CVIndependent

Sun06242018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

We live in a time when the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination is being targeted by his own party (via the Republican Principles PAC) with a depressingly accurate TV advertisement that quotes the various derogatory expressions Donald Trump has used over the years to describe women.

It’s also a time when a Lane Bryant ad featuring “plus size” woman resulted in a backlash—including two major networks, ABC and NBC, refusing to run it.

This means it’s time to address an age-old issue: the objectification of women, and its resulting impact on women in particular, and society in general.

Sure, there are lots of examples of how badly some nations around the world treat half of the population—horrors like genital mutilation/female circumcision; burning women alive who are suspected of violating cultural norms like having extra-marital sex (including having been raped); the sex trafficking of young girls; and practices like arranged marriages of minor females, a lack of access to birth control, culturally accepted “domestic” violence, not allowing women to start businesses or work outside of their homes, a lack of education for girls, etc. etc. etc. While practices such as these make us wring our hands with a sense of outrage and frustration at not knowing how to begin to fix it all, we tend to overlook the objectification of women right here at home—and its impact as a violation of American principles of equality and dignity.

Issues like a lack of equal pay for equal work, and women being denied positions of power in major industries, are all too often met with sound-bites about women taking time off to have children (in an industrialized nation that still offers no mandated paid leave), or choosing careers that are about taking care of others rather than pursuing big money. We also often here how much progress has already been made, with claims that we can’t change too fast, or that women are surpassing men in getting higher education, so we’ll see much more of a payoff in the future.

I, for one, am tired of waiting. Women are still fighting sexism, objectification based on appearance and sexuality, and disparate standards for judging performance. (“She’s too pushy/loud/strident,” some say about Hillary Clinton, while when a male politician acts similarly, they say: “He’s a strong leader.”) I was someone who raised these issues more than 40 years ago, and it’s disheartening to see young women—assuming that equality would await them out in the “real world”—realizing that, in fact, little has really changed.

Let’s start with the networks turning down the ad from Lane Bryant, a women’s clothing retailer specifically catering to “plus size” women. The ad features a range of women of various sizes celebrating the female form. Each shares what makes her proud about her body, with tag lines like: “This body was made for being bold and powerful”; “This body proves them wrong”; “This body is made for life”; and a new mother saying, “This body was made for love,” while breastfeeding her infant.

NBC claimed the ad violated a “broadcast indecency guideline” standard. The Federal Communications Commission says indecency is “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium (my emphasis), sexual or excretory organs or activities.” According to TMZ, a 2010 ad from Lane Bryant was also turned down by ABC and Fox.

By comparison, networks have no problem with showing promos for the Victoria’s Secret annual “fashion show,” or beer ads featuring scantily clad women. We see women’s bodies used to sell everything from cars to tools to food. We have dolls in leather miniskirts with feather boas and thigh-high boots marketed specifically to girls, and thong panties for little girls with slogans like “eye candy.” We see Victoria’s Secret models dressed like angels strutting down the runway on primetime TV.

But we seldom see women’s bodies as they really are. According to WebMD, the average American woman today wears a size 14 and weighs between 140 and 150 pounds. By comparison, over the past 20 years, fashion model sizes have dropped from size 8 to size 0.

A new campaign, Stand Up, is specifically focusing on the way girls are constantly encouraged to be body-conscious, resort to elective plastic surgery, and flaunt themselves as if equality includes risking being labeled a slut. (Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.) The campaign launched an online petition that garnered thousands of signatures from people all over the world, and features men also “standing up” for the women in their lives—mothers, sisters, daughters, friends.

In part, the petition says: “Every day women are bombarded with advertisements aimed at making them feel insecure about their bodies, in the hope that they will spend money on products that will supposedly make them happier and more beautiful. All this does is perpetuate low self-esteem among women who are made to feel that their bodies are inadequate and unattractive because they do not fit into a narrow standard of beauty. It contributes to a culture that encourages serious health problems such as negative body image and eating disorders.”

Victoria’s Secret, which took heat for their “The Perfect Body” ad featuring typically skinny models, responded to the backlash by changing their tag line to “A Body for Everybody”—but they didn’t change the visual image.

The American Psychological Association released a report in 2007 addressing the “sexualization of girls in the media,” and the result was that women and girls are not seen as fully functioning individuals, but rather judged primarily as sexual objects. This has an impact on boys and how they see girls, and on men and how they view women in society. The APA report says, “The findings proved girls are portrayed in a sexual manner … that implies sexual readiness. … With these sexist, stereotypical models of femininity constantly being perpetuated in the media, the negative implications affecting the mental, emotional and physical wellness of girls are many.”

According to the APA, “Sexualization of women and girls can also have a negative impact on boys and men.” Objectifying girls and women, and even sex itself, has become integral to definitions of masculinity, and “these beliefs may jeopardize men’s ability to form and maintain intimate relationships with women.” This applies also to how men see women in the professional world.

A joke currently making the rounds is that Caitlin Jenner is the only person clamoring to be woman over the age of 50—a clear reference to the fact that women “of a certain age” are no longer considered desirable. Ray Moore, head of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament held in Indian Wells, publicly apologized and then resigned after saying the women of professional tennis are “very, very lucky” they “don’t make any decisions,” and should thank men for their success, despite all their years of hard work and outstanding athleticism. He describes these powerful women as “physically attractive and competitively attractive”—implying their looks are an integral element in their success on the court.

Which brings me to Donald Trump’s descriptions of women as quoted by the Republican Principles PAC ad. Trump’s actual quotes include his disparaging characterization of GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina (“Who would vote for that face?”); comments about Rosie O’Donnell (“a fat pig” and “a dog”); his ongoing animosity toward Fox broadcaster Megyn Kelly (“blood coming out of her … wherever” and “a bimbo”), and general comments like: “For a person who is flat-chested, it’s hard to be a 10”; “It doesn’t matter what they write (about you) as long as you’ve got a beautiful piece of ass”; and my personal favorite, said to a contestant on The Apprentice, “That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.”

Trump’s response to CNN when asked about all this? “Some of my words are just show business … Nobody respects women more than I do.”

Yeah, and some of my best friends are (fill in the blank). This man could very well become president—proving that women will continue to be objectified until we all, women and men, speak out and stand up.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Every woman I know was thrilled by Carly Fiorina’s response at the second Republican debate to Donald Trump’s denigrating comment about her looks. Whether you agree with her policies or believe she is qualified to be president, her confident and direct hit at Trump was the standout moment.

“Look at that face!” Trump had proclaimed to a Rolling Stone reporter. “Who would vote for that?” When pushed to explain his denigrating comment, Trump claimed he was only talking about Fiorina’s “persona.”

During the debate, after Trump confronted Jeb Bush on his awkward comments about women’s health funding (which Bush claimed was a “mis-speak”), Fiorina was asked about Trump’s comments regarding her looks. With a calm, deliberate tone, she responded, “Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.” Bam!

Trump then followed with what every woman knows is the equivalent of a pat on the head: “She’s got a beautiful face, and she’s a beautiful woman.”

Sorry, Donald. Too little, too late.

Why were women so pleased with Fiorina’s response? Too few of us ever feel that confident to respond effectively to a man belittling us based on our looks. Having someone say, “You look nice today,” is always welcome. But when you’re in the boardroom, or the planning meeting, or a presidential debate, your looks are the last attribute you want noticed. It’s one of the small but persistent things that diminish women in public and private venues. When comments are made like, “That dress makes you look really sexy,” or, “Why would anyone vote for someone who looks like that?” it’s not only not OK; it should be socially unacceptable.

Statistics and analyses frequently illustrate the disparity between women and men in salaries and career opportunities, including the 85 percent dominance by men in Silicon Valley; the recently successful book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg; and disappointing numbers of women in creative leadership roles, such as those in movies and television (with a few notable exceptions like Tina Fey, the Amys—Schumer and Poehler, and Shonda Rhimes, used to refute the complaints: “Hey, they made it, so what are you complaining about?”).

All of this came to mind as I was reading Palm Springs resident Carlynne McDonnell’s book, The Every Woman’s Guide to Equality, which contains helpful advice for women on how to respond to situations in which they are treated with less than the full measure of respect they deserve.

McDonnell has been in the Coachella Valley for about three years. Her background includes a degree in humanities and a master’s in public policy. She has always been involved in writing, but professionally, it was usually of the technical variety, involving contracts, specifications, policies and procedures. Carlynne worked primarily in what she describes as “male-centric industries”—on the docks in Houston, and with the railroad in New Jersey. She felt compelled to write about the basics for women’s equality, particularly in the workplace.

“I felt I had not done enough to help other women,” she said. “Just listen to the way women are described, and the way women are talked about publicly. We’ve been desensitized to it, and it doesn’t seem like anyone stands up and says, ‘Stop it!’ It reaches the point where there is so much negativity, it can become overwhelming.”

Last year, McDonnell decided it was time to speak up and make a difference.

“I started the book last April, because I wanted to address how women can come together to have the greatest impact,” she says. “Women need to stop being so divided and talk in terms of our most-common factor: We are all women. Although we are not encouraged to speak our minds, we must do something instead of nothing. We can effect change as a group with the power of our voices and our dollars, but we need a continuous effort. We can and must change the world.”

For McDonnell, individual activism is a key component of the change she sees as necessary: “We need to demand a culture of success where the most qualified, regardless of gender or race or any other factor, is the one hired to do the job.”

She sees too much reliance on old ways of doing things, or people wanting to hire people just like themselves, or policies that don’t make a conscious effort to overcome old biases.

“I have a problem with the idea of ‘unconscious bias,’” she said. “On some level, it becomes conscious exclusion, and that’s what policies have to overcome. These things should not have to be legislated—they’re just good policies. But ultimately, the long-term message must be, ‘You can pay me now, or it will cost you a lot more later.’”

McDonnell also focuses on violence against women, as she sees a shifting view of responsibility: “People don’t realize how many women are killed every year. We call it ‘domestic’ violence, but the way we view women in crisis is often that the onus falls on the woman. Even women will say, ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’”

McDonnell’s book includes a chapter on health-care bias, where the emphasis is too often on diseases that get the most financial profile and support, such as breast cancer, compared to those that have higher death rates for women, like heart disease or stroke.

She also highlights the role of men and the need for them to have raised consciousness about the often subtle ways in which women are publicly disrespected. Her husband “has walked out of car dealer showrooms and declined to move forward with contractors who showed disrespect for me. He not only gets it; he acts on it.”

How can women learn to respond, like Fiorina, when their efforts are trivialized or disrespected? McDonnell includes many helpful suggestions that women can incorporate into their everyday lives. If you’re treated inappropriately at a store or restaurant, speak to someone in charge, and let them know why you will no longer spend your money in their establishment. Ask questions of your health-care providers about whether their recommended treatment is specific to women, or whether the testing and protocols were only researched with men. Stand up for women whose voices may not be heard. Get angry and vocal with police departments and elected officials who do not make safety, security and equality for women high priorities. Speak up when people use trivializing language about women and girls: “Don’t let ‘like a girl’ be anything more than an empowering battle cry to strive and succeed.”

McDonnell’s bottom-line message is that women must stand up and be heard, be role models, mentor others and educate without intimidating. “We allow our power to be diminished by not responding. Every time you stand up for yourself, you stand up for those who cannot do so. ”

Carly Fiorina gave us a good model of how to do that. Carlynne McDonnell is attempting to empower us all to do the same.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

The Purple Room Restaurant and Stage is known for its residencies featuring acts such as the Gand Band and The Judy Show—but the venue hasn’t been particularly well-known as a place to see edgier, younger talent.

However, that is beginning to change, thanks to a new series of programming called Purple Room After Dark. The series features local and visiting acts in shows that start at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Handling the booking for Purple Room After Dark is Alex Callego, who has worked with the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, as well as Bar. He also handles the Palm Springs Comic-Con and various other local events.

“I was approached by Tony Marchese, and by Dean McFarlane, who I used to work with over at the Ace Hotel,” Callego explained. “When Dean moved over to Purple Room, I said, ‘Hey, maybe you can get me in there. I’d love to try to do some entertainment over there.’

“It took about a year. Tony contacted me and basically wanted to have a meeting. We sat down, and I gave them a proposal, and we are launching our first shows at the end of February. This is the first time I’ve been able to actually be creative with what I’m doing—and there’s a lot of stuff I’m really excited to do.”

Local acts slated to play at the Purple Room in February include Waxy (Friday, Feb. 20), DJ Aimlo (Saturday, Feb. 21 and 28), CIVX (Friday, Feb. 27) and Independent resident DJ All Night Shoes (Saturday, Feb. 28).

Callego said he has big plans for March.

“I have Organic Junk Fude on Friday, March 6, with the Yip-Yops. Organic Junk Fude is a band that was around in the early 2000s and sort of had a cult following. They were this punk band that were kind of like GWAR, and also did hip-hop. It was a really strange stage show—and I was actually in the band for a bit. They were gone for a few years. They all have kids, and now they’re back and writing new music.” (See The Lucky 13 for more on Organic Junk Fude.)

Callego also isn’t afraid to go beyond musical acts for Purple Room After Dark.

“Another thing I have that I’m excited about is a stand-up comedy show on Friday, March 20, with Allen Strickland Williams, Eric Dadourian and Solomon Georgio. Allen Strickland Williams is part of a sketch group called Women; they’re getting a lot of attention and just got picked up by IFC.com. … All of them individually in Women are really talented and do different things. Solomon Georgio was just on Conan, and he did a lot of awesome comedy writing. Eric Dadourian was written up somewhere as part of the 100 Best Comics in Los Angeles.”

The band Roses is scheduled to appear on Saturday, March 21. It features members of the late, lamented group Abe Vigoda.

“Abe Vigoda played Coachella, but they are now defunct,” Callego explained. “Roses just did a mini-tour and played in New York. They also part of the scene that plays at The Smell in L.A. I’m also going to have Dunes on Saturday, March 28, which also features ex-members of Abe Vigoda.”

Callego said admission to most shows is free for the time being.

“We will have some shows that will have a $5 or $10 cover charge at the door, but I would say a good 90 to 95 percent of our shows will be free,” he said.

Purple Room After Dark takes place at 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, at the Purple Room Restaurant and Stage, located at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Admission to most shows is free. For more information and a complete schedule, call 760-322-4422, or visit afterdark.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

There is a stigma that often comes from women talking about menstruation publicly. And the shame happens in many ways.

Last year, the online publication Jezebel published an article titled called “What Life Is Like When Getting Your Period Means You Are Shunned.” It profiled the life of a 16-year-old girl in Western Nepal named Radha, who, like all the other women in her village, could “not enter her house or eat anything but boiled rice” while she was menstruating. Radha was not allowed to touch other people during her menstruation cycle, because she’d “pollute them” and perhaps make them sick.

She wasn't allowed to sleep in her own house. She must join the rest of the women in the village who happen to be menstruating that week in a tiny shed far away from the village.

The Western world claims to be more progressive, yet even here, there are many forms of shaming menstruating. Consider the way in which menstrual products are usually commercialized and advertized in “stylish,” cool, colorful containers. It sends a message to women: If they own the cool, colorful products, that will lessen the shame that comes from being a human woman with a healthy, working body.

For me, as a young girl raised locally, it always seemed like a periods were taboo subject. The community I grew up in (Mecca, located on the east side of the Coachella Valley) is mostly Latino/Hispanic, and parts of that culture have deeply rooted patriarchal and misogynistic ideas about what it is to be Latina; girls internalize these ideas as they grow up. Adding to the taboo is the fact that women and girls in the 21st century grow up within a highly sexualized culture, further internalizing the idea that their bodies are objects for men to lust over—with health not even being prioritized.

According to the zine Menstruation Sensation by Alyssa Beers, in the U.S. alone, there are 73 million menstruating women right now. So why can't we talk about it without everyone cringing or crying out, “Gross!”

From 4 to 6:30 p.m. this Friday, Jan. 23, we’re holding an event at Raices Cultura, located at 1494 Sixth St., in Coachella. This event will include a discussion of alternative menstrual products that are not talked about in the mainstream media. These alternative menstrual products are also not as available in stores as tampons and sanitary pads—yet the benefits of using reusable menstrual products are huge.

Tampon applicators and disposable pads are made of oil-based polyethylene plastics. They just add to the country’s dependency on oil companies, and they contribute to the thinning of the ozone layer while they are being fabricated. The Menstruation Sensation zine states that in 1999, 1.4 million pads, 2.4 million tampons and 700,000 panty liners were disposed of daily. Annually, more than 12 billion tampons and napkins are disposed of. And we all know climate change isn't a made-up thing.

If that isn't enough for you to consider looking into reusable menstrual products, then look into TSS (toxic shock syndrome), which can come from using tampons. Men and children have also been known to been affected by it.

There’s one more reason to like reusable menstrual products: They save you a lot of money. Who doesn't like saving money?

During the event, two other presenters and I will be discussing and presenting the different types of menstrual products, where to get them, and even how to make them yourselves.

The youngest presenter, Cynthia Portillo, is 17 and a filmmaker. “We can improve so much just by knowing how and why our body works,” she says, which is true—a lot of women don't seem to fully understand their body and often don’t want to understand their body, due to fat-shaming, cat-calling, slut-shaming and, of course, menstruation stigma.

It'll be a safe space for girls and women to share, learn and converse about their bodies and health. No shaming will be allowed! If men want to join, that's also cool, but they must come willing to learn and engage in the conversation in a mature, non-sexist way. 

For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Published in Community Voices

After hearing the lamentable Rush Limbaugh refer to the “chickification of America,” because NFL football players wore pink to support breast cancer research (men have breasts too, you know, and also get cancer), I was fuming and determined to write about my anger and frustration.

In spite of that initial impulse, here’s what I’m NOT writing about today:

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As someone who was once in an abusive relationship (and if it could happen to me, it can happen to anyone, men included), I’m NOT writing about how important it is that society recognize the reality of how difficult it is to leave and to stay alive. I’m NOT writing about how 44 percent of all women murdered with guns in the U.S. are killed by a current or former intimate partner

More than 135,000 women became extremely poor in 2012—not just poor, but “extremely” poor—and people 65 and older are now more vulnerable to poverty, up significantly from 2011. Although my big fear is to end up eating cat food, I’m NOT writing about why women haven’t demanded compensatory Social Security for those whose “job” is to be a homemaker and mother, so they can survive old age.  Nor am I writing about the growing economic disparity between those at the very top and everyone else, and its disproportionate impact on women.

• The United States is among only eight nations in the world who don’t give women paid maternity leave—it’s often unpaid if you get it at all without jeopardizing your job—and our need for universally available and affordable day care is an embarrassment among nations. But I’m NOT writing about how this affects women’s ability to hold gainful employment or complete their education and thus be economically independent. 

• Women are not present at all on the boards of major corporations. Twitter has a seven-man board with no women; 36 percent of the 2,770 largest public companies have no women on their boards; and companies with women on their boards have better overall economic results. Yet I’m NOT writing about why women aren’t controlling and influencing all investment decisions based on this regrettable fact—although if we could get rid of apartheid, we should be able to get qualified women on corporate boards.

• While “half of all American children will at some point during their childhood reside in a household that uses food stamps for a period of time,” I am NOT writing about the callousness of those who refuse to make work pay a living wage, or who demand deficit reduction by penalizing the vulnerable with food stamp cuts, or who characterize those who need assistance as lazy and unmotivated “takers,” yet won’t support the education or child care that would allow self-sufficiency. 

• Even as abortion and access to “women’s health services” are increasingly subject to ridiculous and onerous restrictions, I’m NOT writing about the difference it makes who appoints judges to federal courts—although it does.

As a political commentator, it’s enticing to address any of these issues and take both policy and political stands. But I decided to write about something bigger than issues or politics: the need to set an entirely new policy agenda. I believe that women, and men who respect women, are uniquely poised to make that happen.

My experience as a mediator has shown that when two polarized sides of a debate are dug in, there is room to head right down the middle and define a new way of moving forward.

Politicians are staking out ever-more-radical positions for niche constituencies, so I am sending out a clarion call to women of every political stripe: WE can demand a new agenda. 

There are more of us. We live longer. We’re getting more educated. We already do whatever we have to do to take care of ourselves and our children. We make choices—not always good ones—and we live with the consequences. We have a collective voice, and it’s time to be heard.

Get involved. Demand, as a group along with your neighbors, to meet with elected officials at every level, and tell them you expect them to pay attention, or you will organize voters against them. If big business and the wealthy can influence public policy, organized and informed voters as a bloc can have an even greater impact.

We can’t leave it to anyone else. Change takes time. Results won’t come quickly. But we have to be present and involved, invested for the long haul.

Get informed. Educate others. Consider running for office. Vote in EVERY election, no matter how small or local. Contrary to conspiracy theories, votes do count! 

Don’t get suckered in by slick slogans designed to “sell” a candidate with sound bites that don’t really inform.

Visit nonpartisan websites like the League of Women Voters or No Labels. Spend as much time on this as you do playing computer games.

Bottom line: I think it’s time for a women’s strike. 

What if, for just two days, women (and the men who support them) across the country stayed home from work, didn’t cook or clean, didn’t deliver a tray of drinks, didn’t operate the cash register, didn’t re-hang clothes on the racks, didn’t make appointments, didn’t help people fill out forms, didn’t sell anyone’s home or didn’t process a bank deposit. 

What if a few agenda items—paid maternity leave, universal child care, comparable equal pay, a raised minimum wage, and greater representation where decisions are made—were highlighted as SO important they must no longer be ignored?

If all else fails, there’s always the Lysistrata strategy

This is adapted from a speech given to the Sun City, Palm Desert Democratic Club on Oct. 28, 2013.

Published in Know Your Neighbors