Abortion Laws Around the World

Check out this map by the Center for Reproductive Rights. It maps abortion laws around the world and details the specific parameters each country has for allowing women the right to govern their health. There are some obvious facts — most of the Middle East outlaws it entirely even in cases where the procedure would save a woman’s life — and some surprises, such as the fact that women in Japan must obtain a spouse’s consent to have an abortion and in Ireland it’s only legal if a woman’s life is at risk. All in all it proves there is still a lot of work to be done in this fight for fairness and freedom.


Another Woman We Want to Be When We Grow Up: ‘Sexy Vegetarian’ Mimi Kirk

No one can accuse Mimi Kirk of not living her life to the fullest. The 73-year-old spent her 30s working as a stand-in and secretary for Mary Tyler Moore and raising her four children as a single young widow. Spotted by co-star Valerie Harper on The Mary Tyler Moore set one day in her distinctively hippie fashion — head scarves, chunky jewelery, and saris were standard for her at the time — she unwittingly became the model for the much-emulated style of Harper’s character, Rhoda. After spending several years as Harper’s personal stylist and assistant — which required endless head scarf tying — she started her own jewelery business, invented an empowering board game for women (called Cowgirls Ride the Trail of Truth), became a raw food specialist, and was voted PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50. Now she’s released her first cookbook, Live Raw. (Look at her on that cover! Don’t you kind-of want to eat nothing but raw food from this moment on?)

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Feminist or Not?: From Beyonce To Sarah Palin, Weigh In On These Polarizing Icons

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We regularly discuss the feminist qualities of books, TV shows and sometimes, in the case of Lady Gaga, someone’s feminist evolution. But when it comes to these polarizing individuals, we’re undecided. Help us determine: Feminist or Not?

Think of anyone we've missed? Sound off in the comments below!
Photo: Beyonceonline.com

Feminism and Halloween: Think Beyond Sexy Nurse

Tis the season for an endless array of girls and women dressing up as “slutty” or “sexy” versions of animals, cartoon characters, historical characters, monsters or domestic staff. Yes, it’s Halloween. As if the spike in reported crimes weren’t enough to spook us, the way in which the holiday has become about exploiting women has us wishing for the good, old days of pillowcases cut up as makeshift ghosts. Various blogs are reporting the top costumes this year as Sexy Neytiri (blue gal from “Avatar”), Sexy Batgirl and Sexy Gangster. What’s remarkable about this is that the regular, non-sluttified versions of these characters are pretty empowering. Neytiri led a revolution to save her species; Batgirl broke through the super hero glass ceiling, and female gangsters… well, ok, maybe not that one, but a nice period-specific 1920s character from “Boardwalk Empire” would be both on-trend and appropriately covered-up.

Little girls have it worse: They want nothing more than to dress up as Lady Gaga, a princess or a fairy–and by the looks of selections at amazon.com and my local costume shop, the skirts of fairies and princesses have been getting shorter and shorter. Plus, how long are we going to encourage our girls to aspire to be nothing more than uber-glam damsels in distress while boys get to be firefighters, astronauts and super heroes?

Our Halloween Feminist Action Plan:

Parents: Don’t let your little girls go outside half-naked. It’s exploitative–and it’s cold! Of course there’s nothing wrong with a little girl wanting to be a girlie princess for Halloween, but put some leggings on her under that sheer tulle skirt. And skip the Jon Benet makeup. Wouldn’t it be better to teach her that princesses are naturally beautiful just as they are?

Adult Women: You. Are. Not. A. Teenager. Anymore. So stop dressing like you’re rebelling against your totally-lame parents. Show the world you read more than US Weekly and dress up as a creative creature, newsmaker or feminist icon. Get some inspiration from Take Back Halloween, an awesome site that offers feminist alternatives to Slutty Cow or Sexy Shark Attack Victim. And you’re getting a history refresher to boot!

Happy trick-or-treating!

Courtney E. Smith on ‘Record Collecting for Girls’

Courtney E. Smith, author of Record Collecting for Girls, knows her stuff. Working for nearly a decade at MTV as a music programmer and manager of label relations, Courtney helped break bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Vampire Weekend. She also exposed indie bands like Justice and No Age to the public. Yet despite her credentials, Courtney has not fallen prey to that most common of hipster maladies: music snobbery. Her book is the kind that’s more likely to disclose her love of Ke$ha than namedrop bands you’ve never heard of.

Some have taken offense to the book’s title, wondering why women need a special guide to navigate the world of music. But it’s no surprise that the music industry is still mostly run by men. At Brooklyn’s BookCourt Friday night, Courtney teamed up with fellow female music experts Colleen Quill (Universal Music) and Melissa Locker (the Hairpin, IFC) to discuss their biggest fan moments, share some gossipy tales, and explain why they freaking hate Almost Famous.

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SF Talking Points: Education the Answer to Population Growth, Bachmann and Cain Vie for Scariest Candidate

Education for girls can help solve population growth: Former Irish President Mary Robinson says keeping girls in school is the best way to stop the world’s exploding population growth. “European countries are concerned about aging populations as is Japan, but this is much less of an issue than the huge bulge of people which we are going to see over the next 40 years when the population goes from 7 billion to 9 billion people,” she told Reuters. “Almost all of that increase will be in poor developing countries, so that we have a very big demographic challenge.” Education provides the opportunity for better instruction on contraception and provides an incentive for women to limit their childbearing, says Robinson, also a former U.N. high commissioner for human rights. Just look at the United States — where apparently none of us are having kids anymore!

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‘Miss Represention’ Reminds Us Of Oprah’s Power

Watching  Jennifer Seibel Newsom’s documentary, Miss Representation on OWN last night made me remember why Oprah is one of our leaders. It’s the type of change-your-life programming that OWN has been lacking from the beginning—save for Our America with Lisa Ling and a few wonderfully nostalgic episodes of Oprah’s Life Class (essentially repackaged The Oprah Winfrey Show episodes), the offerings have been hard to swallow—vanity talk show projects galore and a few docu-series that border on the sensational. I was beginning to wonder if we’d lost the “Oprah” in Oprah.

But this film—required viewing for every American (and especially parents)—held up a magnifying glass to a problem that’s been glaringly obvious yet systematically ignored for decades. In short: Women get fucked in the media—both literally and figuratively. It’s something we like to brush aside or pretend doesn’t exist when we tune in for our guilty-pleasure TV watching of The Bachelor or Gossip Girl, not wanting to acknowledge the misogynistic messages these shows send; or wrap our heads around how a young girl might view herself if the only images she sees of women are over-sexed, abused, backstabbing, underfed, man-hungry celebutards.

Understanding the impact of our actions—even those we want to be frivolous and “harmless,” like watching television—is at the heart of feminism, but should be the basis for decent human behavior, period. Miss Representation is the wake-up call we all need. The film details the harrowing facts about how women are so starkly undervalued in this country, but doesn’t shy away from the impact the anti-girl media message has on boys and men—a point made particularly profound by testimonials from a handful of teenage boys who believe in words like “fair” and “equal” and don’t subscribe to the super-masculinized ideal they’re being force fed. This was such a key point; boys are all-too-often left out of the conversation, but they have everything to do with it. Teaching our boys how to be their best selves is as important as valuing girls for more than just their bodies; the two go hand-in-hand.

As much as this documentary highlights the shortcomings of our society in terms of supporting its females (78% of teenage girls are unhappy with their bodies; 65% of women and girls have an eating disorder; women make up 51% of the population but only 7% of Congress; more than half of working women are mothers, yet the U.S. has no federal maternity leave or flex time policy; a female protagonist in Hollywood means a half-naked, DD-cup babe carrying guns and a grudge) it also showed the beacon of hope that lies within the beautiful, ambitious, unrelenting, not-yet-vapid minds of young girls. These ladies want to be president, restart the space program, fight for gender justice and help their communities. They remind us that every generation truly does get to start over and do better. To see such inspiring zeal in young girls today, despite the all-out assault they’re getting from the media, should be enough to make everyone stand up, take action, and help ensure a brighter future for them.

Few networks would likely show this film, despite its Sundance wow factor (my guess is none of the others would). So, thank you, Oprah, for giving us this and making the world see, listen and hopefully act. You’re one of the few who can actually make us do that.

Were the ’60s Really as Cool as They Look from Here?

Goodness, the ’60s are looking awfully alluring these days. The TV world has fallen hard for them, thanks to Mad Men: And while neither of that show’s biggest new imitators, Pan-Am and the now-cancelled Playboy Club, come close in quality drama, Pan-Am is still a technicolor world of fun and intrigue. Meanwhile, Anna David’s delightfully breezy new memoir, Falling for Me, chronicles her efforts to get out of the singleton doldrums by following the advice of the ’60s blockbuster advice book Sex and the Single Girl, by Helen Gurley Brown. David was so enamored of Gurley Brown’s throwback advice that she ignited a little blog controversy by positing that “women had it better in the ’60s” in on online post.

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Set Your DVR: ‘Miss Representation’ Documentary Will Enrage, Inspire You

We know The Office and Grey’s Anatomy are on Thursday night, but we’re begging you to skip those — or at least make some extra room on your DVR — for OWN’s documentary Miss Representation, which chronicles the ways the media, well, repeatedly screw women. In it, you’ll get a startling reality check about how far we still have to go to attain equality for women in America: Yes, it feels like there are more female candidates running for major office every day, for instance, yet we hold only 17 percent of Congress. Cuba, China, Iraq, and Afghanistan have us beat in the realm of women in office. (I mean, seriously.) Miss Representation makes the case that the fewer women we see in power, the fewer we’ll have in the future; even more importantly, if our media keep haranguing female candidates for their ball-busting (see: Hillary) or drooling over their sexuality (see: Sarah), the last thing girls will envision themselves as is President.

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Women We Want to be When We Grow Up

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Aging gracefully is no easy feat, but it’s the overall awesomeness of these women that inspires us. Their success, activism and individuality make us aspire to be like them. Here are some of the women we want to be when we grow up: Photo: Retna Ltd

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