Remembering Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Wangari Maathai

September 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

You might not know her name, but you should. Wangari Maathai, who passed away over the weekend from cancer at age 71, was a remarkable human being. She was the  first African woman and the first environmentalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.  The New York Times reports,

Mrs. Maathai, one of the most famous and widely respected women on the continent, wore many hats — environmentalist, feminist, politician, anticorruption campaigner, human rights advocate, protester and head of the Green Belt Movement she founded. She was as comfortable in the gritty streets of Nairobi’s slums or the muddy hillsides of central Kenya as she was hobnobbing with heads of state.

She understood the connections between environment and poverty and recognized that those connections deeply impacted women’s lives. She started her Green Belt Movement by offering Kenyan women a small sum of money to plant trees. When asked why she chose to work with women, she responded, “I started with women from the countryside, where deforestation and soil loss were harming them. In Kenya women are the first victims of environmental degradation, because they are the ones who walk for hours looking for water, who fetch firewood, who provide food for their families.” Honor her today by considering what you can do that would make a sustainable difference for the environment and how women might help to make that change.


Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Officially Ends

September 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yesterday Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT),  the discriminatory policy that forbade LGBTQ military personnel from being able to live openly regarding their personal romantic relationships finally ended. In recognition of the end of the policy and the, hopefully, positive changes that are to come, below is a video of a soldier calling his father to tell him he is gay on the first day DADT is officially over.

Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast wrote in response to the above video, “…when you see the reality of gay servicemembers – like the polite professional above – and the sheer relief of not having to lie to everyone in your life, you begin to realize what liberation this is, and wonder why it took so long.” As a friend pointed out, while DADT marks  a significant civil rights victory for this generation,  it remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and in 35 states to do so based on gender identity or expression, so while this is a victory for LGBTQ military members and their loved ones, there is still so much left to accomplish for them and for all LGBTQ people. LGBTQ folks can still be fired for their sexuality, struggle against enormous tax and financial difficulties under discriminatory and non-inclusive laws, and in many places, live in fear of hate crimes carried out against them because of their sexuality, among many other things.  Yes indeed, there is still much work to be done.


Reigning Comedy Queen(s)

September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Did you guys sees this? For the record, I didn’t watch the Emmy’s last night, in fact, I didn’t even know they were on, but this morning when I saw this, I smiled. And, just between you and me, I might have cried a little too.

(Kevin Winter - GETTY IMAGES)

There are a lot of  things I love about this.  Mostly, that Melissa McCarthy (who I adored on Gilmore Girls, long before her Bridesmaids fame) won for her hilarious portrayal of Molly on the sitcom Mike and Molly and that when she won the other women nominated for best female lead in a comedy series all looked genuinely thrilled for her. I love it when we get to see women supporting each other and I especially love it when it’s a situation where they were competing against one another.

One other note, you might be wondering why Melissa McCarthy is done up like a pageant queen with roses and tiara. Well, it was all orchestrated by Amy Poehler, who thought it would be funny (and also a little tongue-in-cheek, I imagine) to treat the nominations as a pageant spoof. As each woman’s name was read, they were to stand up and gleefully make their way to the stage where they would join hands with one another.  Super funny, just like each of these women.

Click here to see the whole clip of the pageant spoof and McCarthy’s humble, shocked acceptance speech.

Baby Riggle Has Arrived!

September 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

As many of you know, WRC Director and Assistant Dean of Students, Colleen Riggle, was due to have her baby at any moment.  Yesterday afternoon we had the great joy of welcoming baby Catherine to the WRC family! Both Colleen and Catherine are doing fantastic. Congratulations to the Riggle family! All of us at the WRC are so happy for you and we can’t wait to meet Catherine!

Beautiful Words

September 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today I went to see an art exhibit at the CDC called Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women, and Art. Most of what I saw there was haunting and painful, but in one section written on a gallery wall was something really hopeful, words about the importance of community for women:

The gathering of women in solidarity leads to the development of their voices, skills, and knowledge. Unfettered by expectations of submissiveness, surrounded by true peers, a woman can say what she needs, share what she knows,  ask for credit where it is due, learn her rights. In a true community, she rises above the noise and discovers her presence, her gravity, her wisdom. With these tools she begins to integrate into the larger community, skillfully, and with confidence.

Where is your community of women? Who are the women in it? Consider this and then invite someone new who might not have a community of women to share and take part in yours.

Safe Cosmetics Act Introduced

September 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Did you know that your cosmetics do not require testing or approval by the FDA, and that the agency isn’t authorized to require that cosmetics companies recall or remove unsafe products from shelves? That means if a product is dangerous, for example if it contains high amounts of chemicals that are carcinogenic or that may cause reproductive or developmental toxicity, the company producing the product doesn’t have to warn consumers or take the product off the shelf. For the consumer it means that they could go on for years using the same potentially toxic nail polish, pore cleanser, lipstick, hair dye, or any other cosmetic and be none the wiser about the health risk they are taking each morning as part of their beauty routine. Um, yikes.

Another group of folks to consider are those who are considered highly exposed populations, so for example, people employed at hair salons, nail salons, and spas who interact with large amounts of chemicals every day as part of their job.  For example, think about the number of chemicals hair stylists who give perms and relaxer or straightening  treatments are exposed to over the course of a year or throughout their entire careers. In fact, recently even though the FDA knew that Brazilian Blowout hair straightening products contain formaldehyde they could not issue a recall on the products because of a 1938 law that currently cedes all decisions about the safety of product ingredients to the cosmetic industry.

In June, Representative Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the Safe Cosmetics Act to Congress. The act attempts to address the current gaps in legislation that let things like lead in lipstick and carcinogens in baby shampoo go unregulated. According to the Our Bodies, Ourselves blog, “The Act would give the government the power to recall unsafe cosmetics, require better disclosure of ingredients, establish additional safety standards and require manufacturers to submit data on the safety of their products, mandate reporting of adverse health effects, allow the banning of ingredients found to have reproductive or cancer-causing effects, encourage alternatives to animal testing, address worker safety, along with other measures.” Awesome, right?

For more information you can check out:

The FDA’s current role

Press Release on Safe Cosmetics Act

Safe Cosmetics Could Boost Green Chemistry

Want to know if your cosmetics are safe?

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