Thousands of people in 46 states rallied this past Saturday against the ‘War on Women.’ Though the marches received relatively little coverage from the so-called ‘liberal media’ (ha!), the issue of the GOP attacks on women are not going away.

Speaker Boehner will have you believe that the ‘War on Women’ is feminist hysterics. He’ll even throw a temper tantrum on the House floor to prove how upset it makes him. Steven Benen would like him to know that he could make the whole issue go away pretty simply: change your anti-woman policies.

Boehner can shout, point, and pound the podium to his heart’s content, but if he doesn’t want to be criticized for Republican measures that undermine women’s health, he should change his party’s agenda, not whine about Democrats shining a light on that agenda.

Rachel Maddow also recognizes that the GOP attacks on women is about policy. She put together a great segment highlighting the attacks and Republicans’ subsequent denial here: Maddow: GOP Denies War on Women. I encourage you to watch the whole thing.

Where I think Maddow really hits the nail on the head is when she points out that conservatives and progressives seem to be working from different facts. Just as the Republicans are currently denying they are waging a war on women, the same days/weeks that they are passing anti-woman legislation or taking money from women’s health programs, they seem to be clueless as to why they are being accused of this ‘war.’

As Maddow attempted to make a point about Equal Pay on yesterday’s Meet the Press, she was interrupted and treated condescendingly by GOP strategist and well-known sexist Alex Castellanos. He insisted that women don’t earn less than men by cherry-picking a small data point about single women ages 40-64. But he flat-out denied that women earn less than men, which is a well-documented fact.

Because the GOP is unwilling to change their policies that hurt women, they have to deny that any problem exists. They need women’s votes, as we are the demographic that elects the president. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if they choose to lighten up on the attacks in recognition of the political toll they are taking, or if they will double down and alienate the most important voter block at the risk of losing their jobs.

It’s time to stop talking about women and start listening to women. Or you can laugh at us and interrupt us like Alex Castellanos. It may be good television, but it’s bad politics.

Last week I participated in a book discussion at the college where I work. We were discussing a book by a journalist who was kidnapped by the Taliban while reporting on the war in Afghanistan. During our discussion, one of my colleagues mentioned how dangerous these combat zones have become for journalists. She then said, “Look what happened to Lara Logan in Egypt. I mean, what was she thinking?”

Today as I listen to reports of the filmmaker and photojournalist killed in Libya, I can’t help but notice that not a single person has questioned their decision to be there. Instead, these men are lauded for bringing us the truth and taking risks in the process. Despite the fact that they chose to put themselves in harm’s way without protective gear, no one is questioning their judgment.

Several reports I’ve heard have pointed out the sensitivity with which Tim Hetherington captures images of war. I dare to suggest that Lara Logan brought a similar sensitivity to her work in Egypt. Simply due to her gender, she was better able to gain access to Egyptian women’s experiences, a perspective often overlooked in the coverage of that story.

The recent loss of these brave journalists in Libya is tragic, and I am not suggesting that they should not have been in a combat zone. I do, however, wish to draw attention to the very different narratives surrounding male and female journalists in conflict areas. With Lara Logan, the story was about her appearance and her gender, and it was chock full of victim-blaming. Newsweek immediately did a story about “Women in Harm’s Way.” Some even suggested she was enjoying all the attention her assault would bring her. She was not viewed as a brave journalist willing to venture into a dangerous situation to bring us the truth, but rather as a woman who took an unnecessary risk.

Over the next few days as you learn more about the story unfolding in Libya, please notice the narrative surrounding Tim Hetherington and his colleagues. They are described with praise, admiration and dedication. All of these words are undoubtedly appropriate, but should not be attributed selectively, based on the person’s gender.

University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team won their 89th straight NCAA game last night, breaking John Wooden’s UCLA men’s streak of 88 games from 37 years ago. Congratulations to these world class athletes. Your hard work and dedication is inspiring. Here’s to other teams being compared to you (instead of vice versa) for a while.

My first question is, had you heard about it?

The sports columnist for my local paper wants to assure you that the reason this story isn’t getting much press has nothing to do with sexism or misogyny, but rather, apathy.

Geno Auriemma imagines an enemy that doesn’t exist. Running short of worthy opponents, Connecticut’s all-conquering women’s basketball coach has constructed a straw chauvinist, a mythological misogynist who can’t bear the thought of females surpassing the record winning streak of John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins.

Frankly, your typical testosterone-laden troglodyte is not threatened by UConn’s success because it has barely registered on his brain. He was not ‘having a heart attack,’ as Auriemma put it Saturday, ‘because a bunch of women are threatening to break a men’s record,’ nor did he wail or gnash his teeth when that threat was carried out Tuesday night in Connecticut’s 93-62 thumping of Florida State.

Neanderthal Man is not angry, agitated or anxious. What he is, at his primal core, is apathetic.

Mr. Sullivan admits that it’s a pity that sports fans are uninterested in the Huskies’ accomplishments, but he defends their right to be indifferent. But how can he explain the media’s lack of coverage of this very newsworthy event? Where he goes wrong is his inability to make the connection between apathy (or anger, even though he denies it’s there) and the gender of the athletes. That’s sexism. It’s so ingrained in him that he can’t even see it.

Imagine for a moment that you have a son and a daughter who are both talented musicians. They perform concerts on separate days and the local newspaper only covers your son’s concert. Would you tell your daughter not to worry, that people aren’t angry with her musical talents (or the fact that she’s better than her brother), they just don’t care about girls’ accomplishments. Is this an explanation you would expect your daughter to understand?

Does my example seem far fetched and exaggerated? Tell that to Alissa Johnson, one of the US’s top five women ski jumpers who was forced to attend this year’s Olympics in support of her brother rather than as an athlete, because there is no women’s team. The women ski jumpers were not allowed to compete in this year’s Olympics, despite the fact that the record for the longest jump is held by a woman, Lindsey Van. The gatekeepers, usually men (in this case the IOC), are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy with regard to women’s sports.

As veteran jumper Jessica Jerome, 23, of Park City points out, without being in the Olympics, it’s tough to develop to the level that the IOC seems to want of her sport. “People don’t understand the seriousness of a World Cup title, or a World Championship medal; they just want to see people at the Olympics. So without the Olympics, you’re not going to get the funding. You’re not going to get the support,” she says. “It’s a catch-22.”

The fact is that there are many men, sports reporters even, who feel very threatened by the accomplishments of women athletes. David Whitley of FanHouse wrote:

“Rule No. 1 in determining whether an activity is a sport: If the best female in the world can beat the best male in the world, it doesn’t qualify.”

Mark Potach feels so threatened by the idea that women could ever beat a men’s record that he feels the need to attack the team’s physical abilities, to remind them of their place:

But if Geno wants to continue the charade of breaking the men’s record, he’s going to have to start playing some men’s teams. I think he knows how ugly that would get. There are probably 10 high school teams in the city that could beat the Connecticut women.

David Whitley and Mark Potach are not straw chauvinists, Mr. Sullivan. And that’s not apathy Potach is expressing. These two men are actively working to keep women’s sports less popular than men’s. Perhaps what some don’t realize about apathy is that it can be feigned. If we pretend not to notice women’s accomplishments, we don’t have to admit that they are just as good, if not better, than the men. Another thing he overlooks is the danger in this perceived apathy. The news media makes decisions every day about whose accomplishments matter. Our daughters are paying attention. By accepting the idea that people don’t care about UConn’s record, you’re making it so.

Conservatives are peddling misinformation about Michelle Obama’s recent European vacation. They have even taken to comparing her to Marie Antoinette. Ponder that one for a moment. If taken literally, this label would insinuate that the First Lady is promiscuous and sympathizes with our enemies. Are Republicans suggesting that the First Lady has been found guilty of treason and thus will soon be executed by guillotine? Probably not (though Bradley Blakeman does evoke Antoinette’s beheading as he insists “heads will roll”).

I’m inclined to believe that the right does not mean this comparison literally. We must therefore understand their name calling to suggest that Michelle Obama is a member of the tone-deaf elite who cares nothing for the poor. You know, of “let them eat cake” fame. Clearly her career choices have shown her to be the exact opposite. Not that conservatives of late are apt to let facts get in the way of their arguments. A young Michelle Obama left corporate law to work as an assistant to the chief-of-staff to Mayor Daley, and from there helped young people get into public service at Public Allies. Later, she worked her way up at the University of Chicago Hospitals, all the while working closely with the community around her.

If we want to make Marie Antoinette comparisons based in facts, let’s go:

Currently, Republicans are working hard to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, even though it’s clear that this is not the best solution for stimulating the economy and getting jobs to the other 98%. Look at this graph and help me understand how Republicans plan to get elected as they lie through their teeth about caring about lowering the deficit.

Conservatives are piling on the ‘unemployed people are lazy‘ meme. Talk about tone deaf.

Republicans belief in deregulation and corporations-as-king helped get us to a place in history where the only entity with the technology to police BP was BP. They peddled conspiracies that the spill was an inside job, while continuing to stick up for big oil. One member of the GOP even thought BP deserved an apology for the way it was treated during the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history.

And as our country is literally falling apart, Republicans continue the lie that the stimulus hasn’t created any jobs and that the recession is Obama’s fault. Check out this graph and tell me which administration should take the blame for this recession.

If you want to call names like a child on the playground, go right ahead. But when the name you’re calling an opponent can be shown to apply much more readily to you, you might want to be careful that the “takes one to know one” comeback doesn’t stick.

Also, your racism is showing.

San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman was arrested early this morning for allegedly choking and restraining Tila “Tequila” Nguyen. The coverage on sports sites unsurprisingly focuses on how this will hurt Merriman’s team, and frustration that this could happen so close to the start of the season. According to SR at the Bleacher Report:

The real questions is…What in the world was Merriman thinking? After all this time in working to come back into the NFL, why would he do something so stupid to not only hurt himself, but his team as well?

To the author’s credit, he does assert that NFL players can’t be choking women and getting away with it. But his immediately concern for the player and the team, with very little consideration for the health of the alleged victim (a sentiment echoed by several articles) is staggering.

Check out this poll:

MerrimanPoll

Misogyny in the sports world is thriving. If you have any doubts, read the comments section of any article covering this story. As a woman who loves sports, it’s growing harder to support any professional team because they condone violence against women.

Late last year, Brian Giles, outfielder for the San Diego Padres, faced assault charges by his former girlfriend. At first, the Padres came out with a strong statement insisting that they would not condone any form of violence against women and, much like the Chargers are doing, vowing to watch the case carefully as it unfolded. Despite video evidence showing Brian Giles throwing his girlfriend on the ground in a public place, the story was swept under the rug. At first, I tried not to support the Padres, a team I’ve rooted for my entire life. Eventually, I started watching games again, secretly rooting against Brian Giles each time he played. But why am I forced to choose between loving professional sports and condoning violence against women?

Sadly, Michael Vick has faced a much stronger backlash for his role in dog fighting than any recent athlete accused of violence against women. Is it because no one was able to turn the tables in the Vick case and blame the dogs? Shawne Merriman’s alleged attack on his girlfriend happened this morning. How long will it take for the media to blame his victim and then forget anything ever happened? Michael Vick has inspired boycotts and angry petitions from sports fans and non-fans alike.� Where’s the “NFL Fans Against Violence Against Women” group?

Now that’s equality!

Just a taste…

Michelle Obama’s European Outfits: Which did she wear best?

Michelle Obama Makes a Fashion Statement in London

Michelle Obama: Fashion icon?

Michelle Obama: Fashion diva or disaster?

There was also the contrived media drama over Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s “fashion faceoff,” about which Melissa McEwan noted:

Why is it, when any two powerful womenespecially beautiful powerful womenare in the same place at the same time, the media has to treat it like a grudge match?!

Not surprisingly, there was little mention of the male G-20 spouses’ fashion choices. They didn’t even bother to show up for the G-20 spouses dinner (or at least, they missed the photo). I mean, who could blame them?

h/t Courtney @ feministing

Deborah Siegel, over at Girl w/ Pen, is trying to start a little infectious blog quiz. If you’ve got one, paste these questions and add one of your own, then post it up at your blog so we can spread the knowledge.

1. In 2009, women make up what percent of the U.S. Congress?
A. 3%
B. 17%
C. 33%
D. 50%

2. How many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are female?
A. 12
B. 28
C. 59
D. 84

3. Who was the first First Lady to create her own media presence (ie hold regular press conferences, write a daily newspaper column and a monthly magazine column, and host a weekly radio show)?
A. Eleanor Roosevelt
B. Jacqueline Kennedy
C. Pat Nixon
D. Hillary Clinton

4. The Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced to Congress in:
A. 1923
B. 1942
C. 1969
D. 1971

5. Who was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature?
A. Phyllis Wheatley
B. Alice Walker
C. Toni Morrison
D. Maya Angelou

6. What percentage of union members are women today?
A. 10%
B. 25%
C. 35%
D. 45%

7. What year did the Griswold v. Connecticut decision guarantee married women the right to birth control?
A. 1960
B. 1965
C. 1969
D. 1950

8. More women than men have voted in every U.S. election since:

A. 1964

B. 1972

C. 1976

D. 1988

Click “more…” for answers

(more…)

Courtney Martin, of the Women’s Media Center and Feministing, took on Bill O’Reilly yesterday. In his segment, he defended his comments against journalist Helen Thomas, but quickly got off topic. O’Reilly accused women’s groups of staying silent on the issue of sexism against Sarah Palin, arguing they were hypocrites for only recognizing sexism against women whose politics they agree with.

Now, if Mr. O’Reilly had taken just 10 seconds to google his guest Courtney Martin, he would have found that not only has she spoken out against the sexism Sarah Palin faced, she even called out Bill-O himself for sexist comments regarding Ms. Palin.

Shakesville has a list of over 25 examples of Sarah Palin sexism. The Women’s Media Center also ran pieces covering sexism against Sarah Palin, including this one from Campbell Brown on CNN.

O’Reilly says that if Martin in fact did speak out against the sexism that Sarah Palin faced, he would apologize. We won’t hold our feminist breath. But seriously, do some research on your guests. What you’re doing is not journalism.

This morning we get news of yet another administration official with tax problems.

Nancy Killefer, appointed by the president last month to a new position to scrutinize government spending, told the administration on Monday that she intended to step down from the position at the Office of Management and Budget. An administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not finalized, confirmed that Ms. Killefer’s withdrawal came because of questions with her taxes. (NYTimes)

The arguments will be that if we are to restore people’s confidence in government, there cannot be any question about the integrity of these appointed officials. Unless, of course you’re Tom Daschle, or Tim Geitner, or…

It’s not clear if Killefer’s issues are significant in a vacuum or whether she’s a victim of the “Rule of Three” — i.e., being lumped in with Geithner and Daschle. Then again, Killefer was involved with the IRS in a significant way, so there may be a zero tolerance on the tax front for her, specifically.  (MSNBC)

Of course, only one of the three is withdrawing.  Yesterday, administration big wigs, including President Obama and Senator Edward Kennedy, rushed to Daschle’s defense. It’s difficult not to notice that the men are surviving while the woman pays the price.

Now, with Geithner having survived what was largely a party-line confirmation vote and Daschle battling to keep his nomination alive, White House officials seemed to have decided that they could not have a third prominent official in the administration who failed to pay taxes.

Daschle admitted failing to pay $100,000 in back taxes on a free limo service provided by a Democratic donor. Geithner also paid $42,000 in back taxes and penalties.

“She has nanny tax problems that may not have been insurmountable on their own, but given the Geithner and Daschle cumulative effect, she had to withdraw” said a Senate source informed of the withdrawal. (Politico)

Nanny problems…why does that sound familiar? Oh, that’s right. Caroline Kennedy recently withdrew from consideration over a similar issue. Now, I’m not making excuses for their dishonesty. What I am doing is noticing that these indiscretions seem to have a much great impact on the women involved than they do on the men. The reaction of the public, the administration, and the press is also disproportionate.

Is it any wonder that young girls already recognize that women in politics have to work harder to gain positions of leadership?

Political strategist Donna Brazile noted the contrast between the excitement surrounding Obama’s inauguration this week and the general public attitude toward women in office, one that she said helped drive Kennedy out of the running.

“Obama inspired us to turn the page, and now women seem stuck in the table of contents,” she said.

Noting that women still make up less than 20 percent of both houses of Congress, Brazile said: “The elevator to our future growth in the Congress is still stuck in the lobby. It’s time we hurry history.”(WaPo)

Yesterday was so clearly a day for the history books. It was evident in all the exchanges I had with people yesterday. There was an underlying understanding that we were living through a great “where were you when…” moment.

Some of my hopefulness is dashed as I read headline after headline about yesterday’s events in which the only mention of Michelle Obama deals with her outfits. Really? As the headline over at Feministing so accurately summed up my frustration,

Historic Moment! Michelle Obama Wears a Dress

The historical significance of yesterday’s events somehow exaggerates the offensiveness of reducing this woman to her clothing. Reports could have asked her how it feels to be First Lady, what her plan is for how she will fill this role, or even what she thought of the inauguration events. Instead, we get this:

Who Made Michelle Obama’s Dresses? (ChicagoTribune)

Michelle Obama Wears it Well (BostonGlobe)

First Lady Passes Fashionista Test (ABC)

Michelle Obama Makes Important Statement with Fashion Choice (Bloomberg)

The First Lady Tells a Story with Fashion (NYTimes)

So on a day in which reporters gushed about how we can now tell our children that they can truly be anything they want to be, the message to little girls continues to be: what matters most is how you look.

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