3-17-12-Trayvon-Martin_full_600Simone Ispa-Landa, Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development & Social Policy at Northwestern University, is a new dear friend and fellow mama with a pen.  A sociologist who researches adolescence, race and ethnicity, gender, and (most recently) stigma and the effects of criminal record labeling, she teaches courses on qualitative methods. She is fiercely feminist in her intersectional approach, a passionate scholar grounded in the here and now. Below, she responds to the current conversation about what Black parents can and should tell their kids about how to stay safe. It’s not Black families that are failing in their efforts to protect their children, she reminds us. And she’s got the analysis to back it up.  Here’s Simone.  –Deborah Siegel

Three weeks after George Zimmerman’s acquittal, it’s a good time to reflect on a curious conversation that has been unfolding in its wake – one about what Black parents can and should tell their kids about how to stay safe and survive. Obviously, these are great – and unfortunately necessary – conversation for families, and especially Black families, to have.  But on a national level, I think we need a different conversation. Instead of talking about what parents can do and say to keep “at-risk” kids safe, let’s talk about how race matters for both “at-risk” and privileged kids.

Feminists working in the intersectionality framework have long noted that representations of Black women as bad mothers and Black men as absent fathers are important cogs in an ideological machine.  This is the machine that produces images of Black youth as “bad seeds” – on the way to becoming high-school dropouts, dangerous criminals, irresponsible parents, or just plain poor.

The recent events surrounding the shooting of Trayvon Martin only confirm the idea that Black youth – and especially Black males – face a world of hazard that most White people cannot even imagine.  After all, how many White parents have to worry about their teenage sons being shot and killed when they leave the house to go to the store? Or face a court system that pretends to be “race-blind” and repetitively silences the very issues of race that lie at the heart of its most troubling cases?

That said, the entirely sad and perhaps utterly predictable unfolding of the Trayvon Martin case, from the moment the 17-year old first attracted the attention of an armed neighborhood watch volunteer as “suspicious” to the defense attorneys’ devious attempts to reconfigure our image of Trayvon Martin from victim to “dangerous Black male thug” – should force the nation to rethink the spurious notion that Black families – and especially mothers – are responsible for the tragedies that disproportionately befall their children.

Black families are not failing in their efforts to protect their children.  Rather, it is the broader society – including the lingering effects of centuries of race-based exclusion, segregation, and cultural devaluation – that are making it so difficult for Black families to keep their kids safe.  In fact, it’s possible that the whole notion of “at-risk” Black youth would fade into an old-fashioned anachronism if our public institutions were half as committed to the welfare of the next generations of Black youth as their families were.

Indeed, research by people like Signthia Fordham suggests that many Black parents engage in hyper-vigilant surveillance and monitoring of their children’s whereabouts, all to guard their children against the kinds of danger that more privileged parents don’t even have to consider.  Further, while privileged suburban kids might bristle against their parents’ rules about cars, sex, homework, and drinking in bids to show off their autonomy, many Black kids in this country don’t have that luxury.

In my recent research, I examined how a sample of urban Black youth understood their parents’ rules and monitoring practices.  The participants in my sample legitimized even fairly restrictive parental restrictions as reasonable – as appropriately attuned to the hazards they faced.  The teens in my sample believed that following parents’ rules was critical for staying safe – and achieving future economic security.  In fact, the accounts of the urban Black teenagers whom I interviewed strongly diverged from accounts of more privileged American teens, who researchers like Amy Schalet, author of Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex, describe as rebellious and prone to “sneaking around” behind their parents’ backs.  In my research, I theorized that the adolescents in my sample were different from more privileged (White) kids, in part because they could not afford to go off the straight and narrow. They didn’t have that freedom.

As many critical race scholars have argued, everyone in society is a racialized subject.  Part of being White means benefiting from the fact that whiteness in American society still functions as the universal, high-status, and unstated “norm,” and non-whiteness as different, low-status, and visible.   When white kids wander into their own or others’ neighborhoods, they are benefiting from the privileges that come from belonging to this “unmarked group.”  And, as Trayvon Martin’s shooting shows, belonging to a group that is marked as different, low-status, and visible can be incredibly dangerous, regardless of how well (or not) your parents prepare you for this reality.

So, instead of dissecting all the things parents of “at-risk” kids – and the kids themselves – should be doing to stay safe, let’s start a new conversation about all the ways that society can shift to make this a place where it’s easier to be a parent, and where being a kid means having the luxury (even if only occasionally) to rebel – without paying a tragic price.


Live, from the land of Betty Friedan’s homestate and the birthplace of radical feminist cells like Chicago Women’s Liberation Union and the West Side Group, it’s ChiFems!

Earlier this month, I spoke on a ChiFems panel moderated by Christine Gallagher Kearney along with my fellow Girl w/Penner Veronica Arreola, my fellow OpEd Project maven Claudia Garcia-Rojas, and fabulous feminist (and OpEd Project alum) Ashley Lauren Samsa about feminism in the Midwest, past, present, future.  ChiFems is a part-social, part-activist group that aims to bring Chicago feminists together to build relationships and work together to create change.  I adore them.

Here’s the video. Note: we didn’t all plan to wear jean jackets. Perhaps it’s a Midwestern thing?

6736150457_cfef124c1cThere’s a terrific chapter in financial journalist Helaine Olen’s new book Pound Foolish that debunks popular myths around gender and money fueling the personal finance literature aimed at women. Think women are less financially literate than men? According to research by Annamaria Luardi, a professor of economics and accountancy at George Washington University and the academic director of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, men and women are both woefully financially illiterate. Think women aren’t as good with money? Research suggests that being made to feel that way may be the larger problem here.

My daughter and son are only three and a half. But I’ve been thinking a great deal about how girls learn money—or rather, about how we don’t. As the recent Pew report shows, a record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 now include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family. Our daughters are growing up in a world where they will be expected to be breadwinners, just like our sons.

But what are they learning, early on, about money, and how it works?

I sat down with Robin Patinkin, CFA, CFP®, a Principal with Cedar Hill Associates, LLC, an investment advisory firm serving high net worth individuals, families, and foundations. Over a large helping of watermelon in a Chicago apartment high up in the clouds, Robin and I discussed myths and realities around financial literacy and young girls.

Robin has over a decade of experience in investment management and financial planning with a comprehensive understanding of family interests and issues. Working intimately with clients as well as raising two sons and a daughter now in their twenties, she’s an expert in guiding individuals through financial life decisions. She’s something of a trailblazer herself, having majored in business in the 1970s (a time when few women did) and later going back to earn an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management with a concentration in finance at age 45. She became a CFA charterholder, along with her eldest son, in 2012. She’s frequently called upon as a panelist, speaks on a variety of financial issues, and acts as an expert witness in divorce cases.

Here’s how our conversation went down.

DS: You’ve raised two boys and a girl.  Did you notice any differences in the ways your children took interest in money?

RP: Yes. When each child turned ten years old, I had my first conversation with them about money and investing. I gave each an opportunity to invest in a stock they would understand at that young age as a consumer, and then we followed the stock together. There seemed to be a higher interest from the boys. That was the first signal.  Later, when they were in high school, as part of the Illinois state public school graduation requirement, they each had to either take a consumer education course or pass an exam. Academically, my children are all very similar. My sons passed the exam with very little, if any, studying.  Yet my daughter, who found the material uninteresting, asked for my help. I sat down with her and explained everything in the book page by page. She didn’t pass. We were both surprised.

DS: This story sounds like the stereotype. As a woman in the wealth management industry, how did this make you feel?

RP: A few years ago, I heard Marie Wilson speak about White House Project research that found a clear division in knowledge and acumen between boys and girls concerning financial literacy when they hit high school.  This is the very age at which my children took the exam. As you can imagine, here sits a mother who herself beat the stereotypes, was one of the few women majoring in business during the 1970s, and viewed herself as a role model who had knocked down the barriers, I thought: how can this be happening with my daughter?  I started to question what I had done wrong.

DS: What would you tell a mama like me to teach her preschoolers about dough?

RP: Now is the perfect time to start. Even Sesame Street is incorporating financial literacy in their curriculum. I would begin with the basics: put a piggy bank in the bedroom. Show them money, physically. Take them on a field trip to look at currencies of the past. Talk about bartering—use their toys—and explain how the money system developed.  Go to a coin shop. When they’re a little older, perhaps even take a trip to the US Treasury in DC. Teach the basics of saving, spending, and giving. And don’t be afraid to really talk about money. There are many wonderful children’s books that teach what money is. One of my favorites is called The Go Around Dollar, by Barbara Johnston Adams and Joyce Audy Zarins. It takes a dollar bill and dissects what every symbol on it means. It’s important to start the conversation young: “Mommy is saving this for our vacation. Mommy is spending this on food.” Play games with money. When you’re in a store, have children count the change to make sure it’s correct. Money, at a young age, can be fun.

As your children grow, add different parts of financial literacy into the conversation. It’s important for parents not only to role model, but to talk about it. So at an early age, it’s about charity, saving, spending. Children have different personalities and will exhibit varying feelings about these things. As they get older, you build in more about your personal lives: your spending, your saving habits, good debt/bad debt, things that worry you. Talk about how we work to earn money and where the money goes. Do a field trip to a bank, explain credit cards and their use, define what an asset is. When the news is on, if there’s a financial term mentioned, define it for your children right there. Use the moment, whenever and wherever you can.

DS:  In Pound Foolish Helaine Olen writes, “[T]here’s a fine line between making the [personal finance] industry more friendly to women and overtly condescending to them, and frankly, it is a line few have managed to tread successfully.” How do you think parents can be cognizant of occasional differences in attitudes between boys and girls around money, without condescending to the girls?

RP: I assumed, because I was in the business, that my children would understand equally, and there was no need to put effort into educating them differently at all.  In retrospect, I probably should have spent additional time with my daughter, who seemed less engaged, thus piquing her interest more around money and investing. I should have realized back when she was 10 that another approach was required to interest my daughter on the subject. Selecting a stock wasn’t the right fit. One size does not fit all.

I often think about what I should have done differently with my daughter, and why her financial competence was less than her brothers’. I wonder if there was some sort of emotional hook or mode of presentation that I should have employed to involve her more in the conversation and learn the lessons. I could have offered her baby steps, assignments, and tasks in a simple non-threatening way.

DS: Your daughter is currently 23. What do you do now?

RP: Marie Wilson’s presentation was a trigger for me. I am now, and have been for the past few years, making a concerted effort to get my daughter up to speed. In her early years in college, my daughter started overspending. This was not intentional by the way, but more from a lack of understanding. So I then set the stage. My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to put money aside to support college expenses, something so many American families struggle to fund. She had a credit card, her own checking account, and was given a reasonable monthly amount to live on. We covered tuition, and she was responsible for everything else. She learned how to budget and pay bills. She caught onto the lessons of personal finance she hadn’t yet somehow received.  She’s now moving into her first apartment after college and working her first grown up job.  She’s empowered, with me in the background still coaching, but she’s as responsible now as the boys.

DS: It’s been exactly 50 years since President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law yet women still make $.77 to the male dollar, prompting a renewed look at a legacy unfulfilled. So much of the problem, of course, is structural. But do you think an additional problem is that girls and women need to “lean in” more to our own financial education, or that the financial literacy industry isn’t effectively leaning out to us? Are we doing a good enough job teaching our girls, and are the methods employed successful?

RP: I think we’re failing on both accounts. There are outliers of success, and we can’t group all girls into one category. Yet I do believe these discrepancies in financial literacy are a problem across race and class. From my personal observation and experience working with girls, women, boys, and men, I suggest there is much to do. Yes, there are improvements since my college days, when there were few women in business, but the stereotypes persist, especially in much of the personal finance literature. I strongly believe it is our duty as mothers and fathers to recognize this shortfall and focus on the issue of financial literacy for our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, and ourselves. And it’s important for women like myself, in the industry, who have the education, the understanding, and the acumen, to work with our colleagues in the industry to combat this dilemma. My ultimate goal for my daughter—as for all our daughters—is that she pursues her career dreams and ambitions while living a life of financial freedom and independence, so that should a crisis take place, she is not destroyed.


Add your thoughts to the conversation, and be sure to check out Olen’s book. Is there a financial literacy gender gap, and if so, to what extent is the problem structural in nature? To what extent can parents and teachers play a role? Got questions for Robin? Feel free to leave them in comments here.

6251499620_dab1f2b75cWe’ve made the society pages!  No, not those society pages.  These ones.

For those of you know us already, the only thing that’s different, really, is our url.  Our content will remain unchanged. For those who are meeting us for the first time, allow us to introduce ourselves—and what we’re doing here.

Girl w/Pen is a group blog dedicated to bridging feminist research and popular reality. We publicly and passionately dispels modern myths concerning gender, encouraging other feminist scholars, writers, and thinkers to do the same. We’re a collective of feminist academics, crossover writers, and writers who have left the academy to pursue other thought leadership forums and forms.

Like researchers and writers themselves, blogs grow up, evolve, and shift shapes.  Such has been the story of Girl w/Pen, which began in 2007 as a way for me to keep friends and family posted as I hit the road on book tour. The name, Girl w/Pen, came in a flash, an easy way to describe myself at the time—an academic transitioning to an identity as a writer in a different realm.

Girl quickly became girls (I know, I know, women—but it was the youthful blogosphere, right?). When I started giving workshops on translating academic ideas for trade, participants of my seminars contributed guest posts.  Some became regulars.  Other fellow travelers followed suit, coming in and out as interests and workflow allowed.  In 2009, we decided to turn GWP into a full-fledged group blog, with a full roster of columns, and the name stuck.  Though admittedly anachronistic, our name continues to speak to the writerly journey many of us have taken, are on, and aspire to, as we put our thoughts to metaphorical paper, raise our collective voices, experiment, bridge research and reality, rabble rouse, and inform.

GWP has become a true interdisciplinary forum, enriched by its range.  Our current lineup of columns includes:

Bedside Manners (Adina Nack): applying the sociological imagination to medical topics, with a special focus on sexual and reproductive health

Body Language (Alison Piepmeier): Because control of our bodies is central to feminism. (“It is very little to me to have the right to vote, to own property, etc., if I may not keep my body, and its uses, in my absolute right.” –Lucy Stone, 1855)

Body Politic (Kyla Bender-Baird and Avory Faucette): A co-authored column on queer bodies, law, and policy.

Girl Talk (Allison Kimmich): truths and fictions about girl

Mama w/Pen (Deborah Siegel): reflections on motherhood, feminist and otherwise

Nice Work (Virginia Rutter): social science in the real world

Off the Shelf (Elline Lipkin): book reviews and news

Second Look (Susan Bailey): a column on where we’ve been and where we need to go

Science Grrl (Veronica Arreola): the latest research and press on girls and women in science & engineering

Women Across Borders (Heather Hewett): A transnational perspective on women & girls

We’re delighted to be teaming up with The Society Pages, where we join an active and far-reaching multidisciplinary blogging community, supported by publishing partner W.W. Norton.  When we first started looking for a home, TSP was the first that came to mind.  Major props to Adina Nack for suggesting it, Virginia Rutter and Heather Hewett for seeing it, Lisa Wade and Letta Page for brokering it, Jon Smajda and Kyla Bender-Baird for so beautifully executing it, and Doug Hartmann and Chris Uggen for having the vision in the first place—and for welcoming us in.

Here in our new neighborhood, you’ll find long-established and esteemed blog neighbors like Sociological Images, Thick Culture, and Sexuality and Society—blogs that in many ways share our DNA.  You’ll also find here roundtables, white papers, teaching resources, and Contexts magazine. Everyone here is invested in bringing academically-informed ideas to a broad public, to speaking about society with society—just like we’ve always been.

Those of us thinking in public about the way feminist research informs our surroundings and shapes our world look forward to settling into our new digs.  As ever, we invite you to join us.  We welcome your comments and critiques, your follows (@girlwpen) and your shares.  We welcome pitches for guest posts. We’ll keep evolving, enriched by our TSP neighbors, and by you.

We’re honored to be here, and to be a part of your society. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and let us know what you think.

Tots in Genderland is a multimedia experiment in thinking aloud, and in community, about the gendering of earliest childhood.  I’d love it if you’d join me.

Here’s how GWP readers can get involved:

1.  Watch my TEDxWindyCity talk Born That Way?, which brings to life key research about the gendering of earliest childhood. Taking us through a personal journey peppered with blunders and epiphanies, I challenge us to move beyond pink and blue and learn something new about gender from society’s smallest experts: our kids. Please leave a comment, post on FB/Twitter, and pass the link on. (It just went live – tonight!)

2.  Take the Born That Way? quiz below and test your Gender + Tots IQ.  (The answers are in the talk.)

3.  Post a photo of a young child breaking, or upholding, gender norms on the Pinterest board Tots in Genderland. Email me to join this board and pin freely – deborah(at)deborahsiegelwrites(d0t)com

4.  Visit The Pink and Blue Diaries for random musings on gender, parenthood, writing, and life — and add random musings of your own.

5.  Suggest a site to add to the Tots in Genderland Community Well by emailing me at deborah(at)deborahsiegelwrites(dot)com

Ok, you’ve read to the bottom.  Huzzah!  Ready for the quiz? I bet you GWP readers will know the answers.  Heck, some of you even wrote the books.  Have at it:

Test Your Gender + Tots IQ

1. Children rarely have a firm sense of what “gender” they are until they are how old?
a) 1 year
b) 2 years
c) 3 years

2. This past holiday season, which country produced a toy catalog featuring a boy cradling a doll and a girl riding a race car?
a) the US
b) Sweden
c) France

3. True or false: In a study of 120 pregnant women conducted shortly after amniocentesis allowed women to learn fetal sex, those knew they were carrying females described their fetuses movements as gentle, quiet, and rolling while those carrying males described kicks, jabs, and a saga of earthquakes.

Answers: in the talk.

Oh – and I launched a new site. Everything’s moved over to here: www.deborahsiegelwrites.com.  Thanks so much for being in this all with me, dear GWP community.  I’ll see you there!


In this town of writerly goodness, every once in a while an event rolls around that I feel I just can’t miss.  Still trying to line up a sitter, but damned if I won’t be there.  If anywhere near NYC this Monday night, I strongly encourage you to hightail it to this panel too — which features members of my awesome authors’ group, and the founder of The OpEd Project, the organization I work with. Here’s the schpiel:


New America NYC in collaboration with the Invisible Institute


Navigating the Pink Ghetto


JUNE 11, 2012 6:30 8:15PM

Topics around gender politics, family issues and women’s health are crucial mainstays of journalism, so why do issues pertaining to women get sidelined? And how can so-called “women’s topics” get an intellectually sound, politically savvy hearing in a media world that often wants a soft focus on hard issues? Hear from tough women journalists spilling red ink on pink topics, and how they manage the gender divide in serious ideas-based reporting.



Senior editor, Slate
Contributing writer, The New York Times Magazine
Author of a forthcoming book about bullying, Sticks and Stones, to be published early next spring

Author, Origins and Brilliant
Contributing writer, TIME magazine
Contributor, NPR’s MindShift.com


Author, The Starter Marriage and The Future of Matrimony, Pornified, and Parenting, Inc.
Features editor and children’s book editor, The New York Times Book Review


Founder and CEO, The OpEd Project

Author, Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked


See you there!

We’ve teamed up!  Deborah Siegel (a.k.a. Mama w/ Pen and our very own Girl w/ Pen founder) and I have collaborated on an OpEd on Elisabeth Badinter’s new book, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women.  We agree with some of her arguments, but take issue with others.  Our call?  Let’s move past all the mommy wars and focus on the real needs of U.S. mothers.  Read more over at CNN.com.

On a personal note, I cannot think of anything I have done this past year that has been as gratifying as working with Deborah on this piece.  Two is definitely better than one!


THIS SUNDAY, MAY 13, 2012 — Mother’s Day in the United States — women everywhere will simultaneously post this letter to their blogs, websites and Facebook pages, to honor the work of Mothers around the world.

YOU ARE INVITED TO ADD YOUR VOICE. To join our Mother’s Day Blog-In simply,

1. Copy & paste this letter on your blog, Facebook or Google+ page.

2. Add your name and links to your site, work or organization in the comments at https://www.facebook.com/MothersSpeakOut

3. Tweet, share and post the link to your letter using the hashtag #MothersSpeakOut

We also invite all mothers to post a comment or image about their authentic, true reality as a mother — ones that they don’t often see reflected in the mainstream media.

* * * * * * *

Together, Mothers Are Powerful.

Last month’s furor over the remarks of political pundits and candidate’s wives launched a flurry of conversation among mothers.

Mothers have a voice of their own to add to the discussion. Authors, activists and others have been writing and identifying the issues raised this political season for decades, and women have been listening, again and again.

It’s time for mothers’ own voices to be heard.

We are a bi-partisan coalition of women’s organizations, experts, and writers who have diligently worked on bringing mother’s issues into the mainstream political discussion.

Some of us are advocates, and some are community organizations. Many of us are authors and experts about mothers’ lives as well.  All of us recognize the value of a mother’s contribution to her family, both the paid and unpaid work that women do.

Our message is simple: all mothers need more support.

This Mother’s Day we want to get the word out about our ideas, our work, and our priorities. We offer the following list to provide resources for real information and places for women to gather for intelligent discourse on the many problems — and solutions — to the issues facing mothers and families.

We offer this list as an alternative to the tired and cliched coverage of mothers in the mainstream media.

Please join your voice with ours this Mother’s Day. Together, Mothers are powerful.

* * * * *


Author, The Price of Motherhood

Co-founder “MOTHER: Mothers Ought to Have Equal Rights”


Past President, Mothers & More


I’m thrilled to bring you this guest post from the co-directors of a poignant new film about impending, ambivalent motherhood that opens this Friday.  Spread the word! – Deborah

Greetings – we are Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson, guest bloggers for Mama w/Pen. We’re here because our film, SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS opens Friday, May 11 in New York City, then moves on to over ten cities nationwide. It’s a story about technology and self-expression, love and major life changes. Here’s the synopsis:

When technophile Sarah Sparks (Anna Margaret Hollyman) becomes pregnant, her uncertainties about motherhood trigger an impulsive road trip to the source of her anxiety: her long-estranged mother living far away and off-the-grid.

So, yes, our movie features a female tech-head protagonist, and that choice often has us thinking about gender and technology. The New Yorker this week features an article on youth hacker George Hotz, who at 17 was the first person to decode an iphone in order to use his existing data plan. George describes hacking as such to New Yorker writer David Kushner:

“It’s a testosterone thing,” he told me. “It’s competitiveness, but it isn’t necessarily competitiveness with other people. It’s you versus the system. And I don’t mean the system like the government thing, I mean the system like the computer. ‘I’m going to stick it to the computer. I’m going to make it do this!’ And the computer throws up an error like ‘No, I’m not going to do this.’ It’s really a male thing to say, ‘I’m going to make you do this!’ ” (“George Hotz, Sony, and the Anonymous Hacker Wars” by David Kushner, May 7, 2012.)

Is “I’m going to make you do this!” really, um, exclusively male? Granted this is one statement by one individual, but it’s reflective of an idea that’s clearly permeating our culture: that technology is more or less for the boys.

And on to film directing ….

In 2004 The New York Times ran an article by Nancy Hass that praised the number of women working in Hollywood as producers but included a sidebar about women directors that expressed some surprising assumptions. (“Hollywood’s New Old Girls’ Network” by Nancy Hass, April 24, 2005.)

The Dean of USC Film School, Elizabeth Daley, said this to Nancy Hass:

“There are talented girls who want to do this, but so far they haven’t done what the boys do – band together and sacrifice everything to make a small film,” she said. “It’s those films that eventually find their way into the hands of studio executives looking for the next hot young thing.”

And there’s more:

“Young women are less likely to get support, both financial and emotional, from their parents,” Ms. Daley added. “In my experience, parents of girls aren’t as eager to give them their life savings to make a movie,” she said.

A former studio head, who did not give her name in order to protect relationships, said: “The fact is that to be a director you have to be unbelievably ruthless…. They have a cold streak that most women I know don’t have and don’t want to have. They are both artist and commander, and they have a maniacal vision that precludes them from caring about anything but the film.”

Apologies, but denying all women the right to a natural-born cold streak, a maniacal spirit and the right to be, well, bossy – “I’M GOING TO MAKE YOU DO THIS!” — is only relevant if we allow these ridiculous stereotypes to continue to circulate.

Hack female style! And direct movies. We went to a film school wherein half of the class was female – and those women brought to their craft everything unique about themselves, and certainly got their movies made. Filmmaking is as varied in methodology as are the stories that any one individual wants to tell. Our story is about a woman and her love of machines … and how she comes undone in a transition toward parenthood. Watch the trailer here – and hope to see you opening weekend at Cinema Village!

—Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson, co-directors


Crossposted at The Pink and Blue Diaries.

I honestly think parents judge each other too much. So far be it for me to judge the expectant parents in yesterday’s New York Times article, “A Boy or a Girl? Cut the Cake”. But let’s just say, as a researcher, if I were going to judge the concept of a gender-reveal party, here are 5 things I might say:

1. The stat in the article regarding the percentage of people who find out the sex of their fetus through amnio or ultrasound is at odds with other stats I’ve read. The percentage is more like up to 80, not 50.

2. Gender – and therefore gender stereotyping – begins in utero. How do we know? Because in 1986, around the time that amniocentesis first allowed pregnant women to find out fetal sex, sociologist Barbara Katz Rothman asked 120 pregnant women to describe the movements of their fetuses. “Women who’d learned they were having a girl gave answers such as ‘very gentle, slow, more rolling it seemed than kicking,’ ‘moderate, reassuring but not violent,’ ‘quiet in the mornings and afternoons,’ ‘lively but not excessively energetic.’ Mothers who knew they were carrying a boy described ‘many somersaults and very vigorous movements,’ ‘rolling from side to side and little kicks and punches up and down,’ ‘a constant jabbing under my ribcage,’ and ‘a saga of earthquakes.’ Tellingly, the responses of women who did not find out the sex of their fetus showed no such stereotypical patterns.” (Lots more about this in Annie Murphy Paul’s meaty chapter on sex and sex selection in Origins)

3. This story about gender-reveal parties is the antithesis of last year’s stories about Pop and Storm – kids whose parents didn’t divulge their child’s sex, for months after they were born. I wonder what that says about us as a culture, or a zeitgeist, in terms of how we feel about young children and gender.  Thesis, antithesis, anyone?

4. I realize that finding out the sex is a threshold moment. It’s the thing that makes a pregnancy feel real. Sex transforms a fetus from an abstract “it” into a specific “he” or “she.” But don’t most enlightened parents these days act with shock and glee regardless of which sex is announced? So why all the fuss?

5. Shouldn’t we be a tad more concerned with “Who will it be?” than “What will it be?” in the end?  I’m mean, if I’m going to get all lofty about it and all.  And why, for that matter, are these called “gender-reveal” parties and not “sex-reveal” parties, which is what they actually are?

Lastly, a personal story:

When I was mentally preparing for the great reveal, lying on the table waiting for my ultrasound at week 20, I thought back to my grandmother who was pregnant with my mom and her twin sister back in 1941. Grandma Pearl, an orthodox Jew, assumed she was carrying boys—or, rather a boy. She didn’t even know she was carrying twins until the doctor suspected a second heartbeat in the seventh month and ordered an X-ray. My grandparents didn’t bother picking out girl names. Their sons would be David and Jonathan. When David and Jonathan turned out to be baby girls, my grandparents ended up naming them after two Catholic nuns who took care of my grandmother on the maternity floor: Sister Rita and Sister Renee.

I’m not sure what all this means, but I find it damn funny somehow. I mean come on, it was an act of irony destined to make even a stern Old Testament God crack a smile.

PS. Did anyone else find the photo below incredibly creepy?