the right pocket.

9. Bring a small hand bag with a pen to give/get referrals.

10. If you go with a co-worker, spread out so you'll be able to make more contacts.

11. Make sure you keep your contact list updated.

12. Follow up by e-mail, phone, interest, coffee or lunch and have fun!