Friday, December 4, 2009

Yesterday I had the good fortune to be able to attend the National Day of Action against the Stupak Amendment in Washington, DC.

When I got the first email about the event a few weeks ago, I lamented the fact the Wednesdays I have class straight from 9:30 until 3:35, and couldn't rationalize missing a Wednesday. But after receiving a few more emails, and reading up about Stupak, I couldn't rationalize NOT going down to DC. Skipping classes wasn't even a question once I thought about it. Exercising my right as a citizen, and participating in democracy is infinitely more important than one day of my classes. And what is college preparing me for, if not this? So we went. A group from my WGS 301 class with Minnie Bruce Pratt drove down with a bunch of other other students, totaling at 11!

After an eventful drive down at 4am -- I'll spare you the details, (OK I won't - we ran over a dead deer! It was so crazy! So we lost an hour off the drive waiting for AAA to come help us out. But the damage is very minor, don't worry) we made it into DC just in time for the noon rally. We were ushered to an overflow room since the main room was over capacity - and when we sat down, we noticed that our party was standing right behind the podium! Our friend Andrea was on screen the whole rally! She was directly behind so many famous and influential women, I couldn't believe it. We kept cursing that deer for making us late!

But the rally was incredible. So many women I admire so much! Cecile Richards was the emcee - it was weird seeing her right there - I'm so used to seeing her face as an icon at the bottom of all the emails I get from PPFA! Other memorable speakers were Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who got the crowd really pumped, and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who showed us an old campaign poster, when her slogan was "Pro-Choice. Pro-Change." My own representative, Nita Lowey (D-NY!) gave a rousing call to action that made me proud to be from the great 18th district of the Empire State. She's very vocal and wonderful and I love her a lot (She also hooked me up with tickets to Obama's inauguration, back in January!).

Many other important people spoke, and one woman relayed another woman's extremely moving story. The woman was never hugely concerned with abortion rights, since she knew that if she got pregnant, she wouldn't consider getting an abortion. But when she got pregnant with twins, and they were diagnosed with a very dangerous fetal anomaly, she was thrust into the abortion debate. The odds were that both twins would die, unless they elected to abort one in the hopes that the other survived. If the Stupak Amendment passes, this procedure won't be covered by insurance. Luckily for her, 80% of it was covered, and it seemed that it went well - she just finished paying off the bills, 3 years later. She reminded us that these diseases don't choose wealthy people, and that if she wasn't fortunate enough to be covered by issuance and be able to pay for her share of the abortion, there is no way she would've been able to have it, and she would've buried both her twins, not just one. It was incredibly moving, and refocused my thoughts on abortion and why it's necessary that it be safe and legal.

Our room began clearing out for another meeting, and the main room was open, so we went down and saw the end of the rally in person, holding up our signs and waving the our party standing behind the podium. Then we met up with KaeLyn Rich, who I'd never met in person! She told us about a free youth lunch, and about our meeting at 3:15 with Senator Gillibrand.

The lunch was one of the highlights of the day for me. Everyone says that our generation is characterized by apathy and inaction, but this lunch proved that all very wrong. It was full of youth activists and feminists, all passionate and excited. The room was buzzing with excitement. And furthermore, a host of my idols were there. I had spotted Shelby Knox at the rally, and couldn't figure out where I knew her from - and then I realized she's awesome and famous and I've seenher movie! She was at the lunch, as well as Miriam and Jos - two editors from Feministing. Latoya Peterson was there too, fromRacialicious and a host of other blogs and media. There were also representatives from a bunch of other organizations that cater to youth, who were willing to talk to us and make connections. It was really a power-lunch, and I met a lot of people I admire. A lot.

Then we walked back to the Senate building to see my senator - Kristen Gillibrand - I wasn't sure it going to actually be her, I heard a lot of people would be meeting with Aides - but sure enough, she walked right in. I sat in the front row, and it was really cool. I've never really seen a politician up close like that. I thought about how powerful she is and how much impact she has on my life, yet she's just a normal lady who is against the Stupak amendment like me. And thankfully, she made that crystal clear. She was unwavering is announcing her opposition to Stupak and her support of our cause. We asked her what we could be doing to help - she said to blog about it, and spread the word. So here I am.

Then Chuck Schumer walked in! I literally gasped when I saw him walk in, I'm not quite sure why. He has so much leverage in the Senate, and is so well-known, I just was so amazed that he was there. And he, too, was very firm and positive about Stupak. He loudly voiced his opposition to any healthcare bill that restricted abortion even further than current laws. He said that what we could do is call our Representatives and tell them that they should yield to the Senate wording (assuming that no Stupak-esque language makes it into the Senate version, which is not yet guaranteed…) of the bill. My friend Mary stood up and told him where our group was from, and thanked him for his work on these issues, and he said Go Orange! It was so exciting! Someone asked him what he would do if the Stupak amendment made it into the final version, after the discussions - would he vote for it? And he basically said No. He sad that he would try to get his colleagues to urge the bill to be sent back, and for that wording to be taken out, before voting yet for healthcare. That was very reassuring to me - I hope he sticks to his guns. I emailed him today urging him to be strong on that promise.

This post is getting long, let me wrap it up. All in all, it was a very cool day. Being in DC, walking around the house and senate office buildings, felt so good and right - this is what we should be doing: making our voices heard. Being surrounded by other pro-choice activists felt so right. It was such an amazing, empowering day. And I left feeling reassured by Schumer's comment - let's all urge our senators to put a stop to these restrictions. We can't let this language make it into the healthcare reform. Women's rights are human rights - it's as simple as that.

With liberty and healthcare for all,

Monday, November 30, 2009

The camera slowly pans down the bare backside of a woman lying in bed, pausing slightly on her round ass in a pair of exposing black panties before soaking in her long, toned legs and finally, a pair of bright pink and white sneakers – wait, sneakers?

Imagine my surprise when I first saw this commercial while the TV was on mute. I rolled my eyes, expecting it was a promotion for a new, sexy fragrance. But my eyes soon stopped rolling and began bulging from their sockets when I saw those pair of running shoes.

Seriously? This is how we’re advertising sneakers today? I now grant the award for scummiest advertising campaign of the year to Reebok Easytone. The brand is revolving their new ad campaign around the promise these sneakers will tone a woman’s butt and legs, making them irresistible.

When you take the “mute” button off, the voiceover states these sneakers will make 88% of men speechless and 76% of women jealous of your body. Where are these stats coming from? And why only 88%? I thought all men enjoyed playing footsies in bed with a hard rubber sole. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve rolled around the sheets in only my underwear bottoms and athletic footwear.

And just when I thought the female body exploitation was bad enough, Reebok aired a second commercial. A woman in shorts made up of less fabric than Richard Simmons’ infamous outfit, tells of the sneakers’ benefits while the cameraman zooms in for a close up shot of her behind. Twice. “I take it you agree?” she flirtingly asks the cameraman at the end, a broad smile plastered on her face. This commercial is severely uncomfortable to sit through. It made me feel like a pervert secretly watching some dude act out a sick fantasy. I half expected the host from “How to Catch a Predator” to walk out.

As a young feminist, I was nauseated to see such blatant objectification of women by a brand that should be about health and fitness, not sex and fetishism. Were you as disturbed by this campaign as me?

Erica Sanderson is a graduate student in communications. She can be reached at

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lilith Fair: The Background

In the early nineties, powerful female artists arrived from every direction. Tori Amos introduced her music to the masses, and they fell at her feet, begging for more. Fiona Apple stormed onto the scene demanding attention with her all-too--relatable teenage angst and talent beyond her years. Alanis Morissette became the ultimate “scorned female artist” and sang about it—over, and over, and over, and over again. Sarah McLachlan climbed the pop charts with her haunting melodies and entrancing presence.

There was an undeniable movement; women wanted to be part of the music world. And they weren’t going to do it by exploiting their sexuality and prancing around on stage in booty shorts; instead, they would be in charge of their own music. All of them had something to say.

For each of these women, music was about giving their gender a voice. It wasn’t necessarily all about empowerment, but kicking ass and encouraging other females to do the same was present in their defiant attitudes and in their enduring tracks.

While these artists were able to garner quite a following of dedicated fans, the general music public was not prepared for this influx of female talent. The girls found it very difficult to book concerts, to piece together shows that were demonstrations of the feminine presence in music because venue managers did not want to book shows with more than one female artist on the program. They found that if they wanted to book a show at a venue where a female artist had recently performed, they would be turned away because it was too soon for another artist of “that type.” In short, female artists were a marginalized race in the universe of music, and they weren’t just going to sit back and allow that course to continue.

And thus, Lilith Fair was born. In 1996 Sarah McLachlan decided to take matters into her own hands and booked her own tour; a tour featuring herself, Paula Cole, Lisa Loeb, and Michelle McAdorey. It was a tour with exclusively female performers—and it was wildly successful! It was clear that there was a market for female artists, even if the commercial circle was unwilling to acknowledge it. And so McLachlan teamed up with two members of Nettwerk Music Group—Dan Fraser and Terry McBride—and Marty Diamond, a talent agent from New York, and took her success to a whole new level.

A touring music festival featuring only female solo artists and bands with female leads divided among three stages began touring the country. Over sixty female artists came together for the event. Some of them were already big names, some of them still working their way up to commercial success. Others were selected through local talent searches and had never before played for a crowd of more than one hundred people.

The energy was amazing because the purpose was clear—this wasn’t just a music movement, it was a feminist movement as well. Lilith Fair was there to prove that there were women who had a voice, women who had something meaningful to say, and more importantly that there were thousands if not millions of people who wanted to hear it. The first year, Lilith Fair had a grand profit of $16 million, a large portion of which went to women’s charities throughout North America. Naturally, with this wild success, Sarah McLachlan and her army of female musicians stormed back for another year. And another. It was the highest grossing touring festival, and the 16th highest grossing tour of all concert tours the year that it was started. The 1999 tour came to a close and Lilith Fair was over, forcing female music enthusiasts like myself to ponder why.

But fear not! After ten years, Lilith Fair has announced its return. That’s right, get ready for round two of “Girlapalooza”—coming to a city near you in summer 2010!

Emmery Brakke is a freshman in VPA. She can be reached at Stay tuned for further updates on this event!

What Does A Coat Hanger Mean to You?

I was heading to class when I saw it, the second ad in two days with a coat hanger on it. I paused and read the text. This one was for a clothing drive, the first was for a coat check.

As I looked at it, the thoughts running through my mind were not on clothes, not on the needs of refugees, but on that symbol, that image of a coat hanger brazenly placed in a public space without understanding of its historic meaning.

When I see an image of a coat hanger that takes up almost the entire space of a flyer, my thoughts are not on coats. They are one those women I have spoken to, women who have told me stories about infections, sepsis, hysterectomy, about losing women they loved.

The coat hanger retains its symbolic meaning that it has held for decades for many pro-choice people. It represents the damage done to women’s bodies when they tried to self induce abortions with any implement or means available because the law at the time did not give us any other avenue to end unwanted pregnancy.

Some of these women did use coat hangers, bending wires to shove it through their cervixes, risking their lives out of desperation to end a pregnancy.

Here is the account of one retired doctor who tells of his experiences dealing with the aftermath of unsafe, illegal abortions in pre-Roe v. Wade America.

Have we gotten to a point in our society where we taken abortion access for granted to the degree that we have forgotten what happened to these women when abortion was illegal? How can we forget the women who so often had no choice but to risk their lives with unsafe procedures and who often also risked jail time when we still live in a country where people are killed for trying to ensure that women have access to safe, legal abortions?

These women have not forgotten :

I realize that this was not an intentional slight to those of us who see the historically painful connotation associated with coat hangers. But the next time you think about putting a picture of them all over Bowne Hall, talk to the women who have been through these struggles.

You will find that these women are not some mythical figures, they are our grandmothers, our grandmother’s sisters, our mothers, our aunts, our neighbors and they do not have the luxury of forgetting the days when the only choice this country gave women was so often a coat hanger. For their sake, and for the sake of every other woman who needs or may ever need access to safe, legal abortion, we should not forget.

Cynthia Downey is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at

Monday, November 16, 2009

SU Student Creates Networking Site

Being stuck in an office supply closet without lighting was not what Chelsea Prince envisioned for her first internship experience. So she set out to prevent students from having her “internship gone sour” experience by creating Intern Circle, the first social networking site for interns and internship employment.

After a chief executive of a small creative agency in New York City forgot to tell his employees about Prince’s arrival, she was stuck arranging office supplies instead of contributing to major projects as promised.

“I’m not the only individual having a bad experience …” Prince said. “I wanted to create one physical portal for everything internship.”

Two months ago that desire became reality when Prince, a senior at Syracuse University, launched Intern Circle, which caters to both students and companies. The Web site,, is free for students and offers internship advice, housing information, and industry news.

Students set up a personal profile to list their experiences, agenda, education, recommendations, and a showcase to post videos, links, and their resume.

But while you can find an employer, an employer can also find you. Employers can search students by GPA, college, or location, to hone in on the intern they want. And each company has their own profile for students to see intern openings, agendas, and pictures.

The site currently has 500 members, and Prince is hoping to hire staff by next semester. “People [at companies] were really receptive to it because its different, it’s a different way for recruiting right now internships are really, really hot because of the starting job freezes … so I’m kind of hitting a sweet spot right now because people are interested, Prince said.

Erica Sanderson is a graduate student in Newhouse. She can be reached at

You Said It, Sister

Give this lady a listen - she brings new meaning to "slam" poetry.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Go ahead, say it... the "f word" really isn't so bad!

Check this stuff out! From our very own Sammy Lifson, and Planned Parenthood of Rochester/Syracuse.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Christie Hefner: A CEO Without Gumption?

For the first time in my entire life, I looked at online pornography today.

But before you navigate away from this post, I will tell you that it was not for personal enjoyment. After watching Christie Hefner, the former CEO of Playboy Enterprises (yes, Hef’s daughter) give a speech in the Hergenhahn auditorium, I decided I had to give her a fair chance if she was ever going to survive the review I would give her in this post.

My friends had urged that I see her speak, and out of pure curiosity for what she’d have to say about having been the CEO of such a controversial industry, I agreed, and, freeing myself of most biases, listened with rapt journalistic attention to every word that Hefner said.

Hefner is indeed an excellent businesswoman, and should pride herself in rescuing an enterprise from what she deemed to be “extended past its limits.” She has also done much good for the preservation of free speech in the United States. In fact, she created an award in her father’s honor (the Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award), which is given out to people who have helped to preserve first amendment rights.

Despite her excellent track record, however, I found her as a speaker to be uninspiring. Hefner spoke vaguely of “achieving your dream” and “embracing opportunity,” like many inspirational speakers at high schools that are pulled from either a corny reality television show or coping with a chronic disease that has left them missing a few limbs. Twice, Hefner threw in some curse words for shock value. Though some may have found this endearing, I found it to be unprofessional and unbecoming of a woman operating a company that is constantly under scrutiny from the outside world.

Nonetheless, I was most disappointed in her failure to address the content of the industry in which she operated. When asked about the portrayal of women in Playboy, Hefner gave the same old outdated argument that she viewed it simply “as an art form,” and that it was not demeaning to women. Regardless, I would have wished that Hefner had provided more evidence as to why she felt that way.

Now, back to my original statement—I had to do some research to see how Playboy portrayed minority groups and plus-sized women. I wasn’t surprised by what I found; after getting over my initial trepidation in entering the site (believe me, I had a lot), I saw that most of the women were white, had unnaturally large breasts for their figures, and the vast majority of them were under 120 pounds and stood from 5’5-5’8 feet tall. Out of the Playmates of the month, I saw 3 Asian women and one black woman. None were what modeling industry standards would consider “plus-sized.”

Upon asking Hefner how these groups were represented in the magazine at the talk, she noted, “Playboy does better than it used to,” but that “America is less diverse in what it considers beautiful.” Hefner also said that the magazine used professional athletes, whose bodies aren’t normally considered “sexy,” by industry standards—A point I’d beg to differ with when being shown Marisa Miller, a former pro surfer turned Victoria’s Secret model. To the untrained eye, it’s hardly discernable whether or not a professional athlete’s body is any different than that of a playmate’s.

Being a woman that is honored for having so much power in business, I was frustrated that, despite expending so much energy to protect first amendment rights, Hefner would stoop to blame a lack of diversity in the magazine’s women on the narrow-mindedness of American society, and not even address that she had worked on (or intended to work on) improving what was lacking in her own enterprise.

Though the legitimacy of bringing Hefner into Newhouse as a speaker is up for debate, I will say that it sparked some interesting conversations with my friends after. And even if my research wasn’t particularly fruitful, I have learned many new words for things I only thought there were one or two terms for! Also, peanut butter probably isn’t a really good thing to use in the bedroom… and I’ll leave it at that.

Marissa Angell is a sophomore environmental science major. She can be reached at

Christie Hefner: Successful Role Model?

Playboy has a lot of bad connotations – most people won’t deny that. I saw these connotations first hand recently. I have been giving tours of Newhouse to prospective students for the fall receptions. Last Friday, I was talking my group on the third floor of Newhouse II. One mother was staring intently at a sign that was smack in the middle of the room. On the poster was a huge picture of the famous, or maybe infamous, Playboy bunny and under it said: Christie Hefner “Transforming a Business, Transforming a Life.” The mother then proceeded to ask me, with a concerned tone, “Do you always have speakers like this come here?”

What did this mother mean “like this?” She obviously thought that Christie Hefner was going to be preaching the wonders of Playboy, and of being a Playboy bunny. When I walked into the Hergenham Auditorium on Wednesday night, I didn’t know what to expect.

Former Newhouse Dean David Rubin introduced Hefner. It was apparent that Rubin had great respect for Hefner. He spoke about how she helped to create the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award, which is given every year to a person who has made a significant contribution to protecting and upholding the first amendment. He mentioned that Hefner was the Chief Executive Officer, or CEO, of Playboy Magazine from 1988 to 2008, but left the topic to let her speak about it. Rubin also mentioned that Hefner is now a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is a Trustee of Rush Medical Center, is a part of the National Woman’s political caucus, and has raised $30,000 for AIDS treatment and research. Just from Rubin’s brief introduction it was easy to see how accomplished Hefner was.

I can’t say that I didn’t have preconceived notions of Christie Hefner before she made her first appearance. I half expected some woman with a huge chest, low-cut shirt, and bunny necklace. I had assumed that, since she is the infamous Hugh Hefner’s daughter, she was just handed the position of CEO of Playboy.

Christie Hefner took the stage wearing a conservative cream-colored blazer and skirt duo. She had shoulder-length straight hair that was a graying blonde color. She began to tell us her life-story, starting from when she was a child. It turns out that her parents got divorced when she was five – she didn’t even actually see her father that often, nor did she grow up around Playboy or on the famous “bunny ranch.” She graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. in English and American Literature. Hefner said she loved journalism, law, and politics. After college she worked for a year as a journalist – but she had no plans to ever run her father’s business.

After a year, Hefner was planning to apply to Yale for a graduate school program. However, her father suggested that she come work at the company for a year first. In 1988, Hugh had a stroke, and it was decided that he could no longer be the CEO of Playboy, so Christie stepped up and took over the position. During her twenty years as CEO, she has transformed Playboy. She made it the first national website to go online in 1994. She also made Playboy international – it is even launched now in India and Singapore. She helped to cross media by taking Playboy from just a magazine to an Internet presence, a radio station, and even a TV station. The hit reality show “The Girls Next Door” is currently in its sixth season.

Hefner is the longest serving female CEO of a public company and stayed CEO four times longer than the average CEO of a public company. Facts like this earned Hefner the number 80 spot on Forbes’ “100 Most Powerful Women in the World” list.

Though I’m not one who is going to root for Playboy, I don’t think that Christie Hefner should be automatically disqualified as a smart and strong woman for facilitating Playboy. Hefner even said “I think the photographs in the magazine are beautiful.” She said “People don’t go to Playboy for erotic. They go to Playboy for it’s unique blend.” According to Hefner, Playboy is, “Cool, sexy, sophisticated, fun – it represents freedom.”

Regardless of your thoughts on the actual Playboy magazine – it is hard to deny that Christie Hefner is an amazing woman. She’s educated, successful, involved in philanthropy, and a staunch supporter of women’s rights. She left the audience with helpful advice such as “I don’t think you should ever stop meeting people. I don’t think you should ever stop learning.”

She ended with her thoughts that “there is something a bit off that women have to choose between showing their sexuality and being taken seriously. I don’t buy it.” Christie Hefner has created quite a life for herself and is helping to empower other women to do the same.

Alison Kurtzman is a sophomore broadcast journalism and psychology major. She can be reached at

Friday, October 30, 2009


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