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Vocapedia > Gender identity > Women


Feminists, feminism, women's rights, sexism, misogyny





Enthusiastic and resolute women

in large parade down Fifth Avenue

on the 50th anniversary

of the passage of the 19th Ammendment,

which granted the women the right to vote,

as they march for further women's rights.


Location: New York, NY, US


Date taken: September 1970


Photograph: John Olson


Life Images



















A women’s march for equal rights in Washington, D.C., in 1977.


Photograph: Thomas J. O'Halloran



Beware the Feminism of Justice Alito


May 5, 2022    5:00 a.m. ET


















This image by Jane Bown

featured on page one of the Observer

on 7 March 1971



Jane Bown for the Observer


Women's Liberation Movement march, 1971 – in pictures

The Guardian

Sat 3 Mar 2018    17.30 GMT
















woman, women        UK
















woman, women        USA







100000005417578/the-fight-over-womens-bodies.html - Sept. 2017





























womankind worldwide        UK










women's rights        USA










a champion of women’s rights        USA










women's freedoms        UK










female empowerment        USA










women’s colleges        USA


















International Women's Day        UK










International Women's Day        USA        2015










International Women's Day        2014
















International Women's Day        2013










International Women's Day:

political rights around the world mapped        UK        March 8, 2013


How have women's political rights

changed around the globe to get

to this International Women's Day?


This interactive map

by Lustlab's Lizzie Malcolm in Amsterdam

shows the long history of the fight for suffrage

and political representation around the globe.


Click and drag on the year slider

to see the changing face

of women's political representation

over the years


international-womens-day-political-rights - broken link








International Women's Day        UK        2012












cartoons > Cagle > International women's day        USA        2012

















BBC Radio 4 programme > Woman's Hour        UK










women > role models        UK        2010










new role models for young British women        UK










Wags / WAGS        Wives and girlfriends        UK






















prejudice against women        UK












sexism        UK / USA




























casual sexism        UK










workplace sexism        UK










sexism > female playwrights        UK

















chauvinism        UK












misogyny        UK




























fight misogyny        UK


























misogyny        USA










misogyny and racism        USA










misogyny online        UK










social media > teen girls > misogyny        USA










misogynist        UK












misogynistic        USA










patriarchy        UK


















hisses, whistles        UK

















sex        UK










woman sexuality        USA




















Marsha Rowe (left) and Rosie Boycott,

founders of the magazine.


Photograph: Getty


Spare Rib goes digital:

21 years of radical feminist magazine put online


Thursday 28 May 2015    10.34 BST























































































UK > feminist        UK / USA



























































feminist economics        UK










black feminist politics        UK










UK > feminist press / publishing house > Virago        USA










feminist        USA


























































Feminist Press        USA












feminist issue > austerity        UK










women's issues        USA










feminist anthem        USA










anthem of female empowerment        USA










feminist > USA > Kate Millett        UK / USA


























feminist > USA > Gloria Steinem        UK / USA






























Gloria Jean Watkins        USA        1952-2021

better known by her pen name bell hooks


















USA > Susan Sontag    1933-2004







Muslim Feminists        USA






feminist magazine > Spare Rib        UK









ultimate feminist organisation > Girl Guides        UK






school > feminist society        UK






feminist biology        UK







USA > The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan    1963        UK


The book

that ignited second-wave feminism

captured the frustration of a generation

of middle-class American housewives

by daring to ask ‘is this all?’






women’s activists        USA






movements against patriarchy        UK

















feminism        UK



















































feminism        USA












































femininity        USA        2009






1990s > UK > Riot grrrl        UK        2013






women’s movement        USA        2013






women's rights        UK








women's rights        USA










equal rights        USA






equality for women        USA
















Upskirting happened to me and now I'm fighting to change the law    G    15 June 2018





Upskirting happened to me and now I'm fighting to change the law        Video        G        15 June 2018


Gina Martin was at a festival

when a man took a photograph up her skirt

and shared it with his friends.


When the police told her

they could not do anything

because upskirting was not a crime,

she started a campaign.


This is how a 26-year-old woman

with no legal or political experience

is trying to change the law


Update: Since we published this video

MP Christopher Chope objected to the upskirting bill

meaning that it won't be passed into law on 15 June.


Gina Martin has vowed to keep campaigning


















upskirting        UK



















women's liberation / emancipation        UK        1910s-1920s



















Karen DeCrow (born Karen Lipschultz)    USA    1937-1948


president of the National Organization

or Women during the 1970s,

a turbulent period in which she helped

lead campaigns for passage

of the Equal Rights Amendment

and against sex discrimination

in education and sports











Lindy Boggs / Marie Corinne Morrison Claiborne    USA    1916-2013


Lindy Boggs


succeeded her husband

in the House of Representatives

after his plane crashed in Alaska

and (...) went on to serve

nine terms on Capitol Hill,

notably as a champion

of women’s rights










Mariam Chamberlain (born Mariam Kenosian)    USA    1918-2013


(she) played

a pivotal yet little-known role

in establishing women’s studies

in the American college curriculum,

and financing early research

about the inequities

women faced in the workplace

and other realms of society










Gerda Lerner / Gerda Hedwig Kronstein    USA    1920-2013


scholar and author

who helped make the study

of women and their lives

a legitimate subject for historians

and spearheaded the creation

of the first graduate program

in women’s history in the United States










Eva Unger    USA    1932-2012


refugee from Nazi Germany

who became an acclaimed novelist,

memoirist and critic

best known for

an influential feminist treatise,

“Patriarchal Attitudes,”

published in 1970










Geraldine Emeline Rhoads    USA    1914-2013


in 16 years as editor in chief

of Woman’s Day magazine

(she) guided it toward

covering the women’s movement

while still embracing its tradition

of homespun advice










Doris Lessing's Golden Notebook, 50 years on    UK    April 6, 2012


Lessing's radical exploration

of communism, female liberation,

motherhood and mental breakdown

was hailed as the 'feminist bible'

and reviled as 'castrating'.


Four generations of writers

reflect on what it means to them






Germaine Greer        USA






Germaine Greer'sThe Female Eunuch        UK










Lynn Barber        UK






Andrea Dworkin    USA    1946-2005        UK


radical feminist activist and writer

best known

for her campaigns against pornography

and her love of outsized dungarees






















suffragist movement / Emmeline Goulden Pankhurst    UK    1858-1928










suffragist        UK






USA > suffragist > suffragist cookbooks         USA






suffragette        UK












Susan Brownell Anthony    USA    1820-1906



of the women's movement

in the U.S.
















femicide        UK






sexist        UK






sexist        USA








sexist stereotypes > British newspapers front pages        UK






harassment        UK






sexual harassment in armed forces        UK            2006






sexual harassment        USA








groping        USA






cartoons > Cagle > International women's day        2012

















MINK! — My Mom Fought For Title IX,

but It Almost Didn’t Happen

NYT    24 JUne 2022





MINK! — My Mom Fought For Title IX, but It Almost Didn’t Happen

Video    Op-Docs    NYT    24 June 2022


Fifty years ago, on June 23, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX,

the 37-word snippet within the Educational Amendments of 1972

that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex “

under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

I became curious about the origins of Title IX

while doing background research for my Op-Doc “The Queen of Basketball,”

about Lucy Harris, one of the earliest beneficiaries of Title IX.

My research led me to Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii,

who was a pivotal figure in writing and defending the law.

As the first woman of color elected to Congress,

Ms. Mink — and her path to office — was influenced

by the discrimination she experienced in her personal and professional lives.

Many doors were closed to her as a Japanese American woman,

and she became an activist and later a politician to change the status quo.

As I learned more about the early history of Title IX in the 1970s,

I found that lobbyists and legislators mounted

a formidable campaign to dilute and erode the law.

This effort would culminate in a dramatic moment on the House floor,

where Ms. Mink was pulled away during a crucial vote on the future of the law.

In "MINK!," Wendy Mink narrates her mother’s groundbreaking rise to power

and the startling collision between the personal and political

that momentarily derailed the cause of gender equity in America.

After Ms. Mink’s death in 2002,

Title IX was officially renamed

the Patsy Takemoto Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.










1972 > USA > Title X


Title IX is the most commonly used name

for the federal civil rights law

in the United States that was enacted

as part (Title IX)

of the Education Amendments of 1972.


It prohibits sex-based discrimination

in any school or any other education program

that receives funding from the federal government.


This is Public Law No. 92‑318,

86 Stat. 235 (June 23, 1972),

codified at 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681–1688.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Title_IX - 2 November 2022
















UK > London >

Women's Liberation Movement march, 1971 – in pictures


On Saturday 6 March 1971,

women from across the UK

gathered in central London

to join the first national demonstration

by the newly formed Women’s

Liberation Movement.


Observer photographers

Jane Bown and Tony McGrath

documented the event

for the following day’s paper.





















USA > 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Women's Right to Vote    1920


"The right of citizens of the United States to vote

shall not be denied or abridged

by the United States or by any state

on account of sex."


The amendment guarantees

all American women the right to vote.


Achieving this milestone

required a lengthy and difficult struggle;

victory took decades of agitation and protest.


Beginning in the mid-19th century,

several generations

of woman suffrage supporter

lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied,

and practiced civil disobedience

to achieve

what many Americans considered

a radical change of the Constitution.


Few early supporters

lived to see final victory in 1920.

































Corpus of news articles


Gender identity > Women >


Feminists, feminism, women's rights,

sexism, misogyny




When States Abuse Women


March 3, 2012

The New York Times



HERE’S what a woman in Texas now faces if she seeks an abortion.

Under a new law that took effect three weeks ago with the strong backing of Gov. Rick Perry, she first must typically endure an ultrasound probe inserted into her vagina. Then she listens to the audio thumping of the fetal heartbeat and watches the fetus on an ultrasound screen.

She must listen to a doctor explain the body parts and internal organs of the fetus as they’re shown on the monitor. She signs a document saying that she understands all this, and it is placed in her medical files. Finally, she goes home and must wait 24 hours before returning to get the abortion.

“It’s state-sanctioned abuse,” said Dr. Curtis Boyd, a Texas physician who provides abortions. “It borders on a definition of rape. Many states describe rape as putting any object into an orifice against a person’s will. Well, that’s what this is. A woman is coerced to do this, just as I’m coerced.”

“The state of Texas is waging war on women and their families,” Dr. Boyd added. “The new law is demeaning and disrespectful to the women of Texas, and insulting to the doctors and nurses who care for them.”

That law is part of a war over women’s health being fought around the country — and in much of the country, women are losing. State by state, legislatures are creating new obstacles to abortions and are treating women in ways that are patronizing and humiliating.

Twenty states now require abortion providers to conduct ultrasounds first in some situations, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization. The new Texas law is the most extreme to take effect so far, but similar laws have been passed in North Carolina and Oklahoma and are on hold pending legal battles.

Alabama, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Mississippi are also considering Texas-style legislation bordering on state-sanctioned rape. And what else do you call it when states mandate invasive probes in women’s bodies?

“If you look up the term rape, that’s what it is: the penetration of the vagina without the woman’s consent,” said Linda Coleman, an Alabama state senator who is fighting the proposal in her state. “As a woman, I am livid and outraged.”

States put in place a record number of new restrictions on abortions last year, Guttmacher says. It counts 92 new curbs in 24 states.

“It was a debacle,” Elizabeth Nash, who manages state issues for Guttmacher, told me. “It’s been awful. Last year was unbelievable. We’ve never seen anything like it.”

Yes, there have been a few victories for women. The notorious Virginia proposal that would have required vaginal ultrasounds before an abortion was modified to require only abdominal ultrasounds.

Yet over all, the pattern has been retrograde: humiliating obstacles to abortions, cuts in family-planning programs, and limits on comprehensive sex education in schools.

If Texas legislators wanted to reduce abortions, the obvious approach would be to reduce unwanted pregnancies. The small proportion of women and girls who aren’t using contraceptives account for half of all abortions in America, according to Guttmacher. Yet Texas has some of the weakest sex-education programs in the nation, and last year it cut spending for family planning by 66 percent.

The new Texas law was passed last year but was held up because of a lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights. In a scathing opinion, Judge Sam Sparks of Federal District Court described the law as “an attempt by the Texas legislature to discourage women from exercising their constitutional rights.” In the end, the courts upheld the law, and it took effect last month.

It requires abortion providers to give women a list of crisis pregnancy centers where, in theory, they can get unbiased counseling and in some cases ultrasounds. In fact, these centers are often set up to ensnare pregnant women and shame them or hound them if they are considering abortions.

“They are traps for women, set up by the state of Texas,” Dr. Boyd said.

The law then requires the physician to go over a politicized list of so-called dangers of abortion, like “the risks of infection and hemorrhage” and “the possibility of increased risk of breast cancer.” Then there is the mandated ultrasound, which in the first trimester normally means a vaginal ultrasound. Doctors sometimes seek vaginal ultrasounds before an abortion, with the patient’s consent, but it’s different when the state forces women to undergo the procedure.

The best formulation on this topic was Bill Clinton’s, that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Achieving that isn’t easy, and there is no silver bullet to reduce unwanted pregnancies. But family planning and comprehensive sex education are a surer path than demeaning vulnerable women with state-sanctioned abuse and humiliation.

When States Abuse Women,






Women’s Health Care at Risk


February 28, 2012

The New York Times

A wave of mergers between Roman Catholic and secular hospitals is threatening to deprive women in many areas of the country of ready access to important reproductive services. Catholic hospitals that merge or form partnerships with secular hospitals often try to impose religious restrictions against abortions, contraception and sterilization on the whole system.

This can put an unacceptable burden on women, especially low-income women and those who live in smaller communities where there are fewer health care options. State regulators should closely examine such mergers and use whatever powers they have to block those that diminish women’s access to medical care.

Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, for example, recently turned down a bid by a Catholic health system to merge with a public hospital that is the chief provider of indigent care in Louisville. He cited concerns about loss of control of a public asset and restrictions on reproductive services.

The nation’s 600 Catholic hospitals are an important part of the health care system. They treat one-sixth of all hospital patients, and are sometimes the only hospital in a small community. They receive most of their operating income from public insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid and from private insurers, not from the Catholic Church. They are free to deliver care in accord with their religious principles, but states and communities have an obligation to make sure that reproductive care remains available. This should be a central goal for government officials who have a role in approving such consolidations.

As Reed Abelson wrote in a recent report in The Times, these mergers are driven by shifts in health care economics. Some secular hospitals are struggling to survive and eager to be rescued by financially stronger institutions, which in many cases may be Catholic-affiliated. By one estimate, 20 mergers between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals have been announced over the past three years and more can be expected.

The 2009 “Ethical and Religious Directives” issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops warns that Catholic institutions should avoid entering into partnerships “that would involve them in cooperation with the wrongdoing of other providers.” Catholic hospitals have refused to terminate pregnancies, provide contraceptive services, offer a standard treatment for ectopic pregnancies, or allow sterilization after caesarean sections (women seeking tubal ligations are then forced to have a second operation elsewhere, exposing them to additional risks).

In one case, the sole hospital in a rural area in southeastern Arizona announced in 2010 that it would partner with an out-of-state Catholic health system, and would immediately adhere to Catholic directives that forbid certain reproductive health services. As a result, a woman whose doctors wanted to terminate a pregnancy to save her life had to be sent 80 miles away for treatment. A coalition of residents, physicians and activists campaigned against the merger and it was called off before it was finalized.

Over the past 15 years, MergerWatch, an advocacy group based in New York City, has helped block or reverse 37 mergers and reached compromises in 22 others that saved at least some reproductive services. As mergers become more common, state and local leaders would be wise to block proposals that restrict health services.

Women’s Health Care at Risk,






When States Punish Women


June 2, 2011

The New York Times


The Obama administration has rightly decided to reject a mean-spirited and dangerous Indiana law banning the use of Medicaid funds at Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide vital health services to low-income women.

The law, signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana in May, is just one effort by Republican-led state legislatures around the country to end public financing for Planned Parenthood — a goal the House Republicans failed to achieve in the budget deal in April. The organization is a favorite target because a small percentage of its work involves providing abortion care even though no government money is used for that purpose.

Governor Daniels and Republican lawmakers, by depriving Planned Parenthood of about $3 million in government funds, would punish thousands of low-income women on Medicaid, who stand to lose access to affordable contraception, life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. Making it harder for women to obtain birth control is certainly a poor strategy for reducing the number of abortions.

On Wednesday, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Donald Berwick, said the Indiana law, which is already in effect, violates federal Medicaid law by imposing impermissible restrictions on the freedom of Medicaid beneficiaries to choose health care providers.

Although Mr. Berwick’s letter to Indiana officials did not say it explicitly, Indiana could lose millions of dollars in Medicaid financing unless it changes its law. In a bulletin to state officials around the country, the Medicaid office warned that states may not exclude doctors, clinics or other providers from Medicaid “because they separately provide abortion services.”

So far, Indiana isn’t budging. The issue will be taken up on Monday in federal court in Indiana where Planned Parenthood has filed a suit challenging the state’s action on statutory and constitutional grounds. The organization properly argues that it may not be penalized for engaging in constitutionally protected activities, like providing abortion services with its own money.

The Obama administration’s opposition to the Indiana law could help deter other states — including North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and Tennessee — from moving forward with similar measures to restrict payments to Planned Parenthood, either under Medicaid or Title X, the main federal family planning program. Kansas, for example, has enacted provisions to block Planned Parenthood from receiving any Title X money.

The measures against Planned Parenthood come amid further efforts to limit access to abortion. Just since April, six states — Indiana, Virginia, Nebraska, Idaho, Oklahoma and Kansas — have enacted laws banning insurance coverage of abortion in the health insurance exchanges created as part of federal health care reform, bringing the total to 14 states. Two states — Arizona and Texas — joined three others in making ultrasounds mandatory for women seeking to terminate pregnancies. Bills expected to be signed soon by Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, contain both types of provisions.

Many of these fresh attacks on reproductive rights, not surprisingly, have come in states where the midterm elections left Republicans in charge of both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s mansion.

When States Punish Women, NT, 2.6.2011,






The War on Women


February 25, 2011

The New York Times


Republicans in the House of Representatives are mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families. And this is just the beginning.

The budget bill pushed through the House last Saturday included the defunding of Planned Parenthood and myriad other cuts detrimental to women. It’s not likely to pass unchanged, but the urge to compromise may take a toll on these programs. And once the current skirmishing is over, House Republicans are likely to use any legislative vehicle at hand to continue the attack.

The egregious cuts in the House resolution include the elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the absence of Title X’s preventive care, some women would die. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health, says a rise in unintended pregnancies would result in some 400,000 more abortions a year.

An amendment offered by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, would bar any financing of Planned Parenthood. A recent sting operation by an anti-abortion group uncovered an errant employee, who was promptly fired. That hardly warrants taking aim at an irreplaceable network of clinics, which uses no federal dollars in providing needed abortion care. It serves one in five American women at some point in her lifetime.

The House resolution would slash support for international family planning and reproductive health care. And it would reimpose the odious global “gag” rule, which forbids giving federal money to any group that even talks about abortions. That rule badly hampered family planning groups working abroad to prevent infant and maternal deaths before President Obama lifted it.

(Mr. Obama has tried to act responsibly. He has rescinded President George W. Bush’s wildly overreaching decision to grant new protections to health providers who not only will not perform abortions, but also will not offer emergency contraception to rape victims or fill routine prescriptions for contraceptives.)

In negotiations over the health care bill last year, Democrats agreed to a scheme intended to stop insurance companies from offering plans that cover abortions. Two bills in the Republican House would go even further in denying coverage to the 30 percent or so of women who have an abortion during child-bearing years.

One of the bills, offered by Representative Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, has a provision that would allow hospitals receiving federal funds to refuse to terminate a pregnancy even when necessary to save a woman’s life.

Beyond the familiar terrain of abortion or even contraception, House Republicans would inflict harm on low-income women trying to have children or who are already mothers.

Their continuing resolution would cut by 10 percent the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, which serves 9.6 million low-income women, new mothers, and infants each month, and has been linked in studies to higher birth weight and lower infant mortality.

The G.O.P. bill also slices $50 million from the block grant supporting programs providing prenatal health care to 2.5 million low-income women and health care to 31 million children annually. President Obama’s budget plan for next year calls for a much more modest cut.

These are treacherous times for women’s reproductive rights and access to essential health care. House Republicans mistakenly believe they have a mandate to drastically scale back both even as abortion warfare is accelerating in the states. To stop them, President Obama’s firm leadership will be crucial. So will the rising voices of alarmed Americans.

The War on Women, NYT, 25.2.2011,






Still Few Women in Management,

Report Says


September 27, 2010

The New York Times



Women made little progress in climbing into management positions in this country even in the boom years before the financial crisis, according to a report to be released on Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office.

As of 2007, the latest year for which comprehensive data on managers was available, women accounted for about 40 percent of managers in the United States work force. In 2000, women held 39 percent of management positions. Outside of management, women held 49 percent of the jobs in both years.

Across the work force, the gap between what men and women earn has shrunk over the last few decades. Full-time women workers closed the gap to 80.2 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2009, up from just 62.3 cents in 1979. Much of this persistent wage gap, however, can be explained by what kinds of jobs the sexes are drawn to, whether by choice or opportunity.

The new report, commissioned by the Joint Economic Council of Congress, tries to make a better comparison by looking at men versus women in a specific industry and in similar jobs, and also controlling for differences like education levels and age. On average, female managers had less education, were younger and were more likely to be working part time than their male counterparts.

In all but three of the 13 industries covered by the report, women had a smaller share of management positions than they did of that industry’s overall work force. The sectors where women were more heavily represented in management than outside of it were construction, public administration and transportation and utilities.

Across the industries, the gender gap in managers’ pay narrowed slightly over the last decade, even after adjusting for demographic differences. Female full-time managers earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by male full-time managers in 2007, compared with 79 cents in 2000.

This varied by industry, with the pay gap being the narrowest in public administration, where female managers earned 87 cents for every dollar paid to male managers. It was widest in construction and in financial services, where women earned 78 percent of what men were paid after adjustments.

Across the work force, the pay gap was also slightly wider for managers who had children.

Managers who were mothers earned 79 cents of every dollar paid to managers who were fathers, after adjusting for things like age and education. This gap has stayed the same since at least 2000.

The greater toll that parenthood appears to take on women’s paychecks may help explain why, generally speaking, female managers are less likely to have children than their male counterparts.

In 2007, 63 percent of female managers were childless, compared with just 57 percent of male managers. Of those managers who did have children, men on average had more children than their women counterparts.

Female managers were also less likely to be married than male managers, at rates of 59 percent versus 74 percent, respectively.

It is difficult to determine why a wage gap exists between female and male managers, and to what extent these differences might be because of discrimination or other factors, like hours clocked. The new G.A.O. report, for example, does not try to control for hours worked, beyond broad categories like full-time or part-time status.

The report was prepared at the request of Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee, for a hearing on Tuesday on the gender gap in management jobs. The findings were based on an analysis of data from the American Community Survey of the Census Bureau.

“When working women have kids, they know it will change their lives, but they are stunned at how much it changes their paycheck,” Ms. Maloney said of the report. “In this economy, it is adding insult to injury, especially as families are increasingly relying on the wages of working moms.”

During the recession that began in December 2007 and ended in the summer of 2009 — generally after the data contained in this new report — men generally bore the brunt of job losses because of the types of industries. It is still unclear how management positions might have shifted or whether women were affected differently by that.

Still Few Women in Management, Report Says,






Fair Pay Isn’t Always Equal Pay


September, 21, 2010
The New York Times



AMONG the top items left on the Senate’s to-do list before the November elections is a “paycheck fairness” bill, which would make it easier for women to file class-action, punitive-damages suits against employers they accuse of sex-based pay discrimination.

The bill’s passage is hardly certain, but it has received strong support from women’s rights groups, professional organizations and even President Obama, who has called it “a common-sense bill.”

But the bill isn’t as commonsensical as it might seem. It overlooks mountains of research showing that discrimination plays little role in pay disparities between men and women, and it threatens to impose onerous requirements on employers to correct gaps over which they have little control.

The bill is based on the premise that the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which bans sex discrimination in the workplace, has failed; for proof, proponents point out that for every dollar men earn, women earn just 77 cents.

But that wage gap isn’t necessarily the result of discrimination. On the contrary, there are lots of other reasons men might earn more than women, including differences in education, experience and job tenure.

When these factors are taken into account the gap narrows considerably — in some studies, to the point of vanishing. A recent survey found that young, childless, single urban women earn 8 percent more than their male counterparts, mostly because more of them earn college degrees.

Moreover, a 2009 analysis of wage-gap studies commissioned by the Labor Department evaluated more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and concluded that the aggregate wage gap “may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

In addition to differences in education and training, the review found that women are more likely than men to leave the workforce to take care of children or older parents. They also tend to value family-friendly workplace policies more than men, and will often accept lower salaries in exchange for more benefits. In fact, there were so many differences in pay-related choices that the researchers were unable to specify a residual effect due to discrimination.

Some of the bill’s supporters admit that the pay gap is largely explained by women’s choices, but they argue that those choices are skewed by sexist stereotypes and social pressures. Those are interesting and important points, worthy of continued public debate.

The problem is that while the debate proceeds, the bill assumes the answer: it would hold employers liable for the “lingering effects of past discrimination” — “pay disparities” that have been “spread and perpetuated through commerce.” Under the bill, it’s not enough for an employer to guard against intentional discrimination; it also has to police potentially discriminatory assumptions behind market-driven wage disparities that have nothing to do with sexism.

Universities, for example, typically pay professors in their business schools more than they pay those in the school of social work, citing market forces as the justification. But according to the gender theory that informs this bill, sexist attitudes led society to place a higher value on male-centered fields like business than on female-centered fields like social work.

The bill’s language regarding these “lingering effects” is vague, but that’s the problem: it could prove a legal nightmare for even the best-intentioned employers. The theory will be elaborated in feminist expert testimony when cases go to trial, and it’s not hard to imagine a media firestorm developing from it. Faced with multimillion-dollar lawsuits and the attendant publicity, many innocent employers would choose to settle.

The Paycheck Fairness bill would set women against men, empower trial lawyers and activists, perpetuate falsehoods about the status of women in the workplace and create havoc in a precarious job market. It is 1970s-style gender-war feminism for a society that should be celebrating its success in substantially, if not yet completely, overcoming sex-based workplace discrimination.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar

at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor,

most recently, of “The Science on Women and Science.”

Fair Pay Isn’t Always Equal Pay, 21.9.2010,






First Woman

Ascends to Top Drill Sergeant Spot


September 22, 2009
The New York Times


FORT JACKSON, S.C. — It may come as no surprise that the Army’s new top drill sergeant idolizes Gen. George S. Patton Jr., has jumped out of planes 33 times, aces every physical training test and drives a black Corvette with “noslack” vanity plates.

But consider this: the sergeant is a woman.

On Tuesday, the Army will make Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa L. King, 48, commandant of its drill sergeant school here. It is a first. No woman has run one of the Army’s rigorous schools for drill instructors.

Petite yet imposing, Sergeant Major King seems a drill sergeant at heart, ever vigilant for busted rules: soldiers nodding off in class, soldiers with hair a fraction too long, soldiers who run too slow.

“Are you crazy?” she shouts at one who is walking across a lawn. “Get off my grass!”

The eighth of 12 children, the sergeant major is the daughter of a sharecropper who grew cucumbers and tobacco near Fort Bragg, N.C. Her first job in the Army was as a postal clerk, a traditional position for women in those days.

She says she regrets not having been deployed to a war zone during her 29-year Army career, though she has trained many soldiers who were. And now, in her new job, she will have significant influence over the basic training of every enlisted soldier.

Last year the Army consolidated several drill schools into a single campus at this sprawling post, meaning Sergeant Major King, with her staff of 78 instructors, will oversee drill sergeant training for the entire Army.

Famous for their Smokey Bear hats, booming voices and no-nonsense demeanor, those sergeants transform tens of thousands of raw recruits into soldiers each year. It is one of the backbone jobs of the military, and having a woman in charge underscores the expanding role of women in the Army’s leadership.

But Sergeant Major King’s ascension is also a reminder of the limits of gender integration in the military. Just 8 percent of the active-duty Army’s highest-ranking enlisted soldiers — sergeants major and command sergeants major — are women, though more than 13 percent of Army personnel are female.

In particular, the Army has struggled to recruit women as drill sergeants, citing pregnancy, long hours and the prohibition against women serving in frontline combat positions as reasons. Sergeant Major King said one of her priorities would be to recruit more women into her school.

But she pushes back at the notion that she has risen because she is a woman. “When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a female,” Sergeant Major King said. “I see a soldier.”

As a child, she refused her mother’s cooking lessons, insisting on driving her father’s tractor and playing basketball instead. When her siblings got in trouble, she volunteered to take their spankings.

It was the sight of a commanding-looking female soldier in a stylish red beret at the fort that inspired her to enlist while still in high school. Within three years, she was sent to drill sergeant school, graduating as one of five women in a class of 30.

Willie Shelley, a retired command sergeant major who supervised Sergeant Major King in three postings, said that he once promoted her over the objections of his commander into a position at Fort Bragg that had been held only by men.

“Turns out she was about the best first sergeant they ever had,” Mr. Shelley said. “It would not surprise me that she could become the first female sergeant major of the Army,” he added, referring to its top enlisted soldier.

In her clipped speaking style, acute command of regulations and visible disgust with slovenliness, Sergeant Major King prowls the grounds of Fort Jackson, where she was the top noncommissioned officer for a human resources battalion before being promoted to commandant.

“She can always find the cigarette butt under the mattress,” said Patrick J. Jones, a public affairs officer at Fort Jackson. Respect for rules and dedication to training is what keeps soldiers alive in combat, Sergeant Major King says, and she expects drill sergeants to embody that ethic 24 hours a day. “Most soldiers want to be like their drill sergeants,” she said. “They are the role models.”

Yet for all her gruffness, she can show surprising tenderness toward her charges. She describes her soldiers as “my children” and her approach to disciplining them as “tough love.” She wells up with emotion while describing how she once hugged a burly master sergeant whose wife had left him.

“She is confident, no nonsense, but compassionate about what’s right for the soldier,” said Col. John E. Bessler, her commander in a basic training battalion four years ago.

After a stint as a drill sergeant in her early 20s, Sergeant Major King went through a series of rapid promotions: aide to the secretary of defense, then Dick Cheney; senior enlisted positions near the demilitarized zone in Korea; with the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg; and at NATO headquarters in Europe.

For a time in her 30s, she was married to another soldier. She got pregnant but lost the baby, and eventually divorced. The failure of her marriage, she said, brought on a period of soul-searching that led her to study the Bible. She was planning to retire and join the ministry when her appointment to the drill sergeant school was announced over the summer.

“On the other side, the military life, I was doing so good,” she said. “But my personal life just stunk.” Since her divorce, she added, “I just pour my heart into these soldiers.”

Looking back on her years in the Army, Sergeant Major King says she can think of few occasions where men challenged her authority because she was a woman. “And when they did,” she said, “I could handle it.”

Asked if women should be allowed into frontline combat units, she said yes, but only if they meet the same standards as men.

While she says most women cannot meet those standards, she believes she can. As if to prove her point, she scored a perfect 300 on her semiannual physical training test last week, doing 34 push-ups and 66 situps, each in under two minutes, then ran two miles in 16 minutes 10 seconds (well below the required 17:36 for her age group.)

But before she started her test, she characteristically noticed something amiss.

“Can you believe that?” the sergeant major asked no one in particular. “A bag of garbage outside my Dumpster.”

First Woman Ascends to Top Drill Sergeant Spot, NYT, 22.9.2009,






Would a world without men really be so bad?

With scientists now claiming they can make sperm in a lab,
does the world need men any more, asks Tanya Gold


Thursday 9 July 2009
The Guardian
Tanya Gold
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk
at 00.01 BST on Thursday 9 July 2009.
It appeared in the Guardian on Thursday 9 July 2009
on p6 of the Comment & features section.
It was last updated at 09.44 BST on Thursday 9 July 2009.


I awoke yesterday in Ira Levin's brain. Scientists have used embryonic stem cells to make synthetic sperm. My first thought is - does it come in pink? But the possibility grows (and I'm wilfully hopping and skipping and bouncing over the science bit here) that we will at some vague point in the future be able to breed without men.

And so a misanthropic fantasy is conjured: what would a world without men be like? Would it be a gently slumbering paradise, full of women eating pot noodles and watching Dallas? Would there be more gilded, stripy cushions, but less armed robbery? Or would it be like being trapped in an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, or at an all girls' school - for ever?

Let us examine our history and see how men - the master race for all of our recorded history in almost every corner of every human civilisation - have fared so far. Applying all the fairness and equilibrium of my sex, naturally. And then I must ask myself: could women do better?


Girls dress dolls. Boys stab them. From Action Man to adolescent stabbings to creaking armchair generals shouting at Fox News while eating cheese straws, men have always enjoyed - or been willing - to maim. Not all men are drooling warlike psychopaths, but most drooling warlike psychopaths happen to be male.

Complain if you must, but surely this doesn't happen by accident? Freud said nothing happens by accident, not even an overboiled egg. Where did that sea of blood come from?

Obviously war has, at times, been an agent for useful social change: smashing the Nazis, plucking women out of the kitchen and into the workplace, and so forth. But generally speaking, I think most humane humans would agree that wars are a bad thing. And on the whole, women don't do war. Defensively, maybe, but not for fun, and not to compete with other women, because we know that there are worse things you can do to another person than merely kill them.

Nah, I can't be bothered to invade Russia. Enders is on, then Holby City. Arms race? To buy bracelets, possibly.


It would be mean to list only the maniacs but I can't resist; there are so many flowers in this garden. Edward I flayed his enemies and nailed their skin to the chapel of Pyx. Then he invaded Scotland, because it was there. Would he have done this if he had been a woman? I doubt it - no woman would use skin as a wall motif.

Ivan the Terrible threw cats - why cats? - off the walls of the Kremlin and thumped people with red-hot pokers, because they were there. Joseph Stalin watched musicals while his peasants starved.

Female rulers, I am certain, can and have already done better. Not always - Indira Gandhi suppressed women's rights and Elizabeth Bathory murdered random virgins and no, I haven't forgotten Margaret Thatcher - but Elizabeth I practised religious tolerance in England while it was still fashionable to eat Protestants in France. Iceland's prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurardóttir, Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Helen Clark - who has just finished four terms as PM in New Zealand - are all seemingly sane. They stand for fewer insane policies and less mass murder due to feelings of inadequacy. Which I'm in favour of.


If you believe, as I do, that religion is more dangerous than an elephant on cocaine wearing high heels in Legoland, the invention of religion is a very black mark against the creatures that love football. In the dock we have Abraham of Ur Kasdim representing Judaism, "St" Paul of Tarsus and Joshua of Nazareth in the Catholic - later Protestant and Catholic - corner and Muhammad bringing up the rear for Islam, holding the hand of the nine-year-old child he married.

We also have L Ron Hubbard (Scientology), the cravat-wearing author of Buckskin Brigades, and our current Pope, who thinks men who kiss men are devilish. He expounds this idea while dressed as Father Christmas. Spirituality, you say? Congratulations, boys, on the greatest bullshit ever told.

What of women in religion? We are followers, not leaders; we are the gilding on this mad lily. Everyone knows that nuns do what they are told, and that they are terrible drivers. I believe most women go to church/mosque/synagogue for something to do.

(And for the nibbles: "It's not the body of Christ. It's a biscuit"). Without men, attendance at religious services would dramatically decline. We would of course have nothing to pray for.

The environment

This is a tricky one, because women use hairdryers and hairdryers use electricity and I want to be fair. I'm using a hairdryer now, as I type my spleen. But it's been scientifically proven that cars and aeroplanes contribute more to global warming than hairdryers and curling tongs.

And who buys the magazines Car and Automobile and Car and Driver and Aircraft and Combat Aircraft and Hot Rod? You know who. It's m**. What's that strange noise? It's the imminent destruction of our shared habitat, and we have no escape pods. Foxtons doesn't have a branch on Pluto. I'd laugh except I'm on fire. I think this has to go down as another serious black mark for men.


Thank you, Dr Freud and Dr Jung - good work, but I for one am still crying. Women also practise psychiatry. It's called empathy. This is a good moment to posit the idea that, in a man-free world, makeup and beauty-product sales would decline, because we would have no one to preen for. The fashion industry would die like an insect in autumn.

It is also possible that all women would be fat.


It is a very true truism that men are good at music because they prefer it to speech. But I have to say thank you for the teenage-shagging Elvis, and the wife-beating Frank, because in a world without men, I believe the music would be rubbish. It would probably be like a Suzanne Vega concert. Love songs would disappear. We'd sing songs about crop rotation and vomiting babies, and we'd sit down at rock concerts.


Written by the losers in life, and, therefore, superb. Can women write as well as men? Well, there is George Eliot, although she was not really called George. She was really called Mary Ann.


It would disappear. We would talk instead. Ditto video games.

And that is my female planet. I can feel you raving now. I can smell your hate. Women are complicit in the madness, you will say. We fly in the planes and we eat the mouldy fruit salad. We applaud the decapitations, and read Vogue too. But men are the rulers of our planet, the ambassadors of humanity; you cannot dispute this, and be truthful. We women have never had the opportunity to fully express our own evil, or our own goodness.

And so, for absolute enlightenment, to really make up my mind, I turn to The Bonobo Thesis.

The bonobo is a type of ape. It lives only in the Congo and it's one of our closest living relatives. It lives in a matriarchal society - there are blokes, but the birds are in charge - and it is more peaceful than the chimpanzee world. They don't kill each other, like chimps do. They like French kissing and oral sex and they sleep in a nest. So, if we use The Bonobo Thesis, it seems likely that a female-only planet would be more peaceful and more lecherous than our masculine-led one.

But, as I fantasise about this sweet new world, the question pops up: who would I have sex with? I like women but I couldn't eat a whole one. Seriously, though? The paradise is cracking and crumbling and sundering around my unwashed ears. In truth, I would miss men. I would miss their smell, and their fragile sweetness, and the way they look at Match of the Day 2 in that lopsided manner, like a lion ogling a chicken.

And I am certain, that, should the men all leave, something terrible - something even worse than all the terrible things they have already done - would happen. Stay, men, stay.

Would a world without men really be so bad?, G, 9.7.2009,






News Analysis

Sotomayor’s Rulings

Are Exhaustive but Often Narrow


May 27, 2009
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s judicial opinions are marked by diligence, depth and unflashy competence. If they are not always a pleasure to read, they are usually models of modern judicial craftsmanship, which prizes careful attention to the facts in the record and a methodical application of layers of legal principles.

Judge Sotomayor, whom President Obama announced Tuesday as his choice for the Supreme Court, has issued no major decisions concerning abortion, the death penalty, gay rights or national security. In cases involving criminal defendants, employment discrimination and free speech, her rulings are more liberal than not.

But they reveal no larger vision, seldom appeal to history and consistently avoid quotable language. Judge Sotomayor’s decisions are, instead, almost always technical, incremental and exhaustive, considering all of the relevant precedents and supporting even completely uncontroversial propositions with elaborate footnotes.

All of which makes her remarkably cursory treatment last year of an employment discrimination case brought by firefighters in New Haven so baffling. The unsigned decision by Judge Sotomayor and two other judges, which affirmed the dismissal of the claims from 18 white firefighters, one of them Hispanic, contained a single paragraph of reasoning.

The brief decision in the case, which bristles with interesting and important legal questions about how the government may take account of race in employment, will probably attract more questions at her Supreme Court confirmation hearings than any of the many hundreds of much more deeply considered decisions she has written.

Judge Sotomayor’s current court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, is a collegial one. But Judge Jose A. Cabranes, writing for himself and five other judges, used unusually tough language in dissenting from the full court’s later refusal to rehear the firefighters’ case.

Judge Cabranes said the panel’s opinion “contains no reference whatsoever to the constitutional claims at the core of this case” and added that “this perfunctory disposition rests uneasily with the weighty issues presented by this appeal.”

That assessment, which was directed at the work of all three judges on the panel, may have carried extra weight with Judge Sotomayor. Judge Cabranes was a mentor to her, and he administered the judicial oath to her twice — in 1992, when she joined the Federal District Court in Manhattan, and again in 1998, when she was elevated to the Second Circuit.

The case, Ricci v. DeStefano, is now before the Supreme Court. In the next month or so, that court will render an unusually high-profile judgment on the work of a judge who hopes to join it. Based on the questioning at the argument in the case last month, the majority’s assessment is likely to be unflattering.

In an interview shortly before she joined the district court in 1992, Ms. Sotomayor spoke about what awaited her, saying that “95 percent of the cases before most judges are fairly mundane.”

“I’m not going to be able to spend much time on lofty ideals,” she said. “The cases that shake the world don’t come along every day. But the world of the litigants is shaken by the existence of their case, and I don’t lose sight of that, either.”

Judge Sotomayor’s six years on the trial court and more than a decade on the Second Circuit probably confirmed those intuitions, in part because of the idiosyncratic dockets of the federal courts in New York. They hear many important cases involving business, securities, employment, white-collar crime and immigration. But they do not regularly confront the great issues of the day.

One exception is on the horizon. The full Second Circuit, including Judge Sotomayor, recently reheard the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian who contends that American officials sent him to Syria in 2002 to be tortured. A divided panel of the court had dismissed Mr. Arar’s case. The decision from the full court should provide clues about Judge Sotomayor’s views concerning how far the government may go in its efforts to combat terrorism.

Thomas C. Goldstein, a lawyer who argues frequently before the Supreme Court and founded Scotusblog, a Web site that covers the court, said there could be no doubt about Judge Sotomayor’s intellectual capacity.

“She’s got the horses, for sure,” Mr. Goldstein said.

Nor, he added, was there any question of her fundamental orientation, based on a review of her decisions. “From the outcomes,” Mr. Goldstein said, “she’s certainly on the left.”

Judge Sotomayor’s rulings have sometimes anticipated decisions of the Supreme Court. In 1999, for instance, she refused to suppress crack cocaine found by police officers who were executing a warrant that had been vacated 17 months before but never deleted from a police database.

That kind of error, Judge Sotomayor said, did not require suppression. The Supreme Court came to the same conclusion in January, a decade after Judge Sotomayor’s decision.

On other occasions, Judge Sotomayor has been content to wait for definitive guidance from the Supreme Court. In January, she joined an unsigned decision rejecting a Second Amendment challenge to a New York law prohibiting the possession of chukka sticks, a weapon used in martial arts made up of two sticks joined by a rope or chain.

The decision reasoned that the Supreme Court’s ruling last year establishing an individual right to bear arms, District of Columbia v. Heller, had not yet been applied to the states. The Second Circuit’s decision may well reach the Supreme Court.

In a 2004 dissent, Judge Sotomayor seemed to be in agreement with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s observation in a recent interview with USA Today that female judges can be more sensitive to claims that strip searches of young girls are unduly intrusive.

The majority opinion in the 2004 case, by two male judges, upheld the legality of some strip searches of girls held at juvenile detention centers in Connecticut.

In her dissent, Judge Sotomayor wrote that the majority had not been attentive enough to “the privacy interests of emotionally troubled children” who “have been victims of abuse or neglect, and may be more vulnerable mentally and emotionally than other youths their age.”

That was in line with Justice Ginsburg’s questioning from the bench last month in Safford Unified School District v. Redding, which concerned what she called a “humiliating” strip search of a 13-year-old middle school student by school officials in Arizona.

In her dissent, Judge Sotomayor also emphasized how “embarrassing and humiliating” the searches of the girls in Connecticut had been. “The officials inspected the girls’ naked bodies front and back, and had them lift their breasts and spread out folds of fat,” Judge Sotomayor wrote.

In a 2002 dissent, Judge Sotomayor said she would have ruled that the First Amendment has a role to play in protecting anonymous racist communications made by a police officer. Saying she found the communications “patently offensive, hateful and insulting,” Judge Sotomayor nonetheless would have allowed the officer’s case against the police department that fired him to proceed to trial.

She said the majority should not “gloss over three decades of jurisprudence and the centrality of First Amendment freedoms in our lives because it is confronted with speech it does not like.”

Sotomayor’s Rulings Are Exhaustive but Often Narrow, NYT, 27.5.2009,






Woman in the News


a Trailblazer and a Dreamer


May 27, 2009

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — She was “a child with dreams,” as she once said, the little girl who learned at 8 that she had diabetes, who lost her father when she was 9, who devoured Nancy Drew books and spent Saturday nights playing bingo, marking the cards with chickpeas, in the squat red brick housing projects of the East Bronx.

She was the history major and Puerto Rican student activist at Princeton who spent her first year at that bastion of the Ivy League “too intimidated to ask questions.” She was the tough-minded New York City prosecutor, and later the corporate lawyer with the dazzling international clients. She was the federal judge who “saved baseball” by siding with the players’ union during a strike.

Now Sonia Sotomayor — a self-described “Nuyorican” whose mother, a nurse, and father, a factory worker, left Puerto Rico during World War II — is President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, with a chance to make history as only the third woman and first Hispanic to sit on the highest court in the land. Her up-by-the-bootstraps tale, an only-in-America story that in many ways mirrors Mr. Obama’s own, is one reason for her selection, and it is the animating characteristic of her approach to both life and the law.

“Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see,” Judge Sotomayor (pronounced so-toe-my-OR) said in 2001, in a lecture titled “A Latina Judge’s Voice.” “My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.”

From her days going to the movies with cousins to see Cantinflas, a Mexican comedian whom she once called the “Abbott and Costello of my generation,” to her current life in the rarefied world of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor, 54, has traveled what Mr. Obama called “an extraordinary journey.”

In her 2001 address, she spoke longingly of the “sound of merengue at all our family parties” and the Puerto Rican delicacies — patitas de cerdo con garbanzos (pigs’ feet with beans) and la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito (pigs’ tongue and ears) — that appealed to the “particularly adventurous taste buds” that she called “a very special part of my being Latina.”

Today, Judge Sotomayor’s culinary tastes range from tuna fish and cottage cheese for lunch with clerks in her chambers, to her standard order at the Blue Ribbon Bakery: smoked sturgeon on toast, with Dijon mustard, onions and capers. She works out three times a week, putting in three miles on the treadmill in the court’s gym. Divorced and with no children, she enjoys the ballet and theater and lives in a condominium in Greenwich Village — both a subway ride and a world away from the housing projects where she grew up.

Yet a few things have not changed: her feeling of herself as “not completely a part of the worlds I inhabit,” as she said in one speech; her drive and ambition; and her willingness to speak up about her own identity as a Latina and a woman. In many ways, she is walking through a door she pushed open herself. On the bench, Judge Sotomayor may be a careful deliberator, but off it she has been a tireless advocate for Latinos.

In 1976, she wrote her senior thesis at Princeton on Luis Muñoz Marín, the first democratically elected governor of Puerto Rico, and dedicated it in part “to the people of my island — for the rich history that is mine.” She has lectured at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. In 2001, she was a speaker at a Princeton-sponsored conference titled “Puerto Ricans: Second-Class Citizens in ‘Our’ Democracy?’”

In describing his criteria for a Supreme Court pick, Mr. Obama said he was looking for empathy — a word that conservatives, who are already attacking Judge Sotomayor, have described as code for an activist judge with liberal views who will impose her own agenda on the law. Her critics also raise questions about her judicial temperament, saying she can be abrupt and impatient on the bench.

But Judge Sotomayor’s friends say she is simply someone who will bring the “common touch” that the president has said he prizes to her understanding of the law.

“I think she’s compassionate and empathetic, and I think she is going to really listen to people who are alleging that they have been victimized in some way,” said Robert H. Klonoff, dean of the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., who attended Yale Law with Judge Sotomayor and considers her a friend. Dean Klonoff, who last saw the judge in her New York chambers the day after Mr. Obama’s election, compares her to Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court’s first black justice, for the perspective he says she would bring to the court.

“She had such a different path,” he said. “There were so many people that had Roman numerals after their names and long histories of family members who had gone to Yale, and here was this woman who was from the projects, not hiding her views at all, just totally outspoken. She’s one of those where, even at a school with great people, I knew that she was going to go on and do amazing things.”

Childhood in the East Bronx

There was something of a pioneer spirit among the Puerto Ricans who settled into the East Bronx after braving tenements farther south or poverty back on the island. To settle into the Bronxdale Houses, as Sonia Sotomayor’s family ultimately did in the 1960s, was to find a haven of sorts, according to people who lived there then.

“Here was a paradise,” said Ricardo Velez, who was among the earliest tenants when he moved to his apartment in 1956. “It was beautiful.”

This was the place where Sonia’s parents, Celina and Juan Sotomayor, intended to raise their children — Ms. Sotomayor and her brother, Juan, who is now a doctor in Syracuse. The couple met and married during World War II after Celina was discharged from the Women’s Army Corps, the WACS, the outlet for women of her generation to give to the war effort. Celina Sotomayor had left Puerto Rico at 17 to sign up, shipping off to Georgia for her training with no relatives in the mainland United States.

While her husband worked at a tool-and-die factory, Celina Sotomayor — by all accounts the driving force in her daughter’s life — went on to become a telephone operator at Prospect Hospital, a small private hospital in the South Bronx, and later received her practical nurse’s license. The family’s life was upended when Sonia’s father died at 42, in part from heart complications that had kept him out of the Army. Celina Sotomayor, a widow with two young children and no savings, began working six days a week.

Her daughter retreated into books. Sonia Sotomayor loved the Nancy Drew mysteries, she once said, and yearned to be a police detective. But the doctor who had diagnosed her diabetes told her that she would not be able to do that kind of work. (The White House says Judge Sotomayor’s diabetes, a disease that can ultimately cause blindness, heart disease and kidney ailments, has been under control through insulin injections and careful monitoring for decades and does not affect her work.)

A ‘Perry Mason’ Moment

She also spent hours watching “Perry Mason” on television. An episode that ended with the camera fixed on the judge helped her set a new career goal, she told The Associated Press in 1998. “I realized that the judge was the most important player in the room,” she said at the time.

The Bronxdale Houses were still ethnically mixed when the Sotomayors lived there, and neighbors say it felt mostly safe. But Judge Sotomayor recalled in a 1998 interview with The A.P. that temptation was lurking nearby.

“There were working poor in the projects,” she said. “There were poor poor in the projects. There were sick poor in the projects. There were addicts and non-addicts and all sorts of people, every one of them with problems, and each group with a different response, different methods of survival, different reactions to the adversity they were facing. And you saw kids making choices.”

Parents made choices, too. For Celina Sotomayor, education was the highest priority; she bought her children an Encyclopaedia Britannica, a novelty in the projects. “She was famous for the encyclopedia,” said Milagros Baez O’Toole, a cousin.

Roman Catholic schools of that era were embraced by many working-class Puerto Rican parents who saw the public schools as too rowdy and dangerous. The Sotomayor family, which is Catholic, was among them. Judge Sotomayor attended Cardinal Spellman High School in the Northeast Bronx, which opened in 1959 and earned a reputation as a school for high achievers. She graduated as valedictorian in 1972.

Jeri Faulkner, who was a freshman when Judge Sotomayor was a senior, remembers black students sat at one table in the cafeteria, and Latino students at another. But Ms. Faulkner, who is now the school’s dean of students, said Ms. Sotomayor inspired her.

“As a freshman, when you’re looking at seniors, you’re a little awestruck with them,” Ms. Faulkner said. “She was smart. She always had time for you if you needed to speak to her. She didn’t belittle your questions. She wasn’t aloof. She was one of us.”

When Ms. Sotomayor entered Cardinal Spellman in the late 1960s, boys and girls were rigidly segregated into opposing wings of the school, with a nun stationed at a central point to enforce gender separation. But this “co-institutional” arrangement was abandoned while she was there, and the sexes mixed freely by the time she graduated. Ms. Sotomayor had a sweetheart, Kevin E. Noonan. “She was irrepressible, very popular, very bright, very dynamic,” said one classmate who asked not to be named. “She wasn’t overbearing about it, but you knew she was in the room.”

By then, the Sotomayor family had moved to a new apartment in Co-op City — a clear step up from the projects. The family’s Co-op City kitchen table became a regular gathering spot for food and conversation for Sonia’s classmates and debate team buddies.

“Sonia was very much the ruler of the kitchen-table debate,” said Kenneth K. Moy, the son of Chinese immigrants who was a year ahead of her at both Spellman and later Princeton. “She was very analytical, even back then. It was clear to people who knew her that if she wasn’t going to be a lawyer, she was going to be in public life somehow.”

Mr. Moy said Ms. Sotomayor’s crowd was a diverse mix of students that included immigrants from struggling families and others from well-to-do parts of Westchester County. They endlessly hashed over not only school gossip, but also Vietnam — where their friends were serving in a war that had divided the school — as well as the country, race relations and social justice, he said.

Sonia’s mother, Celina, would return home after long hours working as a nurse and feed the crowd of teenagers rice and beans and sometimes pork chops. “I can’t tell you how many times I said, ‘Is there another pork chop?’ — and there was,” said Mr. Moy, now a lawyer in Oakland, Calif. Later, he urged his friend to follow him to Princeton. But he was candid, he said, about what she would face there as a Puerto Rican from a modest background.

“I told her I don’t want you to come here with any illusions,” Mr. Moy recalled. “Social isolation is going to be a part of your experience, and you have to have the strength of character to get through intact.”

Adjusting to Princeton

When Ms. Sotomayor arrived at Princeton in the fall of 1972, she was one of the only Latinos there: there were no professors, no administrators, and only a double-digit number of students. Princeton women were sharply outnumbered as well; the first ones had been admitted only a few years earlier, and some alumni had protested their increasing ranks. (Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who graduated just a few months before Ms. Sotomayor arrived, belonged to one of the groups that protested.)

Ms. Sotomayor was terrified: she barely raised her hand in class initially, and years later, she confessed to a friend at Yale Law School that she could “barely write” when she arrived at Princeton. So she barricaded herself in the library, earning a reputation as a grind (her diligence would pay off with her eventual election to Phi Beta Kappa). She spent her summers inhaling children’s classics, grammar books and literature that many Princeton peers had already conquered at Choate or Exeter.

She also readily accepted help. When Ms. Sotomayor arrived in Nancy Weiss Malkiel’s history class in the spring of her freshman year, for example, she seemed unprepared, Ms. Malkiel recalled in an e-mail message. But Ms. Malkiel tutored her in how to read sources and write analytically, and by late in the semester, Ms. Sotomayor was flourishing.

By her junior year or so, “I don’t remember her being shy or reticent about much of anything,” said Jerry Cox, a classmate.

Ms. Sotomayor also became involved in campus politics. After heavy lobbying, she joined Acción Puertorriqueña, an organization working for more opportunity for Puerto Rican students.

“Sonia had to be persuaded to join us,” said Margarita Rosa, a friend from high school. “We were a ragtag-looking bunch, and she was always methodical in her decision making.”

Soon Ms. Sotomayor was co-chairwoman of the organization, which filed a formal letter of complaint with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, accusing the university of discrimination in hiring and admission.

“The facts imply and reflect a total absence of regard, concern and respect for an entire people and their culture,” she wrote in an opinion article in The Daily Princetonian. “In effect, they represent an effort — a successful effort so far — to relegate an important cultural sector of the population to oblivion.”

In her student thesis, which she dedicated to nine friends and family members, Ms. Sotomayor wrote about Puerto Rico’s long struggle for political and economic self-determination. While Muñoz Marín created great hope among Puerto Ricans, “the island has continued to be plagued by unemployment, absentee ownership and dependency on mainland revenues,” she concluded. When Ms. Sotomayor graduated, she was awarded the Pyne Prize, the university’s highest undergraduate award, presented for a combination of strong grades and extracurricular work. Even before she won, everyone on campus seemed to know who she was. “I certainly admired her from afar,” said Randall Kennedy, now a professor at Harvard Law School and along with Ms. Sotomayor, a member of Princeton’s Board of Trustees.

Ms. Sotomayor went straight to Yale Law School, where she researched and wrote her way onto the law review by analyzing the arcane constitutional issues that would determine whether Puerto Rico would be allowed to maintain access to its seabed if it became a state.

Even when she described positions with which she disagreed, “she was scrupulous about giving the strongest form,” said Stephen L. Carter, who edited her submission and said Ms. Sotomayor was just as tolerant a debater in class.

Her submission was “inspired by deep social concern about having the poorest area in American jurisdiction survive economically,” said Edward Rubin, another editor. “It was very scholarly and balanced even though it was inspired by social concern.” Classmates remember just how hard she worked on it, polishing and repolishing it again.

At Princeton, Ms. Sotomayor had volunteered with Latino patients at a state psychiatric hospital in Trenton, and now she showed a similar desire to pull away from her elite environment. “She felt an affinity with the African-American janitor, the workers, people in the cafeteria,” recalled Rudolph Aragon, a classmate and who headed the Latin, Asian and Native American association with Ms. Sotomayor. “There were so few minority students that we had to combine forces,” he said.

Her closest friends at the school were all outsiders: Mr. Aragon, who is Mexican-American, along with three other students — a fellow Puerto Rican, a Mohawk Indian and an African-American, he recalled.

After hours they would retreat to one another’s apartments for baseball games — Ms. Sotomayor watched ecstatically as Reggie Jackson delivered the 1977 World Series to the Yankees — or to a local club where the law students danced alongside the locals. Ms. Sotomayor was still a grind, her friends said, but she also smoked, drank beer and danced a mean salsa.

She somehow seemed older than her classmates, several said — perhaps because of her difficult childhood, or maybe because she was already married. (She and Mr. Noonan, who would become a biologist and later a biotech patent lawyer, wed in the summer of 1976, but divorced seven years later.) And she knew exactly what she wanted after graduation: to be a litigator. She was “tough, clear, very quick on her feet,” said Martha Minow, now a Harvard Law School professor who advised the White House on the selection.

An Imposing Prosecutor

She would soon get plenty of practice. In 1979, Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, hired Ms. Sotomayor on the recommendation of José A. Cabranes, then a teacher at Yale Law School and now a federal appeals court judge. She became a young prosecutor in a city struggling with a drug- related crime wave, joining a trial unit that handled everything from misdemeanors to homicides.

“Some of the judges like to push around young assistants and get them to dispose of cases,” Mr. Morgenthau recalled. “Well, no one pushed around Sonia Sotomayor; she stood up to the judges, in an appropriate way.”

In her fifth year in the office, she was interviewed for The New York Times Magazine about the prosecutors working for Mr. Morgenthau. She was described as an imposing woman of 29 who smoked incessantly, and spoke of how she had coped in a job that some liberal friends disapproved of.

“I had more problems during my first year in the office with the low-grade crimes — the shoplifting, the prostitution, the minor assault cases,” she said. “In large measure, in those cases you were dealing with socioeconomic crimes, crimes that could be the product of the environment and of poverty.

“Once I started doing felonies, it became less hard. No matter how liberal I am, I’m still outraged by crimes of violence. Regardless of whether I can sympathize with the causes that lead these individuals to do these crimes, the effects are outrageous.”

In 1984, Ms. Sotomayor left the district attorney’s office and joined Pavia & Harcourt, a boutique commercial law firm in Manhattan.

“We had an opening for a litigator, and her résumé was perfect,” said George M. Pavia, the managing partner who hired her. “She’s an excellent lawyer, a careful preparer of cases, liberal, but not doctrinaire, not wild-eyed.”

A large part of Ms. Sotomayor’s work was fighting the counterfeiters who copied products of Fendi, the luxury goods company, and its well-known “double F” logo. Sometimes, that meant suing counterfeiters to stop them from importing fake Fendi goods.

At other times, it involved more derring-do: if the firm had a tip from the United States Customs Office about a suspicious shipment, Ms. Sotomayor would often be involved in the risky maneuver of going to the warehouse to have the merchandise seized. One incident that figures largely in firm lore was a seizure in Chinatown, where the counterfeiters ran away, and Ms. Sotomayor got on a motorcycle and gave chase.

In July 1987, Mario M. Cuomo, then the governor, appointed Ms. Sotomayor to the board of the State of New York Mortgage Agency, which helps low-income people get loans to buy homes. In 1992, when she left the unpaid board position, it passed a resolution honoring her for consistently defending the rights of the disadvantaged to secure affordable housing” and serving as the conscience of the board concerning “the negative effects of gentrification.”

A Docket of Notable Cases

In 1991, the first President George Bush nominated Ms. Sotomayor to be a federal district judge in the Southern District of New York. But she was informally selected by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, who shared her working-class and parochial school roots and who was convinced, former aides said, that Ms. Sotomayor would become the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

Leaving private practice for public service meant that she would never be as wealthy as many of her peers. Financial disclosure forms that Ms. Sotomayor filed in 2007 show that her primary asset is her Greenwich Village condo, which she bought in 1998 with the help of two mortgages totaling $324,000 from Chase Manhattan Bank. Her last reported savings account balance was between $50,000 and $100,000, and she held no stocks or other significant investments. In addition to her judicial salary, she earned small sums for teaching at the law schools at New York University and Columbia University.

But her confirmation, in August 1992, made her the first Hispanic federal judge in the state. She joined a federal district courthouse in New York City whose docket is rich with everything from so-called drug mule cases to white-collar crimes and securities litigation.

She had several notable cases as a district judge on religious liberties. In 1993, she struck down as unconstitutional a White Plains law that prohibited the displaying of a menorah in a park. In 1994, she ordered New York prison officials to allow inmates to wear beads of the Santeria religion under their belts, even though prison officials said the beads were gang symbols.

Other notable cases included a 1995 ruling in which she ordered the government to make public a photocopy of a torn-up note found in the briefcase of a former White House counsel, Vincent Foster, who committed suicide. And in 1998, she ruled that homeless people working for the Grand Central Partnership, a business consortium, had to be paid the minimum wage.

But Judge Sotomayor’s most celebrated case came in 1995, when she ended a prolonged baseball strike by ruling forcefully against the baseball team owners and in favor of the ballplayers, resulting in a quick resumption of play. For a brief period, she was widely celebrated, at least in those cities with major-league teams, as the savior of baseball.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton nominated her to become a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York. In filling out her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, Judge Sotomayor seemed to evoke the same concerns for the real-world impact of rulings that Mr. Obama has said he is seeking.

“Judges must be extraordinarily sensitive to the impact of their decisions and function within, and respectful of, the Constitution,” she wrote. She arrived at her hearing with a New York construction contractor, Peter White, whom she introduced as “my fiancé” and who was photographed helping her on with her robe after she was sworn in as an appellate court judge. The relationship ended not long after that, roughly 10 years ago, according to a friend.

It took the Senate more than a year to confirm her. Republicans delayed a vote, drawing an accusation from Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who is now the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, that they feared that Mr. Clinton would try to elevate her to the Supreme Court.

But Alfonse M. D’Amato, then a Republican senator from New York, eventually helped push through a vote, and she was confirmed 67 to 29 in October 1998. Among those voting in her favor was Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who remains a leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Over the next decade, Judge Sotomayor would hear appeals in more than 3,000 cases, writing about 380 majority opinions. The Supreme Court reviewed five of those, reversing three and affirming two, although it rejected her reasoning while accepting the outcome in one of those it upheld.

A No-Nonsense Reputation

She would develop a reputation for asking tough questions at oral arguments and for being sometimes brusque and curt with lawyers who were not prepared to answer them.

The 2009 edition of the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which includes anonymous comments evaluating judges by lawyers who appear before them, presents a mixed portrait of Judge Sotomayor. Most of the unnamed lawyers interviewed said she had good legal ability and wrote good opinions. But several also spoke very negatively of her manner from the bench, saying she could be abusive of lawyers appearing before her and using words like “bully,” “nasty” and “a terror.”

But one former clerk defended her style.

“Personality- and style-wise, she is a dynamo,” said Lisa Zornberg, who clerked for her in 1997-98 and is now an assistant United States attorney in the Southern District of New York. Lawyers “who come before her know she always shows up on her game” and “doesn’t tolerate unpreparedness, nor should she.”

Judge Sotomayor has had several rulings that indicate a generally more liberal judicial philosophy than a majority of justices on the current Supreme Court, leading some conservatives to label her a “judicial activist.”

In 2000, for example, she wrote an opinion that would have allowed a man to sue a government contractor he accused of violating his constitutional rights. In 2007, she wrote an opinion interpreting an environmental law in a way that would favor more stringent protections, even if it cost power plant owners more money. The Supreme Court reversed both decisions.

The ruling by Judge Sotomayor that has attracted the most attention was a 2008 case upholding an affirmative action program at the New Haven Fire Department. A group of white firefighters sued because the city threw out the results of a test for promotions after few minority firefighters scored well on it. The Supreme Court is now reviewing that result.

Several of Judge Sotomayor’s appeals court clerks described her as a rigorous boss. Her clerks’ offices surround her own office and are within earshot, and she calls out to them when she has questions. She sometimes asks for the full records of trial transcripts and motions for a case that was on appeal, something her experience as a district judge has made her more interested in than some other judges.

Judge Sotomayor has also developed a reputation for treating her clerks as a family — taking a strong interest in their personal lives and careers, attending their weddings, keeping framed pictures of her former clerks and later, their children, in her office, and keeping in touch with them as a friend and mentor. She has told friends that one of her greatest regrets is that she herself was never a law clerk.

James R. Levine, a New York lawyer who clerked for Judge Sotomayor in 2001-2, recalled that during his interview with her as a law student, the first question she asked was about himself and his family, while every other judge with whom he interviewed had first asked about issues like the topic of his law review note. The interview would turn intellectually rigorous, he said, but first she wanted to get to know him as a person.

Staying True to Her Roots

She has also tried to stay down to earth, friends say. Melissa Murray, who worked for the judge from 2003-4 and is now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, recalled going to a Yankees game with Judge Sotomayor. The judge, a Yankees fan, bought tickets in the bleachers, which Ms. Murray said the judge preferred as a more “authentic experience,” and she appeared to be known to several in the crowd.

“We were on the way to the bleachers and people were, like, ‘Judge! Judge!’ ” Ms. Murray recalled. “She is really well known in the South Bronx and kind of a role model in the community.”

Ms. Rosa, the friend who also went from a low-income childhood to Princeton and law school, said that the experiences that someone like Judge Sotomayor accumulated in her rise from the housing projects of the Bronx to the threshold of the Supreme Court would leave a vivid understanding of how the world works.

“We came up in a period of time with a sense of conscience about social justice,” Ms. Rosa said. “It grounded us in a set of values that told us our lives could be about something more than ourselves and the size of our bank account. That is a lesson many of us carry.”

In her 2001 speech, Judge Sotomayor reflected on how she applies that lesson.

“Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion,” she said.

“I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations,” Judge Sotomayor added. “I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage, but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.”

Contributors to this article include

Jo Becker, David Gonzalez,

Jodi Kantor, Serge F. Kovaleski, William K. Rashbaum,

Benjamin Weiser, Manny Fernandez, Karen Zraick,

Colin Moynihan, Richard Pérez-Peña

and Michael Powell from New York;

and Charlie Savage, Scott Shane

and Neil A. Lewis from Washington.

Kitty Bennett, Itai Maytal and Barclay Walsh

contributed research.
Sotomayor, a Trailblazer and a Dreamer, NYT, 27.5.2009,






Bettie Page, Queen of Pinups, Dies at 85


December 12, 2008
The New York Times


Bettie Page, a legendary pinup girl whose photographs in the nude, in bondage and in naughty-but-nice poses appeared in men’s magazines and private stashes across America in the 1950s and set the stage for the sexual revolution of the rebellious ’60s, died Thursday in Los Angeles. She was 85.

Her death was reported by her agent, Mark Roesler, on Ms. Page’s Web site, bettiepage.com.

Ms. Page, whose popularity underwent a cult-like revival in the last 20 years, had been hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia and was about to be released Dec. 2 when she suffered a heart attack, said Mr. Roesler, of CMG Worldwide. She was transferred in a coma to Kindred Hospital, where she died.

In her trademark raven bangs, spike heels and killer curves, Ms. Page was the most famous pinup girl of the post-World War II era, a centerfold on a million locker doors and garage walls. She was also a major influence in the fashion industry and a target of Senator Estes Kefauver’s anti-pornography investigators.

But in 1957, at the height of her fame, she disappeared, and for three decades her private life — two failed marriages, a fight against poverty and mental illness, resurrection as a born-again Christian, years of seclusion in Southern California — was a mystery to all but a few close friends.

Then in the late 1980s and early ’90s, she was rediscovered and a Bettie Page renaissance began. David Stevens, creator of the comic-book and later movie character the Rocketeer, immortalized her as the Rocketeer’s girlfriend. Fashion designers revived her look. Uma Thurman, in bangs, reincarnated Bettie in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” and Demi Moore, Madonna and others appeared in Page-like photos.

There were Bettie Page playing cards, lunch boxes, action figures, T-shirts and beach towels. Her saucy images went up in nightclubs. Bettie Page fan clubs sprang up. Look-alike contests, featuring leather-and-lace and kitten-with-a-whip Betties, were organized. Hundreds of Web sites appeared, including her own, which had 588 million hits in five years, CMG Worldwide said in 2006.

Biographies were published, including her authorized version, “Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend,” (General Publishing Group) which appeared in 1996. It was written by Karen Essex and James L. Swanson.

A movie, “The Notorious Bettie Page,” starring Gretchen Mol as Bettie and directed by Mary Harron for Picturehouse and HBO Films, was released in 2006, adapted from “The Real Bettie Page,” by Richard Foster. Bettie May Page was born in Jackson, Tenn., the eldest girl of Roy and Edna Page’s six children. The father, an auto mechanic, molested all three of his daughters, Ms. Page said years later, and was divorced by his wife when Bettie was 10. She and some of her siblings were placed for a time in an orphanage. She attended high school in Nashville, and was almost a straight-A student, graduating second in her class.

She graduated from Peabody College, a part of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, but a teaching career was brief. “I couldn’t control my students, especially the boys,” she said. She tried secretarial work, married Billy Neal in 1943 and moved to San Francisco, where she modeled fur coats for a few years. She divorced Mr. Neal in 1947, moved to New York and enrolled in acting classes.

She had a few stage and television appearances, but it was a chance meeting that changed her life. On the beach at Coney Island in 1950, she met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer and photographer, who assembled her first pinup portfolio. By 1951, the brother-sister photographers Irving and Paula Klaw, who ran a mail-order business in cheesecake, were promoting the Bettie Page image with spike heels and whips, while Bunny Yeager’s pictures featured her in jungle shots, with and without leopards skins.

Her pictures were ogled in Wink, Eyeful, Titter, Beauty Parade and other magazines, and in leather-fetish 8- and 16-millimeter films. Her first name was often misspelled. Her big break was the Playboy centerfold in January 1955, when she winked in a Santa Claus cap as she put a bulb on a Christmas tree. Money and offers rolled in, but as she recalled years later, she was becoming depressed.

In 1955, she received a summons from a Senate committee headed by Senator Kefauver, a Tennessee Democrat, that was investigating pornography. She was never compelled to testify, but the uproar and other pressures drove her to quit modeling two years later. She moved to Florida. Subsequent marriages to Armond Walterson and Harry Lear ended in divorce, and there were no children. She moved to California in 1978.

For years Ms. Page lived on Social Security benefits. After a nervous breakdown, she was arrested for an attack on a landlady, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a California mental institution. She emerged years later as a born-again Christian, immersing herself in Bible studies and serving as an adviser to the Billy Graham Crusade.

In recent years, she had lived in Southern California on the proceeds of her revival. Occasionally, she gave interviews in her gentle Southern drawl, but largely stayed out of the public eye — and steadfastly refused to be photographed.

“I want to be remembered as I was when I was young and in my golden times,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 2006. “I want to be remembered as a woman who changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form.”

Bettie Page, Queen of Pinups, Dies at 85, NYT, 12.12.2008,






A question of honour:

Police say 17,000 women

are victims every year


Ministers are stepping up the fight
against so-called 'honour' crime and forced marriages.
Detectives say official statistics are
'merely the tip of the iceberg' of this phenomenon.
Brian Brady investigates


Sunday, 10 February 2008

The Independent on Sunday


Up to 17,000 women in Britain are being subjected to "honour" related violence, including murder, every year, according to police chiefs.

And official figures on forced marriages are the tip of the iceberg, says the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

It warns that the number of girls falling victim to forced marriages, kidnappings, sexual assaults, beatings and even murder by relatives intent on upholding the "honour" of their family is up to 35 times higher than official figures suggest.

The crisis, with children as young as 11 having been sent abroad to be married, has prompted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to call on British consular staff in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan to take more action to identify and help British citizens believed to be the victims of forced marriages in recent years.

The Home Office is drawing up an action plan to tackle honour-based violence which "aims to improve the response of police and other agencies" and "ensure that victims are encouraged to come forward with the knowledge that they will receive the help and support they need". And a Civil Protection Bill coming into effect later this year will give courts greater guidance on dealing with forced marriages.

Commander Steve Allen, head of ACPO's honour-based violence unit, says the true toll of people falling victim to brutal ancient customs is "massively unreported" and far worse than is traditionally accepted. "We work on a figure which suggests it is about 500 cases shared between us and the Forced Marriage Unit per year," he said: "If the generally accepted statistic is that a victim will suffer 35 experiences of domestic violence before they report, then I suspect if you multiplied our reporting by 35 times you may be somewhere near where people's experience is at." His disturbing assessment, made to a committee of MPs last week, comes amid a series of gruesome murders and attacks on British women at the hands of their relatives.

Marilyn Mornington, a district judge and chair of the Domestic Violence Working Group, warned that fears of retribution, and the authorities' failure to understand the problem completely, meant the vast majority of victims were still too scared to come forward for help. In evidence to the home affairs committee, which is investigating the problem, she said: "We need a national strategy to identify the large number of pupils, particularly girls, missing from school registers who have been taken off the register and are said to be home schooled, which leads to these issues. Airport staff and other staff need to be trained to recognise girls who are being taken out of the country.

"We are bringing three girls a week back from Islamabad as victims of forced marriage. We know that is the tip of the iceberg, but that is the failure end. It has to be part of education within the communities and the children themselves."

Women who have been taken overseas to be married against their will are now being rescued on an almost daily basis. The Government's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) handled approximately 400 cases last year – 167 of them leading to young Britons being helped back to the UK to escape unwanted partners overseas. And it is not just women who are affected. Home Office figures show that 15 per cent of cases involve men and boys.

In an attempt to crack down on the crimes being committed in the name of honour, police are to introduce a new training package that will give all officers instructions on handling honour cases. In addition, detectives are believed to be conducting a "cold case" style review of previous suicides amid suspicions that cases of honour killings are more common than previously thought.

Almost all victims of the most extreme crimes are women, killed in half of cases by their own husbands. Sometimes murders are carried out by other male relatives, or even hired killers. The fear that many thousands are left to endure honour violence alone may be supported by the disturbing details of the incidence of suicide within the British Asian community. Women aged 16 to 24 from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds are three times more likely to kill themselves than the national average for women of their age.

A report published last week by the Centre for Social Cohesion found that many women felt unable to defy their families and therefore "suffer violence, abuse, depression, anxiety and other psychological problems that can lead to self-harm, schizophrenia and suicide". James Brandon, co-author of Crimes of the Community: Honour-based Violence in the UK, said: "The Government is still not taking honour crime seriously. Until this happens, the ideas of honour which perpetuate this violence will continue to be passed on through generations. Religious leaders, local authorities and central government must work together to end such abuses of human rights."

The human cost of honour crime was vividly captured in a haunting video message from murdered Banaz Mahmood, who revealed how her own father had tried to kill her after she abandoned her arranged marriage and fell in love with another man. In the grainy message she told how he plied her with brandy – the first time she had ever drunk alcohol – pulled the curtains and asked her to turn around.

The 19-year-old fled, but less than a month after making the grainy video on a mobile phone, Banaz was dead. Her naked body was found buried in a yard in Birmingham in 2006, more than 100 miles from her London home. She had been raped and tortured by men hired by her uncle to kill her. Mahmood's father, uncle and one of her killers were sentenced to a total of 60 years in jail for the murder.

And the fatal potential of honour disputes was laid bare last month when a coroner said he was convinced that a Muslim teenager who feared she was being forced into an arranged marriage by her parents had suffered a "vile murder." Ian Smith said the concept of an arranged marriage was "central" to the circumstances leading up to the death of 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed, whose decomposed body was discovered on the banks of the River Kent at Sedgwick, Cumbria, four years ago. After running away from home in February 2003, Shafilea told housing officers: "My parents are going to send me to Pakistan and I'll be married to someone and left there." The tragic story of the bright teenager who wanted to go to university and study law is far from the only example of the anguish suffered by British teenagers in recent years.

Toafiq Wahab, British consul in Dhaka, Bangladesh, recalls a "rescue mission" to recover a 17-year-old who called his office from Sylhet. "We had to track her down and 36 hours from taking that call, we had turned up at her house with an armed police escort," he said. "The house was filled with over 20 of her relations, most of whom were from Britain and stunned to see me. They obviously did not want her to leave. We simply asked her if she wanted to leave and go back to the UK in the presence of all her family and she agreed. I then spoke to the family and explained what we were doing and tried to make them understand. In the end, we had to get the police to assist in helping us to leave."

Former Bradford policeman Philip Balmforth, who works with vulnerable Asian women, said he saw 395 cases of forced marriage in the city last year. "I had a case of a 14-year-old girl at school," he recalled. "The teacher tells me that the girl claims to have been married. So I went along to the school with a Muslim colleague. We saw the girl. We asked her a few questions and we were not sure. Then the girl said: 'If you don't believe me I have the video at home.'"

In Bradford alone, a total of 250 girls aged between 13 and 16 were taken off the school rolls last year because they failed to return from trips abroad. Campaigners suspect many were victims of forced marriages.

"If contacted by concerned young British men and women in the UK, the FMU provides free and confidential advice on the potential dangers of being forced into marriage overseas and precautions to take to help avoid this happening," said a Foreign Office spokesperson last night. "If we learn that a British national overseas is being forced into marriage, or has already been forced into marriage, we look at various means of consular assistance ranging from action through the courts to rescue missions."

"The FMU can also help to arrange accommodation for victims for when they return to the UK and can refer victims to counselling and supports groups, legal centres, and so on.

"When it is necessary, the FMU and our embassies and high commissions work closely with the police and judiciary overseas in order to organise emergency rescue and repatriation missions."




Britain's hidden scandal


The kidnap victim

In June 2000 Narina Anwar, 29, and her two sisters claim they were tricked by their parents into going on a family holiday to a remote village in Pakistan, where they were held captive for five months in an attempt to force them to marry three illiterate villagers. The sisters fled to Lahore and contacted the British High Commission, which persuaded their parents to hand over their children's passports so they could return home.


The 'slave'

Gina Singh, 28, sued her former mother-in-law for £35,000 in 2006 after she was forced to work 17 hours a day around the house. Ms Singh, from Nottingham, was forbidden to leave the house on her own after an arranged marriage in 2002.

The runaway wife

In 1983, Zana Muhsen and her sister Nadia, from Birmingham, were pushed by their father to visit Yemen and forced to marry. Zana, now 35, escaped eight years later. Her father had sold her for a few thousand dollars. The experience is recounted in her book, 'Sold'.

The murder victim

Surjit Athwal disappeared with Bachan Athwal, her mother-in-law, after a family wedding in India in 1998. Her body was never found. Bachan later boasted that she arranged for her son, Sukhdave, to murder Surjit after finding out that she was having an affair.

The attempted suicide

Shafilea Ahmed was the victim of a suspected honour killing. The 17-year-old's body was found months after she had returned from a trip to Pakistan in 2003. On the trip she drank bleach. The coroner said he saw it as a 'desperate measure' to avoid a forced marriage.

A question of honour:
Police say 17,000 women are victims every year,
IoS, 10.2.2008,






FDA Set to OK Period Suppression Pill


May 18, 2007
Filed at 11:32 p.m. ET
The New York Times


TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- Women looking for a simple way to avoid their menstrual period could soon have access the first birth control pill designed to let women suppress monthly bleeding indefinitely.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expect to announce approval Tuesday for Lybrel, a drug from Wyeth which would be the first pill to be taken continuously.

Lybrel, a name meant to evoke ''liberty,'' would be the fourth new oral contraceptive that doesn't follow the standard schedule of 21 daily active pills, followed by seven sugar pills -- a design meant to mimic a woman's monthly cycle. Among the others, Yaz and Loestrin 24 shorten monthly periods to three days or less and Seasonique, an updated version of Seasonale, reduces them to four times a year.

Gynecologists say they've been seeing a slow but steady increase in women asking how to limit and even stop monthly bleeding. Surveys have found up to half of women would prefer not to have any periods, most would prefer them less often and a majority of doctors have prescribed contraception to prevent periods.

''I think it's the beginning of it being very common,'' said Dr. Leslie Miller, a University of Washington-Seattle obstetrician-gynecologist who runs a Web site focused on suppressing periods. ''Lybrel says, 'You don't need a period.'''

While that can be done easily -- sometimes more cheaply -- by skipping the sugar pills or replacing birth-control patches or vaginal rings sooner, doctors say the trend is fueled mainly by advertising for the new options. They expect plenty for Lybrel's July launch, although Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth says it will market to doctors first.

Analysts have estimated Lybrel sales could reach $40 million this year and $235 million by 2010. U.S. sales of Seasonique, launched last August, hit $6.1 million in the first quarter of 2007. Predecessor Seasonale, which got cheaper generic competition in September, peaked at about $100 million. Yaz, launched last August, had first-quarter sales of $35.6 million; Loestrin 24, launched in April 2006, hit $34.4 million in the first quarter.

Still, some women raise concerns about whether blocking periods is safe or natural. Baltimore health psychologist Paula S. Derry wrote in an opinion piece in the British Medical Journal two weeks ago that ''menstrual suppression itself is unnatural,'' and that there's not enough data to determine if it is safe long-term.

Sheldon J. Segal, a scientist at the nonprofit research group Population Council, wrote back that a British study found no harm in taking pills with much higher hormone levels than today's products for up to 10 years.

''Nothing has come up to indicate any unexpected side effects,'' said Segal, who co-authored the book ''Is Menstruation Obsolete?''

Most doctors say there's no medical reason women need monthly bleeding and that it triggers health problems from anemia to epilepsy in many women. They note women have been tinkering with nature since the advent of birth control pills and now endure as many as 450 periods, compared with 50 or so in the days when women spent most of their fertile years pregnant or breast-feeding.

Dr. Mindy Wiser-Estin, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Little Silver, N.J., has long advocated menstrual suppression.

She has seen a big increase in the last year in patients asking about it, but has one concern that leads her to encourage younger women to take a break every 12 weeks. About 1 percent of oral contraceptive users become pregnant each year, and young women taking continuous pills who have never been pregnant may not recognize the symptoms, she said.

''They may not know it in time to do something about it,'' Wiser-Estin said.

Barr Pharmaceuticals of Woodcliff Lake, N.J., whose subsidiary Duramed already is developing a lower-estrogen version of Seasonique, said its research with consumers and health care providers indicates they feel four periods a year is optimal, said spokeswoman Amy Niemann.

Wyeth obviously thinks otherwise.

''It allows women to put their menstrual cycle on hold'' and reduces 17 related symptoms, from irritability to bloating, based on one small study, said Dr. Amy Marren, director of clinical affairs for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

Marren said Lybrel contains the lowest dose of two hormones widely used in birth-control pills, ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel.

That might cause too much breakthrough bleeding, already a problem with some newer pills with low hormone doses, said Dr. Lee Shulman, a Chicago obstetrician-gynecologist who chairs the board of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.

In testing of Lybrel, 59 percent of women ended up with no bleeding after six months, but 18 percent of women dropped out of studies because of spotting and breakthrough bleeding, according to Wyeth.

''You're now basically trading scheduled bleeding for unscheduled bleeding, and I don't know whether American women will buy into that,'' Shulman said.


On the Net:


Association of Reproductive Health Professionals menstruation site:


Dr. Miller's Web site:


FDA Set to OK Period Suppression Pill, NYT, 18.5.2007,
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/health/AP-No-More-Periods.html - broken link






Women may get right

to breastfeed in public


May 13, 2007
From The Sunday Times
Sarah-Kate Templeton,
Health Correspondent

MINISTERS are considering new laws to give women a right to breastfeed their babies in public and take statutory breaks at work to suckle their infants.

The move follows research showing that only a minority of new mothers breastfeed their babies for the full six months recommended by the World Health Organisation.

It would become an offence for anyone to stop a woman from breastfeeding in public, a change that has already been enacted in Scotland. It follows complaints from mothers that they have been accused of indecency and barred from breastfeeding when they have attempted to do so in public.

Employers would also have to allow mothers to take breaks each working day to breast feed. In France women with a baby under 12 months are entitled to two 30-minute breaks a day. In Italy, new mothers can take two one-hour rest periods.

The proposals are central planks of a campaign by the five royal colleges of medicine, nursing and midwifery to which health minister Andy Burnham has signed up. He said he backed the campaign for a new policy on breast feeding in public and a new law on work breaks.

Caroline Flint, the public health minister, has already had a meeting with the coalition, which includes Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and will address doctors and midwives at the launch of its manifesto on Wednesday.

“All the evidence says that ‘nothing is fitter than a breastfed nipper’,” said Flint. “We’ve made good progress over the last 30 years encouraging more and more women to breastfeed. But we cannot be complacent. There are communities where breastfeeding rates remain low, adding to the health inequalities gap. We need to do more to close this and to ensure babies receive the best form of nutrition and to give them the best start in life.”

According to official figures, only 21% of British women breastfeed for up to the recommended period of six months.

Young mothers are particularly reluctant to breastfeed. A television advertising campaign will be launched this week by the Department of Health to encourage more mothers aged 25 and under to suckle their infants.

Rosie Dodds, policy and research officer for the National Childbirth Trust, said the statistics would improve if the government made it an offence to ask women to stop breastfeeding in public.

Lindsey Black, a 29-year-old mother of two from Southport, Merseyside, was asked to leave a branch of McDonald’s while breastfeeding her baby daughter in the restaurant. After twice being told to stop breastfeeding or leave, Black was forced to breastfeed in the lavatories.

“The older generation tend to tut-tut. I am not doing anything wrong — you do not see much,” said Black. “It is not as if I am lifting my top and exposing myself. The public need to be more understanding.”

The breastfeeding manifesto, which has been signed by more than 180 politicians including Margaret Hodge, the trade and industry minister, and Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, says returning to work is the most common reason for women stopping breastfeeding.

The manifesto says: “We call on the government to legislate for breastfeeding breaks for women at work, in line with other European countries.”

Alison Baum, co-ordinator of the Breastfeeding Manifesto, said: “By ensuring that employers provide appropriate work schedules and places to allow women to continue breastfeeding, women could breastfeed for longer.

“Employers who are breast-feeding-friendly benefit in the long run because the babies of those mothers will end up having fewer bugs and suffering less illness. The parents will, therefore, have fewer absences.”

If companies had on-site crãches, women would take a break to breastfeed their child but, more commonly, they would express milk and store it for their baby to drink later.

Natalie Marshall, a mother of two from Wiltshire, is an IT support worker for a large manufacturing company and is allowed to takes two breastfeeding breaks a day. Marshall, who is still breastfeeding her two-year-old daughter and breastfed her three-year-old son until he was 14 months, said all companies should be as sympathetic as her employer.

“Those breaks were absolutely essential and without them I would not have managed to keep breastfeeding,” she said.

“It did add a bit of stress to the rest of the team because when I was having a break there were fewer people to respond to urgent problems, but they were all really supportive.”

Marshall expresses milk in a room provided by the occupational health department of the company. Her employer also provides a fridge for her to store it.

A legal entitlement to breastfeeding breaks is opposed, however, by the Confederation of British Industry and the Federation of Small Businesses.

McDonald’s said breastfeeding was allowed within its restaurants and that staff had been made aware of this policy.

Women may get right to breastfeed in public, STs, 13.5.2007,
tol/life_and_style/women/families/article1782054.ece - broken link






A day in the life

of a young American cheerleader


Wed Mar 7, 2007
6:15AM EST
By Andrea Hopkins


COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Twelve-year-old Bridget Bailey has been cheerleading since she was eight, and devotes at least 10 hours a week to her passion -- a uniquely American sport that combines dance, gymnastics and acrobatic stunts.

On one recent Friday at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio, Bailey cheered her way to a 1st place finish in the solo youth non-tumbling division. She described the day of competition.



"I got up this morning at about 6:30, I got to school at 7:40 and then I got out at 12:40," she said. Before she left school, Bailey collected the assignments she would miss because of the competition.

Bailey, her mom, Kim, and aunt, Christina Fisher, traveled from a northern Columbus suburb to the downtown convention center -- a relatively short trip. She regularly travels to other cities for cheerleading events which also involve beauty pagent-worthy hair and makeup skills.

"We had to come and get my hair done, and then I have to get all my makeup and glitter on," she said, sitting patiently in a quiet corner of the convention center while her mom and aunt styled her thick brown hair with curling irons, one on each side.

The beauty aspect of the routine takes "between a half hour and an hour, depending," Bailey said.



Once her makeup is done and glitter applied, the sixth grader heads to the cheerleading venue, an auditorium half-filled with competitors, parents and fans, for the contest, which lasts from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

"We stretch for about 15 minutes to half an hour," said Bailey. "And then you wait in line to compete, and then you compete. And then you wait for awards," she said matter-of-factly.

An announcer bellows out the name of each contestant and the cheerleading club they represent. A DJ plays their chosen music, and a handful of judges perched high above the competition floor scrutinize the cheerleaders as they strut their stuff.

Bailey describes her routine:

"My first thing, I do dance and a few jumps, and then I do more dance and jumps, and then I do my cheer, which is about halfway through. After the cheer, I jump, dance and cheer, and then after that I do triple jumps, and then do some more of the dance and then it's ending."

The cheer?

"Fusion. All Stars. Remember the name. If cheering is my sport, then winning is my game. Step back. Watch out. We're the best of the best. We're Fusion All Stars, we're F-A-S."

After four hours of competition, the winners receive their awards -- gleaming golden trophies and medals on red, white and blue ribbons.



After her first-place award, Bailey had a long night planned, with more gymnastics with friends at her cheerleading club, the iYooWee gym.

"I'm going to the gym to tell my coach how I did, and then I'm staying at the gym for this thing called Kids Night Out, where you can just go play," she said.

"More cheerleading," her mom translated.

Summing up her long day, Bailey said she wouldn't want to be spending her Friday in any other way.

"It's fun and I like to do it."

A day in the life of a young American cheerleader, R, 7.3.2007,






Six thousand women missing from

boardrooms, politics and courts

· Glass ceiling hampers access to 33,000 top jobs
· Children can spell career death in professions


Friday January 5, 2007


Polly Curtis


The glass ceiling is still holding back 6,000 women from the top 33,000 jobs in Britain, according to new research from the Equal Opportunities Commission. Thirty years after the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act, women are "woefully under-represented" in the country's boardrooms, politics and courts, it says.

Help from nannies has not enabled successful women to maintain their careers after having children, the research suggests. The EOC blames a male-dominated culture in the professions for resistance to flexible working.

The upward trend in the proportion of women in top jobs is "painfully slow", the report says, and in some sectors there is even a decline. The proportion of women in parliament has slipped in the 12 months since the EOC's last Sex and Power survey and is now at 19.5% - lower than in Iraq, Afghanistan and Rwanda.

Despite the successes of women such as Clara Furse, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, and Lady Clark of Calton, who is only one of four female senior judges currently serving, the proportion of women directors of top 100 FTSE companies has dipped to 10.4%, and of female judges to 9.8%.

Jenny Watson, chair of the EOC, said: "Today's troubling findings show just how slow the pace of change has been in powerful British institutions. They suggest it's time not just to send out the headhunters to find some of those 'missing women', but to address the barriers that stand in their way. Thirty years on from the Sex Discrimination Act, women rightly expect to share power. But as our survey shows, that's not the reality.

"We all pay the price when Britain's boardrooms and elected chambers are unrepresentative. Our democracy and local communities will be stronger if women from different backgrounds are able to enjoy an equal voice. In business, no one can afford to fish in half the talent pool in today's intensely competitive world."

In total, the commission identified 33,000 of the country's most influential jobs in the private sector, politics, the legal system and the public sector. To achieve a representative proportion, 6,000 more of those jobs would have to be filled by women, it said.

At the current rate of improvement it would take 20 years to achieve equality in the civil service, 40 years in the judiciary and 60 years among FTSE 100 companies. But it would take 200 years - at least another 40 elections - to achieve an equal number of MPs in parliament. The proportion in the Scottish assembly is nearly 40% and in Wales the figure is 51.7%. The EOC said it was an argument for parties to use all-women shortlists, as in Wales.

But figures for women from ethnic minorities are worse. There are only two black women MPs, four non-white top 100 FTSE directors and nine top civil servants from ethnic minority backgrounds.

"Ethnic minority women are still largely invisible in public life and this has to change if we want our communities to thrive," the report says.

The research suggests that women are experiencing the same barriers to getting the jobs they want as women in lower paid jobs. The pay gap between men and women is 3.7% in their 20s, rising to 10.7% for thirtysomethings, a change which is largely attributed to the impact of childbirth on women's earnings. The same is not true for men who become fathers.

Female workers in the UK suffer one of the biggest pay gaps in Europe - 17% for full-time staff and 38% for part-time - because they are more likely to be in low-paid jobs and then slip further down the career ladder after having children, the Women and Work Commission found last year.

Ms Watson said that women were getting higher up the career ladder but having children still prevented them from getting the top jobs.

"Asking for flexible working still spells career death for too many women in today's workplace, and as a consequence women with caring responsibilities all too often have to 'trade down' to keep working. Extending the right to ask for flexible working to everyone in the workplace would change that culture and enable more women to reach the top," she said.

Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equal rights, said: "This demonstrates how much of a male preserve power remains in the UK. If decisions are only being taken by one group of the population they will not reflect the lives of ordinary people. It proves beyond a doubt that life at the top is white and male."

The annual report is the last from the EOC, which is due to be amalgamated with the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission from next year into a new body called the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

There have been concerns that the women's rights agenda could be sidelined in the new body, which will be headed by Trevor Phillips, current chair of the CRE.

"There is so much more to be done. This demonstrates that we haven't solved the problem of sex discrimination," said Ms Watson.

Six thousand women missing from boardrooms, politics and courts,






Supporting Boys or Girls

When the Line Isn’t Clear


December 2, 2006
The New York Times


OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 1 — Until recently, many children who did not conform to gender norms in their clothing or behavior and identified intensely with the opposite sex were steered to psychoanalysis or behavior modification.

But as advocates gain ground for what they call gender-identity rights, evidenced most recently by New York City’s decision to let people alter the sex listed on their birth certificates, a major change is taking place among schools and families. Children as young as 5 who display predispositions to dress like the opposite sex are being supported by a growing number of young parents, educators and mental health professionals.

Doctors, some of them from the top pediatric hospitals, have begun to advise families to let these children be “who they are” to foster a sense of security and self-esteem. They are motivated, in part, by the high incidence of depression, suicidal feelings and self-mutilation that has been common in past generations of transgender children. Legal trends suggest that schools are now required to respect parents’ decisions.

“First we became sensitive to two mommies and two daddies,” said Reynaldo Almeida, the director of the Aurora School, a progressive private school in Oakland. “Now it’s kids who come to school who aren’t gender typical.”

The supportive attitudes are far easier to find in traditionally tolerant areas of the country like San Francisco than in other parts, but even in those places there is fierce debate over how best to handle the children.

Cassandra Reese, a first-grade teacher outside Boston, recalled that fellow teachers were unnerved when a young boy showed up in a skirt. “They said, ‘This is not normal,’ and, ‘It’s the parents’ fault,’ ” Ms. Reese said. “They didn’t see children as sophisticated enough to verbalize their feelings.”

As their children head into adolescence, some parents are choosing to block puberty medically to buy time for them to figure out who they are — raising a host of ethical questions.

While these children are still relatively rare, doctors say the number of referrals is rising across the nation. Massachusetts, Minnesota, California, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have laws protecting the rights of transgender students, and some schools are engaged in a steep learning curve to dismantle gender stereotypes.

At the Park Day School in Oakland, teachers are taught a gender-neutral vocabulary and are urged to line up students by sneaker color rather than by gender. “We are careful not to create a situation where students are being boxed in,” said Tom Little, the school’s director. “We allow them to move back and forth until something feels right.”

For families, it can be a long, emotional adjustment. Shortly after her son’s third birthday, Pam B. and her husband, Joel, began a parental journey for which there was no map. It started when their son, J., began wearing oversized T-shirts and wrapping a towel around his head to emulate long, flowing hair. Then came his mothers’ silky undershirts. Half a year into preschool, J. started becoming agitated when asked to wear boys’ clothing.

En route to a mall with her son, Ms. B. had an epiphany: “It just clicked in me. I said, ‘You really want to wear a dress, don’t you?’ ”

Thus began what the B.’s, who asked their full names not be used to protect their son’s privacy, call “the reluctant path,” a behind-closed-doors struggle to come to terms with a gender-variant child — a spirited 5-year-old boy who, at least for now, strongly identifies as a girl, requests to be called “she” and asks to wear pigtails and pink jumpers to school.

Ms. B., 41, a lawyer, accepted the way her son defined himself after she and her husband consulted with a psychologist and observed his newfound comfort with his choice. But she feels the precarious nature of the day-to-day reality. “It’s hard to convey the relentlessness of it, she said, “every social encounter, every time you go out to eat, every day feeling like a balance between your kid’s self-esteem and protecting him from the hostile outside world.”

The prospect of cross-dressing kindergartners has sparked a deep philosophical divide among professionals over how best to counsel families. Is it healthier for families to follow the child’s lead, or to spare children potential humiliation and isolation by steering them toward accepting their biological gender until they are older?

Both sides in the debate underscore their concern for the profound vulnerability of such youngsters, symbolized by occurrences like the murder in 2002 of Gwen Araujo, a transgender teenager born as Eddie, southeast of Oakland.

“Parents now are looking for advice on how to make life reasonable for their kids — whether to allow cross-dressing in public, and how to protect them from the savagery of other children,” said Dr. Herbert Schreier, a psychiatrist with Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland.

Dr. Schreier is one of a growing number of professionals who have begun to think of gender variance as a naturally occurring phenomenon rather than a disorder. “These kids are becoming more aware of how it is to be themselves,” he said.

In past generations, so-called sissy boys and tomboy girls were made to conform, based on the belief that their behaviors were largely products of dysfunctional homes.

Among the revisionists is Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, a child-adolescent psychiatrist at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington who started a national outreach group for parents of gender-variant children in 1998 that now has more than 200 participants. “We know that sexually marginalized children have a higher rate of depression and suicide attempts,” Dr. Menvielle said. “The goal is for the child to be well adjusted, healthy and have good self-esteem. What’s not important is molding their gender.”

The literature on adults who are transgender was hardly consoling to one parent, a 42-year-old software consultant in Massachusetts and the father of a gender-variant third grader. “You’re trudging through this tragic, horrible stuff and realizing not a single person was accepted and understood as a child,” he said. “You read it and think, O.K., best to avoid that. But as a parent you’re in this complete terra incognita.”

The biological underpinnings of gender identity, much like sexual orientation, remain something of a mystery, though many researchers suspect it is linked with hormone exposure in the developing fetus.

Studies suggest that most boys with gender variance early in childhood grow up to be gay, and about a quarter heterosexual, Dr. Menvielle said. Only a small fraction grow up to identify as transgender.

Girls with gender-variant behavior, who have been studied less, voice extreme unhappiness about being a girl and talk about wanting to have male anatomy. But research has thus far suggested that most wind up as heterosexual women.

Although many children role-play involving gender, Dr. Menvielle said, “the key question is how intense and persistent the behavior is,” especially if they show extreme distress.

Dr. Robin Dea, the director of regional mental health for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, said: “Our gender identity is something we feel in our soul. But it is also a continuum, and it evolves.”

Dr. Dea works with four or five children under the age of 15 who are essentially living as the opposite sex. “They are much happier, and their grades are up,” she said. “I’m waiting for the study that says supporting these children is negative.”

But Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and head of the gender-identity service at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, disagrees with the “free to be” approach with young children and cross-dressing in public. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Zucker has treated about 500 preadolescent gender-variant children. In his studies, 80 percent grow out of the behavior, but 15 percent to 20 percent continue to be distressed about their gender and may ultimately change their sex.

Dr. Zucker tries to “help these kids be more content in their biological gender” until they are older and can determine their sexual identity — accomplished, he said, by encouraging same-sex friendships and activities like board games that move beyond strict gender roles.

Though she has not encountered such a situation, Jennifer Schwartz, assistant principal of Chatham Elementary School outside Springfield, Ill., said that allowing a child to express gender differences “would be very difficult to pull off” there.

Ms. Schwartz added: “I’m not sure it’s worth the damage it could cause the child, with all the prejudices and parents possibly protesting. I’m not sure a child that age is ready to make that kind of decision.”

The B.’s thought long and hard about what they had observed in their son. They have carefully choreographed his life, monitoring new playmates, selecting a compatible school, finding sympathetic parents in a babysitting co-op. Nevertheless, Ms. B. said, “there is still the stomach-clenching fear for your kid.”

It is indeed heartbreaking to hear a child say, as J. did recently, “It feels like a nightmare I’m a boy.”

The adjustment has been gradual for Mr. B., a 43-year-old public school administrator who is trying to stop calling J. “our little man.” He thinks of his son as a positive, resilient person, and his love and admiration show. “The truth is, is any parent going to choose this for their kid?” he said. “It’s who your kid is.”

Families are caught in the undertow of conflicting approaches. One suburban Chicago mother, who did not want to be identified, said in a telephone interview that she was drawing the line on dress and trying to provide “boy opportunities” for her 6-year-old son. “But we can’t make everything a power struggle,” she said. “It gets exhausting.”

She worries about him becoming a social outcast. “Why does your brother like girl things?” friends of her 10-year-old ask. The answer is always, “I don’t know.”

Nila Marrone, a retired linguistics professor at the University of Connecticut who consults with parents and schools, recalled an incident last year at a Bronx elementary school in which an 8-year-old boy perceived as effeminate was thrown into a large trash bin by a group of boys. The principal, she said, “suggested to the mother that she was to blame, for not having taught her son how to be tough enough.”

But the tide is turning.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, for instance, requires that students be addressed with “a name and pronoun that corresponds to the gender identity.” It also asks schools to provide a locker room or changing area that corresponds to a student’s chosen gender.

One of the most controversial issues concerns the use of “blockers,” hormones used to delay the onset of puberty in cases where it could be psychologically devastating (for instance, a girl who identifies as a boy might slice her wrists when she gets her period). Some doctors disapprove of blockers, arguing that only at puberty does an individual fully appreciate their gender identity.

Catherine Tuerk, a nurse-psychotherapist at the children’s hospital in Washington and the mother of a gender-variant child in the 1970s, says parents are still left to find their own way. She recalls how therapists urged her to steer her son into psychoanalysis and “hypermasculine activities” like karate. She said she and her husband became “gender cops.”

“It was always, ‘You’re not kicking the ball hard enough,’ ” she said.

Ms. Tuerk’s son, now 30, is gay and a father, and her own thinking has evolved since she was a young parent. “People are beginning to understand this seems to be something that happens,” she said. “But there was a whole lifetime of feeling we could never leave him alone.”

Supporting Boys or Girls When the Line Isn’t Clear, NYT, 2.12.2006,






July 6, 1928


Celebrating full suffrage for women


From the Guardian archive


Friday July 6, 1928



"This recalls the famous breakfasts we used to have in the old fighting days when the prison gates were opened," said Mr Pethick-Lawrence, one of the speakers at the breakfast held this morning at the Hotel Cecil to celebrate the passing of the Equal Franchise Bill.

Of the 250 people present many could remember with him the breakfast welcomes that used to be given to the militant women released from Holloway Gaol. Dame Millicent Fawcett had on an early occasion, strongly as she disapproved of militant methods, consented generously to preside at one of the prisoner breakfasts. But many others, ex-prisoners or colleagues, who would have liked to join the celebration were unable to do so. They belong now to the great new army of business women and had to be in their office, which shows with wider freedom comes new restraint.

The great stars of the occasion were those two wonderful women Mrs Despard, founder of the Women's Freedom League, and Dame Millicent Fawcett, leader of the National Union of Suffrage Societies.

Great sympathy was felt with Mr Baldwin [prime minister], Sir William Joynson-Hicks, and more especially with Lady Astor, who had been unable to come, and it was felt that the Labour party had every cause to be proud because their leader, Mr Ramsay MacDonald, did come, and was able to say that his party had from the beginning supported the claim of women to equal civil rights.

Mrs Pethick-Lawrence referred with gratitude to the pioneers, and in touching words named specially four of those who had not lived to see the victory: Mrs Pankhurst, Miss Emily Davidson, Lady Constance Lytton, and Mrs Cobden Sanderson.

"We have our differences but have never had any difference as to women's franchise," said Mr Ramsay MacDonald, expressing the congratulations of the Labour party. "I want to say that as far as the great body of people in this country was concerned, the victory was won before a single shot was fired in the European War."

Lady Rhondda, who was to thank "the men who have helped us", said the men deserved more credit, for the women had had the prick of discomfort to spur them on.

Mrs Despard [recalled] the little meeting in a small room at which the Women's Freedom League was formed twenty-one years ago, expressing her delight that so many comrades from other societies were present, and assuring her friends that women continuing to work together in unity would accomplish great things in the future.

From the Guardian archive > July 6, 1928 > Celebrating full suffrage for women,
G, Republished 6.7.2006,






July 22, 1913


Mrs Pankhurst is arrested once more


From the Guardian archive


Tuesday July 22, 1913



Mrs. Pankhurst, who escaped from her flat in Westminster late on Saturday night by a ruse, was rearrested yesterday afternoon when she made her expected appearance at the W.S.P.U. meeting at the London Pavilion.

While the detectives detailed to watch her flat were busy on Saturday night with the veiled lady in the taxi who turned not to be Mrs. Pankhurst at all, the leader of the W.S.P.U. slipped out of the flat and drove away in a motor car that had been waiting in a side street.

When she entered the London Pavilion is not known, but police and detectives were closely watching every entrance long before the meeting began and it is supposed that she had been secreted within from an early hour. When arrested she was in her usual guise.

Mrs. Pankhurst was suddenly seen by the waiting detectives in a passage leading to the stage. There was a struggle between the officers and supporters of Mrs. Pankhurst, and a man and two women were arrested. Uniformed police poured into the building, and Mrs. Pankhurst was driven away to Holloway Gaol.


The Scene in the Pavilion

The London Pavilion was crowded yesterday afternoon with suffragettes expectant that Mrs. Pankhurst would again make her appearance on the platform.

The chairman, Mrs. Mansell, who was surrounded by members of the Scottish men's deputation, referred to a rumour that Mrs. Pankhurst had just been arrested, but said that probably the police had been spoofed again.

Then suddenly the audience in the hall rose and hooted at a line of dark blue uniforms which had sprung up along the railings. People found the whole alleyway filled with police.

The first person to be brought by the police out of the tiny room and conveyed through the lane of police was a tall man with a bloodstained face. Next came two or three women also under arrest, and then, with a "Now, Mrs. Pankhurst," the inspector entered the anteroom and reappeared with a grey-haired woman with troubled face and faltering steps - Mrs. Pankhurst, looking for once broken and dispirited.

Two voices cried, "Bravo, Mrs. Pankhurst," and then she was swallowed by blue uniforms; she was taken out at the back door, where, after some disturbance, she was put into a cab and driven to Holloway.

From the Guardian archive,
July 22, 1913,
Mrs Pankhurst is arrested once more,
Republished 22.7.2006,










Related > Anglonautes > Vocapedia


men, women,

gender identity,

glass ceiling, feminism,


gay / LGBTQ rights,

human connection,



dating, love, sex,

marriage, divorce






violence against women worldwide



global economy

cheap labour, forced labour, slavery > 21st century



sexual violence > prostitution > UK



sex crimes, trafficking, prostitution > USA



USA > Constitution > 19th Amendment - 1920




contraception, abortion,

pregnancy, birth, life,

life expectancy,

getting older / aging,







Related > Anglonautes > History


United Kingdom > Early 20th century > Suffragettes






Related > Anglonautes > Arts > Books, Writers


21st, 20th century > UK > Doris Lessing    1919-2013






Related > The Guardian        UK






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