Reuters: Racism is a reproductive rights issue

My column at Reuters last week was about what happens when we deny Black children a childhood: we deny Black parent their reproductive rights.

Generally speaking, Americans understand reproductive rights as being about abortion, and sometimes, about birth control. In the mainstream understanding, reproductive rights are about the right to prevent or end unwanted pregnancy. But reproductive rights are about more than pregnancy. Reproductive justice is not just a matter of making sure that women only become mothers if and when and in the manner they choose – it’s also a matter of making sure that, when they choose to bring children into the world, they don’t bring them into a world that is disproportionately dangerous for those children.

In short, racism is a reproductive rights issue.

“For one’s children to be random, unwitting blood sacrifices to the prejudice of faceless others is not freedom,” wrote Katherine Cross at RH Reality Check, in the wake of Michael Brown’s death at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. “To have reproductive freedom means, among many other things, that your choice to raise a family will not be revenged upon by collectivized prejudice wielding batons and handguns.”

This is not a new argument, but it’s one that has been denied the mainstream attention it deserves. In the wake of the Grand Jury decision that Wilson will not be indicted for killing Brown, that is changing. NARAL Prochoice America, one of the nation’s largest reproductive rights organizations, is on the record endorsing the argument that, “You deserve to parent your child without fear that he or she will be hurt or killed. Freedom from violence is reproductive justice.”

You can read the whole thing here.

The Washington Post: Where’s the political rom com we’ve been waiting for?

I have a piece at Post Everything today, about how our current political climate has made the political romantic comedy all but impossible:

In 2014, it’s hard to imagine a Republican and Democrat going out for dinner, never mind strolling down the aisle. And at their core, rom coms require compromise: a “battle of the sexes” that must conclude with a sexy cease-fire. In recent politics, there is no such spirit of compromise: There’s no happy ending, just the beginning of a new election cycle.

Today, the division and the vitriol we see in our real-world politics make the notion of a political romantic comedy almost unthinkable. American politics is unprecedentedly polarized in 2014, with the 114th Congress looking to be more reactionary and bellicose than ever, and with Americans increasingly disaffected with their elected representatives in D.C. and with the president. Convincing audiences that it’s possible to fall in love in politics – that it’s possible to cross the aisle in the name of love – is a pretty tough sell. If Romeo and Juliet couldn’t make it work in a town divided by ancient grudge and new mutiny, why would we imagine that your standard rom com couple could make it work in Washington, D.C.?

You can read the whole there here.

Reuters: Gender, sex, power, and stillettos

I have a piece at Reuters today, about how wearing high heels can affect other people’s behaviour toward a woman – and what that finding tells us about gender, sex, power, and attraction:

A new study out of France’s Université de Bretagne-Sud in finds that men are more likely to lend a helping hand to a woman wearing high heels. In the study, social psychologist Nicolas Guéguen found that men were more likely to answer survey questions if the woman asking them was wearing heels than if she was wearing flats. Similarly, Guéguen (who has also tackled the research question of whether carrying a guitar case makes a man more likely to succeed in getting a woman’s phone number) found that men were more likely to help a woman pick up a dropped glove if she was wearing heels.

That high heels change how straight men respond to women is hardly surprising. After all, high heels change the way you walk, the way you stand, and the way your clothes fit your body. As a culture, we have decided that the alterations heels produce in how women carry themselves are desirable, a decision we’ve stuck to for over 50 years. In recent years, the trend pendulum in high heels has swung toward atmospherically high, with platforms and hyper-narrow stiletto heels giving way, recently, to 1990s-nostalgia in the form of chunkier heels. These are, in the grand scheme of things, relatively minor variations; our cultural penchant for high heels is entrenched, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

Some have questioned this study’s methodology, and not without reason, but its findings raise some interesting questions. Are men more likely to respond to women in heels because they find them more attractive, and are they more likely to answer survey questions from or help an attractive woman? Or are the men who help a woman in heels pick up her glove correctly perceiving that a woman in heels is in fact, physically, less stable than a woman in flats, and might therefore be more likely to need their help? Or, more interestingly still — and more troublingly — does a woman’s perceived instability and vulnerability make her more physically attractive to some men?

You can read the whole thing here.

Reuters: Eminem’s Taylor-induced temper tantrum

My latest at Reuters is about Eminem’s newest lyrical outburst, a rap in which he fantasizes about beating a young pop star until she’s unconscious:

I can’t get inside Eminem’s head – and I’m quite sure I wouldn’t want to, given the chance – but I suspect that his outburst against Del Rey had little to do with Del Rey herself, despite its specificity.

The real reason may be his fear that time has passed him by, and the very group he has so-often victimized in his lyrics — young women — seem to be running circles around him.

Exhibit A?

Taylor Swift, the 24-year-old phenom who is arguably the biggest pop star in the world right now (fret not, BeyHive, I’m sure your queen will reclaim her crown soon) released her fifth album, “1989,” in late October after months of buildup and publicity. The hype was justified: 1989 is a great album, and it’s been hailed as such by everyone from NPR’s music critic to current king of rap Kendrick Lamar.

It’s also a record-breaking album: It sold more than 1 million copies in the first week of release. The last time that happened was more than a decade ago. To be precise, it was in 2002. And the album in question? Eminem’s “The Eminem Show.”

You can read the whole thing here.

The Hairpin: Funny Face

This week’s Hairpin Rom Com Club movie is Funny Face, starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. It’s an opportunity to talk about Hollywood Homely, huge age differences between romantic leads, and high-waisted pants:

“Though you’re no Mona Lisa…” he sings. No shit she’s no Mona Lisa, she’s Audrey fucking Hepburn. My point is that this is a classic example of Hollywood Homely, wherein we, the audience, are asked to perform the enormous suspension of disbelief required to entertain the notion that Audrey Hepburn is not incredibly beautiful.

Hollywood Homely is everywhere: every time Taylor Swift puts on a pair of mildly unflattering glasses, or Anne Hathaway frizzes out her hair and puts on Groucho Marx eyebrows, or Rachel Leigh Cook puts on a hideous wig, we’re expected not to notice that they still look like Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway, and Rachel Leigh Cook.

To be fair, the point of The Quality Woman is that she’s not merely physically attractive, but that she’s got poise, grace, intelligence, charisma. And Hepburn’s Jo has all those things—particularly noted when she’s frequently compared to the models in the film, who are depicted as very unintelligent. But in Funny Face, and in other movies where Hollywood Homely is deployed, we are all expected to recalibrate our understanding of what is beautiful and not beautiful. If we don’t make that recalibration, there’s no magic to the moment in which Jo is revealed in a designer gown, after hours with the Quality hair and makeup team; we’re supposed to realize for the first time that Audrey Hepburn is, in fact, beautiful. Is it a contract between story and audience? Or is it merely an insult to the audience’s intelligence? I’d argue it’s both: we agree to have our intelligence insulted so that we can watch a movie starring a beautiful person. All we have to do is pretend, for the first third of the movie, that we haven’t noticed how beautiful she is.

You can read the whole thing here.

The Sydney Morning Herald: Hillary Clinton presidency would spark a backlash

I have a piece today in my hometown paper, The Sydney Morning Herald, about the promise and peril of Hillary Clinton – or any other woman – running for President:

My grandmother turned 100 years old this May. Grandma Belle, a New Yorker born and raised, is five feet flat, and she is formidable; she does the New York Times crossword every day, she plays a mean game of Scrabble, and she brooks no nonsense from her five grandchildren, all of them women. Belle was born six years before the 19th Amendment granted American women the right to vote, and the sheer amount of American history that has unfolded in her lifetime boggles the mind.

Earlier this month, Hillary Rodham Clinton went to Iowa, which suggests that a Clinton presidential candidacy in 2016 is all but inevitable. It seems that a Clinton win is highly likely. As a feminist, I yearn for a woman to run for president, and I yearn for a woman to win. Whether or not it happens in 2016, it will happen. And it will, without question, be a watershed moment, and I will shed tears. I will think about my grandmother, born before suffrage, and about my mother, who was among the first women to benefit from the wave of inclusion that swept through  the United States’ most prestigious educational institutions in the 1960s and 1970s. I will marvel at how far the US has come since my grandmother was born, and I will envy the little girls being born on that day, who will grow up having never known a world in which the US hasn’t had a female president. And then I’ll think, “oh God, here come four to eight years of virulent sexism”.

If a female president is all but inevitable, so too is the cultural backlash that will follow her campaign and her victory.

You can read the whole thing here.

Reuters: Is Hillary Clinton the cure for political apathy?

At Reuters today, I have a column about how Hillary Clinton’s run for the Presidency might shift American political apathy – especially for American women:

While the scale of American political apathy, especially among women, is high, a Clinton win could go a long way to closing the gender gap in political engagement.

There is a downside, however.

Women’s participation in politics is often followed by a political and cultural backlash. We got a taste of that during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential run in 2008. The sexist tone of the commentary about Clinton that year has been catalogued many times: detractors and supporters alike discussed her hair, her wrinkles, her laugh, her clothing, her emotions, her husband. Anything, it felt like, but her policies and capacity to lead.

So, to what extent are gains made by female politicians negated by bias in the coverage about them? That remains to be seen. And, who knows, perhaps a nasty backlash is just what it takes to galvanize the politically aloof to be more involved. That certainly has been the case in previous cases of high-profile sexism at home and abroad.

And, speaking of unintended consequences of a Hillary campaign, one might be that it could actually increase political apathy– among men.

You can read the whole thing here.