Washington Post: Afghan sprinter Tahmina Kohistani’s 2012 Olympic Journey

Good piece on how meaningful and symbolic Tahmina Kohistani’s Olympic stint was for Afghanistan, and Muslim women:

“So she ran. And ran. Because no one could make her believe churning her legs as fast as she could possibly make them go was against Allah and the Muslim faith, which she remains so devoted to she refused to compete without the hijab, especially during the holy season of Ramadan.

‘There are a lot of bad comments about me in my country and there’s lots of people not ready to support me. But I think I will make the nation of Afghanistan proud of me and they are going to never forget me. I just opened a new window, a new door, for the next generation of my country.'”
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Mashable: Facebook and Apple Reward Employees for Freezing Their Ovary Eggs

Mashable talks about how Apple followed Facebook’s lead in covering up to $20,000 worth of health benefits, should a female employee choose to go through the egg-freezing procedure.

This news is inherently…intriguing.

It:

a) sounds funny when you hear it,

b) is ultimately useful and practical,

c) is played up by the media as positive, but

d) makes you think about the cultural and biological realities of how women need to undergo procedures just to “have it all”.

i.e. the personal goals and ambition that this generation of women have go against the body’s natural fertility.

It’s a “good thing”, that’s a solution to a tough choice.  Money & personal passion VS Growing your own family.

A question this also brings up is: even if you could freeze your eggs, would you and your husband want to have a 20 year-old eldest child at 55?  Implying that if you had a second child at 38, you would then have a generation of 58 year-olds putting kids through college.

Apple and Facebook are adding a new perk for female employees: Free egg freezing that would let them delay parenting for a few years.

Facebook started offering the service on Jan. 1. Apple plans to begin in January 2015, according to NBC News

Like IVF, egg freezing is typically not covered by an employer’s health insurance. Egg freezing currently costs about $10,000 plus up to $1,000 a year for maintenance. (Facebook and Apple are both covering costs of egg freezing up to $20,000.) McCarthy says the success rates from a frozen egg match those of a fresh egg.

In other words, if you freeze your eggs at age 27 and then wait until age 35 to try in vitro fertilization, the egg will behave like a 27-year-old’s.

Businessweek: Sarah Silverman Launches a Salary (Gender) Equality Campaign

Curious, but exciting choice for the voice of closing the gender gap regarding salary.

Who do you think set up the partnership — Sarah Silverman or Droga5?

Businessweek reports that the campaign is a partnership between the comedienne and the agency:

“Are you a woman? Congratulations: Sarah Silverman wants to give you $435,000. That’s roughly the amount of money you’re expected to lose, on average, over the course of your working career solely because you’re, as Silverman so gently puts it, “a vagina owner.” Silverman and New York advertising firm Droga5 have teamed up to close the estimated 78¢ gender pay gap (as determined by a 2013 U.S. Census Bureau study) by just writing checks to the 69 million working women to cover their loss. And she needs only $29,811,746,430,000 to do it.”

Yay for Empowering Holidays in June! Official days for “Making” and “Women in Engineering”

They might be fueled by propaganda or PR, but I love the thought of these two new holidays.

Barack Obama just declared June 18 as the United States’ National Day of Making.

Presidential Proclamation    National Day of Making  2014   The White House

 

 

The Guardian featured the twitter accounts of six engineers with brains and a sense of humor for the United Kingdom’s National Women in Engineering Day.

National Women in Engineering Day  six Twitter accounts to follow   Women in Leadership   Guardian Professional

“Corporate Wear” for Women: Reflections on Mark Zuckerberg’s Hoodie

“Does wearing jeans and sneakers, as a woman, make you any less competent, equipped, mature or well-adjusted than women in corporate wear?”

– I thought to myself as I sat in a meeting.

[I was wearing jeans, suede Converse sneakers and, to be a bit presentable, a sand-colored long-sleeved shirt, exactly like this one worn by Marion, from France, whom I do not look like at all.]

This is Marion from France. I do not look like her. I just have that same shirt in white and beige.

The easy answer to my question is “no”, right?

But, look at the corporate environment where you work.

Please tell me if there are women in positions of power who wear sneakers and t-shirts.  I need to not feel like a freak.

A month or so ago, there was this hullaballoo about Mark Zuckerberg wearing a hoodie to his Wall Street investors pitch (I first read it in the New York Times Bits Blog; it’s also featured in CNN, Bloomberg, Forbes, etc.).

People bestowed it with all sorts of symbolism – about the cultural divide between Silicon Valley and Wall Street.

At least, though, Mark Zuckerberg probably gets away with wearing hoodies to work.

Steve Jobs gets away with his running shoes.

But I would love to see the day-to-day wardrobe of top women in business, even in Silicon Valley.

See, my definition of success, for a long time, has been “the privilege of getting to wear what I’m comfortable with to work, while still having people’s respect”.

I’ve always envied this man I was with in an elevator.  He’s an industry bigshot, and, on that day, he was wearing jeans, and a plain white shirt which was so worn it had holes along the side.  I told myself that someday, I want to be just like that – have enough achievement to and gall to credibly mock the system. As the New York Times article mentioned, similar to Zuckerberg’s and Job’s “anti-fashion statement”.

Image from The New York Times

I’m slowly realizing, though, as I stay longer in my job and interact with people higher up the corporate ladder, that there isn’t much room for t-shirts, jeans and sneakers when you’re a woman who wants to command a certain level of respect in meetings with executives.

That’s even when the other executives are wearing sneakers as well. (Since I work in a broadcasting and production outfit).

Coincidentally, this month’s Fast Company issue features the “league of extraordinary women”.  As usual, I like the structure of their web feature on the topic.

But, more than that, this made me want to see how these top women presented themselves.  To check whether there was hope for sneaker-wearing women to stay true to themselves when in managerial positions in corporations.

Here’s what looking at a few profiles turned up:

Lily Cole, Brand Ambassador for Body Shop
Gabi Zedlmayer, HP’s VP for Global Social Innovation
Cherie Blair, Founder – The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
Tory Burch, Founder – Tory Burch Foundation

Granted, this was a magazine feature, so they are probably being primped and dolled up.

I know, I know, they’re just clothes, and I might be making a big deal.

Wearing “corporately-acceptable” clothes doesn’t diminish your values or convictions.  It’s just that neither should casual clothes diminish competence and respectability.

I understand that these women might wear a whole different set of clothes while at work, which is why these make me happy:

Jessica Jackley, Founder – Kiva
Susan Davis – President, BRAC USA
Grace Bonney – Founder, DesignSponge

And, fine, I should stop discriminating against women who wear popularly fashionable clothing, in the same way that I clamor for stopping the discrimination against casual clothes.

But, continuing with the fun, I decided to post the first Google Image associated with the corporate leaders in Fast Company’s 2011 Most Influential Women in Tech.

These women are AMAZING.  I am very glad I went through the list, and I suddenly feel very shallow about even thinking about something such as work clothes.

Prerna Gupta, code-writing former beauty queen with computer science and economics degrees from Stanford

Prerna Gupta – CEO, Khush

..who, I’m happy to see, also wears t-shirts and jeans to presentations!

from flickr user thakurprashantsingh
from flickr user thakurprashantsingh
Alisa Miller – CEO, Public Radio International

Nichole Goodyear, head of an award-winning, innovative social media agency built on a cost-per-engagement model.

Nichole Goodyear – CEO, Brickfish

Jessica Kahn manages engineering, operations and strategy for Disney’s mobile application development.

Jessica Kahn – VP of Engineering, Disney Mobile

Kellee Santiago, who leads her team in making accessible games for even previously untapped gaming markets.

Kellee Santiago – President, thatgamecompany

Heather Harde, who spearheaded building an in-house ad-sales team, developed conferences and events, and created a research arm to grow TechCrunch’s business.

Heather Harde, Managing Director, AOL’s tech properties, and Former CEO of TechCrunch

Cher Wang, one of the richest people in the world, and runs the company that came out with the first Android phone.

Cher Wang – CEO, HTC

And, these last two help show that objectification can happen no matter where you are in the corporate ladder…

I saved the two seemingly most “popularly seen as hot” ones for last.

I guess they can’t help that they’re gorgeous, smart and savvy.

Marissa Mayer, one of Google’s first female engineers, who graduated in symbolic systems with honours from Stanford, and has a masters degree in computer science from the same university.

Marissa Mayer – VP of Consumer Products, Google

and….

Rachel Sterne (who sometimes has an eery resemblance to Katherine McPhee), who was a U.N. political reporter, used to run a hyperlocal news service, that distributed live online reports from the people directly experiencing “the news” and now the chief digital officer for New York city.

Rachel Sterne – Former CEO, GroundReport

This is the second photo in her Google Search stream:

Sterne (NYC Chief Officer for Digital) and Max Haot – CEO, Livestream

Now, let’s look at the first five male leaders or figureheads in Fast Company’s 2012 Most Innovative Companies.

(Darn it, I should have been more specific and said, I would observe the first full body pictures in the Google Image stream.

Because, now it looks like a headshot-attractiveness thing.

Sorry, to all the individuals in pictures here, if this seems a bit invasive.  I realized collecting the images suddenly seemed creepily voyeuristic. I’m tempted to Google myself to “even the score”.)

All in all, the conclusion is – I realized it isn’t so bad.  If you stick your neck out and prove yourself, I’m guessing you can eventually get away with what you want to wear.  It isn’t about the packaging really (even the boys have to play by the corporate rules, sometimes), it just all depends on the strength of character and actual skills you have to pull of the success.  Cool.

[PG-13: Sensitive Content] “Slutwalks” and Kate Upton’s Cat Daddy: Hot and Bothersome

This video (of teen angelface sexpot Kate Upton dancing in a bikini) has been making the rounds (TMZ featured this Youtube video: 1.4M hits in two days.)

It makes many thoughts rush through my mind:
As adequately put by a colleague: “Dayummmmmmmmm, son.”
“Of course.   This is by Terry Richardson.  Such a sick freak. Who else would have thought of this sleaziness.” (At this point, I was still confusing him with Dov Chearney, American Apparel CEO. Yes, many moustached plaid-clad successful sick freaks in the world.)
“I can’t believe she’s… Well, I guess this is part of how she markets herself.”
“Wow, the thought that she’s doing this is making me wonder whether this is brilliant or sad.”
“Well, she’s the one putting herself in this position.”
Seriously, my thoughts are in a tizzy because of this hot dancing Lolita.
Because, see, I can just see and understand so many perspectives regarding this video.

The most umm…base and guttural perspective, which is: This. Video. Is. Hot.

I’m not going to deny it.  This girl has a smashing body.  Yes, I am going to get this…low and sleazy.
Objectively speaking, she has just…if I start describing it, it’ll sound like erotica, but I really don’t mean it to.  She’s well-endowed, slim, tall, smooth and has this youthfulMarilyn-Monroe-doe-eyes-and-full-lips-with-coy-mole face, and “blondes have more fun” hair.
And, she’s well… we all know what those dance moves look like.
And if we all thought that her video (featured in an earlier post) manufactured-ly casually dancing IN CLOTHES was hot —  this is her manufactured-ly raunchily dancing 98% NAKED.
Really.  Really?!? You really had to up the ante, Kate?  The first video wasn’t hot enough?

Second perspective: What kind of sick freak are you, Terry Richardson, to come up with this exploitative shit?

She’s only 19.

Ah, Terry Richardson, infamously sleazy photographer.
It, apparently, wasn’t enough to be served a sexual harassment complaint.  At least he’s…err…sharing the love.

Third response:  But, see, you can’t fully blame Richardson because, damn it, Upton, you signed up for this.

Then, it gets complicated.  Because the video is obviously consensual.  It’s not like she was drugged or unaware.
See!
This is quickly followed by:

My 4th response: Guilt.  Why am I being a part of the objectification of women?

I am fully aware myself, that by screencap-ping, blogging about this, sharing the video on facebook, the very act of ogling this woman is actually part of this whole cultural movement that sexualizes the female image.

But then, she puts herself out there.

No, this isn’t like when misguided people say women get raped because they wear short skirts, because they’re “asking for it”.
Rape is an act of power and violence, and isn’t related to whatever clothes a woman is actually wearing during the assault.
I am merely saying that this is a conscious decision to brand herself in a certain way.  Which can both be labelled as brilliant or sad.
Why?

My sissy way out: I blame culture.

I can’t turn my nose up or wag my finger at Kate Upton, and reprimand her for her objectification of her self.
Because, really, how different is this video from Spring Break and The Grind videos on MTV in the 90’s? (Yes, for some reason, these were the first things I compared the video to. I do not know why my brain made that connection.)
I can’t be mad that she’s 19, because many young girls in the media do this – Ke$ha is around the same age and sexualizes herself.
And why stop there?  From there you can look at the whole popularized-by-sex-videos set, like Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Pamela Anderson (or Tommy Lee).  You can look at the whole porn industry even.  The Victoria’s Secret angels.
It’s all part of the branding machine, all part of a desire for stardom.  Having a hot body doing hot things is a sure meal ticket to get you places.   Kate can’t be blamed for having a face that pretty and a…set…that nice.  She just…chooses to use it to the…best of its abilities.
And, me, I like assessing culture.
In the nature versus nurture debate, I tend to think that we can’t deny that we have needs, some not necessarily noble and quite selfish – a need to be wanted, to be validated, to feel pride.  And the way that you choose to fulfill these is largely affected by the environment you’re in.
And, well, current society says this thing, that Kate Upton’s doing, is okay.

Kate Upton was born in 1992.

She grew up in the era of 15-minute celebrity – of Big Brother, and the dawn of lonelygirl15 (link for those who may not have been around at this time).
It was never really wrong to be recognized for “who you are”.  That’s what we tell kids.  And that’s what she’s doing.  Getting attention for her God-given gifts.
So, world, I don’t even know.  Those are all my thoughts about this.

Postscript:  In related news, this tab has been open in my browser since late last year:

Will SlutWalks change the meaning of the word “slut”?

“Which leads us to an important point: Is there such a thing as a perfect movement? Is there a right way to protest? Even the angriest critics can’t deny the galvanizing effect the movement has had. Clearly SlutWalks have struck a chord. “

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2088234,00.html#ixzz1tMWNjd93 (Smart move by NYTimes.com – automating a “read more” link when copying text)

First, the facts.

The protest walk was first organized by Heather Jarvis and Sonya Barnett, as a response to Toronto constable Michael Sanguinetti’s comment (to students) that “women should stop dressing like sluts” so that they/we would not be victimized by rape.

All the opinions and controversy surrounding these walks make me love democracy, social media, freedom of speech and all the things that enable all of the differing views.

Because, like the Kate Upton video, it stirred up debate and emotion.

Some didn’t approve of the use of the word “slut”, feeling that it further contributed to the misinterpretation of women’s sexuality.  Others criticized those critics wondering whether you could actually criticize the “correctness” of a protest.

Layer upon layer.

Meta-reactions.

Welcome to the 21st century.