The Unlikely Feminists

07.6.13

Thanks to William for this wonderful guest post. You can follow him on twitter at @willibaldoea

Kardashians are Feminists

Say what you will about the Kardashian sisters, but they’re smart ladies. They’ve managed to spin an entire empire out of nothing (well, maybe a sex tape, but…).

Their ability to get people talking should be noted, because people certainly do talk – whether they like them or not. There’s no denying that they have had an effect on the collective consciousness at some level.

Take Kim’s marriage to Kris Humphries, for example. She filed for divorce after 72 days and the world erupted into a furor. Boycott, boycott, boycott!

Not too long after, Sinead O’Connor filed for divorce after just 17 days. That’s right. You heard it here first, because apparently no one cared to comment – TWO YEARS AGO. But then again, I suppose a divorce pales in comparison to O’Connor’s other antics. Let’s not forget that Nothing Compares 2 ripping up a photo of the Pope on live TV.

Back on topic.

The silence that followed O’Connor’s divorce should serve as an indication that it’s not attention that matters, but the magnitude of that attention. Remember when Britney annulled her marriage after 52 hours? Again, whatever.

People raged on for days, weeks, months about the Kardashian divorce. She was making a mockery of marriage, they said. We should cancel all of their shows, others cried. And amid it all, what did the Kardashians do? Kim went into hiding, releasing a public statement asking for privacy. Ironic, much?

Kris Jenner made the interview rounds to hawk her memoir and the upcoming premier of Kourtney and Kim Take New York. The world asked for answers, and all Kris could say was: the world would know more and get all the answers to their questions once the new season premiered.

Fury, anticipation, but most of all – ratings. The world watched. And around this time, Keeping Up with the Kardashians went from a half-hour show to a full-hour.

More ratings.

So what does this have to do with feminism? Probably nothing, but maybe a little something. You see, I have a friend who abhors Oprah Winfrey. Wait, I have more than one friend who does, but whatever. The point is, this friend – a very vocal and self-described feminist – hates the fact that Oprah, admittedly one of – if not the – most powerful women in America (the world?), spent her time doing shows about poop, bra fittings, and other seemingly trivial matters.

Of course, Oprah also did shows about serious issues. She made it her mission to use her show as a platform for the safety of children. She even got America to read! That’s no small feat. But she still talked about poop, which is kind of like what the Kardashians do. They just sit around and spew. Poop, poop, poop.

But the Kardashian girls may be up to a little more, whether they know it or not.

On a recent visit to Sears, I got to see firsthand what these ladies are doing for women. You see, my sister has always been petite, but after her second child, things just didn’t bounce back the same. She’s still tiny at 4’ 10”, but her hips are much wider than you would expect for someone her size. This small fact has had an enormous impact on her fashion choices, since she now has to dress for comfort.

Having two children under the age of 6 also means that there’s no money to pay for fancy, personally-fitted jeans, or even to tailor every pair of pants in one’s closet. So there are now only a few pairs, with their forgiving fabric, that get regular circulation.

I found this sad, since my sister had always enjoyed dressing cute and being adorable. I mean, come on, she’s 4’ 10”! It doesn’t get cuter than that unless you’re a grumpy or hipster cat on the internet!

My sister and I went through every rack at Sears in search of new, cute clothes. We tried every possible cut. Nothing seemed to fit, and sometimes even didn’t make it past her knees. Clothes for women that are 4’ 10” assume you’re also 12. The only option was to buy larger jeans, but these were made for women well over 5’, so these would require major tailoring. Again, not an option with two kids.

What began as a joke ended up saving the whole shopping trip. We had seen the Kardashian Kollection and grabbed a few pairs and headed to the fitting room. We prepared for the worst, but hopefully most Instragram-worthy moment. And then, nothing. No sucking in. No yanking at the zipper. Just, nothing. They slipped right on. The only minor problem was that there were about 8 inches flapping around. They were too long.

It didn’t matter, we said. We’d get them tailored. Sure, it would cost money, but nothing had fit my sister quite like this for a few years now. We headed back to the rack and picked up a few more. After a while, we noticed that they all fit differently but were essentially the same style. We looked closer: KHLOE, KOURTNEY, KIM.

Each pair had been designed for each sister’s body. The KHLOE was hippy and tall. The KOURTNEY was narrow and petite. The KIM was hippy and short.

In her single days, my sister was a KOURNTEY. This was the style you’d normally find in the juniors section. Now, her hips corresponded to KHLOE, but the length was all wrong. But in true fairy tale fashion, the third one was just right: KIM was generous at the hips and met the height requirement. Not only that, but they were comfortable.

I don’t think I had seen my sister beam that much since she gave birth to her son. You might think I’m exaggerating, but this was the face of an adorable young woman who was too busy, too cash-strapped, and too stressed to take care of herself while she went about being the best mom one could ever imagine. For her to be able to find a pair of jeans that slipped on without a hitch, and more than anything framed her body – which had changed significantly – meant the world.

There’s a difference between putting on something that fits and putting on something that feels great. And there’s certainly a difference between dressing up to reduce discomfort and dressing up to accentuate and celebrate your body. The Kardashian sisters seem to know that difference.

So maybe these girls will lead the revolution. It might not seem like much, but for women like my sister, it means being able to celebrate her feminity, her curves, and her youth.

Sure, Kardashian Kollection jeans run well over 60 bucks a pair, but they are occasionally on sale (we found them at about $25/pair). And in the end, being able to buy a pair of jeans that fit you at the first go might be worth it. More than anything, it means that women with uncommon body types, or simply more curvaceous in their features, can buy jeans without having to go out of their way to adjust them after the fact.

With all of the attention the Kardashian sisters get, I’m fairly certain their fashion line will have some sort of impact. Maybe not a huge one, but an impact nonetheless. And that’s significant when we take into consideration the critiques lodged against the Kardashians for their excess, vanity, and just plain pointlessness.

These ladies, famous for being famous, are leading the charge in redefining standards of beauty. And if you don’t believe me, take any woman with curves shopping. See what having not just your size, but your shape readily available does for a woman’s self-esteem.

Sexy is no longer just for those whose bodies can fit into the ready-made sizes you’re likely to find at most places. They’re for every woman, at every height, at every size. And they’re at a major department store, not a fancy shop where your jeans are fitted while your bank account is sucked dry.

I think that’s pretty amazing.

So yes, friends, the revolution will most certainly be televised.

OHMIGAWD, I’ve turned into Kris Jenner!

Faux Research Harms Everyone

07.4.11

University of WashingtonLast week I told y’all that The University of Washington had settled part of a lawsuit with the founders of Baby Einstein. In paying $175,000 of legal fees they admit that they violated the public records act. This may seem like a ho hum piece of news, but it’s really important for families to understand how research at places like the University of Washington affects our daily lives.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis has a website (and a lecture business) where he promotes himself as an International Expert on Media and Child Health. Seriously, google the phrase and you’ll see Dr. Christakis lecturing in towns like Bozeman Montana and creating healthy child guidelines with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

I know, you’re still wondering why I have such an axe to grind with this particular physician.

Well, Dr. Christakis (MD & MPH not PHD), along with his research partners Frederick J. Zimmerman, PHD and Andrew N. Meltzoff, PHD study the deleterious effects of media on children. Their research as it relates to Baby Einstein’s impact on young children is faulty at best and fraudulent at it’s worst.

Again, why do I care so much about one single study that wasn’t controlled, included self reporting on the telephone from two regions, has two sets of raw data (raw data is NOT interpreted, in a good study it’s just one set of numbers, if there are two sets of numbers there were errors, omissions or lies… none of which belong in a study) and measured babies watching an average of 8 minutes of television a day, but then they just multiplied to figure out what it might look like if that was an hour? Why would I care about a study like that? It’s like caring about the fake Autism study that put babies (and our total population) at risk by scaring parents out of vaccines.

From the study’s abstract:

Results

Among infants (age 8 to 16 months), each hour per day of viewing baby DVDs/videos was associated with a 16.99-point decrement in CDI score in a fully adjusted model (95% confidence interval = −26.20 to −7.77). Among toddlers (age 17 to 24 months), there were no significant associations between any type of media exposure and CDI scores. Amount of parental viewing with the child was not significantly associated with CDI scores in either infants or toddlers.

You would think that the babies watched an hour of TV a day, wouldn’t you? They watched LESS THAN NINE MINUTES ON THE AVERAGE. No, I’m not making this up.

Here’s the problem, Dr. Christakis is running around America (and according to his PR machine the world) peddling snake oil wherein you can raise a smarter, more literate child by keeping them screen free. What everyone is ignoring is that Dr. Christakis and his crew are once again attacking  motherhood and while they’re wrapped up in their white coats sitting in a laboratory telephoning parents they’re telling American Mothers that they’re bad at what they do.

More importantly this “research” is accepted by the AAP as truth and parents are told repeatedly that they are harming their children.

But most importantly this study appears to have been at least partially funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH). My understanding about research (again like Dr. Christakis I’ve only got a master’s degree not a PhD like Zimmerman and Meltzoff) is that good research meant to answer a question, and not to prove a point.

A few things for smart parents to take into consideration before they make media decisions:

  • Not all media is created equal, sometimes your kids just want to lay back, relax and be entertained. Just like we do. Should this be hours of the day? Of course not, but you already knew that, right?
  • Some media is quite educational, you can participate with the kids and maybe learn some stuff, like letters, numbers, shapes and language. Watch TV or hang out on websites with your kids once in a while.
  • Sometimes your older child will want to watch TV and your younger child will wander into the room. At times the younger one will be interested, other times they won’t be. Isn’t that funny how children self-regulate? Write a paper on that, maybe the University of Washington will publish it and make it the Mommy Law.
  • If you need to get dinner on the table, make the beds or balance your checkbook without pretending you’re a home school mom and you’d like to do this stuff without your kids try and do it in 22 minutes. That’s how long a TV show lasts when you fast forward through the commercials.
  • You also have permission to let the kids watch a show and you can sit and do nothing. Guess what, you’re still a good mom.

Telling parents that they aren’t permitted to allow a child to look at a screen until a certain age is ludicrous, particularly when it’s based on junk science.

Parents know intuitively what’s good for kids. Also, what’s good for the parents is good for kids. The first two years are special, sacred even, but when parents are being screeched at that everything they’re doing is wrong, bad and going to make the kids less intelligent we end up with a crew of frazzled and misinformed families.

Frazzled parents abuse children.

Faux science is robbing children of their health and of calm homes. Faux Science is robbing parents of the ability to trust their pediatrician’s recommendations. I’m urging the AAP to rethink their recommendations until they have something more than a dishonest study to back it up.

I blame these three researchers Christakis, Zimmerman, and Meltzoff for breaching the trust of the parents everywhere. It’s a horrible thing that for some reason (ego maybe?) these three researchers would impose their bias on American households without even having a set of data that the pubic can honestly review. I’ll patiently wait for the University of Washington to apologize for rubber stamping research that is opinion based and clearly meant to further one man’s career as opposed to benefiting the public that it was supposed to serve.

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For your entertainment I’m exerpting the following from the NIH Guidelines for the Conduct of Research:

  • Financial interests include, but are not limited to,ownership of stock or equity, patents,consulting arrangements, collaboration  agreements, honoraria, service on advisory boards, or management appointments. Failure to disclose conflicts of interest can threaten the integrity of research and undermine the public’s trust in the NIH’s intramural research activities
  • Scientific integrity is inseparable from meticulous attention to the acquisition and maintenance of these research data
  • Research data, including the primary experimental results and computer andstatistical analyses, should be retained fora sufficient period to allow analysis andrepetition by others of published materialresulting from those data. Seven years is specified by the Federal Government (http://www.ori.dhhs.gov/documents/FR_Doc_05-9643.shtml) as the minimum period of retention but this may be longer under some circumstances, such as clinical research

If you’re like me and you love reading academic papers here’s one that is utterly dismissive of a large body of Christakis’ work (which he sells in paperback form) There Is No Meaningful Relationship Between Television Exposure and Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
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