In this week’s Wednesday 5: The case for and against Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s retiring; one young woman’s movement to change the world in eight days; the more subtle moments of sexism in the workplace; the indomitable 95-year old Tao Porchon-Lynch; and when did magazine covers get so contentious?



Justice Ginsburg: “Body of a Sparrow, Heart of a Lion”

400px-Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg_official_SCOTUS_portraitShe is 81. She has survived both colon and pancreatic cancer. Sometimes, during oral arguments, writer/legal scholar Garrett Epps notes in The Atlantic, she appears to be dozing. Is it time for her to retire? Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School Law, advises, in The Los Angeles Times, that she do so—promptly, at the end of this term!—if she hopes to see another liberal appointed in her place. But Professor Epps explains why this “woman warrior with the body of a sparrow and the heart of a lion” is likely to stay on just as long as she cares to: “Her entire career has involved defying expectations and forcing her way into places where she did not ‘belong’—Harvard Law School, when it was a frankly hostile male enclave; the professoriate, when it also scorned female scholars; the docket of the Supreme Court, at a time when the courts did not recognize sex discrimination as a problem.” He notes that in the past it has been very hard to pressure even demented justices off the bench. And Ginsburg’s “questions are aggressive and insightful, and her written opinions are more vigorous than ever,” her major dissents “masterpieces of the genre.”  Read more about Supreme Court strategies and the work of this eminent feminist here.



“Eight Days to Change the World”

Twenty-two women are among the 50 “All-Star” speakers at this week’s TED2014 Conference in Vancouver, Canada. We scanned the list. This is, of course, an impressive lot—among them an urban planner, an anti-corruption activist, a law activist, a cybersecurity expert, a molecular biologist, and a brain researcher. The story that intrigued us the most, though, was the story of Masarat Daud, who calls herself “the accidental ambassador of the Burqua.” We watched the 11-minute TED talk she gave in 2009 in Dubai, when she was 26 and had already started giving her “8-Day Academy” education programs in rural villages in her native India and the slums of Bangladesh. She was born in Rajasthan, India, a desperately poor town in which a girl’s lot was to be denied schooling (“You don’t deserve it; you’ll bring shame on the family”) and all too often to become a child bride. She is one of the first women in her town to graduate from college. (“I have a bachelor’s degree, and everybody thinks I’m overeducated to fit in.”) Sick at heart at the illiteracy around her, she began doing “functional” teaching—eight days of intensive training in whatever a community most needs: using computers, English, speaking in public, whatever. Those eight days, she maintains, are life-transforming. Watch her jolly, enthusiastic talk below.


TEDWomen 2013: Savoir Faire Get Me Through by Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen



Sexism in the Workplace—the More Subtle Moments

There are terrible things that happen to female journalists with unfortunate frequency — things like violence, job-threatening harassment, and sexual assault. Then there are the smaller, more every day things that we also experience. —Erin La Rosa

In response, La Rosa surveyed female journalists for stories on sexism in the workplace, and how they dealt with it.  “When opening my French bank account,” Leonora Epstein writes in Buzzfeed, “I had far too many dealings with a pompous banker, but on our first meeting I told him my profession: that I was a writer, writing for women’s publications. His response, word for word, was, ‘For women? For girls? That’s horrible.’”  Unabashed misogyny—it’s still with us. See “8 Stories of Everyday Sexism” (past and present) for a rude reminder. 



 95 Years Old and Daring Greatly

We can’t get enough of 95-year-old Tao Porchon-Lynch—Yoga Teacher, former model/actress/producer, award-winning dancer, lifelong activist, and wine connoisseur. In this week’s dose of inspiration, we share with you the highlight reel of her life!



When Did Magazine Covers Become So Contentious?

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Covers aren’t just covers anymore. They symbolize much about how women are portrayed in the media, particulary how women who deviate from the white, blonde, and size 2 category are portrayed. Last October, for example, Elle was criticized for hiding Melissa McCarthy’s body in a large coat; in January, Elle was again taken to task for Mindy Kaling’s cover, which was cropped in close and featured the darker-skinned actress in black and white; and the recent cover of Vogue was also criticized for its cropped-in depiction of Lena Durham. About this new movement of critique, Hattie Crissel bristles in Never Undressed:

It is right and proper to expect everyone in the media to consider the ethics of the stories and images they publish. It is not helpful to turn this into a witch hunt. And while women’s magazines apparently deserve no mercy, it’s notably rare to see men’s magazine covers criticised in the same way.

And now, the cover [an editor] chooses must satisfy the moral standards of the waiting, hungry commentators. . . The fact that women are at the helm of many of the world’s most powerful magazines sets a hugely positive example—but that seemingly counts for nothing if they won’t acknowledge that Lena Dunham has cellulite.



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