Saturday, June 30, 2012

June Donation - National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association

My mother and I went to a luncheon sponsored by the National Partnership for Women & Families last week, and we sat next to two women who work for the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA). We chatted for a bit, and they told us about their non-profit organization. NFPRHA is a membership organization that provides access to voluntary, comprehensive, and culturally sensitive family planning and reproductive health care services. They were founded in 1971, and they have been helping women for over 40 years. NFPRHA focuses on helping low-income families and the uninsured. They represent the nation's family planning providers—nurses, nurse practitioners, administrators and other key health care professionals. For more than 40 years, NFPRHA members have provided high-quality preventive health care services in thousands of health centers to millions of women and men annually. I donated $150 to the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association for my June donation.

The luncheon for the National Partnership was amazing, by the way. We had a great time listening to all of the inspirational speakers. Hillary Clinton was a phenomenal speaker. She is just captivating. Our table was one of the farthest from Clinton (VIPs, we are not). It was still neat to be in the same room as Hillary Clinton! There were several other great speakers at the luncheon. Sandra Fluke was there, and she is featured on the cover of Ms. Magazine for their Spring/Summer issue. I went to pick up a copy at Barnes & Noble yesterday, but they were sold out. Kind of annoying, but it's nice to know that Ms. Magazine is selling well!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Woman of the Week - Aimee Copeland

Less than two months ago, Aimee Copeland fell from a homemade zip line and contracted a flesh-eating disease from a cut on her calf. The disease claimed her left leg, her right foot, and both of her hands. Copeland also had to have quite a bit of skin removed from her abdomen and hip. Aimee Copeland is only 24 years old. I chose her as woman of the week because I am so impressed that she is keeping a positive attitude even though she lost so much of her body. When her father asked her yesterday how she was feeling about her experience in the hospital, she said:

"I am blessed to have the opportunity to experience something that not many other people have the chance to experience. I am blessed to be able to have a challenge that not many others get to have. I am blessed to have the capacity to share my experience with others and have a chance to improve the quality of someone else’s life. I’m blessed to be different.”

What an amazing outlook! It would be so easy to be angry and frustrated, but she has chosen to keep a positive attitude. When Copeland has her wound dressings changed, she chooses to deal with the pain using meditation instead of medicine. Before her accident, she was working on getting her master's degree in psychology with a focus on holistic pain management. She was also studying nature therapy, so it was a real treat that she was able to spend an hour outdoors yesterday. It was the first time she left her hospital bed in 49 days.

I think it's so wonderful that Aimee is keeping a positive attitude in spite of her condition. She has improved a lot over the past week, and hopefully she will be able to leave the hospital soon. Copeland will have to learn to live with prosthetics, but I have a feeling that she will be able to handle it very well. I am looking forward to hearing about her progress. Something tells me that Aimee Copeland will do great things with her life.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Woman of the Week - Hillary Clinton

My mother and I are going to a luncheon tomorrow sponsored by the National Partnership for Women & Families. Hillary Clinton will be the keynote speaker at the luncheon. I am very excited about hearing her speak in person because she is one of my idols. Clinton is the 67th United States Secretary of State. She graduated from Yale Law School in 1973 and practiced law in her early career. In 1978, Clinton became the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation. She was listed twice as one of the top 100 most influential lawyers in America. Hillary Clinton was also the first First Lady with a post-graduate degree.

I was thrilled when Hillary ran for the democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential campaign. I can't believe we still haven't had a female president or vice president. Maybe there will be a female president in the next decade. Let's hope! Anyway, I can't wait to see Hillary Clinton tomorrow. My mom and I are going to dress up in our pant suits even though it's supposed to be 95 degrees tomorrow. We have to represent with our pant suits!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Woman of the Week - Marie Curie

I decided to go back in time a little bit to choose my woman of the week. I chose Marie Curie because she is the only woman who has won a Nobel Prize in two fields: physics and chemistry. She was born in 1867 and died in 1934. Curie was definitely ahead of her time, and she has been called a feminist pioneer. She had to struggle to be taken seriously as a female scientist. In 1894, after earning a degree in mathematics, she was denied a place at the Krakow University because she was a woman. Many scientists did not believe that a woman was capable of accomplishing anything in the field of science. Obviously, those scientists were mistaken.

Marie Curie is famous for discovering the elements polonium and radium. She received her first Nobel Prize in 1903 in physics. Then she received her second Nobel Prize in 1911 in chemistry. Curie was also the first woman professor at the Sorbonne. She helped develop x-ray equipment that treated over one million wounded soldiers during World War I. She also tried to donate her gold Nobel Prize medals to the war effort. I was extremely touched that she tried to donate her medals. Officials refused to accept them, but I think it's wonderful that she was willing to give up her medals to help the war effort.

Throughout her life, Marie Curie was exposed to radiation because of her research. She died in 1934 from aplastic anemia caused by years of exposure to radiation. Curie literally lived and died for her work. She was an inspiration to many people. In 2009, she was voted the "most inspirational woman in science" by a poll in New Scientist. She has also appeared on stamps and coins, and she was on the last 500-franc note. I always love hearing about women who were ahead of their time in terms of the feminist movement. Marie Curie pursued her passion, and because of her brilliance, she was able to make important discoveries in the scientific community. She is a role model to so many people, and I’m grateful for brave women like Marie Curie!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Woman of the Week - Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron has two huge movies coming out this month, and I really want to see one of them: "Snow White and the Huntsman." "Prometheus," not so much. I have recently seen several interviews with Theron, and she is extremely articulate and poised. She also seems to have a great sense of humor.

Theron first grabbed my attention playing Aileen Wuornos in the movie "Monster." Wuornos was the first known female serial killer in America. I wrote a paper about Aileen Wuornos in college, and she had a very hard life. Wuornos was raised by her grandmother because her mother abandoned her when she was four years old. Her father, a child-molester, hanged himself in prison. Wuornos first started working as a prostitute when she was only 14 years old. Theron also had a hard time at home when she was young. Her father was shot and killed by her mother when Charlize was only 15 years old. He was an alcoholic, and he had physically attacked and threatened Charlize's mother while he was drunk. Her mother did not face any charges because the shooting was legally considered self-defense.

After seeing "Monster," I realized what a versatile actress Theron can be. I was so impressed with her portrayal of Wuornos, and I was glad that she wasn't afraid to appear unattractive in a movie. For her role in "Monster," Theron won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004. She also won a SAG award and a Golden Globe for this same role. She was the first South African to win an Oscar for best actress.

Theron is involved with several women's organizations, and she has marched at pro-choice rallies. She also has an Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP), which helps keep African youth safe from HIV/AIDS. I am so impressed with Charlize Theron's career and charitable work. Even though she had a difficult childhood, she was able to become a successful and strong woman.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Miss Representation

There were terrible thunderstorms near my home this evening, so I ended up staying in and watching a documentary. "Miss Representation" is about the media's objectification of women. This documentary features several influential women including Gloria Steinem, Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Geena Davis and many more. There are several disheartening statistics posted through the documentary, including:

-78% of 17-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies

-The average woman spends between $12,000 and $15,000 a year on beauty products and salon services

-Women spend more on their appearance than on their education

-The average facelift costs $11,429 (enough to pay for five years of community college, two years at a state university, or one year at The University of California)

To say these statistics are depressing is an understatement. Self-objectification has become an epidemic in the United States. When women think of themselves as objects, it distracts them from being leaders and focusing on their strengths. The commentators in "Miss Representation" mentioned some facts about politics that were shocking, which I have listed below:

-Women make up 51% of the U.S. population yet comprise only 17% of Congress

-Only 34 women have ever served as governors compared to 2,319 men

-67 countries in the world have had female presidents or prime ministers, and the U.S. is not one of them

-The U.S. is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures

Women have come a long way, but recently there has been a backlash. This can be partially attributed to the way women are portrayed in the media. Women are more sexualized in the media today than ever before. Reality television portrays women as decorative, useless and stupid. These television shows are a tremendous setback for the women's movement. Some very interesting points on this subject were shared in this documentary:

-Only 16% of protagonists in films are female

-From 1935 - 2005 there were only 13 female protagonists in animated movies, and all except one had the aspiration of finding romance

-Women in their teens, 20's and 30's are 39% of the population, yet they make up 71% of women on television

-Women who are 40 and older are 47% of the population, yet they make up only 26% of women on television

-Women hold only 3% of clout positions in telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising

-Women comprise only 16% of all writers, directors, producers, cinematographers and editors

-The average number of news stories about women and girls is less than 20%

It's a wonder that women have any meaningful roles in television and movies. Geena Davis made an excellent point about how things are run in Hollywood. She said, "All of Hollywood is run on one assumption: that women will watch stories about men, but men won't watch stories about women. All the decisions are made on this concrete fact. That's a horrible assumption that half the population is not interested in the other half." That explains why the majority of protagonist roles are written for men. We need to change these perceptions and no longer accept that men are the only interesting characters in films.

Watching this documentary was certainly a wakeup call. It was startling to realize how skewed the media is right now. At the end of “Miss Representation,” the writer and director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, made an excellent point that we need to live our own vision of what a woman can be. I agree! We need to reject the media's version of reality and accept that we are not defined by what we see on television. Each woman gets to define herself!