Double Dose: Racial Disparities and Women's Health, The New Modern Woman Courtesy of Ally McBeal and Three Films to Watch

May 5, 2007

Carnival of the Feminists: The 37th Carnival of the Feminists is up at KitKat’s Critique. Go check it out.

Racial Disparities in Health: Over at The American Prospect, Madeline Drexler talks with sociologist David Williams about racial and socioeconomic disparities in health (via Utne, which adds context to the issue with more links here). Here’s an excerpt:

What statistic that relates to health disparities do you consider to be the most appalling? Is it the black/white gap in life expectancy? Premature mortality? Infant mortality?

The single example of health inequality that’s most dramatic to me is what occurs when we look at racial-ethnic differences and, at the same time, at measures of socioeconomic status. For multiple indicators of health, the most advantaged or the best-off African Americans are doing more poorly than the worst-off whites.

A good example to make that concrete: African American women. According to national data, African American women aged 20 years and older with a college degree or more education have higher rates of low birth weight infants, and higher rates of infants who die at birth, than do white women who are high school dropouts. Remember: These are the African American women who are doing the best.

Why is it that the best-off African American women are doing worse than the least-off white women? It exists for infant mortality, birth outcome, obesity, hypertension.

So while socioeconomic status is important in health, there is a residual effect of racism?

There is an added burden of race that is evident in the health statistics. It’s not just about economic status.

Post It: Need a place to vent some outrage over the Supreme Court decision on the Federal Abortion Ban? Visit the virtual Wall of Protest, where opposition to the decision is represented by photos and videos.

Age of Innocence Revisited: In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Garance Franke-Ruta suggests a way to undercut the soft-core porn empire created by Joe Francis, founder of “Girls Gone Wild”: “Curtailing the demand side of such a ‘market’ is difficult, requiring moralistic sermons and abridgements of speech. But the supply side is more vulnerable to change. It is time to raise the age of consent from 18 to 21 — ‘consent,’ in this case, referring not to sexual relations but to providing erotic content on film.”

The New Modern Woman: “Everything wrong with ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and its soon-to-be spun spinoff is the fault of ‘Ally McBeal,'” writes Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times. She continues:

On “Grey’s Anatomy” at least two female characters, Christina (Sandra Oh) and Dr. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) have confidence, big egos and an ability to keep their sorrows to themselves most of the time. The female leads on the new series are fragile and pitiable, and it’s a worrisome imbalance. The HBO series “Sex and the City” made light of female insecurity and let its flighty heroines come out ahead. Here even the most successful women are left behind in life.

It wouldn’t matter, since the show is admittedly over-the-top escapist fantasy for women, except that it is troubling that even in escapist fantasies, today’s heroines have to be weak, needy and oversexed to be liked by women and desired by men.

Off to the Movies …

The Bittersweet Hereafter: “A feminist fairy tale about a woman learning to develop her creative gifts while trapped in a stifling marriage, Waitress doesn’t need to be subtle or original to hit home,” writes Dana Stevens in this review of the newly released film. “Waitress” was written and directed by Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered last year before it made its debut at Sundance. Shelly also co-stars in the film, along with Kerri Russell and Cheryl Hines. More reviews at The New York Times, Salon.

The Ski Mom Case: A movie that I’m behind in calling attention to is the critically acclaimedStephanie Daley.” Written and directed by Hilary Brougher, the film stars Amber Tamblyn as Stephanie, a 16-year-old who’s charged with killing her newborn child during a class ski trip. Stephanie is the only child of conservative religious parents, and she insists she didn’t know she was pregnant. Tilda Swinton plays Lydie Crane, a forensic psychologist who examines Stephanie and probes the truth. Crane is pregnant and, having suffered a miscarriage already, is apprehensive about the birth.

“Brougher perhaps overvalues the parallels between Stephanie and Lydie,” writes Peter Rainer of the Christian Science Monitor, though he adds that ultimately Brougher gets “at something rarely broached in movies: The abject fear that some women experience regarding their impending childbirth. The fear is not an existential one, it’s basic — a fear of physical pain.”

Stephen Holden of The New York Times meanwhile concludes: “Without standing on a soapbox ‘Stephanie Daley’ suggests a tragic gender gap between men who judge and women who feel.”

Lose Weight, Gain Trust?: Amy Reiter of Salon interviews filmmaker Yael Luttwak, whose new movie, “A Slim Peace,” looks at whether 14 women united by their desire to lose weight can advance peace in the Middle East. The film had its world premiere last week at the Tribeca Film Festival.