Manicures and Monarchy: A Week in Review

Our Week in Review wanted to bring some attention to a smattering of stories that may not have been above the fold or scroll bar but still dealt with important gender issues:

  • Michele Bachmann‘s gender issues came back into play last week as several news outlets, including the Washington Post, and Jezebel, commented on her manicure during one of the GOP primary debates. One blogger for the Huffington Post even went so far as to contrast her ” youthful and natural” hairstyle to an “oh-so-fake” nails, balanced out by her makeup. The blog also linked to a slideshow focused on her eyelash lengths in various appearances this summer. This isn’t the first time Bachmann’s appearance has been a news item in this primary season. See our previous coverage here.
  • This week a unanimous vote by 16 British Commonwealths gave women an equal right to the British throne under the Royal Marriage Act. The constitutional changes would mean a first-born girl has precedence over a younger brother. Under the old succession laws, dating back more than 300 years, the heir to the throne is the first-born son of the monarch. Only when there are no sons, as in the case of the Queen’s father George VI, does the crown pass to the eldest daughter, as explained by the BBC. The change will only apply to children born in the future, and not applied retroactively. The outdated rule found newfound attention this spring after the marriage of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. The law is only an issue for the 16 commonwealths that recognize the Queen as their head of state. See Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement of the change here.

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.

HPV vaccine returns to spot of controversy in GOP primaries

Image from

When the HPV vaccine became available in 2006, it was met with both enthusiasm and concerns. (In fact, I reported its arrival, and opposition, on our religiously affiliated college campus). Those concerns were brought back to the front page news cycle this week as the Republican candidates for president have questioned the vaccine’s safety and Gov. Rick Perry’s policies in Texas schools.

Approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV in the United States. As many as half of these infections are among adolescents and young adults, ages 15 through 24 years of age, according to the CDC. Most HPV infections are asymptomatic, but four of the 40 types of the STD cause cervical cancer, which kills 4,000 women in the U.S. each year. Other types can cause genital warts in both males and females. More than 35 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed in the United States as of June 2011.

The topic was first brought up in the September 7 debate, the first in which Perry participated since announcing his candidacy. At that time, he defended his 2007 mandate of the vaccine for 11 and 12 year old girls in Texas schools, saying he would “always err on the side of saving lives.” Other candidates said he should have let parents opt in to the vaccine, rather than opt out of the mandate. Other candidates, and conservatives, have said the vaccine encourages promiscuity. In May 2007, the Texas legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill vacating the governor’s executive order by a veto-proof margin. Perry, however, still supported the executive order in his 2010 re-election bid for the governor’s office. Currently, Virginia and the District of Columbia require the vaccine for girls entering the sixth grade. Both jurisdictions offer liberal opt-out policies that allow parents to decline to have their daughters vaccinated. (As of April 2011, only 22 percent of sixth-grade girls in D.C. public schools were in the midst of or had completed the vaccinations; Virginia has also tried to repeal the mandate.)

In Monday’s debate, Perry was again criticized for his support of the mandate, and by the end of the week he had reversed his position, telling a GOP event in Virginia that “We should have had an opt-in instead of an opt-out.”

But the bigger story became one of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s attacks on Perry, telling him she had met a mother whose daughter became mentally retarded after receiving the vaccination. She also accused the governor of “crony capitalism” and receiving financial incentives from Merck, the drug company that produces the Guardasil vaccine. (GlaxoSmithKline also produced an HPV vaccine, Cervarix, but this variety only protects against two types of HPV; Guardasil protects against four and is usually the variety in question during debates over the vaccine). Sarah Palin, in what was seen by some as her first attack on Perry, supported Bachmann’s statements in a Fox appearance the next day. Many, including Perry, questioned the factual basis of Bachmann’s statement. Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson: “It is possible that Rick Perry encouraged HPV vaccinations in the wrong way or for the wrong reasons. But it is Bachmann, not Perry, who would put girls and women at greater health risk based on moral confusion and public health illiteracy.” Bachmann’s former campaign manager said she’d “goofed,” as described by the Christian Science Monitor.

No research at this time shows a connection between the HPV vaccination and mental retardation. One bioethicist went as far as to challenge Bachmann’s statement by offering to donate $10,000 to charity if she can prove and verify a single case. Published side effects of Guardasil are similar to other vaccinations, including pain, swelling, itching, bruising, and redness at the injection site, headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and fainting. Gardasil works against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. These four types cause 90 percent of genital warts and types 16 and 18 cause 70 percent of cervical cancer, according to the CDC.

The vaccine is administered in three doses and is recommended by the CDC to start in girls around 11 or 12 because it is most effective when administered before a girl becomes sexually active; the vaccine is approved for women up to 26 years old.

Here are some resources to learn more about HPV and the vaccine:

  • Centers for Disease Control: fact sheets, FAQs, research studies, statistics, and more.
  • Guardasil: site for the vaccination includes parent information, side effect information, and funding assistance programs.

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.

The debate: Is Newsweek’s cover of Michele Bachmann sexist?

It’s been all the “rage” across media platforms this week: Is this Newsweek cover of GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann sexist?

As soon as Newsweek posted this TwitPic of the week's cover Aug. 7, the debate began over whether the image of Michele Bachmann is sexist.

The cover (right) features a close-up of a wide-eyed Bachmann with the headline “QUEEN OF RAGE” that some are saying makes her look “crazy.” The accompanying story has received far less attention.

This isn’t the first time Newsweek has come under fire for its cover of a female politician. Many on both sides have drawn comparisons to a cover of Sarah Palin in running shorts two years ago that was deemed “sexist.” (This also isn’t the first time charges of sexism toward Bachmann have come up in campaign coverage and its not likely to be the last.)

Conservative commentators, like Michelle Malkin, have said the image shows the mainstream media’s liberal bias and have particularly called into question the treatment of conservative women.

Jessica Grose at Slate’s XX Factor said the cover was “unnecessarily unflattering” and pulled out past covers of Republican male candidates that were done using a serious tone (though these were before current editor Tina Brown took over the magazine, as was the Palin cover). Jon Stewart made a similar criticism of Newsweek’s cover photo during “The Daily Show” this week, noting “…Here’s what you can’t say about Michele Bachmann: That she is not photogenic.” (Watch the video here).

The National Organization for Women spoke out against the cover through the Daily Caller. From NOW President Terry O’Neill:

“It’s sexist… Casting her in that expression and then adding ‘The Queen of Rage’ I think [it is]. Gloria Steinem has a very simple test: If this were done to a man or would it ever be done to a man – has it ever been done to a man? Surely this has never been done to a man.”

Gloria Steinem herself has called the photo “borderline.”

Others, like Joan Walsh, have said Brown has “nothing to apologize for.” She points to the fact that there are plenty of shots of “a deranged-looking” George W. Bush, John McCain and Howard Dean that have cropped up in the past. She also linked to a piece from 2006 with what she called “crazy-scary” cover images of Al Gore and Sen. Mark Warner.

As for Newsweek, Brown responded by defending the cover and releasing outtakes from the shoot to show the other options the magazine had and that display a “similar intensity.” In a statement, Brown said, “Michele Bachmann’s intensity is galvanizing voters in Iowa right now and Newsweek’s cover captures that.”

Bachmann herself has for the most part shrugged off questions about the cover by saying, “I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it really.”

What do you think? Is the cover sexist? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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.

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.

Weiner resigns, highlights gender differences in political performance

The past week’s events in politics have brought a new attention to the presence, or lack thereof, of women in political positions.

Anthony Weiner, who resigned this week from Congress after his lewd online behavior became public, was just the latest male politician to be criticized for inappropriate sexual behavior while in office. His announcement followed the tails of former presidential candidate John Edwards’ criminal trial for his alleged use of campaign funds to cover up his affair in 2008. The Gender Report also has covered the actions of former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and IMF chair Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Several news commentators used the latest scandal to point to gender differences in politicians’ actions and approaches to their elected offices. The New York Times reported that women in the House introduce more bills, participate more vigorously in key legislative debates and give more of the one-minute speeches that open each daily session. In 2005 and 2006, women averaged 14.9 one-minute speeches; men averaged 6.5. Kathryn Pearson, the researcher behind this data, commented that “ women in Congress are still really in a situation where they have to prove themselves to their male colleagues and constituents. There’s sort of this extra level of seriousness.”

The Associated Press reported that voters believe female elected officials are more likely to focus on their jobs and less prone than men to distraction or scandal.

Women currently hold 16.6 percent of the 535 seats in Congress and 23.5 percent of the seats in state legislatures. There are 6 female governors; of the 100 big-city mayors, 8 are women. Looking ahead to the 2012 presidential race, Rep. Michele Bachmann is currently the only female candidate for the GOP.

The New York Daily News commented that Weiner’s scandal actually could help female candidates who may run for his vacated seat, because they could capitalize on voters seeing all male candidates as having the potential for another scandal or inappropriate behavior while in office.

Other reports pointed to underlying gender differences in sexualized behavior that happens regardless of the person leading a public or private life. Virginia Rutter, writing for CNN,  noted that Americans gravitate towards political sex scandals as another manifestation of men’s exploitation of power and the victimization angle of the women involved. A Washington Times article spoke to some of the women involved with Weiner online who say the disagree with the victim-like labels. At this time only one of the women he messaged or contacted online has been identified as a minor.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm told the AP  women succeed in office in part because they bring many “traditionally female” qualities to the job like a willingness to build consensus and seek solutions rather than fights.

“Men in power get a lot more attention from the opposite sex than women do. The temptation of that, the flattery, the ego is more pervasive as a result… Women in office typically don’t have men coming onto us. We’re so busy trying to get the family together, multitasking and getting the job done.”

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.