The Wednesday Five: Nuns in Trouble, Sonia Rykiel’s Bombshell, and the Power of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s ‘Veep’

This week, our blogs wondered how nuns got controversial, mused on recent news about brainpower and aging, and giggled at TV’s newest fictional vice-president. 

  •  Ever wish you’d been a fly on the wall to learn the secrets behind famous creative partnerships like Rodgers and Hammerstein, John Cage and Merce Cunningham, or Mike Nichols and Elaine May? Cartoonist Nicole Hollander was: “My personal favorite was the collaboration between Billy Wilder and A.I.L. Diamond (Some Like It Hot).”  At her blog Bad Girl Chats, Hollander turns to WVFC’s Roz Warren, whose recent Salon essay “Will Write for Crab Cakes” describes the dynamic with her humor-writing partner Janet Golden. Continuing a conversation Golden began last fall for us, Warren reflects on their differences: “I spend my evenings reading magazines; Janet prefers movies. She’s happily married; I’m happily divorced. But we’re both opinionated and fairly clever, and neither of us is afraid to fall on her face when reaching for a joke.” Click over for the rest and for photos of the pair, with Roz in her Bad Girl Chats T-shirt.
  • When WVFC ran our Parkinson’s Update on Monday, some of us had no idea that the illness affected designer Sonia Rykiel, someone we mentioned last month during Fashion Week. We first learned the unhappy news from Hayley Phelan at, who explains that Rykiel is revealing this in a new memoir, N’Oubliez Pas Que Je Joue (in English, Don’t Forget It’s a Game). It features the designer’s reflections on the disease that has plagued her for more thab a decade. “Though the 81-year-old designer appeared increasingly frail in public, it seems that very few knew of her struggle with Parkinson’s. Indeed, Rykiel said she had attempted to keep it a secret for as long as possible.” There’s more at the link, including a cover image for the book and Phelan’s thoughts about the future of the line.
  • Bridget Crawford, at Feminist Law Professors, zooms in on a story that has mesmerized us: the Vatican’s recent rebuke of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest organization of U.S. nuns, for its members’ tendency to focus on social-justice issues instead of areas such as abortion and homosexuality. Crawford cites a letter to The New York Times that asks, “How can there ever be too much focus on poverty and economic injustice?” before getting to  what many of us felt: “It is baffling that the Vatican would condemn women religious for public statements that ‘disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals,’ [when] the bishops were responsible for the systematic cover-up of sexual abuse of children.” She predicts, as we do, that Catholic congregations will rally around those working to help them every day: “Advantage, Sisters.”
  • We were surprised and pleased to see all of the New York Times Magazine this past Sunday devoted to “It’s All in Your Mind,” a special issue on keeping your brain healthy. The medical librarian who runs Happy Healthy Long Life agrees: “It’s chock full of news you can use, now!” including “Can Running Make You Happier?” and “How Exercise Leads to a Better Brain.” Click over to see what else she recommends, with fuller descriptions and links.
  • Ms. Magazine gives us the 411 on HBO’s new satire Veep, in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a Washington insider and half-reluctant VP. “The job is not all it’s cracked up to be for Selina, with awkward public appearances, tricky political agendas and the president ignoring her,” writes Kerensa Cadenas, adding that “Veep does make explicit that many of the things Selina deals with in office are colored by the fact that she’s a woman. Considering that only 90 women serve in Congress–17 in the Senate and 73 in the House–it’s great to see a cultural representation of a woman in as powerful a position as vice president. Although the show is played for laughs” Cadenas adds, “many of the issues Selina deals with are practically ripped from the headlines.” Given that Veep is the brainchild of In the Loop creator Armando Iannucci and contains the hilarious Dreyfus, we suspect it’ll be at least as feminist as our fave Mad Men.

The Wednesday Five: 150 Years of Vassar, Fashion Winter Wonderland, and Sundance Joins Name It-Change It

December 29, 2010 by  
Filed under World

As much of the country shivers and New Years’ approaches, our blog treats include photo essays of Vassar and winter in Gstaad, a tribute to civil rights pioneer Dorothy Height, and a new documentary charging that at this rate, we won’t reach gender parity in government ’till the year 2510. Cheers!

  • While snow blankets the Northeast, we’re imagining ourselves somewhere just as snowy but a tad more glamorous, via this Winter Wonderland fantasy from WVFC’s Stacey Bewkes at her Quintessence blog. Even if you’re safely in California or Key West, we bet you’ll still enjoy Stacey’s highlights of winter in Gstaad, including the Swarovski -crystal-laden holiday tree in the town square. Stay for Bewkes’s always-invaluable fashion musings, including skiwear from luxe casual chic Moncler and glitter snow-jewelry like  Jean-Francois Fichot’s Queen of the Sea necklace.
  • Bridget Crawford at Feminist Law Professors tells us that a post office near Washington, D.C.’s Union Station has been named for Dorothy Height, longtime president of the National Council of Negro Women. As Crawford wrote when Height died this past April, “Many people are aware of her work as a quiet but determined worker for the cause of black progress. Far fewer understand that she was also instrumental in helping to forge bonds between black and white women and between people of differing religious beliefs. She championed causes both large and small, and was a counselor to presidents as well as an advocate for the rights of poor children. As the New York Times reports, for much of her early life she was pushed to the background by the male leaders of black civil rights groups and the female leaders of white feminist groups. But she kept working nonetheless.”
  • Sally Jane Vintage Fashion has a fun online exhibition: 150 Years of Vassar. “The photos range from the women’s 1901 basketball team in their wool turtlenecks and Gibson girl hairdos through present day,” the author writes, then admits that “my interest in the photos waned around 1969, when the photos turned color (and boys were admitted to the university!).”
  • It’s a little too late for Christmas dinner, but we’re still grateful for professor Betty Ming Liu’s guide to “old-school social-networking” as it applies to formal dining rooms. We especially loved her mnemonics and helpful little drawings, so we can not only set a proper table but won’t end up eating dessert with the soup spoon.
  • It’s a touch too early to flash to the Sundance Film Festival, but we already have a film to cheer for: Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s new documentary, Miss Representation, which tackles the media sexism trends we’ve been tracking for years. We learned the film was chosen for Sundance from our partners in the NameIt.ChangeIt campaign, whose blog explains that “The film, which addresses underrepresentation of women in public office, casts a spotlight on the effects and implications of sexism against women in media. As the film conveys, it will take another 500 years for women to achieve political parity if progress continues at the current rate.” Check the trailer below for BFFs like Jane Fonda, Condoleezza Rice and our own Jennifer Pozner, but stick around as middle-school girls wonder why their peers are so scared that they feel they need pounds of makeup.

The Wednesday Five: Art Exhibitions, 40 Years of Our Bodies, and a Reality-TV Tease

November 10, 2010 by  
Filed under World

This week’s blog assortment is particularly diverse: WVFC fashionista Stacey Bewkes on fine art and cool apps, the upcoming 40th anniversary of Our Bodies Ourselves, and a promo for a TV show that’s anything but ‘Our Bodies Ourselves.’

  • We’ve loved Stacey Bewkes‘ Quintessence blog since we first saw it. And while WVFC depends on Bewkes for her terrific over-40 fashion sense (whether in white or camel), we’re thrilled when this former Simon and Schuster art director takes the time to give us a few glimpses of the art world.  In  Art and the Exhibitionist, Bewkes reflects on three disparate shows: Edward Hopper at the  Whitney, Italy Observed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and “The blockbuster museum show of the season, [which] is undoubtedly at the MoMA. Abstract Expressionist New York is so large that it is divided into three sections on three floors in an attempt to cover all possible art forms.”  Bewkes also reserves special love for the iPhone art-guide app “The Exhibitionist,” a free download that no New York art aficionado should be without.
  • At The Hairpin, the new women’s site from WVFC favorite The Awl,  Liz Colville thrills to a new friendship taxonomy necessitated by the Facebook era: “Susan Orlean’s four-item list of the different types of modern friendship, over at her New Yorker blog, is pretty spot-on,” Colville writes. “She does list two familiar types of friends on the list — ‘friend’ and ‘acquaintance’ — but in the era of social media, things have gotten hairy even for them.”
  • Bridget Crawford weighs in at Feminist Law Professors on the latest crisis involving Indian writer Arundhati Roy, who wrote about it in yesterday’s New York Times.  Last week, Crawford reports, “A crowd of up to 100 people assembled outside [her]  home, shouted anti-Roy slogans and attempted to break in,” after Roy published an op-ed defending her activism on behalf of Muslims in the state of Kashmir. Crawford reproduces portions of Roy’s Indian editorial, which goes well beyond the cry “Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds.”
  • Rachel at Our Bodies, Our Blog reports from the Consumers United for Evidence-based Healthcare Advocacy Summit, where women told their stories in preparation for next year’s 40th anniversary of the publication of Our Bodies,Ourselves. “I loved hearing…about how a small group of friends used the book to perform self-exams, how it motivated women to advocate for themselves or become active in women’s health and rights,” she writes. She then invites us all to join in: “If you have an OBOS story – however brief, or however “small” it may seem to you – please share it with us. We love to hear it, and plan to use the stories in conjunction with our 40th anniversary celebration and book release next year.”
  • And at AOL’s The Frisky, Jessica Wakeman discovers the promo for Bridalplasty, the new reality show mentioned in last week’s Q&A With author Jennifer Pozner. The trailer, Wakeman notes, “doesn’t actually show us any of the brides-to-be. Or cosmetic surgery before-and-afters. Or crippling self-esteem issues that would lead one to radically change her boobs, lips and nose before walking down the aisle.” Still, she’s braver than we are: she plans on watching the show. How about you?

The Wednesday Five: TechCrunch’s Sexism, Tackling Franzenfreude, and Hot Jobs for the Over-40 Set

September 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, Tech

Our Labor Day-week assortment includes good news for domestic workers, hot jobs  for the over-40 set, a stirring film about four women from four countries, and some smart talk about the current brouhaha over the Great American Novel.

  • For Labor Day, Bridget Crawford at Feminist Law Professors writes about the first-ever law mandating worker protections for domestics. From now on, domestic workers in New York State will be guaranteed time off and will be fully covered by state anti-discrimination laws, the workmen’s compensation system, and unemployment benefits. “At the signing ceremony, “ Crawford writes, “Governor Paterson drew heavily on references from Harriet Tubman and characterized the legislation as a major human-rights victory.”
  • At Second, which specializes in helping women identify, develop, and otherwise secure their next dream job, Michelle V. Rafter gleans some surprising news from August’s unemployment figures:  “Jobless rates for people over 40 remain lower than the national average, one of several bright spots for middle-aged workers in the August unemployment numbers released today.” Rafter’s blog also provides a list of Hot Jobs for the Over-40 Set, including teacher, “aging-in-place remodeler,” and cyber-security expert.
  • Outraged by a TechCrunch article that shouted “Don’t blame us for the fact that there are fewer women in tech!” Gayle Leakmann  at Technology Woman takes it apart piece by piece. Among Leakmann’s incisive points: “When you say ‘women have it easier,’ you’re also usually saying ‘I assume women are worse.’”
  • Berthe Kayitesi. Elisabeth Pkilibert. Carmen Ruiz. Ven Runnath. Their names are probably unfamiliar, but perhaps they shouldn’t be, says Brendann Hill-Mann at’s Women’s Rights blog. Hill-Mann’s post highlights a new film out of Montreal’s Life Stories Project, “J’y étais”,”I Was There” Histoires de femmes en zones de conflit. Stories of Women in Conflict Zones. The 20-minute documentary, Hill-Mann writes, is “an incredible collection of stories told by four women, from different backgrounds, who are all survivors of mass violence.” The film includes not only survivors of genocidal violence — the Holocaust, Cambodia,  Rwanda — but “political violence in Haiti, Latin America, and South Asia.” By telling these four stories, she adds, the filmmakers have made something from which we can all learn.
  • Meanwhile, Latoya Peterson at Racialicious  tackles the hubbub over the recent anointment of Jonathan Franzen as The Great American Novelist, mostly by arbiters whose editing staffs are pretty heavy in the pale-male department.  Peterson links to Michelle Dean at The Awl,  who notes that Franzen’s novel  Freedom has been described as portraying “our shared millennial life”  just as his previous novel, The Corrections,  was “a report from the frontline of American culture.” Dean then adds  that “It seems a fair question, in that context, to ask: ‘What’s this ‘we,’ white man?’”  Noting that Dean is hardly alone in asking that question, Peterson emphasizes that “It isn’t so much that Franzen is or isn’t a good writer – but rather the question of who represents the American experience, and what critics make that determination.”