Does Cleavage Corrupt Our Children?

Flattr this!

Apparently Sesame Street recently dropped a segment from its show which showcased singer Katy Perry wearing a low-cut dress party dress while she frolicked with Elmo. That makes it sound worse than it was: Katy is trying to get Elmo to play with her. No, that doesn’t sound right either. Just watch the video for yourself and see if you can find anything that would cause parents to protest its airing.

Eric Steinman asked in an article on the Care2 website:

Is nothing sacred? That is the rhetorical question that some parents, no doubt, have been asking over the past few days as the clean streets of Sesame Street were tarnished with the image of female breasts (or at least cleavage alluding to these breasts).
Read more in this New York Times’ Arts Beat: Culture At Large article.
In a related article, Arts Beat reported that Ms. Perry’s appearance was defended by a “two fuzzy, non-human members of the Sesame Street cast” when the executive producer of the PBS children’s show, Carol-Lynne Parente, visited George Stephanopoulis on “Good Morning America” to discuss the decision to pull the music video.

“Elmo loves Miss Katy,” Elmo said. “We had a good time. So we’ll have another play date.”

Also on hand was Grover, whose blue fur was clearly visible through his Super Grover costume. “How do you like my new outfit, huh?” he asked Mr. Stephanopoulos. “It is not too revealing, is it?”

If only we were all as uncorrupted as a Muppet. After all, it takes a dirty mind to know one.

Video: Geena Davis Talks About Gender Equality in Media

Flattr this!

The Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis is an intelligent and thoughtful advocate for women. She started the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media because of her concern about gender equality in TV and film. In this Livestream video she discusses the problem, cites supporting statistics, explains her personal interest (she has an 8-year-old daughter, the film Thelma and Louise, etc.), the role of gender in family equality, and what she does and others can do to raise awareness about this issue.

While you’re on the site where the video is located, “Women and Hollywood,” take a look around. It has great information about women both in front of and behind the camera.

50 Things You Need to Know About Marital Relationships

Flattr this!

Excerpted from Al Maghrib Institute’s “Fiqh of Love” seminar with Shaykh Waleed Basyouni.

  1. Great relationships don’t just happen; they are created. You have to work at it.
  2. If your job takes all of your best energy, your marriage will suffer.
  3. One of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse is your own happiness.
  4. It is possible to love and hate someone at the same time.
  5. When you complain about your spouse to your friends, remember that their feedback can be distorted.
  6. The only rules in your marriage are those you both choose to agree with.
  7. It is not conflict that destroys marriage; it is the cold, smoldering resentment that you hold for a long time.
  8. It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you do with what you have.
  9. If you think you are too good for your spouse, think again.
  10. Growing up in a happy household doesn’t ensure a happy marriage, or vice versa.
  11. It’s never too late to repair damaged trust.
  12. The real issue is usually not the one you are arguing about.
  13. Love isn’t just a feeling; it is expressed through our actions.
  14. Expectations set us up for disappointment and resentment.
  15. Arguments cannot be avoided, but destructive arguments can be avoided.
  16. One of the greatest gifts you can give your spouse is focused attention.
  17. Even people with happy marriages sometimes worry that they married the wrong person.
  18. Your spouse cannot rescue you from unhappiness, but they can help you rescue yourself.
  19. The cost of a lie is far greater than any advantage you gain from speaking it.
  20. Your opinion is not necessarily the truth.
  21. Trust takes years to establish and moments to destroy.
  22. Guilt-tripping won’t get you what you really want.
  23. Don’t neglect your friends.
  24. If you think, “You are not the person I married,” you are probably right.
  25. Resisting the temptation to prove your point will win you a lot of points.
  26. Generosity of spirit is the foundation of a good marriage.
  27. If your spouse is being defensive, you might be giving them reasons to be like that.
  28. Marriage isn’t 50/50; it’s 100/100.
  29. You can pay now or pay later, but the later you pay, the more interest and penalties you acquire.
  30. Marriage requires sacrifice, but your benefits outweigh your costs.
  31. Forgiveness isn’t a one-time event; it’s a continous process.
  32. Accepting the challenges of marriage will shape you into a better person.
  33. Creating a marriage is like launching a rocket: once it clears the pull of gravity, it takes much less energy to sustain the flight.
  34. A successful marriage has more to do with how you deal with your current reality than with what you’ve experienced in the past.
  35. Don’t keep feelings of gratitude to yourself.
  36. There is no greater eloquence than the silence of real listening.
  37. One of the greatest questions to ask your spouse is “How best can I love you?”
  38. Marriage can stay fresh over time.
  39. Assumptions are fine as long as you check them before acting upon them.
  40. Intention may not be the only thing, but it is the most important thing.
  41. Good sex won’t make your marriage, but it’ll help.
  42. Privacy won’t hurt your marriage, but secrecy will.
  43. Possessiveness and jealousy are born out of fear, not love.
  44. Authenticity is contagious and habit-forming.
  45. If your spouse thinks something is important, then it is.
  46. Marriage never outgrows the need for romance.
  47. The sparkle of a new relationship is always temporary.
  48. There is violence in silence when it’s used as a weapon.
  49. It’s better to focus on what you can do to make things right, then what your partner did to make things wrong.
  50. If you think marriage counseling is too expensive, try divorce.

Interview With Rebecca Traister

Flattr this!

Illustration by Sarah Karnasiewicz

Rebecca Traister is a senior editor at Salon.com who writes about women in media, politics and entertainment from a feminist perspective. Her new book, Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything For American Women, is being released tomorrow as a hardback and an ebook. I plan to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible, for two reasons: 1) I really like the way Traister thinks and writes; and 2) I believe this will be an important book not only for feminists, but for anyone who is interested in American politics.

Below is a video of Traister talking about some of the issues she deals with in the book:

Salon.com also just published Curtis Sittenfeld’s  interview with Traister about the book, which you can read here.

Where’s Our Safety Net?

Flattr this!

There’s an article in the latest issue (September 20, 2010) of The Nation titled “It’s Better Over There” that’s about the safety net that exists in Europe (specifically Germany) that doesn’t exist in the U.S. The author, Katha Pollitt, who is a columnist for The Nation (among other things), just came back from spending a year in Berlin and her report about how things are for the poor and the middle class in an economy that is hurting (although in better shape than ours) really made me think.

Here are some of the things Germans have that much of the U.S. doesn’t:

  • Six weeks of vacation and twenty-seven paid holidays.
  • Job security and retirement pensions.
  • Free, or nearly free education, including college.
  • Healthcare including nursing. (The German system requires everyone to buy insurance, but provides subsidies for low earners. Sound familiar?)
  • A government that provides partial compensation for lost wages and encourages companies to shorten hours rather than lay people off.
  • Paid maternity and maternity leave. [For international comparisons of parental leave policies, go here.]

This isn’t to say that social democratic systems like Germany’s are perfect, but they must be doing something right: Germany’s unemployment rate is around 7-7.5 and the United States’ is over 9 and worsening. [Source.]

But just mention social democracy and conservatives go crazy. They assume that social democracy is socialism, pure and simple. It’s not. One definition of social democracy (the one that applies to Germany) is: “a democratic welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices.” It’s the “socialist” part that freaks conservatives out. But what social democracy means in practice is that the government is more hands-on in relation to issues that affect the common good. It’s not good for a country to have a high number of poor and unemployed. It costs everyone else a lot of money. It’s much better to spend that money making sure that workers are employed and spending their money. That’s what makes for a healthy economy.

It used to be that democracy meant “the rule of the majority.” But when you look at America today, you have to ask yourself if that’s still true. It seems to me that it is the wealthy and influential who rule America. And in their short-sighted desire to keep as much of their wealth and power as they can to themselves, they’ve robbed the majority of their right to make decisions that affect their very lives.

The term “majority” doesn’t mean the largest racial, religious or socioeconomic group. It means the most people overall. That means that minorities like blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, the handicapped, Muslims, welfare recipients and the poor all have a right to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed. And let’s not forget the largest group in this society: women. If we make up a majority of the population and of the workforce, why aren’t our needs being addressed?

I’ve written before about how vulnerable women are in our society. We have no maternity leave, fewer benefits, less pay and little or no support for the needs of our families. Women are often forced to work part-time because they can’t afford to pay for full-time child care (and women are still thought of as the primary child-care providers. Elder care also falls unfairly on the shoulders of women).

But this isn’t just a women’s issue. All of us are at risk. If our families aren’t protected and provided for, then what good is our government anyway?

We don’t have to identify as a social democracy in order to start caring for all our people. Returning to the original meaning of democracy would be enough.

What About Population Control?

Flattr this!

In the seventies, population control was a huge issue, but like many other hot topics this one has fallen by the wayside. For most people, that is. Not apparently for the man who held three people hostage at The Discovery Channel headquarters yesterday. James J. Lee, who was eventually shot and killed by police, was upset with The Discovery Channel because of the lack of environmental policy on its shows, not the least of which was “Kate Plus Eight” which he felt promoted population growth.

Lee took extreme measures (he even had explosives strapped to his body) to register his protest, but I couldn’t help but wonder when I read the news story where all the protestors about population growth have gone. There are millions more people on the earth than when the book The Population Bomb came out in 1968. (India alone has tripled its population since 1960 from 400 million to 1.2 billion today.) The author, Paul R. Erhlich, was mostly concerned with the world’s ability to feed its ever-increasing population, but since most developed countries have risen to that challenge, the furor over his predictions have died down.

Here in the United States, food supply is not a problem so we tend to overlook the billion people world-wide who go hungry every day. These days the problem is not so much production as it is access. In other words, the world’s population could be fed adequately if we could just get the food to the people who need it.

If the food supply is keeping up with the demand, why should we worry about population growth? I can think of two reasons why we should: 1) depletion of energy resources; and 2) global warming. The more people in the world, the more dire these problems will become. It’s hard to keep on providing enough energy when the number of people needing it is constantly increasing. (And it’s not only the number of people, but their changing lifestyles—like more cars when people’s ability to pay for them increases—that add to the problem.) As more energy is expended, the release of more and more carbons into the atmosphere will only continue to add to the collective problems under the umbrella of global warming.

Maybe we need a book like The Population Bomb for the new millenium. Too bad James J. Lee couldn’t have written one instead of trying to reduce the population by his own hand.

Continue reading What About Population Control?