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What Women Want: Equality and Good Reading Material

While on Twitter this evening I found out it’s Women’s Equality Day. I found some great infographics and articles about the disparity in wages between men and women. Yet, when I looked at the trending hashtags “tailored for me,” #WomensEqualityDay wasn’t listed. #NationalDogDay held the number one spot despite the fact that I don’t follow anything related to dogs or pets, and I’m following many feminist and women’s rights groups, publications, and enthusiasts.

FlipboardMaybe it’s just a glitch, but it bummed me out that dogs were getting more attention on Twitter than women. Especially when there are so many amazing tweets out there about equal pay and the history of women’s voting rights. Sigh.

The good news is, it inspired me! In honor of this special day, I’m going to share some of my favorite publications I read regularly that are dedicated to empowering women. They do such a terrific job, I want everyone to read these sites. I get newsletters and follow these sites on social media for a steady stream of guidance and news for women. This means that there are lots of ways to connect with them, depending on your favorite way read good stuff.

Please join me in enjoying these websites for women. They make me want to be a better woman and seek equality in all aspects of my life.

Jezebel

I pretty much can’t go a day without reading something on Jezebel. While some of the writers can be a bit flippant, I love it, especially if it’s commentary on sexism or something ridiculous in the pop culture world. Last night I stayed up way too late reading their Beyonce at the VMAs coverage. (I didn’t even need to watch the VMAs, thankfully.) Basically, they have talented writers who are able to capture culturally relevant (and sometimes irrelevant) topics with wit, intelligence and savvy. Oh, and I always read the comments. Some of the best articles are made even better by the commentary below.

Refinery 29

I started reading Refinery 29 because of their incredible fashion coverage for real women (read: stuff I can afford that I’d actually wear). I continue to read them for shopping tips, but they’ve also now become a dynamic source of feminist content. From analyses of media and pop culture topics, to funny pieces, R29 keeps me coming back for more.

Dame Magazine

While I’ve been reading Dame Magazine since it launched, it’s one of the newer ones on my list, but that doesn’t make it any lesser. With punchy and smart writing, I always look forward to reading posts from Dame. For instance, did you know that the NBA hired its first full-time female assistant coach? See — good stuff!

Levo League

Levo.com has a lot of good articles about forwarding your career, managing your time and just being a  modern woman. They have a feminist bent that’s realistic and empowering, without being dogmatic. It’s refreshing to read their articles and see what other women are doing to forward themselves in life and their careers. They also have career mentors and other job resources that I haven’t used yet.

Lean In

LeanIn.Org pretty much has it all going on: profiles of accomplished women, helpful career advice, news, circles to connect with other women, and even educational materials. I have to say I like the “Like a Boss” pieces and the profiles the best. The “Like a Boss” pieces have helped me learn tactics that make me a better employee and more assertive person. As for the profiles, some women have been to hell and back and still manage to kick ass at work and at home. These stories are very emotional and compelling. I want to be successful and confident like these women.

Women’s eNews

I’ve been reading Women’s eNews for years. They have well-reported content about women’s issues in the U.S. and around the world. I’ve even had the pleasure of writing for them as a freelancer. The profiles of women, books and films are must-reads.

Ms. Magazine Blog

Ms. Magazine has been around for decades and continues to produce excellent content about feminism. I subscribe to the magazine’s blog and I’m never disappointed when it arrives in my inbox. Need I say more about this hallmark publication? You should already be reading it.

The Atlantic

I know, this isn’t a feminist magazine per se, but The Atlantic always has fantastic coverage of feminist topics that I really care about. The reporting is stellar and I could spend hours reading all of the articles in the Atlantic. Seriously, this is one of the best magazines out there. Today, I found this gem about how having a daughter may affect how people vote.

The Motherlode

This New York Times blog always has relevant parenting topics, which are really important to me as a mother raising a daughter. They’ve covered screen time for babies, digital privacy for kids, dress code issues for girls in school, and a bevy of other parenting issues. It’s a resource I look forward to reading because it helps me stay on top of interesting parenting discussions.

Alright, those are my favorites! Please feel free to share some of yours in the comment section.

Happy reading.

Image By ReadingTeen.net

Book-Banning Controversy

Originally Published By: Women’s eNews on December 13, 2010

A book-banning effort against “Speak,” a young-adult novel about date rape, is creating an uproar. A campus group is making a documentary, a Twitter feed is discussing censorship and a library group expects the controversy to attract teen readers.

(WOMENSENEWS)–A Missouri State University professor’s bid to ban a young-adult novel about date rape, among other “filthy books,” from the school district’s English courses is spurring young-adult authors and teachers to speak out against censorship in a country where more than 10,676 books have been challenged in libraries and schools since 1990.

“Teens don’t live in a vacuum,” Andrea Cremer, author of the young-adult novel “Nightshade,” wrote in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. “They inhabit the same brutal world as adults without the knowledge and tools of adulthood. For those teens whose lives have already been affected by drugs, violence, suicide or any number of traumatic experiences–what children as well as adults struggle with–books can provide comfort, healing or simply the realization that one isn’t alone.”

One in six women will be a victim of sexual assault during her life, according to data published by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, based in Washington, D.C. Young women between 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.

“Speak,” a young-adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson about a teen who was raped at a party, is on the New York Times bestseller list, was a National Book Award finalist and has received many honors, including the Michael L. Printz and Golden Kite awards.

However, Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of business management at Missouri State University in Springfield and a fundamentalist Christian, is demanding that “Speak” and two other books be banned from public high school English coursework in Republic, Mo.

Scroggins filed his complaint in June to the Missouri public school board and wrote an opinion piece on Sept. 18, arguing that the two rape scenes in the novel should be classified as “soft pornography.”

Call to Ban Two Other Books

One of the other books Scroggins wants struck from high school reading lists is “Slaughterhouse Five,” the 1969 antiwar novel by Kurt Vonnegut, which Scroggins complains has too much profane language and sex for high school students.

The other is “Twenty Boy Summer,” by Sarah Ockler, published in 2009. Scroggins said the book “glorifies drunken teen parties” and sex on the beach with condoms.

He is opposed by those who argue rape is a violent act of assault–not porn–and that removing the book would infringe on students’ First Amendment rights.

“Teen readers lose their First Amendment rights as well as access to information that may help them grow intellectually or emotionally if a book is unjustly removed from their local school or public library, or if the library unjustly restricts access to it in some way,” Beth Yoke, executive director of the Chicago-based Young Adult Library Services Association, said in an interview with Women’s eNews.

Since 1990, the association has documented the removal of at least 10 books from the schools and public libraries in Missouri. However, the information provided to the group is voluntary, said Bryan Campbell, an administrative assistant for the Chicago-based Office for Intellectual Freedom, in an email interview.

He also said the group is working on a system for larger data collection that may provide a more reliable picture of book banning statistics in the future.

Each year the American Library Association, based in Chicago, recommends a variety of books to libraries, including “contemporary realistic fiction that reflects the diversity of the teen experience.”

Hundreds of books, including some recommended by the organization, are also challenged or banned from schools and libraries each year.

Between 1990 and 2009 the most common reason listed for challenging a book was “sexually explicit,” at 3,046 complaints. Complaints of “violence” numbered 1,258, according to data provided by the American Library Association.

Thousands Say Thanks

“When ‘Speak’ was published, there was some whispering that this was not an appropriate topic for teens,” Halse Anderson said in an interview with the Springfield, Mo., News-Leader four days after Scroggins attacked the book on the newspaper’s opinion page.

She added that thousands of readers had written to thank her for the book: “They said it made them feel less alone and gave them the strength to speak up about being sexually assaulted and other painful secrets.”

The highly popular young-adult author, Judy Blume, a frequent target of book banning herself, has written to the National Council Against Censorship, based in New York City, on behalf of Halse Anderson.

Ockler, author of “Twenty Boy Summer,” one of the three books condemned by Scroggins, blogged on her Web site in September and October about the dangers of censorship. She also emphasized the importance of healthy discussions among parents and their children: “Truly asking for parental involvement would mean encouraging parents to read the books in question, discuss issues and themes with their kids and come to their own decisions about what’s best for their own families.”

“I’m against book banning in schools,” Daisy Whitney, author of “The Mockingbirds,” a young-adult book published on Nov. 2 that also treats the subject of date rape, said in a phone interview. “‘Speak’ is a novel that has helped so many teenagers understand the emotions surrounding someone who has been through a traumatic experience. The reason some people have suggested banning ‘Speak’ also concerns me because in no way should rape ever be equated with sex.”

Teachers, Librarians, Parents Protest

Paul Hankins, an English teacher from Indiana, started a Twitter feed called SpeakLoudly in response to Scroggins’ complaints. A community of teachers, librarians, parents and publishers also founded SpeakLoudly.org with Hankins soon after, in September.

The controversy has also helped publicize the books under attack for censorship.

“Tell a teen that a book is banned or challenged and they will want to read it to find out why,” said Yoke, of the Young Adult Library Services Association. “So, in one way, book banning actually piques many teens’ interest in the controversial titles.”

Vern Minor, superintendant of the Republic school district where Scroggins’ complaint was received by the school board, told the News-Leader in September that “Slaughterhouse Five” was removed from the English course curriculum.

However, in a Dec. 6 e-mail with Women’s eNews, he said: “We have not made any decisions on the books in question. Our discussions are currently focused on board policy, not the three books per se. We are really trying to look at this matter from a much broader perspective than just three books.”

The school board hopes to set standards for book selection. They do not have a set time frame to implement the revised curriculum policies.

Candice Tucker and Brandon Bond, students at Missouri State, have started filming a documentary about the events, censorship and Scroggins’ “radical views.” Bond has also launched an advocacy group on Facebook called “No More Banned Books,” where he hopes to fight against “the enemies of reason and tolerance.”

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Christa Fletcher is an online writer and editor dedicated to promoting awareness about women’s issues. Her work has been featured by Channel One News, InterviewHer.com, Marie Claire and she keeps a blog at ChristaWrites.com.

For more information:

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network:
http://www.rainn.org/

National Council Against Censorship:
http://www.ncac.org/

SpeakLoudly:
http://speakloudly.org/

Speak
http://www.powells.com/partner/34289/biblio/9780142407325?p_ti

InterviewHer.com

New Site for Women in Business

I recently contributed to a new publication dedicated to women entrepreneurs, called InterviewHer.com. The website features women who own their own businesses and provides tips to other ambitious women who want to pursue their own enterprise.

Many of the women featured run successful companies in publishing, beauty and health trades, while others launched fashion lines, run design firms and opened bakeries.

My first piece covers media expert and author Daisy Whitney who owns her own company and published her first book in a series titled, The Mockingbirds. The feature explains how Whitney started her business in media and includes a review of her debut novel. The author also donated a copy of her book, which readers can enter to win in a sweepstakes. In fact, every woman featured is offered the opportunity to share her products or services with readers as giveaways to readers.

InterviewHer.com covers business owners in major cities like Miami, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and New York, among others. And, they are looking for new women to interview.

“We’re always interested in learning about exciting ventures and ideas but we can’t do it all on our own. If you are a fellow female business owner, or if you know of any trendy companies in your city that may not be on our radar, let us know!”

If you know a woman who founded and runs her own company, please help us support women in business and include your suggestion in the comments below, or contact InterviewHer.com directly.

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The Mockingbirds

A Novel Debut

A Remedy in Writing

Originally Published by InterviewHer.com on November 1, 2010

Author and Media Expert Daisy Whitney

“Talking about things is what helps us heal and recover from challenging times in life,” explains Daisy Whitney, host of New Media Minute and author of The Mockingbirds. Yet, many women feel silenced about sexual abuse – especially teens who have been date raped. Daisy Whitney just might change that with her new book. She knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles and finding the strength to speak out.

Daisy Whitney is a talented writer and media expert with a thriving personal business and family. She’s also releasing her debut novel, The Mockingbirds, on November 2, 2010, which has already received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Yet, her journey to success and “masterfully” written novel began with a hardship — one that changed her life and inspired her to write about date rape, vigilantism and academic politics.

Daisy Whitney was date raped when she was 19-years-old and she understands firsthand what it means to find her voice and the strength to press charges against her attacker. “I was a freshman in college at the time and am definitely a big believer in the power of speaking up.”

With the support of her friends Whitney pressed charges in her school’s justice system at Brown University. “In the early nineties we were starting to understand date rape,” said Whitney in an interview. “Institutions now have disciplinary systems that recognize sexual assault as a violation of the

code.”

Thankfully, her school handled Whitney’s case and she healed from the incident by being able to talk about it and find closure for herself. After receiving her degree, Whitney started her career in journalism as a reporter and later founded her own business as a reporter and media expert.

The Mockingbirds is the first in a series about a secret society in a private high school called Themis Academy. The protagonist,Alex, is sexually assaulted after a night of drinking. She struggles to remember what happened that night as she copes with her fear of the classmate who raped her. Her friends provide guidance when she realizes that she has been violated and abused. In her quest to heal, she encounters the Mockingbirds, a student-run justice system and she decides to press charges against her attacker.

The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney

In this exciting and evocative book, Whitney captures the complexity of date rape with her narrative about Alex, an exceptional concert pianist who wants to pursue music at Juilliard. Whitney creates a powerful scenario, filled with realistic characters that show teens the trials of coping and the importance of finding empowerment after assault.

The novel comes at a crucial time. One in six women will become victims of sexual assault during their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Many of them are girls, ages 16-19. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault estimates nearly half of reported cases of sexual assault and attempted rape are teens. “According to a study conducted by The Northern Westchester Shelter, with Pace Women’s Justice Center, about 83% of 10th graders said they would sooner turn to a friend for help with dating abuse than a teacher, counselor, parent or other caring adult,” said Whitney in an email.

For Daisy Whitney, speaking up and increasing awareness are not only key elements of her novel, they are also part of her business plan, turning her tragedy to triumph, while helping teens on the way.

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Image By Terry Richardson

Nothing GQ About It

GQ Cover, "Glee Gone Wild" 2010

GQ Cover, "Glee Gone Wild" 2010

The cover and featured photo shoot of GQ this month is its own rocky horror picture show. Three actors from the hit show Glee pose as a “sexy” threesome of co-eds without much clothing — on the girls. Meanwhile, Cory Monteith sports long sleeves and pants. And a grin.

What’s worse, the article is boring and the photos inside might as well be in Maxim, with crotch shots and poses pandering to a Lolita fetish. Yep, red lollipops and white cotton underwear — not exactly what you’d want a tween girl to admire and emulate — especially while straddling a bench… at school.

The headline, “Glee Gone Wild,” is reminiscent of “Girls Gone Wild,”  made particularly distasteful given the constant oversexualization of young women in entertainment and the reports that Lea Michele and Dianna Agron have “never been shot in so little clothing.”

Image By Terry Richardson, GQ

“I don’t know how they got me to do half the stuff I did.” Michele said. “But I was in really good shape this summer, so… “

…You did it anyway? Did you do it for Mardi Gras beads? Was Joe Francis there and has GQ forgotten that they are referencing a business created by a convicted child abuser who was charged with prostitution (aka a sex offender)? I don’t get it.

After all the fun and compelling girl power of the show, Michele and Agron are selling out to celebrity sexism — they’re just two more women who feel like they need to expose their bodies to gain attention.

“It’s simply a case of two actresses seizing the career-climbing opportunity to appear on the cover of a popular men’s magazine,” writes Kevin Fallon in the Atlantic Monthly.

Image By Terry Richardson, GQ

Yeah, it’s “simply” a reality, but it doesn’t have to be — women don’t need to debase themselves — just as they don’t need plastic surgery, to lose weight, or to change who they are to get ahead.

I thought these two got it, but clearly I was wrong. “I’m proud to be on a positive show and to be a voice for girls and say, ‘You don’t need to look like everybody else. Love who you are,’” said Lea Michele about deciding not to get a nose job.

It’s one thing to be confident, but it’s another to seek this kind of “American Apparel ad-inspired” attention. Tweens and teens look up to these actors and it’s their responsibility to be decent role models — especially because they play underage characters on the show and GQ is for men.

“It is disturbing that GQ, which is explicitly written for adult men, is sexualizing the actresses who play high school-aged characters on ‘Glee’ in this way. It borders on pedophilia,” said the President of the the Parents Television Council in the Wall Street Journal.

While it’s not actually “pedophilia,” because they are in their twenties, I get what the PTC means, it’s confusing because they portray high school students, so to feature the actors (un)dressed as “teens” to men, is very Humbert Humbert.

I believe women have the freedom to pose in their skivvies when they are of age (Dianna Agron is 24, Corey Monteith is 28 and Lea Michele is 24), but I don’t understand why anyone does it. The show is a success and it often touts empowerment to women, why pose with your ass showing on the cover of a magazine, but then talk about loving yourself? Given Lea Michele’s desire to be a “positive” influence, the photos and interviews I’ve read are completely contrary.

Glee is great because everyone can enjoy it. People say the median viewer age is 38-years-old, but I’ve heard many tweens say their families watch it together. And, I’m sure that age stat doesn’t count all the views on Hulu — where most teens are consuming their shows anyway.

Image By Terry Richardson, GQ

Aside from being disappointed in these talented young women, I’m mostly angry with how sexist GQ is: What’s so wild about Cory Monteith’s rugby shirt and pants? Why is he fully clothed and the young women are not?All of the pictures of him are so wholesome!

GQ is a sexist rag, degrading women with racy photos and at times violence-inspired images like the January Jones shoot. These photo spreads may be “art,” but I’m sick of the art of demeaning young women.

There’s nothing Glee-ful about this publicity. Nor is GQ showing any “style” or “smarts.”

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spilled-nail-polish

Getting Nailed

I like nail polish. It’s colorful, trendy and a fun way to express your personality while adding some style to your look. And mani-pedis are relaxing and let you feel pampered, but I would never consider the paint, or the practice, “orgasmic.”

However, a couple days ago I received a distasteful email about a new line of nail polish by Mattesse Elite sold at Ricky’s NYC called the “Orgasmic Collection.” The name of the collection didn’t bother me until I scrolled down and saw a very naked woman splayed out in my email inbox. I was shocked at the vulgarity of the ad and completely offended that anyone would think this is effective marketing. (And, hello, NSFW!)

It got even worse as I read the email:

“As if saucy new shades weren’t enough to get you worked up… Mattese Elite’s new Orgasmic Collection embodies the phases and progression of an orgasm! Yeah… You heard it right… we’re turnin’ it up and turnin’ you on with new nail colors intense enough to get your primal instincts goin’ straight to your nearest Ricky’s!”

I’m sorry, but in my opinion, this is not only stupid — it’s gross.  Since when does nail polish, or the mere thought of buying beauty products get people off? And why would marketing to women include a nude porn star (pretending to have an orgasm) with silver stars pasted on her body? The only thing this ad nailed is objectifying and demeaning woman. You can barely even see her fingernails!

To top it off, the line includes names for shades like “Soft & Wet” and “Cream Dream.” So, as you can imagine, I’m definitely worked up, but it’s not to buy their nail polish. If anything, I will now AVOID purchasing it because it’s degrading. If you’re as offended as I am, I recommend not subscribing to this beauty retailer’s newsletter and limiting your purchases of this nail polish brand.

I’ve unsubscribed from Ricky’s newsletter and will not post the image in this blog, but if you want check it out and comment with your thoughts below, I’d be interested to read what you think about this ad.

You can view the complete newsletter and explicit image here: http://www.rickysnyc.com/newsletter/newsflash-101410.html.

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Image By NFL.com/women

Women Shoppers Blitzed by NFL

The NFL is all about the ladies this year, from selling team-branded gear at top women’s stores, to rooting out sexism within the league toward women sports reporters. And I have to say, these new efforts are totally a win.

Known as the ultimate boys’ club, the NFL is now reaching out to women and improving their image to include more equality. And, it makes sense, both men and women enjoy football and it’s smart to avoid alienating nearly half of your audience with sexist spats in the locker room, one-sided marketing and ill-fitting apparel.

Image By NFL.com/women

Did you know that 44% of NFL fans are women? Yep, that’s why the league is launching a $10 million marketing effort with television commercials and a new website at http://www.nfl.com/women. Though the campaign officially begins today, I was surprised to see Jets branded panties, tanks, flip-flops and other items at the Victoria’s Secret PINK store in SoHo this weekend.

When I came across this article about the new campaign, I realized this was a huge step for the professional football organization, yet it also seems like a no-brainer. I mean, football fandom is intense and people who love a team really want to show it.  Most women I know follow a team and support it by wearing shirts, sweatshirts and whatever else works for them.

I’m just glad they are finally making clothes for women that fit our shape, have cool designs and are generally more attractive without being uncomfortable, unrealistic, or overtly “sexy.”

Supposedly the league has thousands of new designs for all the pro teams and will be selling the products at over 3,000 stores.

Image By NFL.com/women

In an effort to gain some yardage in women’s interest, the NFL put together a Look Book with wives of football players modeling the clothes on the new website mentioned above. Plus, there are bios of each woman and webisodes in the “Beyond the Sidelines” section.

Now, I get selling a wide variety of products from apparel, to yoga mats and lotion, because everyone expresses their athletic zeal in different ways, but I’m going to be honest, I’m calling a flag on the phrase, “Who says football isn’t pretty?” What does that have to do with clothes that fit properly? In fact, a few of the phrases in the Look Book are a bit annoying, including one of the names for the tees, “Oil Can Flirt Tee.” Other than that, the whole thing seems pretty great.

Jezebel disagrees in some respects, asking the question: “What Does Football Have to Do with Lotion?” They think it’s stereotyping women’s behavior in the types of products they are branding, which is partly true, but I’d totally buy the lotion for a guy who’s a fan.

And, I get it, it’s fun to put festive lotions, soaps or towels in your bathroom on game nights or if you’re hosting a Super Bowl party — no matter the gender of your guests. I mean, it’s for decoration, it’s not a must-have like a T-shirt, but someone will totally buy it.

The National Football League has finally opened their eyes to the fact that women like football too, though it was motivated by money and not feminism, I’ll take this as a score for equality.

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