Saturday Double Dose: Athletes Embrace Size, Fashion Designers Embrace Zero, Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination Suit and More

By Christine Cupaiuolo — February 9, 2007

Another day-late round-up, with plenty to cover

Athletes Embrace Size, Rejecting Stereotypes: The New York Times on Thursday reported on the reluctance at the collegiate level to weigh female athletes, out of a concern of promoting unhealthy obsessions with weight. Also, athletes are becoming more comfortable with a range of body sizes, though the comfort zone is often limited to their sports circle. Jere Longman writes:

[Serena] Williams has led an “in-your-face redefinition of what a strong woman should look like,” said Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation. Basketball and tennis courts provide an oasis of freedom for female athletes, she said, although she added that “90 percent of their lives is not lived in that oasis” and that women’s sports have “been burdened by a stereotypical view of women.”

The Emperor’s New Clothes. Seriously: “No one’s health is likely to be damaged by an ugly dress,” writes Robin Givhan in the Washington Post. “But the disappointing panel discussion, hosted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America Monday morning, on eating disorders among models and the pressures on them to maintain a reed-thin figure, was not so benign.”

The four panelists seemed intent on thanking the CFDA for the opportunity to participate in the event and offering reassurance that they were not out to inhibit the designers’ creative freedom. No one addressed the responsibilities that come with such boundless artistic expression. No one focused on the core issue of why designers even want to use models who are so thin that their appearance raises fears about ill-health. The presentation hit rock bottom when the physical fitness trainer and panelist David Kirsch offered: “I’d rather see a healthy size 4 than an unhealthy size 0.”

Princesses R Us: The extension of princess culture offers “a new twist on leisure class conspicuous consumption: busy women can pay to look like they spend their days shopping and lunching,” writes Deborah Klosky at Spot-On. “Women have made progress professionally, in areas like law and business and medicine; so now the symbol of success is being able to afford to be our own trophy wives?”

Does She Ms. Her Name?: Advice columnist Amy Alkon responds to a question about losing your first name when you take your husband’s last name.

Stereotypical Messages Have Negative Effect on Women’s Performance: From Smith: A Smith College press release points to a study that documents, for the first time, the brain regions affected by positive and negative stereotypes. “The results demonstrate the remarkable power of culture in determining performance,” said Maryjane Wraga, associate professor of psychology at Smith, and lead author on the study, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination Suit Advances: “A sex discrimination suit against Wal-Mart on behalf of 2 million female employees, the nation’s largest-ever civil rights suit, moved a step closer to trial Tuesday when a federal appeals court upheld its class-action status, a ruling that allows a jury to review the company’s nationwide practices in pay and promotions,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “Statistics and expert analyses offered by the women’s lawyers, and declarations from 120 past and present employees, contain ‘significant proof of a corporate policy of discrimination and support plaintiffs’ contention that female employees nationwide were subjected to a common pattern and practice of discrimination,’ said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a 2-1 ruling.”

Plus: The Washington Post looks at the alliance around the issue of health care between Wal-Mart chief executive H. Lee Scott and frequent Wal-Mart critic Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union.

A Push to Stop Midwives: “Many Amish and other so-called plain people traditionally give birth at home with lay midwives. The fear of losing that tradition brought about 200 of them to rally in Harrisburg late last month,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. “In Pennsylvania, only midwives who have nursing degrees can be licensed. The state argues that the practice of lay midwifery — usually defined as midwives trained through apprenticeship — is illegal, and many doctors say it is dangerous. However, the Pennsylvania statute does not explicitly prohibit the practice of lay midwifery.”

Behind the Pillow Angel: Rebecca Claren covers the difficult ethical discussions that doctors and others at a Seattle hospital engaged in prior to performing the controversial “Ashley Treatment” — an operation performed to keep a disabled girl from reaching sexual maturity.

Plus: Lucinda Marshall points to “One of the Guys: Women as Aggressors and Torturers,” an essay collection edited by Tara McKelvey that looks at the role of women at Abu Ghraib. Contributors include Marshall, Barbara Ehrenreich, Eve Ensler, Janis Karpinski and Cynthia Enloe, among others.

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