Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sex Ban in Kenya!

I don't have time to write about this, as I have much homework to do, but it's an interesting article. What do you think about it?

Straight from my iPod

The Saving Abel cover below came up when the song "After All" started playing on my iPod.

Damn it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blog for Fair Pay Day - Fact #3

FACT: You can do something about the wage gap! Write to your Senators about passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. This act will help strengthen the existing laws against wage discrimination and will give the federal government the resources needed so it can be more proactive about correcting this problem. The bill already passed the House of Representatives. Now it's time to urge the Senate to act.

Want to learn more before you take action? More information here and here.

Blog for Fair Pay Day - Fact #2

FACT: In my home state of Illinois, women only earn an average of 73% of what the average man makes. This state ranks 40 out of 50 states (plus Washington D.C.). Want to see where your state falls when it comes to the wage gap? Check this out.

Blog for Fair Pay Day - Fact #1

FACT: Tuesday, April 28 (today) symbolizes the day in 2009 when the average woman's wages will finally catch up with those paid to the average man in 2008. via.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Reminder: Friday is the last day to nominate your Women's Health Hero!

Know someone who has made "significant contributions to the health and well-being of women"? Nominate them for a Women's Health Hero award here!

The deadline is Friday, so check it out now.

Too ashamed to age

Recently, I've been particularly interested in the health sections of the different online news sources that I read. When I came across this story, I already had an idea of what it would be about before I even read it: Older woman thinks looking younger through surgery will lead to her feeling better about herself, and she has these feelings validated by others who compliment her on her newly attained looks. Turns out I was right.

I can't say I'm against cosmetic surgery, because I feel that doing so would be an infringement upon a woman's right to choose what she wants to do with herself, which I believe in strongly. But I do have a problem with women in many societies having to deal with the idea that age is something to be ashamed of and youthful looks should be sought at any price.

In the article linked to above, Janet Cunliffe, aged 50, said she wanted to look like her daughter, Jane, who is 29 in order to gain some confidence about herself.
"I decided to do it because I was feeling low at the time, I'd just come out of a long-term relationship, so just to boost my confidence. My daughter inspired me at the time, so I just wanted to look like her and to make me feel a lot more youthful and to give me some confidence."
The problem of correlating one's physical appearance with one's worth is such an integral part of being a women in many societies that it's sometimes one that isn't thought about. It's definitely an issue that I struggle (often unsuccessfully) to think of ways to conquer in my life.

And this article, I feel, is not helpful. It draws attention to this woman because she has completely bought into the troubling idea that appearing youthful is the only way to feel good about oneself after reaching middle age. It validates her feelings of discontent with appearing her natural age, and helps give reason for other women to feel the same way.

So, question: How can we make this cycle stop?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Michelle Obama: Image Control

I wasn't sure what to think of this article at first, with all the "fashion is not political news" crap that shows up in the media, when it comes to women in the public eye, such as Michelle Obama,

The article starts out describing how Michelle has been adamant about having the last say in what she wears whens he poses for magazines like Vogue, People, Essence, and More. But it isn't only through her wardrobe choices that she is shaping her public image.
She has given coveted interviews primarily to women’s magazines and news outlets that have allowed her to highlight her domestic side: her focus on motherhood and her efforts to settle her family in the White House; her interest in gardening and healthy living; her affinity for mixing off-the-rack and designer goods; and her efforts to open up the White House to ordinary Americans.
This effort to focus her image is seen by the article's author as a "remarkable political transformation."
Only 10 months ago, Mrs. Obama was described as an angry black woman by some conservatives and as a liability to her husband. Now, she is widely admired for her warmth, and her vibrant and accessible manner, and her race seems almost an afterthought to many Americans. She has the highest favorability ratings of any incoming first lady since 1980, and is even more popular than the president.
As I read this I was a little disappointed because there are so many more aspects to Michelle Obama's character than her domestic side. Why aren't Michelle and her aides highlighting these things?
The image that Mrs. Obama is projecting, however, fails to fully reflect the multifaceted first lady. A Harvard-trained lawyer and former hospital vice president, she is also a tough-minded professional who cares deeply about influencing public policy and sometimes promotes legislation at her events.
Some analysts feel that Michelle may be trying to build her popularity through more traditional means in order to be able to push for action in policy areas she cares about in the future. I'm not sure what I think about this. What about you?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

From Fortune 500 to the PTA

Yesterday I found this article in the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times website. I thought the placement of the article was a bit odd, so I began reading about men in Pelham Manor, New York, who are dealing with losing their jobs in a recession which is leaving more men unemployed than women.
In this intimate town of 5,500 in Westchester County, with a median household income of almost $137,000, the streets are lined with meticulously landscaped homes with an average value of almost $1 million. These days, though, for-sale signs are popping up all the time.
The article followed several men who had lost their high-paying jobs and are now spending more time with their children and doing more parenting. But throughout the article it was made clear that these men all seemed to have lived experiences of masculinity in which providing was the most important aspect of being a good man/husband/father.
Other research shows that men tend to get more depressed than women when they lose jobs, but in cases where people are laid off in waves, such as when an entire plant closes down, they often experience less angst than those who are laid off individually.
Of course, this particular article concerns men with a kind of monetary security that is not at all common for most families in this country, but what do you think about the recession and the implications of differing gender roles due to unemployment levels?

Friday, April 24, 2009

"Skinny Bastard" by the authors who brought you "Skinny Bitch"

I remember the first time I picked up a copy of Skinny Bitch, I was with my mom and sister in Barnes and Noble and my mom was looking at diet books for herself and my stepdad. I can't remember if it was my mom or my sister who first picked up Skinny Bitch, but I was instantly put off by the title, took a look at one page, and was completely turned off by the language used. I didn't have to read very much to realize the main tactic the book's authors was using: Fat-shaming.

Having not actually read this book, I can't say whether or not the authors included discussion of health benefits when it comes to striving for healthier eating, but to me, it seems clear that their main goal is to use shame to get people to buy their book and try to change their eating habits.

Because why rely on the information you have about the importance of eating healthy when you can scare women into buying your diet/lifestyle ideas by hanging the f-word over their heads where it can thrive on their possibly low self-esteem?

Well, Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, the authors of Skinny Bitch, have written a book called Skinny Bastard, which will go on sale Monday.
“Skinny Bastard” follows roughly the same outline as “Skinny Bitch,” with the language retooled to appeal to male psychology. Whereas the introduction to “Skinny Bitch” reads, “If you can’t take one more day of self-loathing, you’re ready to get skinny,” the men’s version does not assume low self-esteem: “Chances are, you haven’t done so badly, despite the few extra lbs you’re carting around. ... But don’t kid yourself, pal: A hot-bodied man is a head-turner.”
The problem with even just this small amount of text, which I feel might be symptomatic of the entire premise of this book, is that it conflates physical appearance with the epitome of achievement and of happiness. Of course, there are benefits to being sure that one eats healthily, but one could do that and also not conform to the standard of physical beauty dictated by this society.

The problem of focusing on physical appearance above all else is something that effects people of all sexes and genders, and it often does not have good outcomes. The fact that these women seem to be targeting specific genders with specialized shaming tactics is really troublesome for me. It seems to be more problematic in Skinny Bitch than it might be in Skinny Bastard (the authors added a chapter about heart disease and prostate cancer to highlight health benefits in this book), but the overarching problem of thinking one physical appearance (aka "skinny") is the "right" kind, I imagine is still there.

Granted, I have not read either of these books, but the authors really make no effort to try to conceal their methods, even on their website. If anyone has read Skinny Bitch, please feel free to leave your opinion on their tactics as a comment.

If you haven't read this book, would you buy a book with a title like Skinny Bitch?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why TV sucks: Part three

I decided that this segment would better be titled "Why TV sucks" so I could include this commercial that I have never actually seen but found via a guest post at Shakesville.

No comment.

Other parts in this newly re-named serious: One. Two.

NEWSFLASH: Without Chivalry, Respectful Heterosexual Relationships Are DOOMED...According To One Guy

As I have blogged about in the past, sometimes I feel like I am often defined by other people in terms of my politics, especially when it comes to my feminism. It seems like politics and feminism are the first topics people reach for when they talk to me. This has even happened on several occasions with people I didn’t really know.

A few nights ago a friend of mine sent me an instant message. “Guys are bastards,” he moaned, complaining about the type of guy who doesn’t know how to respect any human being, let alone a female. Then this friend started talking about his personal code of conduct when it comes to women. He opens doors for women, walks closest to the street on the sidewalk. He calls it chivalry, and he said he does it out of respect. It’s not that he thinks girls aren’t as capable. It’s just about respect.

I admit that I have not spent enough time thinking about this kind of chivalry that is framed by those who practice it as being beneficial for all those involved, but this is what I came up with that night and I still find validity in.

I believe that he believes that his behavior is to be respectful and to show he cares. I think that was why he was unmoved by my attempts to show him that he was actually being harmful. He is able to justify his behavior because it works for him. He doesn’t need to care how others might see his actions. He is free from the consequences.

To challenge him, I asked my friend if he treated his male friends the same way. Surely he respects them as well. No, he told me. With guys, the behavior was reciprocal, where it was not expected to be reciprocal with girls.

So, it’s really not about respect. It’s about gender. When this guy is with a female, he must do things for her, care for her, protect her…because she is a girl. When he’s with other males, the behaviors are returned because men are not perceived as needing to be cared for, of being protected. It really is just about being a good guy.

As I tried to explain this, my friend proceeded to tell me that I was actually the one being hurtful because it is a lack of this kind of chivalry that leads to instances of “guys being bastards,” such as sleeping (raping) drunk girls, cat-calling, and such. In his mind, chivalry is what teaches men to be respectful of girls. Really, this kind of chivalry only teaches men to see people for their gender, not their ability, not their state of need at a particular moment. Just their gender.

And then this friend ended the conversation by saying that I would never convince him to think otherwise about this topic because I was arguing from the assumption that I was right. I thought for a minute.

Why else would I possibly argue about anything?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

17-year-old women can now purchase Plan B without prescription

Remember when U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman of New York told the FDA to reconsider a 2006 decision that only allowed women 18 and over access to Plan B without a prescription?

Well, that's exactly what happened.

Visual Aid

200 pages in the April 2009 issue of Allure Magazine.

52 miniature Post-Its marking full page advertisements (not including multiple ads by the same company if they appeared one after another, ads for stores, instead of specific products, fashion spreads, or ads that do not fill an entire page).

6 broad categories of product types (including hair, make-up, and perfume).

It really is amazing how much space is taken up by advertisements in magazines such as Allure. Really, it's a wonder they can fit in any editorial content at all. It's completely another experience when you have a visual like this in your hands.

(And yes, there was a reason for me to do this. It has to do with some research I am beginning.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Two 11-year-old boys commit suicide after enduring anti-gay bullying

First this.

Now this.

As Cara says in the second link, "And clearly, we need to wake the fuck up."

Overheard on a train

The following is a guest post submitted by Samantha. She's a 20 year old full time college student at Knox College where she's a biology major hoping to go into research.

This weekend I was heading home to celebrate my birthday with my family and while on the train I sat across from a woman and her husband. I had taken out my computer to do some homework on the train they noticed how big it was (it has a 17 inch screen) and started making sexual jokes at me and each other, saying “it’s size that matters” or “it’s the inches that are important” or “I’d rather have longer battery life because it doesn’t matter how big it is if it doesn’t last long.” I have never met these people in my life and they felt comfortable making me uncomfortable with these sexual jokes. It’s one thing if I’ve been friends with someone for a while and they start making jokes, but complete strangers? Not ok.

Later in the ride the conductor came through telling us that we have to get our bags down early because once the train goes below ten miles an hour the lights would go off. Well the man asked the conductor when he should grab his bag. The conductor started to repeat that they would give an announcement when his wife interrupted her saying, “He meant me, I’m his bag.” The poor conductor didn’t know what to say and finally decided on “that’s not nice.” The wife’s response was “he can say anything he wants because I’ve got these” while showing all the rings that were on her fingers. There were about 4 rings and they were covered with diamonds. She is teaching her children, three girls and two boys, that it’s ok for men to be derogatory toward women as long as they give them expensive presents! They’re also teaching the boys that it’s alright to be derogatory towards women as long as they can give them shiny things in return. Also that every woman will forgive them for their remarks as long as they bribe them with something shiny and expensive. The saddest thing about this incident was that I know that there really are some women (besides the wife on the train) that think like this; that it’s ok for men to say anything they want about women and they’ll be fine with it as long as they buy them expensive gifts.

How is her daughter ever going to learn the correct way a man should treat her if the only examples she has is of her mother who lets her stepfather saying derogatory things in very public places; not that it would be more appropriate in private but if it’s a private joke or something then it should definitely stay in private. I just feel terrible for her children, it’s so sad that they have to grow up in this environment. I hope that they have some kind of role model that can show them that it’s not ok for husbands to be derogatory towards their wives as long as they can compensate with jewelry.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Today in "Haha...Oh wait, they're serious?"

Today is April 20th. 420. You know what that means...

...the Alliance Defense Fund is hunting down the ever-evasive "homosexual agenda" by sponsoring the fifth annual "Day of Truth."

I know. I'm dying to find out more about this whole "homosexual agenda" thing these people keep bringing up. It sounds like fun!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blake Lively illustrates why we must continually educate ourselves

I was trying to catch up on some blog reading when I came across a post by Monica Roberts at TransGriot about Gossip Girl's Blake Lively saying that sometimes she feels "like a tranny."

Lively will be appearing on the cover of Allure magazine in May, and she had this to say:
"I don't know, I'm…large?" she said to the magazine. "They put me in six-inch heels and I tower over every man. I've got this long hair and lots of clothes and makeup on. I just feel really big a lot of the time, and I'm surrounded by a lot of tiny people. I feel like a man sometimes."
Besides being confused as to why being taller than men was equated with being a transwoman in Lively's mind, Monica's original post really struck me.

I have been following the boycott of Feministing and Feministe started by voz, and I've been doing a lot of reading. It made me realize how much I have learned over the course of two years since I began identifying as a feminist, and how much I still need to learn.

For example, when I first started reading posts related to the boycott, I was unfamiliar with the term cisgender, and my first instinct was to do a Google search and try to figure it out. I admit that this was not always my first instinct. Sometimes (more often in "the real world" than online), if I didn't understand something, I would ask someone of what I felt was the appropriate group to explain a term, concept, whatever, to me. But through reading I quickly learned that the responsibility of educating myself is up to me.

I have not always been successful in my attempts at talking about issues outside of my own experience, especially offline. I have failed to be properly sensitive. I have used terms that I didn't realize were hurtful and incorrect until after the fact.

That's the case with the word "tranny." I now know that it is completely inappropriate coming from a cisgender woman, but I didn't know that when I was in high school. I had a friend who often used the term to refer to characters in her surrealist fictional pieces, and I often used the term in conversation with her, not at all understanding what it actually meant or that it could be hurtful.

I'm not asking for a pat on the back about this. I just want people to know that if we are not actively trying to educate ourselves, our ignorance could very easily end up hurting people we want to help.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why Men Don't Call Me Back

I've had the experience of men not calling me back after it seemed like they were interested in me. I've had many friends who have shared this same experience and we ponder over why these males fail to return our phone calls. Thus when I saw a link to an article about why men don't call women back, I'd thought I would read it and see if it had anything insightful to say. The article was written by a "dating coach," Rachel Greenwald and according to the article, the number one reason why men don't call women back is something the author labeled as, "The Boss Lady." She described men as seeing women as, "Terrific -- smart and successful -- but he decides he'd rather hire her than date her. In such a situation, women typically guess that men are intimidated by their success or strong personality. But men said they get enough aggression at work all day, and when they come home they want to be with someone softer, more nurturing. They do want someone intelligent with an interesting career, but they prefer a warm demeanor." What Greenwald is saying is that we need to tone down what we think of as our, "success or strong personality," and get, "a warm demeanor." This sounded a lot like essays I read for my "Victorian Literature" class last term, about how women should always put forth sweetness. I thought maybe I was misinterpreting what she said, until I read on further to see her dating tips. The first one was "Soften your delivery." Women are supposed to, "[tone] down your conversation style from combative or challenging to gracious, and even a little flirtatious, goes a long way." Instead of having intelligent conversation, where a point can be made, women should flirt. Dating tip number two was to "Look like a women." Women are supposed to "think Scarlett O'Hara not Hillary Clinton." Instead of dressing like a successful woman, involved in a field that is largely dominated by men, women should dress like a character from "Gone with the Wind." The last tip is to "Select what you need, not want." Us "Boss Ladies" should go for a "nurturing, giving type of guy can be optimal (maybe he's a teacher or chef instead of Wall Street broker?)" because obviously there can't be two people making money in a relationship, right?

This article made me glad that sometimes I don't get a call back. All this time I've been dealing with self-esteem issues as they relate to the opposite sex, when really I just come off as too successful, I don't dress like Scarlett O'Hara, and I am attracted to people that I think are going to successful rather than simply "nurturing."

Objectifying women and promoting assault is never okay

I discovered Save the Ta-Tas when writing this post, and the campaign has been deeply troubling to me ever since. At first, when I discovered the website, I thought that Save the Ta-Tas was a sort of cultural event that I had been slow to catch onto. But many of my friends had never heard of it before, either, so I want to address the issues it presents in case some of our other readers are unaware.

Save the Ta-Tas sells t-shirts and other accessories to raise awareness of breast cancer and raise money for research. The problem, as is evidenced by the name of the campaign, is that in order to do the good work of raising money and awareness, Save the Ta-Tas relies on objectification of women and other more horrifying tactics.

Yes, refering to breasts as ta-tas is going to attract a lot of attention, and going the "funny" route might be likely to generate more quick revenue than other advertising ideas. But if you have to turn to sexism to generate money, can you really claim to be doing a service for the cause? I think not.

The entire campaign is based around objectifying women, turning them into nothing more than their breasts (ta-tas). Why do we need to raise money for breast cancer research? Because cancer is a long and difficult battle that no one should have to deal with? Well, no. From the looks of this website, we need to raise money for breast cancer research because breast cancer hurts ta-tas, and "Ta-tas Are Awesome." This objectification by focusing solely on breasts is also illustrated by the "Caught you lookin' at my ta-tas" t-shirt.

Then there's the disturbing trend in this campaign of promoting violence against women and their breasts. For example, there are several disturbing onesies for babies that have text reading, "Gimme your ta-tas and no one gets hurt," and "Be vewy vewy quiet I'm hunting ta-tas."

Both of these particular onesies are baffling and very troublesome. They promote the idea that women's bodies belong to others who can demand them for themselves and even "hunt" them. It's esepcially disturbing considering these are on garments meant for infants. Yeah, I know, there are other connotations, but these aren't even cute. They're frightening.

Then there's the idea of disembodied breasts fighting each other ("My ta-tas could beat up your ta-tas") which not only pointlessly brings up violence (this time woman v. woman or breast v. breast) but seems counterproductive to the idea of breast cancer research. We're supposed to be battling cancer with these shirts, I thought. Not other women's body parts.

Then there's the most disturbing example of promoting violence against women on the entire site. The "Save a life grope your wife" t-shirt leaves nothing to the imagination. It tells the reader that by groping (aka assaulting) their wife, they're actually doing her a favor. And that's a damn lie. An anonymous commenter on my Mad Housewife post said that she had survived breast cancer after her husband found her lump. In response to that comment I said that the t-shirt (image below) only had its wording to go on to spread its message, which leads me to believe that because the word "grope" was chosen (which means assault) that it is assault they are promoting, not consensual touching that happens to lead to the discovery of a lump.

And that's not okay. Ever.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Marital rape law to be changed in Afghanistan

On Wednesday I wrote about women in Afghanistan protesting a new law that would severely limit their rights by legalizing marital rape, and making it illegal for women to work or go to school outside of their homes without the permission of their husbands.

Apparently, President Hamid Karzai has decided to change that law.

What do you think?

h/t Shakesville.

Day of Silence

Today is the National Day of Silence. On my college campus people wore duct tape over their mouths to bring to light LGBTI harassment and subsequent silence faced by members of this community.

This year's event was in memory of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover who hanged himself after being taunted for being gay, even though he did not identify as homosexual. He would have been 12 years old today.

Although I did not participate in the Day of Silence, my heart goes out to those in the LGBTI community, especially on my college campus after recent events (which I will detail in a few weeks after everything has been decided conclusively).

Did you participate?

Blogging break... but not yet

I'm a few weeks out from finishing my master's degree - yay! In order to concentrate on my final papers, I'm going to duck out from here for awhile. Just a few weeks, until my life stops being crazy and starts being ... less crazy. I'll be back by early May, promise.

But before I go, here's something that pissed me off recently.

Science blogger P.Z. Meyers suggested a new piece of Catholic iconography that he believes would get more people to go to church:

He writes,
Somehow, I was also able to watch the whole movie that young lady was in without once grumbling about the banality of the plot or the ludicrous absurdity of mixing dinosaurs and cavemen, so she has proven powers in generating a willing suspension of disbelief, so I'm sure she'd be a perfect symbol for a religion.

Because that's just what we need - sexxxxy ladies on the cross who will bring people to religion (specifically the Catholic Church, a locus of Meyers' ire before).

Let's objectify women's bodies in a specifically religious (and to some, blasphemous) context at a time when women are bombarded with conflicting messages about their bodies and sexuality. And let's hear it from progressive people who are supposed to have women's backs. Plus, the cross was an instrument of torture and a symbol of a painful, lengthy death.

Also, some people like iconography, like me. I'm not Catholic, but the history and symbolism entrenched in religious iconography is rich and fascinating.

So P.Z. Meyers, your mocking is not helping. In fact, you're making it worse, both for religious people and for women. We have our hands full with the virgin/whore complex, so let's not get a sexy lady Jesus in there and mess us up even more.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mad Housewife

So maybe it's the feminist in me, aware of the "women belong in the kitchen" jokes told by so many people in this country, but when I came across Mad Housewife wine in a store the other day, I was kind of put off. At first, it was just a feeling of uneasiness. Maybe I just didn't like the name. But when I went to do some investigating online, I realized I had more reason to be unhappy than I had first believed.

The Mad Housewife website is striking first of all in the several pictures of "the Mad Housewife" who smiles, dressed in what appears to me to be a retro wardrobe, perhaps a throw back to the 1950s, a time of "traditional women's roles" such as mother and homemaker. I find it interesting that the website so embraces these images when the very title of the label seems to contradict it: It is, after all, Mad Housewife. Not Happy, Content Housewife.

Next, if you click on the image on the home page that reads "who's hungry? check out our delightful recipe section!" you will be taken to a page that includes recipes and gift ideas. Under the heading "Gift Ideas" is a link to Save the Ta-Tas. Save the Ta-Tas is an organization that sells products to raise awareness of breast cancer in general and raise money for breast cancer research specifically. However idealistic this mission sounds, it does not cover the fact that Save the Ta-Tas are objectifying women (especially women with breast cancer), turning them into their body parts, in order to raise money. A link on the Save the Ta-Tas page even says "Show us your ta-tas!" Objectification is never okay, especially if the organization claims to be doing something good for women. (Save the Ta-Tas also has a men's shirt that says "Save a Life Grope Your Wife" but that bullshit is another post all together...) And Mad Housewife supports this.

Then there is the recipe for Mad Housewife Sangria, "aka a Slutty Mad Housewife." You can find the recipe on the Mad Housewife recipe. The aka name disgusts me. This is a product being sold, I assume, by a woman meant to appeal to female consumers. The use of the word "slutty" on a website that also promotes "Save the Ta-Tas" convinces me that this is not an attempt to reclaim words. It is simply buying into old, sexist ideas of advertising meant to put women down.

I'm upset that my initially unfounded bad feeling about this product proved, afterall, to have a foundation. Contact Mad Housewife cellars if you are sick of seeing products advertised in ways that carry harmful messages about women.

I was going to say more about this, but this actually led me to some other things I want to investigate for possible blog posts. Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Just a bit of housekeeping...

I went through and rearranged the links on the right hand side. The same blogs that we linked to before are still there, but I deleted the blog list application (it took up a lot of space) and went back to just link lists.

Hope everyone is having a nice day! I will be posting something of more substance later.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Women in Afghanistan protest law that legalizes marital rape among other things

Around 300 women in Kabul, Afghanistan took to the streets today to protest a law that severely limits women's rights. The women wanted to protest several parts of the law especially. These include a provision that makes it illegal for women to resist the sexual advances of their husbands, effectively legalizing marital rape, and another that makes it illegal for women to work or go to school outside of the home without the permission of their husband. The law was approved by both houses of Parliament and was signed by President Hamid Karzai, and it applies only to the Shiite minority.
The women who protested Wednesday began their demonstration with what appeared to be a deliberately provocative act. They gathered in front of the School of the Last Prophet, a madrasa run by Ayatollah Asif Mohsini, the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric. He and the scholars around him played an important role in the drafting of the new law.
As the women walked the streets of the capital, they endured shouts of "Whore!" and other insults from a large, angry group consisting mostly of men, who came to counterprotest.

“We are here to campaign for our rights,” one woman said into a loudspeaker. Then the women held their banners aloft and began to chant.

The reaction was immediate. Hundreds of students from the madrasa, most but not all of them men, poured into the streets to confront the demonstrators.

“Death to the enemies of Islam!” the counterdemonstrators cried, encircling the women. “We want Islamic law!”

The women stared ahead and kept walking.

Thanks to Ashley for the link. See Shakesville for pictures from the protest.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why I don't (normally) miss TV: Part two

EDIT: In the ten minutes that it took to write this blog post, this Nutrisystem commercial featuring Jillian Barberie Reynolds was removed from Youtube. Not really sure what happened. Edit part two: Apparently it's back? Sorry!

When I'm at school, I try to limit the amount of TV I watch. But it really seems as if every time I happen to turn the TV on, there's an annoying sexist advertisement on. I came back to the room for lunch today, and Kate was watching TV. In less than an hour, I've seen at least three Nutrisystem commercials, including the one below. The other one that played twice I couldn't find to show here.

There are several issues with this commercial.

First, it uses a spokesperson whose body type is just not going to be achievable for most people looking into the Nutrisystem option.

Second, she tries to sell herself as being into "manly" things, like playing football and eating pizza and burgers. When she mentions a more stereotypically "feminine" type of food (chocolate) she puts her hands around her mouth and lowers her voice, as if its something to be ashamed of.

Third, in the version of this commercial that I saw on TV, there was a website on the screen that read "" which gives the impression that the only way a woman can be "pretty" is by having the disposable income to go on a diet plan in order to lose weight.

This just makes my day. Being bombarded with commercials on several different channels that are trying to convince me that I am not "pretty" enough unless I lose some weight. One reason why I normally don't miss watching TV.

Other parts in this series: One.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pro-life protest raises 14k for family planning

Here's some funny news out of Minneapolis/St. Paul - every year on Good Friday, a pro-life group protests at a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul. This year, Planned Parenthood did "sponsor a protester" as a fundraising technique. For every protester that showed up, someone donated x dollars.

Weeeeellll, the Archbishop of the archdiocese of St Paul/Minneapolis showed up this year, meaning that there was an even larger crowd of protesters, which means that Planned Parenthood raised way more money than anticipated. Apparently they raised $14,000 and carloads of donated food for food banks.
The money raised at the expense of anti-abortion protesters will go toward family planning services at the clinic. PPMNS said it provided more than 300,000 units of contraception and 20,000 breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings to women in Minnesota and the Dakotas within the past year.

Nice work, Archbishop Neinstedt and your posse of pro-life protesters. I'm glad you could do your part in preventing unplanned pregnancies and working for women's health issues.

Quick Read: President Obama officially recognizes April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month

To read President Obama's full remarks go here.

And to learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, go here.

Thanks to Feministe for the links.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Powerless White Male: A Confrontation

I want to confront the notion, that some people I consider friends buy into, that in this day and age, white American men "are powerless" and "get fucked over every day"* because they are white. Because they are male. One friend of mine in particular likes to point out that their are no "white guy scholarships," and since everyone else gets all the help, he is not privileged. In fact, he is disadvantaged. I don't want to address the issue of affirmative action in this post. Instead, I want to point out something much more pervasive in American society.

American life has been tailored to convenience white, heterosexual males.

Let us consider for a moment the endless amount of advertising that we are exposed to on a daily basis. Sexual images of women almost seem like something that should be expected in advertisements these days. But if you think more carefully about their content you will notice a few distinct patterns.

This Skyy Vodka image makes some assumptions about the viewer of the ad: 1) The viewer is a heterosexual male who would be enticed by the female in the image, 2) The heterosexual male is white, and could most effectively be enticed by a woman who looks as white as possible. This advert was clearly made with a specific demographic in mind, which is interesting considering vodka is a product that can and is used by people of all genders and sexualities.

Even adverts not directly speaking to white heterosexual males do not remove them from their privileged place in the mind of those creating the images. For example, this image of Beyoncé in a L'Oreal ad has caused some controversy about having been made to appear more like a white person. This image shows that even when an advert is for a "women's product" it is white males that are supposed to be pleased. Even if it is not an overt plot by the advertiser, this image is saying that all women should want to be white (or as white as possible) if they want to appeal to men (assumed to be white and heterosexual).

Another aspect of American life that white males can feel at home with is major national evening news shows. Some basic cable examples include World News, currently anchored by Charles Gibson and NBC Nightly news, currently anchored by Brian Williams. CBS Evening News is currently anchored by Katie Couric, but only after a line of previous anchors that has been dominated by men. It is important to note the impact of hearing about world news from someone similar to oneself. It helps determine to some extent the kinds of topics that are covered and how one thinks about the topics that are brought up.

Yet another example that is less specific, but just as important is street harassment. The fact that white males who more or less fit into the gender role society expects them to fulfill can walk in public without being harassed, without being treated like public property that is open to comments from strangers, that is privilege. Being able to exist in public spaces without having to face verbal and physical harassment, a tactic meant to strip people of the idea that they deserve to exist in such places, that is a privilege.

Of course, not all forms of privilege apply to all men. Sexuality, gender expression, ethnicity, race, income, and other factors can have an effect on what one's privilege looks like, but these factors don't make male privilege disappear completely. And I am absolutely sick of hearing my white, heterosexual male friends complaining about how the world treats them so unfairly because of the very characteristics that elevate them to a level of privilege in American society that is so entrenched in their daily lives that they can't even seem to identify it.

Being able to deny your privilege in such an adamant way and to demand that your own situation deserves to be addressed (as some of my friends have done), is also a luxury of the very privilege you deny.

*Quotes from a conversation with a male friend that touched on this topic.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gay Marriage Legal in Four States

Given the events of the past six months, I'm surprised that the legalization of gay marriage by both Iowa and Vermont, joining Massachusetts and Connecticut to become the third and fourth states respectively, did not get more press. Maybe it's flown under the radar or been swept under the rug in lieu of the economic crisis, which is more evidence to my belief that Americans care more about their money than anything else.

Maybe it's because I haven't been watching the right channels, but the only coverage I've seen was one brief mention on MSNBC, as well as coverage in my local newspaper in the World & Nation Section. What makes me wonder, is just why this isn't getting more coverage, given how hot an issue it was as recently as recently as late February, and I don't really see it cooling off this quickly.

But I'm going to go out on a limb and make the assumption that this is because gay marriage wasn't legalized in New York or California. It was legalized in Iowa and Vermont. Three of the four states that allow it are in New England. I've lived in New England for all but ten months of my life, I visited Vermont multiple times as a child, and to this day, I still don't think I've ever actually met someone from Vermont. In other words, just like the natural disasters in Fargo, no one really cares about something significant if it doesn't happen in a major city or state.

Bias against small towns and lesser-known states and every bank in the country going bankrupt are really the only explanations I can think of as to why really just don't give a crap about this. Truth be told, even if Iowa and Vermont passed these laws way back on November 4th, the same day California banned it, I don't think anyone would be talking about it. It would all be about how Prop 8 passed in California and how it's a crushing defeat for gay rights.

Either way, at least it has the right people talking.

With all this being said, I'm glad we can add two more states to the list, and I'm glad one of them isn't within driving distance of my house. I take pride in living in the most progressive part of the nation, but seriously. It's time the other states got on board. I don't want to delve too far into the religious reasons for people supporting bans on gay marriage, but when you're picking and choosing certain passages from a book as openly sexist as the Bible and ignoring the stuff that makes you feel uncomfortable (my favorite is Leviticus 15: 19-24; go look it up), it makes me think you're just not cool with boys kissing each other.

Here's to hoping the other forty-six states get on board, so we can have equal rights for everyone.

One quick plug. My friend Jon recently started a blog called The Liberal Maniac, a catchy title if I've ever heard one. And really, it speaks for itself. It's a look at progressive politics from someone who knows what he's talking about. Anyway, he's invited me to contribute to the blog, so starting tomorrow, I'll also be a weekly contributor over at his fine site. So keep your eyes open. And likewise, he'll be linking back here to Female Impersonator. I encourage you to take a look and feel free to leave a comment. He loves comments.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Safe sex - it's not just the kids doing it these days

Teenagers aren't the only people who directly benefit from comprehensive sex education - as divorce becomes more and more prevalent in American culture, older single people are dating and having sex. Since some people view pregnancy as the main reason to use condoms, women in menopause or who may have had their tubes tied may not see the need for protection during sex.

However as this article states, menopausal and premenopausal women need to be aware of the risk of sexually transmitted infections, even if they don't view pregnancy as a risk. Additionally, women with vaginal atrophy may be at a higher risk of STIs because of the increased potential for small cuts and tears.

Another place that demonstrates the need for sex education and dispensing of condoms is nursing homes. For a lot of the reasons above, women and men in nursing homes need to be aware of safe sex, especially since aging bodies are often weaker than younger bodies.

I never thought about the need for sex education in these communities before, but lately, my divorced mother is starting to go on dates. In talking with her, I found out that she's only used oral hormone contraceptives in her life - STIs weren't as big of a concern when she was younger. Doing my daughterly duty, I told her about the importance of communication between partners, talking about sexual histories and getting tested, and using barrier protection. Then we decided that I'll give her "the talk" on her wedding night (preferably at the bar) and she's never giving me "the talk" because I'm never getting married.

Here's what the North American Menopause Society suggests all sexually active people do (good for anyone in sexual relationships, in my opinion):
  • Choose partners selectively.
  • Discuss sexual history with a partner; don’t let embarrassment compromise health.
  • Always insist that a male partner use a latex condom for genital, oral, and anal sex, unless you are in a long-standing, mutually monogamous relationship. Never use petroleum-based products (Vaseline, baby oil) to lubricate condoms because they can damage the condom, potentially causing a leak).
  • Keep medically fit and have a regular physical exam, including a Pap test and other tests to identify sexually transmitted infections if you are at risk. If exposed to an STI, or after a confirmed diagnosis, urge partner(s) to be examined and treated. Do not resume sexual activity until you and your partner are cleared of infection or, in the case of STIs that cannot be cured (such as herpes), until proper methods for optimal protection are understood and used.
Here's the moral of the story:

Comprehensive sex education must be taught to youth because this is lifelong knowledge - it's not going to stop being important and useful once you get out of high school or college or if you get married. Safe sex isn't just for teenagers - it's for everyone.

Monday, April 6, 2009

David Horowitz, mentions "political pluralism," speaks sexism/racism

Political pluralism in the curriculum at America's institutions of higher learning. An Academic Bill of Rights that made professors responsible for not indoctrinating their students. Doesn't sound so bad, right? Well, it was behind this mask of decent ideas that David Horowitz paraded his racist, sexist, and homophobic attitudes at Knox College tonight, April 6, 2009.

When I heard about Horowitz being brought to Knox by the Knox College Republicans, the Intellectual Diversity Foundation and the Young America's Foundation, I knew I had to attend his talk, even though it might very well be difficult to hear.

Horowitz is most recently the author of a book called One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America's Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy. The title says it all, really.

Throughout his talk, Horowitz did not do a good job at trying to foster respect for his ideas on a campus that has, not infrequently, been noted for strong liberalism among its student and its faculty populations. He made numerous disparaging remarks about past events on the Knox campus. Toward the beginning of his talk he said, "I think it's disgraceful when speakers are protested at University campuses," in regard to the widespread student protests that Kate and I blogged about when John Ashcroft spoke here last year. By beginning his talk with insults about our campus, and offering no concrete ideas about addressing the issues he brought up, how exactly did he expect to make an impact here? Immediately it was as if we had to be on the defensive, when something as easy as trying a bit of constructive criticism could have helped create a more productive and less inflammatory atmosphere that would have been much more conducive to change.

Next, to address to other major themes in his talk.

Theme One: Women's Studies - Where students are presented "with controversial opinions as if they were scientific facts."

Horowitz actually dedicated a whole section of his talk specifically to women's studies, claiming it was "not an academic study." He went on to explain. "Women's Studies professors are part of a political movement within universities [meant to] recruit people to [believe that we live in] a racist, sexist, homophobic society that deserves to be attacked," he said, expounding upon his apparently unmoving belief that Women's Studies programs were meant only to indoctrinate students into feminist ideals.

When Horowitz asked a rhetorical question about who in the room had been taught that gender was a social construction, numerous hands went up (including mine). From there he went on to demonstrate that he did not quite know the difference between sex and gender when he said that empirical studies show that men and women are different and that "gender is hardwired, it's in the genome." Well, Mr. Horowitz, I'll leave out the idea that gender is displayed and acted out differently around the world because, I'm sure there's a genetic explanation, right?

Theme Two: Ism's (mainly sexism and racism) - "This is the most tolerant nation...on the face of the Earth."

During the question and answer section of his talk, Horowitz's true colors seemed to shine at their brightest. The following are questions [mostly paraphrased] submitted by the audience via note cards that were read aloud, followed by the most interesting parts of Horowitz's not-always-coherent responses:

Q: How can colleges deal with racism?
A: "...anti-white epidemic on university campuses." After talking about how bad it is for whites these days, he went on to say that the only way to deal with racism on college campuses was to make one standard of consequences for all people, regardless of skin color. But instead of ending it there, he went on to challenge that notion that groups such as blacks and women are marginalized in our society because we have a black president and a female Secretary of State. That, of course, means perfect equality and access to resources/power for these groups. Clearly.

Q: If we're surrounded by people like you [white, male] run the government...
A: [cuts off question] "BARACK OBAMA! BARACK OBAMA! BARACK OBAMA!" As if that was all he needed to prove his controversial point that white males do not still run the government and most of American life. He then said the question was stupid, although it had not been completely asked.

Q: How can you, as a white male, say race and gender are not issues?
A: "...nobody is oppressed in America...except children [with abusive parents]." Why is that so? Because "white people don't come around thinking of ways to oppress blacks." And of course, "Sixty three million people voted for a black man...IT [racism] IS OVER."

Q: What do you think about the bias in the media?
A: He started with the familiar talking point about how the media is ruled by the Left. Then he described a "neocommunist" as someone who thinks that the USA is racist, sexist, and homophobic and that corporations are evil. Not quite sure how he related this to the media, but there you have it.

I think most of this post can speak for itself. Although his talk was masked with good ideas, Horowitz spent most of his time at the podium spewing hatred, even when he had to revert to unrelated tangents to try to drive his points home. All I have to say is that for someone who claims to want to promote intellectual diversity on campuses in America, he doesn't seem to have the best grasp of ideas that oppose his own, and he seems to be mistaken in the belief that attacking people will somehow make them want to listen to him.

EDIT 4/7/09: Here's a link to Knox's school newspaper website that contains video of the talk. You'll probably need to turn up the volume.

*All direct quotes were collected by Amelia at the time of Horowitz's talk, approx. 7:00-8:30pm on Monday, April 6, 2009.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sports Night and the ladies

I am a huge Aaron Sorkin fan, and especially a huge fan of Sports Night. My rule of thumb is that anyone who owns the Sports Night DVDs is a good person (with some exceptions - but few).

Jennifer over at The Hathor Legacy has done a really nice critique of women characters in Sports Night. I didn't realize it until she mentioned it, but every single episode passes the Bechdel/Wallace test. Dana and Natalie, the two producers for the show-within-the-show, surprise surprise, talk about something else besides men constantly. What an amazing concept, huh?

She nails it with this:
On TV, women in these situations usually catfight, and men usually hit each other, then bond over beer and become best buddies. Dana and Sally do neither: they put professional accumen and the one thing they have in common - being women in a male-dominated field - ahead of more petty, personal concerns. Forget passing the Bechdel/Wallace test - this is a depiction of women with little in common but the men in their lives choosing not to let that theme rule their interactions.
Even though I've never been a fan of sports, I remember watching Sports Night when it was airing on Comedy Central (probably right after it was cancelled*). It never stood out to me as a show with better than average depictions of women, simply because I expected that television would show women characters with nuance and depth. I wasn't at the point where I cognatively realized that tv shows suck with showing women - I hadn't realized that women aren't the target audience for television.

Aaron Sorkin isn't always the greatest with his female characters; just yesterday I saw the West Wing episode introducing Ansely Hayes, an attractive Republican woman who comes to work in the Democratic White House (but she can get away with it because, you know, she looks like she does). But usually he's better than average, as Jennifer's post describes.

Jennifer also did a spot on analysis of the show's depiction of Dan Rydell, one of the sports anchors, which I think is a really good critique. So go watch the show, and if you pick up the DVDs (which recently had a 10 year anniversary re-release), I'll think you're a good person.

*Speaking of canceled TV shows I love, watch Kings on NBC so it doesn't have the same fate as Sports Night or Studio 60. More on Kings soon, I promise.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Website launch -

I am extremely pleased to announce the launch of a new project, called And It Was Wrong, that seeks to give voice to women's experiences of sexual assault.
is a grassroots compilation of women's experiences of sexual assault. It is a project made up of women giving voice to a problem society silences: that of sexual assault as it occurs in our everyday lives.
The project is a collection of stories, in the words of the women who lived them, that deal with sexual assault. Stories can be submitted anonymously on the website and all must end with the line "...and it was wrong."

Rachael, the woman behind And It Was Wrong, is a dedicated feminist activist who attends Knox College with Kate and I. She has been a role model for me since I began to identify as a feminist, and I hope all of our readers can support her project.

Congratulations, Rachael, on this new development in this project that you have dedicated so many hours to.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fifteen percent

Between 2004 and 2007, there were an estimated 44,084 new diagnoses of HIV infection, a 15% increase (CDC).

A 15% increase. What are you doing about it?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sexist, Homophobic MPAA Rates Bruno NC-17

Hm. So, I guess it's been a while. Some of you might remember me, but for those who don't, let me briefly re-introduce myself before jumping back into the thick of things. I'm Ryan and I was invited by Katie last year to participate in the discussion on this blog from the male perspective. Well, at least from the bitter liberal male perspective. Anyway, I'm from Providence, Rhode Island, I'm turning 23 in a few weeks, and I tell bartenders and people on airplanes that I'm a screenwriter, but I've never actually sold a script (though I did act in a friend's short film, but we won't speak of that again). Fingers crossed that that fact changes this year. Anyway, on to the topic at hand.

In the year 2006, British comedian Sascha Baron Cohen brought the character Borat from the HBO series Da Ali G Show to movie theaters. The film was subsequently ruined by overzealous frat boys walking around drunkenly quoting the film, but it was a fearless (and quite hilarious) look at how ass-backwards this country is when it comes to many topics, with racism taking the forefront.

Now Cohen has turned to the last of his characters to make it to the big screen (though no one really remembers Ali G In Da House). Bruno (a film in the same mockumentary style, but from the perspective of a gay Austrian fashion icon) is set for release on July 10th of this year and it has already caused a controversy. As first reported on the news and blog site The Daily Beast, Bruno has received a rating of NC-17 from the Motion Picture Association of America, the same people who told my parents not to let me see the South Park movie when I was thirteen.

Briefly, for those who are unfamiliar with the MPAA, they're a volunteer group of people who sit in a room, watch movies a couple of months before its release, then decide whether it should be rated G, PG, PG-13, or R. However, every once in a while, a film surpasses those ratings and winds up with an NC-17, meaning no children under seventeen are allowed into the theater. Period. Even if their college-aged cousin is with them. The big deal here is that when a film receives that rating, it becomes an uphill battle for the film to actually make money. A quick comparison: the highest grossing film with an NC-17 rating is campfest Showgirls, which made $20.3 million. The highest grossing R-rated film of all time is Biblical snuff film The Passion of the Christ, which made $370.8 million.

Bruno has received this rating in regards to its supposed graphic sexual content. From the original post on The Daily Beast (beware mild spoilers):
Among the objectionable scenes is one in which two naked men attempt oral sex in a hot tub, while one of them holds a baby. In another, Bruno—a gay Austrian fashionista played by Baron Cohen—appears to have anal sex with a man on camera. In another, the actor goes on a hunting trip and sneaks naked into the tent of one of the fellow hunters, an unsuspecting non-actor.
Knowing Cohen's style of comedy, I can't imagine any of those scenes go on for more than a few moments for fear of being exploitative, but this isn't the first time the MPAA has forced a film to cut some of its content to receive an R-rating. But that's been well documented already, so I won't get into that.

What I will get into, however, is the MPAA's willingness to automatically comdemn anything more graphic than a gay kiss in a film. The 2005 film Bad Education by Spanish auteur Pedro Almadóvar, in which male actor Gael García Bernal plays multiple roles, one of whom is a woman who performs oral sex on a man. The scene lasts a whole two seconds and yet the film was rated NC-17 for "a scene of explicit sexual content."

But heterosexual oral sex? A-okay, evidently.

As for the anal sex scene, clearly when a man does it to a woman--or even when a woman does it to a man--for some reason, it's not a problem. Keep in mind the latter example did not have to cut a single scene to get down from NC-17 to R. They simply appealed the rating.

So we've gotten over the fact that Milk notwithstanding, gay sex is largely taboo to the MPAA, the members of which to this day remains a secret (to be fair, Milk wasn't exactly graphic either). So you would figure a group as staunch and as moral as that would certainly disapprove of a horror film with a prolonged rape and torture sequence that was a remake of a film infamous for the same thing, right? Guess not.

Can someone tell me in what world is it okay for three degenerates to brutalize and rape two teenage girls for ten minutes straight (and eventually kill one of them), but two men having sex on camera for a fraction of that time just goes too darn far? A friend of mine tried to argue that the scene was done in such a way as to make the villains more villainous. Sorry, but it's just exploitative and mean-spirited. Plain and simple.

The MPAA has a longstanding issue with letting countless horror, action, and just about every other genre of films that depict brutal violence against women get away without a scratch, while simultaneously condemning films based on homosexual content, or even excessive female nudity.

Knee-jerk reaction on my part? No. As someone who follows the film industry like my life depended on it (if I had a life, that is), this is just another infuriating entry on the long list of things the MPAA has done that causes me more stress than it should. Eventually, homosexuality will become such a common thing (let's give it twenty years) that these kinds of things probably won't matter much in the future. But in a world where violence against women is so commonplace in itself, I get the feeling we're going to be seeing plenty of films like The Last House on the Left in that same future come out highly recommended by the people I work with and the idiot at the movie theater who tried to convince me to see that instead of Sunshine Cleaning.

So until the MPAA pulls its collective head out of its ass, expect more of these entries from me as more situations like this arise, as well as me pointing out hipocrisy on how women are treated in film and the industry itself in general. And I encourage you to check out the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated for more examples along the same lines. An interesting note, the film was ironically rated NC-17 because it featured scenes from other films with the same rating. Go figure.

It's good to be back posting here. I hope to contribute on a weekly basis, and I'll be focusing mainly on the entertainment industry and other medias, but I'll veer off into other territories if I discover something appropriate for this blog. Either way, thanks to Amelia and Katie and the other bloggers for having me back and you'll be hearing from me very soon!

Growing up with sisters may lead to people being "happy and balanced"

From BBC, a study conducted by lead researcher Professor Tony Cassidy at the University of Ulster (UK) suggests that families with daughters are more "open and willing to discuss feelings," which can be especially important after stressful family events. The findings are to be presented at the British Psychological Society in Brighton.
Researchers quizzed 571 people aged 17 to 25 about their lives and found those who grew up with sisters were more likely to be happy and balanced.

During the study, participants filled in psychological questionnaires which researchers used to assess a range of issues, including whether they had a positive outlook and any mental health problems.
What do you think of this?

The article doesn't explain how the researchers controlled for other factors that may have contributed to the results, or why exactly having daughters in ones' family might contribute to someone ending up being "happy and balanced" compared to people growing up in families with brothers (brother were said to have the opposite effect).

The main reason I read the article was its tagline that read:
Sisters spread happiness while brothers breed distress, experts believe.
I'm not convinced at all yet. Will wait for more details.