In this week’s Wednesday 5: Judith Ross reminds us that holiday traditions aren’t just for kids; notable women who have died are less likely to make the obituaries than notable men; a reminder that Jane Austen was about more than romance, but also about women’s empowerment; Susan Brownmiller reflects on changing the discourse on rape; and Barbara Walters asks Hillary Clinton about her hair.


Our Judith A. Ross‘s poignant post over at the Second Lives Club blog reminds us that holiday traditions aren’t just for kids.  This year, her son, the Christmas tree enthusiast, won’t be coming home for Christmas (he’s in Morocco with the Peace Corps). Judith originally thought that this year she might be able to skip on the tree, even though it’s been a 30-year-old family tradition in the Ross house. Meanwhile, over in Morocco, her son managed to create a makeshift Christmas tree—out of “a pile of twigs and branches.” What did Judith learn from her son’s Christmas tree commitment?

Those family traditions aren’t just for our kids, they’re for us, too. If we discard them, our empty nest will feel even emptier. It doesn’t matter that we ultimately went for a tree, and not a menorah, in our living room. The point is that we did something every year and we did it with joy and open hearts.

No matter how far apart and different our Christmas trees may be from year-to-year, putting them up in tandem will help us feel close—even when there is an ocean between us.

Related: Hanukah and the Wide American Embrace


Image via Mother Jones

Media sexism seems to know no end. It’s even rampant in obituaries. In tallying the obits for the nation’s largest newspapers, Mother Jones reports that 2012’s notable-death lists overwhelmingly feature men.

“Big papers’ lists of significant deaths in 2012 overwhelmingly feature men. The Washington Post put 18 women and 48 men on its list. On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Times listed 36 women and 114 men. And lest you think this is some kind of freak 2012 phenomenon, the New York Times has consistently listed many more men than women over the last five years.”

There are several hypotheses to explain the above: (1) Notable women aren’t dying; (2) Newspapers aren’t reporting on notable women dying; and (3) The standards for judging notable women are different from those for men; in other words, what some might consider notable, some editors may not.

Related: What Makes a Woman Important?


A Renewed Look at (and Celebration of) Jane Austen

December 16 was Jane Austen’s birthday. To celebrate her life and work, put together a list at Ms. Magazine highlighting the feminism in her writing:

As someone who has taught Jane Austen in undergraduate classrooms for the past two decades, I have found that Job One is getting students past a widely held view that her novels are trivial love stories written for a silly female readership. When we look closely at the messages of Austen’s novels, we can see that she consistently rejects ideas about women’s inferiority to men and challenges the system that disenfranchises women.

Bilger excerpts five powerful quotes from Austen’s various works that demonstrate her solidarity with women; her dismantling of sexist ideas about women’s education; her opposition to views of women as irrational; and her candor about  biases against women in books. And yes, this was Jane Austen in the 1800s.

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Susan Brownmiller, the Woman Who Changed the Discourse on Rape

Susan Brownmiller is the newest edition to, the video archive showcasing groundbreaking women. An author and a feminist activist, her book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, altered the public discourse and legal landscape of rape. Click the image to watch the clip.


Barbara Walters’s Controversial Question to Hillary Clinton

If you watched the annual ABC special, “Ten Most Fascinating People of 2012,” did you cringe when Barbara Walters asked Hillary Clinton about her hair? Although she did follow up the question admitting that it was “embarrassing” and a “dereliction of duty” and “nobody asks men that.” But this is one of the most powerful politicians in the world. Hasn’t she earned the right to NOT be asked about her hair, her weight, her clothes, etc? Several journalists have called Walters on her line of questioning (including asking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie about being “fat”); these journalists include  MSNBC contributor Touré, who added that “This is the kind of media hurdle that serious women have to go through. Here is an example of sexism inflicted on another woman by a woman.”




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