Friday, January 23, 2009

Tidbits: Food, Hair, Obama and Fair Pay

by Laura Smith-Gary

Happy Friday, everybody! By now you should all be relaxing, and have time to start dinner-table conversations about feminism. Here are a few topics that have intrigued me in the past week...

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passes in the Senate, 61-39! It now has to go back to the House for a second approval, but it should pass there, and will potentially become the first piece of legislation signed by President Obama. This bill has been mentioned on Equal Writes before, but I think it's worth mentioning again. This seems pretty clear-cut to me -- getting paid the same for doing the same job in the same company seems like a no-brainer -- but in our sue-happy society, will it trigger a flood of unwarranted lawsuits? Alternative discussion question that I'm asking because I'm a Constitution dork: what effect will this legislation -- which is intended to counteract a 2007 Supreme Court decision -- have on the power dynamics between Congress and the Supreme Court?

Our new president supports women's right to choose! Woohoo! I realize that my happiness at his stance doesn't reflect the positions of everybody who writes for (or reads) this blog, or all feminists who do not read this blog, but I think (I hope!) we can all agree with the President of NOW, who is quoted in the article above saying that we need to prioritize and actively pursue increasing access to birth control and reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, which she says would "dramatically change the debate." Hear, hear. If anyone is wondering and didn't read the article, Obama has yet to change Reagan and Bush's "Mexico City policy" (suspended during the Clinton years), which prevents the U.S. from providing funds to any international family planning organizations if they perform abortions OR if they provide information about abortion, counsel abortion, or refer women to abortion/information-about-
abortion clinics. Seeing as it's only his first week, I'll give him a break. For now. But Obama: that is not an okay policy. Do something about it immediately. Thank you.

A few days ago this story was everywhere, and I was a little surprised not to see it turn up on this blog. Here we have a study indicating that men's and women's brains react differently to temptation regarding food; female brains seem to be less able to "tune out" cravings. Now, where do we go with this? Of course, it's possible that the study was flawed in some way -- I don't have the scientific chops to know if brain reactions like this are tied only to genetics, or if they can be conditioned, though the story seemed to indicate that areas of the brain not associated with conditioning were reacting. Perhaps their data was overgeneralized for a things) does mean men's and women's brains work differently. What does that do to feminism? Was the data overgeneralized to make a sensational headline (a little help here, science people?). But assuming, for a moment, that this study (and others indicating sex-based brain differences) does mean that male and female brains intrinsically react differently to the same stimulus. Does that necessitate embracing some form of gender essentialism? Are it's implications purely practical ("Okay, trying not to think about food may not work as well for me as it does for Bob. Time for a new strategy for losing weight.")? Can we we assert that biological differences (even in the brain, even when decision-making centers are lighting up differently in men's and women's brains) don't indicate intellectual or moral differences? Is this study actually meaningful in any real way? I think I know where I come down on this, but I'm still wrestling with it and would very much appreciate your perspective, Equal Writes community.

Comedian Chris Rock has done a documentary about hair -- specifically the hair of black men and women -- entitled Good Hair. I'm impressed that a male comedian is delving into a "girly" topic, which he acknowledges was discouraged by those around him. In the story I linked to, he says he's been bringing this topic up for a decade, and agents and producers would say, " about a cop movie?" So well done, Chris Rock, for persevering. I'm also excited about the documentary itself. The feminist community, which has long been dominated by white, upper-middle class women, too often ignores issues of race and class. A documentary like Good Hair, an exploration into how our society defines beauty and determines "normalcy," and how differences that might be perceived as trivial (like, say, hair) can become fraught with political significance, is a good step in investigating the tensions and resonances in the fights against racism and sexism.

Have a wonderful intersession!


At January 23, 2009 at 4:48 PM , Blogger LSG said...

Update! Update!

Apparently, Obama is planning to rescind the Mexico City Policy any minute now. As an advocate of women having reproductive choice, I am very much in favor of this news -- and though some conservative groups are already up in arms and howling about broken campaign promises, bear in mind that the U.S. will still not be funding abortions. Now, though, organizations receiving U.S. funds will be allowed to provide information about the available options. Also, consider that the organizations denied funding by this policy were not abortion factories. An organization like Planned Parenthood also provides contraception and non-abortion forms of family planning -- measures that help prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

Well done, Mr. President.

At January 26, 2009 at 12:15 AM , Blogger LSG said...

One more update, same topic.



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