Archive for December, 2007


Plan B Survey Update, etc.

Dear Readers,Giuseppe Drunk on Eggnog

Happy Holidays. I love you (even though you don’t leave comments rendering me helpless to exchange in witty repartee with you but also simultaneously intriguing me as to your identity and thoughts). Somehow this tiny modest blog has managed to reach 1,000 hits. I have no idea how, but I’m so excited! It encourages me to post even when I feel like watching Law and Order instead. (FYI USA is in the Mariska-Short-Hair phase of re-runs, and Elliot isn’t quite so angry.)

Another thing I’m excited about? The Plan B Survey (see spiffy button to your right) already has 500 responses! Women from around the nation (nearly every state is represented so far) have taken a moment to fill out the survey. It is so very exciting. Thank you to all of those who filled it out, sent it to friends, posted it on your page, etc. It really means so much. If you have any suggestions at all about places to send it to or people to contact please let me know (college organizations, college health services, women’s organizations, listservs, Google groups, Facebook groups, people you know with power at magazines, etc). It has been more difficult than I thought to get people willing to help out with this (1. it’s a controversial issue, 2. a lot of people are wary of survey research and probably think we are evil marketers, which we aren’t!). Suggestions would be SO appreciated.

Finally, the posts may be less frequent over the next week or so. I’ll be in the Smokies without much internet access (or cell phone service for that matter…oh, my poor BlackBerry!). And the only internet access will be provided by a landline which I will no doubt be fighting with my sister for control of. Maybe I should challenge her to a daily game of Scrabulous and the winner takes all (landline) for the day.

Happy Holidays, Happy Christmas, Merry Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Merry Festivus, Splendid New Year!



PS. JPR sent this to me this morning and it is the most cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I think I might drop out of graduate school and devote my life to saving red pandas, regardless of their actual endangered condition. If I had a tail (and my Dad said I did when I was born and they had to snip it off! At which point a five-year-old Valerie would squeal and run to Mama asking if it was true!) I’d definitely opt for this fantastic stripey duster look!


What this ad is really saying: Episode 1

Call me the Feminist Consumer Reports. Advertisements can be misleading in a variety of ways outside of just providing false information about their products. They can be subliminally subversive in their reinforcement of gender roles. Or blatant too, I’ve seen plenty of those. So, for the first installment I bring you…the iHome.

What this ad is really saying:

“Even YOU can be a white dude with perfectly tousled hair sipping coffee and so fully clothed you are wearing a TURTLE NECK while a naked brunette plays you some smooth tunes from your iHome as the sun sets outside your posh Manhattan apartment. Oh, and she’s going to be very happy about this and already wearing blue eyeshadow and red lipstick. Service with a smile.”


ihomeĀ ad


“Representative” Democracy?

In my stellar American Government class, I remember learning that the U.S. is technically a “representative democracy” meaning we don’t vote on every decision or issue, rather we elect officials to do that stuff for us (that way we can, you know, continue producing and consuming. or at least consuming). The ever ubiquitous balance to this check was that elected officials would have to be accountable (to an extent) to their constituents.

Why, then, won’t Congress listen? A record number of states have rejected abstinence-only education funds. Rejected. This brings the number up to 14 states who have rejected funds, or at least made themselves ineligible by saying they would use the funds for comprehensive sex education. In true spin fashion, the DHHS responded by saying that it is concerning because these are valuable programs and it’s really the youth who will lose out. I’m sorry Mr. Bureaucrat, what’s so wrong with comprehensive sex-ed? We’ve seen how well abstinence-only is working…

Ever the logical respondent, Congress is considering increasing abstinence-only funds to over $204 million. Eschewing scientific data is one thing, now let’s just completely ignore the needs of our constituents, most notably those who aren’t even of voting age and most in need of protection and education.

How truly apropos that my Dad included this comic in my latest care package…


Bait and Switch?

A caveat before I begin: I’m thankful that the NYPD keeps me feeling safe in this city. No, seriously, I am. I don’t like all the hullabaloo with snipers and AK-47s outside of the Empire State Building, but in terms of my day-to-day activities, I feel relatively safe in New York City. And I hope I haven’t just jinxed myself.

But the latest shenanigans by the “Boys in Blue” has me a wee bit wary. NYPD has revamped a program where undercover cops leave decoy wallets, purses, and shopping bags in subway stations and stores (i.e. Macy’s) and arrest anyone who picks up the item and walks past a uniformed cop without returning it. The goal is to arrest hairy-eyed n’er-do-wells who are aiming to take off with some loot. But the result? More often than not it appears good samaritans are the ones most likely to suffer unwarranted (pardon the pun) police harassment. The common story seems to be that someone, no doubt a regular 9-5er rushing to catch their train, spots an abandoned item, scoops it up for further examination (i.e. to find an address or receipt to return to owner or store, respectively), hops on the train (without realizing a cop is nearby, after all they are a dime a dozen and we’ve become so sensitized to their presence), then gets hauled off the train, frisked, and asked about prior arrests.

The program, introduced over a year ago, was quickly discredited by judges and prosecutors alike for a number of reasons, mainly that a person has ten days to turn in lost items and, secondly, that nothing in the legalese requires a person to return an article to a uniformed police officer.

So, the cops reworked their program and recently reinstated it. Now the decoys are “laced” with actual credit cards issued under cops’ aliases. Pick that baby up and you could spend 4 years upstate.

Oh and this beast has a name: “Operation Lucky Bag.”

Now for my opinion: I find this simply abhorrent. I mean, seriously. There’s a lot more shit going down in Gotham that needs some attention above and beyond petty larceny. But aside from that, it seems simply ludicrous that police can “bait” innocent civilians into “performing” what they interpret to be a criminal offense. In fact, the ONLY thing that allows the cops to arrest someone is if they perceive that the person had no intention of returning the goods. And, you could argue that they are reducing subway crime with programs such as this. In fact, go ahead (they argue they reduced subway crime by 13% — but we’re all in hypotheticals here). But the numbers suggest otherwise. Although there were 101 arrests made in the original program by

people who had a combined number of 716 prior offenses, there were 119 arrests made of individuals with no prior record. And, if we are going to really debate the issue, every single one of them was perfectly innocent, regardless of their record, and would have remained so had the officer not placed the decoy where they would see it.

At its best it is like holding a shot of Jack in front of the alcoholic and carting them off to rehab for simply picking up the drink. At its worst it is ensnaring innocent everyday folks in a web of legal troubles that will no doubt effect their occupational, emotional, and interpersonal lives for years to come.

In the words of my not-so-favorite-but-highly-appropos-looney-tunes-character:


Teen Pregnancy: “It’s Not Rocket Science”

So, I’ve got a super Dad who supports my feministing. He probably gets a kick out of having a bit of a spitfire (albeit a mildly passive-aggressive spitfire) in the family who no doubt resembles his own ideals at a similar point in life. So he sends me articles that will intrigue, irritate (usually because they are about Bush), or irk me because he knows that, deep down inside, I’ve got a little curmudgeon just bustin’ out.

The latest article falls into the latter two categories. Oh, right, and it makes me irate, just to stick with the theme.

Shocker of the century: Births to teen mothers have risen for the first time since 1991. While the rest of us who either have vaginas or know anything about anything are jumping up and down in exasperation and frustration at the administration for lopping off comprehensive sex education in favor of unproven abstinence-only programs, the republicans are scratching their heads in a bit of confusion (see illustration below).

And the spin machine gets to work: “U.S. health officials said it was possibly a one-year statistical blip and not the beginning of a new upward trend.”

So, when your 15 year old daughter starts donning baggy clothes and you catch sight of a bit of a pooch you can just say “oh, honey, looks like you’ve got a little blip!” (There were an additional 20,000 blips born to teenage mothers in 2006.)

Interestingly enough, this “blip” coincides with similar “blips” for a few STI rates as well. Now, I know my stats and I know correlation is not causation, but I also know that trends are usually a sign of an underlying phenomena.

Which is why my new hero for the day is Dr. Carol Hogue, a researcher at Emory who, when asked to comment regarding the latest statistics said, “It’s not rocket science.”

Indeed, it isn’t rocket science. But in case any GOP officials need any help figuring out the whole equation I’ll lend a hand:

Abstinence-only “education” + Hormones + Hormones + Desire + No access to contraceptives + No condoms + Being taught that condoms don’t work = Unintended Teenage Pregnancy Rate Increase.

But my hunch is that there’s even a larger story here, one that will probably spawn (no pun intended) a movie, book, and made-for-tv miniseries in the next fifty years: the young women who find themselves willing to risk anything to not let their parents find out they are pregnant — whether by crossing state lines, inducing an abortion, or seeking back-alley abortions. Or, an even more subtle but damaging force: young men and women who are unable to understand how their desires can be explored in ways both safe and health.

On a related note: “Juno” is getting rave reviews for telling the story of a young woman who is pregnant while keeping the people and the drama front and center and the politics out of the picture. Interestingly, this is similar to the raves I heard about (but haven’t yet watched) “Knocked Up.”


I <3 NY Dogs


File under really-awesome-subway-riding-in-backpack-new-york-city-dogs


Consumer Experience with Plan B

I’m so so so happy and very pleased to announce that a survey I have been working on with my colleague is finally up and running. This is the first national survey of consumer experiences with Plan B (emergency contraception, the morning after pill, EC — NOT RU-486 or the abortion pill or mifi).

Our goal is to survey as many women as possible, ages 18-44, who have used Plan B in since it went over-the-counter in late 06/early 07. We are investigating issues of use, access to EC, experience with the medication, and subsequent behaviors. The survey takes about 7 minutes to complete.

If you have taken EC or know anyone who has, please take the survey and forward it on (feel free to use Facebook, Myspace, etc.).

The link for the survey is:

Also, if you have a website or blog, I would simply love you forever if you would post a button that links to the survey in your sidebar. The survey opens in a separate window so your faithful readers won’t be led astray from your site.

Html code for linking with an image (artfully designed by Brian Campbell) are here:

Please spread the word. Our goal is 2,000 responses but the potential exists for thousands more! Also, you can enter to win $150 Target card if that makes the deal any sweeter.

December 2007
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