the digital giraffe - Y Not

All About Women

Our Woman of the Month Award for November goes to Yayoi Kusama, whose infinity rooms have set the art world on its ear. You may think of her as the King of Polka Dots, but that would be to deny the depth and brilliance of her work. (Click on full screen to see the slide show.) At the age of 88, she continues to be a whirlwind of activity.

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

An article titled "The Little-Known Friendships of Iconic Women Writers" delves into the question of why it has seemed necessary to characterize female authors as lonely odd-ball figures, while the friendships of male writers have been lionized. The mythology of the isolated non-connected woman author, think Emily Dickinson, has been pervasive in literary history and demands to be re-examined in the light of facts.

Jason Zinoman of the New York Times looks at the burgeoning field of women comedians, especially those women who address issues specifc to being female. The subject of pregnancy is particularly ripe, including comics who perform while obviously pregnant. In a Netflix special entitled "Mother Inferior", comic Christina Pazsitzky describes her pregnant breasts as "soggy, hanging, mushy purple nipples". In like vein, Jamie Aderski makes graphically clear how pregnancy wrecks the female body. Underlying much of the material lies the need for strong female friendships.

India's top court has decreed that having sex with a wife who is under the age of 18 is rape. Activists for children's rights feel that this ruling is an important move toward ending forced marriages of young girls.

The Trump administration is removing insurance coverage of birth control methods, put in place five years ago, by the Obama presidency. It appears that the ruling will place financial burdens on millions of women and may even restrict their ability to get birth control devices at all. The National Women's Law Center reports that in 2013, women saved $1.4 billion on birth control pills alone. Requiring a prescription for birth control, as will now become the law, means that women have to visit and pay a doctor. With the new ruling, health care providers can refuse to pay for birth control under religious or moral grounds as well.

The treatment of young girls by Boko Haram is sharply delineated in a report from the New York Times. Times reporters interviewed 18 girls in Nigeria who had been outfitted with bombs and sent on suicide missions. Indeed, Unicef estimates that in 2017 some 76 young girls have been sent on these missions, most of them younger than 15. Officials claim that the girls are willing collaborators, while in fact they are little more than slaves fearful for their own lives or the lives of their families.

The Guardian reports that one hospital in New York has been forcing women to undergo caesarean sections against their will. The Staten Island University Hospital has told surgeons that they can perform the procedure, overriding the mother's wishes, and even if it means danger to the health of the mother, if it carries benefits to the fetus. The hospital's instructions fly in the face of recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The hospital's explicit orders to doctors only came to light because of a lawsuit filed by a woman who was forced to have a C-Section against her vigorous objections.

After 12 years with a democratically-elected female President, women in Liberia are facing the prospect of a male occupying the office. Hundreds of women gathered in front of the Presidential residence in Monrovia with T-shirts and posters demamding that the new president stay out of war and maintain the peace. The presidency of the departing office-holder, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has had a mixed record: running water and electricity were restored, roads improved, freedom to criticize her policies allowed, unlike most African nations. On the other hand, rampant government corruption has continued, health care is almost non-existent, and young men are unable to find work.

One woman's unimaginable sufferings at the hands of ISIS are being vividly described by a courageous escapee who is telling her story around the world. Nadia Murad has now been named a goodwill ambassador by the United Nations, while she and another survivor have been awarded the Sakharov Prize for defenders of human rights. As the U. N. Security Council tries to investigate the actions of ISIS, thousands of Yazidi women and children live in bondage and fear for their lives.

National Public Radio has published a list of 150 of the greatest albums made by women from 1964 to the present, bucking the trend of recognition for male performers. The list includes Alicia Keys and Meredith Monk, Carole King and Amy Winehouse.

Only one woman has received the Medal of Honor in United States history. Mary Walker was arrested in 1846 because she dressed as she pleased, her way of demonstrating that freedom in dress was essential to women's emancipation. She refused to agree to "obey" her husband in her wedding vows and fought strenuously for the right of women to wear comfortable and healthy clothing which did not drag in the mud, contain arsenic, or flammable materials. She also felt that the phrase "we the people" was not gender-specific and therefore women already had the right to vote. Walker kept her birth name, insisting that it was as important to a woman as to a man, and fought for equal pay for equal work. President Andrew Johnson gave her the Medal of Honor, although it was later revoked since she had not earned it in actual combat. This controversy ignored the fact that she had tended the wounded and was imprisoned. She wore it anyway. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter restored the medal and the Pentagon now displays it.

A San Francisco group called "Ensemble for these Times" has produced a deeply-felt and moving CD called "Surviving: Women's Words", utilizing spoken words and musical performances. Led by soprano Nanette McGuinness, the ensemble performs composer David Garner's song cycle created for poetry written by four female Jewish holocaust survivors. One reviewer describes "the potent and timeless messages of survival, love, tolerance and forgiveness contained on this brilliant presentation". ( Note: Nanette McGuiness is my daughter.)

Robin Feldman, Director of the Institute for Innovation Law at the University of California Hastings School of Law was honored by the American Lawyer Publications as one of the women leaders in law and technolgy. Feldman's newest book, "Drug Wars: How Big Pharma Raises Prices and Keeps Generics Off the Market", reveals how manipulation and greed have cost the American health system billions of dollars and prevented access by patients to the drugs they need most. Feldman has recently received a major grant to expand her research into this timely and tragic situation. She is also the author of a paper about new patents for old drugs, called "May Your Drug Price Be Ever Green". ((Robin Feldman is also my daughter.)

An unsung hero of the technology revolution is finally getting some recognition. Joyce Weisbecker is the earliest known female video game developer who got paid for her work. Weisbecker's father had created a programmable video game console for RCA. Joyce was never actually an employee of RCA but worked as an independent contractor. Her first project was not a game but TV Schoolhouse I, an educational computer quiz that was accompanied by printed question books. It was followed by two action games, called Tag and Speedway, designed when she was barely out of high school.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2017

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