“It’s boring to play the girl role.”

This is a good video of Olivia Wilde speaking and participating in a panel on “The State of Female Justice 2014: What Makes You Rise?” “The State of Female Justice” panels bring women from diverse movements together for a shared public conversation about justice and equity. In this short video (4 minutes, 2 seconds), Olivia talks about why women aren’t being empowered by the media and shares a story about an acting exercise she participated in that’s very interesting. Enjoy.

More about “The State of a Female Justice” here.

Good Times/Bad Times: May 25 – 31

Today I have for you (channeling the chefs on “Chopped” which I just finished watching!) a little list of some of the good things and bad things that I read on the internet in the past week. Most of them are from other blogs, some from NOLA, some not. It’s just a hodge-podge of articles that I liked or …… didn’t, but all are decidedly shareable.

Good Times

Road trip! Follow Ian McNulty on a trip down the bayou to Terrebone Parish in Bayou Country journey offers glimpse of small-town life at the end of the line.

Local blogger Blathering shares her recent outing to City Park’s Botanical Gardens with a walk through Enrique Alferez’s sculptures in her weekly feature “Arty Tuesday”.

“Blackberries Everywhere” , via Bouillie blog, takes us along to pick wild blackberries in rural Louisiana and adds a bonus of a recipe for Blackberry Cornmeal Cake that sounds scrumptious. The photos of the finished cake made my mouth water and put it on my list of recipes to try this summer.

I’m always complaining to myself that I don’t have the kind of time I’d like to read. This is really not exactly true since I often  end up surfing the internet when my intention was to read my ebook.  I even tweeted about it. So I was happy to find this post, 7 tips to help you read more (& love it).

 Bad Times

Local political journalist John McGinnis died last Sunday at the age of 66. Robert Mann penned a wonderful memoir and tribute to Mr. McGinnis here,  a worthy read about an exceptional journalist.

#YesAllWomen was a hashtag on fire on Twitter this past week. It apparently first popped up Friday 5/23 in the aftermath of the Elliot Rodger shooting spree in California in response to his misogynist rants on YouTube. When social media takes up a cause like this, I find it much more interesting and enlightening to read personal blogs written by everyday people to get a feel for how the issue affects or is affecting everyday people. Here are a few blog posts I read this week that touched me (to tears in some cases) and/or just made me think in a different way, breaking open the festering sore of misogyny.

First, here’s a link to a Vanity Fair article that includes a graphic showing how the hashtag spread worldwide.

Brandi writes a very personal account of her experience of being bullied by a boy (and, yes, it was bullying)  at age 11. I really identified with this post because I experienced the same thing at the same age and I remember the humiliation I felt.

Roxane Gay’s post, In Relief of Silence and Burden, is a heartbreaker written in the unmistakably honest voice that is Roxane Gay. Reading this made my stomach hurt.

Walking While Fat and Female – Or Why I Don’t Care Not All Men Are Like That was an eye-opener. I guess I’m naive but it never occurred to me that adult men acted this way.

And, from the men:

My Girl’s a Vegetable: A Father’s Response To Isla Vista Shootings  in Luna Luna Magazine shares how a dad’s eyes were opened to the every day misogyny directed to women via his daughter’s experience while walking home from school.

Local Blogger Ian McGibboney writes “A Letter To All the Nice Guys”and makes some really good points.

And, finally, Emily Shire says “#YesAllWomen Has Jumped the Shark” and wonders if it’s being diluted by people tweeting about such things as “complaints about women being told to smile”. What do you think?

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New-To-Me Blog of the Week

To end on a lighter note, I want to share a blog each week (or so) that’s new to me and that I enjoyed reading  – you know, show a little link love.This week it’s  The Art of Simple, a blog that shares ways to live a simpler, more meaningful life as well as giving great organizational tips. Give it a click, I think you’ll like it!

 

 

 

 

 

Susie Price: Cutting Through The Weird Food Codes

For something which everyone has to do in order to stay alive, eating is fraught with way too many social boundaries, judgements about weight and health, strange unspoken rules about what men and women are supposed to eat (or enjoy), and much more. It’s a mess, and everyone knows it, but nobody really talks about it like normal people. The obese get talked about a lot, as do those with eating disorders – not men, mind you, because nobody likes to acknowledge that men suffer from eating disorders as well – but everyone else ends up wandering the desert and speaking in strange codes. Time for some feminism, which seems to be alive and ready to do some kicking.

Dessert Is Not a Moral Issue

Of all the weird food codes, “guilty pleasure” is most insidious. If, like most people, we occasionally enjoy something kind of sweet and not really diet-squad approved, it’s okay to talk about it in public so long as we call it our guilty pleasure. Even yogurt which tastes like it once wandered past lemon cheesecake is marketed as something we ought to feel guilty about enjoying, so the idea of enjoying an actual slice of lemon cheesecake is only acceptable if we claim to feel a little naughty about even having a bite. Suddenly, food becomes a moral issue, something to feel guilty about even if it’s “part of a balanced breakfast”, or lunch, or dinner. It’s easy to say that it’s just a figure of speech, but when we’re talking feminism and the whole messed-up culture surrounding how women are allowed to eat, everything we say on a regular basis tends to run deep. Thankfully, a lot of feminists are now taking a stand against the idea of food-related guilt: “I don’t have guilty pleasures because I shouldn’t feel guilty about my food,” wrote a Guerilla Feminism contributor, which is about as no-nonsense as this kind of thing ought to be.

Our Eating Habits, Ourselves

Quick question: if you’re told about a lazy, self-indulgent, unemployed woman, what does she look like in your mind’s eye? Probably not thin, though maybe not obese – most likely somewhere in between, and definitely overweight. We’re subliminally told time and time again that fat people are slobs, thin people are vain and probably have eating disorders (but are definitely the right candidate for the job), and that there isn’t really a weight or way of eating that doesn’t come with supposed personality traits attached. People suffering from eating disorders are, unfairly, hit particularly hard, with the assumption that they’ve brought their disorder on themselves through vanity or just perfectionism. “An eating disorder is characterized by an extreme disruption in regular eating habits, whether it is eating too little or eating too much,” according to an expert at Psychguides.com, but popular culture would rush to reassure us that what eating disorders are really characterized by are personal failings. However, we all ended up getting painted with the same brush, just in different colors.

Food Doesn’t Need To Be Justified

Ordering dessert – or even just a fatty, delicious steak – in a restaurant can be a fraught moment. Regarding ordering cake when your friends are abstaining, The Story of Telling writes that a “great waiter knows that an emotional decision is being made. He understands that he’s not just there to scribble down an order—he’s there to support the dessert orderer’s choice.” That choice is often justified by ‘well, I’ve eaten well all day’, or ‘I had a salad for lunch’, because society is convinced that we should be held accountable for every small indulgence we grant ourselves. It’s become such a common tactic that it’s now used to advertise cinnamon buns and cakes – something which bemuses even those involved in the diet industry, one of whom wrote that “there’s nothing inherently evil about this or any dessert. Though I would imagine that promises of burning the calories later are more likely lead to weight gain than simply making sure that you eat dessert in moderation.”

This, of course, is the paradoxical heart of nutrition double-talk – not only does it make us feel worse, but it also makes it difficult to have a healthy relationship towards food, and therefore difficult to eat well. It’s a vicious cycle, and one we could all do with getting off.

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NolaFemmes reader Susie Price is now a travel writer, but before she took to sitting at her desk musing on the places she’s visited, she spent a good deal of her life working in the leisure industry in different roles. Now she combines random scribbling with motherhood and is pretty happy with her lot.

Wednesday Wonders From Around the Web

Strange-beautiful-cool things I’ve found on the internet.

Photos of girls and women, known as Ama, harvesting seaweed, oysters and abalone in 1950′s coastal Japan. They dove for up to 4 minutes on a single deep breath three times a day, warming themselves at beach fires in between dives. This 2000 year old tradition ceased in the 1960′s. Photos were taken by Iwase Yoshiyki.  Read more here

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P6 Ama with SeaweedPortland photographer LANAKILA MACNAUGHTON is the creator of The Women’s Motorcycle Exhibition.  “The Women’s Motorcycle Exhibition documents the new wave of modern female motorcyclists. The goal is to reveal the brave, courageous and beautiful women that live to ride.” I chose a few of the photos that I particularly liked – the ones that looked like real women really riding instead of just posing – but you can see more here.

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We all know many magazine covers and ads photoshop the models. I mean, c’mon, no one is that perfect. I came across this video time lapse of a model’s photo being photoshopped. She starts out looking like a normal woman and ends up an adolescent boy’s someone’s  idea of a fantasy Barbie.  She looks like If she moved, she’d crack.

How Everything Went Black

I’m fat.

I don’t type those words as some declaration of self-empowerment like “I’m fat, dammit, and get used to it because I love me, faults and all!”

I type those words with quite a lot of sadness.

Those two words are two of the hardest words to come to terms with when dealing with oneself, at least for me, and it is an issue I like to dance around, hoping that a verbal slight of hand will distract from that fact that I am, indeed, an overweight gal.

When I was younger, I didn’t have these struggles with my weight. In fact, I was quite athletic and pretty fit. (My 20-year-old self doesn’t know this, however, and I would really like to travel back in time and kick her insecure ass.) I look at photos from that time and I don’t notice the appearance, but I notice the smile.

Very few photos of me from this time in my life exist, the most notable being the ones from Emily Gras, documented forever on the internet. In the photos that do exist, I see an inflated version of me, like suddenly I woke up one morning and was living my life walking around in a Sumo suit. The smiles? They aren’t the same, if they are there at all.

What happened to that girl? That one that was so full of life? The one that went to gigs, rocked out to bands, and hammed it up for the camera? The girl that would run every morning, would go out with her friends in the evenings for a couple of cocktails, and knew that she could take on the damn world? What happened to the girl that was secure with the person she was and had no fear?

What happened? The weight gain happened, creating a bubble of unhappiness that I lived in: unhappy with myself, unhappy about the way I physically felt, unhappy about everything I was missing out on, unhappy about the way I looked, unhappy that life seemed to be going on without me, and unhappy with the person I had become.

My weight gain came after a series of events – the life altering kind that often lead to things like depression – happened rapid fire, one right after another, in a very short time, leaving me to concentrate on taking care of everyone else and forgetting about myself or in a lot of physical pain where doing anything besides getting up, getting dressed, and homeschooling my daughter was pretty much out of the question.

Medication for health problems helped accelerate the weight gain, causing a small flame to become a raging inferno. Before I knew it, 180 pounds turned into 212 pounds, 212 pounds turned into 230 pounds, and 230 pounds turned into 265 pounds.

After I reached 265 pounds, I stopped weighing myself at all.

How in the hell did this happen?

I could try to excuse it by saying that fault belonged to the medication I was on, the health issues I was facing, or blame life in general. And, while those are things that may have contributed to certain aspects, using them as some sort of form of justification is no different than an alcoholic using a bad day at work to justify drinking a case of beer at home.  The answer is really much simpler than that. I let it. It was the way I chose to deal with life.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those moment when you realize you can sink or swim. Me, I had been sinking for a while. I was tired of drowning. It was time to learn the breaststroke.

We left New Orleans for the Northshore four years ago as an extra measure of protection in a custody battle where there were whispers that the violent streets, bad schools, and instability of New Orleans would be used as grounds to file for a change in child custody and placement of my daughter. Whether or not it would have happened, I don’t know. The dust from an emotional and painful custody battle had just settled and I wasn’t willing to take any chances.

I hated leaving New Orleans and saying good-bye to the things here that brought me happiness: walking to Blue Cypress Books and chatting with Miss Elizabeth, spending the day riding the streetcar, getting snoballs at Miss Norma’s, having Mister Mike ask me how my mister and daughter were when I went in for a soda or bag of ice, and seeing my neighbors have a second line for their young baby boy’s baptism. Since the day I left New Orleans, I resented it, and that resentment followed me out to the isolated rural wasteland we were now supposed to call home.

While our time there was a healing time for us, individually and as a family, it was also a death sentence, squeezing out the last bit of fighting chance left in me after life had already run me over several times and drove away.

In January, the skies parted, the stars danced, and the gods began to sing. Opportunity presented itself at the right moment, at the right time, in the right place. We were going home, finally going back to New Orleans.

Our return to New Orleans resuscitated me. Instead of escaping into a book, I walked about our new neighborhood.  I didn’t always stay at home on Friday night with Netflix, but hit up Rock N Bowl to see some live music. My mister and I even had a couple of date nights. I began laughing more and smiling often. My friends have said that even talking to me was different, like there was some weird shift in my life. And while I felt like I was being brought back to life, I also felt that there was still something missing, something preventing me from enjoying this city for all of the amazing off-the-beaten-path misadventure it has to offer.

And I realized that thing that was missing was me.

Some people can look at themselves and no matter where they are at in their lives, they are happy with themselves. They are able to accept themselves just as they are and they are able to enjoy everyone and everything around them without worry or care.

I’m not one of those people. Quite frankly, I wish I could be, but to be truly happy, I need to be at my best. Right now, I am not at my best. Not physically and because I’m not physically at my best, I’m not emotionally at my best either.

I’m not speaking vanity, I’m speaking about balance and health.

Instead of allowing myself to feel bad about it, I decided that this time, I was going to take back the control that I needed and that outside static wasn’t going to throw me off course, but would become background noise to further motivate me. I did some research and found a personal trainer. Tonight is my fitness assessment where my weight and measurements will be taken, a functional movement test will be done, and I will set my goals. I’m nervous – I picture me, the fat girl, walking into the gym and people turning their back and smirking. I’m excited – knowing that I am finally calling foul with my family and saying it is time for me to be selfish and focus a little bit more time on myself. I’m full of hope – knowing that this first step is the hardest step to take.

Adventures In Sexism

Perhaps it may just be me and the particular people I follow via Twitter, but my obsessive tweeting has unearthed far too many misogynistic postings lately, stuff that we were supposed to have left behind us in this country but clearly haven’t yet. I’m having some trouble dating this particular spate of insanity over men’s and women’s roles in society…perhaps it goes back to this past bunch of national elections…or the Makers documentary on women in recent history, the third part of which I still can’t bring myself to watch…

…or all this talk about “leaning in,” which you, too, can do in a circle with the right materials, but only if you’ve socked away a lot of dough to get your own personal staff to help with things like child care:

How much do you have to spend on household help to replace a traditional at-home mom—someone to do the schlepping, cooking, cleaning, child care, and laundry? About $96,261, according to Investopedia.

In all of the voluminous ink that has been spilled on Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, and on women and the barriers they face in cracking the glass ceiling, no one is saying what is glaringly obvious to anyone thinking about how to have a big career and a family: start saving for the army of help you’ll need to pull it off. In other words, a nanny, a housekeeper, and a baby nurse.

This is no longer some bourgeois luxury; it’s a necessity given the lack of affordable child-care options and the reality that men have not picked up much of the slack at home (whether because they are burning the midnight oil at their own work, or because they prefer to watch football with the guys).

All of which, when one cannot afford to lean in despite the stunning amount of talent and hard work one has exhibited, results in the decision I and many of my fellow women have had to make out of necessity and NOT of true choice: to stay at home with the kids instead of essentially working to pay just enough for child care and little else. You’ll have to excuse me when I post the following links for your perusal; I’ve read only one of them all the way through. Guess which one and you’ll win a Twitter follow from lil’ ol’ me.

  • The Retro Wife, in which feminism is somehow still affirmed even when the woman goes right back into the place where patriarchy says she’s gotta go. Someone tell me please how that works – does said woman not go quietly? Is there a message of protest every day in the kids’ & husbands’ lunch boxes? I’m still trying to figure this out.
  • Turnabout is fair play, and Ruth Fowler’s The Retro Husband makes the most of it. So smarmy & darkly humorous, I wish I could really belly laugh over it. I must instead be content with a knowing, wistful guffaw.

And then a tempest in an oven comes down the virtual pike with rocket scientist Yvonne Brill’s obituary in the New York Times:

New York Times obituary for Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist and inventor of a propulsion system that helped keep communication satellites in orbit, sparkedcontroversy over the weekend, as writer Douglas Martin led not with Brill’s notable scientific achievements but with the fact that she “made a mean beef stroganoff.”

After a number of complaints on Twitter — and the agreement of the Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan — the opening of Brill’s obituary was altered and the stroganoff line scrubbed. But the new opening sentence provides only the tiniest improvement — it rightly acknowledges Brill’s role as a brilliant rocket scientist up front, but it does so in the same breath and sentence in which she is commended for being a dutiful wife and dedicated, flexible mother: “She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.”

In contrast, recently deceased film critic Roger Ebert did write a cookbook, but it is mentioned in passing in his many obituaries - and certainly not as a defining element of his life right off the bat, though he dearly loved his wife Chaz and his stepchildren and step-grandchildren and had himself described that love as a transformative force in his life. It just wasn’t deemed by the media to be as defining a role in Ebert’s life as it apparently was in Brill’s.

I wish I could say all of this was new and startling, but it’s the same ol’ same ol’ since well before my time. All of us, women AND men, keep juggling with sexism in our lives. In the movies. In who gets called first when there’s a family emergency. In who should be leaning in – or leaning out, as the case may be. In what we do or do NOT do to help when women start families.

April 9 is Equal Pay Day, calling attention to the fact that women still earn approximately 1/4 less than men do. Why April 9? It represents the time a woman has to work to earn what a man got in all 365 days of 2012 – a year and a little over three months. A suggestion by economics professor Anne York is that the household tasks be split more equitably than they have been to help achieve greater awareness for all and, through both the equal pay and household work time measurements, this will achieve the equality we all crave.

It takes far more than that. It takes our fully recognizing that men are just as capable as women as being child-rearers, nurturers, and caregivers, and that it is just as important as women being successful in traditionally-male roles. It takes all of us making conscious choices to not give in to the stereotypes and to act accordingly.

We’re not there yet…and at the rate we’re going, we may not get there in my lifetime. But I sure hope it’ll happen in this century. And I certainly wish I didn’t have to keep setting my expectations so damned low.

Guest Blogger: Theo Eliezer of Momma Tried Magazine

MOMMA TRIED_LaBastilleFor the past year my partner Micah and I have been working on creating a new conceptual magazine called Momma Tried. Both long term New Orleanians (he was born in Opelousas LA, I moved here in 1998), our vision is to bring together a print-only publication that is equal parts literary journal, art magazine, and non-heteronormative nudie mag; a new platform to showcase the talents and perspective of our community.

From the very beginning of this project, we’ve been inspired by the idea that print is “dead,” and chose to fully embrace the romance of this allegedly lost medium as a part of our concept. By only making it available as a tangible publication printed in editions of 1000 and distributing it internationally, we’re hoping to create a magazine that is an archive of a moment in time and feels more permanent and precious than what can be achieved with pages displayed on the internet. We’re endeavoring to create something that is a nod to the publications that influenced us most when we were growing up, including the role of iconic and often misogynistic retro advertising. As an ad-free publication, Momma Tried gives us the opportunity to explore the tropes, manipulations, and possibilities of print advertisements, so through an aspect of the magazine that we call “disruptive content,” we’re partnering with artists to create original and appropriation based satirical adverts that deconstruct the nature of advertising, while simultaneously embodying the essential visual role of magazine ads.

Micah and I started the magazine while we were working on a large multi-disciplinary art installation in New Orleans last year, and from that experience of collaborating with many local and national artists, we realized that a cornerstone of our objective for Momma Tried was to create a new platform to share the talent of local artists and writers with the world. Since then, this dream has manifested into a collaborative work that is nearly complete. The first issue of Momma Tried will be approximately 150 pages long, full color, perfect bound, and contains the work of dozens of contributors from New Orleans, across the U.S, and abroad, as well as our core team of local collaborators which we have worked closely with to create our conceptual nude photo editorials.

The aspect of sexuality in Momma Tried is something we feel strongly about as an opportunity to create a new, more diverse and inclusive presentation of bodies and identity. We feel that art and sexuality go hand in hand as forms of expression and discovery, and that being interested in depictions of nudity or sexuality shouldn’t be an embarrassment, or kept away from other expressions of creativity and thought. We believe that sex and art are intrinsic to the human experience, and it is our hope that by pairing them in a way that is inclusive of people regardless of orientation or gender, we will be creating common ground for a diverse array of people to share, regardless of perceived differences. Idealistically, we’re attempting to create an artistic platform that allows artists, writers, and readers of the magazine to be embracing of their sexuality as well as intellect, which however small of a gesture it might be, is a step towards being more comfortable and honest with ourselves and each other.

After a year of working on this very rewarding and ambitious labor of love, we’re almost ready to send it to print! We’ve recently launched a Kickstarter campaign where people can pre-order the first issue and support us in our efforts to publish what we believe is a valuable addition to our local creative culture.

Please join us on facebook, tumblr, and twitter to learn more and keep up to date on our progress!

www.mommatriedmagazine.com

V-Day Pileup: On Silence and Violence

There are two links in this post I urge you to contribute to, one being the fund for the recovery of the Garden District robbery and rape victim, the other for the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Read on to see why.

More and more, I’m finding it cannot be avoided, no matter how hard women try. We are still surrounded by people who would put us in what they think is “our place,” a position that tends to be highly restrictive on any and all physical and mental levels.

Tell me I’m crazy. Go on and talk down to me, I dare you.

…the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about al-Qaeda, and it was certainly shaped by a Bush administration to which you couldn’t tell anything, including that Iraq had no links to al-Qaeda and no WMDs, or that the war was not going to be a “cakewalk.” (Even male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness.)…

…Credibility is a basic survival tool. When I was very young and just beginning to get what feminism was about and why it was necessary, I had a boyfriend whose uncle was a nuclear physicist. One Christmas, he was telling–as though it were a light and amusing subject–how a neighbor’s wife in his suburban bomb-making community had come running out of her house naked in the middle of the night screaming that her husband was trying to kill her. How, I asked, did you know that he wasn’t trying to kill her? He explained, patiently, that they were respectable middle-class people. Therefore, her-husband-trying-to-kill-her was simply not a credible explanation for her fleeing the house yelling that her husband was trying to kill her. That she was crazy, on the other hand….

Even getting a restraining order–a fairly new legal tool–requires acquiring the credibility to convince the courts that some guy is a menace and then getting the cops to enforce it. Restraining orders often don’t work anyway. Violence is one way to silence people, to deny their voice and their credibility, to assert your right to control over their right to exist. About three women a day are murdered by spouses or ex-spouses in this country. It’s one of the main causes of death in pregnant women in the U.S. At the heart of the struggle of feminism to give rape, date rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and workplace sexual harassment legal standing as crimes has been the necessity of making women credible and audible.

Events and discussions will occasionally converge that lead me to a boiling point on this subject…

Why it’s disgusting and ignorant of you to imply that a woman caught large Mardi Gras beads in a risque manner, for instance. Yeah, it’s one of the oldest, sexist, dumbest Carnival tropes, but it does get tiring after a while. I caught huge, LSU-emblazoned beads just from being at the start of the Thoth parade route. Next Carnival season, I’m gonna ask the next guy I see with giant beads on what he flashed for them.

A list of the 10 cities where women earn the highest salaries is always nifty, but women are still earning less than men.

The horrific news about the murder of paraplegic Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius‘ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who was an advocate for victims of sexual abuse.

Controversy over the Eve Ensler-organized One Billion Rising Campaign, which I only just heard about today, but I also wonder about its premise…as do many other women around the world.:

I recently listened to a Congolese woman talk in a speak-easy setting of radical grassroots feminists. She was radiantly and beautifully powerful in her unfiltered anger towards the One Billion Rising movement, as she used the words “insulting” and “neo-colonial”. She used the analogy of past crimes against humanity, asking us if we could imagine people turning up at the scenes of atrocities and taking pictures or filming for the purposes of “telling their story to the rest of the world”. Take it one step further and try to imagine a white, middle class, educated, American women turning up on the scene to tell survivors to ‘rise’ above the violence they have seen and experienced by…wait for it…dancing. “Imagine someone doing that to holocaust survivors”, she said.

I had occasion to speak with someone about the recent kidnapping, robbery, beating, and rape of a young woman in the Garden District, and large chunks of the conversation revolved around the same tropes that come up whenever something like this happens to any woman. It all came around to our living in a world where women are taught “not to be raped,” and the suspicion that comes up is generally directed first against the woman who is the victim rather than the perpetrators. When a victim’s first move is to tell her would-be comforters and shelterers “Don’t touch me. I’m evidence,” then we know who the burden of proof is on.

This hasn’t ended with the capture of the criminals and their upcoming trial. Though a large amount of funds has been raised thus far for the victim’s rehabilitation, she will need far more than that – keep contributing here. This friend of a friend of mine will be grateful.

I ask you to also consider that state budget cuts will likely destabilize what structures there are to assist women who have been victims of domestic violence as well – among them New Orleans’ own Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. They accept donations of time or money here.

Know of any other needy organizations in the city or state that help female victims of abuse, rape, or violence? Please contribute names and links in the comments. It’ll be the best Valentine’s Day gift you give. Honest.

On Moderation

Granted, I write on my personal blog less frequently these days due to a number of circumstances, but I’m both proud and saddened to say that I haven’t linked to an online Times-Picayune article from my site since 2009.

Why is that? Let’s take a look…

Every so often, Alex Rawls of the local music and culture site My Spilt Milk gets on a virtual hazmat suit and takes a look at the interactivity of the Nola Media Group/Advance Internet/Newhouse Publications’ Nola.com site so that the rest of us don’t have to. What he found on the site wasn’t pretty:

…I saw the list of stories with the most comments stories, and it’s hard to imagine that it’s a coincidence that the top five all involved African American males – three on Nagin, one by Jarvis DeBerry on Martin Luther King Day, and one an African American male who strangled a woman. When I started looking at this issue this morning, a story titled “For Some, Attending Obama Inaugural is Relief from Anti-President Rhetoric” was on the Most Comments list (and with 147 comments as of press time, it’s the second-most comented upon active story, above four currently on the list). It includes such gems as:

You can be certain only worship for the aObamanation will be offered.

Down with the USA (created by white men)!

Down with the Constitution (written by white men)!

Hooray for the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Kwanzaa)!

Gordon Russell’s story on Ray Nagin’s efforts to settle into a Dallas suburb did offer a moderate cause for hope as the target of hostility moved off of African Americans and landed on Texas in the Comments. Evidently being Black is better than being a Texan, and it’s probably better than being a Falcons fan, but Nola.com really has to find a better solution to the Comments Section question than whatever it’s doing now.

Admittedly, much of what is there is simply bitter cynicism directed toward almost everything, and not simply coded racism. That’s harder to deal with because it doesn’t cross borders so clearly that it can be taken down, but it lays out an ugly, hostile discourse that adds a mean dimension to the site.

 

It saddens me that, since Newhouse has decided to go with less dead-tree publishing and more emphasis on the website, it hasn’t addressed this.

I wish I could say it was a surprise as well, but it isn’t. It’s been the modus operandi of the organization for quite a while now. As long as the number of hits the website gets can be translated into some sort of monetary gain for Nola.com – hey, we get this many hits per day, come advertise with us! – then any and all traffic is going to look good, even if it leaves behind a trail of filth at the bottom of each article. The racism, sexism, and plain old incivility will continue, no matter how many people from within New Orleans and without are dismayed, offended and horrified.

It’d be nice to think that the recent Sal Perricone commenting brouhaha resulting in Jim Letten’s resignation may have made some commenters a tad more cautious about typing something up straight from their ids and hitting “post,” but a lack of civility still rules online.  I keep telling people that once they get on the Internet, unless they are supremely technically savvy, their computer screens are not one-way glass (helloo, IP addresses), so they’re better off still behaving as they would were they talking to someone face-to-face. It’s been years, and that hasn’t gotten through to the general public yet. People still think their anonymity relieves them of the apparent burden of being a compassionate, thinking person…

…which leads to the other, more awful part of when comment sections are allowed to run amuck. A bunch of comments that are most likely the first, unfiltered thing to slither out of the recesses of the more reptilian parts of our brains can take the hard work of dedicated journalists and relegate it to being ripped apart in a manner akin to Cinderella’s stepsisters tearing the hell out of her first ball gown before her fairy godmother comes along to set things right. The scorched earth atmosphere that results can weaken the self-esteem of even the hardiest newshound. This doesn’t mean that journalists shouldn’t be criticized for what they do – but any references to their skin color, their families, or their lifestyles (as well as those of the journalists’ subjects) should be left out of it, and leaving it up to the commenters themselves to “flag” anything they deem offensive clearly isn’t working, judging from Alex Rawls’ examples quoted above. It’s why I subscribed to the dead-tree Picayune until the laying off of half the paper’s newsroom – to support the journalists’ work, not the commenters’ spew.

James O’Byrne of Nola Media Group kept emphasizing at this past year’s Rising Tide conference the increased use of smartphones and tablets among readers that supposedly helped push the decision to publish the TP 3 days a week. I know that when I go to a Nola.com link via my Droid phone, most of the time I don’t see the comments unless I click on another link for them. I want to hope that the monitoring of hits is taking that into account, but as long as this remains a numbers game, I don’t see that happening.

With all the current hubbub over the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras, the hand-wringing by City Hall over the good impressions we locals need to impart to this season’s big shot & tourist onslaught, and the technological innovations being touted, it’s sad that Da Digital Paper, putting itself out there as THE New Orleans news source online, cannot seem to consider all of this and take the steps to preserve whatever integrity it has left.

Yeah, admittedly, there’s not a lot of integrity there, but monitoring or eliminating comments outright would be a good step towards getting some back.

better late than never – Downton Abbey week 2 synopsis

Sorry y’all for the delayed post – but here it is

*~*~*~*~*~*~SPOILER ALERT ~*~*~*~*~*~*

stop right now if you haven’t seen the second episode.

I must say I did not see that coming. My jaw dropped, and I almost fell off the sofa – poor Lady Edith was stood up at the altar by Sir Anthony! Laura Carmichael portrayed the anguish of losing her love in an instant quite handily. Her pain was palpable, her embarrassment visible as she trembled, and to watch her hit rock bottom without any fair warning moved me to tears. Even the staff found some compassion for her: Daisy the assistant cook had kind words to say about Lady Edith’s despite the fact that the Earl doesn’t deserve it (loosely paraphrased). A friend mentioned that Sir Anthony stood her up so he could pursue the freshly divorced Duchess of Marlborough Edith was gossiping about, the woman he professed to Edith on the night before their wedding to have been the loveliest woman he’d ever seen so many years ago (ick).

But then it was right back to business – the eventual saving of Downton Abbey by Matthew Crawley after much vascillating, and the evil tug of war between O’Brien and Thomas. Personally, I think O’Brien has it coming to her: after the soap incident with Lady Cora, her comeuppance is long overdue.

It was a good thing that Mrs. Hughes’ health scare had a happy outcome – with all the tragedy that swirls around the Abbey, a bit of good news is always welcome. But there are dark times ahead, and what looks to be an interesting twist on the horizon between Anna and Bates. Also, I look forward to the development of the ever devoted, yet subconsciously suffering Molesley. I wonder if the downstairs at Downton will eventually make him crack. Until next week, well 2 days from now…

The series is repeated on Monday evenings on WYES, but for those of you who missed them or would like to see the episodes again, check out the PBS website.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/watch-online/?downtonabbey