Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sarah Haskins takes on beauty contraptions

"Just because you're not rich doesn't mean you can't get five easy installments!"

Friday, October 16, 2009

President Shirley Tilghman Opposes Idea of Campus Chastity Center

Threatening to temper the "inspiration and joy" following last weekend's National Equality March in DC, the Anscombe Society scheduled a full week of "diverse and important events" to show Princeton that "yes, indeed, it is time for a University-sponsored Center for Abstinence and Chastity."

I obviously have a few objections, not least of which is the timing coincidence: the events immediately follow both the march and National Coming Out Day and overlap with LGBT Awareness Week. But I was thrilled when I read that President Tilghman firmly shares my position (and gave some great reasons why) in The Daily Princetonian on Thursday:
In an e-mail sent in response to the petition signers, Tilghman wrote, “The question of whether the University would sponsor the establishment of a ‘Center for Abstinence and Chastity’ was raised with several members of the University administration last year, and each of us provided the same response, which was a firm ‘no.’ ”
She acknowledges the difficulties of remaining abstinent but affirms that there is no reason to dedicate a center to this issue:
“I understand that it is sometimes difficult to stand up for what you believe when you are in the minority, but the fact that you are greeted with opposing points of view when you do so is not sufficient grounds for the University to establish a center,” she said.
Though Brandon McGinley of Anscombe points to the existence of the Women's Center and the LGBT Center as reasons for the creation of a chastity center, our president rightfully acknowledges that these centers are not just about sex:
Tilghman, however, said this assessment of the University’s already-established centers was incorrect. “There are a number of problems with this argument,” she said in the e-mail. “First it implies that the Women’s and LGBT Centers are there to support a non-chaste or non-abstinent lifestyle, which is not the case, and would be considered offensive by both centers.”
It's great to know that President Tilghman is emphatically on our side.

Photo from Katie Tegtmeyer's flickr.

Some thoughts on "cougars" from two EW bloggers

Yesterday's NYT article about "cougars" (older women who date younger men) was so compelling that not one, but two of our bloggers chose to write about it, and you, our EW readers, get to reap the benefits. So enjoy - two perspectives on this article from Nick and Brenda.

"Cougar Season"

by Nick Cox

Check out the article in the New York Times on relationships between older women and younger men. The "cougar" archetype has been near the forefront of popular culture for a good while now, mainly in the person of Demi Moore—who has been married to Ashton Kutcher for four years now—as well as the character of Samantha on Sex in the City. Recently the cougar has been blossoming into a bona fide cultural obsession, probably catalyzed by Cougar Town, the new TV show with Courtney Cox. The interesting thing, though, is that much of this cultural trend has taken the form not of shows like Cougar Town, which are about fictional cougars, but rather of products marketed to women who self-identfiy as cougars—the article mentions cougar cruises as well as online cougar communities.

As this last detail implies, and a number of surveys have confirmed, cougars—defined as women in relationships with men who are fifteen or more years younger than they are—are a growing demographic. At least on the surface, this development seems to be cause for more or less unqualified celebration. If women are freeing themselves from the conventions of society dictating that they marry older men with better educations and more money, there doesn't seem to be much for us to be unhappy about.

But, as feminists, we should always find something to be unhappy about, or at least look for something. It's only through that sort of critical obstinacy that we can uncover our culture's hidden sexism, which often shows up in the most outwardly laudable places. In this case, I don't think there's anything particularly disturbing about the relationships themselves. The question, then, is whether the sexualized stereotype of the older woman, especially one propagated in a large part by self-described "cougars," is an empowering move, or whether it is just another case of women being fetishized. I myself am at a loss for how to answer this question, but I'd be interested to here what other people have to say.

"Could 'Cougar' Relationships Be...Good?"

by Brenda Jin

The so-called (and controversially named) “cougar” phenomenon—older women who seek relationships with younger men—has made headlines in the New York Times today. This is probably not a surprise to anyone who has ever seen a copy of “People” or “Cosmo”; popular media have already focused attention on prominent “cougars” such as Demi Moore, Mariah Carey, Eva Longoria Parker, Janet Jackson, Kim Cattrall, and Cameron Diaz.

While I personally am not at a time in my life where men who are five to ten years younger would make compatible (or legal) partners, the idea is not novel to me. Yet I can see how a shift in attitudes would be more striking to the baby boomer generation, on whom the NYTimes article focuses. In previous generations, the conventional heterosexual relationship has often featured a man “two to three years older, of similar background and higher levels of education and income”. I originally thought the fact that our culture firmly fixes beauty in youth would be a contributor to why men would be reluctant to date older women, but it seems that another taboo is at play here, as men report that they were drawn to older women because of physical attraction in the first place (yay!).

Although a number of relationships outside of marriage are unaccounted for in census data, a shift in attitudes from the previous half century can be discerned nonetheless: “…the number of marriages between women who are at least 5 or 10 years older than their spouses is still small, 5.4 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively. But both rates doubled between 1960 and 2007”. According to some sociologists, female baby boomers in a so-called “marriage squeeze” are more likely to be open-minded to shifting relationship conventions regarding age, race, religion, and economic status. Since they have delayed marriage, the pool of conventionally accepted male partners has decreased, as male baby boomers have likely stuck with convention and sought younger partners.

The term “cougar” is problematic, because it is loaded with taboo connotations of wildness and conjures images of older women desperate for sexual satisfaction which can only be achieved by virile strapping young men, despite the fact that many of these so-called “cougars” are married. Yet why don’t we apply these attitudes to men who date younger women? Why don’t we view the male counterparts of so-called “cougars” as sex-hungry men who are on the prowl for the fulfillment of their sexual desires through an accompanying obsession with the attractiveness of youth?

The idea of a maternal relationship has been named as another taboo for older women who date younger women. But when a man is older than a woman in a relationship, why is it not seen as patriarchal? It seems to be more acceptable and less taboo to have a man marry a younger woman. I personally would be wary of being in a relationship with a man whose age might be directly related to his economic advantage, higher job status, or any other uneven power relationship. I would be wary that he would be patriarchal or patronizing. I wonder how the other women of my generation feel? I also wonder whether the increased presence of these relationships could reflect the urge to find equality in relationships as more women gain economic independence seek partners not for the sake of child-rearing, stability, or necessity, but out of a desire for equal partnership?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gender-Neutral Housing Comes to Princeton

As our friend Emily Rutherford (Princeton '12) posted in Campus Progress yesterday, next year one of our dorms, Spelman Hall, will be gender-neutral. In a letter addressed to the student body, Undergraduate Student Government President Connor Diemand-Yauman confirmed the "pilot program," which will permit "male, female and transgender students to not only be in the same draw group, but live together in GNH suites" with "private sleeping spaces" and sharing a "common living area and bathroom."

Princeton joins a growing number of Ivy League schools offering GNH options. The Daily Princetonian writes: "Harvard, Stanford, Brown and the Penn all offer gender-neutral housing. Yale formed a committee last year to consider gender-neutral housing, but announced in March that it was delaying a final decision."

Though the GNH option is only available to those eligible to live in Spelman (and thus no underclassmen), Emily writes that "it's a major change in university policy that brings Princeton quite dramatically and unequivocally into the 21st century."

Photo from (and of) Emily Rutherford.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We are the change that we seek

by Jillian Hewitt

In light of the National Equality March, I want to use this week’s post as a kind of hodgepodge of musings about gay rights. I was unable to go to the march in D.C., so I’ll be speaking to the movement more generally rather than the march itself. To anyone who would question what gay rights has to do with feminism, I would ask—what kind of feminist would I be to ignore the rights of 10% of the female population? What kind of person would I be to ignore the rights of 10% of the human population?

At the heart of the gay marriage debate is the division between first- and second-class citizens. I often hear the moderate wing of the “traditional marriage” camp—Republicans and Democrats alike, who do not wish to extend marriage rights to gays but who also do not wish to isolate the gay population—attempt to present themselves as tolerant. That is, they claim that they have nothing “against” gays, but they believe in “traditional marriage.” They say that they do not wish to discriminate against gays, but they believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. But it’s completely contradictory. It’s contradictory when Sarah Palin says it, it’s contradictory when Carrie Prejean says it, it’s contradictory when Barack Obama says it. By disallowing gay people from marrying, our government—and as a whole, our society—tells these individuals that their love is different from “our” love and, in the end, not as valuable as “our” love. This inherently, without exception, creates first- and second-class citizens. No matter what spin you put on it, it is both intolerant and discriminatory. It is just has abhorrent as laws that prevented interracial marriage, and I truly believe that in 40 years we will look back on this time and wonder what the hell our country was thinking. But how can we work towards this America—one in which the vast majority of the population sees discrimination based on sexuality as overtly and egregiously wrong—when ideologies of intolerance seem so entrenched?

This week for a class on public opinion I read Hearing the Other Side by Diana Mutz, which talks about how much exposure Americans get to those with views that oppose their own. The answer is: very little. In America we surround ourselves with those who are like us—those who are of a similar socioeconomic background, those of the same race, those of the same ideology, whatever. We are more willing to accept the discrimination of those who are unlike us than those of our own “group.” Not surprising. However, there is hope: those who are exposed to the rationales behind “opposing” groups and understand these rationales are more likely to extend the same rights to these groups as to their own. And of course, those who are more willing to “hear the other side” are more likely to be exposed to those rationales and experience the positive, tolerance-promoting benefits. This “perspective-taking ability,” as author Diana Mutz calls it, is teachable. If we are to create a tolerant culture, we need to start putting greater emphasis on teaching school-age children the skill of perspective-taking. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning has made amazing progress developing curriculums that can be implemented in schools to teach young children these invaluable skills. Being proactive with school-age children will help us cultivate a generation of “engaged life-long learners who are self-aware, caring and connected to others, and responsible in their decision-making.”

I’m not suggesting that teaching skills of perspective-taking and compassion to our kids would magically eradicate intolerance and create a new generation of completely open, wonderful human beings. But I am saying that we shouldn’t overlook evidence that tolerance is a skill that can be taught, and intolerance is not an inevitable worldview. It is only by systematically wearing away at the prejudices used to justify inequality that we can create sweeping and pervasive change. But in the mean time, projecting our outrage at these inequalities in passionate, active, and loving ways can help to bring more immediate relief from discrimination.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Egyptian University Bans Niqab in All-Female Areas

by Shannon Togawa Mercer

An all male committee at Al-Azhar University in Egypt has banned use of the niqab (conservative, face-covering veil) by female students in women-only areas like male dormitories and all-female classes, according to CNN. Al-Azhar, the center of Sunni Islam and debatably the oldest university in the world, is an influential center of Islamic theology and scholarship.

The niqab is worn by a more conservative Muslim female population in Egypt, but it is a common choice for women in the Arabian Peninsula nations and Pakistan. CNN reports that many Egyptians interpret this as Al-Azhar’s attempt to counteract the “growing appeal of the strictest interpretations of Islam”. The niqab is not mandated by the Qur’an and its origins are still debated among scholars of Islam.

As expected, the Muslim Brotherhood, an opposition party, is protesting the ban, arguing that the niqab is being characterized as “something bad that needs to be suppressed”. A group representative told CNN that the wearing of the Niqab is a personal choice that the Sheikh of Al-Azhar has no business legislating.

This ban has drawn mixed reactions from all sides of the issue (female, male, students and scholars). Egyptian society is quite liberal compared to many of its neighboring Middle Eastern nations, but this move on the part of a traditionally more moderate institution hints at a deeper political agenda.

For more on women’s educational issues, check out a new not-for-profit group on campus that works to fund raise and plan for girl’s schools in developing countries. The “Circle of Women” (as this group is so aptly dubbed) has just “circled up” a Princeton chapter headed by the inimitable forces-of-nature Sandy Thomas ‘11 (sandyt@) and Janelle Morris ’11 (jmorris@). Princeton’s project is just getting off the ground with a proposed location in India and several collaboration possibilities on the table. Harvard’s chapter has already successfully established a girl’s school in Afghanistan. For more information meetings are every Tuesday at 9 pm in Campus Club or visit

Image from CharlesFred's flickr.

Actually, we call them "women's colleges"

by Molly Borowitz

So. I go to Cambridge now.

Actually, it feels a lot like Princeton—a quiet academic backwater, a quirky town built up around a prestigious university, just a short hop from a bustling cultural center. Except—oh wait—I’m a grad student. And I’m in England. And I live in an all-women’s college.

In the 1860s, after more than 650 years of existence, the University of Cambridge finally decided (albeit grudgingly) to admit women into its ranks. Unsurprisingly, progress was slow: the foundations of the first women’s colleges, Girton (1869) and Newnham (my college, 1872), enabled women to attend university lectures—at the lecturer’s discretion, of course—but they weren’t awarded degrees in recognition of their studies until 1947.

Almost all of Cambridge’s colleges went co-ed during the 1970s (although there were a few holdouts—for instance, Peterhouse, which resisted until 1985, and whose male residents processed through the streets dressed in black on the day that women finally entered the college). King’s, Clare, and Churchill were the first to admit women, in 1972. Girton admitted its first male residents in 1977. Oxford, too, surrendered to the tide of mixed education; in 2007, the last of Oxford’s women’s colleges admitted men. But Newnham? Not a chance. As of today, Cambridge is the only university in the United Kingdom with colleges that do not admit men.

Call me a crappy feminist, but I was not thrilled to have been assigned to a women’s college. However, after two weeks here, I am forced to admit that I like it. Newnham is an incredible historical force—alumnae include Rosalind Franklin, Jane Goodall, Sylvia Plath, Emma Thompson, and Germaine Greer—and also a breathtakingly beautiful space. When you gather in the period rooms or stand in the sunken rose garden, you can picture young women in nineteenth-century dress reading diligently from dusty volumes, living quietly in an ivory tower, a little oasis in the midst of the odd fraternal-but-solemn, academic-gown-wearing Cambridge atmosphere. The isolation must have been complete: Newnham boasts one of the most extensive college libraries at the University, mostly because the men’s colleges didn’t want to share their books with the female students.

These days, of course, living here doesn’t preclude you from interacting with men. I see them in all my lectures and seminars, at various social events, and often in my own house (because most of my housemates have boyfriends). There are male friends and visitors all over the place—in the library, on the grounds, in the dining hall—and, as best I can tell, they feel completely comfortable here. The concept of an all-women’s college under the aegis of a mixed university doesn’t seem to strike Cantabrigians as incongruous, nor do they regard it as outdated or somehow inferior.

Of course, there is the occasional sexist joke. Amongst the undergraduates, Newnham is affectionately known as the “Virgin Mega-Store,” and it’s commonly held that during early-morning fire drills there are as many men as women standing outside the dorms, often wrapped in pink dressing-gowns or girls’ overcoats. But on the flipside, women reign supreme here. All the buildings are named after women, the administrative staff is comprised of women, all the resident Tutors and Fellows are women, the Principal and all the College authorities are women, and so forth. (Of course, there are male employees and tutors, but they constitute a very small minority, and women occupy all the highest positions.)

Obviously, as a young feminist, I like to see women empowered. It is objectively cool to live in a place where everyone you are expected to respect, admire, or emulate is a woman. And Newnham is beautiful, warm, and welcoming. I am very happy here. However, I still think Cambridge’s women’s colleges present a problem for women’s equality in the university. As long as there are spaces reserved exclusively for women, it will remain possible for us to be diverted into a separate sphere of success. Or perhaps, to put it another way, the women’s colleges create an alternate stage upon which Cambridge women can be recognized and acclaimed for their successes (e.g., women scholars get buildings named after them at Newnham, New Hall, or Lucy Cavendish, rather than on the University grounds at large). And as long as women’s colleges exist, it will be possible for the strong and brilliant female scholars, teachers, and leaders here to be set up as role models exclusively for Cambridge’s female students, rather than for all Cantabrigians. I don’t think Newnham will be admitting men any time soon, but until that time I wonder whether it will be possible for its residents and alumnae to move beyond the legacy of “Cambridge’s women” in order to contribute to that of Cambridge itself.

How exactly do we use those images of aborted fetuses?

by Gracie Remington

The New York Times' Lens blog has an interesting and unsettling piece on the production of images of aborted fetuses, featuring an interview with Monica Migliorino Miller, a theology professor at Madonna University and the director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, who has been salvaging discarded fetuses and photographing them since 1988. Initially motivated by journalistic ideals ("We felt it was very important to make a record of the reality of abortion"), she has adapted her ideas of what is appropriate for use in the anti-abortion movement over time, and no longer believes that images featuring blood or organs are acceptable; additionally, she argues against the use of graphic images when attempting to involve children in the anti-abortion movement.

The article features interesting commentary from leaders on both sides of the abortion issue, and provides valuable insight into the various principles at work in the visual battle over a woman's right to an abortion. A highly recommended read.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The legal consequences of fetal personhood

by Thomas Dollar

In the ongoing war against women’s reproductive freedoms, the religious organization PersonhoodUSA has been pushing for state referenda on Personhood Amendments. These initiatives would define legal personhood under a state’s constitution as beginning at the moment an egg is fertilized. This would, of course, criminalize abortion, as well as methods of birth control that may interfere with a fertilized egg (like the morning-after pill, and perhaps even the regular Pill). Seventy-three percent of Colorado voters rejected one of these amendments last fall, but PersonhoodUSA is pushing on to get another on the ballot in Florida in 2010.

This proposed amendment reads: “The words ‘person’ and ‘natural person’ apply to all human beings, irrespective of age,…from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.”

Under this amendment, Florida could make no legal distinction between a one-celled zygote and anyone else. (Some of our more science-minded readers might point out that “the beginning of biological development” of any human being occurred with the rise of the first cell, between 3 and 3.3 billion years ago. This is correct; however for now I will accept fertilization as the legal definition.)

Redefining legal personhood to include the unborn is a radical change in policy that goes beyond the mere prohibition of abortion: as Justice Blackmun observed in Roe v. Wade (see §IX, A), never in the United States has “person” been defined to mean anything other than a born human—even when abortion was criminalized generally. This redefinition (if it is taken seriously as public policy) will inevitably lead to some sticky—and unintended—legal consequences.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution states that “No State shall…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Fourteenth Amendment means that the state may not treat Person A differently from Person B, and guarantees all persons the rights and protections that are necessary to a concept of “ordered liberty.” If a fetus or embryo is a person, then it must also be guaranteed equal protection of the laws and all the same rights and protections.

The US Constitution also mandates a decennial census for the purposes of apportioning Representatives, to be based on “the whole number of persons in each state...” This “whole number of persons” must also include the unborn, which leads to a major logistical problem. Pregnancy does not begin until a blastocyst implants in the uterine wall—about seven days after fertilization. Between 40 and 80% of blastocysts never implant, never result in a pregnancy, and are secreted. There is no way of knowing (apart from installing microscopic cameras in every woman’s uterus) whether an egg has been fertilized until after implantation has occurred, and the hormonal signs of pregnancy can be detected. Under the Personhood Amendments, there are now thousands (millions? tens of millions?) of legal persons out there who may or may not exist. This will make life very difficult for Census takers, who will now have to count Schrödinger’s persons, in addition to the whole number of born persons.

And it will make life more difficult still for women. Florida’s penal code (§782.07 (3)) states that: “A person who causes the death of any person under the age of 18 by culpable negligence…commits aggravated manslaughter of a child, a felony of the first degree…” This is punishable by up to 30 years in prison (§775.082 (b)).

“Neglect of a child” is defined as: “ A caregiver's failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child's physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child.” (§827.03 (3)(a)(1)).

Therefore, any woman who may be carrying a fertilized egg (which is to say, any ovulating, sexually active woman) must do everything that “a prudent person would consider essential” to maintain that person’s health. Hormonal contraceptives, needless to say, are prima facie evidence of criminal intent. If her lack of care results in the death of the child, she faces up to 30 years in prison for aggravated manslaughter.

Gathering evidence of this manslaughter will be difficult, as no one can be quite sure when these persons exist. The state could subpoena women’s menstrual blood, inspect the endometria for evidence of an ovum, and verify that it was fertilized. An expensive and cumbersome process to be sure, but state officials would have to do it: if they didn’t, they would risk being sued for failure to enforce equal protection of Florida’s laws.

By granting the embryo equal protection of the laws, the state would be forced to deny the same to the woman—who is, after all, also a person under the Constitution. A man’s body would not be subject to the same scrutiny, nor would the body of a pre-pubescent girl or post-menopausal woman. By creating a new class of legal persons (embryos and fetuses), an existing class of persons (fertile women) would invariably be singled out for unequal treatment by the law. An unborn organism’s survival depends entirely and uniquely upon the sustained metabolic processes of another—a symbiotic relationship that can never be an equal one. Making the unborn a legal person sets the Equal Protection Clause on a collision course with itself: it forces the Constitution to balance two incompatible goods, until—like Isaac Asimov’s robots—it shuts itself down completely.

If the legal consequences of these Personhood Amendments seem absurd or grotesque, it is because nobody intends that they be interpreted to mean what they say. PersonhoodUSA has no desire to subpoena women’s menstrual blood or count embryos in the Census—only to wear away at women’s reproductive rights by forcing endless litigation. But it is what the amendments mean. Next November, Florida voters will have a choice: either a fetus/embryo has all the protections and guarantees of legal personhood, or a woman does. It is not possible to have both.

Reflections on the National March for Equality

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

Yesterday, I was one of the 70 Princeton students who traveled to Washington, D.C. for the National March for Equality. We boarded a bus (or, in my case, a rental car) at 6 am and drove three hours, jittery with coffee and adrenaline. I hadn't been to a march since 2005, when I marched in Washington for the end of the war in Iraq, but I remember that day being filled with quiet resignation - we knew, even as we filled the streets, that the war wasn't going to end. Yesterday was different. Surrounded by my classmates and people of all ages, genders, races, sexualities, and religions, I was filled with hope. It was a day of inspiration and joy - I have these days all too rarely, and I was incredibly grateful to spend it surrounded by people I loved, doing something that I loved.

I wrote about the march on, and Emily Rutherford, one of the people who made it possible for so many Princeton students to go to Washington, wrote about it for Campus Progress. I'm not going to repeat my sentiments or Emily's; rather, I'd encourage you to read both posts. If you went to the march, we'd love to hear your reflections in the comment section, and even if you didn't, write about your thoughts. I think that yesterday was a crucial day for activists of our generation - let's keep the conversation and the energy going.

"Sex and the Soul": Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance and Religion on College Campuses

How should religious beliefs define sexual practices? What are the intersections between religious life and the "hookup culture"? How do college students deal with religion and their sex lives?

If you're interested in any of these questions, come hear Donna Freitas speak!
Donna Freitas is a professor at Boston University whose book, Sex and the Soul, is based on hundreds of interviews with college students across the country. Freitas depicts college students' often painful struggle with their sexuality with insight and compassion, and is not interested in denouncing or exalting this sexual culture, but rather understanding the forces behind it. Freitas' analysis of the conflict between students' religious beliefs and perceived sexual norms is relevant to students of many different faiths and backgrounds, and provides a warm and fascinating exploration of how students can truly reconcile their religion with their sexual desires. The event is part of the Let's Talk Sex "Conversations About Sex" fall speaker series.

Donna will be speaking at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, October 13, in McCosh 46 (note: this is a change from the information on the poster). Interested students can attend an informal dinner beforehand in the Mathey Private Dining Room with Donna at 6 pm. Meal passes will be available for upperclassmen without meal plans. To RSVP for the dinner, contact Amelia at ajthomso@ or Cristina at cstanoje@.

Ralph Lauren's photoshop flop

by Jordan Kisner

Well, Polo Ralph Lauren has finally dared to go where no clothing company has gone before: they crossed the photoshop line between eerie perfection and the horrifyingly uncanny. In a recent campaign for their Blue Label, their photo of model Filippa Hamilton was photoshopped so carelessly that Hamilton, who is quite thin but absolutely proportionate, appears to be the victim of some cruel stretching machine. It would appear as though everything from her ribcage downward belongs to a thinner, shorter woman. As one reader on Jezebel pointed out, her pelvis is smaller than her head.

Polo Ralph Lauren, no doubt hoping to avoid a reputation as a company that creates an unhealthy body standard for women, issued this apology: "For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman's body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately."

While one might give Ralph Lauren a modicum of credit for going through the motions of an apology, this statement is pretty pathetic. Let's not forget that every image Ralph Lauren produces has been "distorted"-- this distortion was simply more obvious. Instead of addressing the way this image loudly calls attention to the ethical complications and social irresponsibility of creating and endorsing an standard of beauty that requires that every (already beautiful) face and body must be altered, they chose instead to plug the "quality and integrity" of their brand. Instead of assuring their customers that they respect and admire the female form and will ensure no further distortions of it, they tell us that they'll take precautions to "ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately."

Does anyone hear a real apology in there?

As consumers, we should demand more from companies like Polo Ralph Lauren-- a more ethical approach to the representation of the female body, and, if nothing else, a more serious regard for the feelings and intellect of their consumer.