Tag Archives: women’s rights

On the Table: Reproductive Health

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the US Health and Human Services Department just announced new guidelines requiring insurance companies to offer free birth control:

Developed by the independent Institute of Medicine, the new guidelines require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services such as well-woman visits, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, and contraception without charging a co-payment, co-insurance or a deductible.

According to the HHS Department website, the following will be included in all health insurance plans at no additional cost by August 1, 2012:

  • Well-woman visits: This would include an annual well-woman preventive care visit for adult women to obtain the recommended preventive services, and additional visits if women and their providers determine they are necessary. These visits will help women and their doctors determine what preventive services are appropriate, and set up a plan to help women get the care they need to be healthy.
  • Gestational diabetes screening: This screening is for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant, and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes. It will help improve the health of mothers and babies because women who have gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. In addition, the children of women with gestational diabetes are at significantly increased risk of being overweight and insulin-resistant throughout childhood.
  • HPV DNA testing: Women who are 30 or older will have access to high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing every three years, regardless of pap smear results.  Early screening, detection, and treatment have been shown to help reduce the prevalence of cervical cancer.
  • STI counseling, and HIV screening and counseling: Sexually-active women will have access to annual counseling on HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These sessions have been shown to reduce risky behavior in patients, yet only 28% of women aged 18 to 44 years reported that they had discussed STIs with a doctor or nurse. In addition, women are at increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. From 1999 to 2003, the CDC reported a 15% increase in AIDS cases among women, and a 1% increase among men. 
  • Contraception and contraceptive counseling: Women will have access to all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling. These recommendations do not include abortifacient drugs. Most workers in employer-sponsored plans are currently covered for contraceptives. Family planning services are an essential preventive service for women and critical to appropriately spacing and ensuring intended pregnancies, which results in improved maternal health and better birth outcomes.
  • Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling: Pregnant and postpartum women will have access to comprehensive lactation support and counseling from trained providers, as well as breastfeeding equipment. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive measures mothers can take to protect their children’s and their own health. One of the barriers for breastfeeding is the cost of purchasing or renting breast pumps and nursing related supplies.
  • Domestic violence screening: Screening and counseling for interpersonal and domestic violence should be provided for all women. An estimated 25% of women in the U.S. report being targets of intimate partner violence during their lifetimes. Screening is effective in the early detection and effectiveness of interventions to increase the safety of abused women. 

This historic victory for women’s rights (almost 4 decades after the invention of the birth control pill), came with its critics.  

Colbert comically sums up the retort to the new initiatives:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

CNN reports about the guidelines and their conservative critics:

The decision to offer contraception at no additional cost was not supported by everyone. For example, the Family Research Council claims the decision “undermines the conscience rights of many Americans.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of Committee on Pro-Life Activities with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says “pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible.” They feel the decision forces people to participate who may have moral or religious convictions that oppose contraception use.

The Obama administration released an amendment to the prevention regulation that allows religious institutions offering health insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services.

Here’s a link to the guidelines, with pdfs at the bottom.  Happy Friday!

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On the table, 7/28

Today I got to volunteer for a couple of hours at the Boys and Girls Club.  It was really awesome!  Those girls totally schooled me on playing pool!  They also, sadly, were out of ping-pong balls, so I’m going to donate some this week.  If you find yourself taking old board games to Goodwill, take them to your local youth club instead.

I have lots of stuff for you this week!  Here it goes:

Read more:

  • Christie Thompson at Ms. Blog argues that the new ads not only condescendingly argue that “strong women douche” (while adding to the tradition that vaginas are dirty), but also essentialize women by using racial stereotypes.
  • At AdWeek, Stan Richards explains Summer’s Eve’s defense: “After listening to thousands of women say they want straight-talk and lighthearted communication on a historically-uncomfortable topic, Summer’s Eve gave us license to be bold, irreverent and celebratory across a multitude of mediums and to different audiences….” [Read the rest of Tim Nudd’s article here.] 
  • Nudd later reported that in light of bad press, the company decided to pull the online videos: “Richards PR executive Stacie Barnett told Adweek that the criticism had begun to overshadow the message and goal of the larger campaign—to educate women about their anatomy and break down taboos in talking about it—and that the online videos had to go….” [Read on]

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  • Slut Walks
Slut Walk London

Read more:

  • Raymond Kwan at York Univesity’s student paper Excalibur describes how a Toronto cop told a group of college students women could deter rape by not dressing like a slut.
  • Needless to say, women have responded in droves in the form of Slut Walks – a march to decalre women’s “constitutional right to a freedom of expression and a freedom of assembly,” according to Slut Walk Toronto.com.
  • The movement has even expanded transnationally – making a profound impact in India says Nikita Garia at The Wall Street Journal.
  • Some feminists, however, have responded questionably.  Rebecca Traister at the NY Times makes a great argument: “To object to these ugly characterizations is right and righteous. But to do so while dressed in what look like sexy stewardess Halloween costumes seems less like victory than capitulation (linguistic and sartorial) to what society already expects of its young women. Scantily clad marching seems weirdly blind to the race, class and body-image issues that usually (rightly) obsess young feminists and seems inhospitable to scads of women who, for various reasons, might not feel it logical or comfortable to express their revulsion at victim-blaming by donning bustiers. So while the mission of SlutWalks is crucial, the package is confusing and leaves young feminists open to the very kinds of attacks they are battling….” [Read on]

_______________________________

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a battery of tests and evaluations to go through before it will again allow gay men to donate blood. As midsummer shortages hit the nation’s blood supply, BBJ health care reporter Julie Donnelly writes that the process should proceed expeditiously.  [Read more here.]

____________________________

See the video here, or read the transcript below.

“Every empire in history has either failed or faltered, but for some reason – be it our arrogance, our hubris, or our nationalism disguised as patriotism – we turn a blind eye to the growing chasm between the have gots and the have nots. One percent of the population owning and controlling more wealth than ninety percent of Americans, is both dangerous and unsustainable.  At the heart of the problem is political cowardice….” [Read on]

_______________________________

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Oh lawd.

For people who think we’re beyond feminism, I’ve got two women’s rights doozies this fine Monday: making miscarriages illegal in Georgia and a judge that rules that women who wear tube tops are never raped.  I’m fa real!

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Ga. Law Could Give Death Penalty for Miscarriages

 

It’s only February, but this year has been a tough one for women’s health and reproductive rights. There’s a new bill on the block that may have reached the apex (I hope) of woman-hating craziness. Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin—who last year proposed making rape and domestic violence “victims” into “accusers”—has introduced a 10-page bill that would criminalize miscarriages and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal.

Both miscarriages and abortions would be potentially punishable by death: any “prenatal murder” in the words of the bill, including “human involvement” in a miscarriage, would be a felony and carry a penalty of life in prison or death. Basically, it’s everything an “pro-life” activist could want aside from making all women who’ve had abortions wear big red “A”s on their chests.

I doubt that a bill that makes a legal medical procedure liable for the death penalty will pass. The bill, however, shows an astonishing lack of concern for women’s health and well-being. Under Rep. Franklin’s bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was “no human involvement whatsoever in the causation” of their miscarriage.

There is no clarification of what “human involvement” means, and this is hugely problematic as medical doctors do not know exactly what causes miscarriages. Miscarriages are estimated to terminate up to a quarter of all pregnancies and the Mayo Clinic says that “the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn’t developing normally.”

Holding women criminally liable for a totally natural, common biological process is cruel and non-sensical. Even more ridiculous, the bill holds women responsible for protecting their fetuses from “the moment of conception,” despite the fact that pregnancy tests aren’t accurate until at least 3 weeks after conception. Unless Franklin (who is not a health professional) invents a revolutionary intrauterine conception alarm system, it’s unclear how exactly the state of Georgia would enforce that rule other than holding all possibly-pregnant women under lock and key…

Read the rest of Phillips’ great essay at Mother Jones

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Judge Lets Off Rapist Because Victim Was Wearing a Tube Top

by Lu Fong, Good Men Project

Kenneth Rhodes, who was found guilty of raping a 26-year-old woman back in 2006, was sentenced last week to a paltry two-year conditional sentence that allows him to remain free in the community. Why? According to Judge Robert Dewar, because “sex was in the air” and the rape victim was “inviting,” hence confusing the “clumsy Don Juan.” Dewar went on to specify that because the victim and her friend had been wearing tube tops with no bra, high heels, and heavy makeup, they had “made their intentions publicly known that they wanted to party.” As he put it,

This is a different case than one where there is no perceived invitation … This is a case of misunderstood signals and inconsiderate behavior.

He went on to say Rhodes’ attorney, Derek Coggan, said that Rhodes never threatened the woman, didn’t have a weapon, and was simply “insensitive to the fact [that she] was not a willing participant.” Though Dewar was quick to note that he doesn’t blame the victim, saying that he’s “sure whatever signals were sent that sex was in the air were unintentional,” he claims that the situation was too ambiguous to determine “moral blameworthiness.” The victim—who still sports an impressive array of bruises scar from the attack—is justifiably aghast at the response:

This is beyond sexist. I don’t even know how to comment on it. No woman asks to be raped. … I’m a prisoner in my own home.

But never fear, folks, the hand of justice is kind. Judge Dewar has asked that Rhodes write his victim an “apology letter.” Because that is what will rectify the situation. 

 

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Ms. Magazine’s “No Comment” and Jean Kielborne’s “Killing Us Softly”

Every year since Ms. Magazine hit newsstands as part of the roaring Women’s Liberation Movement in 1972, the magazine has always included a “No Comment” section on its last page.  This page featured advertisements, submitted by readers, that were insulting or degrading to women, but always in the vein of political or social action.  Ms. Magazine: “Some make us roll our eyes. Others inspire us to write letters or to boycott products.”

And you know what?  Ads over the past forty years haven’t gotten all that better.  For example, here’s a classy product for suitcase stickers from July 2010:

Here’s what Stephanie Hallett from the Ms. Magazine blog had to say about this:

Identifying your ubiquitous black suitcase on a baggage carousel can be challenging, it’s true. But is it really challenging enough to warrant this violent suitcase sticker from thecheeky.com? We think not. Canadian entrepreneur Colin Hart, who runs thecheeky.com, said the stickers are meant to personalize and spice up your travel bags. His collection of large stickers features old leather luggage torn open to reveal illicit contents. What’s “inside” the bags? Stacks of cash, bags of cocaine, sex toys–and a bound-and-gagged flight attendant.

Jean Kielborne in her film series “Killing Us Softly” (now in it’s fourth edition) provides an in-depth examination of the sexual objectification and degradation of women in advertisements.  Watch a snippet from her latest, “Killing Us Softly 4” below:

So what do we do with this?  Get involved!  One privilege of living in a capitalistic consumer-driven country is the power to put our money where our mouth is.  You can submit your images to Ms. Magazine via letterstotheeditor@msmagazine.com, join this Flickr “No Comment” group or start one in another online community.  Check out some of the “No Comment” archives for inspiration here.

I’ll begin with Urban Outfitters.  Can their models get any younger or any skinnier?  Or paler?

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That’s What She Said

This blog post is in response to the Purdue Exponent’s recent “Sex Position” cartoon.  The cartoon, entitled “The Prestige,” depicted two men sexually tag-teaming a woman without consent or knowledge.  Yeah, Exponent, that’s called rape.  The public response to this has only just begun although the newspaper has yet to address the issue as of September 18.

Michaela Null, creator of the Facebook group “Tell Purdue Exponent Advocating Rape is NOT OKAY,” posted this hilarious response to a misogynistic comic.

Original:

Response:

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Missing and Murdered Native Women

Everyone loves Canada, eh?  And no one can give you any specific details about Canada other than: two Olympics were held there, in Quebec they speak French, and, that it’s known for ice wine, ice hockey, and syrup.  *Update: Michael Moore isn’t from Canada.  He’s from Flint.*

But what about their issues?  Assuredly Canada deals with similar problems of race, class, gender, etc, but you never hear about Canada, so it must be fantastic there.  Right?

I recently learned from this Rabble news article posted on Racialicious that Canada has a high rate of missing and murdered native women, totaling nearly 600 women over the past 25 years, and half since the year 2000.  And more than half of these murders remain unsolved.  WTF?

In March, the Canadian Minister of Justice budgeted $10 million over two years to address the issue, yet they haven’t decided on how the money will be spent.  Many justice organizations, including Amnesty International and Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), suggest that the $10 million is not enough to support Canadian native women and solve “the problem.”  Mainly because the problem’s too damn big.

Photographs of missing or murdered women from British Columbia are displayed during a Sisters in Spirit vigil to honour the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday October 4, 2009. Vigils were held in dozens of communities across Canada to highlight the issue of murdered Aboriginal women and girls. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

So what’s the problem?

Andre Picard from The Global and Mail states that these kidnappings and deaths are a result of sexual violence, domestic abuse, and race-based violence:

The women, most under the age of 30, are overwhelmingly victims of sexual violence. They are being preyed upon systematically by sexual sadists, killers and probably more than one serial killer.  How can this not be considered a national priority for police, justice and public-health officials?

Sadly, when a native woman is murdered or vanishes under suspicious circumstances, it does not mobilize police action nor generate near as much media attention as similar cases involving non-native women: They were drunk. They were sex workers. They came from unstable family backgrounds. They were runaways. They were party girls. An endless litany of excuses for inaction is trotted out with shocking regularity.

But it is precisely these circumstances – alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual abuse, the sequelae of residential schools, poverty, survival sex, etc. – that placed them at much higher risk.

NWAC Sisters’ in Spirit director Kate Rexe said if the money is spent wisely with commitment from all levels of government and NGOs, there is an opportunity to change the system and how it responds to violence and the disappearance of Aboriginal women and girls.

NWAC recommends a comprehensive action plan based on four key areas of priorities: Increasing access to justice, reducing violence against Aboriginal women and girls, increasing economic security, and reducing the impact of children in care (welfare),” Rexe said.

"There is evidence that a serial killer may also be at work in Manitoba, and a single man may also be responsible for the carnage along British Columbia's infamous Highway of Tears . (Highway 16 - The Yellowhead Highway, which stretches 750 kilometres from Prince George to Prince Rupert has been the site of nine murders and disappearances since 1990, all but one of the victims young aboriginal women.) But the reality is that the Highway of Tears stretches from sea-to-sea-to-sea in this country: Aboriginal women have been murdered or disappeared by the score in every single province and territory in Canada," says Picard. Photo by Vancouver Sun Files

Not to pick on Canada – the United States has a serious problem with these same issues.  Here are some stats about the situation in America:

According to Amnesty International, one in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime – Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than a non-native woman.

In 2007, Amnesty International published its findings in the study “Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA.”

That same year, NPR did a two-part series on the subject: “Rape Cases On Indian Lands Go Uninvestigated” and “Legal Hurdles Stall Rape Cases on Native Lands.”

The NPR series chronicled horrific stories either ignored by law enforcement or unreported because they have become commonplace.  The investigation also revealed a system underfunded and often broken: a tribal health center inadequately staffed and without rape kits to collect DNA from victims; tribal leaders and Native police unable to prosecute non-native perpetrators; and a patchwork of confusing jurisdictions in which federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement intersect and clash with each other.

Underlying the issue is a terrible fact that makes justice all but impossible: 80% of rapes involve non-native perpetrators, and tribal authorities are powerless in these situations because only federal prosecutors can prosecute crimes on tribal lands.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) oversees law enforcement on the reservations, and many police departments are woefully understaffed; one reservation the size of Connecticut has only 5 officers to cover the entire area. One BIA officer told NPR he was “too overwhelmed and overworked to keep up with the number of calls for rape, sexual assault and child abuse” that came in each week.

The Current TV documentary series Vanguard investigated this issue in their segment, “Rape on the Reservation.”  Correspondent Mariana van Zeller visits the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, where 19-year-old Marquita was raped, beaten, and murdered in an abandoned house.  Zeller looks into Marquita’s murder along with other harrowing stories of rape and abuse, and exposes the difficulties women face in their attempts to seek justice.

So what can you do?

Learn. Act. Share.  But most importantly, we need to work to end racism and sexism in our everyday lives.

How to act:

http://www.nwac.ca/act-now

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=18634748040

http://www.now.org/nnt/spring-2001/nativeamerican.html

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Women of The Daily Show

I recently shared an article from Jezebel.com on The Daily Show‘s Woman Problem.  Author Irin Carmon had interviewed past female Daily Show workers who felt they and many other women at the show had been treated unfairly due to their gender.

Click to see the press release on The Daily Show website.

I was so glad to hear that the women of The Daily Show responded for themselves about these allegations of sexism.  Here is the following statement they released; you can find it at The Daily Show website here.

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A partial list of things Jon has supported us through
  • 9/11
  • Anthrax
  • The writers’ strike
  • Blackout
  • Death
  • Marriages
  • Divorces
  • Cancer
  • Infertility
  • Family emergencies
  • Babies
  • Office food poisoning
  • Staff restructuring
  • Pet emergencies
  • The re-election of George Bush
  • Inadequately researched blog posts that cling to a predetermined narrative about sexism at The Daily Show

Dear People Who Don’t Work Here,

Recently, certain media outlets have attempted to tell us what it’s like to be a woman at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. We must admit it is entertaining to be the subjects of such a vivid and dramatic narrative. However, while rampant sexism at a well-respected show makes for a great story, we want to make something very clear: the place you may have read about is not our office.

The Daily Show isn’t a place where women quietly suffer on the sidelines as barely tolerated tokens. On the contrary: just like the men here, we’re indispensable. We generate a significant portion of the show’s creative content and the fact is, it wouldn’t be the show that you love without us.

So, who are the women of The Daily Show?

If you think the only women who help create this show are a couple of female writers and correspondents, you’re dismissing the vast majority of us. Actually, we make up 40% of the staff, and we’re not all shoved into the party-planning department (although we do run that, and we throw some kick-ass parties). We are co-executive producers, supervising producers, senior producers, segment producers, coordinating field producers, associate producers, editors, writers, correspondents, talent coordinators, production coordinators, researchers, makeup artists, the entire accounting and audience departments, production assistants, crew members, and much more. We were each hired because of our creative ability, our intelligence, and above all, our ability to work our asses off to make a great show.

Is it hard to work at The Daily Show?

Absolutely. When it comes to what makes it onto the show, competing ideas aren’t just hashed out between the faces you see on camera or the names that roll under the “writers” credits. Jokes and concepts come from our studio department, our field department, our graphics department, our production department, our intern department, and our control room. Jon’s rule is: the strongest idea and the funniest joke win every single time, no matter who pitches it–woman or man, executive producer or production assistant. And of course none of these jokes and ideas would get to air without the layers of production talent working behind the scenes. The fairness of our workplace makes competition tough and makes the show better.

So if it’s so challenging, why have we stayed for two, five, ten, fourteen years? Because it’s challenging. We feel lucky to work in a meritocracy where someone with talent can join us as an intern and work her way up to wherever her strengths take her. But also because it’s an environment that supports our being more than just our jobs. The Daily Show (to an extent few of us have seen elsewhere) allows us the flexibility to care for our families, pursue our own projects, cope with unexpected crises, and have lives outside the show.

Also… are you kidding? It’s The Daily Show for Christ’s sake. You ask some stupid questions, imaginary interlocutor.

What’s Jon Stewart really like?

Jon’s not just a guy in a suit reading a prompter. His voice and vision shape every aspect of the show from concept to execution. The idea that he would risk compromising his show’s quality by hiring or firing someone based on anything but ability, or by booking guests based on anything but subject matter, is simply ludicrous.

But what’s he really like? Well, for a sexist prick, he can be quite charming. He’s also generous, humble, genuine, compassionate, fair, supportive, exacting, stubborn, goofy, hands-on, driven, occasionally infuriating, ethical, down-to-earth and–a lot of people don’t know this–surprisingly funny (for a guy brimming with “joyless rage”). How else to describe him? What’s the word that means the opposite of sexist? That one.

In any organization, the tone is set from the top. Since taking over the show, Jon has worked hard to create an environment where people feel respected and valued regardless of their gender or position. If that’s not your scene, you probably wouldn’t like it here. We happen to love it.

And so…

And so, while it may cause a big stir to seize on the bitter rantings of ex-employees and ignore what current staff say about working at The Daily Show, it’s not fair. It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to Jon, it’s not fair to our wonderful male colleagues, and it’s especially not fair to the young women who want to have a career in comedy but are scared they may get swallowed up in what people label as a “boy’s club.”

The truth is, when it comes down to it, The Daily Show isn’t a boy’s club or a girl’s club, it’s a family – a highly functioning if sometimes dysfunctional family. And we’re not thinking about how to maximize our gender roles in the workplace on a daily basis. We’re thinking about how to punch up a joke about Glenn Beck’s latest diatribe, where to find a Michael Steele puppet on an hour’s notice, which chocolate looks most like an oil spill, and how to get a gospel choir to sing the immortal words, “Go f@#k yourself!”

Love,

Teri Abrams-Maidenberg, Department Supervisor, 11 years

Jill Baum, Writers’ Assistant, 4 years

Samantha Bee, Correspondent, 7 years

Alison Camillo, Coordinating Field Producer, 12 years

Vilma Cardenas, Production Accountant, 14 years

Lauren Cohen, Production Assistant, 1 year

Jocelyn Conn, Executive Assistant, 4 years

Kahane Cooperman, Co-Executive Producer, 14 years

Pam DePace, Line Producer, 14 years

Tonya Dreher, Avid Editor, 4 years

Kristen Everman, Production Assistant, 2 years

Christy Fiero, Production Controller, 13 years

Jen Flanz, Supervising Producer, 13 years

Hallie Haglund, Writer, 5 years

Kira Hopf, Senior Producer, 14 years

Jenna Jones, Production Assistant, 2 years

Jessie Kanevsky, Department Coordinator, 5 years

Jill Katz, Producer/Executive in Charge of Production, 4 years

Hillary Kun, Supervising Producer, 9 years

Christina Kyriazis, TelePrompter Operator, 14 years

Jo Miller, Writer, 1 year

Jody Morlock, Hair & Make-Up Artist, 14 years

Olivia Munn, Correspondent, 1 month

Lauren Sarver, Associate Segment Producer, 5 years

Kristen Schaal, Correspondent, 2 years

April Smith, Utility, 14 years

Patty Ido Smith, Electronic Graphics, 12 years

Sara Taksler, Segment Producer, 5 years

Elise Terrell, Production Coordinator, 6 years

Adriane Truex, Facility Manager, 12 years

Juliet Werner, Researcher, 1 year

Kaela Wohl, Wardrobe Stylist/Costumer, 2 years

PS. Thanks for the list of funny women. Our Nanas send us a ton of suggestions about “what would make a great skit for The John Daley Show.” We’ll file it right next to those.

PPS. Thanks to the male writers who penned this for us.

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The Daily Show’s Woman Problem

This post is taken from an article on Jesebel.com.  Read Irin Carmon’s article in its entirety here.  The embedded links were from the original article.

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The Daily Show is many things: progressive darling, alleged news source for America’s youth, righteous media critique. And it’s also a boys’ club where women’s contributions are often ignored and dismissed.

If Olivia Munn, the former video game show host introduced to Daily Show viewers three weeks ago, survives her tryout, she’ll be the first new female correspondent on the show in seven years. With the notable exception of Samantha Bee, who’s been on since 2001, female correspondents have been a short-lived phenomenon. As fiercely liberal and sharp-eyed an observer as Jon Stewart can be, getting women on the air may be his major blind spot.

Television comedy, and late night in particular, can be cutthroat and transitory, and no one is particularly surprised when the men who host these shows turn out to be not very nice guys, as anyone who cared to pay attention to the David Letterman fall-out could see. Women are universally scarce, whether in the writer’s room or on the air.

The environment on The Daily Show was arguably worse in the Craig Kilborn era: Back in 1997, the then-host was suspended after telling Esquire,”To be honest, [co-creator] Lizz [Winstead] does find me very attractive. If I wanted her to blow me, she would.” (Winstead quit not long afterward.) Nowadays there may be less overt frat-boy humor, but that doesn’t mean the institutionalized sexism is gone.  Behind the scenes, numerous former female staffers tell us that working there was often a frustrating and alienating experience.

Jon Stewart hosts a taping of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" Thursday, March 12, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

“What I was told when I was hired is that they have a very hard time finding and keeping women, and that I was lucky to get a one year contract,” says Lauren Weedman, a comedian and writer who worked on the show as an on-air correspondent from 2001-2002.

The story of Stewart throwing a newspaper or script at the show’s co-creator and executive producer Madeleine Smithberg out of displeasure with her work is an oft-told one among Daily Show veterans. Not long after the continued tension led Smithberg to quit in 2003, sources say Stewart refused to allow her onstage to accept the show’s Emmy, even though her work contributed to the win.

Stacey Grenrock Woods was on Stewart’s show from 1999-2003, longer than any other correspondent besides Bee. (She later chronicled the experience in her book, I, California.) She told me, “Did I feel like there was a boy’s club there? Yeah, sure. Did I want to be part of it? Not necessarily. So it kind of goes both ways.”

Overall, The Daily Show‘s environment was such that many women felt marginalized. “It was a place of just business,” says one show veteran. “The business happened to be hilarious comedy, but you weren’t allowed to enjoy it…Any sort of emotional vulnerability is like blood to a shark. And that is not great for women.”

Stewart and his show do have their female defenders. Bee, for starters, has repeatedly said her gender has been no impediment. Allison Silverman, a former Daily Show writer who returned after a stint working for Conan O’Brien to launch and executive produce The Colbert Report, says, “I had a great experience at The Daily Show. Jon’s given me nothing but support.”

“I don’t think Jon is sexist,” Smithberg says. “I don’t think that there is a double standard at the Daily Show. I do think that by the time it gets to the Daily Show it’s already been through the horrible sexist double standard of the universe. You’re not hiring someone right out of school. By the time they get to the candidates of the Daily Show, the herd has been thinned by the larger societal forces.” Of the greater talent pool of comedians, she said, “All that’s left are white men and Aziz Ansari.”

The show’s producers are somewhat aware they have a problem. Last fall, the writers’ room went from being all male to having two women, a definite improvement. “We shook the trees a little,” the head writer told The New York Times, and bringing on Olivia Munn would come out of the same impulse, according to numerous reports.

“The writers want to be able to write for a female reporter — but not too female,” says Weedman. She says it was hard to figure out what that meant exactly. “I would pitch something like, can I do a segment on women’s self help or on fitness. And they didn’t want anything like that…Ed Helms got to have his mole removed [in a segment], but they weren’t going to do, a women goes to the gynecologist. They felt like at the time it wasn’t their audience.”

According to Nielsen, the Daily Show‘s audience does lean male—about 60 percent. That’s who producers seemed to have in mind when they hired Olivia Munn. Though it’s far to early to assess Munn’s performance based on her few seconds onscreen so far, her previous career path has led some to criticize The Daily Show for hiring someone better known for suggestively putting things in her mouth on a video game show (seen here) and being on the covers of Playboy and Maxim than for her comedic chops.

Munn was hired after an exhaustive search for a female correspondent that included many professional comedians. (Kristen Schaal is already an occasional contributor, but not a regular correspondent.) Executive producer Rory Albanese told the Daily Beast that producers were previously unaware of Olivia’s drooling fanboy base: “We’re stuck in a hard news cycle and we’re nerdy. If she was on the cover of The Economist, we would have been like, ‘Yes! Of course!'”

It’s hard not to conclude that looks mattered more for women than for men. Silverman jokes of Munn’s hiring, “I just hope it encourages Wyatt Cenac to take his top off more often.”

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Women in the World Cup

Notice anything?  There aren’t any women in the World Cup.

However, there is a “Women’s World Cup” since the generic “World Cup” doesn’t allow women.  The first Women’s World Cup (WCC) was held in 1991 – sixty-one years after the men’s first tournament in 1930.  Check out your local Wikipedia for more info on that.  The next WWC will be held next summer in Germany.

Yamaguchi Mami (L) of japan fights for a ball with Liu Huana of China during the AFC Women's Asian Cup Final between China and Japan at Chengdu Sports Center on May 30, 2010 in Chengsu, Sichuan Province of China. Getty Images

A column by Hillary Smith for nwi.com discusses a new study released last week that shows that women’s sports aren’t treated equally to men’s sports in the media.  Here are the highlights from her column:

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  • Smith’s column uses the 2010 Gender in Televised Sports report issued by the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California.  Read the report here.
  • A study released this week about how the national media covers women’s sports showed that 100 percent of “Sports Center” news broadcasts opened with a story about one male sport or another.
  • It found that in March, when men’s and women’s basketball share the court, coverage of men’s basketball out-shines that of women’s basketball 10-to-1 on national broadcasts.
  • ESPN is the sole broadcaster of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, yet ESPN still devotes an average of four stories about women’s hoops for every 40 stories about men’s.
  • USC has been conducting the same study since 1989, taking a look every five years to see if news and airtime has improved. In the first year, the study found that 5.0 percent of airtime was devoted to women’s sports; in 2009, it was 1.6 percent nationally, down 6.3 percent from 2004.

“If girls aren’t seeing other girls or women playing sports, then it reduces their ability to imagine themselves as athletes, and that might affect their participation in sports,” Purdue’s Cheryl Cooky, an assistant professor of health and kinesiology and women’s studies, said in a release about the study.

“We need to be aware of this decline and find other ways to expose young female athletes to positive role models.”

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Read Hillary Smith’s column here or you can reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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Playboy Bunnies, 1960s and 1970s – NPR

Another really interesting NPR story on women.  This article by Scott Simon on the changing perceptions of Playboy Bunny servers (think waitress, not The Girls Next Door”).  One of the most interesting parts of Simon’s essay is with Ex-Bunny Mary Chipman who began working at first Playboy club in Chicago during the 1970s.

Nancy Downey Caddick as a Playboy Bunny in the 60s. Courtesy of Caddick.

Although in the 1960s the men’s club attracted top entertainers, by the 1970s the club was denigrated by the women’s movement.  Chipman, a self-proclaimed feminist, explains how both the bunny ears and female patrons were degrading:

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“Ms. Chipman came in at a more feminist age. She loathed every aspect of the costume. “I really did. It wasn’t the sexiness of it, which was OK, it was the whole idea of the ears and the tail — I just thought it was very degrading.

“Once you make yourself into this Bunny — which isn’t really a woman, it’s kind of just this hybrid creature — people felt entitled to take liberties with you. People would feel entitled to pull your tail or touch you.

“Of course, the management would protect you from all of this, but you know, still, that was the natural impulse,” she says. “The usual social barriers of treating women with a certain amount of respect were somewhat dissolved by the costume, I felt.”

Ms. Downey Caddick found the most difficult customers to be the women, not the men.  “I would have a couple of incidents where a woman would pull my tail,” she says. “Another one would just continue to make all kinds of nasty statements to me as I’m trying to serve them.”

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Read/Listen to the NPR story here.

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