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!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

National Protest Against the Passage of Proposition 8

On Saturday, November 15th, progressive folks of all sexual orientations across the U.S. will be organizing locally at their respective city halls.  In excess of 250,00 people have already committed to participate in these protests across the country.  The arrangements for the D.C. protest are as follows:

The rally in the District of Colombia will start at 1:30 PM EST at the Capitol Reflecting Pool, on the eastern edge of the National Mall between 3rd and 1st Streets. We will tally there before proceeding up Constitution Avenue in the direction of the White House, and the event will conclude at the northeast corner of Lafayette Square.
For more info, email local organizer The current estimated attendance for this event is 2,000 or more protesters.

- Nikki

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

To Be or Not to Be...Yourself

By: Erika Kelley

Pink’s new song, “So What,” where she says she’s still a rock star, has infiltrated the air waves and has me hooked on its singsongy intro and exorbitant amounts of energy. As I sang the lyrics in the car on my way home the other day, I sat back and tried to remember exactly when did she become a rock star? If my memory serves me correctly, she initially exploded on the scene as an R&B/Pop artist with the release of her album, Can’t Take Me Home. But, with her follow-up effort, M!ssundaztood, she changed her style, image, and sound. “Don’t Let Me Get Me,” shed some light on reasons behind her initial image: manufactured. Today, she’s an entirely different artist, with control of her career, devoid of feelings of puppetry.

I can’t help but ask myself why did Pink feel she had to succumb to her producers’ whims and demands in the first place…and as others might call it: sell out? In an article by Robert Hillburn, “Her Colors Don’t Run,” he explains that countless young pop stars share Pink’s feelings of puppetry in an age when record companies carefully shape their images and big-name producers make the creative decisions for them. Most go along because they are more interested in being stars than artists. Hillburn quotes Pink, “They know people are so hungry for stardom that they’ll just follow the record industry game. I know because I was ready to do anything when I started out.”

I found myself wondering is this the norm for females? Have I ever “sold out”…even temporarily? Not me. I’m too strong-willed and possess strong convictions. Well…there was that one time…I mean, there were those two times a few years back…

As I prepared for a nerve-racking interview, I struggled with what to wear. I decided to wear my hair in a tight bun complemented by glasses and simple jewelry. I fashioned a black pants suit with a white shirt and black heels. I distinctly remember feeling that this style of dress wasn’t reflective of my personality or fashion sense. However, I dressed this way because I was told it was “professional” and would help land me the position. Surely enough, management offered me the position. Once I was hired, I immediately abandoned the “interview look,” and opted for my typical “Erika look,” which generally consisted of the following:

A-line knee-length skirts with tights;
knee high-boots or 2-3 inch heels;
blazers matched with brightly-colored shirts;
spiral curls or sleek, straight hair; and
accessories, accessories, accessories (no glasses – only wear them when I’m driving).

Years later, I resorted to the same tactics to secure my current position. Like Pink, I had one goal in mind and resorted to compromising my style of dress and actually misleading the interview panel into thinking I was someone else (more conservative and serious versus contemporary and effervescent). However, once I got my foot in the door, I transformed to what was more appealing to me.

Is this right or wrong or simply the way of the world, and do men encounter the same issues?

Monday, October 27, 2008

When God was a Woman

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

by Jessica Perl

I’m always proud to display the books I’m reading on the subway, particularly when they have provocative titles or covers. When God was a Woman was certainly no different; I imagined some people might be intrigued by this title. One day, I was standing in a crowded subway, holding on to the overhead bar. There was a woman sitting directly in front of me, and the cover of the book was practically in her face. I could see her eyeing the book and reading the blurb on the back. I immediately felt a rush of excitement – here’s the moment I live for! I’m inspiring someone to think differently, to see an alternative side to the predominant ideologies we are taught today. Just then, however, I noticed her shaking her head and glaring at the book with unmistakable disdain. I noticed she had a book in her hands as well. My gaze shifted downward to see what it was, and I could only chuckle when I did. It was the Bible.

Clearly, not everyone is open to the idea that before God and Jesus, many inhabitants of the Earth believed a being with breasts ruled the Heavens above. But honestly, why shouldn’t this idea be a shock to people? It’s not something highly publicized, this part of our history really isn’t fodder for any major motion pictures. In fact, it doesn’t even get much play time in high school social studies classes! And even if you go searching for more information on this topic, you’ll find, as Stone herself did, that not much has been written about the civilizations where women held the dominant positions. Additionally, the material that Stone was able to dredge up, she found much of it to have been written by male scholars who, more often than not, injected their religious and social biases into their findings. In response to one scholar’s research that provided a quick dismissal of the idea that skulls of animals were hunting trophies of a prehistoric tribe simply because they were found in the grave of a woman, Stone questions, “Might these authors be judging the inherent physical nature of women by the fragile, willowy ideals of today’s western fashions?” (Intro, xxi). (As this book was published in 1976, we can only hope more objective and valuable resources have since emerged.)

Despite efforts to minimize or erase it from the dominant discourse of our history, existence of female dominated civilizations cannot be denied. There have been numerous excavations of ancient temples and artifacts, as well as accounts of travelers passing through the regions way back when, that exist today to clue us in to the truth of the past. One account from a traveler describes how women, and only women, were involved in the public affairs of daily life – they held public office, fought wars, and engaged in trade. It was the men who were relegated to taking care of the children, the home, and other domestic efforts.

Stone gives a great overview of the violent and forced transition from the goddess-worshiping practices to the current male-dominated religions of today. Some of the events will really leave you horrified. In writing this book, though, Stone does not call for women of the world to rise up in arms and wage a war to take back what is rightfully ours. Rather, she states her purpose for women as this, “With [the understanding of these civilizations], we may be able to regard ourselves not as permanent helpers but as doers, not as decorative and convenient assistants to men but as responsible and competent individuals in our own right. The image of Eve is not our image of woman” (Intro, xxvi).

For anyone who wants to delve further into a more shielded facet of history, for anyone who wants to know what it was like when women were on top, When God was a Woman is a great place to start.

YWTF-NYC’s November book club meeting will be about Christina Page’s How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America. Check out our Meetup site for more info on upcoming meetings.

Jessica Perl is an active member of YWTF-NYC.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

For the Love of Cats

By: Erika Kelley

Women and cats. What do we have in common? It has to be something because women are frequently dubbed “catty.” I would like to think it’s because we’re:

· Protective -- like a mother cat is protective of her kittens;

· Teachers -- able to teach our children the way cats teach their kits -- to survive in the world, fix their own meals, share it (there's usually always room for one more in the heap), and to clean up afterwards;

· Able to live balanced lives -- like cats -- every day needs some down time for a stretch and a purr session and we understand that play time is valuable;

· Gardeners -- like cats, we realize that gardening is a great stress-reducer;

· Respectful -- like cats, we have respect for our elders; and

· Successful -- like cats, we’re able to climb to new heights!

No doubt about it, this is all true; however, we’ve been dubbed, “catty” for reasons more closely aligned with Marcia Ellet, J. Andy Murphy, and Terri Laforest’s book, “The Catty, Catty Ways of Women in the Workplace,” where they explore the way women treat one another in the workplace focusing on gossiping, backstabbing, manipulation, and other situations that cause the claws to come out and the fur to fly.

I would argue, however, that this common stereotype, that women are “catty,” is unfair, untrue, and an unfortunate generalization. Of course, we’ve all had our fair share of “catty” interactions. But in comparison to the number of kind and caring acts that we experience from women (family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers), I think it’s safe to say that "catty" behavior is few, far, and in between.

My thought: the negative interactions typically overshadow the positive. It’s like driving. No one really thinks about the number of polite drivers that adhere to the speed limit, allow us to merge with ease, etc. It’s the few drivers with road rage and the ones that don’t wave to us (to say thank you) when we allow them to get in front us that we remember.

Case and point…

I broke down on a major highway earlier this week. While sitting in the car, with the windows up, waiting for my husband to rescue me, I heard a woman yell: Oh (insert explicative) no! Better get to pushing! I found myself thinking: you “catty” chick! I’m sure if she found herself broken down on the highway, she wouldn’t appreciate someone barfing out trash to her under the most vulnerable of circumstances. I sent my husband and a few of my girlfriends a text message describing this incident.


I broke down on a major highway earlier this week. While sitting in the car, with the windows up, waiting for my husband to rescue me, a woman pulled up alongside of me and pointed to her cell phone and mouthed the words: are you okay? Do you have a cell phone? I couldn’t roll down my windows because the battery completely died; so, I held up my cell phone to her and smiled. She returned the smile, nodded, and continued on her way. Shortly thereafter, another woman passed by. I heard her yell: Oh (insert explicative) no! Better get to pushing!

As you noticed, there was no mention of the first incident in my text message to my husband or girlfriends. The kindness that I experienced from this female stranger was not out of the norm. In fact, the majority of female strangers with which I have interacted have been kind and respectful as opposed to rude and obnoxious like the woman on the highway. Yet, the negative woman on the highway completely overshadowed the kind gesture displayed by the other woman on the highway!

Shame on me for reinforcing this negative behavior and terms, like “catty,” that are used to impart negative attitudes towards women. What’s worse is that I’m not alone. Negative female stereotypes have been exploited and perpetrated in films (Mean Girls) and on TV (Gossip Girl). The mass media projects images of girls’ meanness and fighting that reinforces long-standing stereotypes of catty, untrustworthy, manipulative, and gossipy behavior.

But there is hope…we can all do our part to counter these stereotypes. I am convinced that positive action will counter negative images!

Supportive, caring, and loving women who I have grown to love and adore, surround me. So, I plan to constantly remind myself of these positive women as opposed to allowing the negative female interactions to consume me. I also plan to share more of these positive female relationships, instead of the negative, in hopes of slowly, but assuredly, changing negative female stereotypes into positive ones.

So, what will you do (or continue to do) to contribute towards countering negative female stereotyping?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hey Guys!

Although I hate to admit it I have not been a feminist my whole life, preferring an imagined life as a radical flower child. Not for any particular reason other than I was uneducated about the movement and did not take my first class until I was in college. *Quick side-note: this has made me passionate about bringing women’s issues education to K-12 institutions.* Before that life-changing course, feminism was something I knew about and although I always "wanted women’s rights," I never identified as a feminist. Needless to say, that has all changed.

When I think back on my non-feminist life, I see sexist instances that I ignored, or places I could have spoken out that will be forever out of my grasp to change – after all, they are in the past. Then I get e-mails like the one I received today from my college service fraternity and I am reminded that there are things I can fight to change now:

This e-newsletter is in addition to the communications you are already receiving from the Fraternity -- not a replacement. The brothers who receive this e-newsletter have an updated e-mail address on file with the National Office.” (emphasis mine)

Brother? Fraternity? How can I identify with something that completely ignores that my gender exists within the framework of the organization? I am not the only female within this organization; this e-mail comes from a community service group made up of both men and women. Attendance for women at universities is on the rise, and mine in particular had more women than men, but still we are labeled as FreshMEN during our first year.

Once you start looking into it these examples are all over the place: congressman, policeman, fireman, history, etc. A favorite of mine is the “you guys” statement that I have been known to get into arguments about, especially when it is said to a group of all women.

I understand why people tell me these are “just things we say,” but I truly believe that it is harmful to women’s issues to use sexist language. By using exclusionary language we undermine women’s power and significance in our daily lives and I would rather be seen as a complainer than stand by and let it happen.

*For more reading, please read the sexist language paper my Sociology Professor gave us on the first day: Why Sexist Language Matters

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Hello Everyone. I just wanted to introduce myself as the newest Younger Women's Task Force blogger. Originally from the midwest, I attended college in North Carolina and now live in Washington, D.C., that being said, I have had a range of feminist experiences (and thus opinions). I am exited to share thoughts with you and receive thoughts back and it is my hope to start more conversations on feminism in our daily lives. I look forward to being a part of this vibrant community and I will be posting in no time...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

These Heels are made for Working

By: Erika Kelley

A few months ago, I found myself in the mall again. This time, however, I was actually accompanying my husband. He was shopping for a pair of shoes. While he was perusing, I decided to do a little perusing, too. And guess what? I stumbled upon a pair of fierce Nine West high heel shoes. The first feature I noticed was the price: $9.99. The second element I noticed was the color: gold (gold matches with most of my earth-tone-colored clothes). The third detail I noticed was the heel: quite a bit higher than the heels I normally purchase (typically 3-4 inches). I glanced at the price again and then ran my fingers over the heels. $9.99 for a pair of gold Nine West shoes, who’s measuring the height of heels?

After purchasing our new shoes, we ventured home. I commenced my new-purchase-routine: matching new shoes with existing attire. I decided to try on a few outfits and parade around in my new shoes. Because the heels were so high, I decided I would match them with my extra-long Ann Taylor slacks -- pants I never bothered taking to the cleaners for hemming because most of my heels were high enough that the pants never brushed up against the floor.

The next day I headed off to work with my new fierce, gold, Nine West shoes. First stop, a quick visit to see my friend and co-worker. I strutted into her office and sang: Gooood Morrrnninnng. She smiled and gave me that, you-are-so-crazy-look. Crazy for my new shoes, I thought. She spotted them instantly and we took a few moments to admire them for the star-quality-appearance and for its I-have-a-family-and-lots-of-bills-affordable-price.

By lunch time, I realized I needed to take these shoes to the shoe repairman to get the heels shortened because my toes hurt! I ascertained something else: not everyone appreciated the shoes as much as my friend and me. While assembling folders for our training the following day, a few of my co-workers (four females and one male) decided to share their opinions about my shoes. There were no ooohhhs and ahhhs and no talks of fierceness. Instead, a female co-worker jokingly asked where was my pole. It took me a second to realize that she was insinuating that I was a stripper because I had on high heels (and extra-long Ann Taylor slacks). A few of my other co-workers agreed that my shoes were extremely high and questioned me about the height. I admitted I wasn’t too sure and stated I felt I was dressed appropriately. To that riposte, the co-worker that made the stripper comment, asked her friend to get a ruler. Her friend obeyed and they fittingly measured the height of my heels. In unison, they revealed the height to the group: 4 ¾ inches.

After that revealing conversation with my co-workers, I found myself pondering over the appropriateness of shoes in the workplace.

I did some research and learned that heels that are between 2 ¾ and 4 inches are most appropriate for the workplace (2-3 inches for work environments with strict dress codes). In an article by Desiree Stimpert, “Work Shoes with High Heels,” she provided a list of appropriate and stylish shoes, acceptable for the workplace. Interestingly enough, in addition to Steve Madden, Calvin Kline, and Ralph Lauren, Nine West made the cut.

What’s also astonishing is that experts have found that high heels tone women’s legs and strengthen pelvic muscles. In tests, Dr. Maria Cerruto, of the University of Verona, Italy, discovered, ‘‘Wearing heels during daily activity may reduce the need for the pelvic floor exercises necessary to keep that part of a woman’s anatomy toned and elastic.’’ Enough said.

I eventually had my gold Nine West shoes shortened to about 4 ¼ inches (much better for my toes!). But, like the women polled in the article “Heel Thyself,” by Jennifer Memolo, I continue to wear my heels daily (and change into flip flops or sneakers when walking to the parking lot and driving) and advocate: here’s to maintaining “professional chicness” in the workplace, toned legs, and strengthened pelvic muslces!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jane Sexes It Up: Real Live Nude Feminists

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

Many people see a contradiction between feminism and sexual desire. Even feminists sometime have trouble harmonizing their personal sexuality with their political values. The authors of Jane Sexes It Up are smack in the middle of this contradiction, trying to sort out what it means to be a woman, a feminist, an academic, and a sexual being. However, the debate about feminism, sex work, and public sexuality has changed drastically in the past few years.

We are now living in what Ariel Levy calls “raunch culture,” in which feminist sexual desire is rarely represented. Women of all ages are trying to express themselves sexually in a split culture where you are either making out with your girlfriend for the Girls Gone Wild camera or pledging your virginity to daddy. Feminist debates have raged for decades about the possibility of feminist sex work, but today, “reality” sex workers are paid in t-shirts and “(over)exposure,” not hard cash. They have no say in the image they present, and are edited to fit into misogynist roles. There might be young women who are positively exploring their sexuality on Girls Gone Wild, but (to state the obvious) it is not a safe space where women can assert themselves or ask for a share of the profits.

You may not always agree with the authors of Jane Sexes It Up, but there are no whores (even when there are sex workers) and no virgins. The authors are much more nuanced in their analysis of women’s—and men’s—sexuality and the possibilities of a feminist sexuality for both genders.

There are few simple answers in this book. There is a general agreement that a feminist’s sexuality must be reflected upon and examined (by the feminist herself, not by others). But what constitutes feminist desire or what doesn’t is a bit of a false question. It isn’t about what is or isn’t feminism, but rather, what feminists will make of their current realities. What does it mean that we are turned on by sexual power differences but fight power inequity as feminists? How do issues like abuse, anorexia, and cutting affect our decisions in sexual relationships and sex work? And that old question, what does it mean to be a feminist wife?

The authors vividly (sometimes pornographically) describe their sex acts, sex partners, and the mundane details of their sex work. In this way, they aren’t so different from more recent phenomena like the anonymous blogging celebrity Belle de Jour or the memoir The Sexual Life of Catherine M. But honestly, in our current culture, I don’t care much to read about the details of other people’s sex lives. The most liberating moment for me was when Lisa Z. Sigel, a pornography scholar, answers the question of whether or not she is turned on by porn: “I am not the object of study, so it’s none of your business.” (257)

Yes, my sexuality is none of your business. I will not be examined by you. I am not hiding anything; I am not in the closet. You are simply not allowed to take ownership of me, or my sexuality. Although normally I advocate for a sexually-open culture, after reading Jane Sexes It Up, the right to privacy is my biggest turn-on.

YWTF-NYC’s next book club meeting will be on August 20 at 7:00 PM at Tea Spot (127 Macdougal Street, NYC). Check out our Meetup site for more info on upcoming meetings.

Rebecca Andruszka is Director of Communications and co-chair of the Book Club Committee at YWTF-NYC. All opinions express are those of the individual, not of Younger Women’s Task Force.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Female Bullies…as Children and Adults

By: Erika Kelley

Lets face it, we’ve all had our encounter with the female bully, whether your role was that of the victim, aggressor, or bystander. I experienced female bullying for the first time in elementary school…

I walked into the lavatory (I haven’t used that word since elementary school!) and witnessed four girls applying make-up on another girl: different color eye shadows, blush, and lipstick…the makings of a hideous clown. The girls kept eyeing one another, giggling, and saying, “You look really beautiful. The boys will love you.” The clown-faced girl was beaming from ear to ear. I didn’t understand how she didn’t know that these girls were ridiculing her. I also didn’t understand why the so-called aggressors would want to do such a thing.

So, whatever happens to the mean school girls? Well…they typically grow up to be mean women.

Dawn Olsen, writer for an online magazine, Blogcritics, has some vivid (and disturbing) depictions of female bullies...

Women are territorial with teeth, passionately protective, fiercely jealous and deeply mistrustful due to strong instinctual drives.

Women like wolves, attack in packs, rarely ever confronting without some back up from their peers. Knowing the full value in the power of numbers they encircle their victim and take little chunks from all sides, whittling away at the self-esteem of the victim, and their desire to be included, a drive most women so feverishly have.

Some women are extremely adept at "silent aggression" and derive the most perverse pleasure watching their object of ridicule squirm, cry, and otherwise become unhinged. The more signs of weakness from the victim, the more vicious the attack, making the alternatives for the "odd girl out" less and less apparent.

What I have found is that these individuals…bullies…are easier to deal with when you understand them.

According to Professional Life Coach Heidi Costas, despite the façade that such people put up, bullies have low self-confidence and low self-esteem, and thus feel insecure. Low self-esteem is a factor highlighted by all studies of bullying. Bullies are seething with resentment, bitterness, hatred and anger, and often have wide-ranging prejudices as a vehicle for dumping their anger onto others. Bullies are driven by jealousy and envy.

As a child, I wasn’t equipped to deal with the toxic behaviors of female bullies. As an adult, however, things have changed. With guidance from wise female friends, family, and professionals (and as a result of past experiences!), when dealing with female bullies, my approach has been to…

1. Maintain my confidence. I refuse to let anyone intimidate me.

2. Ignore the gossip or confront the individual(s) responsible for starting the rumor in the first place, depending on the situation. (If the rumor affects my family or career, I can’t afford to ignore it!)

3. Do not pledge allegiance to backstabbing cliques or groups.

4. Aim to embrace a spirit of cooperation in my interactions with others.

And I must say, in most instances, I have been successful…yet the fight to end relational aggression continues!

Interested in hearing other strategies for dealing with relational aggression (female bullying)? Check out Cheryl Dellasega’s book, Mean Girls Growing Up: Adult Women Who Are Still Queen Bees, Middle Bees, and Afraid-to-Bees. She explores why women are often their own worst enemies, offering practical advice for a variety of situations. Drawing upon extensive research and interviews, she shares real-life stories from women as well as the knowledge of experts who have helped women overcome the negative effects of aggression. Readers will hear how adult women can be just as vicious as their younger counterparts, learn strategies for dealing with adult bullies, how to avoid being involved in relational aggression, and more.

And since research has shown that girls between the ages of 8 and 17 need a little extra protection against the emotional and social hazards of growing up…Rachel Simmons, in her books, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Girls and Odd Girl Speaks Out: Girls Write about Bullies, Cliques, Popularity, and Jealousy, prescribes clear-cut strategies for parents, teachers, and girls to resist bullies and their acts of aggression. She also has great resources on her website.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Women in the Workplace: Assertive vs. Aggressive

By: Erika Kelley

I have been working since I was 16. And throughout the years I learned that the roles of men and women in the social and corporate world have evolved. However, early on, I also discovered that workplace stereotypes still exist. For women, it is often expected that we are to be submissive, eager-to-please, and supportive. However, if we're too nice and understanding -- we're considered emotional and soft. But, if we're a bit assertive and outspoken -- we're ice queens.

Men on the other hand are expected to be strong, forceful, and direct. What’s interesting is that in leadership and management courses, I ascertained that a “good” employee is one that exhibits directness with simplicity. A “good” employee is assertive, a trait very often exhibited by men; one that is accepted…expected.

So, the age-old question still exists: What's the appropriate stance or attitude women should have in the workplace?

My stance has been to follow the path of a “good” employee and break the “passive” female stereotype. However, instead of affirmation and recognition, I have often encountered negativity, more often from my female counterparts, and have occasionally been referred to as “aggressive.”

Here’s my story…

Over six summers ago, I decided to participate in flex-time at work. Instead of working the standard hours, 8:15 AM to 4:15 PM, I decided to change my hours to 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM. I’d miss traffic, get home in time to watch Dr. Phil with the hubby, and even have time to exercise! Sweet.

About half of the people in my office took advantage of flex-time; however, only a handful worked the early hours like me. The inconsistency between work schedules never posed a problem…until…well, allow me to explain.

With a project that surpassed its deadline and extension, my co-workers and I met frequently to consummate the project. A few times, the meetings were scheduled in the afternoon, from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM. And like typical meetings in our office, they tarried and often exceeded the allotted time. No matter, an older (50+) Caucasian male, Michael (my former colleague’s has been changed to protect his confidentiality), that worked 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM (half hour lunch instead of an hour), would politely alert everyone that we should start wrapping-up, promptly at 2:45 PM. And that’s exactly what we did – wrap up – so that he would be able to leave at his scheduled time, 3:00 PM. What a considerate bunch, right?

Well the following week, Michael went on vacation. Like last week, we had another afternoon meeting, 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM. We started at approximately 2:15 PM and the meeting was still in session at 3:15 PM. Like Michael, I alerted the group that I would need to excuse myself in a few minutes, so it might be a good time to start wrapping-up. I expected everyone to concede, like they did normally. This time, however, was different. No one began to wrap-up. Instead, a female colleague asked me: do you mind staying a little bit longer? Being the team player that I aspire to be, I agreed to stay. The meeting ended at about 3:35 PM. Not a big deal, a five-minute delay.

Two days later, the same thing happened. A meeting that was supposed to begin at 2:00 PM started about 10 minutes late and was still in session at 3:15 PM. This time, I found myself thinking: Where is Michael? Things were so different when he was present at meetings. No one ever asked him if he could stay longer. Again, like Michael, I mentioned that we had exceeded the time allotted for the meeting, and now would probably be a good time to wrap-up. I was met with sighs and rolling eyes. A female colleague even said to me: We know you leave at 3:30, Erika. There was extra emphasis on the word “know” and my name!

I digress…Have you ever watched a movie where there’s complete silence and then a brass cymbal hits the floor? This is where the cymbal hit the floor in the midst of deliberate silence.

May I make a suggestion? Can we start our meetings on time, to avoid running over the allotted time scheduled for the meeting? I was met with blank stares. A female colleague spoke up: Most of us work 8:15 AM to 4:15 PM; have you ever considered working the core hours so that you’re available for afternoon meetings? I was ready to scream, kick, and yank my hair out. I felt somewhat attacked and felt this situation was very unfair. I knew for a fact, they, who happened to be all females – Caucasian, Hispanic, and African-American, would have never asked this of Michael, but I wasn’t sure why.

So, I looked at the differences: Michael was Caucasian, a male, and over 50. I was African-American, a female, and in my late 20s. But so what? Which is exactly why I said: Yes, I have considered working the core hours; however, my current hours better accommodate my lifestyle. I was then told: Well, you’re free to go. With that, I gathered up my belongings and said to the group: Enjoy the rest of your day; I’ll follow-up with you regarding what I missed tomorrow.

The office informant later told me that I had been dubbed: aggressive. Nonetheless, the meetings for the remainder of the week started and ended and time, as scheduled. And the week thereafter, Michael returned.

To be or not to be assertive? That is the question.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

“The Meaning of Wife”: When Nothing that was Actually Old is New Again

By: Caitlin Murphy

While walking through the insanity that is Penn Station early on a Tuesday morning, I was in a different state than the normal look-straight-ahead-and-maintain-efficient-steps routine I usually maintain: I was actually hyper-aware of marital imagery.

After finishing another chapter from Anne Kingston’s “The Meaning of Wife”, I almost laughed out loud to really see an advertisement for “Bridezillas” on WeTV at the exit of my train. I’d passed by the advertisement for several months without ever truly pausing to think about the implications of the entrenched message it sends about brides-- women who are getting married turn into emotionally unstable, child-like beasts that act on primal, deep-seated urges. These urges, we’re told, “naturally” affect us all, but certain women get more “passionate” than others about it. Not more than a minute later, I noticed a young woman carrying chocolate-brown bag that had pink dots and big, swirling letters that read “Bridesmaid” on the side. Once again, this revealed another entrenched message I had never quite reflected on before-- that the actual wedding day is a kind of fashion statement that is far more important than the actual marriage.

Both of these seemingly innocent encounters with bride/wife imagery shocked me into the realization that there is a steady flow of marital images that we subconsciously gloss over daily. However, no matter how little attention we may pay to these details, they play an important role in filling in the “gap” that has developed in defining brides and wives since the 1960s.

As Kingston posits, a “wife chasm” opened up following the slew of new legislative rights women won for their bodies, their finances, their career choices, their property, and their self. While there was a positive re-definition in what a woman legally could or could not do, there was a non-existent “catch up” in terms of what a woman socially and culturally could do, be, act like, and want. Since no new script was provided for women that found themselves with these new rights, there was a glaring “gap” in what the new definition of what a woman, and a wife, would be. Commercial, corporate, and political forces, while initially met with the “wife-lash” that followed the 1960s, found the huge niche easy to fill with a variety of messages that were generally accepted by the 1990s, which heralded a very deliberate shift from “wife-lash” to “wife-lust”.

The kinds of marital messages that I’ve been taking in and accepting subconsciously (such as that brides innately go off the deep-end during the wedding process-- itself a showy, elaborate affair) are purposefully packaged to appear as if they are timeless pearls of wisdom. However, if looked at closer, the over-the-top, “traditional” weddings that are expected today were never truly “traditional”, as only royalty could actually afford them. One of the most damaging messages, Kingston points out, is that the frustrated, burnt-out wife that can’t “do it all” is a new character in modern society that needs to deal with her own personal issues. (When in reality, she has been around for centuries, in any society that attributes more rights and responsibilities to wives outside the home and expects her to take on many new, extra roles without any additional government, societal, or corporate support.) Kingston points out that the attempt of women to “do it all” has ironically left many women in the kind of robotic, “Stepford Wives” state that the original film was tongue-in-cheekily suggesting as the solution for independent, feminist-prone women. Worse, there is a complimentary message that even if a wife can “do it all”, she must love keeping a blissed-out, warm, loving home through the fruits of her domestic labor, no matter how banal or arduous the chore. Kingston puts it bluntly: “A chore is a chore.”

So what is the solution in a society in which chores are weighted with emotional love, titles like “Bridesmaid” are weighed as fashion labels, and brides are weighed as “naturally” unstable, irrational beasts? We have to un-do exactly what is keeping these martial images entrenched in the “wife gap”– we have to strip the subconscious weight that is holding their place and make way for the kind of definition “wife” has needed for decades. This new definition would suggest something that at this point in our “wife-lust” culture would seem quite radical: that “wife” must become a gender-neutral term, as it captures all of the domestic duties and emotional support that two partners must be willing to share. As Kingston points out, this kind of re-definition requires an admittance on the part of the government and corporations that they must step in provide the kind of aid and support the modern family necessitates, but just as importantly, it involves finally looking at women and men as human beings who can only handle a certain amount of responsibility and emotional pressure. Perhaps then, the battle cry of “the feminist movement screwed me over” can be restated in the next generation of young women and wives as “we still have a way to go”.

The Younger Women’s Task Force–New York Chapter holds a monthly book club that discusses issues such as those brought up by Kingston with a group of intelligent and fiery young New York women that care. The book club will be meeting this month to discuss Kingston’s “The Meaning of Wife” at 7pm, July 16th, at Tea Spot, located at 127 Macdougal St.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Interview with Christine Baze, Founder of the Yellow Umbrella Organization

How old were you and what was your life like when you were diagnosed with cervical cancer?

I never thought about cancer when I was 31. I was happy, healthy, married and totally excited about my future - I was pursing my dream of being a full time Rock Star. It was going well. Really well, until I went in for my pap. After 13 consecutive normal yearly paps, this one came back abnormal. Within a week after further tests, I got the news - invasive cervical cancer with extensive lymphatic invasion. Impossible. Me? Cervical Cancer? Ten days after my diagnosis I had a radical hysterectomy, then laproscopic surgery, then 5 weeks of daily pelvic radiation concurrent with 4 rounds of chemo and then 3 rounds of internal radiation. Then came the depression. I felt like I lost everything. Eventually I realized I did NOT lose EVERYthing, just some bits and pieces. So I put myself together with the pieces that were left, and decided to use my story, my experience, my music and my voice to get the message of cervical cancer prevention out there - I wanted to educate and empower other women.

How has the experience of being a cancer survivor shaped your thinking? (If at all).

Cancer changed my life, there's no way of getting around that. I became acutely aware of how precious each and every moment is and the power we all have as individuals to make choices and to live every day intentionally For me, that means doing what I love, making music, and making a difference through my work as an activist. The "gift" of cancer has been this incredible clarity in my heart and in my head about what REALLY matters.

Tell me about your organization, especially what inspired you to start an organization and what you're most excited about for the future of your organization. What motivates you to keep sharing your stories and what achievement are you most proud of?

The Yellow Umbrella Organization started out as (pop music and pap smears, get it?!?) in 2002, and the message was simple: "Ladies, don't blow off your yearly pap. Have a conversation with your doctor and make sure you are getting the BEST pap out there. And if you are 30+, ask for an HPV test with your pap. And men, go tell the women you love." It's that simple to keep your cervix smiling! And what happened at the first concert and the 88 to follow is that people listened! The more I sang and talked about my story and how we can DO something about this cancer, the more people talked about it - in the papers, magazines, on the TV and the radio. When I did the first show I never dreamed that I would be running an organization, traveling around the country and still talking about it over 5 years later, but that is what happened and I feel just as passionately as I did at the first show. The Yellow Umbrella Org is excited about continuing the message through music and collaboration (say-, as well as expanding our sites to include a network of organizations who are all working in the fight against cervical cancer. As for the achievement I'm most proud of, I have to say kicking cancer's ass!!! = ) Cancer helped me see how strong I really am. I never knew, but now I see the power an individual has to get from the dark into the light, and I will never forget that. And also, I have to say, I have the most incredible opportunity coming up next month when I get to open for Sheryl Crow at the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults fundraiser!!! Now THAT is a dream come true, and something I think I will be proud of for the rest of my life. FOR SURE!!!

In the past couple of years, the story of HPV and its prevalence has really emerged, partially due to the emergence of the HPV vaccine and likely a variety of other factors, including the work of organizations such as your own. Did you know anything about HPV before your diagnosis? If not, what information did you learn about it after?

I had never heard about HPV before I was diagnosed and I considered myself an educated, proactive young woman because I never missed a pap or physical or anything like that. So when I was told that it was from sex, at first I was horrified and embarrassed. But then, as I learned more, I realized that it was nothing to be ashamed about at all. I learned that it is virtually ubiquitous, that it's not a sign of promiscuity or infidelity, that it is usually a transient virus and that the danger mainly exists when you have a persistent infection. And then I learned about the different screening tools - the pap and the HPV test. I never knew that the pap was measuring for cellular changes (dysplasia) caused by HPV, I only knew that I had to go every year. I also did now know that the pap can have a false negative rate of up to 50%, which means it tells you you are "fine" when you are not. My docs think this is what happened to me, that the pap missed me year after year, and it wasn't until the office switched to a liquid (more sensitive) pap that it caught what was happening. At this time, 2002, the HPV test had just come out. It is a DNA test that tells you if you have HPV and are at risk for cervical cancer. When I wrapped my head around all this information, I just knew I had to share with as many people that would listen because it could help save women's fertility and women's lives. With the vaccine, there's just more and more to talk about and more we can do. It's a very exciting time.

Many of our readers may be thinking of getting the "catch-up" HPV vaccine for women aged 19- 26. Do you know if you need to be screened for HPV before you get the vaccine? And more generally, what would be your personal advice to a younger woman who is not sure about whether or not to get the vaccine?

My understanding (and every woman should talk directly to their doc about this) is that one does not need to be screened for HPV prior to getting the vaccine. Even if you've been exposed to one strand of HPV, Gardasil covers 4 strands, and therefore you will have protection against the others. Soon there will be another vaccine available, Cervarix, so there will be more choices for young women. As far as my personal advice, it's a no brainier. 3 shots are better than a hysterectomy. Trust me! I think women need to use EVERY tool and do EVERYthing they can, because remember, I did go for my pap every year and it still missed me. It wasn't enough. So I say, use everything we've got. Shots are better than chemo. No joke.

How can we all help to spread the word about HPV, cervical cancer, and women's sexual health? Are there additional resources that your organization offers that you'd like us to know about?

SAY SOMETHING!!! Honestly, that is the way we are going to beat this disease, by talking about it. By women educating one another. By men telling the women they love, by roommates telling each other not to blow off their pap, by sisters telling sisters to get the HPV vaccine. That is what you can do to help! The stigma attached to HPV and women's sexual health is very real and we are the only ones who can break down the misconceptions. We have the power. We have the technology to prevent a cancer. Let's do it.

This interview was originally featured in YWTF’s bi-weekly e-newsletter, Younger Women’s Movement, on February 20, 2008.

You can sign up to receive the Younger Women’s Movement at

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ayo I'm Tired of This Misogyny: Ayo Technology Video

The Ayo Technology video staring 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland takes sexist objectification in music videos to the next level. The video incorporates the main message of the song, "I'm tired of using technology," by showing the musicians using super high tech telescopes, binoculars and computers to stalk women. 50 Cent looks like a sniper or deer hunter on a roof, and then he is featured following a woman in her car. Timberlake is parked outside another woman's home watching her undress. Is he trying to bring stalking back too? Their technology allows them to see through women's clothes and control their bodies from afar. In addition, the video is spliced with images of strippers and women having sex night vision style.

It is disgusting that they are bringing stalking to a mainstream "sexy" level. More than a million women are stalked annually. Stalking is a terrifying experience for victims, causing them psychological trauma, and possible physical harm. Some affects on the victim include panic attacks, isolation, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal feelings and decreased ability to perform daily tasks. According to, stalking is one of the most common predictors of more violence such as physical abuse, rape and/or murder. More information can be found in the Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women from the U.S. Department of Justice.

It is absolutely pathetic that those involved with this project are so creatively limited that sexual objectification of women was the chosen way to display the song. Their total disregard for the dignity of women is beyond disappointing. Thankfully the documentary "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes" explores sexism in hip-hop. The film pays tribute to hip-hop while challenging the industry to take responsibility for glamorizing stereotypes of manhood.

This blog was originally posted on August 27, 2007 on

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Glamorizing Misogyny

Last year, America's Next Top Model glorified violence against women. Their crime scene victim photo shoot provides us with visions of undressed murdered female bodies. The shoot included vivid images of women in situations such as (but not limited to)- wearing lingerie with organs stolen, almost naked in a bed (legs spread) strangled, drowned and abandoned, severely beaten and thrown down a flight of stairs, and electrocuted in underwear.

The focus was on the sexiness of the corpses, instead of the humanity of female victims. In the photo that depicted a model shot in the head, one of the judges stated, "I love the broken down leg. It's absolute genius."

Sadly, torturing, raping and murdering women seems to be entertaining in our "bitch slapping" culture. Images of sexually objectified women lead to violence against women. The abuse of women has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, battery is the leading cause of injury to women. Erotized violence conditions boys and men to be desensitized to the suffering of women. The mainstream media plays a critical role in connecting masculinity with control and dominance over the female body.

Even though more then 3 women are murdered by their male partners in the U.S. everyday (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001), amazing feministy boys give me hope.

Let Tyra ( know that America's Next Top Model's toxic actions are beyond unacceptable (

If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, give them this number: U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). It could save their life.

This blog was originally posted on March 30, 2007 on