Sunday, March 4, 2012

Links for the week ending 4 March 2012

This week VIDA published its statistics on the percentage of women published by major magazines in 2011. The results were, how you say, not surprising for anyone who has made a habit of glancing at the first names of the bylines in any major publication lately. Lots of women in the field suggested lots of different responses to the continuing disparity, ranging from editor-focused hashtags for "lady journos" on Twitter to raising the profile of some wonderful and underutilized women journalists to ignoring all the male-focused mags and letting them trundle into inevitable irrelevance to (uh) giving Salon some more of your money. (Oh, sorry, that was to make Rush Limbaugh mad, not to address the gender byline disparity. Still. Really? There's a fine line between editorial and advertising these days, eh?) As a reader, I am going to continue voting with my eyeballs and my dollars (which go to Mother Jones). And I'm going to keep offering this as way to balance out aggregators like #longreads and The Browser (which I think in any given week selects more articles by male economists than they do by women in any field at all, though Saturday's editor, Evan Kindley from the Los Angeles Review of Books, made a better showing than usual). Also, as Shani O. Hilton reminds us in a look at her own employer's gender parity — and racial parity — stats, there are a whole lotta ways that magazines are failing at diversity. Gender is only one of them. So.

Even The Browser highlighted the long-form reporting that Mac McClelland did for Mother Jones this week on working conditions in the shipping centers that fulfill your online shopping orders. If you read one long article this week, it should be this one. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to bring myself to buy a book online again, not unless someone can guarantee me that no one is going to get an electric shock powerful enough to knock her down while getting my book off the shelf.

There were plenty of other stellar (and very depressing) works of essential and bravura long-form reporting from women this week. Most terrifying was the Texas Observer's cover story by Melissa del Bosque on wartime levels of violence ripping apart Mexico's Juarez Valley.

Equally sad, if marginally less hopeless, was Elizabeth Grossman's report for Yale Environment 360 on an epidemic of — in hundreds of cases, fatal — lead poisoning among the children in Nigeria's gold-mining region of Zamfara.

Elizabeth Kiem writes for The Morning News about the upcoming Russian elections and what she describes as a Russian civil-rights movement that may — or may not — be on the verge of springing from the forehead of online-savvy urban elites.

Speaking of movements and online participation, there's no smarter thinker than Zeynep Tufekci, who was interviewed in The European this week, "How Social Media Is Changing The Cultural Landscape." Too many thoughtful sentences to have a pullout do any justice to it. It's long and terribly formatted, but worth sticking with.

Christie Aschwanden writes for The Last Word on Nothing (which I have already convinced you to read regularly, right?) a devastating piece about the lingering effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam, and the political realities that make it impossible to say for sure that Agent Orange is, in fact, the cause of the suffering she observes.

Tracie McMillan is pushing her new book in a lot of places this week, but the most interesting coverage I've seen is at Colorlines, where Julianne Hing gets McMillan to talk about healthy food, race, immigrant farm labor, and working conditions.
There has always been a very deep rift in the organic community, especially in the organic certification conversation, about whether or not to include labor standards in that. And most growers argue against that because yes, organic farming is better in terms of pesticide exposure, but it’s a lot worse in terms of musculoskeletal injuries because you’re having farmworkers do all this work by hand.

So much excellent science writing this week! I can't recommend highly enough Julia Whitty's devastating and beautiful piece on ocean acidification for OnEarth.

In a totally different vein, Kate Clancy hit it out of the park (er, there must be a roller-derby analogy I could use there, but I am not so much with the knowing about roller-derby terms) with a three- blog series about vaginal pH. With so much awesome knowledge about our most legislatively regulated body parts on offer, how can you not add Context and Variation to your regular reads?

Another regular read: Maryn McKenna at Wired Science, who will this week give you the vapors about the levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in some of your favorite meat and poultry products. (I'd feel smug as a vegetarian, but, well, I eat a lot of peanut butter. Sigh.)

An article in this week's Washington Post by Lonnae O'Neal Parker about how black women report a much less negative correlation between body weight and self image than white women do got a strong response by Debra Dickinson about how body weight isn't where the self-esteem bludgeon hits black women: hair texture is. In this context, @DNLee5's critique of a clutch of scientific studies proposing a link between use of hair care products and development of uterine fibroids in black women seems even more essential.

The news this week being what it was, there were uncountable posts and pieces from women describing or reporting on the reality of American women's experiences with contraception, abortion, and pregnancy. From Irin Carmon at Salon, "The ultrasound fallacy" looks at the past 20 years in anti-choice legislation, and asks whether the outrage about transvaginal ultrasound can turn that tide.

Very affecting and nuanced piece from Emily Rapp at Slate in response to Rick Santorum's attacks on prenatal testing, regretting that she did not know ahead of time that her son, Ronan, has Tay-Sachs.
I'm so grateful that Ronan is my child. I also wish he'd never been born; no person should suffer in this way—daily seizures, blindness, lack of movement, inability to swallow, a devastated brain—with no hope for a cure. Both of these statements are categorically true; neither one is mutually exclusive.

Also in Slate, Allison Benedikt takes on the What To Expect When You're Expecting juggernaut.

In any given week, one could happily drown in the endless numbers of fine personal essays and cultural criticism women have written on the web. Thanks to @jillheather for pointing me at this thoughtful defense of the Twilight movie franchise — no, really, all three parts are worth a read on a lot of levels, even if the very thought of seeing the movies makes you want to (as a wise man once said) strangle yourself with your own large intestine.

Francie Latour is blogging now, though readers of the Boston Globe will recognize her name from plenty of investigative reporting pieces over the years. She deserves a wider audience. This short piece, "You Will Never Be a Fireman," is just one reason why.

It was eating disorders awareness week. Laurie Penny (whom I should probably just plan to link to every week, or until you cry uncle) has a brilliant piece in the New Statesman today. There was also a long, thoughtful piece in The New Inquiry (which is shaping up to be a very interesting publication) by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano arguing a similar point, that body image is not necessarily the hinge against which anorexia swings open or shut.

Finally, via Julianne Hing again at Colorlines, from Momo Chang, an interview at Hyphen with Grace Lee Boggs, a 96-year-old activist. I love, love, love being able to learn from women activists who worked their way through the length of the twentieth century. Also, I found it fascinating how she described her Chinese-born mother's resentment at the opportunities her American-born daughter had, and how it was always a barrier in their relationship. My American-born grandmother reported a similar painful dynamic with her Ukrainian-born mother, who had no formal education and insisted that her daughter go to college no matter what.

Are you good to go on reading material for the week? If not, I'll be tweeting fresh links @Phantomslist. Or there's always a good book. I'm reading Mary Lee Settle's WWII memoir "All The Brave Promises."
I had forgotten the silence, not mystic but halted, as if we were all waiting in one vast depot for an interrupting train that never came but was always coming, so that nothing could be planned and carried through.
What are you reading by women this week?