Friday, October 10, 2014

What We've Been Reading- 10/10

WBUR Analysis: Issues Keeping Governor’s Race Close
The latest WBZ/UMass-Amherst Poll has the Governor’s race tightening. In this piece of analysis from WBUR’s Steve Koczela, breakdowns on key issues are examined. As Coakley’s lead from before the Sept 9 primary is weakening, she is maintaining a lead when it comes to who voters trust to handle health care and education, while Baker has pulled ahead on the economy and taxes.

WBUR: Shaheen, Brown Court Women’s Vote In New Hampshire U.S. Senate Race
This article explores the focus on the women’s vote in the New Hampshire Senate race between former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and incumbent New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Brown is attempting to upset this lead by what the article cites as “women’s disenchantment with President Obama’s foreign policy.” However, as the article explains, Shaheen still leads with women. Women are for Shaheen by more than 10 points and the article cites one poll from last week that had her up by more than 20 points among women.

Politico: House Homestretch: 5 Key Dynamics
This piece from Politico explores what they identify as five key themes to understand about the midterm House races as we head into the final few weeks.  First, they explain that Republicans are on offense in many races. Second, star power has been lost for several Democratic candidates. Third, this may be a better year than expected for incumbents. Fourth, the ACA and President Obama aren’t the only focus in these campaigns, but a wider range of issues. By this Thursday the National Republican Congressional Committee had aired 77 TV commercials and 39 of them did not mention the ACA or President Obama. And finally, a theme that rings true every cycle, it’s all about expectations.

On October 2, a panel on “femvertising” was held at AdWeek 2014. Nina Bahadur of the Huffington Post writes about the rise of “femvertising,” defined by Samantha Skey, Chief Revenue Officer of SheKnows, as the use of empowering female images and messages in advertisements. Some examples of femvertising she cites are Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign, which seeks to break down harmful stereotypes about the athleticism and capability of girls, and Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, which focuses on body positivity, although other ads with similar messages exist, such as Pantene Philippines’ #ShineStrong campaign, having garnered over 48 million YouTube views. Bahadur claims that feminist messages in advertising might be making an impact on not only how women view themselves, but also about how they view the company disseminating the advertisement. Some companies use the proceeds from their campaigns to support female-empowering organizations, like LeanIn, Girl Scouts, and Girls Inc. However, the trend of femvertising does not hold unanimously positive consequences, as some companies produce femvertisements without earnestly supporting the cause they claim to. Nonetheless, Bahadur argues that “femvertising is here to stay.”

Women’s Empowerment Conferences 
On a similar note, conferences on women’s empowerment have seen an increase in number, write Christine Haughney and Leslie Kaufman. In fact, they may have as much as tripled in the two years alone, with some media companies like The Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, National Journal, and More magazine adding events centered around women’s empowerment and achievement in the workplace. While Haughney and Kaufman include evidence that the number of high-ranking women in business has increased, they also point to the fact that media publications are facing reduced newsstand and advertising sales and consequently hold these ticketed conferences in order to supplement their revenue. With the price of admission to Fortune’s conference at $8,500, this practice raises questions of the intersection of class and gender, although the number of attendees remains nonetheless high, perhaps suggesting, according Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, that we might be in the midst of the third wave of feminism.

Yazidi Village Kidnappings 
In early August, 5 women were abducted from their Yazidi village of Kocho, in the Sinjar Mountains of Iraq and taken to the city of Mosul, nearly 100 miles away. They were 5 out of a group of 65 elderly women and 165 unmarried women abducted by the terrorist group, the Islamic State (IS). Yazidi is a faith with pre-Christian roots, primarily practiced in Iraq (though there has been significant immigration to Germany) that IS targets because they consider it too complicated and deviant from “straightforward” Islam. As a result, up to 400,000 Yazidi people have been driven out of their homes into Northern Iraq, and more than 5,000 women have been abducted. The 5 women interviewed for this article report that, in Mosul, a marketplace had been set up in the city center to sell women, with Christian women priced higher than Yazidi women. Some of the women abducted were raped immediately. Of the 5,000, only 43 have returned.

Women in Law
Two women have recently gained top positions at major US law firms. Litigator Jami Wintz McKeon became the first female chair at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and white-collar litigator Therese Pritchard became the first female chair at Bryan Cave LLP. Given that women account for only ⅓ of lawyers and judges in the country, and only 17% of equity partners at major law firms, the legal profession remains stolidly a boys’ club. Moreover, the number of women who head major law firms is fewer than ten, and only 4% of law firms have women as managing partners, down from 8% in 2008. In light of these statistics, the appointment of litigators Wintz McKeon and Pritchard are all the more significant; they represent the hopes that, in the face of adversity, women can aspire to and can achieve top positions in, not only in law, but also business, academia, etc. Diversity without diminishment of meritocracy is possible, as McKeon says, and the visibility of women in leadership positions is crucial to the empowerment and equality of the sexes.

Steve Harvey Launches Dating Site
Jeff Bercovici of writes that Steve Harvey has launched a “female-friendly” dating site called Delightful, which will promote longer-term relationships. “Women are wired differently,” Harvey says. “Women don’t really want to just date. They want to date with the hope that it leads to a relationship.”While men don’t mind dating several women at once and “playing the field,” he continues, “A lot of women have that biological clock that ticks in them.” Delightful will cater primarily to women, but also to men with a “womanly interest” in settling down.  The site will provide tips on “how to be more dateable” for women and “how to properly treat a lady” for men. Though Harvey seems to truly believe he is doing something positive for women, these characterizations of men and women are extraordinarily outdated and offensive. The idea that all women want or need the help of Steve Harvey to find a good man before their “biological clock” runs out is also absurd.

Misogyny and Social Media
A little lengthy but worth the read, the Atlantic’s Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly wrote a shocking piece on misogyny and social media.  Once largely hidden from view, violence and brutality against women is being exposed on websites like Facebook and Twitter. A report from the research and policy organization Demos found 6 million instances of the word “slut” or whore” on Twitter between 12/26/13 and 2/9/14, and an estimated 20 percent of those tweets appeared to be threatening. These verbal attacks on women, as well as photos and videos of rape and assault, have sparked an important discussion on free speech and misogyny, but the issue persists.

Emma Watson? Jennifer Lawrence? These Aren't The Feminists You're Looking For

This opinion piece by Roxane Gay in The Guardian explores the problem with celebrity feminism. Gay argues that feminism is only accepted when presented in the "right package," referring to celebrities. It is unfortunate that women and men only understand and accept the ideals of feminism when presented by famous figures such as Beyonce and Emma Watson. If this ideal persists, feminism will seem nothing more than a "seductive marketing campaign."