Girl in the Locker Room

  Girl in the Locker Room!
... because she and her friends don’t know the reality of a few short years back, they don’t recognize the threats to 21st century female life in the current political climate. We have to tell them. We have to tell them now.
...This is a cyber history project. Contribute stories about your own experiences by e-mail or comment on my running blog entries as a barrier-breaking generation gives context to contemporary female life.
(how to contribute your real-life stories/recollections/anecdotes)

March 2005
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About Robin Herman
Why This Blog,Why Now?
Story of the Week


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 • Younger People's Stories

Books on My Night Table

 • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer
 • Sexual Healing, Jill Nelson
 • Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, Jeff Chang
 • Complications, A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, Atul Gawande
 • The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

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Monday, March 28, 2005

I don't know what to make of the statistics below, and apparently neither do the demographers. All I can say is, given our racialized culture, it feels counterintuitive.  So let's examine preconceptions about the marketplace, education and how different groups of women approach work:

The Census bureau reports that Black and Asian women with a bachelor's degree earn more than white women with the same degree. [of course, a white man with a college degree earns much more than any of them].

According to the AP account: A white woman with a bachelor's degree typically earned nearly $37,800 in 2003, compared with nearly $43,700 for a college-educated Asian woman and $41,100 for a college-educated black woman, according to data being released Monday by the Census Bureau. Hispanic women took home slightly less at $37,600 a year.

The bureau did not say why the differences exist. Economists and sociologists suggest possible factors: the tendency of minority women, especially blacks, to more often hold more than one job or work more than 40 hours a week, and the tendency of black professional women who take time off to have a child to return to the work force sooner than others.

A college-educated white man earned far more: about $66,000 annually. Now THAT figure really makes you stop and think.


9:01:32 PM    comment []

Sunday, March 27, 2005




Foraging in my mother’s nightstand when I was 12 years old, I discovered a futuristic novel that envisioned an orgasm-making headset. There were also some racy James Bond books. On my father’s side, under the bed, I found something more prosaic, Playboy magazine. I also made my way through my parents’ bureaus, the medicine cabinet and supply closet looking for sexy secrets. I found my father’s WWII diary, my mother’s sanitary pads and lots of makeup in adorable little cases. My fingerprints, no doubt, were there for any investigator to find, smeared with pink lipstick.


The trove of sexual materials found at Michael Jackson’s ranch, inventoried and displayed to the jury this month as “evidence” of his misdeeds strikes me as equally prosaic in this day and age. Here’s the NYTimes account:

In Mr. Jackson's nightstand, police found family photographs and pornographic magazines. Sexually explicit materials were also found in his bathroom, a downstairs closet and in his library, which his lawyer said contained thousands of volumes. Records of visits to pornographic Web sites were recovered from 3 of the 14 computers seized at the estate.

Some of the reading interest in the Jackson household runs to what prosecutors delicately call "teen-themed" material, with titles like "Barely Legal" or "Finally Legal" that show female models who appear to be well under age 18. But the courtroom got a moment of rare comic relief this week when prosecutors projected the cover of one sex magazine titled Over 50.

Obtain a search warrant for most Americans’ bedrooms and bathrooms (and computers) and I’ll wager you’ll find similar stuff. Pornography websites dominate global rankings. Double X videos sell briskly in your local videostore. Victoria’s Secret models all look barely legal — wearing balconette bras and thongs in a “fashion” magazine probably allows them to slip under the bar and into your home each week. Barely Legal, you’ll recall, was the magazine featured in this year’s academy award-winning movie Sideways.

As bizarre and tawdry as Michael Jackson can appear, vilifying the man for his taste in magazines is threatening to all of us as our culture slips further and further into a government-abetted puritanical jihad and assault on privacy that I thought we turned back in the 60s. Whatever the case against Jackson for his treatment of minors who were guests in his house, pornography in the bathroom doesn’t prove a thing. Not a thing.

If you were to do a search and seizure at my proper colonial home in the Boston suburbs, where two teenagers reside, you would find in my nightstand the following books: Sexual Healing by Jill Nelson, The Surrender by Toni Bentley, The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene, and the 3-volume Sleeping Beauty series by Anne Rice. I wouldn’t be surprised if you found my teens’ fingerprints on them either. In my husband’s nightstand, I don’t know what you’d find. That’s his business.  As for websites, between pop-ups and my own curiosity, you’d have to impound the laptop.

There is nothing criminal here and nothing deviant either. What Michael Jackson keeps in his nightstand can be found in nightstands across America in the 21st century, trust me. We pretend otherwise at our own peril.


11:07:17 AM    comment []

Friday, March 25, 2005

Posted on a Friday afternoon so we wouldn't notice, the Education Department last week issued a "clarification" of Title IX that will make it a whole lot easier for colleges to skip out on their obligation to offer women the same coaching, courts, rinks and swim pools as the guys. The NY Times reports that "under the new clarification, colleges can demonstrate that they are satisfying the demand for women's sports by taking an online survey showing that female students have no unmet sports interests." Non responses could be interpreted as lack of interest under the ruling, even if the e-mails were trashed as spam. There's also the chicken and egg thing operating here. How are women to develop interest in particular sports if the sports aren't even offered?

Ms. Musings points us to Women's Hoops Blog which has the backstory on all this, including Bush Co's aborted attempt to push the same ruling through two years ago. Title IX, enacted in 1972 and barring sex discrimination in schools receiving federal funding, has been responsible for the surge in schoolgirl athletics and has boosted women's participation in college sports by 400 percent according to the National Women's Law Center.

Girl in the Locker Room! blog was started with the express purpose of describing to today's generation how things used to be before opportunities and social attitudes opened up for that WE WOULDN'T GO BACKWARDS. Here is a fresh, clear example of just that. This is not paranoia. Opportunities need constant protection. You can make a big noise about this "clarification" right now and clarify to the Education Department (Sec. Margaret Spellings) that women's interests are presumed unmet until they are playing sports in something near the same proportion as they number on campus -- some 57 percent of college students nationwide.

Comment to the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights email:


4:00:54 PM    comment []


                                           courtesy Kleinfeld Bridal


Over at Naked Cartwheels, Danyel reports that she’s found her wedding gown which got me reminiscing about mine. After rejecting dozens of numbers billowing from the racks at Bergdorf’s and Bendel’s in New York, I thought I’d never find one I liked. Seemed you were supposed to be all lacy and froufrou for a wedding, covered to the wrists and up the neck and down to the ground with acres of beaded and stiff material.


I was disheartened. This was so not me. I’d been a Ms. since the term first appeared. I was not terribly feminine, but very female. I’d had tennis lessons, not ballet. Where was the dress for me?


Then the clerk tentatively brought forth a different kind of gown. It had virtually no adornments. It had no long sleeves, no high collar. It featured a very low cut bodice with off-the-shoulder cap sleeves that highlighted neck, collarbone and deep decolletage with a very tight waist and a straight sweep of white satin to the floor. It was sexy, and very daring for 1981.


I wanted that dress so bad, but I thought my mother might kill me. And then there was the price: $1,200, big bucks back then for a single day’s wearing.


So I headed out on the subway to Kleinfeld’s in Brooklyn-- if you’re from NY you know the place-- famous discount bridal haven, and prayed they’d have the dress I’d seen on Fifth Avenue. Kleinfeld’s was a cluttered kind of warehouse then, no airs -- girls and their moms and bridesmaids rifling through dresses like they were going to disappear at any moment…and they would too if you didn’t grab fast.


I scanned the racks searching for my dress. And there, miraculously, it was -- only one of them, my size too and $500.


I was by myself. I wanted that gown. I hesitated, felt all clutched inside. Could I wear it in temple? Did I really have to dress in costume to someone else’s virginal notion of brides? Could I imply what my relationship was already to my husband-to-be? (I was 29 years old, come on…) You probably think this is ludicrous, but a dress like that just wasn’t worn back then.


Well I bought the thing and I wore it, and in the end my mother admitted I looked great in it. And I cherish the photos and the internalized pictures of how I looked and felt in that dress, walking down that aisle (on my own, parents in front, I wasn’t going to be “given away,” not my style).


It was one of those small steps for womankind, no bra-burning protest, just a great looking sexy dress that spelled female.


Oops, that’s Mr. GITLR calling from the other room, when am I going to finish blogging?…day off…the gown photo still on the bookshelf over his home desk. Got to run.







11:45:00 AM    comment []

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Random short topics:

Writing in The Boston Globe, Vanessa Jones has a good roundup of the growing pushback on current hiphop videos and lyrics that turn women, mostly black women, into tricks.

Teenagers who took abstinence pledges were just as likely as non-pledgers to acquire sexually transmitted diseases according to a study in The Journal of Adolescent Health. This is because they were less likely to use condoms at first intercourse and more reluctant to be tested for STDs. Have you ever met a teenager? Whoever thought up abstinence pledging never did it appears. The kids won't get tested for STDs because then they'd have to admit they'd had intercourse, which they all do eventually, even if they put it off for a few months after pledging...and worse, to preserve their official virginity, they engage in sexual acts other than intercourse, like unprotected oral and anal sex. So, bottom line, abstinence pledging actually pushes teens into high risk sexual behavior.

Who you callin' bitch? Better not be attempting to diss a woman. Meaning of the word has morphed. Ms. Musings alerts us to read here.


10:12:35 PM    comment []

America really went seriously loony this week, and it's time for the hospital wagons to cart us away:

Feeding tube debates on Capitol Hill with the President flying in to the 'rescue,' (I was reminded of Mighty Mouse, remember him?) school shootings, a sobbing Michael Jackson, late to court again, and the continued populating by Bush of what my officemates now call "opposite world": Condi Rice at State, UN disser John Bolton at the UN, Iraq wrecker Paul Wolfowitz poised to wreck the World Bank.  Screw you seems to be the SOCO, as they say in the flack trade. I wonder what my good friends in Europe make of us now.

I thought the Karen Ann Quinlan case back in 1976 had settled the ethics of death for those who'd checked out but by virtue of artificial breathing and nutrition support still appeared to be with us. Have you noticed that all the right-to-die cause celebres around this issue, the body in the middle of the ideological fights and grandstanding, is usually a woman's? That female wishes expressed before this twilight kind of death are not taken seriously?

One University of Michigan bioethicist, referenced at Alternet, sees a pattern:

Though the families of many vegetative patients - male and female - have faced life-or-death decisions over the years, the plights of injured young women are more likely to engage the public and attract right-to-life advocates, says Steven Miles, a professor for the Center for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota.

"People say, "She needs to be rescued, she needs to be cared for,"' Miles said in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times.

Miles said life-support measures on men are seen as an "assault" but with women, the technology becomes "a form of nurturing and care giving."

Men also are more commonly viewed as clear-thinking adults who made wise statements about their end-of-life wishes. With women, however, any previous statements they made about end-of-life wishes are more commonly blown off as "emotional utterances" that don't have weight, Miles said.

I draw a direct parallel with the religious right's views on women and abortion and contraception. They have mounted a relentless assault on decision-making concerning women's bodies. Information is withheld from young people, medical services are drummed out of town, but the "culture of life" turns its back as soon as the baby is born.

Marc Sandalow in the SF Chronicle writes how the Schiavo case has exposed the new religious and racial divide in America that has replaced the traditional divide of the haves and have-nots. William Saletan in Slate gets disgusted at the political exploitation of a lifeless woman, and doctors horrified by Congress in the ICU write in the New England Journal of Medicine of Terry Schiavo's voice, as expressed by close friends and relatives, "drowned out by a very loud, self-interested public debate."             .

I've had enough. I'm sick of the loonies and am going to go eat some ice cream and strawberries right now and hope I wake up to sanity tomorrow.


9:19:24 PM    comment []

Sunday, March 20, 2005

We've been talking at the WAM conference about the rap on female bloggers and opinion writers....too personal (Estrich) too catty (Dowd) too sexy (Wonkette), always too something.

Check out Danyel's take over at Naked Cartwheels on female rappers. Same deal. Here's a piece of her posting:

Girl rappers have too much going against them. Gotta be cute, but can't be too too naked or she's "depending on that." Can't be too tomboy, or she's not sexy-girly enough. Can rhyme about sex, yeah, but if she does it too much, she's "depending on that." If she's part of a clique, then the word is she got "put on" because she's boning the main guy or the side guy or manager guy. Like brothers don't get PUT ON out of friendship, guilt, and probably due to some sexual favors or true love as well. And if a girl MC's body is all that and out there, then that outshines the rapping (hi, Kim and Eve). If she looks like she works hard on her body, then she's paying too much attention to it, and not enough to "just rapping," like that's a possibility in this Video World. Girls don't have the freedom to be themselves.They certainly do not have the freedom to be considered "ugly." Not that all male MCs do ... but they certainly have waaaaaaaaaay more than the females do.

Writing, singing or rhyming, we're held to a different standard. Props, as they say, to the girls who are out there doing their thing.


5:50:29 PM    comment []


Back from the conference Women and the Media:Taking Our Place in the Public Conversation sponsored by the Center for New Words and the MIT Program in Women’s Studies.


Distilling the main message, I’d say it was participate and amplify… and link up, whether through traditional networking or on cyberspace pages. As a start, you will see my expanded link system below for GITLR friends/supporters who are pointing here.


Jill Nelson, political/cultural essayist and author of Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience and Sexual Healing, kicked things off by saying she was glad and comfortable to be speaking her mind in “a roomful of radical women.”  Was that me? But as she went on to remind us of the current political climate, the Bush Administration’s “successful effort to censor, silence and manufacture information,” the bending of language to make spurious arguments eg that Social Security is “broken” when it’s not; the proclamation that Bush has “brought democracy to Iraq” when the U.S. continues to occupy and factions slay one another and us daily, well, “those who control the language, control the dialogue” Nelson pointed out. And by the end of the talk I saw how women speaking out truthfully and forcefully for women’s interests could these days be considered radicals.


Nelson urged us to use cyberspace, a most democratic institution, to express our voices. And to resist conservative forces that hearken back to “the good old days.” How far back, she asked…back to the 60s before Roe v. Wade, back to the 50s before civil rights, Brown v. Board of Education, back to the turn of the century before women could vote, back a few decades earlier to slavery? The good old days weren’t so good, she said, and the best days are still ahead of us, evolving.


So here are some places and ways to speak up and speak out as suggested by conference participants:


Rita Henley Jensen founded and runs Women’s eNews, a daily online newservice on women’s issues, 3 million readers and a new site in Arabic to spread women’s equity by the word, not the rifle. She could use dynamic writers on compelling topics. Check the site.


Lakshmi Chaudhry, senior editor at Alternet  and co-author of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq and the forthcoming Start Making Sense, asked specifically for submissions from women writing essays/reports on foreign policy and particularly Iraq. Two million visitors per month at Alternet.


Natalie Davis, blogger at All Facts and Opinions, urged women to speak up, participate/comment on blogs and message boards, even and maybe especially at blogs where you disagree with the conversation. You don’t need to have your own website to become a forceful voice.


If drawing rather than prose is your forte, try turning your hand to political cartooning. Take a page from Mikhaela Reid, 24-year-old political cartoonist for The Boston Phoenix and Bay Windows who started doodling her opinions at The Harvard Crimson.


Lisa Jervis, publisher and cofounder of Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, suggested what she called the perhaps "Pollyanna-ish, banal" tactic of writing critical letters to producers, editors and writers of pop offerings, tv, movies, videos that undermine women’s integrity… and also write to commend the bright spots.


These are just a handful of suggestions. I’ll periodically offer more in days ahead.


And of course, send your stories and comments to Girl in the Locker Room! right here, right now.


The final message, use your very own voice. Make a louder noise.



11:19:21 AM    comment []

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The SATs. You remember them with a clutch in your stomach. Maybe you'd choose to relive your life but for the fact of having to go through them again. No thanks.

But last weekend the "new" SATs debuted, with more advanced math instead of quantitative reasoning (those dreaded word problems), none of the classic vocabulary analogies and an extra essay tacked on. They are supposed to be more female-friendly, but can you picture the SATs showing you anything but a smirk as you enter the room? My daughter was in the vanguard on Saturday. We fish-tailed to the testing site in a snowstorm. She had two #2 pencils, a bottle of Gatorade and gumption I admired. She was in that room for five hours. Insanity. We celebrated like she'd won "Survivor" when she exited in a daze.

Viji Sathy, a research scientist at the College Board quoted by Womens e-News said that the SAT scores often under-predict women's performance in college. The article offers these stats about the SAT gender gap: For last year's college-bound seniors, the mean combined SAT score--out of a possible total of 1600 points--was 1049 for males, 1005 for females. Roughly the same gap has persisted in recent years and defied other trends, such as females taking more higher-level math and English courses in high-school, reporting higher grades in high school and forming a 56-percent majority of college students.

Researchers are stumped so far. They posit that girls "do" school better than boys; are more diligent, more willing to seek help. A five-hour SAT doesn't factor in motivation like that.

Some colleges are doing away with consideration of national test scores altogether in favor of assessing a teenager's overall school performance. And the ACT and other independent tests continue to eat away at the SAT's market share. In those charts that show what's in and what's out, I'd move the SATs to the out column. Maybe then more people would take the repeat-your-life option....if somehow one could also eliminate 7th grade.

Reader participation. Please send your SAT stories here: or in the comment box below. I know you've got some good ones.


11:23:40 PM    comment []

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

DowdMaureen Dowd made the most remarkable confession in her Sunday NYTimes column. She wrote that after six months on the job she almost quit because of the hounding she was getting for the sharp-edged opinions published in her opinion column. It takes a tough hide to put your opinion out there, but the criticism seemed especially harsh for Dowd to take because it was personal and gender-tilted.

Dowd wrote: While a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoritative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating. If a man writes a scathing piece about men in power, it's seen as his job; a woman can be cast as an emasculating man-hater. I'm often asked how I can be so "mean" - a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn't get.

Dowd suggests that this dynamic (for both the criticizer and the criticized) may account, in part, for the national shortage of female op-ed writers.

I have to observe that Dowd's writing is indeed personal when compared to that of the nine men with whom she shares the NYTimes Op-ed pages. But there are plenty of male columnists out there who also specialize in the personal.

Molly Ivins, one of my favorites, suceeds in melding personal and political to better effect through her droll Texas humor. Have a great Ivins read with this column on Bush's anti-UN representative to the UN. Here's the lede:

I must confess, I have sadly underestimated the Bush administration's sense of humor. Appointing John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations: Boffo! What a laff riot! Hilarious comedy, a delicious romp, great setup for a sitcom.

Bolton is known for being arrogant, humorless, self-righteous and confrontational, and he hates the United Nations. In other words, the perfect diplomat.

This weekend I will be at the Women and the Media conference at MIT and will report back to you on the state of women's voices and how Girl in the Locker Room! readers, young and old(er), can make a bigger noise.


9:36:39 PM    comment []

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