In this week’s Wednesday 5, we’re continuing our Labor Day toast to extraordinary “ordinary working women.” We highlight the responses to The New York Times article on who’s wearing the pants in a small manufacturing town in Alabama, and we applaud Lilly Ledbetter for her candid and poignant story-telling on Makers.com. We would be remiss if we didn’t share with you the latest book in the vagina canon—Noami Wolf’s “Vagina: A New Biography.” It’s almost fall, so we’re gearing up for Fall Fashion mode. To get us started we are eagerly awaiting the September release of Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. And we give a shoutout to our favorite cartoonist and environmentalist, Isabella Bannerman, who is taking environmental activism to the funny pages—and it’s no laughing matter.

 

Who Wears the Pants in this Economy?

Following the firestorm of  The Atlantic‘s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”  is the recent New York Times Magazine article “Who Wears the Pants in this Economy?” by Hanna Rosin, senior editor at The Atlantic and author of the forthcoming The End of Men and the Rise of Women.  Rosin profiles three couples from the manufacturing town Alexander City, Alabama, where, because of economic downturns, the wives have become larger wage earners and the men are earning less. Rosin writes:

It used to be that in working-class America, men earned significantly more than women. Now in that segment of the population, the gap between men and women is shrinking faster than in any other. . . . As the usual path to the middle class disappears, what’s emerging in its place is a nascent middle-class matriarchy, in which women like Patsy pay the mortgage and the cable bills while the men try to find their place.

But many disagree with Rosin’s position and her “End of Men” argument. One of them, Lisa Hickey at the Good Men Project, says the article portrays men as “inflexible. ” She further notes:

Gender differences exist and times are a changing, for sure, but this is such a clear-cut case of “othering . . .” The changing roles of men and women is not necessarily a bad thing, and to position it as one gender winning or losing seems to me unnecessarily harmful.

 

Lilly Ledbetter: Equal Pay for Equal Work

Speaking of Alabama, we turn to the inspiring Alabama native Lilly Ledbetter, whose story adds another dimension to the debate about women’s work and wages. Ledbetter, who recently authored Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, is the latest woman featured on Makers.com, where she talks candidly and poignantly about the strength and courage it took to sue her employer Goodyear after she found out she had been earning less than her male counterparts for years. Her struggle would ultimately lead to the signing of the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, providing employees increased rights for filing pay discrimination claims. In the video, Ledbetter tells us what it will take for women to continue to fight for equal pay for equal work.

Lilly Ledbetter on her battle to achieve equal pay for women nationwide at Makers.com

Vagina: A New Biography

Later this year, when the pundits take stock of 2012 and what our nation was buzzing about, the word “vagina” will undoubtedly make the top of the lists. In tandem, Noami Wolf’s new book, “Vagina: A New Biography,” is getting a lot of attention. No surprise there. Wolf tells The Guardian that she’s adding to the canon on vaginas because because the word itself is  “either so taboo or surrounded with negative connotations or draped in shame or medicalised.” And language is key here. Wolf is interested in looking at how “sexist language can wreck women’s lives.” Why? She says it’s imperative, now more than ever, that we begin the work to “get rid of that extra layer of shame and ignorance and confusion and blaming of the self for things that evolution or anatomy have constructed.”

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

“Push their faults, make it the most beautiful thing about them,” was the mantra of Diana Vreeland, the celebrated fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and editor in chief of Vogue. A new documentary, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, will be released this month on her life and career. But this is more than a biopic of a fashion icon. The film also tackles the history of fashion from the 1920s to the 1960s and takes a look at the evolving roles of women as they carved out a place for themselves power-players in the industry. 

 

 

Ignorance vs. Scientific Integrity: A Tale of Woe

They’re on a hill surveying factories spewing black smoke. “What do you think our most powerful renewable resource is?” the pony-tailed brunette challenges her pal the blonde. The blonde nails it: “Denial.” That cartoon nailed it for Isabella Bannerman, whose lamentably accurate entry just won the Union of Concerned Scientists’ 2012 Cartoon Contest. So here’s a shoutout to “our” Isabella, whom we’ve profiled and who lends us her pen and her point of view now and then. She won out over a field of sharp-eyed satirists whose perspective, like hers, is all too painfully true; see her excellent competition, and the winning cartoon, here.