Friday, August 24, 2007

Celebrating Equality

We're nearing the end of August and all most of us can think about is the start of school. But don't despair yet; it's time to celebrate! This Sunday is Women's Equality Day in the U.S., marking the date 87 years ago (1920) when women first earned the right to vote.

Suffragists Who Changed History
  • Sojourner Truth- A famous and popular public speaker of her day. She was a former slave who cared deeply about women's and African American rights. Her most famous speech was 'Ain't I a Woman?' given in 1851 at an Ohio convention.

  • Susan B. Anthony- A long with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Of the two, she was the public voice and often organized and traveled. In 1872 she tried to vote for a presidential election and was 'found guilty'. She refused to pay and no one made her. Anthony was also the first female on U.S. currency. (The coin was later replaced by the Sacajawea dollar.)

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton- In her partnership with Susan B. Anthony, she was considered the theorist and writer behind the conventions. When they founded the NWSA, she acted as president. Also, she worked to give woman equal guardianship of children, give property rights to married woman and insure divorce rights.

  • Carrie Catt- Carrie started off by being a lecturer in the woman's suffrage movement. Soon she was involved with the NWSA and was chosen to succeed Susan B. Anthony as president. (She didn't become president until after Anna Shaw.) After the 19th amendment she continued to empower women by organizing the League of Women Voters.

  • Lucretia Mott- With Elizabeth Stanton she co-wrote the "Declaration of Sentiments" which is deliberately similar to the Declaration of Independence. As a feminist and an abolitionist, she struggled between the split priorities of women's and African American rights; acting as president of the American Equal Rights Convention.
These women and countless others helped the women of day earn the right to vote. It's only right that we celebrate their achievements and all that they have done for us.

Not Separated but Also Not Equal
  • Women are paid 20 to 50 percent less than men and have a hard time getting credit and financial services.

  • Two thirds of all illiterate people in the world are women.

  • 70% of the world's poorest people are women. (United Nations)

  • Only 10% of legislators are women worldwide.

  • More than 950 American women are sexually assaulted every day. That's 3 to 4 million a year.
What Can You Do to Celebrate Woman's Equality Day?
  • If you're over 18, vote whenever you get the chance. Or once you turn 18, register to vote. It's so easy, you can even do it online.

  • Sign this petition going to prospective candidates for the 2008 elections urging them to make women's rights a priority.

  • Request a copy of "Women's Rights Are Human Rights" report.

  • Read all about the suffrage movement or rent a video about it.

  • Visit the Women's Museum in Dallas or the International Women's Air and Space Museum in Cleveland.

  • Say thank you to teachers, coaches, parents, etc. because they worked hard to get to where they are today. Women everyday make a difference by exploring new jobs and roles.

  • Write to your local newspaper or radio station to request that they cover this important holiday.

  • Visit the United Nation's website 'Women's Watch' to learn more about women making a difference and other countries' rights for women.

  • Bake a cake and eat it with your family. I don't know why this is important, but cake tastes good.

  • Most of all, enjoy being a woman and take a moment to think about the people who helped us get this far.
So everyone, have a fun weekend and a great Woman's Equality Day!

Peace, friends.

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's not 'gay'.

First, I will not tell you what to believe. You do not have to think being gay is right or wrong; it is your opinion and you must make it.

Okay, that said, everyone, no matter their orientation, should have the right to learn in peace. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We hear about harassment and learn about harassment all the time, so why does it still happen? Over a third of all Lesbian-Gay Bisexual Transsexual (LGBT) students have reported that they were physically harassed. They have to go to school everyday in fear; something that nobody should have to do. "We were picked on. We were called 'queer' and a host of other homophobic slurs. We were also used as punching bags by our classmates, just for being different," said a college student about high school. That student is not alone. In fact, about 97% of students (in public high schools) report regularly hearing homophobic remarks from others. The "typical" high school student hears about 25.5 anti-gay remarks every day. Hearing the phrase "that's gay" or "you're gay" only enforces the meaning of the word as 'bad' or 'stupid'. If you think that school staff will help, guess again. 53% of students report that they heard a teacher make a homophobic statement. Now, about 80% of prospective teachers coming into the work force have negative attitudes toward LGBT people. And, even worse is the fact that teachers fail to intervene 97% of the times when a slur is made about gays. Because of the constant harassment many of these students skip school or say they won't continue onto college. (20% of LGBT students skip at least once a month because they don't feel safe.) So, any of you remember when the word gay meant 'happy'?

With all this discrimination going on all around them, LGBT students might seek guidance from counselors. Sadly, less than 20% of counselors have received training for helping LGBT youth. And if that's not a problem, having two thirds of counselors who dislike LGBT people certainly is.

Even when these kids go home there are problems. 25% of lesbians and 19% of gays report physical violence from family members because of their orientation. Because of physical violence LGBT kids are more likely to try to commit suicide. Of all the "successful" teen suicides 30% are gay/lesbian. They are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide; that means every 5 hours and 48 minutes. Sorry, but no one, I repeat no one, should ever be knocked so low were all they feel like doing is dying. Respect, people. Where has it gone? Racism is frowned upon, so why isn't being a homophobic? They go to school; picked on. Go home; harassed. "I just began hating myself more and more, as each year the hatred towards me grew and escalated from just simple name-calling in elementary school to having persons in high school threaten to beat me up, being pushed and dragged around the ground, having hands slammed in lockers, and a number of other daily tortures," said a gay high school student. You don't have to believe what they feel is right, you don't have to even like them, but please just respect them. They are people just like us. They have feelings. We have the power to hurt each other, but we also have the choice not to.
We hear people say how with all the wars and violent acts occurring, it seems like there isn't enough love in the world. Hey, there is more love, just not the kind you were thinking of. Love. Why should it matter who loves who? It's love. And we need more of that.

Here is a list of LGBT people who made history.

If you don't already, encourage your school to have a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) program because studies show that students felt safer when they had one.

Also, there is an event on April 18 every year called the Day of Silence, check it out.

To all you girls out there who are lesbian, bisexual or transsexual: stand tall and be proud of who you are. It's hard when people say that being you is wrong. But chin up sisters, and keep showing the world that you are beautiful.

Peace, friends.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Go Wild!

Do you love animals? Do you dream of working with animals? A zookeeper gets to work with all kinds of animals everyday. They're the ones who work behind the scenes at zoos, making sure the animals are content and active. Recently, New Moon sat down with Wendy Buczynski; a zookeeper from the Lake Superior Zoo.

New Moon: How long have you been a zookeeper?
Wendy Buczynski: 20 years.

Is that something you’ve always wanted to do?
Actually, no. I was going to be the world’s best veterinarian. I got a little sidetracked.

Growing up did you ever think of 'zookeeper' as a career?
No because I was going to be a vet! I want to be one since I was five.

How did that work out? Did you start off by going to school to be a veterinarian?
No. My path was clear until 11th grade. All of the sudden the thought of 8 more years of school passed senior. I just couldn’t stomach it. So I went for a 2 year associate degree in veterinary technology.

Can you go to any school for that degree or is that a special school?
It was a special school. The University of Minnesota at Waseca. A college which has since been closed down.

Are there special classes you have to take to get an associate degree in veterinary technology?
Yeah, you have to take the college biology, college chemistry, college math, all that. All that interesting stuff and then you have your practicals. Where you actually work with the animals and draw blood and take x-rays. Back in those days they didn’t let us do too much. Fill out records, file correctly.

So did you get a mentor or was it all just in-the-class learning?
No. I was working as a vet technician and you can’t live on what a vet tech makes. My husband at the time got laid off and so I had to get another job. So I got a job at the Duluth Clinic. Eventually, the clinic kept offering more hours and the vet clinic was taking more and more hours away so I just shuffled over to the clinic. And I worked there until one day my neighbor saw an ad that they were running the zookeeper test in the paper and he said ‘you should apply for this because you really like animals’. And I got the job.

Can you describe a typical day as a zookeeper? Do you all have the same job or do you come in and get assigned different jobs?
At this particular zoo you come in and your assigned to work in a certain area. And then you take care of the animals in that area. And depending on what animals there are that depends on what you have to do.

Do you have to know about every animal because you don’t know where you’re going to go?
Well, I do because I work at all the rotations. So some of us work at every single area but some only work at specific areas. And when you’re a ‘floater’ and work everywhere you’re not expected to do anything extra like enrichment; you’re expected to take care of the animals and make sure everything is done. Although if they want to do the ‘extra’ work they sure can; they’re just not required to. They do clean but if there is a problem like a pump doesn’t work they aren’t expected to fix it. They can leave it and wait for me to come back.
9. Okay, are “floaters” considered zookeepers even though they don’t have the same responsibilities as you?
Oh, yeah.

What’s the difference between you and the “floaters” then?
Well, we’re a Union so seniority rules. So the highest senior gets to pick where they want to work. And some people chose to ‘float’ because they liked the variety of working in different areas.

How about coworkers? Do you have to work with each other a lot or is it a more independent job?
Well, we work with the public a lot. Right now we are stretched really thin; we’re at minimum staff. Right now I’m training in a new zookeeper. She’ll be here for 6 months of training then she can start. It’ll be nice; we’ll get some relief.

What’s a typical work schedule? Do you have to work weekends?
My days off are on Thursday and Friday; I have to work on weekends.

How long are the hours?
Only 8am to 5pm.

Does everyone rotate so there’s always someone here to take care of the animals?
There’s always someone here. Again it’s the seniority thing. By the time they got down to me there wasn’t any weekends open.

Is there a certain schedule you have to follow during the day; like feeding at specific times?
No, it’s all pretty much common sense. You do things that need to be done. We do have a rule that there needs to be two zookeepers to work with the ‘dangerous’ animals. That’s for safety reasons.

And what are the ‘dangerous’ animals?
In my area it would be the tigers. There also the leopards, cougars, brown bears, polar bears and the lion. So when we have to go in the work we have to schedule a time with our partners, mine is a zookeeper who works in the area next to mine, to take care of those animals together.

Since you see these animals every day you get to know their behavior. What happens when something isn’t right?
In the case of a big animal I would take it off exhibit.

And how would you get the animal off exhibit?
They’re pretty well trained, thankfully. It has taken years for that to happen. Otherwise you could use food to lure them in. They’re just used to the routine. So then you’d call in the vet to look at them if it was bad enough.

What happens when an animals dies at the zoo?
When we were accredited every animal that died would have to be sent down to the state lab to have a necropsy. Now that we’re no longer accredited it’s up to the vet to decide if the animal needs to go down for an official necropsy or she can handle it here.

What is a necropsy?
That’s just the animal term for autopsy.

Being a zookeeper, what are the pros and cons?
Oh, it’s just the best job in the world. It is always simulating and it is never boring. It’s an active job, but it’s not really grueling.

So you don’t fall into a routine where you just trying to get things done.
Well, you try to have a routine so things do get done. But things are always varied and working with animals is great.
Is part of your job to educate the public?
No, not really. We have such a good education department here and that’s their job. But because of where I am working right now, I frequently have to interact with the public. All of us are required to interact with the public if the occasion arises.

Is there a special uniform that zookeepers have to wear to work?
It really varies from zoo to zoo. Mostly, though, we wear khakis and a zoo shirt. Bigger zoos will usually pay for uniforms.

Do you think this job has any difficulties for women?
No. I have never experienced anything like that. The only real problem I have is being short. It seems like everything is set up for a tall person.

So, do you have any advice for girls who want to be zookeepers?
It’s a tough field to get into because there are not many job openings, the pay is low, the hours are long, the schedule usually…sinks so you have to really like what you’re doing. But if you can get the chance to volunteer at a zoo or get into an internship (which is usually unpaid) when you can actually see what zookeepers do and experience it. If you decide to pursue it, know that more and more zoos, especially the accredited ones, require that bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree in some kind of science. And if you want to climb the ladder in the zoo world you have to be ready to move. So you can be a zookeeper and get a lot of experience and then you’d apply to be a lead keeper somewhere. After that you could become a curator and then, the highest, the director of a zoo. They do fundraising and handle most of the business.

Is that a recommendation?
They (girls) have to absolutely love animals; they have to love everything about animals. But if they enjoy it; go for it.

What if they don’t like poop?
Then being a zookeeper is not for you. You have to love everything about it. And you have to love all animal; you can’t say ‘I want to be a zookeeper because I really love animals, but I don’t like spiders. Well, spiders are animals and you might have to take care of one.

When you first become a zookeeper do you have to research all the animals the zoo has?
It’s not a requirement, but it’s a really good idea. Also you don’t really look at what’s affecting the species as a whole; you just focus in on the animal at the zoo and look at their needs.

Is there ever a day when you just think to yourself ‘why did I choose this’?
Payday. Christmas morning when you’re getting up at 6am to go to work because it didn’t land on your day off.

You don’t get holidays off?
If it falls on your day off you get the day off. If it’s your day to work, you get to go to work. Unless you use vacation time.

What happens when there’s an emergency or bad weather and no one can come to work?
We have never had a time when no one could come in. There’s always been at least two people at the zoo. But if something did happen and no one could get in, the animals would be fine. They are all very well fed and they’d be okay for a day. I wouldn’t want to leave them for two days but for one they’d be fine.

What happens when you get a new animal that the zoo has never had before? Is there a training program to learn how to take care of it?
There isn’t a training program. Whatever area that animal would be ultimately going to they, of course, would research the heck out of it. And the person who is in charge of Animal Care would get all the paperwork from wherever that animal came from. So everyone would learn a lot from that and there would be calls back-and-forth from the place the animal came from.

Is there a lot of exchanges of animals between zoos?
It depends on if the zoo is accredited with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. But yeah there are mating programs and transfers. Zoos hardly ever purchase animal when they’re accredited because you have animals that belong to other zoos. You just house them. There are breeding loans, there’s hardly any buying and selling going on.

As zookeepers do you get to travel around and research animals?
One zookeeper right now is in Panama for two months. Her favorite species is bats; so she’s studying bats down in Panama . But she had to use up all of her vacation and all of her sick leave and took some days unpaid.

Do animals at the zoo have a different diet than wild animals?
Yes they do. We have to alter their diet but there is a commercial diet made by Purina and other companies. They make a chow for virtually every animal you can think of. We use that for most of the animals, but not all of them. Animals will also get fresh fruit. Some have to adapt to the fruits and vegetables that grow up here but you can also supplement their diets.

Even cockroaches?
*laughs* No.

What do you enjoy doing the most at the zoo?
My favorite part is the nutrition and I also enjoy enrichment. I like looking into the different diets and the different toys. I like see my animals happy.

Why do you think zoos are important?
Wow, that thought has really changed in the 20 years since I’ve been here. Then I started they were almost just an entertainment feature for people to come with their families. Zoos are very popular and they’ve always outsold sporting events and such. Then, through the years it kind of became a way to preserve animals. All these different animals were dieing off because of habitat loss, poaching, etc. So they started these breeding programs for exotics and they thought ‘we’re going to repopulate the world’. Well, that didn’t work because the breeding programs were successful but often the reintroduction programs were not. Animals still had the same problems once they were put back in the wild; poaching, hunting, habitat loss. Now, I would have to say, the zoos’ main mission is to provide an experience where adults and kids can actually see these animals from places they might never travel to. Experience what they look like and sound like; unlike the T.V. which is so sterile. Also we have the conservation and education messages we try to get out.

Some people say that zoos are cruel to animals; what do you say to them?
You can’t control those people. But the USDA, which is a federal organization, only has mandates over mammals; they don’t have anything over birds, they don’t have anything for insects. But their rules for mammals get more evolved every year. No matter what the organization, they have to come to snuff with these rules or they’ll lose their license. If you lose your license you’re going to be shut down. So the USDA is now demanding that zoos have enrichment and enclosures stay a certain size with a certain amount of animals.

Is a license different than accreditation?
Oh, yeah. Every zoo, pet store, anything that has to do with animals has to have a license. Zoos can be accredited.

Do zoos have fundraising for environment groups and other zoos?
We have a zookeeper in Madagascar we support. Basically, we pay his wages because his country can’t afford to.

Alright, since you love animals so much, do you have any pets?
I kind of down sized. Right now I only have my two dogs, two turtles and a lizard.

Do you have a favorite animal at the zoo?
My favorite animal is Nemo the lion. I hadn’t been here too long, maybe a year or so, when he came. I’ve taken care of him all his life. He’s my buddy.

Finally is there anything you want to say to girls in general; about life or growing up?
Stay in school and keeping reading everything you can get your hands on. Also pay attention to the maths and sciences because we really need some great minds to enter those fields. And if any of you out there are interested in politics, we need some great minds there too!

So if any of you girls out there are interested in being a zookeeper at all, just check out you local zoo's site. Most zoos will have programs to get youth involved and learning about what a zookeeper does.
Peace, friends.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hey, Lefties!

Today is International Left-Handers' Day! In honor of all you lefties out there, here is a letter by one girl who wrote in to tell us about it.

"Being Left-Handed

“The left-handed are precious; they take places which are inconvenient for the rest.” -Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

Many people who are right-handed feel discriminated against by leftie clubs, web-sites, and calendars. Many times I’ve had friends ask me where I met one of the people I hang out with on the internet. Usually it’s from some fun lefty site. They may feel bad, but look at the world through our perspective. What many people do not realize, is we are discriminated against every day.

Numbers of inconveniences follow us around, such as scissors, desks, baseball mitts, and eating (yes, sitting by righties is a bit uncomfortable). Did you know over 90% of scissors are right handed, 9% is neutral and 1% left handed. Also, if 6% of the population is left handed, why are only .5% of desks left-handed desks in schools? There are no desks useful to lefties in my school; therefore, my arm is always hanging off the desk.

Everyday language is also harsh towards those who are left-handed. The French word for lefties is 'gauche' which means: Socially awkward; lacking grace or tact in social situations, in English. The French word for righties is 'droit'. From this word we have derived words such as 'adroit', which is the same as skillful. The Latin language also displays this. Lefties get the word 'sinister', when righties get the word 'dexter', which gives us the word 'dexterous'!

Still, I love being left-handed. Lefties are more likely to be more creative. We think with the right side of our brain. This is the side that thinks abstractly, and in ways of deeper meanings. We have more people in history that have changed the world. We can claim to Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, Prince Charles of England, and Prince William of England, Helen Keller, Einstein, Jay Leno, Oprah, and many more. I suggest as a great site to find hundreds of famous left-handers.

We are the minority, but strong enough to hold the majority. When my rightie friends think I’m excluding them from the life of a leftie, I tell them I’m not. Righties have excluded themselves over years by excluding us. Lefties have brought the world years of invention, powerful leadership, and entertainment. Any leftie will say they’d rather cut off their right hand than convert to right-handedness. We aren’t bitter, but we’re proud. We observe August 13th as International Left Hander’s Day not because we want to discriminate against righties, but in order to celebrate what being leftie means: To have a history, present, and future of great people in which you share a common trait with that only 6% of today’s population possesses.

By: Madeline Thompson
Age 13"

Like Madeline said, there are a lot of interesting sites out there for lefties. Here's just one, but there are many more; go explore! Finally, hats off to you lefties and enjoy celebrating International Left-Handers' Day!

*Have any special day or event you love? Write about it and send it in.

Peace, friends.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Risks of "Fitting In"

Breast enhancements. They are now the most popular of all surgeries (in the U.S.) followed only by liposuction and eyelid surgery. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 329,396 enlargements were performed last year; up 13% from 2005. So why are those numbers scary? Recently, a new study* came out showing that women who got these surgeries were more likely to commit suicide. The study followed 3,527 Swedish women from between 1965 and 1993. (Breast cancer patients who had reconstruction surgery were not included.)

Scientists then documented the women for as long as 29 years after the surgery. At first, the risk of suicide was the same. But from 10 to 19 years after the surgery, the risk jumped to 4.5 times higher and 6 times higher after 20 years. Other studies have shown us that, sadly, many of the women (15%) who get plastic surgery have body dysmorphic disorder. People with this disorder have rarely benefited from enhancement surgery.

Researchers also said alcohol/drug dependence and deaths related to mental disorders increased 3 times. However, some researchers discredit the study, saying that the results aren't appropriate for women today because breast augmentation is more "acceptable now than it was 40 years ago"(L.A. Times). Right. If anything, we have even more pressure to look perfect today. 80% of women in the U.S. are unhappy with the way they look (Love Your Body); so the danger is very real.

It was only last year that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted the 14 year ban on silicone-filled implants because there wasn't enough evidence that they were unsafe. Still, the FDA has called for a 10 year study (on 10,000 women who receive the surgery) to look for long-term side effects. Hopefully, they gather enough research to, once again, place a ban on the silicone-filled implants.

What's your opinion on plastic surgery? Is it good or bad? Should women be screened to see if they have body dysmorphic disorder before the surgery? Send in your answers.

*The study was published in the August issue of the Annals of Plastic Surgery.

Peace, friends.

Happy Women's Day!

Well, belated Women's Day. Yesterday was Women's Day is South Africa, commemorating the day back on August 9, 1956 when more than 20,000 women marched to government buildings in Pretoria. They wrote this petition that protested against the law that required women and men to carry special passes that allowed them to go into "white areas". Today, the holiday is a time to look at current laws objectively and see if they promote women's rights and equality. Yay for women!
Peace, friends.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

8-08-08: Olympic Equality

This time next year, the 2008 Olympics will start in Beijing, China. It was only about 100 years ago that women gained the right to participant in the Olympics. Even then, it was a confused effort and women could only compete in select "leisure" sports. Historically, women have never had as many events as men and they have always had less participants. Last time, in Athens, women made up 40.74% (4306 participants) while men were 59.26 (6262 participants). Those numbers are improving every year, though. (click here to see a chart)

Originally, doctors "argued that because of the amount of energy women expended on reproductive functions, minimal energy was left for physical, psychic or intellectual endeavors." (National Women's History Museum) But soon women were allowed to participate in sports like archery, skating and crochet. By the end of the 18th century, some middle and upper class women were playing sports like tennis and golf. Then in the 1900 games in Paris, women got to compete for the very first time. Because of all the confusion with the Paris World Fair happening at the same time, the first American woman to win an Olympic game (Margaret Abbot) didn't even know it. It was only recently discovered that the golf event was registered as an Olympic game.

Gradually, women were allowed to participant in more and more events like swimming, gymnastics, basketball and skating. At the last Olympics women competed in 26 of the 28 sports and 135 events (about 45% of events). That's a huge improvement from the days when women only had 6 sports and 25 events (1952 games).

Then in the 1980's and 90's women were finally allowed to hold positions on the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic charter. In 1991 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided that if a new Olympic game was introduced there had to be men's and women's events. In 1994 the IOC had a rule that required them to promote women in sports of all levels and "act with a strict application of the principle of equality of men and women.” To help them achieve this standard they formed a "Women and Sport" group to advise their decisions.

For the first time, the Olympic games included wrestling as a women's event in Athens. Now "with the introduction of women’s wrestling, there will be few events at this Olympics in which women are not participating." (National Women's History Museum) It seems now that events and participants are becoming equal for women, the largest hurtle is the countries. In the last Olympics in 2004, 9 countries had absolutely no women athletes. (compared to the 2 countries who had no male athletes). A women's group from Europe called Atlanta Plus, says that gender discrimination is just like racial discrimination and that countries who ban women from the Olympics shouldn't be allowed to participant at all.

Women aren't equal in the Olympic yet, but at the rate we are traveling it won't be much longer. Now we can participant in 26 sports and 135 events, almost every country allows women to compete in the Olympics and gone are the days when doctors thought we had little energy for anything but babies. As the the 2008 Olympics draw near, every woman can look back and be proud at how far we have truly come.

Read about the whole journey and some amazing firsts for women athletes here.

The official website for the Olympics has some interesting facts about the involvement of women.

Statistics regarding gender from the 2004 Athens games.

Facts about women in the Olympics:

  • In the first Olympic Games in which women competed (Paris 1900) women represented 5 countries - USA, France, Great Britain, Switzerland and Bohemia.

  • The Games of the New Millennium, the XXVII Olympiad, took place in Sydney between 15th September and 1st October, 2000. There were 28 sports altogether and women took part in 25.

  • Between 1928 and 1956 the women’s 800 metres was only held once, it was declared unsafe for women and was banned until 1960.

  • The first woman to light the Olympic flame was Enriqeuta Basilio of Mexico in 1968. The first woman to take the Olympic Oath was Heidi Schuller in Munich, 1972.

  • British Equestrian, Lorna Johnson, became the oldest female Olympian in 1972 at 70 years.

  • The first married women competed in the Olympics of 1900.

  • A 17 year old Dutch swimmer, Wihemina ‘Rie’ Mastenbroek, was the first woman to win 4 Olympic medals. Rie won 3 golds and a silver in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Peace, friends.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Can You Hear the Children?

It's been four years; four long years for everyone. The war that was only supposed to last a year has dragged on and every soldier that is deployed leaves a gaping hole behind. It's especially hard on the kids who are left trying to make sense of it all. And for more than 1,200 kids, their parents will never come home. "About 39 percent (more than 469,999) of the children of deployed parents are age 1 and under, 33 percent (more than 400,000) are between the ages of 6 and 11, and about 25 percent (more than 300,000) are between the ages of 12 and 18," a Virgina Tech study concluded. Most of the kids in the study (between the ages of 12 and 18) said that they hid their emotion, but “lashed out” at people about things they normally wouldn't have. And while some teens said that their grades were going down because of all the stress they had, other teens actually improved. In another split result, some teens said that the relationship with a home parent got worse, but others claimed they became closer. “…when he’s not there, everything is looser,” said a 13-year-old girl. “Like you know, I’ll do my homework maybe after I eat dinner and stuff. And like maybe I’ll just do things in a little different order when I’m around my mom.” It seems that there isn't just one formula on how the deployment of a parent will affect the family.

However, it was pretty conclusive that the older sibling felt they had to be "the strong one" in the family. In many of the cases they matured quickly and took on more responsibilities. “I was always, always, always the last person to go to sleep,” said Garrett Schlobohm, 17, “I always made sure everything was shut, let the dog out, tried to take care of everybody pretty much. So I think when my dad was gone, I kind of tried to take over his role.”

Now, camps and support groups are springing up virtually everywhere for teens and kids in this situation. If any of you out there have parents in Iraq, it might be a good idea to go to one of these programs just to try it out. Friends and family can be a great resource, but sometimes it's good to have others your age who know what you're going through. For anyone one who has a friend who's parent is in Iraq, try to be understanding. Be the support link and let them know you'll be there; for the good and the bad.

One teen said, “At first when my dad got deployed there was a lot of support … like people calling, people giving us, you know, food and stuff. But then as time went on, it just kind of died down and nobody really cared that he was deployed.” We can't let them forget that we care.

Voices of Children
(While I can write about girls and boys who have parents in Iraq, I have never experienced it. I think they can say it much better than I ever could.)

  • "I felt really sad when my dad left because I knew that a lot of people had already gotten killed in Iraq," said Sierra Kelley, 11. "I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, he's going to get killed.'”

  • One 17-year-old boy said, “When my dad left, I stayed separate from the family. I would really keep to myself. …my mom and my sister were constantly crying and stuff so I was always trying to comfort them. And I couldn't show any emotion … because I had to be the strong one.”

  • “…my mom acts different, too, when my dad’s gone. It’s like she’s not her normal self,” said one 14-year-old boy. “She’s kind of like stressed out and stuff. And her [being] stressed out affects me, too …”

  • "I don't want to be a daddy because daddies die," said four-year-old Jack Shanaberger.

  • "Did Dad love his soldiers more than he loved us?"- Richard Marshall, 16.

  • “(Mom) came to Ramstein to visit me and we went to restaurants, shopping, and just hung out together relaxing,” said Sal Russo, “We cooked, laughed, watched movies, and called family back in the states. She even helped me with a Business writing course I was taking.”

Find out what the Pentagon is now doing for families.

"America’s Military Kids Are Latest Collateral Damage "- an article from the Women's Media Center.

To everyone who's parent(s) has been deployed, just know that we think of you and hope.

Peace, friends.

Friday, August 03, 2007

President of Peace

Many of you might be familiar with the United Nations; it's the international organization that tries to find peaceful solutions to problems. (Running on a budget less than the New York Police Department!) What you might not know is that currently the General Assembly has a woman leader for the first time since 1969. (There have only be three women G. A. leaders in history.) Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa was appointed to the post by representatives of the United Nations General Assembly. The Presidency is only a one year term starting in September. As September comes, it will not only begin a wonderful new school year (do I hear grumbling?) it will also bring Sheikha's term to a close.
Sheikha was born on October 18, 1952 in Bahrain. She received two degrees; one in Civil Private Law and one in Comparative Law. Then she became one of two woman to first practice law in her country. Now, she has her own law firm called Haya Rashed Al Khalifa Law Firm. She's also been an Ambassador for France, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain and is a Global Advisor to Orphans International. Is she a feminist? Sheikha is an 'active participant in the movement to elevate the position of women in Bahrain'. Yeah, I'd say that qualifies.

So she's the President of what? What is the General Assembly? What does it do? First, the General Assembly has member states. Member states are countries that pay to have a vote in the General Assembly. Currently, there are 192 countries listed as member states. If a country wants to join they have to get 2/3 majority. (Most every other decision is made based on majority vote). Each year the budget is divided among the member states according on their ability to pay. Some countries only have to pay .0001% of the budget. If a country is unable to for two years in a row, they lose the ability to vote. The G. A. is the only part of the U. N. were every member state gets a vote.

So what is the focus of the General Assembly? Basically anything is up for discussion; it could be AIDS or the environment. From September to December (the normal session) they follow the agenda they voted on. Sometimes emergency meetings are called "in the case of an act of aggression". The President will run these meetings as well. (There was only been 9 emergency sessions so far). The President has a growing power and responsibility as the influence of the G.A. grows. They are responsible for moving the agenda forward and getting the member states to agree. They often speak for the Assembly as a whole and give reports. Unless the General Assembly has another emergency meeting, Sheikha's term is over. But she made history as the third woman to hold this high position.

Read more about Sheikha in an interview she gave.

Click here to go to the United Nations website.
Peace, friends.

Math and Makeup?

"Math Doesn't Suck". Yes, that is the title of Danica McKellar's new book that tries to get girls interested in math. "I thought it (math) was just for nerdy white guys, but it's not...I want to tell girls that cute and dumb isn't as good as cute and smart," said Danica. Oh, boy. While I think the book is getting at something important, does it really need to have "cutesy graphics and teenmagazine staples...syrupy dollops of just-between-us-girls encouragement" (Peg Tyre author of the Newsweek article) to get girls engaged? Girls today are taking as many high-level math courses as boys do. So why do we need to encourage them? Most girls take math because they need as a supplement their career choice. Hardly any girls pursue a "pure math" job, like a mathematician or engineer. "We've gotten girls to take math. We've gotten girls to use math. But we haven't gotten them to love it," explained Patricia Campbell who reviews math and science programs for the National Science Foundation. I can really understand that people want girls to learn to love math, but is this approach really going to reach girls today? Here's a sample problem from the book: "Say you have $50, and you want to buy a fabulous blue sundress that costs $62. Bummer! Not enough money. But wait, there's a sale tag that says it's 1/5 off. Do you have enough money now?". Reality problems are useful and I understand that many girls might like this angle. If it helps them get interested in math, great. However, is it necessary to have inserts like "three miniprofiles of drop-dead-gorgeous mathematicians" (Peg Tyre)? Oh, well. I really hope that this book does help girls get involved with math and see that it's a career worth pursuing.

Peace, friends.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Baking a Difference

Most of us have had those backyard bake sales, but can you imagine earning $2,855.64? Jennifer Worby, Harly Griffith and Jenna Griffith did. With the help of their parents, the girls cooked and set up a bake sale to raise money for victims of the recent arson fire in MacEwan, Canada. "One lady gave us $200 and she didn't get anything," Jennifer said. Adults in the neighborhood pitched in and directed traffic toward the sale. The inspiration came when their friend lost her bedroom to the fire. "I really felt bad for people who lost their houses," said Jennifer. Other organizations helped too. Victory Christian Centre collected anything from clothes to furniture. The producers of Walking with Dinosaurs- The Live Experience donated 100 new toys. All over people are helping the victims of the $20 million fire. And just three girls made a huge difference in a lot of people's lives. "If kids did this, imagine what the adults would do. We're kind of trying to influence them," Jennifer explained. You go girls!

Read the report about the fire or the article about these amazing girls.

Peace, friends.

One in Three

Amnesty International recently released a report that showed how indigenous women (in America) are 2 times as likely as other women to be sexually assaulted. So about one in three of indigenous women will be abused in her lifetime. Now, because of the report, the House of Representatives has set aside $1 million to create "a tribal sex offender registry" and $1 million to fund a study about the violence against indigenous women. "This vote is an important step toward justice for Native American and Alaska Native women," said Larry Cox who is the Executive Director of Amnesty's US section, "But more needs to be done."

  • Lifetime rate of rape/attempted rape for women, according to the Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey:
    All: 17.6%
    White: 17.7%
    Black: 18.8%
    Asian/Pacific Islander: 6.8%
    American Indian/Alaskan: 34.1%
    Mixed Race: 24.4%
I know this isn't the happiest of posts, but I thought it was good to know that the government is at least doing something. You can read the article here.

Peace, friends.

What's in a Name?

Apparently a lot. A new study claims that if a girl has a more "feminine" name she will be less likely to study math or science after the age of 16. The study tested 1,000 pairs of sisters and found that a girl named 'Alex' was twice as likely to take math or science at a higher level than a girl named 'Elizabeth'. Partly, it is the way people respond to certain names. While there are exceptions, the study said most people will treat 'Isabella' differently than 'Alex'. "Girls with feminine names were often typecast," said David Figlio a professor of economics at the University of Florida (author of the report). Most girls are aware that people tend to assume that boys are better in math and science. "It is a stereotype, and girls with particularly feminine names may feel more pressure to avoid technical subjects," Figlio said. This doesn't mean that girls with more feminine names are any less capable than any other girl; they be just as good.

A big part of the problem, the study claims, is because teachers subconsciously have lower expectations of kids with less 'traditional' names. A teacher in London, Edyta Ballantyne, got a list of names before even meeting the kids and said it was hard not to make a judgement. "I think most people get an image in their head when they hear a name," she said, "If you treat a child differently because of their name, then they will behave differently. That is why the issue for every teacher is to look beyond their name."

Another study finds that if you remind a girl of the stereotype that boys do better in math they will perform badly. "The women start worrying about screwing up which uses up important short term or working memory which could otherwise be used performing the task," said Sian Beilock who is an assistant professor of psychology at the university of Chicago. Sian took two groups of women and told one group that they were being tested to 'see why men generally do better on math than women' and the other was told they were just a part of a math performance experiment. The group who had the stereotype test averaged an 80%; down from their pretest at about 90%. "I thought about how boys are usually better than girls at math so I was trying harder not to make mistakes," said one women who took the stereotyped test.

I must note that the study about girl names has not yet been published officially. You can make your own conclusions about the credibility of the study. Here is another side of the story that was posted on a blog. It should be interesting to see if the study is published and the effects it might have.
(According to the state Department of Education: Girls in grades 3-8 are doing better in math, where their proficiency rate of 73.5 percent edges out the boys’ rate of 71.9 percent.)

If any of you are interested in science and technology (whether your name is Elizabeth or Lauren!) check out this website. It has some links to some good sites, but I didn't check them all (over 100) so just remember that not all its' information could be credible.
Peace, friends.