In this week’s Wednesday 5: magazine covers that got it right when depicting powerful women; how presidents talk about women in SOTU speeches; an in-depth interview with Patti Smith; an online site that connects neighbor with neighbor—even in New York City; and a young girl in Afghanistan uses boxing as an avenue to freedom.



Powerful Women, Shot with Respect

slide_334931_3364149_free Alanna Vagianos, who has a “Women’s Fellowship” at The Huffington Post, tracks down reports that add scientific weight to what we all know: The media continually focuses more attention on the looks and personality traits of powerful women than on those of powerful men. The sexist sneering may have reached its nadir when Time published the cover Vagianos calls “Powerful Pantsuit Lady Crushes Hapless Men with Her Heel.” Still, “after a bit of research,” Vagianos found 23 non-sexist covers. Six of them portray Hillary Clinton—in smiling mood, not as a virago. See the covers here. Look for the portraits of Sonia Sotomayor, Janet Yellen, and Christine LaGarde; they are shot as icons of dignity, maturity, and wisdom. As if they were men.




How Presidents Talk About Women in SOTU Speeches

Last night, as President Obama delivered another State of the Union speech,  artist and programmer Brad Borevitz analyzed the speeches to examine how “women and women’s issues play a greater role in SOTU speeches over the years.” Olga Kazan of The Atlantic distilled the major findings of Borevitz’s analysis of the language of these speeches dating back to the 1920s. She writes, the chart “does provide a strikingly accurate representation of female participation in American society over the decades.” Here’s what the analysis of the speeches revealed:

  • “Women” barely make an appearance until the 1940s, when women began to participate both in military efforts and the workforce in greater numbers.
  • “Women” garner little mention until the 1980s, the decade when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Supreme Court justice and Geraldine Ferraro became the first female candidate for vice president.

See the chart and read more at The Atlantic.



Patti Smith

banga_dustjacketThis Sunday, the Financial Times Magazine published a fabulous story on Patti Smith, the 67-year-old singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist, who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement of the 197os. Of that iconic and dynamic period in American history she told reporter Simon Schama:

“There was a movement, a direct line through rock ‘n’ roll in the ’60s and ’70s drawn by people who wanted to raise its level – Jim Morrison, Neil Young, Hendrix, Lennon, Grace Slick. They all had so much intelligence and they took what Bo Diddley had started and lifted it and lifted it . . . When I started singing I didn’t do it to be a rock star but to keep that thread going. Hendrix and Morrison had died. Things were changing and shifting; I was worried the torch wouldn’t pass, the light would dissipate. I know this sounds conceited, a bit lofty for a girl from south Jersey, but those people, what they did, was so important, it was the great American contribution. I wanted to be the kid with the finger in the dike holding things together until someone came along.” . Read the full article, Patti Smith Talks to Simon Schama,” at the Financial Times Magazine. . . 4.


Good Postings Make Good Neighbors

In the old days (when we grew up), families on a block knew their neighbors. These days, even many suburbanites, like city-dwellers, protect their privacy by staying aloof. There’s a newish remedy for this standoffishness: As Sally Wendkos Olds reports in NYCityWoman, an online site,, seeks to re-create that easy informality by enabling neighbors to post questions like  “Why wasn’t the trash picked up today?” “Where can I find a quiet restaurant?” “Does anybody know a good math tutor?” This kind of Molly Goldberg–style help is sorely missing in contemporary life. Olds cites New Yorkers who have used the site to, variously, find a neighbor who could take a woman’s son to school, promote a local art fair, organize a block party, find a quiet place to read. Twenty-six thousand websites are connected to Nextdoor, five hundred of them in New York City. Given our new canniness about surveillance, some of us may be wary of laying down yet another email trail. Sally Olds spells out Nextdoor’s strategy for protecting privacy.

. 5. .

Boxing for Freedom in Afghanistan

In this week’s dose of inspiration & activism, we share with you a short documentary film featuring a young Afghani girl, Sadaf Rahimi, who has decided to challenge Afghan traditions of what girls can and cannot do. She is a young student and female boxer. The documentary portrays the larger struggle of the nation’s women for freedom through Sadaf, who is a symbol of the fight.



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