This week, our roundup of the best of the Web includes a report from Afghanistan, where Amelia Earhart isn’t, and three questions about the movies.

  • The XX Factor, Slate’s women-oriented newsblog, asks “Why do women comprise a majority of graduate students but a fraction of professors?” and points readers to this Tovah Klein column in the Washington Post. The average age at which academics win tenure is over 40, Klein notes, after a grueling 10-plus years of school and teaching—setting up “a collision course with a woman’s biological clock.” She herself, she points out, is living proof that these competing responsibilities do not make for an easy lifestyle. This may be the reason behind the unfortunate statistic she cites: that while the female-to-male ratio of students in graduate school favors the former, women make up only a quarter of full professors. In short, the world of academia is due for a change, with women in mind.
  • At Guernica, University of Maryland law professor University Sherrilyn Ifill points out the necessary lessons of the Shirley Sherrod debacle. More than twenty years ago, Sherrod overcame misgivings about white people–learned through bitter childhood experience–to understand that when it comes to helping people,  “it’s not about black or white, it’s about the poor.” Rather than highlighting this essential message, a conservative activist lifted her comments out of context, and a chain of terrible decisions resulted. Now that the apologies have been made, “Sherrod-gate should be a wake-up call,” writes Ifill. “To the White House. To responsible journalists. To all of us.”
  • From 85 Broads, this alert from a CNN correspondent in Afghanistan: For over a decade, the Taliban has been wreaking havoc on the Afghan people, forcing them to live in fear and compromising the rights of all citizens – especially women. Remaining incredibly resilient throughout this ordeal, the women in Afghanistan have continually looked out for one another, making life for themselves and their families bearable. However, as peace with the Taliban is in sight, the possibility of using women’s rights as a bargaining chip seems increasingly plausible. While these women are asking themselves what their future will be like, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves how we could help?
  • Sunday was the birthday of famed aviator Amelia Earhart—but who did Google chose to honor in its homepage graphic? A male Czech painter known for paintings of women, asserts writer Shelby Knox. Blasting Google’s current 8-to-1 male-female ratio for such honors, Knox then examines its heritage in the history of   American  art and graphics. including such fun facts as:  “Of almost 150 historical statues in New York City, only 5 are women and only 1, Harriet Tubman, is a woman of color. Of 29 sculptures in Central Park, 4 are female.” If Google’s slogan is “don’t be evil,” they might start by breaking that mold.
  • The next time you sit down to watch a DVD or hit the multiplex, you might want to ask the three questions recommended by Rachel Walden at Women’s Health News, who raises ‘The Bechdel Test’. In one quick video, she outlines a system that’s both amusing and startling (but only in its validity): a way to measure the level of female presence in movies. When the three simple guidelines of the test are applied to a film, most fail abominably. What’s remarkable about this test is that there is no direct correlation between the success of the movie or even the gender of the main character and passing or failing the test. In other words, even if the film industry produces what they think is a successful movie about female empowerment, it could still fail by the super-simple standard set by the test’s inventor, Alison Bechdel. How do your favorite movies score?


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