Penn Jillette, and ten rules to live by

An oldie (2011) but goodie: Penn Jillette’s 10 Commandments for Atheists, which is also basically secular humanism:

1. The highest ideals are human intelligence, creativity and love. Respect these above all.

2. Do not put things or even ideas above other human beings. (Let’s scream at each other about Kindle versus iPad, solar versus nuclear, Republican versus Libertarian, Garth Brooks versus Sun Ra— but when your house is on fire, I’ll be there to help.)

3. Say what you mean, even when talking to yourself. (What used to be an oath to (G)od is now quite simply respecting yourself.)

4. Put aside some time to rest and think. (If you’re religious, that might be the Sabbath; if you’re a Vegas magician, that’ll be the day with the lowest grosses.)

5. Be there for your family. Love your parents, your partner, and your children. (Love is deeper than honor, and parents matter, but so do spouse and children.)

6. Respect and protect all human life. (Many believe that “Thou shalt not kill” only refers to people in the same tribe. I say it’s all human life.)

7. Keep your promises. (If you can’t be sexually exclusive to your spouse, don’t make that deal.)

8. Don’t steal. (This includes magic tricks and jokes — you know who you are!)

9. Don’t lie. (You know, unless you’re doing magic tricks and it’s part of your job. Does that make it OK for politicians, too?)

10. Don’t waste too much time wishing, hoping, and being envious; it’ll make you bugnutty.


Depth Measurements

when they describe


they write



Black woman


color apparently deeper than gender,

heavier with the weight of the word

oppression like


water pressing down

to the prehistoric

striation of the ocean floor


gender apparently


weightless like the prismatic


glancing, mutable

off the skimming waves


a lighter burden on the


Black woman

Survey Opportunity! Positive negotiation tactics for female professionals

Following a lively debate on LinkedIn about “Negotiating While Female,” a few of the Women Employed Advocacy Council members noticed that the advice for women was all about what NOT to do, and the lack of positivity and proactivity bothered us. Therefore, we decided to explore “Negotiating as Women: Bright Spots for Female Professionals” with a simple 10-question survey. The goal? Get real-world tips and examples from working women (like you?) to help empower and inspire change in our workforces.

After the responses are in by July 31, 2014, the Advocacy Council members above will summarize the results into a blog post and share practical highlights/tips to help women make their mark at work.

This is where you come in! We want to hear your negotiating stories, both at the interview stage and during your tenure at your company/organization (e.g. annual reviews, re-negotiation two years in, etc).

Please take the survey ( and share your experience with us today: *Note: All answers will be anonymous and results will be published in aggregate; no personal information or contact details will be shared at any time.

Please share the survey among friends, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, etc. Thank you, as always, for everything you do and for lending a hand as we find new ways to help working women thrive.

Cultural Sensitivity: the Redskins, Delta and “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

Today, I learned about three things that are a reminder of the need for cultural sensitivity. First, the US Patent Office cancelled the trademark name of the Washington Redskins, agreeing with the five Native Americans who brought suit that it was inherently offensive. It has honestly always baffled me that many people don’t think the name is inappropriate, who think Natives are being “too sensitive,” that changing it would somehow destroy the team’s culture and legacy. Um… colonialism/white privilege much? I’m hoping that at some point the team’s owners will be on the right side of history and say, you know what, this name carries a legacy of slaughter and discrimination and cultural annihilation. We don’t want to be associated with the taints of that name anymore.

You may think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here. It’s just a name, after all, right? No. Names have power, have meaning. They can be culturally reappropriated so that their power is diffused, but they will always be laden with history, and when that history is one of hate, there is cause to consider banishing them from our cultural vocabulary. Think of how the words “nigger” and “queer” have been reappropriated by Black and LGBT individuals so that their meaning within those groups has become one of solidarity and affection rather than attack. The key phrase there, though, is “within those groups.” It’s still not okay to use “nigger” or “queer” if you are not a member (a simplistic analogy: you can make fun of your siblings, but if anyone else does, watch out!). Even if it’s not meant as an insult, we are not far enough removed from the Civil Rights era for those words not to be fraught with negative connotations. And “Redskin” is the same. Calling a Native person a Redskin, let alone using it as a TEAM NAME, is not okay, and likely never will be.

Be on the right side of history, Redskins.

While we’re talking about cultural appropriateness and sensitivity, Delta did this yesterday, in which it congratulated the US soccer team for beating Ghana in a tweet that depicted Ghana as a giraffe on the plains. Many astute Tweeters noted that giraffes, in fact, aren’t native to Ghana. As Delta flies to Ghana, and has a destination page for the country, one might assume they would be more culturally sensitive to African stereotypes. Apparently not. What’s wrong with a giraffe representing an African country? you might ask. I mean, giraffes live in Africa. People know what Delta means. Stop being so sensitive!

Yes, giraffes live in Africa. But that’s precisely the problem. Africa is a big continent. Huge. In fact, it’s as big as China, India, the US and most of Europe put together. Assuming that Africa can be seen as just one, giraffe-laden place contributes to the “othering” of Africa. When Delta contributes to the visioning of Africa as a unified continent, it contributes to the idea that South Africa and Egypt and Senegal are “essentially all the same place” – which, as anyone who has read or followed the news or visited any or all of these countries knows, is very far from the truth. Whenever we are enabled to see Others as All Alike, it detracts from our ability to see nuance and experience empathy. To perhaps make the analogy more real, consider how damaging it is when all members of a religion – Islam, Christianity, Judaism – are assumed to share the same belief. This is how we end up with peaceful Muslims attacked on the streets. Just as it would be ridiculous to assume that Mormons, Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, and the members of the “Christian” Westboro Baptist Church believed the same thing because they all call themselves “Christians,” it’s ridiculous and damaging to believe that all Africans are the same. When Delta perpetuates this stereotype, they’re contributing to a more pervasive problem.

So where does “How to Train your Dragon 2” fit in? This is yet another example of where well-meaning people unconsciously perpetuate cultural insensitivity and contribute to damaging stereotypes. The villain is the only character voiced by a Black man, Djimon Hounsou. While I doubt that there was any racism intended, this is actually a pretty pervasive theme in children’s movies that I think represents subtle biases present in our culture. For example, many of the “bad” characters in The Lion King are also voiced by minority actors/actresses (such as the hyenas), while many of the “good” characters (Simba, Nala, etc.) are voiced by White actors/actresses (despite the African setting). I don’t think Disney for one second was trying to make a statement about race, but did I notice? Yes. This obviously isn’t the case in every movie, of course, but there are quite a few that follow this trend. And even if racism isn’t intended, even if the best actor or actress was chosen for the part, this still reinforces the idea of Other as Bad. With the Lion King, it becomes a reflection of colonialism, with the young, White lion generation succeeding the older, Black lion generation to become the rulers. When Black actors do play important characters in The Lion King, they are either killed off (Mufasa), evil (two of the hyenas; the third is Mexican-American) or represent a stereotype (Rafiki).  Now, of course, I may be stretching this a bit. And yes, I know that many, many villains are voiced by White actors and actresses. The problem is when the ONLY Black actor/actress in the movie is the villain, such as in “How to Train your Dragon 2.” What subconscious message is this sending?

Call it political correctness if you will. I prefer cultural sensitivity, because this should go beyond politics, beyond correctness. It’s about being attune to our own position and privilege. It’s about not only sensitivity to others’ feelings, but also empathy and kindness and awareness. It’s about being conscientious global citizens. And, you know, decent human beings.

“Don’t tell us what to wear; teach the boys not to stare.”

For the past few days, watching the high teenagers stroll from the El to the Spring Awakening Music Festival at Soldier Field, I have been thinking of today’s teen culture and what a sheltered, goodie-good child I was. But I’ve also been thinking about slut-shaming, and rape blaming.  The fundamental question I’ve been grappling with is: Should tween- and teen-aged girls be “allowed” and encouraged to wear things like midriff shirts and booty shorts (literally, I could see butt cheeks)? Or should they be counseled against these provocative and objectifying outfit choices?

On one hand, girls should be able to wear what they want without fear of sexual assault. On the other hand, this dress promotes objectification by both men and the dresser herself, because for what other reason besides promoting the culturally-defined version of one’s “hot” body is this clothing for? (Note – this was not at the beach. It was warm, but not hot enough to need to wear a sequined bra top and mini skirt to the festival in order to stave off heat exhaustion.)

Peggy Orenstein’s article the other day in the New York Times, “The Battle Over Dress Codes,” addresses this issue and calls attention to the difficult line this is. Notes Orenstein, “while women are not responsible for male misbehavior, and while no amount of dress (or undress) will avert catcalls, cultural change can be glacial, and I have a child trying to wend her way safely through our city streets right now. I don’t want to her to feel shame in her soon-to-be-emerging woman’s body, but I also don’t want her to be a target. Has maternal concern made me prudent or simply a prude?”

I understand her conundrum. I feel caught between that prudent/prude dichotomy myself when thinking of those girls and their bare bellies. How do we encourage developing girls to feel pride in their bodies while also encouraging them to cover it up? Can girls embrace their newfound sexuality without feeling the need to show it off and give it away (or being told they shouldn’t do those things)? Is wearing provocative clothing a rallying cry for feminism, or the opposite? I think the opposite, but go read Orenstein’s article and tell me what you think.

Lesser known facts about LGBT discrimination

Did you know?

Veterans Affairs uses state of residency (rather than state of celebration) in determining if a veteran’s marriage is respected or not in terms of ability to access a VA home loan. Apparently, even if you honorably served your entire nation, you’re only entitled to equal benefits if you live in one of the 19 states that have marriage equality.

There is no federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in places of public accommodation. Therefore, in several states, counties, cities, etc., LGBT people can be denied service at a restaurant or a room in a hotel. Funny, reminds me of that whole “you can’t sit at this lunch counter” issue that led to that little thing called the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT (which doesn’t protect on the basis of sexual orientation… yet?).

Over 40% of LGBT individuals report that they are closeted at the office. Among employees aged 18-24 are only 7% likely to be out at work, despite the fact that Gen Y is more favorable of same-sex issues than any prior generation. Guess they don’t trust that their bosses will be as open-minded.

Want a business case? Nearly three quarters of closeted LGBT workers are likely to leave a company within three years of employment, due to the daily stress of keeping their private lives secret. In other words – you’re hemorrhaging Millennials (see above).

In 2009, The New York Times compared the lifetime costs of a hypothetical same-sex couple compared with those of a hypothetical heterosexual married couple and found the same-sex couple would pay more overall – in the best-case scenario, the couple’s incremental lifetime “cost of being gay” was about $41,000; in the worst-case scenario, it exceeded $467,000. Thanks to the ending of DOMA, hopefully this isn’t quite as stark anymore.

Married, or not, LGBT employees can still be legally fired in 29 states; in 34 states, it is legal to fire a transgender employee. LGBT professionals who choose to be out in certain parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia risk prison time and in some cases, death. Homosexuality is illegal in 76 countries, and only 49 countries have legal protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. In at least five countries, homosexuality is punishable by death.

Over half of LGBT workers report hearing jokes or derogatory comments about gay people on the job. Has it happened in your workplace? How did you respond?

A 2012 retrospective on North Carolina and President Obama

May 9, 2012, a day that will live in gay-rights infamy, when North Carolina lost its position as the last Southern state to pass even more restrictive anti same-sex marriage laws. Yes, they already forbid it, but this was a “safeguard.” It reminded me of “The Daily Show” episode that aired just a few days prior, about a Texan lawmaker who passed an amendment prohibiting workplace discrimination against gun owners… not that there have been any gun owners in Texas who have claimed discrimination. But hey! Better to be safe than sorry, right? She’s anti-discrimination for even non-marginalized classes! Preventative measures and all that.

Of course, Jon Stewart et al. reminded her that she had voted against protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. She tried to justify this by saying she didn’t know of anyone who had been fired due to sexual orientation, so why did they need a law? I’m sure you’re seeing where Stewart went with that… oh, hypocrisy.

Anyway, so North Carolina left the list of places we would be willing to move. But then Obama actually took a stand and openly admitted he supported same-sex marriage. To me, the best part is that his daughters changed his mind. Apparently (shocking!) they have friends who have same-sex parents, and they don’t see anything wrong with that, and they don’t want their friends to be teased or feel bad for having a different family. Just like that, Obama was reminded of The Golden Rule.

You go, girls.  

I posted a lot of images and links on my Facebook page that day that, to me, captured the issues of the day (and I mean that specifically, as in, that day). Some are inflammatory, some less so. In this retrospective, I’m reminded of how far we’ve come since 2012, and how far we still have to go.


interracial marriage


doctor laura

Where Are All the Feminists? Amanda Knox’s Story Is about More than Murder

A great article on conceptions of sexuality and a slightly different take on “missing white woman syndrome.”

As It Ought to Be

amanda-knox-07_673c5c4d9c267ba5f8b2ecc1740c96d0 Photo Credit: NBC

Where Are All the Feminists? Amanda Knox’s Story Is about More than Murder

By Lisa Marie Basile

Amanda Knox is innocent of murder.

As a reader, you may have already chosen a side, since some have made this a battle of culture and evidentiary ping pong. Either you agree with my assertion of innocence or you don’t, but there’s a bigger social issue at play here: People’s lives are being ruined by sexism and lies.

I am making an appeal to all feminists and people of rational thought: We need to speak out, regardless of our beliefs. Beyond the fact that no credible or realistic evidence places Knox or her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito at the scene of Meredith Kercher’s murder, Knox’s very average sexual behavior and our sexualization of her image should not be spearheading the campaign against her.

When I ask people what they think…

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