Press Clips Feministing.

com Updated: June 1, 2006 The Denver Post, May 31, 2006 More twentysomethings turn to blogs to stay informed The San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, May 21, 2006 Go ahead, call Laura Bush a feminist Women’s eNews May 18, 2006 Pop Singer Makes Slaving for Beauty Look Ugly Alternet Posted on May 12, 2006 Letter to My Mother The Guardian Friday March 31, 2006 The third wave - at a computer near you In These Times, February 6, 2006 Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics? The Nation, November 10, 2005 The World According to Dowd The Guardian, September 29, 2005 Screen test for America's first woman president National Review, August 30, 2005 Low-IQ Debate, August 26, 2005 The comeback The Washington Post, July 21, 2005 Court Nominee In the Eye of the Blogger Swarm, July 5, 2005 The F word In These Times, April 18, 2005 An Activism of One's Own Pages 3-4 Pages 5-6 Pages 7-9

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National Review, March 24, 2005 Ms. The Dallas Morning News, March 8, 2005 KDGE spins golden oldie: misogyny Ottawa Sun Word Crosses the Panty Line IPS-Inter Press Service, July 13, 2004 Religion: New Biblezine for Young Women Markets Beliefs

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Press contact: Jessica Valenti,

The Denver Post May 31, 2006 More twentysomethings turn to blogs to stay informed By Katie Stone Many people need a morning "fix." For some, it's coffee. For others, it's "SportsCenter." For me, it's I am 24 years old. I belong to a generation that is notorious for its lack of attention and desire to question authority. And much to our delight, society has accommodated us rather well, mainly by means of technology. We don't tape our favorite television shows anymore; we TiVo them or buy them on iTunes so we can watch them while we take the bus to work or school. We multitask, combining barbecues and conference calls, and then we text message our friends about the things that happen in between. Between working two jobs, walking my dog, and gallivanting with the boyfriend, I frankly don't have time to plan my schedule around the 5 o'clock news. And neither does anyone I know. I want to know what's happening without sports scores or any mention of Bill O'Reilly, or mainstream media gossip that objectifies women and blatantly furthers the progression of the patriarchy. My desire to learn about the world needs to be met with something that is contemporary, immediate, and covers exactly what I want to learn about. Enter, a blog (or Web log) that provides me with all of the news my liberal heart desires about current issues involving women and minorities across the world. What's even better is that they deliver the news with flare and sass. They use headlines like "Feminists are the New Black" and "Step Away From the Pin-Up Girl," and they organize the information so it is readily accessible and efficient - something necessary for my on-the-go, ADD-saturated generation. With Feministing, I simply brew my coffee, click my mouse and I can read about the daily issues that affect me, all the while observing a platform of opportunity to read factual news and then participate in an online forum of response and opinion. Perhaps these are some reasons for the rapidly increasing popularity of blogs. The members of my generation want what we want - and we want it now. We want the factual evidence that mainstream media gives us, but we also want to question and debate what is happening. Blogs combine hard facts with personal narrative, and we soak it up like sunshine.

We live in a society where we learn to question everything from our nutrition to our government, and we are allowed to make personal choices on what we choose to believe. Blogs build trust through personal narrative and opinion while also providing us with an opportunity to check the facts through Web links. They satisfy our limited attention span by providing what we want to read instantly. Jessica Valenti, editor for Feministing, explained: "The great things about reading blogs is the immediacy (we're super fast) and the personality of each blog. We do the work of searching around for the best stories pertaining to women, and write about them in a fun way. It's like a one-stop-shop for feminist news. Plus, unlike other news sources, blogs allow for interaction between the readers and bloggers. It makes for an online community." There are blogs about just about everything: rock climbing, investing, owning a pet. Many people see the growth of blogs as a violation of the standard rules of journalism and credibility. It's true that we likely never know who's "back there" on the Internet, what credentials bloggers have and who we can trust. I've come across blogs full of ranting and opinion with no solid factual evidence to back up viewpoints. However, I have chosen to give most bloggers I come across the benefit of the doubt and trust what they write about because to me, their sources are credible and they write from a perspective that I can relate to. Criticize all you want, but it's a decision I'm happy with. Now, if you'll excuse me, Feministing just posted an article on how more collegeeducated women are finding themselves single. It's news I just can't miss.

The San Francisco Chronicle Sunday, May 21, 2006 Go ahead, call Laura Bush a feminist By Danelle Morton So Laura Bush is a feminist? That's what she declared confidently on a Mother's Day morning political show citing her efforts to promote women's education and rights in the Middle East. She certainly doesn't present as a feminist. Laura Bush of the Cheshire smile, the faraway look and the pastel Republican pantsuit is the kind of woman who makes most established feminists cringe. Besides how could any woman who believes herself to be a feminist remain married to George Bush? The day after her television appearance, the blogosphere took on the question of the first lady's place in the women's movement with vigor. On Huffington Post, screenwriter Nora Ephron wrote, "Laura Bush isn't a feminist. You can't be a feminist if you don't believe in a woman's right to choose." Those who commented on Ephron's posting called Bush everything from a lobotomized Stepford wife to a battered woman. One speculated that she had a microchip implanted in her brain that broadcasts messages through her lips directly from the mouth of Karl Rove, and another described her as the "puppet wife with the glued on smile." A righteous young woman at stated simply, "I'm sorry, but feminism just isn't for everybody." That's right. Feminism isn't for everybody. It's hardly for anybody. If I were to enter a party, even in the Bay Area, and announce that I am feminist, the social waters around me would clear of life forms as if I had released a toxic plume. When feminist author Kristen Rowe-Finkbeiner surveyed 300 of her 18-to-34year-old peers in the Seattle area a few years back, 68 percent said they didn't want to be identified with the word "feminism." The book in which Rowe-Finkbeiner revealed the results of her survey was titled "The F-Word." The unspeakable F-word, blamed for many social ills including the break up of the family. How could Bush associate herself with feminism? And what does it mean that Bush announces she is one when Hillary Clinton does not? Does it hurt or help feminism's long-standing image problem that someone like Bush embraces it? I cover my head with both hands when I say: I think it helps it. I used to have these discussions with my mom about feminism in which she

would say, "I'm not a feminist but I believe in equal pay for equal work." OK, I'd answer. Then you are a feminist. "No, no," she'd balk. Or she'd say, "I'm not a feminist but I believe a woman has a right to a legal abortion." So mom, join me in the sisterhood. No, she'd insist. I still want a man to open the door for me and pick up the check when we go out to dinner. Why couldn't she just come out and say she was a feminist? She'd lived the young adulthood that should create one, including being abandoned by her husband to raise two kids in poverty, having a job in which she ran the office but got paid much less than the semi-competent men she served, and enduring sexual harassment before we had a term for it and an answer to it. How surprising if a woman like her -- a Cadillac-driving nouveau Republican -would announce to the men around her that she believed in women's rights as she conceived them and was willing to act on them. Equally surprising is that when some stupid right-wing blowhard like Rush Limbaugh starts screeching about the feminazis, we now can answer, "But Rush, Laura Bush is a feminist." I'm for Big Tent Feminism. Everyone welcome. Entrances on both the right and the left sides. Take up the discussion of what feminism includes because it invigorates the movement and places it back in the middle of things instead of remaining a small-scale interest of a few elite intellectuals. Although Bush actually said during the campaign that she didn't want Roe vs. Wade overturned, it is valid to weigh the question of whether you can be a feminist if you do not support the right to an abortion. In fact, the women responding on went out of their way to declare that they wore heels and makeup and watched "Sex in the City" because feminism was all about increasing women's ability to make choices. Well, except the choice to wake up in the morning next to George Bush. I still have a lot of trouble with that.

Women’s eNews May 18, 2006 Pop Singer Makes Slaving for Beauty Look Ugly By Courtney E. Martin She leans over the sink in the bathroom of a hot nightclub, sticks a toothbrush down her throat and vomits while screaming, "I want to be skinny!" This is just one scene of the action-packed music video for "Stupid Girls," first aired on MTV Jan. 26, as the first single released from pop star Pink's most recent album, "I'm Not Dead." Pink--born Alecia Moore on Sept. 8, 1979, in Doylestown, Pa.--has built a reputation for being sassy since her debut album, "Can't Take Me Home," in 2000. The "Stupid Girls" video, though, and another controversial track on the album titled "Dear Mister President," have certified her as a rebel. Early sales figures reveal a fan base hungry for her message. "I'm Not Dead" will most likely compete with her previous successes: 2003's "Try This," which has sold 700,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and its predecessor, 2001's "M!ssundaztood," which has sold 5.2 million copies to date. Played over and over on MTV, the "Stupid Girls" video parodies conspicuous consumption, cosmetic surgery, eating disorders and vacuous celebrities. One refrain also raises a puzzling political question: "What happened to the dreams of a girl president?" "Stupid Girls," which is the top debuting single of 2006 so far, has spilled beyond the usual TV and Internet margins of pop music. It has been taken up by bloggers interested in pop culture and feminism and has been discussed in high schools, colleges and families across the country. "I am a mother of a 10-year-old daughter," reads a posting on Pink's Web site. "A few weeks ago I came across Pink's song 'Stupid Girls' on MTV. I immediately called my daughter into the room and we watched the making of the video together. What an important message." With a broadcast range of 169 countries and 28 languages, the "Stupid Girl" video on MTV resonates internationally. "I am just glad that the girls from my classes (who are having a hard time growing up and finding their way) can listen to your songs," an English teacher in a German high school posts on Pink's site. "We sometimes talk about your lyrics in class." Pink--one part pop, one part rock and one part hip hop--pens her own testimonial to her song and video. "A lot of people are relieved that someone has finally said something about the mindless epidemic of unhealthy girls out there promoting

consumerism and escapism," she writes on her site. In an early April appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Pink emphasized that the main message of her controversial video is that "smart and sexy are not oil and water." Slaving Away Another message that Pink conveys--as she falls off a treadmill, fake tans herself bright orange and lies on a gurney waiting for the surgeon's knife--is that slaving away to look good is ugly. Jessica Weiner, author of the 2006 "Do I Look Fat in This?: Life Doesn't Begin Five Pounds from Now" book, which exhorts active self-acceptance, applauds the message. "We do have more opportunity open to us as girls and women and yet we starve out this freedom, nip and tuck it, focus on the surface and don't show up to vote, protest or make noise." Social activist Adrienne Brown, co-author of the 2004 book, "How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office: The Anti-Politics, Un-Boring Guide to Power," agrees. Brown calls the behavior that Pink mocks "a distinct brand of political paralysis" and says the singer is telling girls and young women "to be alive and active and fearless . . . the implications of which could include power: voting, advocacy, protest even." Pink has also stirred uneasiness, in part because she is perceived as attacking women rather than darker forces at work in mass culture. Culture Draws the Image "My initial reaction was, 'Thank God someone is taking this stupidity as cool nonsense and doing something about it'," writes founder Jessica Valenti, who featured a link to the video on her blog. "But it also kind of made me sad. Should we really be calling each other stupid? That's not doing anything to solve the problem of how young women are being portrayed. Why aren't we analyzing the culture that demands this kind of image from them?" Audrey D. Brashich, author of "All Made Up: A Girl's Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty," which was published last month, wonders if Pink's commercial medium can be trusted to convey a serious social message. "Pink's marketers might have just tapped into the song because they thought it was funny, or because they like the 'catfight' aspect of it, not because they recognize the importance of its contribution to cultural debate," says Brashich. A young woman posting on Pink's Web site felt maligned by the video: "I myself am struggling with binging and purging, but I am not a so-called 'Stupid Girl'. I

have a high GPA, and I'm a very independent girl, but I am still struggling with bulimia and I was really disappointed to feel lumped in with the bimbos in your music video." On Oprah, Pink explained what she means by stupid. "My definition of stupid is wasting your opportunity to be yourself."

Alternet Posted on May 12, 2006 Letter to My Mother By Courtney E. Martin You use words like "patriarchy" and "crone." You have a dream group, two book clubs, a medical psychic. On your bathroom wall, you have a photograph of a middle-aged naked woman stretched out in the curve of a leaning tree. I love you, but sometimes your ideas of feminism seem sappy, sentimental, unproductive. I am not one of those Sophie Kinsella fans who likes my heels high and my man Cro-Magnon. In fact, despite my teasing, you are the most powerful person I have ever known. You founded the longest running women's film festival If you like a book, 10,000 of your closest friends immediately buy it. You can sense that I am sad from thousands of miles away. You gave me feminism, and when I was old enough to comprehend the profundity of that gift -- 18 years old and watching all of my friends fall apart from eating and anxiety disorders -- I embraced it with a vengeance. On Mother's Day, I first and foremost want to say thank you. It is clearly not said enough by the women of my generation, the inheritors of Title IX and day-care centers and gender studies programs. Thank you for getting us these things, and thank you for doing away with others -- girdles and sanitary belts immediately come to mind. Thank you for teaching us to speak truth to power. Here I speak, not just to my all-powerful mother, but all second-wavers. Your version of feminism sometimes feels like what Bitch Magazine founder Lisa Jervis called "femmenism", an idea that "female leadership is inherently different from male, that having more women in positions of power, authority, or visibility will automatically lead to, or can be equated with, feminist social change." We have witnessed Abu Ghraib and Condoleeza Rice and Paris Hilton. This to me is evidence enough that women aren't inherently better or more just. We don't believe in goddess worship or that getting just any old lady into office will make the world a better place. What we do believe in is education and choice. We believe in pleasure. We believe in humor. God knows, OK, Goddess knows, we believe in ambition; too many of us are unhealthy, perfect girls -- faithful, if unconscious, imitators of our supermoms. Sometimes your legacy feels like a ten-ton weight, like we can never accomplish enough. Sometimes your adoring gaze feels like a critical stare -- as if our moments of frivolousness movement is dead. Sometimes your well-intentioned

advice feels like a dooming prophecy. One feminist writer told me that she could not bear to connect me with her agent because the publishing world was inhumane. I was 24 with a mountain of ideas and hope that wouldn't pay the rent. Let us earn our own bitterness. Stop shaking your heads at NOW conferences because "the youth" don't show up. We are trying to maneuver a new path towards social change, and it has less to do with "everyone say aye" and more to do with blogs, networking sites, the hostile takeover of pop culture. Watch Pink's new video "Stupid Girls" ( or read Feministing ( if you want a sense of where we are fighting the 21st-century battle. We want to fight the good fight, but we want to make sweet love too. We want our partners -- girl, boy or something radically in between -- beside us. We want boys to be less buttoned-up and more down for parenting and dancing to stupid '80s music in public; if they pay for dinner, unlike Maureen Dowd's hyperbolic claims, it doesn't mean we are riddled with '50s-era nostalgia. We just don't take some things as seriously as you do. I can hear a chorus of Eileen Fisher-wearing women now -- wait until you have kids. I surrender. I have no clue about how I am going to realize my equal parenting dreams; I watched my own idealistic parents fail. My mom and I joke that she has grandmother Tourette's these days -- she shouts, "Babies would solve that," and then looks over both shoulders and asks, "Who said that?" But for all our laughing, we know that the still-unsolved problem of work-familygender balance is grave. I am scared of compromising my cherished independence, deathly afraid that I will wake up at 40 with an indistinguishable fire of bitterness in my guts. Sometimes I find myself standing over the sink washing my boyfriend's dishes even though I made dinner, and it scares the shit out of me. When I recently came across second waver Cynthia Horney's rare message, it made me breathe a deep sigh of relief: "We got nowhere close to Having It All. But here's what I think … we had an awful lot of it. My point is simply that this turned out to be the very life I wanted: not my mother's life, not my husband's life, but a patched-up-some-of-both model that I worry is in danger of being cast aside as unworkable by people who have listened to too many women like me despair over what we are missing. We didn't make enough noise celebrating the great parts, did we?" No, you didn't. But it is never too late.

The Guardian Friday March 31, 2006 The third wave - at a computer near you By Kira Cochrane Young women are apathetic. They're not feminists. They don't call themselves feminists. They don't know what feminism is all about. "That," says Jessica Valenti, "was all we ever seemed to hear - from colleagues, from the media. And we just thought, who are they talking about? I know young women all over the place who do feminist work. We wanted to show that young feminists aren't crazy or mean, but cool. A lot of feminism has this academic basis that can be very off-putting. And so we thought, let's put something out there that's not dry and academic, but lively and fun." So Valenti became one of the founders of, a highly popular blog website that attracts 100,000 visitors a month. Each day it features between five and 10 women's stories, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. An article on incoming Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, for example, is followed by a wisecrack on a dubious skin-tightening product called Virgin Cream. And it's not alone. In the two years since feministing started, there has been an explosion of feminist blogs, including many that have a highly professional edge, and a large, loyal readership. The feminist movement has always produced plenty of meaty writing and lively debate: witness Sylvia Pankhurst's newspaper, the Woman's Dreadnought, in the 1910s, through the pamphleteering of the 1970s second-wave, and the vibrant 'zine culture of the 1990s' "riot grrrl" movement. Prior to the blogosphere though, distribution remained local for all but a few major publications, such as Spare Rib, Ms, or, latterly, Bust and Bitch magazines. Now though, the third wave (a movement often dismissed as a myth) has gone online. At feminist blogs you can find women writing on a bewildering range of topics, be it the perilously high caesarean rate in India, the dearth of abortion clinics in South Dakota, or the human rights record of the Philippines' president, Gloria Arroyo. Some of the most popular blogs include Bitch PhD, the F-word, Pandagon, AngryBlackBitch, MindtheGapCardiff and Gendergeek. A recent estimate put the number of feminist blogs at 240,000, but, given that this posited the number of "active" worldwide blogs at 4m (some figures put it as high as 27.2m), and the proportion of women who are self-described feminists at 10% (a British survey this month produced a figure of 29%) the true figure could be much higher. Comparative levels of computer literacy and interest mean that younger women

do dominate. As Valenti says, "There's always been this sense among secondwave feminists that young women just aren't interested. That's never been true though: they just didn't know how to reach us." There has also typically been a suspicion that if younger women are interested in feminism it's of a specific variety: what's sometimes called "girlie" feminism. The mainstream media tends to highlight young feminists whose outlook is "sexy". Those, for instance, who frame pole dancing as a feminist act. Go online, though, and you are immediately struck by the huge variety of outlook and opinions. This is most evident at the twice-monthly Carnival of Feminists, set up by British blogger Natalie Bennett, who also runs Philobiblion, a women's history blog. Each carnival (usually on the first and third Wednesday of the month) is hosted by a different blogger, who invites people to contribute articles on current events or a general theme: "radical feminism", for instance, or "1970s feminism and what it means today". The host then chooses the best pieces, putting links to between 50 to 100 articles up on their site and providing a short commentary on each. This effectively creates a major new anthology of feminist thought every two weeks. "People are always saying the feminist movement is dead, but I've never believed that," says Rebecca Traister, a feature writer for, and one of the founders of Salon's own women's blog, Broadsheet, which launched last year. "What I think is that it's taking a modern, technological form, and that, from now on, feminism will be about a multiplicity of voices, growing louder and louder online." But is it all just sound and fury? The blogs reflect second-wave ideas of consciousness raising and the personal as political (many women write about their experiences of rape and sexual assault), but there's a question mark over how this feeds into grass-roots activism. Nina Wakeford, a sociologist at the University of Surrey, is cautious about blogging's influence. "I think the way blogs can provoke debate is useful," she concedes, "but it isn't clear how much they feed into activism. In the past, there was a clear role for women's organisations as regards representations to government, but I'm not sure whether women can affect public policy through blogging. Just who are they representing?" This last question is interesting. As with second-wave feminism, this online movement is open to the accusation that it simply represents privileged white women. "Blogging is still somewhat limited, of course," says Georgia Gaden, a postgraduate researcher who has studied feminist blogs, "because although we take our access for granted, many women, globally, don't have that luxury." That said, these blogs do redress the balance by highlighting global stories. And

the Carnival of Feminists is trying to reach as many women as possible, with the most recent carnival held on the Indian blog, Indianwriting. "That was our fourth continent," says Bennett, "and I'm looking for an African blogger, so that we can reach our fifth." The links between feminist blogs and activism are nascent - in January there was a "blog for choice" on abortion, and earlier this month saw mass blogs on street harassment and sexism - but they look set to grow. And for now, the sites provide both an insight into the strength of feeling among young feminists, and a much-needed alternative to mainstream women's magazines. If a young woman asked her about feminism, says Gaden, a blogosphere is the first place she'd direct her to. Traister agrees. "There are so many authentic voices out there that it's really invigorating. It just goes to prove that the internet isn't just for accessing porn!"

In These Times February 6, 2006 Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics? By Lakshmi Chaudhry We have no interest in being anti-establishment,” says Matt Stoller, a blogger at the popular Web site “We’re going to be the establishment.” That kind of flamboyant confidence has become the hallmark of blog evangelists who believe that blogs promise nothing less than a populist revolution in American politics. In 2006, at least some of that rhetoric is becoming reality. Blogs may not have replaced the Democratic Party establishment, but they are certainly becoming an integral part of it. In the wake of John Kerry’s defeat in the 2004 presidential elections, many within the Democratic leadership have embraced blog advocates’ plan for political success, which can be summed up in one word: netroots. This all-encompassing term loosely describes an online grassroots constituency that can be targeted through Internet technologies, including e-mail, message boards, RSS feeds and, of course, blogs, which serve as organizing hubs. In turn, these blogs employ a range of features —discussion boards, Internet donations, live e-chat, social networking tools like MeetUp, online voting—that allow ordinary citizens to participate in politics, be it supporting a candidate or organizing around a policy issue. Compared to traditional media, blogs are faster, cheaper, and most importantly, interactive, enabling a level of voter involvement impossible with television or newspapers. No wonder, then, that many in Washington are looking to blogs and bloggers to counter the overwhelming financial and ideological muscle of the right—especially in an election year. Just 18 months ago, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story depicting progressive bloggers as a band of unkempt outsiders, thumbing their nose at party leadership. But now, it’s the party leaders themselves who are blogging. Not only has Senate Minority leader Harry Reid started his own blog—Give ‘em Hell Harry—and a media “war room” to “aggressively pioneer Internet outreach,” he’s also signed up to be the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the top political blog, Daily Kos. Stoller predicts that as an organizing tool, “blogs are going to play the role that talk radio did in 1994, and that church networks did in 2002.” An Internet-fueled victory at the polls would certainly be impressive—no candidate backed by the most popular progressive blogs has yet won an election. But electoral success may merely confirm the value of blogs as an effective organizing tool to conduct politics as usual, cementing the influence of a select group of bloggers who will likely be crowned by the media as the new kingmakers.

Winning an election does not, however, guarantee a radical change in the relations of power. Technology is only as revolutionary as the people who use it, and the progressive blogosphere has thus far remained the realm of the privileged —a weakness that may well prove fatal in the long run. In 2006, the biggest question facing blogs and bloggers is: Will their ascendancy empower the American people—in the broadest sense of the word—or merely add to the clout of an elite online constituency? The birth of a revolution Alienation may not have been the mother of blogging technology, but it most certainly birthed the “political blogosphere.” The galvanizing cause for the rapid proliferation of political blogs and their mushrooming audience was a deep disillusionment across the political spectrum with traditional media—a disillusionment accentuated by a polarized political landscape. In the recent book Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution Is Changing Politics, Business and Culture, Web guru Craig Shirky links the rise of political blogs to the sharpening Red/Blue State divide. Both 9/11 and the Iraq war reminded people that “politics was vitally important,” and marked the “moment people were looking for some kind of expression outside the bounds of network television,” or, for that matter, cable news or the nation’s leading newspapers. Progressives were angry not just with the media but also with Democratic Party leaders for their unwillingness to challenge the Bush administration’s case for war. That much-touted liberal rage found its expression on blogs like Eschaton, Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo, and continues to fuel the phenomenal growth of the progressive blogosphere. Like the rise of right-wing talk radio, this growth is directly linked to an institutional failure of representation. Finding no mirror for their views in the media, a large segment of the American public turned to the Internet to speak for themselves—often with brutal, uncensored candor. As blogs have grown in popularity—at the rate of more than one new blog per second—they’ve begun to lose their vanguard edge. The very institutions that political bloggers often criticize have begun to adopt the platform, with corporate executives, media personalities, porn stars, lawyers and PR strategists all jumping into the fray. That may be why Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, the founder and primary voice of Daily Kos, thinks the word “blog” is beginning to outlive its usefulness. “A blog is merely a publishing tool, and like a tool, it can be used in any number of ways,” he says. But for many, to rephrase director Jean Renoir, a blogs are still a state of mind. To their most ardent advocates, blogs are standard-bearers of a core set of democratic values: participation, egalitarianism and transparency. Books like

Dan Gillmor’s We the Media, Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, and Joe Trippi’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised have become the bibles of progressive politics. Taken together, they express the dream of Internet salvation: harnessing an inherently democratic, interactive and communal medium, with the potential to instantaneously tap into the collective intellectual, political and financial resourcesof tens of millions of fellow Americans to create a juggernaut for social change. According to Moulitsas, “The word ‘blog’ still implies a certain level of citizen involvement, of giving power to someone who is not empowered”—especially to progressives who, according to a study released last year by the New Politics Institute, have overtaken conservatives as the heavyweights of the political blogosphere. Vox Populi Political blogs have often been most effective as populist fact-checkers, challenging, refuting and correcting perceived errors in news coverage. “Independent bloggers have challenged the mainstream media and held them accountable, whether it’s with Judy Miller or Bob Woodward,” says Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. The most significant effect of this “we can factcheck your ass” credo has not been merely to put journalists on notice, but to change the way public knowledge is produced on a daily basis. “It’s hard now for an important story to hit the front page of the New York Times and just die there,” says Huffington. A news article is now merely the beginning of a public conversation in the blogosphere, where experts, amateurs and posers alike dissect its merits and add to its information, often keeping it alive long after journalists have moved on. Popular understanding of what blogs are and what they can do has been muddled by an inevitably hostile relationship between political bloggers and traditional media. Writing in the Dec. 26 issue of The New Republic, Franklin Foer took bloggers to task for nursing “an ideological disdain for ‘Mainstream Media’—or MSM, as it has derisively (and somewhat adolescently) come to be known.” But Foer, like so many traditional journalists who criticize blogs, failed to grasp the very nature of his intended target. Blogs are literally vox populi—or at the least the voice of the people who post entries and comments, and, to a lesser extent, of their devoted readers. Telling bloggers that they’re wrong or to shut up is somewhat like telling respondents to an opinion survey to simply change their mind. When journalists reject bloggers as cranks or wingnuts, they also do the same to a large segment of the American public who seeblogs as an expression of their views. Such dismissals feed the very alienation that makes blogs and bloggers popular. The irony is that bloggers are most powerful when they work in tandem with the

very media establishment they despise. “Bloggers alone cannot create conventional wisdom, cannot make a story break, cannot directly reach the vast population that isn’t directly activist and involved in politics,” says Peter Daou, who coordinated the Kerry campaign’s blog outreach operations. Blogs instead exert an indirect form of power, amplifying and channeling the pressure of netroots opinion upwards to pressure politicians and journalists. “It’s really a rising up,” says Daou. Can this online rebellion lead to real political change? The prognosis thus far is encouraging, but far from definitive. Can the netroots grow the grassroots? If television made politics more elitist and less substantive, blogs—and more broadly, netroots tools—have the potential to become engines of truly democratic, bottom-up, issue-rich political participation. Blogs allow rank-and-file voters to pick the candidate to support in any given electoral race, influence his or her platform, and volunteer their time, money and expertise in more targeted and substantive ways. Democratic candidates in the midterm elections are already busy trying to position themselves as the next Howard Dean, vying for a digital stamp of approval that will bring with it free publicity, big money and, just maybe, a whole lot of voters. When Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) decided to take on Iraq veteran Paul Hackett in the Democratic primary for the Senate race in Ohio, he moved quickly to neutralize his opponent’s advantage as the unquestioned hero of the progressive bloggers. The ace up Brown’s sleeve: Jerome Armstrong, founder of the influential and veteran of Howard Dean’s online campaign. Brown’s next move was a blog entry on The Huffington Post titled, “Why I am a Progressive.” But not everyone is convinced that blogs can be as influential in a midterm election, when there are a large number of electoral contests spread across the country. “Raising money at a nationwide level for a special election is one thing,” Pew scholar Michael Cornfield says, “but raising it and developing a core of activists and all the ready-to-respond messages when you have to run hundreds of races simultaneously—which is what will happen in 2006—is another thing.” Moreover, the ability of the Internet to erase geographical distances can become a structural weakness in elections where district lines and eligibility are key. An effective netroots strategy in 2006 will also have to master the shortcomings of the Dean’s campaign, which stalled mainly because it failed to grow his support base beyond his online constituency—antiwar, white and high-income voters. In contrast, the Bush/Cheney operation used the Internet to coordinate on-the-ground events such as house parties, and rallies involving church

congregations. Cornfield describes the Republican model as, “one person who is online and is plugged into the blogosphere. That person becomes an e-precinct captain, and is responsible for reaching out offline or any means necessary for ten people.” This time around, Armstrong is determined to match the GOP’s success., which he describes as “a community blog for Democratic Party activists,” will coordinate field operations for not just Brown but all Democratic candidates in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. Its primary goal is to reach rural voters in areas where the campaign cannot field organizers on the ground. “This isn’t just about using the net for communications and fundraising, but for field organizing,” Armstrong says. What is also new in 2006 is the effort to redirect attention from the national to the local. “It’s not just about focusing the national blogosphere on Ohio, but about building from the ground up in Ohio,” Armstrong says. “Over 90 percent of our signups on are Ohio activists, and we will soon have Internet outreach coordinators in all 88 counties.” But many like Daou remain skeptical about the power of blogs to directly impact politics at the grassroots level. “You’re not going to go out there and mobilize a million people and have them all come to the polls and donate money. Blogs will never do that,” he says And they may be even less effective in areas that are traditionally not as internet-savvy as the rest of the country, be it the rural red states or impoverished inner cities. Creating a virtual “community center” is unlikely to compensate for the Democrats’ disadvantage on the ground. Due to the eroding presence of unions, Democrats no longer possess a physical meeting place where they can target and mobilize voters—unlike Republicans, who rely on a wellorganized network of churches, gun clubs and chambers of commerce. What is clear is that the 2006 elections will test the claim of blog evangelists that online activism can radically transform offline politics—a claim that is central to their far more ambitious vision for the future. In their book Crashing the Gate (to be released in April), Moulitsas and Armstrong envision blogs as the centerpiece of a netroots movement to engineer an imminent and sweeping transformation of the Democratic Party: We are at the beginning of a comprehensive reformation of the Democratic Party—driven by committed progressive outsiders. Online activism on a nationwide level, coupled with offline activists at the local level … can provide the formula for a quiet, bloodless coup that can take control of the party. Money and mobilization are the two key elements of all political activity, and if the

netroots have their way, the financial backbone of the Democratic Party will be regular people. Whether a truly decentralized and “leaderless” netroots can function like a political party is debatable, but the latest wave of technological innovation does offer unprecedented opportunities for constructing a progressive movement for the digital age. Such an outreach effort would use the Internet very much like conservatives such as Richard Viguerie used direct mail to build a powerful political force. But in order to craft a genuinely democratic form of politics, the progressive blogosphere will have to overcome its greatest weakness: lack of diversity. In Newsweek, Simon Rosenberg, a beltway insider who lost the DNC chair to Dean, described the progressive blogosphere as the new “Resistance” within the Democratic Party, engaged in a civil war to wrest power from a craven and compromised beltway leadership. According to Rosenberg, the leaders of this “resistance” are the top progressive bloggers, more specifically the most popular and increasingly influential Moulitsas. Rosenberg told the Washington Monthly, “Frankly I don’t think there’s anyone who’s had the potential to revolutionize the Democratic Party that Markos does.” Yet both the progressive blogosphere and the “revolutionaries” who dominate its ranks look a lot like the establishment they seek to overthrow. The report by the New Politics Institute—which was launched by Rosenberg’s New Democracy Network—notes: “Clearly, blogging is a world with a handful of haves, and a nearly uncountable number of have-nots. There are likely a few hundred thousand blogs in this country that talk about politics, but less than one-tenth of one percent of them account for more than 99 percent of all political blogging traffic.” For better or worse, traffic numbers have become an endorsement of the political agenda of specific individuals. While A-list bloggers repeatedly deny receiving any special treatment, the reality is that both the media and political establishment pay disproportionate attention to their views, often treating them as representative of the entire progressive blogosphere. In a Foreign Policy article, political scientists Daniel Drezner and Henry Farrell cheerfully note, “The skewed network of the blogosphere makes it less timeconsuming for outside observers to acquire information. The media only need to look at elite blogs to obtain a summary of the distribution of opinions on a given political issue.” Why? Because the “elite blogs” serve as a filtering mechanism, deciding which information offered up by smaller blogs is useful or noteworthy. In effect, A-list blogs get to decide what issues deserve the attention of journalists and politicians, i.e., the establishment.

The past two years have also marked the emergence of a close relationship between top bloggers and politicians in Washington. A number of them—for example, Jesse Taylor at Pandagon, Tim Tagaris of SwingStateProject, Stoller and Armstrong—have been hired as campaign consultants. Others act as unofficial advisers to top politicos like Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-Ill.), who holds conference calls with preeminent bloggers to talk strategy. When the Senate Democrats invite Moulitsas to offer his personal views on netroots strategy—treating him, as a Washington Monthly profile describes, “a kind of part-time sage, an affiliate member”—the perks of success become difficult to deny. Armstrong sees the rise of the blogger-guru—or “strategic adviser,” as he puts it—as a positive development. Better to hire a blogger who is personally committed to the Democratic cause than a D.C.-based mercenary who makes money irrespective of who wins. But the fact that nearly all these “advisers” are drawn from a close-knit and mostly homogenous group can make them appear as just a new boys’ club, albeit one with better intentions and more engaged politics. Aside from notable exceptions like Moulitsas, who is part-Salvadoran, and a handful of lesser-known women who belong to group blogs, top progressive bloggers tend to be young, well-educated, middle class, male and white. Reach, representation and credibility The lack of diversity is partly a function of the roots of blogging in an equally homogenous tech-geek community. Nevertheless, women and people of color constitute the fastest rising segment of those joining the blogosphere. Feminist and female-authored political blogs like Feministing, Bitch Ph.D, Echidne of the Snakes, and Salon’s Broadsheet made considerable gains in traffic and visibility in 2005, as did Latino Pundit, Culture Kitchen, and Afro-Netizen. Better yet, they’re forging networks and alliances to help each other grow. There is no doubt the membership of the blogosphere is changing, and will look very different five years from now. “We’re just a step behind, just like any other area,” says Pandagon’s Amanda Marcotte. But while the growth of the blogosphere may increase the actual traffic to a greater number of blogs, it also makes visibility far more scarce and precious for each new blogger. As one of the top women bloggers, Chris Nolan, noted on the PressThink blog, “The barrier to entry in this new business isn’t getting published; anyone can do that. The barrier to entry is finding an audience.” Elite bloggers can play a key role in generating that audience. As Marcotte points out, “A lot more women are moving up in the Technorati rankings” (Technorati is a search engine for the blogosphere) because A-listers like Duncan Black and Kevin Drum in 2005 made it a priority to promote female bloggers. But when someone like Moulitsas decides to stop linking to other blogs—as he has

recently done because he doesn’t want to play “gatekeeper”—or when top bloggers repeatedly cite their fellow A-listers, it has enormous consequences. “It’s pretty darn hard today to break in to the A-list if the other A-listers aren’t linking to you,” says Global Voices co-founder Rebecca MacKinnon. If blogs derive their credibility from being the “voice of the people,” surely we should be concerned about which opinions get attention over others. The question of representation affects not just who is blogging—and with great success—but also the audience of these blogs. What kind of democratic consensus does the blogosphere reflect when the people participating in it are most likely to be white, well-educated men? Yet when it comes to issues of diversity, A-list bloggers like Moulitsas and Stoller can get defensive, and at times, dismissive. “Take a look at what you have today. Take a look at the folks who’re leading the party, dominating the media, or even within corporations. Do you think the top ranks of any of those institutions is any more representative?” responds Stoller, his voice rising in indignation. Where Stoller openly acknowledges the problem—describing blogs in one of his posts as “a new national town square for the white progressive base of the Democratic party”—and the need to take steps to tackle the disparity, Moulitsas is less generous. In his view, it’s simply absurd to demand what he sarcastically describes as an “affirmative action of ideas” within an inherently meritocratic medium such as the blogosphere: “I don’t see how you can say, ‘Well, let’s give more voice to African American lesbians.’ Create a blog. If there’s an audience, great. If there isn’t, not so great.” Besides, he suggests, if a Salvadoran war refugee—in his words, a “political nobody”—like him can make it on the Internet, there’s nothing stopping anyone else from doing the same. As for the relative paucity of top female progressive bloggers, Moulitsas is indifferent: “I haven’t given it a lot of thought. I find it totally uninteresting. What I’m interested in is winning elections, and I don’t give a shit what you look like.” It’s an odd and somewhat disingenuous response from an advocate of blogging as the ultimate tool of democratic participation. Keith Jenkins, who authors Good Reputation Sleeping and works a day job as the picture editor at the Washington Post, says the low barriers to entry do not in themselves offer a sufficient guarantee of equal participation. “It’s less about actively stopping and standing in the way and more about affirmatively enabling access, which was the underlying argument of civil rights movements and freedom movements across the board,” he says. “It’s about affirmatively making it possible for everybody to have a seat at the table, which benefits not only the people who are sitting down, but also the people who are already seated.” “We need to be encouraging a more diverse group of people to blog,” agrees Global

Voices’ MacKinnon. “But we also need to be linking to them and giving them traffic so that they have a chance to make it to the A-list.” While the organic growth of the blogosphere may resolve issues of race and gender over time, it will do little to address its overwhelming bias toward urban professionals. And that can’t be good news for a party that is already being punished at the polls for its weak connection to working-class Americans. “For me the greatest problem is low-income people,” Cornfield says. “The irony is that it’s not because they don’t have money to get a laptop—especially with the $100 laptop now. It’s that people who are poor don’t have the civic skill sets and motivation to go online and do these sorts of things. That will take a concerted effort.” At a time when the visible digital divide may be shrinking as increasing numbers of Americans come online, it may be replaced by an invisible version that benefits those who are well-educated, well-connected and organized. Stoller does not think that it’s important for blogs to reach a less-affluent audience: “Not everybody has to be part of that conversation. If someone wants to have access to those discussions, they should be able to do that. But for the most part, people—like that person working two shifts—will go on with their lives knowing that good people are making good decisions and policies on their behalf.” Bloggers like Moulitsas—who is equally unconcerned that his blog will never reach “someone working at the DMV”—are likely betting that the cadre of activists they reach will be able to form connections across those differences within their community. Perhaps sites like will prove them to be right if it manages to mobilize a constituency—e.g. rural voters—that is least likely to be wired, and in a region where the party’s on-the-ground resources are weak. But any such strategy is unlikely to work if those in charge of crafting it—be they bloggers, politicians or so-called netizens—show little interest in expanding the reach of the progressive blogosphere to include the largest, most diverse audience possible. If the blogs are unable to bridge the class divide online, there is no reason to think they can create a grassroots movement that can do so in the real world. “If you do make an active effort, it is easier to accomplish through the Internet than through pretty much any other medium including direct mail,” Cornfield says. “But it will not happen on its own. It has to be a concerted effort.” Social movements are built by people not ghosts in some virtual machine. The Washington Monthly profile of Moulitsas included a revealing quote, in which he expressed disappointment at not being able to fulfill his dream of making it big in the tech industry back in 1998: “Maybe at some time, Silicon Valley really was this democratic ideal where the guy with the best idea made a

billion dollars, but by the time I got there at least, it was just like anything else—a bunch of rich kids who knew each other running around and it all depended on who you knew.” The danger is that many may come to feel the same way about the blogosphere in the coming years.

The Nation November 10, 2005 The World According to Dowd By Katha Pollitt Maureen Dowd doesn't read my column. I know this because in her new book, Are Men Necessary?, she uncritically cites virtually every fear-mongering, backlash-promoting study, survey, article and book I've debunked in this space. She falls for that 1986 Harvard-Yale study comparing women's chances of marrying after 40 to the likelihood of being killed by a terrorist, and for the halfbaked theories of Sylvia Ann Hewlett (ambitious women stay single or childless), Lisa Belkin (mothers give up their careers), Louise Story (even undergraduates understand this now) and other purveyors of the view that achievement and romance/family are incompatible for women. To be fair, Dowd apparently doesn't read Susan Faludi or Susan Douglas either, or The American Prospect, Slate, Salon or even The New Republic, home of her friend Leon Wieseltier, much thanked for editorial help in her introduction--all of which have published persuasive critiques of these and other contributions to backlash lit. Still, it hurts. I read her, after all. We all do. Are Men Necessary? is a Feminism Is Dead polemic, put through a Dowdian styleblender. Like her New York Times column, it's funny and free-associative and not afraid of self-contradiction, full of one-liners and puns: Women who let men grab the check are "fem-freeloading" a "quid profiterole" (ouch). Like her column, too, it's heavy on media fluff: silly trend stories, women's magazine features and interviews with editors of same, dubious gender-difference studies. It's annoying to read pronouncements about feminism based mostly on chats with her friends in the media about men, clothes, TV shows and Botox. Why not call up some people who actually do feminist work? Dowd sees young women dashing back to the 1950s as fast as their Manolos will carry them: making a bestseller of The Rules, changing their names when they marry, obsessing about their looks. There were moments when I felt Dowd and I live on different planets--is pay inequity really now dismissively referred to as "girl money"? Are young women in search of boyfriends really "cultivating the venerable tricks of the trade: an absurdly charming little laugh, a pert toss of the head, an air of saucy triumph"? The young women I know--most of whom, contrary to stereotype, have no problem calling themselves feminists--are so far ahead of where I was at their age, so much more confident and multicompetent and worldly-wise, I only wish I could hire one to renegotiate my girl-money salary for me. But glamorous gams, trademark dyed red hair and all, Dowd at least gets it that the problem today isn't that old-school feminists once frowned on Barbie. She doesn't applaud today's retro/raunch gender politics as the return of sanity and fun. And it's hard to deny that there's a reality out there of which she gives a

slapdash, cartoon, Style-section version. There is some truth to Dowd's horrified depiction of the hypersexualized culture of "hotness" vividly described in Ariel Levy's much-discussed polemic Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. (Dowd mentions a piece by Levy in her book; Levy's lovestruck profile of Dowd--it mentions that red hair nine times!--made the cover of New York.) Eating disorders, breast implants, stripper chic, Queen for a Day weddings, the resurgence of "girl" and "chick"--it's not a happy story. But these troubling cultural trends aren't the whole story either. How many young women flash their breasts for the camera or flog themselves academically all the way to the Ivy League merely to snag a rich husband? More than minor in women's studies, volunteer for rape-crisis hotlines, have black belts in karate or PhDs in physics or raise Macedonian sheepdogs? Do we know that more women want the man to pay the bill than want to share it or, if that's too mechanical, work out some other arrangement that feels equal? It's a myth that my generation and Dowd's were a unified band of sisters, forging ahead in our sneakers and power suits. By many measures young women today are far more independent than we were--more likely to finish college and have advanced degrees, to work in formerly all-male occupations, to have (or acknowledge having) lesbian sex, to refuse to suffer in silence rape, harassment, abuse. If we're going by anecdotal evidence from our circles of friends, I know young women who've made the finals in the Intel science contest and worked on newspapers in Africa, who've had sperm-bank babies alone or with other women, who play rugby, make movies, write feminist/political/literary blogs, organize unions, raise money for poor women's abortions. "You're always so glass-half-full in public," my editor says at this point. "But in private you're as down as Dowd." Well, not quite that down. But yes, I thought we'd be further along by now. I feel for young women today--somehow, between the irony and the knowingness and the 24/7 bath in pop celebrity culture and its repulsive values, it can be harder for them than it was for us to call a sexist spade a spade. They've been bombarded from birth with consumerism and Republicanism and hyperindividualism, and told in every possible way that feminism is deeply uncool and unhot. Dowd is such a credulous audience for backlash propaganda it doesn't occur to her that she is promoting, not reporting, the problem she describes. I'm amazed, actually, that feminism is still around, given the press it gets. Dowd, for example, thinks feminism may be a "cruel hoax" because it keeps women single--men are scared of spunky, successful women. (In interviews Dowd denies she's attributing her own unmated state to her fame and fabulousness, but that's how she's been read.) Well, some men definitely want the young compliant type. But--anecdotal evidence again--most women in my circle are paired, and we are all feminists and really, really great. Men hold a lot of cards in the mating game, but fewer than they used to, and women hold more than before. There has never been a better time in all world history to be a 53-year-old single

woman looking for romance. Besides, as ferocious young Jessica Valenti put it over at, "Feminism isn't a f***ing dating service." Out of the mouths of babes.

The Guardian (London) September 29, 2005 SECTION: Guardian International Pages, Pg. 17 Screen test for America's first woman president: Republicans say TV drama is ad for Hillary Clinton: US faces possibility of all-female election By Gary Younge, New York Struck down unexpectedly by an aneurysm, the president of the US is dying. His female vice-president is under pressure to resign and make way for a more rightwing man who the world would take more seriously. Even as her communications director writes her resignation speech, one of her male aides begs her to reconsider. "A female president," he says. "Can't you smell the history?" It's fiction. But Tuesday night's television series premiere, Commander-in-Chief, starring Geena Davis, has sparked debate about whether and indeed when a woman could take over the White House. It couldn't come at a more prescient time. A poll this month revealed that 79% of Americans would be comfortable with a woman president. Next month sees the release of two books on the subject. University of Southern California law professor, Susan Estrich, has written The Case for Hillary Clinton which, according to one published synopsis, argues that the New York senator "offers the Democrats a once-in-a-lifetime chance to break the White House glass ceiling and be the first party to elect a female president." Meanwhile, Bill Clinton's former strategist, Dick Morris, is publishing a book, Condi v Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race, raising the possibility of an woman race between Ms Clinton and the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. The White House Project, a nonpartisan group pushing for more women in leadership positions, organised viewing parties around the country for Tuesday's Commander-in-Chief show. "You can't be what you can't see," Marie Wilson, the president of the Project, told the Los Angeles Times. "In this country, you could never see a woman president. In this show, Geena Davis is playing a very rich role as president - and then you start to shape public perception that she can do it." The show, which has been greeted with mostly favourable reviews, is more than just the West Wing with a Y chromosome. Davis's character, Mackenzie Allen, is an independent vice-president in a Republican administration. The president's dying wish is that she resigns to make way for his ideological soulmate, House

speaker Nathan Templeton (played by Donald Sutherland). She is told that the leaders of the Arab world would not take her seriously. Allen discusses her options with her children before making up her mind to resign, but then changes it again after Templeton derides her appointment as "a pure stunt". "This is not the time for social advances for social advances' sake," he says. One of the principal issues is whether a woman would have the mettle to run the armed forces. "There's that whole once-a-month, 'will she or won't she push the button' thing," says Allen, deriding fears that she is not up to the job. Her first act as president is to rescue a woman threatened with being stoned to death for adultery in Nigeria. As she heads to Congress for her first address, her youngest daughter spills grape juice over her blouse, forcing her to improvise and wear a scarf to cover up the stain. Her husband, continually referred to as "the first lady", is fired as her chief-ofstaff because she fears it will look as if he is running the show behind the scenes. Describing the special screening in Caroline's Comedy Club on a young feminist website,, a correspondent wrote: "I was more emotional over it than I wanted to be . . . What was a little disappointing - but predictable - was that pretty much everyone at the event was over 40. "It's the first time popular culture has said a woman can be in the Oval Office," Donna Good, who planned a 200-strong get-together in Boston to watch the premiere, told the Village Voice. The US ranks 63rd in the representation of women in parliament - below Bolivia and the Philippines but above France and Italy. Women comprise 66 of the 435 members of Congress, 14 of the 100 senators and eight of the 50 governors. According to a 2001 study by the White House Project, men outnumber women as guests on the Sunday morning political talk shows by nine to one - a ratio that has widened since September 11. In 1988, Democratic presidential hope ful Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro to be his running mate - the closest any woman has come to taking either of the country's two top jobs. With polls showing Ms Clinton to be the most favoured Democrat to run in 2008, the right have branded the show an "infomercial" for her campaign. This claim is bolstered by the fact Mr Clinton's former deputy communications director, Steve Cohen, is one of its writers. "The opening salvo of Commander-in-Chief is a guilt trip for all those Americans who thought an unelected (and then-unelectable) feminist extremist should

refrain from imposing her will upon the nation," writes Ben Johnson on For once, those who hate Ms Clinton and those who love her have found common ground. "Hillary must have friends at ABC," said Bob Kunst, of, a grassroots effort to "draft" Ms Clinton to stand as the next president. "This is just too much of a coincidence," he added.

National Review August 30, 2005, Tuesday SECTION: National Review Online Low-IQ Debate By Carrie Lukas The battle of the sexes is back. According to a study set for release in The British Journal of Psychology this fall, men's IQs exceed women's by an average of five points. The disparity is more pronounced at higher levels, with three men for every woman scoring above 130 and more than five men per woman above 145 IQ. As you might expect, the study is being derided as sexist and dismissed as an inappropriate line of inquiry. Jessica Valenti, executive editor of the popular feminist blog "Feministing," wrote: "Excuse me if I don't take this very seriously... You can't define intelligence by a test. Especially when factors like sex, class and race discrimination aren't taken into account." Another blogger similarly discounted measuring intelligence as "a pointless exercise" and implored that we ought to focus on "our similarities rather than our differences." Even one of the study's authors, Paul Irwing, is uncomfortable with his politically incorrect findings: "For personal reasons I would like to believe that men and women are equal, and broadly that's true... I have been dragged in a direction that I don't particularly like, but it would be sensible if the debate was based on what we pretty much know to be the case." Women should feel insulted by this debate. Not because of the study's findings, but because of the reaction to the study, which assumes women are too delicate to hear anything questioning the superiority of their sex. Tony Halpin, education editor for The Times of London, leads his article entitled "Is This A Clever Thing To Say About Women's IQ?" with the assertion, "Half the population will dismiss this story, but a study claims that the cleverest people are much more likely to be men than women." In other words, half the population--presumably the female half--will reject this scientific analysis automatically because it doesn't coalesce with their worldview. This expectation may be an outcome of the controversy that erupted when Larry Summers, president of Harvard University, hypothesized that innate gender differences may contribute to the disparity between men and women in the upper echelons of science. Indeed, the so-called feminist professors attending the conference where Summers spoke swooned upon hearing his remarks; the National Organization for Women soon demanded Summers's resignation for this heresy.

Halpin's mistake is assuming that these feminist stalwarts represent women. They don't. Most women undoubtedly will keep these findings in perspective. After all, all the study suggests is that men are likely to outnumber women at the tops of certain fields that require the kind of specialized aptitudes measured by IQ tests. It says nothing about the potential or intelligence of any individual woman. The only people likely to be bothered by the study are those intent on insisting that any difference in men and women's outcomes must be the result of systemic discrimination. As Jessica Valenti wrote on Feministing, "The study's authors believe that their research shows why men outnumber women in "achieving distinctions of various kinds, such as chess grandmasters, Fields medalists for mathematics, Nobel prize-winners and the like." Of course. Here I thought that systemic sexism and discrimination were to blame for the disparity. Turns out, women are just big dummies." Women aren't big dummies, but they may on average have different capabilities and preferences than men. Similar studies have found that men are also more likely to be over-represented at the bottom of the IQ scale. This may explain why women are outperforming men in overall educational attainment. Women are more likely then men to graduate from high school, attend college, and earn a bachelor's degree and master's degree. Men, however, still obtain more PhDs than women. There are a lot of potential reasons for this. Fewer women may be willing to invest the time to earn that extra credential, especially since people generally begin pursuing a PhD in their mid-twenties, when many women may want to start a family and spend more time with children. Innate differences could play a role. So could sexism. It's preposterous to assume, however, that the only explanation for differences between men and women is discrimination, and to try to shield women from evidence that suggests otherwise. We need an honest dialogue about the various factors that contribute to men and women's different life outcomes. The inane assumption that women must be offended by such a dialogue is the real sexism. August 26, 2005 Friday SECTION: Feature The comeback By Rebecca Traister This summer, the reproductive rights movement has resembled nothing so much as an underdog prizefighter come out of retirement: They've been up! They've been down! They seem to be getting up again! They certainly came out swinging, making noise, getting people to talk about squeaky-clean conservative Judge John Roberts' record. But then they took a monster right (and left) hook after a sensational anti-Roberts ad produced by NARAL flopped like a dead mackerel. Even some pro-choice Democrats told them to shut up already with their single-issue alarmism. In the wake of the fury over the NARAL ad, which imprecisely stated that Roberts' political ideology "leads him to excuse violence against other Americans," it looked like the women's groups had indeed clammed up. But this past week there have been signs of life. As other progressive groups abandon their "wait and see" attitudes and start to come out against Roberts, the voices of reproductive freedom are again some of the loudest in the national debate, and their project seems to be once again building momentum. Roberts is still expected to gain full Senate confirmation, but even moderate Democrats like Dianne Feinstein, once sanguine about the nomination, are starting to express doubts. Some of the pro-choice groups may even be fighting the urge to say, "We told you so." What happened? In a nutshell, Roberts' record happened. The release of documents from the Ronald Reagan library have shed light on Roberts' time as associate counsel to Reagan and as deputy solicitor general under Kenneth Starr during the Reagan and first Bush administrations. We've now been able to read Roberts' writings on the subject of equal pay for women for jobs of "comparable value," which he called in a 1984 memo "a radical redistributive concept." There is his repeated use of the term "so-called" with regard to the right to privacy. He also writes of the "purported gender gap," and "perceived problems of gender discrimination." In the early 1990s, Roberts voluntarily argued for the government in front of the Supreme Court on the side of abortion clinic protesters in the Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic case. And in a 1985 memo he made a crack about housewives becoming lawyers that may have been a housewife joke, or may have been a lawyer joke, but either way was not a kneeslapper. Before the Roberts record began to embolden progressives to take a strong stand against the nominee, some pro-choice groups were alone in fiercely opposing him, and NARAL's stumble earned them the back of the hand from some (mostly

male) Democrats. The popular blogger Daily Kos (Markos Moulitsas Zuniga) enraged feminist bloggers like Jessica Valenti (Feministing) and Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon) when he blogged, in the midst of the NARAL fuss, not about the ad, but about his frustrations with NARAL's "single issue" politics, and their single-minded devotion to what he called a "pet cause." The dust-up exposed an ever-deepening fracture in the Democratic Party over how important abortion rights should be. It's come up in the debate over the Senate candidacy of Pennsylvania state treasurer Bob Casey Jr., who some Democrats think would be the strongest opponent to conservative Sen. Rick Santorum, even though Casey is anti-abortion. It's also emerged in a smallerarena quarrel between Frances Kissling of Catholics for Free Choice and the Democrats' new religious guru Jim Wallis of Sojourners, especially after Wallis endorsed some limits on abortion in a recent New York Times Op-Ed. The new comity over the Roberts nomination in progressive circles, and the growing consensus about opposing him, may demonstrate that liberals can fight these battles and still emerge united. That's good, because these battles are not going away. Women's groups and other progressive legal advocates have been gearing up for a fight over a new Supreme Court nominee since the last Bush term. But a loose coalition of women's organizations went into overdrive when, instead of the expected announcement that Chief Justice William Rehnquist would retire at the end of this session, we learned on July 1 that Sandra Day O'Connor would be stepping down. "That was a pivotal moment because she was the swing vote," said Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Not on Roe per se, but on keeping Roe solid without it being slowly eviscerated. So we have cared very deeply about who replaces her." A couple of weeks of speculation -- with hopeful guesses that Bush might pick a woman, a minority or a moderate as an olive branch to those fuming over the Rove-Plame leak -- finally ended with the announcement on the evening of Tuesday, July 19, that conservative white-guy John Roberts would be the nominee. The reproductive rights institutions were ready to move. Groups like the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Feminist Majority, the National Abortion Federation, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health were quick to voice their opposition to Roberts. They planned rallies, press conferences and call-in days, and urged their constituents to voice their concerns over Roberts to their senators. At 9 on the morning of the 20th, an e-mail went out from NARAL Pro-Choice

New York announcing a "Rally to Save the Court" that afternoon. "This is it," read the e-mail. "Judge John Roberts Jr. has been nominated by President Bush ... His nomination to the courts will be putting a woman's right to choose in extreme jeopardy." Two days later, there was a NOW rally outside New York Gov. George Pataki's office. The press release said that speakers would urge Pataki not to veto emergency contraception legislation and "voice their opposition to President Bush's anti-choice Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts." The rallies weren't huge. But they'd happened fast, and the early days of debate about Roberts seemed to buzz with an urgent energy and snap that had been notably absent on the left. Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL, agreed that the speed of initial reaction was a sign of strength and agility, even in the first days, when we had little information about Roberts other than his reputation as a super-nice conservative guy. "The message that had to be sent was, 'Please don't rush to judgment here,'" said Michelman. "We had to act immediately and alert Americans that even given all the praise for Judge Roberts' integrity and his personal character, there are also his views and his work and they raise concerns." The earliest concerns about Roberts' available record were raised over his coauthorship of a brief as deputy solicitor general in the 1991 Rust v. Sullivan case that prohibited federally aided domestic family-planning programs from giving abortion-related counseling. In his brief, Roberts had argued that we "continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled ... The Court's conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion ... finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution." There was also the revelation that Roberts' wife had a strong connection to a group called Feminists for Life, a fact that should have no impact on his suitability for the court, but which set off alarm bells for reproductive rights activists. Still, Roberts was something of a cipher, and reactions to his nomination from moderate Democrats were not negative. The Democratic divide over Roberts was best symbolized in the different reactions from California's two female senators. Barbara Boxer immediately voiced suspicions about Roberts, while her colleague Dianne Feinstein shrugged off his nomination. "Do I believe this is a filibuster-able nominee? The answer would be no, not at this time I don't," said Feinstein, an abortion-rights supporter and member of the Judiciary Committee. The rift between these two women seemed to demonstrate the growing divide between those on the left for whom reproductive rights are the litmus test for a court nominee, and those who might be prepared to take a gamble on them. Elsewhere, Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada (who is not pro-choice) said that he "would not prejudge this nomination." In New York, Sen. Charles Schumer was publicly skeptical about the judge while Sen. Hillary Clinton remained mum. Even some major progressive groups like People for the

American Way and the Alliance for Justice withheld judgment. They were joined by Planned Parenthood, one of the only major reproductive health groups to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. PPFA president Karen Pearl explained her organization's forbearance by phone, saying that it was initially difficult to tell from Roberts' records whether his own ideology, or that of his employers', was on display. "When people write materials for their boss they are being good staff people and not necessarily showing their own beliefs," said Pearl. Most of the groups who chose not to oppose Roberts openly argued, like Pearl, that it was the responsibility of progressives to weigh the facts before making measured arguments that would stand up under scrutiny. There was also, it seemed, a waiting period during which some organizations weighed the costs of fighting what could very well be a losing battle: Did they want to spend energy and money fighting a candidate who would probably wind up appointed to the court? Frances Kissling, head of Catholics for Free Choice, said, "It's a real problem in advocacy work: It is so very important and yet so clear that you are unlikely to prevail. How to position yourself is very hard." But at least one of the major reproductive rights advocacy groups had some very strong ideas about how to position themselves. Two weeks after the nomination, NARAL, the leader of the anti-Roberts pack, produced its gruesome 30-second television spot showing a Birmingham clinic bombed in 1998. The unsubtle message of the ad was that Roberts' arguments in the 1991 Bray case were in fact arguments on behalf of clinic bombers. A voice-over urged viewers to call their senators and tell them to oppose Roberts because "we can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans." The ad could not have been considered measured. The Birmingham clinic had been bombed seven years after Roberts' briefs in Bray; his argument was not in support of bombers, but about the interpretation of a federal law that prevented protesters from blocking access to abortion clinics. The NARAL message was manipulated and imprecise in a way that was reminiscent of the Swift Boat Veterans ad that had brutally wounded John Kerry's 2004 campaign. But where the right had been recalcitrant in its denunciation of its own alarmist propaganda, the left (and center) did not waste any time in condemning NARAL. Independent watchdog branded the ad "false," while Bill Clinton's former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger III called it "unfair." Pro-choice Republican and Senate Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter wrote NARAL president Nancy Keenan a letter calling the ad "blatantly untrue" and asking her to pull it. Even Karen Finney, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, said, "We would have done the ad differently."

NARAL pulled the ad. Soon after came the announcement that the organization and its communications director, David Seldin, would be parting ways. NARAL was in big trouble. David Garrow, legal historian and author of "Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe V. Wade," said that given that Roberts is likely to be confirmed, "the most significant upshot of this whole nomination and confirmation process may be how serious a self-inflicted wound NARAL has suffered." He continued, "Many committed and experienced pro-choicers were outraged by the NARAL ad: Fran [Kissling], Walter [Dellinger], me, and plenty of others. My fear is that the depth of the reputational damage is such that it could not be cured by [NARAL president] Nancy Keenan's resignation or firing." NARAL did not return calls for comment on this story. Kate Michelman, who stepped down last year after nearly 20 years as NARAL's president, would not comment on the ad except to say that "NARAL did the right thing in removing" it. "When you engage in a strategy and you realize that the strategy is not accomplishing your mission, you change strategies," she said. However, NARAL's whopper of a strategical error didn't just imperil the group's own mission, but the position of other pro-choice advocates and women's groups. Tripping over themselves to criticize NARAL, moderates and progressives who were perhaps frustrated with the tactics of reproductive rights groups in general now had an excuse and an opportunity to vent their spleen. In the Times, columnist John Tierney wrote a piece titled "Pro-Choice but AntiNaral," in which he railed against the organization's commitment to making abortion a civil rights issue. "The tactic makes for displays of solidarity like the March for Women's Lives, an occasion for denouncing male anti-abortion politicians and waving signs with that perennial slogan 'If men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament,'" he wrote. It was clear that Tierney was not simply angry about the ad, but about his perceptions of the women's rights movement as loud and emasculating; he painted them as damaging the greater good. Nowhere was the desire to kick NARAL and its sisters while they were down clearer than on the increasingly heated, and male dominated, political blogosphere, where popular lefty blogger DailyKos used the ad dust-up as an excuse to vent his larger frustrations with NARAL for endorsing politicians solely because of their stands on abortion rights. "Until NARAL (and the rest of the single-issue groups) understand that building a movement is more beneficial to their causes than singular devotion to their pet causes, I can't take them seriously," he wrote on Aug. 9, the day after NARAL released its ad. Referring to reproductive rights as a "single issue" and a "pet cause" did not go over well with some of Kos' peers, including Jessica Valenti of Feministing. "I

think that that attitude about reproductive rights groups has been the case for a long time," Valenti said by phone. "You would think they would feel shameful of being completely flat-out dismissive of women's rights, but they have no shame." Valenti said she was depressed about the rancor toward women's issues she felt coming from the broader left. "You feel like at the end of the day these [fellow progressives] are on your side at least. Then it turns out at the end of the day they're going to be like, 'Oh, fuck abortion.'" Reached for comment about his remarks, Kos' Markos Moulitsas Zuniga was clear that he never weighed in on the ad itself. His beef with what he calls "single-issue groups" like NARAL is "with the insistence that their issue be ... the most important issue on the face of the planet. That is what's killing us." Zuniga, who said that he'd completed a chapter on the pro-choice movement for his upcoming book the night before, professed not to have much of an opinion about the NARAL ad and its aftermath. "I saw the whole controversy about it but I never paid much attention," he said, adding that "whether [the ad] was truthful or not, that's something NARAL has every right to be doing. Its mission is to protect abortion rights and the Supreme Court is the front line." But he said that mostly, the kerfuffle had provided him with "a segue into my other rant." That was precisely the problem. In taking such a major fall, NARAL had revealed a weak spot that could be exploited by opponents and critics from every edge of the political spectrum. "Coming out against NARAL so strongly was completely out of hand," said Amanda Marcotte, a blogger from Austin, Texas, who maintains the Pandagon site. "It spoke to me of a certain willingness on the part of certain so-called moderate liberals, left of center, all men, their willingness to throw out women's rights if they could win an election by doing that. They'd use the word 'compromise,' of course." Afraid that reporters would ask them about the touchy subject of the ad, movement leaders seemed reluctant to keep up their high-volume questions about Roberts. And the unspoken message coming from the critical left was that women should stifle it for a while. "It put a damper on the debate," said Kissling. PPFA's Pearl saw things differently. "I didn't see that as a period of enforced silence so much as the beginning of the August recess," she said. "We never ever felt any pressure to be quiet and we haven't been." Michelman, meanwhile, agreed with Kissling, and conceded that the public whomping of her former organization had caused "a little slowdown" in the public conversation about Roberts. "But that was not a bad thing," she added. "At that moment, we needed to clear the air a little. And I think that's exactly what happened." She also pointed out that the lull "didn't last long. The information coming out now is vital. The process is unfolding in a careful way and it's very

important that we don't slow that process down now." In recent days, reproductive rights groups look to be making something of a comeback. Most sources agree that this is because of the new things we're learning about Roberts following the release of his records from the Reagan Library. Yet blogger Marcotte said she thinks the tide has turned back in part because, "On both pro and anti-NARAL sides of the left, everyone wants to see abortion stay legal. That's the weird thing. Also, [some people] sat on it and thought about it for a while and realized we were right." On Aug. 19, NOW president Kim Gandy posted a letter to constituents. "I just have to say a few words about the recent revelations of misogyny from Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts," wrote Gandy. "We've opposed his nomination from the beginning. But the recent documents ... demonstrate vividly his contempt for women and for equal treatment." Gandy, who criticized NARAL's pulling of the ad on Fox's "Hannity & Colmes," concludes her message with a triumphant, "We were right all along." Adding to the momentum this week was the news that progressive stalwart People for the American Way had decided to formally oppose Roberts' nomination. And there was the surprise assertion from Sen. Feinstein that she is concerned about Roberts' attitudes about Roe, and intends to grill him on the topic during the hearings. This news was particularly heartening to Michelman, who called the senator "a bellwether in some regard. She's very important -because of [her role on] the Senate Judiciary Committee, because she's a moderate, because she informs other people's thinking and she leads when she speaks. I think it's a regrouping right now, but there is a slow but steady growing focus on this man's record. I don't care how the other side tries to portray it. His opposition to equal pay for women and some of these other things are astonishing." Other women's rights group leaders also sounded, if not hopeful, then at least more upbeat about the growing stream of questions and concerns about the judge. Crystal Plati, head of ChoiceUSA, said that her organization has not taken a public stand against Roberts, but that "internally" they oppose the appointment. "There's more we know now about how he has taken stances that are harmful to women's civil rights and equal pay for equal work," she said. Plati also pointed out that the fact that "we are not getting the documents we need from the White House," regarding Roberts' reasons for voluntarily taking a role in the Bray case, "makes us uncomfortable." Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, said succinctly, "We opposed Roberts when he was nominated to the lower court, and we opposed him when he was nominated to the Supreme Court. Subsequently we've learned about his views on 'so-called' privacy." Saporta explained the evolution of the public discourse on Roberts this way: "He didn't have a huge judicial record and so I think some groups, although they were gravely concerned, were waiting for

some of the information that has been released in recent weeks." She said she believed that "in the next two weeks you'll see the rest of the [women's rights] community come out against him, some before the hearings and some during." "Sometimes the momentum takes a while to get going," said Saporta. "But the crescendo will build." Kissling agreed that the movement is recovering from what she called "the NARAL fiasco" and is now back on track. She said that one of the lasting lessons of the summer's rocky ride has been that advocacy groups "are going to have to make a strong, factual, intellectual case and that's how it's going to be decided." She said she thinks "groups now have a better handle on the fact that that's what they have to do, and they have more information available to them to make that case. It's not going to be easy. It's probably not going to be successful." As for her own organization, Kissling said they have not taken a public stand on Roberts. "We probably will at some point," she said, adding that she's not sure that it would matter. "We're not a big constituency-based organization. So with all humility, I don't think there's a single senator who cares whether we do or don't." Michelman offered a different summation of the ups and downs of this debate, pointing out that advocacy groups face a political landscape that has wholly mutated from the one they faced in the Bork and Scalia debates of the '80s. "This is a new political environment, and it's important to understand that it takes a bit of time to find the right footing," she said. Michelman also pointed out that several of the reproductive rights leaders -- like Nancy Keenan who replaced her only last year, and Karen Pearl, who replaced Gloria Feldt early in 2005 -- are new to the battle. "The challenge," said Michelman, "has been to get all of this organized and in sync. This is an experienced coalition in many ways, but in reproductive rights leadership, the leaders are new." Michelman said she believes that leaders are made in part by rising to difficult occasions, which is something her successor Keenan has certainly had to do this summer. "That is what new leadership must do and will do," she said. "There's no question it's had a rough start. But that doesn't mean that it won't achieve its goals over the next weeks: to educate and alert the public to the threat that, based on Judge Roberts' views, reproductive rights, among other rights, are at risk." And even Planned Parenthood, which has still not followed in the footsteps of PFAW in formally opposing Roberts, is getting more aggressive in its language about him. On a Thursday call-in press conference, Pearl opened proceedings by saying, "To give you an idea of where Planned Parenthood currently stands on the Roberts nomination, we have growing concerns as the evidence mounts that John Roberts is not someone who necessarily believes in the right to privacy or

who will necessarily protect women's health and safety." Later in the call, in answer to a direct question from another reporter about PPFA's stance, Pearl said, "He needs to clarify his record and we need to know where we stands, but we will absolutely oppose him if he is not ready to provide that clarity." As the movement regroups and regains its confidence, perhaps there will even be a new light cast on that damned ad. While it certainly has not been redeemed, on the Planned Parenthood call, Deborah Ellis, the lawyer who represented abortion providers in the Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic case, acknowledged that "some of you have heard about this case because of a NARAL ad that was aired." She continued, "I think that though the ad was misleading, that should not obscure some of the real questions that John Roberts' role in that case should raise for all of us." "I think the women's rights community has a lot at stake here," Michelman added. "We got off to a bit of rough start, but we're back on track and the whole coalition is now preparing to do this massive public education if it need be."

The Washington Post July 21, 2005 Thursday Final Edition SECTION: Style; C01 Court Nominee In the Eye of the Blogger Swarm By Howard Kurtz At 1:27 a.m. yesterday, the Guerilla Women of Tennessee weighed in on President Bush's Supreme Court nominee. "John Roberts: Married to Anti-Choice Org VP," the group's Web site blared. Another site, A Liberal Dose, asked: "Why does John G. Roberts Hate Our Soldiers?" And made no attempt at subtlety: "Why John Roberts Sucks." The lightning-quick attacks came after 50 top liberal bloggers held a 45-minute conference call Tuesday night. "On the left, we've always talked about the need to have an echo chamber," says John Aravosis, a Washington lawyer and gay rights activist who writes at "We believe the right has a whole media network, from talk radio to Fox News to Matt Drudge. The left doesn't have that because the left doesn't play well with others." This is the first Supreme Court nomination of the Internet age, meaning that liberal and conservative opinion-mongers are already blanketing cyberspace with arguments, facts, taunts, polemics, gossip and electronic links to raw data, hoping to rally the faithful and influence the mainstream media coverage. The conference call was arranged by BlogPAC, a political action committee that got some of its members on the phone with Sen. Ted Kennedy on the day that Sandra Day O'Connor announced she was leaving the court. The group has also held calls with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and the liberal organizations involved in the nomination battle, including MoveOn, Alliance for Justice, NARAL and People for the American Way. Kennedy "reached out to them directly to convey the impact that this decision will have on hundreds of millions of Americans, whose last line of defense for their freedoms and liberties is the Supreme Court," says Laura Capps, the senator's spokeswoman. Such coordination seems to defy the image of bloggers as iconoclastic lone rangers, pounding the keyboards in their bedrooms and basements without regard to interest-group politics. Bloggers, after all, come from all walks of life,

building a following on the strength of their words and ability to draw attention from other Web diarists. They have also proven to be a formidable fundraising force, raising $80,000 on Tuesday for a Democratic candidate in a special House election in Ohio. The purpose of Tuesday night's call was "to agree on where we want to work as a swarm and divide that from where we want to work individually," says Bob Brigham, a San Francisco political activist who runs BlogPAC. (Its founders include Aravosis and Markos Moulitsas, who runs the popular site Daily Kos.) A swarm, in online lingo, is when legions of bloggers jump on the same issue, as when conservative Web sites attacked Dan Rather's CBS report on President Bush's National Guard record. "We dumped a ton of opposition research on Roberts" after the call, Brigham says. The bloggers also agreed during that discussion to keep hammering on Karl Rove and the CIA leak story. On the Roberts nomination, though, not all left-wing bloggers are marching in lockstep. Moulitsas wrote that while Roberts has only two years of judicial experience, "I'm willing to hear the guy out. We're not going to get a Ginsburg, but I'd be happy with an O'Connor-style moderate conservative. For all we know (and for all the religious-right knows), Roberts might be that sort of guy." Jeralyn Merritt, a Denver defense lawyer who writes the TalkLeft blog, told readers that "it's too soon to start opposing Judge John G. Roberts. Most of us knew nothing about him. . . . I don't think it helps that liberal groups are coming out swinging so soon." Joshua Micah Marshall, who holds a doctorate in history from Brown University and recently moved from Washington to New York, launched a Supreme Court section yesterday on a spinoff of his Talking Points Memo site. The first entry was from Yale law professor Robert Gordon, who said of Roberts: "He enjoys the kind of respect Kenneth Starr had before embarking on his antiClinton crusade, as a safe, sound man, not an ideological zealot like Edith Jones or wacko like Janice Rogers Brown. These qualities are going to make Roberts's confirmation easier. They are also what make him dangerous." Marshall says liberal bloggers would probably play a bigger role in galvanizing the opposition had Bush picked a more incendiary nominee. "There will be less fireworks than there might have been if it was a more controversial person," he says. "We're trying to get people who have expertise and are interested in writing in this new medium. I have no particular expertise on jurisprudence." Conservative bloggers, of course, have been out in force as well. Forty-five minutes after Bush's announcement, National Review Editor Rich Lowry posted

this reaction: "Roberts is brilliant and solid. He has a good temperament and he's very likable. There's no downside. . . . And Bush has kept his promise to nominate someone in the mold of [Antonin] Scalia and [Clarence] Thomas." Says Glenn Reynolds, the conservative University of Tennessee law professor better known as Instapundit: "Bloggers are going to be very big on cutting through the slogans to the facts and holding people up against the statements they've made in the past. They're going to make it hard for Democrats and Republicans who took a different position on Clinton nominees than they have on Bush nominees." But there has been a lack of enthusiasm among some bloggers on the right. "As someone whose professional life has almost entirely taken place 'inside the Beltway,' Roberts has been far removed from the day-to-day concerns of 'flyover' America," wrote ". . . The nomination of Roberts serves to increase the disillusionment of these traditionalists with Bush's performance in his second term." One strength of the blogosphere -- its real-time ability to vacuum up thousands of facts -- has been on display with the Roberts nomination. posted excerpts of a 1997 court ruling in which Roberts, representing a pork producer in a clean water case, was accused of making a misleading argument, according to the Web site. The Liberal Dose site (which featured a doctored photo of Roberts making an obscene gesture) pointed to a 2004 ruling joined by Judge Roberts that threw out an award of nearly $1 billion to 17 Americans who said they were abused while imprisoned in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. Aravosis, who helped expose the X-rated past of conservative White House reporter Jeff Gannon, wasted little time. He wrote Tuesday night that Roberts "sounds like a partisan hack" and posted statements from Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the Human Rights Campaign and People for the American Way. But Aravosis sees no prospect of his blogging colleagues sticking to a set of talking points. "It's like herding cats," he says. "You can get 40 cats in a room, but you can't herd them." July 5, 2005 Tuesday SECTION: Feature The F word By Rebecca Traister A couple of years ago I interviewed a big-eyed activist-actress whose work and politics I have always admired. I asked her a question related to feminism. Her response? That she didn't like the word "feminist" and preferred "humanist." What a crock, I thought, with the same disdain I once felt for a high-school classmate who memorably piped up that though she was "totally not a feminist," she wondered if Mr. Rochester's willingness to treat Jane Eyre badly and imprison Bertha in an attic might indicate a low-level misogyny. It was a fair observation, I thought at the time. Why did she have to preface it with personal disavowal? Did she think that the expression of such a sentiment brought her close enough to a militant conception of feminism that her lissome 10th-grade body might dramatically sprout armpit hair? It's no great news that "feminism" -- the word and, by extension, the movement -has an image problem. Women of all ages and colors have, at turns, bristled at the term, embraced it, lauded it and disdained it, practically since it was coined. However, after years of soldiering on under the burden of a heavily loaded word, a new crop of progressive and politically active women are finally addressing the problem. Some are looking to reinvigorate "feminist" by laying claim to the word -- a new magazine and a recent book are both cheekily titled "The F Word" -- while others are contemplating new words and phrases to employ in the fight for women's equality. After years of quiet debate, women are tackling their own labels with the energy of a movement anxious to make itself fresh again. The debate acquired a new urgency with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's announcement on July 1 that she is retiring from the court. If Bush, as expected, nominates a judge opposed to Roe. v. Wade, women's issues will move to the center of the national stage. It's almost remarkable that "feminism" has survived as long as it has, stigmatized as it's been by a sneering right, and criticized by groups on the left for its early lack of interest in the concerns of poor and minority women. Now, as secondwave feminists look to the future and see a generation of women with a very different set of battles than their own, the question becomes: What do we do about "feminism"? Does it have anything to do with younger female activism anymore, or is it simply an Achilles' heel? Do we replace it, phase it out? Or do we embrace it with renewed vigor and a spruced-up, all-inclusive definition?

When asked to consider what other terms besides "feminist" might be useful descriptors of the movement she helps to lead, National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy laughed and said, "Nothing has really swept anyone off their feet, but 'egalitarian' is one that always comes up. There's 'humanist.' Sometimes 'womanist.'" Gandy isn't suggesting that anyone rub the word "feminism" off their bumper stickers or refrigerator magnets. But she did acknowledge that she has had informal conversations -- both with people who work at NOW and with those she meets on the road -- about agitation from some within the movement who believe it's time to retire "feminism's" number. "There's nothing inherently wrong with the word," said Gandy, invoking Dame Rebecca West's famous assertion, "I ... have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute." But, she said, we cannot pretend that "feminism" has escaped the fate of "liberalism" before it. "This is what the right-wing has done to our language," she said. "'Liberal' is a proud term. But at a certain point, it became very difficult for people to call themselves liberal. If you asked them about issues they would say, 'I'm not liberal, I'm progressive.' Excuse me, you are a liberal! But the right made that a bad word. They've done the same thing with 'feminism.'" Unsurprisingly, Gandy has had countless encounters with women and men who open up a conversation by saying, "I'm not a feminist," and then go on to espouse feminist ideals. "It's like, 'Do you have a belief in the political and social equality of women?' Yeah? Then you're a feminist," she said. Language shifts have often transformed the struggle for women's equality. Gandy recalled the way that the term "suffragists" became the diminutive, mockingly feminine "suffragettes," as though those who devoted their lives to secure the vote for women were actually a backup group for Ray Charles. Then there was the time in 1993 when the National Abortion Rights Action League changed its name to "abortion"-lite NARAL Pro-Choice America. But language has strengthened the movement as well. Gandy said that when she started at NOW in 1973, "We didn't even have a word for sexual harassment. We knew how women were treated at work and on the street, but we didn't have language for it. Domestic violence? You didn't even whisper words for that in public. Now we have women's studies. Now we have a word for everything," said Gandy. But she acknowledged, "I think that there's a new generation that's looking for a word or a term they can call their own. At some level they associate 'feminism' with their mothers. Not in a bad way, but just in a way that's not about them." It

might seem like a simple suggestion. But the hyper-sensitivity surrounding the "feminism" discussion makes it an ideological fire-starter. Weeks after my interview with Gandy, I called Feminist Majority leader Eleanor Smeal about this story. When I asked her to respond to some of the comments Gandy had made, I was apparently unclear, somehow leaving Smeal with the impression that I was reporting that Gandy wanted NOW to abandon the word "feminism." This was certainly not what I was reporting. But Smeal alerted Gandy to the possibility that my story might suggest that Gandy was rejecting the word just days before her reelection as NOW president. A very agitated Gandy called me to clarify that her comments were not reflective of any formal discussions within her organization. I assured her that I only planned to report what she had told me: that she had had discussions about the word with colleagues at NOW. She responded: "I hear people talk about it. But they don't talk about it that often. To say that 'there have been discussions within NOW' would convey a really inaccurate thing." Gandy emphasized that she can't imagine ever backing away from "feminism." But some people didn't think the notion of ditching the word was such a crazy idea at all. "I think it's very smart," said Erica Jong, whose use of explicit language in "Fear of Flying' changed the nature of American women's fiction in 1973. "The problem hasn't gone away. Women are still second-class citizens; the problem of choice is still with us -- in fact it's gotten worse. So if we need to change the name to get people involved, we should." But Jong was stumped as to what a replacement could be, and noted that "words always get degraded when associated with something progressive or something female. This is the way right-wingers capture the language, so we need to be smart." She noted the right wing's use of the term "pro-life" in the abortion debate. "If we had called ourselves pro-life -- as in we don't want women to die in illegal abortions -- we would have won on that one, but they got there first." Jong thought that dusting off our lexicon was a natural generational progression. "It's all so cyclical," she said. "Mothers push forward, daughters pull back," she said. "We have been in a period of backlash and now we're ready to push forward again." It's true that there is resistance to the feminist label from some young people. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, a Seattle-area writer and author of "The F Word: Feminism in Jeopardy -- Women, Politics, and the Future," described a poll she'd done for her book. Noting that the 300 respondents were self-selected college educated women between the ages of 18 and 34, Rowe-Finkbeiner said, "Sixtyeight percent of young women didn't want to be confined by labels, and the word 'feminism' chafed the worst." But other national polls -- including a 1984 Wall Street Journal/Gallup poll, a

1986 Newsweek/Gallup poll, and a 2003 Ms. Magazine poll -- have shown that the younger the woman, the more willing she is to identify herself as a feminist. And, sure enough, many of the young women contacted for this piece were more vociferous in their defense of the word than their elders. Melody Berger, a 25-year-old college student in Philadelphia, launched the new feminist magazine the F-Word in late May. She said she chose the name for her publication "because I was tired of tiptoeing around the word, of saying, 'Don't worry about us, we're not feminists, we're totally acceptable.'" Instead, Berger has proclaimed herself a full-blown "Howling Harpy." Berger is not alone in her affection for the word. "If I hear one more person say, 'I'm not a feminist, I'm a humanist,' I'm going to kill them," said 26-year-old Jessica Valenti, founder of "How do you possibly think you're going to talk about gender equality if there's no acknowledgment of gender?" When I told Valenti that there was even casual discussion about the future of the word, she snorted, frustrated with what she perceives as generational tension between second-wave feminists and her activist peers -- many of whom don't align themselves with feminist organizations. "When they say they're interested in pulling in young women, I understand where the sentiment is coming from because they feel like young women don't like the word, but come on. How much are we willing to give up?" Valenti acknowledged that many young women are "afraid of the word." "Part of me gets so angry at younger women who are nervous about feminism because they're afraid that boys won't like them," said Valenti. One of the reasons she started Feministing is because she wanted to meet young women and tell them, "I'm a feminist. And despite what you may think, feminism is pretty fucking cool." In addition, Valenti added, "Part of me wants to say, 'Yeah, someone's going to call you a lesbian. Someone's going to say you're a fat, ugly dyke.' Suck it up." Valenti did have a couple of non-linguistic suggestions about how to bring older and younger activists together, starting with how the older generation treats its daughters. She described meetings for young feminists where the young women talk "while famous feminists are sitting there taking notes and watching you like you're some National Geographic animals." She said that the very suggestion that "feminism" could be disposable in any way makes her feel like saying, "Hey! This is your word! You started this and I took it on. I have been working hard for you. And now you're going to just give up on it?" Erin Matson, the 25-year-old NOW chapter president in Minnesota and a member of the Young Feminist Task Force, said, "I wear the feminist label with pride and I love it. It's hard for me to imagine leaving it behind or discarding it." But Matson did recently write an article questioning the notion that feminism is

a word that can describe a single, cohesive group, "all of us with pierced lips and hairy legs and the same concerns. That's simply not true," she said. Instead of the plaintive 10th-grade cry, "I'm not a feminist, but..." Matson's piece suggested that the new disclaimer is "I am a feminist, but..." "Crystal Plati, 32-year-old executive director of Choice USA, said that at her organization, "We use [the word feminism] but we don't belabor it. We are also open to other words." She continued, "More than looking at just one word, for me it's about doing some listening for what kinds of language young women are using to define their empowerment for themselves." She also pointed out that it's not just young women who are alienated by the term. "No matter what choice we make about language," said Plati, "we need to be building toward an inclusive movement, in particular a movement that has women of color and young women in leadership. Changing the word is not enough. We need to address why it's alienating." It's an assertion familiar to women in the movement, who for years have been reminded that second-wave feminism of the 1970s did not address the concerns of women of color and women from lower economic strata. It's a concern that activist and author Rebecca Walker -- whose mother, Alice Walker, coined the term "womanist" as an inclusive alternative to "feminist" -said she's been anxious about for a long time. In an e-mail, she referred me to an interview she gave to Satya magazine in January. In the interview, Walker said that in 1992, when she co-founded Third Wave, an organization for young women activists, she worried that "the word feminist had become too divisive and culturally loaded." Walker also told Satya, "It seemed clear to me that the term had more of a repellent effect than a magnetizing one within my generation, and I did not feel the need to prove my allegiance and gratitude to the women that came before me by holding on to something that had meant so very much to them, but did not mean that much to me." In the interview, Walker continued, "The left is getting our collective ass kicked because of just this kind of romantic, na ve attachment to movement narratives and aesthetics of 20 and 30 years ago." She also pointed out that "many women of color do not feel an affinity with the term because, among other things, we know firsthand that people who call themselves feminists are not always our friends," she said. "They have not de facto done their work around race ... though [they] would become appalled if we suggested that some 'feminists' were also racist." The racial wound remains fresh for many women who spend their lives thinking about and working on issues of female empowerment. When Berger launched her F-Word site in May, she said she was surprised that some of the anti-"feminist" mail she got was from other women activists. Berger explained, "The word 'feminist' alienated a lot of political allies I wanted to be tied to," including women

of color "who told me that traditionally this word is off-putting because of the predominantly white, middle-class vibe it had." Others, she said, told her, "I hope you don't make the same kinds of mistakes your foremothers did." The result, said Berger, is that a month after her launch, "the word 'feminism' is on the site, but it's not the tag line anymore. I've toned it down a little bit." When I asked her what words could possibly replace the pesky descriptor of the movement, Berger was stumped. "I'm not such a fan of the word 'humanist,'" she said in an e-mail. "I think it's one of those 'well, duh ... who ISN'T pro-human??' kind of concepts." As for "womanist," Berger wrote, "I like that it may be more appealing to women of color ... However, I don't think feminism is just about 'women' anymore." It's these qualms, Berger said, that keep her "pretty attached to the f-word." But she conceded, "Maybe it isn't worth fighting to reclaim a word. There are much bigger things we need to be fighting for." But what if we don't need to fight to reclaim it? What if we've already begun to make it new? "Feminism is just what we determine it is," said Mandy Van Deven, 25, founder of Altar magazine, a political magazine for young women, and the director of Community Organizing for Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn, N.Y. "So if we wear makeup and call ourselves feminists then we are feminists. I see it as just a part of the evolution of political movements and the evolution of language and how people are going to identify themselves as individuals and in the scope of larger political context." Van Deven said she thinks that there are a lot while they may not like the word or embrace the movement, "are really anxious to grab the don't care, I am going to make this word work of young women out there who -the entire exclusionary history of word and claim it and say, 'No, I for me.'"

Rowe-Finkbeiner, author of the book "The F Word," said that Van Deven's attitude is typical of broader political and linguistic patterns. "In the history of social movements, many of the people who are most impacted by negative connotations of a word are the ones who take that word back," she said. RoweFinkbeiner pointed out that women have already done this with "bitch" -- as in popular "stitch and bitch" knitting circles and "bitch-n-swap" clothing swaps. It's a phenomenon similar to a gay re-appropriation of "queer," or African-American usage of "nigger." Third Wave co-founder Amy Richards said she isn't too worried about the women's movement agreeing on one word. In her work on campuses, she said the number of projects she sees young women taking on -- from prison reform to AIDS funding in Africa to living-wage fights for university staff -- is enough to satisfy her that there is tremendous life in the movement, even if no one knows what to

call it. "The thing that's different from 30 years ago is that young women are moving beyond organizing around reproductive issues and violence against women. It's not that those issues aren't relevant to them, but I think they're just tired of them." Gandy said that membership in her organization is bigger than ever. "Eighty percent of people in the United States, based on what they think now about pay equity and domestic violence, would have been considered total feminists had they felt that way 30 years ago. And the women's rights movement is living in our daughters every single day. Whether or not they consider themselves feminists." Besides, said Richards, "Whatever we'd change 'feminism' to would become a bad word too."

In These Times April 18, 2005 An Activism of One's Own By Jessica Clark FRESH FROM PARTICIPATING in a panel discussion at a Chicago screening of Chisolm '72: Unbought and Unbossed, feminist writer and organizer Amy Richards describes how she and co-author Jennifer Baumgardner arrived at the idea for their latest book. Too often, Richards explains, progressive speakers passionately outline a problem, only to resort to the "generic three" answers when asked what comes next: Call your politician, donate money and volunteer. Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism, published in January, is the result of years of fielding such questions from frustrated audience members. "The political left is at a stalled moment," Richards says, "not because there is a lack of passion and not because there is a lack of issues, but because there is a lack of ideas." The answer, Richards and Baumgardner suggest, is more localized activism, tailored to each person's circumstances and resources. "We believe that activism is by definition profound, a big deal, revolutionary," the duo writes. "However, we are challenging the notion that there is one type of person who is an activist -someone serious, rebellious, privileged and unrealistically heroic." The tone and structure of Grassroots reveal the ethos of Richards' life: that politics should emerge from and be embedded in one's everyday experiences. Drawing from the authors' own trajectories -- from young Third Wave feminist pioneers to thirty-something mothers and professionals -- Grassroots tells its story in chapters that organize activism along the life course. The narrative is peppered with anecdotes from activists who wrote in to Richards' online feminist advice column, "Ask Amy," and describes the authors' personal experiences, from meeting at Ms., to writing their last book, Manifesta, to co-founding Soapbox, a lecture agency for "speakers who speak out." The result is a bit like the conversation with Richards herself: warm, engaging and -- studded as it is with personal asides about famous feminists, East Coast colleges and friends with nannies -- more than a bit redolent of privilege. As white, educated and well-connected activists, Richards and Baumgardner have been dogged by accusations of elitism ever since Manifesta was published in 2000. Richards, whose upbringing included both stints on welfare and in private schools, candidly addresses this issue in Grassroots: "As soon as someone is successful, he or she is often accused of being too privileged to be radical. I don't fall prey to that critique anymore because I know from my own experience that I

am using what privilege I have to expand resources to others." But questions of class popped up again last July, when Richards wrote a controversial article for the New York Times Magazine detailing her decision to undergo "selective reduction," a procedure that reduces the number of fetuses that a pregnant woman is carrying -- in Richards' case, from triplets to one child. The procedure has become more common as women on fertility drugs experience potentially dangerous multiple conceptions. But Richards' reasons for her decision, based in part on fears of threatening her career and having to "start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise," struck a nerve. Anti-abortion activists demanded that the New York Times issue a correction disclosing Richards' identity as a feminist and abortion-rights advocate, and argued that the term "selective reduction" masked her choice to abort in order to support her own lifestyle. Even pro-choice advocates found Richards' ethical reasoning difficult to navigate. A blogger at wrote: "I wondered how Richards could 'get rid of two of' her pregnancies, just because she didn't 'want to' have them. And then it dawned on me. That's the entire point! What's right for another woman may not be right for me. And that's why reproductive freedom and choice are so crucial." "From the left's perspective, I wasn't sympathetic enough," says Richards. "I should have played up the fact that I was really poor, or it was medically dangerous. . . . This comes from the same movement that always argues, 'It's not just poor black women that have abortions!'" Navigating this storm, along with the challenges of raising her son, have prompted Richards' next book, currently titled Opting In: The Case for Motherhood and Feminism. Writing in reaction to another high-profile New York Times Magazine article, Lisa Belkin's "The Opt Out Revolution," Richards will explore contradictions between feminist rhetoric on mothering and activist reality. Richards' confessional brand of activism isn't for everyone, but her life remains admirably consistent with her rhetoric. As the prologue of Grassroots encouragingly concludes, "The real portrait of an activist, after all, is just a mirror."

National Review March 24, 2005, Thursday SECTION: National Review Online Ms. By Kathryn Jean Lopez The liberal website recently sent out an e-mail screaming: "Women of the World v. Bush." Another left-wing site,, has declared: "W Stands for War on Women." Can they be serious? Of course, they are. The Bush-Cheney "W is for Women" campaign gimmick during Election 2004 was derided not because it was cheesy (it was, what campaign slogan isn't?), but that the established, "sophisticated" view has been women vote left. Remember the soccer moms? Well, a few of those soccer moms became security moms in 2004 and cut 8 percentage points into the 11-point female advantage the Democrats had in the 2000 election. And the rest, as they say, is history. Yet much of the Left is still stuck with an old template. (Could they believe, like Teresa Heinz (Kerry , that two Republican brothers stole the election from the real women's choice, Kerry-Edwards?) The text of that e-mail focused on a United Nations conference on women during which the United States argued that abortion is not a fundamental human right. If the topic has anything to do with what the United Nation files under "reproductive rights" or "bioethics," the Right Is Wrong, according to the Left. At recent hearings on Capitol Hill, Marcia Carroll, a Pennsylvania mother, recounted the story of her 14-year-old daughter being pressured into an abortion by her boyfriend's family (in New Jersey, where parental notification is not required). The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, whose lead sponsor is Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida (and is supported by the White House), is just another attempt by conservatives to roll back women's rights if you talk to your friends (or the ACLU, which opposes the bill). In truth, though, it would protect that 14-year-old girl and others like her from being pressured into abortion. Where's the feminist Left's concern for these teens? The point of the bill--

prohibiting girls from being taken to neighboring states for abortions without parental consent--is not a matter of abortion per se, but of human rights and common sense. And it's not just on abortion that liberal activists shortchange women. How about on cloning, which this president wants banned? It was a left-wing gal, Judy Norsigian, who testified in Boston last month against an embryonic-stemcell bill in Massachusetts that would allow "research" or "therapeutic" cloning. In the Boston Globe, she wrote that, "There is a disturbing lack of attention to the risks to women's health posed by the advent of embryo cloning." No female George W. Bush clone, Norsigian is executive director of Our Bodies Ourselves, the Boston women's health book collective--hardly an appendage of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Even putting aside the bigger moral questions: Is cloning, in any form, in the best interest of women? Are feminists comfortable with the prospect of women becoming egg poppers for hire? All of this sounds at least as important as complaining about Kirstie Alley's Fat Actress being bad for women, which NOW's president was seen doing not long ago on International Women's Day. As the gender-gap myth has started to fade (as media and left-wing activists' templates are updated), so, slowly, alternatives to the likes of the left-leaning National Organization for Women have become more visible. Today, abortion opponents, especially prominent women among them like the group Feminists for Life and Cathy Ruse, a spokeswoman for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, talk compassionately about how "women deserve better" than abortion. And the Susan B. Anthony List, which raises money for pro-life candidates, is now on the scene, providing a counter to the powerful E.M.I.L.Y.'S List. Don't hold your breath waiting for Gloria Steinem's old rag, Ms., to do a profile admitting that W does stand for women, or profiling a gallery of conservative Americans who are defending some of the most vulnerable women. But it's a wide world out there. The Left would be wise to learn that. Lives may depend on it, never mind electoral margins.

The Dallas Morning News March 8, 2005 Tuesday KDGE spins golden oldie: misogyny By JACQUIELYNN FLOYD I missed a local radio station's announcement of the winner for its recent "Pimp My Ride" contest, so I don't know who got the big prize. It's hard to know whether to offer congratulations or to drop head in hands and heave a wretched sigh. This idiotic-sounding term - "pimp my ride" - is hip-hop patois meaning to restore or upgrade an old or unfashionable car. It's the title of one of those cable TV fixerupper shows about turning old junkers into flashy street rods. Somebody over at alternative-rock station KDGE-FM devised the hilarious notion of applying this term to women, with an online contest inviting male listeners to send in photos of their girlfriends' unsatisfactory anatomical parts. The winner would receive cosmetic surgery to upgrade her face, breasts or flabby body. In keeping with the automotive analogy, men were asked, "Does your 'ride' need a new grille, headlights and body work?" Get it? A colleague brought this piece of cultural ephemera to my attention, suggesting that I might find a wellspring of outrage therein. It came up not long after another colleague urged me to take a look at some of the cruel treatment of women described in Jose Canseco's gossipy confessional Juiced. Mr. Canseco's book, of course, is largely notorious for its accusations of widespread steroid use among popular baseball stars. Other revelations, though, include vulgar clubhouse descriptions of the women they utilize for casual sex: "road beef" for women they meet while traveling, and the grotesque tradition of sleeping with ugly or unattractive women - "slump busters" - as a superstitious curative to improve poor athletic performance. "Players who are struggling start talking about how they need to go out and find something to break their slump," Mr. Canseco writes. "And often enough it comes out something like this: 'Oh my God, I'm 0-for-20. I'm going to get the ugliest girl I can find and have sex with her.'" The deliberate cruelty inherent in both of these cases is deeply disheartening. They make me wonder why people find cause for celebration in their own shallowness, and why some adults never outgrow the schoolyard impulse to bully and ridicule the weak, the pitiful and the uncool. At least the radio promotion and the ballplayers' alleged foibles met with some - if

not much - well-earned criticism. "Even some men I know felt awful for the unwitting slump busters who would now read Juiced and realize that the best night of their lives was actually the worst," writes columnist Maureen Dowd in The New York Times. "At the dawn of feminism, there was an assumption that women would not be as severely judged on their looks in ensuing years. Phooey." And a feminist Web site blasted KDGE for its "pimp" contest: "A Texas radio station has taken the [expletive I wish we could print] cake on gross misogynist behavior," warned last week, urging readers to e-mail the station with their objections. As for me, well, I wasn't able to work up a full boiler of feminist outrage. The best I could muster was a sad sigh and a snort of bitter contempt. Maybe it's because in both cases, the so-called victims were willing participants in their own humiliation. The radio station ran photographs of its finalists, showing women with entirely normal bodies, dressed in bathing suits and bemoaning their own physical "defects." One was a future bride hoping for breast implants to "fill out her wedding dress." Another was a woman who bemoaned that she "used to be hot." As for the baseball players - well, if there weren't women, either plain as pie or drop-dead gorgeous, willing to spend the night with strange, albeit famous, men, there wouldn't be any "road beef" at all. In either case, I'm a little reminded of a stock cliché from old Westerns: The aged town drunk stumbles into the saloon to panhandle a drink, and the cowpokes and gamblers inside order him to perform a tuneless, shuffling dance as the price of a shot of whiskey. Their treatment is cruel, but his self-respect is in such ruins that he's a willing agent of their cruelty. I wish I could have had a before-the-fact sit-down with all those star-struck baseball fans and those hopeful "pimp" contestants and said, "Honey, you need to think this through." It probably wouldn't have done any good. It's tough to swim against the tide of popular culture, to resist doing what seems fun and cool at the moment. In the meantime, I'll save my deepest feminist outrage for those women who are raped, injured or killed, or who are left to fend for themselves and their children by deadbeat husbands or boyfriends. For the willing victims, I'm just sad.

Ottawa Sun SECTION: LIFESTYLE; Pg. L30From Here WORD CROSSES THE PANTY LINE BY ANN MARIE MCQUEEN I've been called the "C" word just once that I can remember. I was a teenager, and had my parents' car towed by one of those operations that hooks a vehicle up and waits until the meter expires. Down at headquarters, armed with a directive from a friend's lawyer father not to pay their $100 fee to retrieve it, the owner of the towing company called me the "C" word. It felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. When I told my father, a man not known for fighting my battles, he was so angry he phoned up the owner and let loose some pretty choice words of his own. And I've only used the "C" word once, at the start of my career, to describe the most hateful, two-faced creature I have ever encountered. Things started changing a couple of years ago, when I covered a workshop aimed at helping people with their "erotic talk." The leader encouraged us to practise saying so-called "dirty" words, including the one starting with "C" when we were alone -- say while washing the dishes -- to take some of the fear out of them. It sort of worked. I mean, I'm not running out to buy an "I Love My C---" T-shirt -- it's 2004, you can buy one online -- or dropping it into everyday conversation, but for me, it had been dramatically defused. I'd become almost indifferent. Until last week, when senior editors at the Chicago Tribune were so freaked out by a pending story on the word's growing popularity they rushed down to the printing press and spent five hours personally removing hundreds of thousands of WomenNews sections out of the next day's paper. According to rival SunTimes, some of the masthead left with their hands blackened by ink. A pair of cheeky Chicago Newcity writers soon dubbed the scandal "C-nt-gate." The story, which still snuck in to a few editions and was cleverly titled "You c-nt say that (or can you?)," apparently quoted academics, cultural commentators and everyday women about the word. The writer used rhymes to avoid mentioning it. Even keeping in mind the Tribune is a conservative paper which recently backed President George W. Bush, and that the U.S. as a country seriously

wigged out at a half-second flash of a black woman's nipple and just elected Bush for a second term, it's still hard to imagine what all the fuss is about. It's true young feminists are trying to reclaim the word, and that itself is proving controversial. But Jessica Valenti, executive editor of website, found the Tribune fracas most perplexing considering the article only talked about it; the word itself was never used. "If you're offended by it, you're offended by it. We're not shoving it down your throat," she says. "But to be offended by the idea somehow strikes me as misogynist in its own way, because now we can't even talk about vaginas." Mainstream glossy Glamour also addressed the word in its November issue. Apparently, the mag's editors write, when Natalie Portman met Julia Roberts on the set of their new movie Closer, she gave the star a silver necklace reading "C--." Roberts returned the favour with one saying "L'il c---." 'C' THE SIGNS The short article points to a bevy of products a woman can now wear sporting the "C" word as a sign of its "trend on the street" before indicating they too object, as only a beauty mag's editors could. "We're all for free speech," they write. "But the "C" word crosses a line. A panty line. And nobody likes those." So the "C" word is more controversial than ever. But it wasn't always that way. Earlier this year the University of Colorado's president was criticized when she refused to condemn it during testimony in an alleged rape of a female football player by her teammate. When told a male football player had used it toward the female, Betsy Hoffman refused to agree with the attorney questioning her it was "filthy and vile." She said its meaning depended on how it was used, and that she'd actually heard it used as a "term of endearment." Turns out Hoffman was a medieval scholar, and was likely referring to a "C"word history dating back centuries. Indeed English poet Geoffrey Chaucer refers to a "queint" in The Canterbury Tales. It seems life for the "C" word went downhill from the 1300s, with some believing the eventual aversion to it represents aversion to women's genitals and consequently, a patriarchal problem with women in general. As Matthew Hunt has exhaustively researched in his 188-page online C---: A Cultural History, everyone from Germaine Greer to The Vagina Monologues' Eve Ensler has been working for decades to turn things around. In 1998, San

Francisco-based writer Inga Muscia even "traced the road from "honor to expletive" in a book most people have probably never heard of because it was called C---: A Declaration of Independence. RAGE, HOPE "Hidden somewhere in the English language, could there be a word with power steeped in our history, a word which truly conveyed the rage and hope of all women?" she asked. In Britain, the "C" word is little more than a coy euphemism, or slang. It has appeared hundreds of times in the Guardian, and no one even bothered to disguise it when the paper named "Selfish C---" one of the top 40 bands of 2003. I don't see that happening in North America. The words we hurl in anger have long represented the things we are most uptight about. That's why a person who finds a hefty parking ticket on their car in Ottawa might scream "f---," but across the river in Gatineau it's much more likely to be a representation of the church that's shouted: Like theFrench version of tabernacle, or chalice, sacrament or baptism. And there will always be words designed to hurt, even though it seems the goal is to eradicate them all. If there were no swear words, what would a person scream when they jam their little toe into the coffee table leg? But continuing to perpetuate the "C" word as untouchable, not just sort of like the male sexual slang women sometimes hurl at men, isn't doing anything to further our cause. After all, the black community has managed to reclaim the "n" word while keeping it off limits to whites. Valenti feels the "C" word could and should be treated the same way. The women I know, while they don't particularly want to be called the "C" word, don't seem to be as bothered about discussing it as men. And that, just like a bunch of big-city editors working feverishly into the night to remove all mention of it from their papers, I find fascinating.

IPS-Inter Press Service July 13, 2004, Tuesday LENGTH: 1137 words U.S.-RELIGION: NEW BIBLEZINE FOR YOUNG WOMEN MARKETS BELIEFS By Jennifer Friedlin for WomensEnews The attractive model striking a confident pose on the cover of Becoming magazine looks like the odd woman out next to the busty, leggy women adorning Vogue, Glamour and Cosmopolitan. She is modestly dressed in jeans and a jacket, not a centimeter of cleavage visible beneath her chartreuse blouse. Herwide grin is sweet, not sultry. Her chestnut hair and fresh complexion look natural, not store-bought. That's because Becoming isn't promoting fashion, makeup or sex tips. The glossy magazine, which hit the stands this month, has a higher calling. The so-called biblezine is meant to pull young women to Christianity by interspersing the text of all 27 books of the New Testament with short articles -about one-quarter of a page--aimed at women in their 20s and 30s. Becoming is the third biblezine published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Last year, the Nashville-based bible house issued Revolve for female teens and the first issue has so far sold 400,000 copies worldwide. The first issue of Refuel, for male teens, has so far sold 150,000 copies. All of them are scheduled to come out every 18 months. The biblezines have been an explosive success for Thomas Nelson, which typically sells only about 40,000 copies of a new edition of a bible in a year. In its first run, about 100,000 copies of Becoming -- at $ 16.99 a pop -- will be shipped. "Everything you're dealing with right now, the Bible says something about," says Laurie Whaley, brand manager for Thomas Nelson. "If you're dealing with relationship issues, abuse, self-esteem issues, we wanted to show you where in the Bible to read." While the publications offer what some see as a preferable alternative to the mass marketing of women as sexual objects, secular-world detractors find that, at best, their non-biblical content boils down to the standard preoccupations with makeup and men. "These magazines are supposed to be about something better or higher, so why

are they focusing on trivial things?" griped Jessica Valenti, founder of Feministing, a New York-based group that advocates on behalf of young women. Rape Advice Draws Criticism More pointedly, critics say the biblezines oversimplify issues in a way that is both dangerous and misogynistic. A prime example is the topic of rape. One article in the magazine gives kudos to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network as being the largest anti-sexual assault organization and for being named one of America's best charities. But in what some consider a failing to offer readers a direct connection to the services of the organization, the article does not include the network's hotline number. More worrisome to some is "Abby's Story," which offers readers the testimony of a female rape survivor, who learns to forgive--and presumably not prosecute -- her assailant. "I realized my rapist had continued to live and enjoy his life, while I was paralyzed by depression. I fell to my knees and begged Jesus to help me. I was reminded of the many times in the Bible we are told to forgive others." Valenti, who is also a volunteer rape crisis counselor, reacted negatively to the implicit recommendation for readers to follow suit. "If you've been raped you need to go to a hospital, not a church," she said. "It's not okay to tell a survivor how they should be feeling. They need to have control over their emotions." Janice Crouse, senior fellow for The Beverly LaHaye Institute, a think tank affiliated with the conservative Concerned Women for America of Washington, D.C., said that telling a rape victim to simply forgive their rapist flies in the face of 2,000 years of Christianity. "Repentance and restitution are doctrines that are just as central to Christianity as forgiveness," said Crouse. "This is very surfacey; it's not solidly grounded." She added that biblezines are "examples of marketing madness and celebrity culture gone crazy." Bible Readers Are Older In a 2004 study, the Barna Research Group, a company in Ventura, Calif., that tracks cultural trends and the Christian Church, found that only 33 percent of people 20 or younger read the Bible during a typical week, compared with 44 percent of people between the ages of 40 and 58. Whaley says that biblezines, which use the New Century Version of the Bible, a 1991 translation written at the fifth-grade reading level, aim to give younger people access to the biblical teachings that can help them with everyday issues. "It's a paradigm shift and it's a good one," said Whaley of the format and style of the biblezines. "God is all about finding us where we are." If Becoming's content is

any indication, women in their 20s and 30s are primarily concerned about relationships. Out of more than 200 brief articles, some 50 are about love, relationships and men. Other articles focus on being a good hostess, becoming involved in the community, health and beauty. There are no ads. In one brief article called "Marital Problems," Becoming cites the first book of Peter as a "mini-marriage manual" that encourages "agreement, understanding, loving, kindness, and humility; not seeking revenge, not insulting, but repaying with a blessing." While the magazine omits articles on education and career-unless "Serving God at Work" fits that category -- Whaley denies that Becoming promotes a woman-in-the-kitchen agenda. "There's no feature on career because there's not a lot of writing in the Bible that talks about career," said Whaley. As Crouse suggests, biblezines may be the latest symptom of a fad that has taken Jesus mainstream. Trendy clothing stores from New York to Los Angeles now carry T-shirts with "Jesus Loves Me" logos. Madonna and actress Pamela Anderson have been spotted wearing T-shirts proclaiming "Mary is My Homegirl." Christian rock is drawing youthful crowds at "passion concerts" and "Joan of Arcadia," a show on CBS about a high school student who talks to God, scored a People's Choice Award for best dramatic series this year. Like all fads, trend watchers say the current demand for biblically inspired clothing, magazines, music and entertainment is likely to die down. But in the meantime, the marketers are happily riding the wave. Tim Flannigan, the religion buyer for New York-based Barnes and Noble, said the biblezines' unique packaging have helped attract a whole new group of nonBible reading teen-agers. He expects Becoming to do the same for women in their 20s and 30s. "I expect it will sell well," Flannigan said.