Ann Friedman

Come Fly The Slut-Shaming Skies

This post, written by Ann Friedman, originally appeared on Feministing

Southwest Airlines is apparently now telling its female passengers how to dress. Kyla Ebbert was reprimanded and nearly kicked off a flight for daring to wear a tank top, miniskirt, and cardigan. (This picture is of the outfit she was wearing at the time. Scandalous, no? How dare she walk around in 100-degree weather wearing that?!)
They walked out onto the jet bridge, where [flight attendant/fashion policeman] Keith told Ebbert her clothing was inappropriate and asked her to change. She explained she was flying to Tucson for only a few hours and had brought no luggage.
"I asked him what part of my outfit was offensive," she said. "The shirt? The skirt? And he said, 'The whole thing.' "
Keith asked her to go home, change and take a later flight. She refused, citing her appointment. The plane was ready to leave, so Keith relented. He had her pull up her tank top a bit, pull down her skirt a bit, and return to her seat.
Guess we know what airline Wendy "Modestly Yours" Shalit is going to be flying from now on!

Man Rapes Woman As Several Bystanders Watch

This post, written by Ann Friedman, originally appeared on Feministing
Police: Man Rapes Woman As Bystanders Look On
(AP) St. Paul -- A 25-year-old man was charged Thursday for allegedly raping and beating a woman in an apartment hallway -- an incident apparently witnessed by as many as 10 people who did nothing.
Rage Ibrahim was charged with several counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for the attack early Tuesday. According to the criminal complaint, police responded to a call of drunken behavior in an apartment hallway, where they found both Ibrahim and a woman lying unconscious. The woman's clothing had been pulled up, she had fresh scratches on her face and blood on her thigh.
And despite the witnesses -- and the fact that the rape was captured on a surveillance camera -- the guy denies it.
"I'm so upset because of the situation I'm in," Ibrahim told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, as he headed to the county jail on Thursday to turn himself in. "I've got a mom, I've got a sister. I wouldn't rape anyone."
Because no rapists have female relatives? Maybe he's thinking that, because everyone seemed to ignore what was going on, it wasn't really happening:

NYT editor says women are bad military history writers

Amy Hoffman, editor-in-chief of the Women's Review of Books, recently reported that she attended a lecture at the Radcliffe Institute by Barry Gewen, an editor at the New York Times Book Review. In what even he described as a "Larry Summers moment" he explained that the reason so few women reviewers appear in the NYTBR is that they just can't write for a general audience about such topics as military history. He explained that NYTBR editors find reviewers by talking to colleagues and reading publications such as The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and The New Republic, insisting that he and his colleagues are not overtly prejudiced people but admitted they might have subconscious prejudices.

In the Harvard Crimson's account, Gewen acknowledged his staff wasn't "doing the outreach they should" in order to recruit more women and minorities.

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Voters reject gay marriage and abortion restrictions

Both good and bad outcomes on various ballot initiatives.

First off, there's that overturned South Dakota abortion ban. It also looks like both California and Oregan will reject parental notification for abortion. And Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and Montana voted overwhelmingly to raise the minimum wage. Plus, Missouri looks likely to approve stem-cell research.

However, seven states (Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin) banned same-sex marriage. At this writing, Arizona was leaning that way, too. Arizona also made English its official language. And Michigan voted to restrict affirmative action.

UPDATE: Now it looks like Arizona will reject the gay marriage ban. Awesome.

South Dakota anti-choice campaign broke the law

Campaign finance reports from South Dakota show that the abortion ban campaign has cost a total of around $4 million -- $2.2 million spent by the coathanger club, and $1.8 million spent by pro-choicers.

The abortion-banners have been chirping that most of the money they've used to produce lying ads has come from inside the state. Included in their filing is a report of $750,000 from an anonymous donor via a shell organization in South Dakota. That's right. More than a quarter of the anti-choice funds have come from a single undisclosed source, who made a donation to Promising Future, an organization recently set up by Republican legislator Roger Hunt.

Now Hunt is in some trouble over failing to disclose who funds the shell corporation. Failure to properly file a campaign finance report is a class 2 misdemeanor.

Local progressives are thinking the anonymous donor is Steve Kirby, a wealthy anti-choicer who ran a failed campaign for South Dakota governor. He gave huge amounts of money to the initial push to pass the abortion ban, but his name shows up nowhere on the VoteYesForLife campaign finance filing.

Ms. Magazine reminds us that the campaign has been in trouble over its funding before. Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint against lead abortion-banner Leslee Unruh's crisis-pregnancy center and the Abstinence Clearinghouse for using federal dollars to campaign for the abortion ban. The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families has also filed a complaint against Hunt and the recipients of his anti-choice charity for failure to reveal the donors.

In other South Dakota election day news, subscribers received today's Sioux Falls Argus Leader wrapped in VoteYesForLife campaign materials.

Sex ed and its discontents

Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) is on a mission to discredit the Waxman Report -- which, you'll recall, drew widespread attention the misinformation and gender stereotyping rampant in abstinence-only programs. Souder released a report this week called "Abstinence and Its Critics."

In it, he makes the same old unsupported arguments that abstinence-only works, trots out the same old bunk statistics, and makes the same old distortions of polling data about what sort of sex-ed most parents would like to see. What he doesn't address are the Waxman Report's charges of gender stereotyping in abstinence-only curricula, which leads me to assume that he's probably all for messaging like "wear longer skirts, you sluts" and "boys can't control their urges."

Souder first surfaced on this issue back in May, when he managed to place abstinence-only advocates on a CDC conference panel about STDs. He's now running for re-election and the Cook Report recently downgraded his race from a "solid" to "likely" chance he'll be reelected. The Republicans had to start giving him some money to buy ads. Clearly he expects to gain some political ground with the timely release of his anti-Waxman Report.

Focus on the Family is already fellating Souder for his report, calling him a "defender of life and purity." I think "defender of gender stereotyping and teen pregnancy" is probably more accurate.

On a related note, the Center for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) is suing the Dept. of Health and Human Services for failing to respond to a request for information on how the agency uses federal abstinence dollars to fund crisis-pregnancy centers.

The Byline Gender Gap

Last year, Ruth Davis Konigsberg, an editor at Glamour, started as a way to keep a tally of women's bylines in national and political "thought-leader" magazines. She recently published her results, and they aren't pretty. "At the New Yorker," Konigsberg notes, "the ratio was four to one. At Harper's, it was almost seven to one." When you add in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair and the Atlantic Monthly, the magazines published one story by a woman for every three stories written by a man.

"WomenTK" is actually a wildly optimistic name for a site like Konigsberg's. In publishing lingo, "TK" means "to come," which indicates that she expects things to change. It's hard to see how that's going to happen, though, because thus far all the talk about Konigsberg's findings has consisted of journalists rehashing the industry's classic response: a general agreement that the situation is "unfortunate" and that "something should be done." Even female journalists have been reluctant to drop the double speak and propose concrete solutions.

Conventional wisdom among many women journalists (and their male allies) is that change will come when more women rise to positions of editorial power -- which just hasn't happened. Certainly magazines should take steps to elevate competent women not just to the editor-in-chief level, but to all gatekeeper editorial positions. But I don't think the mere presence of female editors can remedy the byline gender gap. Several national and progressive magazines have female editors-in-chief, but you wouldn't know it by looking at each table of contents. There are countless days when all of the progressive news websites feature only one or two stories by women. I know these are places where the editors would agree that the paucity of female bylines is a problem.

As one female editor at a national magazine said to me recently, "We always talk about it. I don't know why we're not able to follow through with it." Clearly, it's not enough to be aware of and concerned about the issue. It's time to hold editors -- yes, even female editors -- accountable for the byline gap. Things will never change unless magazines make a specific commitment to raising the number of women who appear in their pages.

AlterNet has a commitment to placing at least two women's bylines on the front page every day. Because we have a tiny staff, we reprint much of our content from other progressive media. Which means that, in order to publish a sufficient number of women, we are in many ways reliant on other news outlets to do the same. It's disheartening how hard it is to find women's bylines on a daily basis -- even though we're looking all over for them. It's an ongoing struggle.

That's why I've come to believe that a target percentage for women's bylines should be set in the editorial policies of each publication, at least in the short term. I can honestly say that if it were not AlterNet's policy to publish multiple women writers every single day, it would never happen. No matter how committed to gender parity we say we are, the demands of daily news always seem to overshadow the abstract desire to publish more women.

"But," I've heard editors say, "we don't get as many pitches from women. And the ones we do get are often of lower quality than those that come from men. Should we compromise our standards just to meet a quota?"

Seems like a cop-out to me. I've made a point of reaching out to women writers, and can say that a least half of the pitches and submissions I now receive are from women. And they're good quality. If editors know they have to publish a certain number of women, they'll be more likely to reach out to them. And their submissions will follow.

Then there's the matter of getting editors to consider pitches from women. I think many editors are less likely to pay attention to women's submissions, but not because they think women produce inferior work. It’s more due to the fact that they get dozens of pitches a day, and knowing a writer's name often means the difference between reading an email and clicking "delete." So it stands to reason that if the writers an editor already knows (either personally or by reputation) are predominantly male, those are the emails that will get opened and considered. Pieces from women they don't know will languish in an inbox until the submission is stale and no amount of editing can save it.

It's also probably true that women writers are less likely than men to follow up aggressively on pitches, and if they do, they're more likely to be viewed as annoying or nagging rather than confident and persistent.

When it comes time to make story assignments, when are editors (myself included) most likely to think about assigning to a woman? When the subject matter is "hearth and home," of course. Mother Jones crunched the numbers and found that about a third of stories with women’s bylines were articles on gender and family, or were fiction or memoirs. Konigsberg writes on her website,

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