Friday, August 8, 2014

What We've Been Reading 8/8

Last Friday, Salon Assistant Editor Jenny Kutner wrote an article about what women experience before having an abortion by bravely and unabashedly telling her own story. She describes finding out she was pregnant, the Planned Parenthood clinic where she confirmed it, her discussions with friends and families, and even the reasons she’s glad she’s not her home state of Texas. The state legislature passed laws requiring women to endure invasive sonograms before having an abortion, reproductive health care providers to read misleading and oftentimes medically inaccurate information on fetal development, and abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers effectively closing all but six clinics in the great state of Texas. She admits that while all of these laws would have made it more difficult for her to have an abortion, she still would have been able to because she is privileged, thus shining a light on the disproportionate impact of anti-choice legislation on women in poverty. She states that she is not sure whether or not this experience will make her a better activist, but this article is certainly a promising start.

Huffington Post political reporter Laura Bassett reported that Ultraviolet, a progressive women’s rights organization, is welcoming travelers to states with informative billboards exposing the states’ treatment of women. These 11 signs are posted in view of flight passengers at airports in Louisiana, Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, Nevada and Kentucky. When flying into and out of New Orleans, passengers will read that “Louisiana women are paid $.67 to every man’s dollar,” “Many Louisiana politicians opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” and “More than 22% of women live in poverty” among other things. Though some airports rejected the ads for various reasons including not being able to post political advertisement on government property, the organization has taken the liberty of erecting billboards just outside of the airport, still in view.  Ultraviolet hopes that the campaign will lead people to contact their legislators about a broad array of legislative issues that disproportionately and unfairly impact women.

Screenwriter and actress Zoe Kazan was featured in The Frisky in a Q&A where she proudly proclaims that she a feminist and explains why. Her answer is too thoughtful and accurate to summarize. Kazan says:
“Yeah, I do consider myself a feminist. I was raised by a woman [screenwriter Robin Swicord, who wrote "Matilda," "Little Women" and other films] who would consider herself a feminist, so I think I was given certain values from a really young age about equality and about thinking of yourself as an equal, trying to give yourself equal opportunities. … I think it’s hard [to be a girl] when you’re young and I think it’s hard when you’re older, and it’s hard to know always what kind of woman you want to be. I was very disappointed to see the thing about Shailene Woodley saying that she’s not a feminist because I feel like she really is a feminist. I think that the [negativity associated with the] label discourages some women from calling themselves that. I think saying that you’re a feminist is a little bit like saying that you’re a humanist, because what it’s really about is equal opportunities and equal thinking about genders being only a part of your identity rather than something that would define you and define your character.”

She also discusses femininity, navigating the film world as a woman who writes and portrays female characters and stories. It is clear that Zoe Kazan puts a great deal of consideration of the impact of her work on women and the roles they play out in their own lives. 

-Allysha Roth

On August 1, Nine West released a new campaign titled “Starter Husband Hunting,” which features a variety of “husband hunting shoes.” The collection of advertisements includes a checklist for “hunting season,” suggestions for which shoes to wear when dropping off kids for their first day of kindergarten, among other occasions that are allegedly important in women’s lives. As this article astutely points out, the campaign is ill-founded on the “outdated premise that women wear shoes for men” not to mention the premise that women solely value finding husbands. Furthermore, the campaign has heteronormative implications, as women are relegated to only finding husbands. Though the female Senior Vice President of Marketing at Nine West claims the campaign is not offensive, many women are outraged, as evidenced by Twitter backlash decrying the campaign for being scarily reminiscent of advertisements from the 1950s. Of course, though it is perfectly acceptable for women to look for husbands and choose to be the homemaker in their families, it is unacceptably sexist for this campaign to restrict women to these roles while excluding other career and life choices.

This week, a Think Press article explores the frustrating reality of workplace discrimination towards pregnant women with the story of Candis Riggins, a Walmart employee. Because Candis was a maintenance worker, she often handled chemicals and was exposed to fumes, as well as lifted heavy loads. As she became further along in her pregnancy, her job became harder to do and she requested to switch to a cashier position during her pregnancy. She submitted these requests multiple times, but they were ignored. She also took some days off during her pregnancy, and while her manager explicitly told her this wasn’t an issue, it was cited as a reason for her termination in this past May, leaving her without a job and eventual eviction because of her lack of income. Riggins has teamed up with various women’s organizations to write a letter to Walmart which charges them in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and demands financial compensation and a reinstatement of Riggins’ employee contract. This case exposes a dangerous reality for pregnant working women, and hopefully the handling of Riggins’ plight will set a new and positive precedent for women to use when battling workplace discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.

Girls Inc., a nonprofit group dedicated to serving underprivileged girls and bettering their futures, has released a public service advertising campaign, which is outlined in this article. The campaign aims to educate and inform viewers. It also strives to increase donations to further the efforts of the organization, which already has corporate support from companies like American Express and the Kellogg Foundation. The platform is built upon the slogan “fuel her fire and she will change the world,” which is similar to the organization’s overall goals of “helping girls set and achieve goals and resist peer pressure.” The campaign works to counteract the harsh reality behind the statistics the videos portray, such as that one in four girls in the United States will finish high school, or that seventy-eight percent of girls under the age of seventeen are unhappy with their bodies. These messages are welcome amidst today’s sea of oppressive, restrictive, and harmful messaging targeted towards young women in the media.

On August 4, The Huffington Post published an article exploring a new airport campaign launched by a women’s rights organization called Ultraviolet. The campaign consists of a series of signs that outline the living conditions and quality of life for women in that state. For example, in the New Orleans airport, the organization’s sign states that women in Louisiana make 67 cents for every dollar earned by a man. This six-figure campaign aims to raise awareness about the variety and multiplicity of women’s issues that are prevalent across the United States. Though some cities’ airports, such as Sarasota, FL and Charlotte, NC, have rejected proposals to have these signs inside the airports, Ultraviolet plans to place them on surrounding roads and billboards to inform the airport passengers. Though the campaign is certainly a well-needed and incredibly important one, it neglects to include statistics reflecting the intersectionality of race and gender. It is true that white women make 67 cents to every dollar a white male earns, but the statistics are drastically different when comparing men and women of color, and this difference should be acknowledged in these campaigns.

-Caroline Plapinger