Crowdfunding money to rebuild destroyed Montana family health clinic

Since 1976, Susan Cahill of All Families Healthcare has been in family practice in Montana, offering compassionate family/reproductive health services -- including abortion. It is for this reason that her clinic was all but destroyed by violent thugs, who even trashed her irreplaceable personal mementos. An Indiegogo fundraiser has brought in about $32K so far. Cory 14

Tony Benn, secret mounter of illegal Parliamentary plaques


When Tony Benn was a Member of Parliament, he would go around with homemade plaques celebrating heroes of democracy, such as suffragette* Emily Wilding Davison, and illegally screw them to the walls. He copped to this during a sitting of Parliament in 2001, saying, "I have put up several plaques—quite illegally, without permission; I screwed them up myself. One was in the broom cupboard to commemorate Emily Wilding Davison, and another celebrated the people who fought for democracy and those who run the House. If one walks around this place, one sees statues of people, not one of whom believed in democracy, votes for women or anything else. We have to be sure that we are a workshop and not a museum."

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Free to Be...You and Me is 40

It's the fortieth anniversary of the release of Free to Be...You and Me, the groundbreaking movie/record/book that encouraged kids and their grownups to break out of gender stereotypes and shame and be whomever they were. This was hugely influential for me (I registered freetobeyouandme.com to keep it away from squatters and gave it to the nonprofit foundation that continues the project's work), and I'm incredibly pleased to discover that it resonates with my six-year-old daughter, too.

The thing is that Free to Be... is not only right-on in its politics and message -- it's also fabulous: funny, catchy, sweet and smart. It features an all-star cast that includes Michael Jackson, Mel Brooks, Marlo Thomas, Harry Belafonte, Rosie Greer, Carol Channing, Carl Reiner, Alan Alda, Diana Ross, and more. My daughter can't get enough of Boy Meets Girl and we sing William's Doll at bedtime all the time. Unfortunately, the theme of gender stereotypes is just as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. But the good news is that Marlo Thomas and her friends gave us parents a tool for helping our kids understand and break through these stereotypes that is just as powerful today as it was then.

CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht celebrates Free to Be...'s anniversary with a look at When We Were Free to Be, a 2012 book that looks at the project's history and impact:

As a kid on Long Island in the 1970s, Miriam Peskowitz was a frustrated "Free to Be" fan. She wrote in "When We Were Free to Be" about her feminist mom's righteous letters and calls demanding her daughter be able take wood and mechanical shop, or that girls need not wait for boys to ask them to square dance. (Square dancing, of course, being one way that schools satisfied Title IX requirements.) To Peskowitz's dismay, she had the same arguments at her child's school decades later. Peskowitz watched in the mornings as her daughter settled down to draw bubble letters with her gal pals while boys raced each other to the chessboards. The teacher said it wasn't a problem; it's just what the kids chose. "After I nudged again and again, the teacher eventually taught all the children in the classroom how to play chess. Some girls started to choose that as their morning activity," wrote Peskowitz, the author of "The Daring Book for Girls." "Very often," Peskowitz wrote, "all it takes to outsmart gender stereotypes is a little creative thinking and a little gumption.

Free to Be...You and Me [Soundtrack]

Free to Be...You and Me [DVD]

Free to Be...You and Me [35th anniversary edition book]

When We Were Free to Be [Book]

Remembering 'Free to Be... You and Me,' 40 years later [Jamie Gumbrecht/CNN]

Talking diversity in comics with John Ridley, writer of 12 Years a Slave


Zack Smith writes, "I recently got to talk to John Ridley, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of 12 YEARS A SLAVE, about his past writing superhero comics and cartoons including JUSTICE LEAGUE and THE AUTHORITY. Ridley had a number of smart things to say on such topics as the casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Humnan Torch, working with the late Dwayne McDuffie on the JUSTICE LEAGUE movie 'Starcrossed' and his own experiences working in the comics industry. Though he's obviously gone on to big things, Ridley still has a great deal of passion for comics and the people who create them."

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Nerf Rebelle: girl-marketed action toys that are cool and work well


Nerf's Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow (part of the wider Rebelle line of action toys marketed to girls) gets pretty high marks from its owners, and promises a dart-range of 75 feet. I confess that I'm conflicted about this -- there's nothing inherently masculine or feminine about Nerf toys, their gendering is already a synthetic creation of the company's marketing strategy.

That said, there are unquestionably girls who feel like action toys are not for them because of normative gender pressure (to which Nerf is a contributor, of course), and the existence of toys that are intended to allow them the space for imaginative play without worrying about appropriate gender norms is a good thing. Especially since the Rebelle toys are not just "girly" -- they're also cool, as well-built and well-designed as the "boy" versions, the perfect imaginative accessory for your little Hunger Games fan.

Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow (via Super Punch)

Fogcon: cozy, Wiscon-style San Francisco science fiction convention

Keyan sez, "FOGcon is a literary speculative fiction convention in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now in its 4th year, it's big enough to be fun, still small enough not to overwhelm. This year, the theme is Secrets, and the Guests of Honor are Seanan McGuire, Tim Powers, and the late James Tiptree, Jr. It's on March 7-9, 2014."

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Celebrate V-day with a Misandrist Tote Bag


Laurie Penny writes, "What do you give your single friends and ex-partners on Valentine's day? Cult online journal The New Inquiry has released a product line to help them keep on paying their writers and staff. Their exclusive misandrist totebag, with a design by Imp Kerr, is aimed at all those who want to smash the romantic industrial complex in style."

Limited Edition Valentine's Day Tote (Thanks, Laurie!)

Chick Flick: the musical opens in NYC this week

Suzy sez, "I'm continuing my mission to author feminist musical theatre -- over the last decade I've had my work performed in New York, Chicago, Toronto, L.A, and Seattle. My latest effort is titled CHICK FLICK THE MUSICAL and it opens in New York this week."

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BALLS candies: vintage sexist advertising


Oh, the 1970s, when "Women's Lib" could be commodified by sugar-pushers with products like "BALLS" -- candy to give you courage. The jokes in this ad don't even qualify as double-entendres, more like 1.2 entendres. They make Three's Company gags seem sophisticated by comparison. But that T-shirt, on the other hand: sheer hilarity.

Contest Entry: Who says women don't have balls?

Seven year old girl tells Lego off for gender stereotyping in toys: "make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?!"


Charlotte, who is seven, wrote this devastating letter to the Lego company over the way that girl characters and boy characters are handled in its increasingly gendered toys: "All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks."

She calls on Lego "to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?!"

That's a pretty unassailable request. Thank you, Charlotte, for putting it so well.

7yo Charlotte writes an adorable and strongly worded letter to LEGO regarding the lack of adventures for girls.

Korean plastic surgeon removes towering jars of excised jawbones after fine

A Gangnam, Seoul plastic surgeon who did a roaring trade in excising womens' jawbones to give them V-shaped chins was forced to remove the towering jars of thousands of jawbone fragments with which he decorated his office. Photos of the jars spread online, resulting in a visit from a local official, who fined the surgeon about $3000 and ordered the display removed.

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Booth babes are bad for business

Spencer Chen did an A/B test on the efficacy of "booth babes" at a big trade-show, staffing a booth in one part of the floor with scantily clad models, and another with older women recruited for their people skills, dressed in professional attire.

The results were clear for Chen: the "grandmas" generated far more sales-leads and conversions than the "babes." What's more, the kind of attendees the "babes" attracted were less valuable to Chen's companies: rather than roping in executives with purchase-decision power, they brought in young "IT nubs" who just wanted to get their pictures taken with models in sexy outfits.

Importantly, Chen's point isn't just that booth-babes turn off women at trade shows, but that they also turn off men, and he says he has the data to prove it.

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How gender bias in games and geeky movies got there


Anjin Anhut's concise explanation of why gender representation sucks in games and geeky movies (see this and especially this) sounds solid -- if depressingly entrenched -- to me. Anhut's thesis is that entrenched sexism created a situation in which marketing was tilted towards men, and then market research showed that men were the majority consumers of geek culture (surprise, surprise), which led to an even greater male bias in marketing, and more research showing that men were the major customers for games and geeky movies -- lather, rinse, repeat. It's a disheartening tale of how gender bias emerges naturally out of a series of "rational" commercial decisions that reinforce their own flawed logic at each turn.

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Representation of women in games and movies: the awful numbers


Catriona tumbled these enraging statistics about gender and representation in games and films for 2013:

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Lies of the Daily Mail

Yesterday's New Statesman published a long, nuanced profile of Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the despicable Daily Mail. Dacre's a remarkable and contradictory character, profiled with some sympathy but no white-washing by Peter Wilby, but the most striking moment of the piece comes in the first third, when Wilby lays out all the admitted falsehoods and libels published by the Daily Mail -- a list that is incomplete because it only consists of those where retractions, legal action, or other visible signals of falsehood were raised. There's a much longer list of smears and lies about people who couldn't afford to defend themselves from the paper (or couldn't bear to). Still, it's a hell of a list:

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