Saturday Readings & Viewings

I spent some time reading various articles on the internet today, and thought I’d share the interesting ones with my readers.

    Voting for Obama on the WFP Line

    Voting for Obama on the WFP Line

  • Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous – Those AIG executives receiving bonuses whose names were leaked are receiving visitors – some organized by the CT Working Families Party.  Speaking of WFP – I am an e-active member of the NY Working Families Party – I even voted for Obama in the WFP column, as did nearly 160,000 other New Yorkers.
  • Fashion designers are having a tough time figuring out what fashions to push during these tough economic times. Some have tried looks reminiscent of the Great Depression, but that didn’t turn out too well.
  • Obama on Jay Leno

    Obama on Jay Leno

  • After a nice walk and lunch with Husband, I was given homework to watch Obama on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  So I accessed it on the web – the full interview is available on nbc.com.  I loved what he had to say about “commen sense regulations” and making sure the the average consumer and the average taxpayer aren’t taken advantage of.  I especially loved what he said about the pseudo-growth in the financial sector, and the real steady growth we need instead:

    And what we need is steady growth; we need young people, instead of — a smart kid coming out of school, instead of wanting to be an investment banker, we need them to decide they want to be an engineer, they want to be a scientist, they want to be a doctor or a teacher.

    And if we’re rewarding those kinds of things that actually contribute to making things and making people’s lives better, that’s going to put our economy on solid footing. We won’t have this kind of bubble-and-bust economy that we’ve gotten so caught up in for the last several years.

    That spoke to me so strongly, as a recent graduate with an excellent NYC-based degree in chemical engineering, I believe I could have easily gone straight into the financial sector and made 6 figures right out of school. I know a number of people who did. I chose, instead, to be a research scientist, and more recently to move to environmental engineering. I did this because I care about a lot more than just money, but I often felt alone in my decisions. I believe we need a system that rewards the agents who do positive things for society, not just the people who can push around numbers all day on Wall Street. Apparently Obama believes this too, and it makes me feel so optimistic and confident in our country’s current leadership.

  • On Thursday First Lady Obama celebrated Women’s History Month by bringing together inspiring women leaders and sending them out to disadvantaged schools to share their stories.  The First Lady herself visited Anacostia:
    Michelle Obama hopes to inspire in celebration of Womens History Month

    Michelle Obama hopes to inspire in celebration of Women's History Month

    At Anacostia High School, the site of a violent melee in November that sent several young people to the hospital with stab wounds, Mrs. Obama gave hugs, slapped knees and sat down in a semi-circle with 13 students, who were all juniors and seniors. (All but three were girls.)

    And when one girl asked, “How you get where you are now?” the first lady told her story.

    “There’s no magic to being here,’’ Mrs. Obama said. “What I want you to know is that my parents were working class people.”

  • Eco-Button sends your computer to sleep

    Eco-Button

  • Buying Green: 9 Environmentally Inventive Products.  I think I’d like an eco-button to put my computer to sleep easily and awake it quickly.
  • The House approved a 90% tax on bonuses for bailed out firms.  This is an interesting way of getting the money back and restricted executive pay and bonuses, but I’m glad they found a way to do so.

    Its backers said the companies had forced Congress to act by inexplicably handing out generous rewards to employees after tapping taxpayer funds to survive an economic calamity brought on by irresponsible and risky executive decisions.

  • Battlestar Galactica

    Battlestar Galactica

  • Finally, I’m really looking forward to watching the final episode of Battlestar Galactica later today.  Husband and I watch all of our tv using the internet, so our viewing party will be tonight instead of last night.
  • Women’s Equality Day

    Today is Women’s Equality Day, marking the day a mere 88 years ago that women won the right to vote in the US. Here’s a bit about Women’s Equality Day:

    At the behest of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY), in 1971 the U.S. Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.”

    The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. This was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women that had its formal beginnings in 1848 at the world’s first women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York.

    The observance of Women’s Equality Day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality. Workplaces, libraries, organizations, and public facilities now participate with Women’s Equality Day programs, displays, video showings, or other activities.

    As long as we’re on the topic of women’s equality, I want to comment on Michelle Obama’s speech last night at the DNC.  I found it really moving and I thought she did a really good job and showed a lot of passion.  If you haven’t seen it, you can go watch it here.  This morning I read the New York Times article “Michelle Obama, Reluctant No More,” and I have to say I was not that happy with it.  It was mostly subtle wording choices and ordering of the information the author chose to include, but I felt like the article highlighted more about what she didn’t like about campaigning and her reservations about her husband running for president than it highlighted how she did choose a life in public service, how she made it so far from such humble, but thoroughly American, roots, and how she is such a strong female role model.

    Women leave work because of the economy just like men

    Earlier this decade there were many news articles and attention given to moms “opting out,” and the suggestion was that there was a new movement for women to stay at home for purposes of raising children and running households. I, for one, totally respect a woman’s right to choose what type of career she wants, be it in a paying job or an unpaid job as household manager and parent, but I still was a bit dismayed by all of these reports. Well, new evidence suggests that it’s the economy, and not a cultural swing towards stay-at-home-motherhood, that has led to decreased numbers of women in the workforce.

    An article in the NYTimes today, Poor Economy Slows Women in Workplace, cites a congressional study and some economists in saying that:

    After moving into virtually every occupation, women are being afflicted on a large scale by the same troubles as men: downturns, layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages or the discouraging prospect of an outright pay cut. And they are responding as men have, by dropping out or disappearing for awhile.

    “When we saw women starting to drop out in the early part of this decade, we thought it was the motherhood movement, women staying home to raise their kids,” Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, which did the Congressional study, said in an interview. “We did not think it was the economy, but when we looked into it, we realized that it was.”

    There’s also evidence that the downturn in the past few years has hit women harder:

    Pay is no longer rising smartly for women in the key 25-to-54 age group. Just the opposite, the median pay — the point where half make more and half less — has fallen in recent years, to $14.84 an hour in 2007 from $15.04 in 2004, adjusted for inflation, according to the Economic Policy Institute. (The similar wage for men today is two dollars more.)

    I can’t help but think of the phrase that was tried in a previous election year: It’s the economy, stupid.

    More on shared parenting

    I wrote this in response to a comment on a post I wrote a while ago about shared parenting, and then I saved it as a draft to come back and edit, and promptly forgot about it. Oops.

    So the commenter wrote that he worked and his wife stayed home because it was what each did best:

    Equal parenting is fine with us if we found ourselves one day to be equally matched. But I make 10 times as much as what my wife can do in her best year, and my wife has a much bigger gas tank for the energy in needing to handle children. We’ve tried to be equal, but have found its best to pull the most from our strengths and split up the rest.

    I began writing a response but I decided I’d rather post about the rest of my thoughts on the article.

    Even in sharing it all, Husband and I do the same thing…but we happen to be much more evenly matched. So the things we defer to each other on are smaller, more in the details – like the Vachons, I think. He takes the heavy laundry in the pushcart down the stairs and to the laundrymat and picks it up the next day, lugging it up the stairs. I happen to wash the dishes. There are definitely things that happen to fall along the “standard” lines, but we’ve talked about all of it and whether we want to do this or that and to what standards, and everything was a mutual decision. And I think that’s what makes our marriage so solid, even if the conversation can sometimes be a tad awkward (“It really made me feel bad when …”).

    Regarding parenting, in my opinion “equally” shared parenting isn’t as much about the “equally” part as it is about the sharing – about both parents putting time into it and really being there for their kids. If you share it, then even if you work a full-time job and your spouse stays at home, you spend a significant amount of time with your kids while you are there, and you recognize that your spouse needs a break too. You do things your way when you’re with the kids, but you’re with them enough that you have a way down pat and you know what to expect. To me that’s the important part.

    But I also think one of the points of the article might be that these people set different priorities. If you wanted to, you could both choose to live a little less luxuriously in terms of material wealth and comfort, take a pay cut, and have more time at home with your family. This could be working part-time or this could be a flexible or reduced hours schedule, or you might choose to stay home completely. But this is a choice that these people are making, to take less pay in order to both be fully there with their family and with their children. And it’s a choice that I’m passionate about, that I think needs to be available for parents of any gender if we are ever to truly move into a “post-feminist” era.

    Birthing, American style

    I recently watched The Business of Being Born, a documentary I got from Netflix. This was very interesting not just in an “I love anything related to babies” way but also in a feminist way. Despite my initial skepticism of the gravity of anything produced by Ricki Lake, I found the documentary worth watching. It contained some great information about birthing practices in the US.

    One part that did strike a cord with me is that I have pretty much been afraid of giving birth, of being in labor, for my entire life, and apparently I’m not alone. I’m realizing this is largely because of the way that birth is portrayed in the movies and on tv. For me, I also never heard glowing birth stories from my mom – it sounded much more like an unfun experience that resulted in a very worthwhile outcome – a baby. My mother has two children (my older brother and me), and both were born via c-section. I might feel differently about it if the adult women around me had described births as “beautiful,” which is how the mom I now babysit for describes the home birth of her son earlier this year – and with feeling, like she really treasures the experience.

    The film showed many powerful images of births in America both a century ago and now. On the one hand, the film showed modern women who gave birth at home, with the assistance of a midwife and their spouses and children, all of whom were close yet comfortable. On the other hand, the film showed doctors who appeared primarily concerned with getting the patients in and out of the hospital in a timely manner, and whose patients appeared, on-film, to be powerless to stop not just pain medications but also labor inducing medications, which have been shown to lead to a higher number of c-sections. At the home births, the moms looked like they were in lots of pain, but that they had support and the comfort of choosing what position to be in and possibly in a tub if they choose. At the hospital births, many of the moms looked both worn-out and uncomfortable, laying on their backs in a skimpy hospital gown. It certainly wasn’t hard to watch the mothers and know which situation seemed like a more comfortable, loving, bonding experience for the birth of a child, although I was left wondering more about birthing centers, which seem like they might be the best of both worlds.

    The Huffington Post featured a recent article on the AMA’s response to the documentary:

    Ladies, the physicians of America have issued their decree: they don’t want you having your babies at home with midwives.

    We can’t imagine why not. Study upon study have shown that planning a home birth with a trained midwife is a great choice if you want to avoid unnecessary medical intervention. Midwives are experts in supporting the physiological birth process: monitoring you and your baby during labor, helping you into positions that help labor progress, protecting your pelvic parts from damage while you push, and “catching” the baby from the position that’s most effective and comfortable for you — hands and knees, squatting, even standing — not the position most comfortable for her.

    When healthy women are supported this way, 95% give birth vaginally, with hardly any intervention.

    And yet, the American Medical Association doesn’t see the point.

    Although I can easily imagine wanting an epidural or some type of painkiller, I wouldn’t want an episiotomy, inducing drug like pitocin, or a c-section unless it was medically necessary. Unfortunately, even just taking an epidural can make you more likely to need any/all of those three. And the c-section and episiotomy both feature weeks to months of recovery which can inhibit your opportunities for baby bonding and for sexual relations with your husband. (Months of sex being painful while the episiotomy heals? No thanks!)

    And the information suggests that for women with a low-risk pregnancy, they’ll have a lower incidence of these procedures being performed if they birth at home with a midwife. A study published in 2005 concludes:

    Planned home birth for low risk women in North America using certified professional midwives was associated with lower rates of medical intervention but similar intrapartum and neonatal mortality to that of low risk hospital births in the United States.

    And then there’s this part, from the blog by the author of the book Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care:

    Pitocin, given to more than half of women during labor, is the synthetic preparation of the hormone oxytocin, the driving force of labor that causes the uterus to contract. You know the soft side of oxytocin already: it floods your body during orgasm, when you fall in love, when you get close to a friend, even when you sit down to a shared meal. It is the hormone of connection, closeness — love. And when women give birth, they get the biggest helping of oxytocin that humans ever experience. A “love high,” if you will.

    Pitocin replicates oxytocin’s muscle, producing strong uterine contractions, but it does not pass to the brain. You don’t get the warm and fuzzies with the pharmaceutical version. Furthermore, it shuts down your body’s own oxytocin production. That means that when you get Pitocin in your IV — whether you’re being induced or just “augmented” — you’re missing out on the natural oxy-rush.

    If any woman is going to go through labor, it certainly sounds like it’d be a lot more enjoyable of an experience with the natural oxytocin rushing through your body and priming you to bond with your baby. Seriously. The most oxytocin humans ever experience? Where do I sign up?!

    So, for the moms among my readers – what kind of birth did you have, and how do you feel about the experience?

    Wonder Woman on DVD

    As part of my work with T!, I keep up to date on current happenings in the comics, manga, graphic novel, and related pop culture world. In particular, I enjoy reading Wonder Woman comics, and so I was pleased to read today that DC is creating a Wonder Woman movie. I am a bit disappointed that it’s direct to DVD, but it’s an animated movie and despite the fact that she’s one of their big 3 characters, maybe she doesn’t have enough of a following to merit a theater release? Anyhow, the movie will feature Keri Russell and Alfred Molina as voice actors, both people who’s work I respect. So I’m definitely looking forward to it. But I’ll have to wait until Spring 2009!

    Books for and about women in science and academia

    I came across these through a commenter, Emily, on the May Scientiae Carnival. Emily’s book, Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory: Women Scientists Speak Out, came out recently. She’s set up a blog where she hopes to encourage discussion about how we combine motherhood and science. I haven’t read the book yet myself, but once things settle down and we have some meager amounts of cash, I’ll probably go right out and get it!

    Through Emily’s blog I also found out about this book: Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life. It will be released later this year and looks like a promising collection of essays about combining motherhood and academia. This book also has an accompanying blog at MamaPhD.com.