From Bachmann’s migraines to Summer’s Eve: A roundup of six women-related news stories

In honor of The Gender Report marking six months of our monitoring projects this week, we’ve turned this Week in Review post into a recap of six of the women-related news items, in no particular order, that were receiving attention in the media over the past week:

(1) Report recommends full coverage for birth control

In a move that’s being seen as a win for women, a report released Tuesday by the Institute of Medicine recommended that health insurance plans should fully cover the costs of all FDA-approved prescription contraceptives (i.e. without a copay). The report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to determine gaps in women’s health care coverage as part of the health care reform law. The department is now reviewing the report and will make its decision soon.

Though birth control was getting the headlines (and under debate by certain opponents), it wasn’t the only women’s health service the panel recommended that should be offered at no cost sharing. Other services included annual “well-woman” preventative visits, services for pregnant women including screening for gestational diabetes and lactation counseling, screening for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and counseling and screening for domestic violence.

(2) Creators of “Got Milk?” pull PMS-related campaign

One of several posters as part of the Got Milk? PMS campaign

A campaign by those who brought us “Got Milk?” that aimed at PMS was pulled this week after it came under heavy fire for sexism (including through petitions like this one).

The California Milk Processor Board and its advertising agency had launched a campaign around the idea that milk can help reduce symptoms of PMS with posters and a website — — that were targeted at men as a “home for PMS management.”

Posters which pictured men cowering behind offered milk cartons included sayings such as “I’m sorry for the things I did or didn’t do.”

The site now redirects to to provide a place for further dialogue about the campaign.

(3) Congresswoman “not a lady”

In response to her criticism of his support of a budget plan that would cut Medicare, Rep. Allen West sent an email calling Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz “vile, unprofessional and despicable” and included a line that read, “You have proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me!”

Several House Democrat women in response called for an apology and for GOP leadership to condemn the email and rebuke West. The women said this was indicative of the problem of gender discrimination in the workplace.

“We see this as a historic and systemic way that women have been subjected to sexism particularly in this venue, in this political environment,” Rep. Gwen Moore said. “Just once again, we have been told that in order to be a ‘lady,’ we need to just stay in our places.”

(4) Michele Bachmann has migraines

A story first “broke” by The Daily Caller this week set off a firestorm of coverage over whether GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s migraines matter and would affect her ability to govern. This led to a debate whether coverage of this issue was sexist or not, as migraines affect millions of people, mostly women, and are often linked to menstruation and menopause. As Clara Jeffery of Mother Jones tweeted: “2 to 1 that Bachmann’s pill popping = advil and estrogen. It’s called menopause, people. Survived by powerful women all over the world.”

Additionally, it’s been debated whether her migraines merit attention at all as a deciding factor of whether she should be president. Many commentaries have used the line or something similar to, “I can think of many reasons Michele Bachmann shouldn’t be president, but migraines aren’t one of them…” But others have also noted that it’s natural to scrutinize a presidential candidate’s health She has since released a statement and a doctor’s note on her conditions.

(5) News Corp. women get media attention

With gobs of media attention on the phone-hacking scandal this week, at least one commentary asked the question of whether the women of News Corp. are getting fair coverage or being played off as stereotypes. Judith Timson of the Globe and Mail looks at portrayals of Rebekah Brooks, who recently resigned as CEO of News International,  as well as Wendi Deng Murdoch, wife of Rupert Murdoch who received much media attention this week after giving a hard hit to an attacker of her husband during the parliamentary hearing. Read Timson’s take here.

(6) Summer’s Eve campaign gets flack

Summer’s Eve’s new campaign “Hail to the V” (which its marketing director says is “all about empowerment“) is getting called out for using racist stereotypes as well as taking heat from those who point out its feminine washing product is unhealthy.

The ads in the campaign (some of which apparently appeared before “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” of all things) feature the talking hands of a white, black or Latina woman (meant to represent vaginas) with voice narratives that have been described as “racially stereotyping.” As Jessica Valenti said (as quoted by Christie Thompson for Ms.): “White vaginas hit the gym, vagazzle and say BFF a lot. Black vaginas care about their hair, hitting the club and do neck rolls. Latina vaginas say ‘aye aye aye,’ ‘boo,’ and are concerned about tacky leopard thongs. Did I miss anything?” Watch one of the ads to judge for yourself below:

The advertised items are Summer’s Eve douching products, and as several commentaries pointed out, many doctors and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) do not recommend the use of such products (though Summer’s Eve isn’t mentioned specifically) because they can upset the normal balance in a health vagina and can lead to yeast and bacterial infections as well as pushing the bacterial infections up into the other female reproductive organs.

This is the Gender Report’s Week in Review, a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed or in the week’s Gender Checks. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.

Editor’s note: Six months ago, we set out to look at how women are represented in online news both as sources and as authors. To mark our progress, this week we’re reviewing our findings as well as unveiling new statistics based on what we’ve uncovered thus far in a series of posts. View other six-month coverage here.


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