E.J. Graff

Poor, Poor Rich People

Over at The Washington Post , Barbara Ehrenreich feels terrible , just terrible about the problems of the super-rich, who can't dress the way they want to. She describes a New Yorker profile of Daphne Guinness ... who is apparently best known for wearing clothes , which she draws from a wardrobe of 2,500 garments, 450 pairs of shoes and 200 handbags. On the day she was interviewed, she wore ... "a pave diamond brooch," silver sheaths on two of her fingers and "custom-made sparkly silver Mary Janes, with a three inch platform under the toe" -- not the heel, the toe. Well, to each her own, but she might as well walk around Manhattan wearing a sign saying "My husband stole your pension."

The Best Man-Splanation

In response to my article yesterday about offices where sexism is a low-grade fever -- and let's be clear, this definitely happens in progressive and journalistic organizations as well as in finance, manufacturing, and all the rest -- Amanda Marcotte tweeted at me that the word " mansplaining " can sometimes help counter the problem. Aha! Yes -- naming things can help get rid of them! But this new coinage I had not yet heard, so I asked her for examples. Herewith: It's when a man condescendingly explains something to a woman who usually knows more about the subject than he. A good example: I had a guy in Twitter trying to explain to me how Mindy Kaling doesn't really understand screenwriting. Or here is a slightly edited version of an Urban Dictionary definition: To delight in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock-solid confidence and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation. Even though he knew she had an...

Sexism's Low-Grade Fever

Last week, many in the D.C. elite were chattering about Ron Suskind's new book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President . While I'm not going to weigh in on the merits and demerits of the book as a whole -- too many people have done that already -- I was fascinated by a conversation it triggered about workplaces that are unfriendly, even mildly hostile, to women. Here's Politico 's reporting on the quote that ricocheted around the Beltway: Former communications director Anita Dunn is described by Suskind as feeling she worked in an overwhelmingly male environment at the White House. "[T]his place would be in court for a hostile workplace ... Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women," Suskind quotes her as saying. ... Dunn told POLITICO: "This is not what I told the author, this is not what I believe and anyone who knows me and my history of supporting this president as a candidate and in...

In Other News

Yet another major public-opinion survey finds that more Americans than ever support same-sex marriage. (You can find the others here .) Guess what's trending? Even the Pentagon is doing it, now permitting chaplains to marry same-sex couples on military bases too . #goingtothechapel Remember the recent adoption scandal in China? The New York Times did some in-depth reporting showing that Hunan Province officials were taking children by force or coercion from their parents, for sale into international adoption. Now the Times reports that China has fired 12 government officials in response.

The Sexism Salon

Last week I wondered how Elizabeth Warren's rousing sermon espousing core progressive beliefs, which brought so much joy and hope to the left, would affect those on the right. One libertarian parody was posted by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.com. Here's how it starts: There is no woman in this country who got hot on her own.... You got to the gym on roads paid for by the rest of us. You hired a plastic surgeon the rest of us paid to educate. You're safe from hotter, foreign women because of INS agents and boarder [sic] security the rest of us paid for. ... It gets worse from there. Here's how I understand Reynolds' core idea: Just because the state helps create the world in which I live and thrive, it doesn't therefore own what I create and therefore, me. In this, he is equating taxation with ownership. Personally, I disagree with him that taxation is equivalent to state ownership, but I can see the point. But this particular parody, as you'll see, does more than merely object to...

Church for Dissent

Here's an interesting take on #OccupyWallStreet from Matt Stoler (which I found via @jayrosen): What these people are doing is building, for lack of a better word, a church of dissent. It's not a march, though marches are spinning off of the campground. It's not even a protest, really. It is a group of people, gathered together, to create a public space seeking meaning in their culture. They are asserting, together, to each other and to themselves, "we matter". It's a fascinating analysis, worth a quick read. And the pictures are great.

Adoption Fraud in Guatemala

Last week, I discussed some of the fraud and corruption that haunt international adoption. If you're interested, you should know about Erin Siegal, author of the forthcoming Finding Fernanda , which explores kidnapping, fraud, and endemic corruption in adoptions from Guatemala. For years, that country was one of the top "sending" countries in international adoption -- and the one most widely considered to be riddled with fraud. As I wrote here at the website of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism: Guatemala is widely considered to have had the worst international adoption improprieties over the longest period of time. In 2006 and 2007, Guatemala sent almost as many children to the United States for adoption as China, despite a hundred-fold difference in size: In 2007, China sent 5,453 out of its population of 1.3 billion. In the same year, Guatemala sent 4,728 out of its 13 million. In that year, and several years before, an astonishing one out of every 110 Guatemalan...

It Doesn't Get Better for Bullies

Do you know the "It Gets Better" project ? In response to last year's spate of gay-teen suicides, writer and editor Dan Savage launched a series of online videos in which adults tell teens: Hang on. High school isn't forever. You will have a good life. Some have been fabulous, burning their way across the Internets; I'm assuming you've seen those. Most are ordinary people, testifying to how much better it got when they waited. Had this been around, it certainly would have eased me through some of the agonizing teenage years when I was fighting the recognition that I might be one of them . You know. Like the girls' gym teacher. That way. Right now the ItGetsBetter.org site is featuring a short, sharp video posted by Representative Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, which includes this: I didn't happen to be born gay, but I've known an awful lot of bullies throughout my life. It's interesting that they all grew up to be insecure jerks. He also talks about overcoming crippling shyness...

Marry Me

Yesterday, The Washington Post published a nice summary of the various federal lawsuits underway in the court battles over same-sex marriage, a piece occasioned by a panel at the College of William and Mary Law School's Institute of Bill of Rights Law. The panel, according to reporter Robert Barnes, was debating whether the government's political or judicial branch should decide whether same-sex couples' bonds should be recognized as "marriage" by federal law. Given that LGBT folks now -- after years of organizing effort and personal travail -- have some (some!) political traction, shouldn't we be deciding the question in legislatures, not courts? Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, the well-regarded conservative on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, called the question "wrenchingly hard." He noted the contributions of gay Americans and said it was striking that the movement's aims in the courts is to "partake in the most traditional" of American rights: to serve in the...

Can Tammy Baldwin Win?

Over at TheAtlantic.com, I look into the question of whether openly lesbian Tammy Baldwin can become Wisconsin's senator. Pop quiz: What's the " L-word" that's likely to hurt her most? Hint: It's not this one . Here's an excerpt: In 1998, Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay candidate to be elected to the U.S. Congress as a non-incumbent, winning a seat representing liberal Madison, Wisc., in the House of Representatives. Now the leading candidate to become the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Senator Herb Kohl, Baldwin would become the first out U.S. Senator in American history if she wins election in November 2012. And in a kind triumph for the gay rights movement, it turns out "lesbian" isn't the L-word most likely to be used against her in a race defeat either likely Republican opponent, whether Mark Neumann or Tommy Thompson. In Wisconsin, the fighting L-word these days is "liberal" -- and, observers say, that's the territory on which her race will be won or lost. .....

More on The Playboy Club

Here's a follow-up to my mini-review last week of NBC's The Playboy Club : a Daily Beast article, "My Mom's Life as a Playboy Bunny," by Susanna Spier. Spier interviews her mother about what things were really like. Was Hugh Hefner's comment -- that bunnies could be anything they wanted to be -- accurate? Ha. We had only a handful of options, and being a Bunny was a brand-new one. ... Teacher, nurse, stewardess, secretary. Bunny increased our options by 20 percent. It didn't mean we could be brain surgeons. Hef's dots do not connect. So why did she do it? Duh: for the money.

A pre-2004 Red Sox Nightmare

I've only been here in Boston for, oh, a couple of decades. While I enjoyed the region's collective delirium when the Red Sox finally reversed the curse, I'm an October fan, not a real one. But my wife is a real fan, dating back pre-natally. She lives and dies with each Sox at bat. She would snarl and growl if a Yankees fan came anywhere near our house. As you can imagine, right now, there is no joy in our corner of Mudville. Last week, our 8-year-old startled us with this phrase: "It's a pre-2004 Red Sox nightmare!," which would have been, oh, before he was born. But of course, he's right.

In Praise of Hash

Last year in a New Yorker blog item, Susan Orleans explored some of the joys of the #hashtag, that funny and versatile little Twitter symbol, which can help you track public discussion of a subject—or make fun of yourself and others. Over the weekend, I was at the Online News Association’s annual conference, #ONA11, where some discussed the philosophical gap between what the old guard believes to be objective and proper journalistic behavior (just the facts, ma’am) and what the newer journos believe to be permissible room for attitude -- attitude that can help build audience. I must be immature for my age, because my heart is with the latter. I nodded (and tweeted) as one panelist said that he wouldn’t be able to survive his job “if I couldn’t snark all day on Twitter.” Why yes, that’s a good thing. Yesterday Ben Zimmer told us in a wonderful little piece in yesterday’s Boston Globe that the Twitter #hashtag has resurrected irony, self-deprecation, and verbal playfulness in public...

Dick Cheney Takes a Trip

Attention Glenn Greenwald , Dahlia Lithwick , Chris Hayes , and others who've been banging this drum: Human Rights Watch (HRW) is asking Canada to bring criminal charges against Dick Cheney, who's visiting there today, for "overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration, including at least two cases involving Canadian citizens." HRW cannot genuinely expect Canada to risk a diplomatic breach of such enormity with the United States -- especially not after years of South Park urging us to invade our northern neighbor. But the call is getting some play in Canada, and at least keeps alive the outrage toward the man perhaps most responsible for undermining the rule of law in this country after 9/11, thereby abrogating the U.S.'s commitment to the Geneva Conventions and undermining our moral authority worldwide. For many of us, the idea of holding Cheney and crew responsible for what they did in our name seems an impossible dream. But is it? My hope was on Spain to bring charges...

Friday's Three Cents

Linda Greenhouse, formerly The New York Times ' Supreme Court reporter and now teaching at Yale Law School, tapped on the Commonwealth of Virginia's shoulder and reminds it that the civil war is over. Looking at the state laws and lawsuits launched in reaction to the new federal health-care statute, she writes: Although the courts that have struck down the law have glossed over the point -- oddly enough, given that conservative judges are usually obsessively attentive to the doctrines of standing, ripeness, and other barriers to entry to federal court - the state plaintiffs can't meet the basic requirement of standing: a concrete, immediate "injury in fact," caused by the action that is being complained about. The individual mandate, as such, imposes no obligation on the states. ... Greenhouse moves on to quote the Fourth Circuit panel that scoffed at Virginia's challenge to the health-care law, saying in part: "A state possesses no legitimate interest in protecting its citizens from...

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