the digital giraffe - Y Not

All About Women

Our Woman of the Month Award for June goes to Professor Anna Ursyn, Head of Computer Graphics at the School of Art and Design, University of Northern Colorado, and author of books on Computation, Visualization and Perception. Professor Ursyn's art has been chosen to be part of the Moon Arts Project set up by Carnegie Mellon University. Her piece, called "Swarm", will travel to the moon aboard a NASA lunar landing shuttle. It is intended to remain on the moon as a lasting time capsule of the arts, architecture and culture of Planet Earth. Click here to learn more about the Moon Arts project. Dr. Ursyn is also the Director of the International Conferences Information Visualization and International Conferences Computer Graphics Imaging and Visualization, held annually in Europe and Asia.

Note: Woman of the Month now has its own page in the archives section.

A woman named Frances Oldham Kelsey in the 1960's prevented an epidemic of birth defects. Working as a pharmacologist with the FDA, Kelsey was one of those charged with determining if a drug should be approved as safe. Kelsey reviewed the evidence for Thalidomide and decided that insufficient safety checks had taken place and therefore rejected its application for approval. This is the story of how Kelsey came to be at the FDA, and the kind of experience she had previously had with Elixir of Sulfanilamide. That drug was meant to combat infections, but Kelsey discovered that the pharmaceutical company had added a raspberry-flavored supplement to make the pill more appealing to children. That solvent, she found out, was also known as anti-freeze. Before Kelsey could make her findings known, the drug had killed 107 people in two months.

KQED tells us about the women of the 1960's Counterculture. Less well known than the men of that period, these women made important contributions to the arts of the period. One of them wrote a book called "Native Funk and Flash" about the folk art world. Another was one of Ken Kesey's "Merry Pranksters". One foundedd the Planet Drum Foundation. Yet another was a textile designer. Taken together they were a strong voice in the counterculture of the time, although under-recognized and inadequately celebrated.

Jamaica loves its sprint champions, espcially their adored Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Now a new generation of young women is hoping to challenge that legacy by competing in The Champs, a mixed-gender tournament. They practice under intense pressure from parents, teachers, and peers. Track and field have long been a source of pride to Jamaicans, so the girls are recruited as young as 8 years of age and hopefully do not flame out too soon. In a country of extreme povery, these games offer an opportunity for youngsters to win a chance at a better life.

Ariel Levy in the New Yorker treats us to a column called "Ali Wong's Radical Raunch". Wong writes for ABC, stars in a comedy for them, and exults in her comedy routine about the unspoken functions of the female body. Her material has been described as "bold","revolutionary" and "filthy". Nothing is off-limits to her, not even her pregnant body. Among other things, she uses her ranuchiness to defy cliche about meek Asian women.

UNESCO is close to designating a Japanese Island as a World Heritage Site. The problem is that Okinoshima does not ever admit women and in fact only allows male visitors one day a year. The island, off the coast of Japan, covers almost 200 acres and is dedicated to the Shinto religion. The explanations for why women cannot step foot on the island are varied, but seem to suggest that women's menstrual cycle would defile the land.

56 years ago I gave birth to a baby girl at Boston Lying-in Hospital and flew back to Dayton Ohio with her a week later. The plane made an emergency landing due to a storm and all passengers were ordered to get off. In the midst of breast-feeding my tiny one-week-old, I refused to comply and continued feeding her. The pilot stormed down the aisle, saw what I was doing, turned beet-red and retreated. I tell you this because a tiny baby in Australia has just become the first infant to be breast-fed in the Australian senate. 11 1/2 weeks old, she was hungry and demanded to fed by her mother, Senator Larissa Waters. The event made headlines all over the world. In addition, you might want to read this article in the Washington Post about a recent lawsuit filed against a YMCA in Rhode Island for refusing to allow a mother to breastfeed at their day-care center.

An Alaskan lawmaker was criticized for making two shocking comments about women: first, that an abortion is the "ultimate form of child abuse"; then for claiming that women deliberately try to get pregnant "so that they can get a free trip to the city." Alaska's senate formally censured representative David Eastman. Although he later apologized, Eastman's remarks were called "ludicrous and despicable" by one group and "demeaning and misogynistic" by others.

Researchers in Tacoma, Washington took one step closer to repllicating human organs and functions. They created an artificial womb in which baby lambs born prematurely lived for a month. Although the technique is not expected to be applied to human babies for at least 3 to 5 years, the procedure is raising profound ethical and legal questions.

The country of France has passed two laws aiming to protect the health of professional models. For the first time, models will have to present a medical certificate confirmng their health and asserting that they are not unduly underweight. Additionally models over the age of 16 will have to have a satisfactory body mass index (BMI). Any commercial use of a model's body, if altered digitally, will have to so state with the photograph. Anyone who does not disclose this information can be fined as much as $41,000. USD.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has championed the working woman by suggesting that making it easier for women to work will add to economic growth in this country. Progress made during the mid-20th century by moving women from the home to the workplace has been stymied in recent years, resulting in slower growth. We need these women to be comfortable working, she said in a commencement speech at Brown University, to counter the growth of an aging population and a weak economy. In one recent study out of Cornell University, the United States fell from one of the highest rates of female employment in the early 1990's to 17th among 22 developed nations in 2013.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2017

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