The Last Unicorns: Democratic Female Governors Retiring This Year

Imagine Andrew Cuomo and Deval Patrick attend the Democratic Governors’ Association Conference together. They sit at a table in the back of the room so they can safely discuss football and Mila Kunis without judgment. It’s hard to be the only two gentleman governors present, but together, they’ll make it through the day.

Now imagine there are only two female Democratic governors in the country. Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue are stepping down after the 2012 elections.

What adds insult to injury? Governors are goofballs. Have you seen the people we’ve elected to executive office? You can’t complain that there aren’t enough dignified women running for governor when you have these guys:

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

Remember the hair, the track suit, the corruption, the talk show visits post-corruption and pre-trial? He’s also the sixth Illinois governor to be indicted or arrested, so this is not a total fluke.

Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford

Cheating aside, former Mark Sanford showed a pretty bold disregard for the responsibility of public office when he disappeared for nearly a week.

Florida Governor Rick Scott

Let’s be fair and ignore the fact that Rick Scott looks like a cross between Mr. Clean and well, any number of colorful Middle Earth characters. His efforts to drug test state employees and welfare recipients have been declared costly and unconstitutional.

Rick Perry

Looks like a governor. Until he speaks.

Sarah Palin.

You could rejoice at the idea that there are six women governors altogether but all four Republicans diametrically oppose a woman’s right to choose. At a time when statehouses feel emboldened as ever to limit women’s reproductive choices, there are only two female pro-choice executives, which could mean the passage of more bills requiring mandatory ultrasounds, limiting access to abortion care, and banning telemedicine.

Even compared to little more than a decade ago, our country is failing at gender parity in statewide elective office, at 23 percent today compared to 28 percent in 2001, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek article.

The states would appear to offer slightly better opportunities for women, however, at an average 23 percent compared to Congress, where women make up only 16.8 percent of those 535 seats.

In case you’re wondering which states offer the least opportunities for women officeholders, South Carolina wins at 9 percent, with Oklahoma (12.8 percent), Alabama (13.6 percent) and Wyoming (14.4 percent) trailing behind, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

I could note that these states voted for McCain in 2008, and blame this lack of progress on Republican leadership but it isn’t fair to let the Democrats off the hook. New York (23 percent), falls woefully behind Colorado (40 percent) and Vermont (38 percent).

It is impossible to know what goes on when leaders of each state’s respective party, and important donors, get together and talk about who represents their best chance to win the governor’s seat. It is impossible to peer into the minds of all 300 million plus Americans to understand their views on gender and politics, or to know the exact reasons why more women don’t run for political office.

But is clear that we’ve failed at least one major tenet of democracy when more than half of the population is represented by 12 percent of the nation’s governors and 16 percent of Congress.

On Street Harassment: Men Have a Right to Be Afraid Too

Feminist blogs such as Hollaback and Stop Street Harassment, have encouraged people to take action when they see street harassment, or as we know it by a more innocent moniker, “catcalling.”

More specifically, men have been asked to stand up for women, with the idea that they would have more credibility with other men, and thus, a greater capacity to shame creeps.

Three days ago, 18 year-old Anthony Sacco, did what so many feminists have advocated, as he walked down a quiet street in Upstate New York.

He was leaving a house party at 11:30 p.m., as were a group of young women and three men. The three men started talking to the women walking in front of them.

The men started asking questions such as, “Do you have boyfriends?” and “Girls, where are you going?”

One of the women told Anthony that the three men were creeping them out.

Anthony approached the men and offered a handshake, but they weren’t interested in talking. He told the men they should “just keep walking.”

By one witness’ account, the three college students spit on and beat Sacco before leaving him in a parking lot. His face was bleeding profusely when cops arrived.

People should try to stop street harassment whenever possible, but only when they feel safe enough to do so. And we shouldn’t encourage men to prevent harassment or violence against women by relying on the very same gender assumptions that allow some men to feel entitled to comment on and touch strangers’ bodies.

Instead of implying that men who don’t intervene are cowardly or complicit, we should call the men who do intervene “brave.”

On sites like Stop Street Harassment, women talk about feeling afraid to walk to the bar alone or leave the bar alone. We talk about how we feel intimidated when a stranger makes passing comments. Sometimes the feeling of not owning an equal share of the public space, often the public sidewalk, makes us forget that men also fear other men.

But when some feminists ask men to intervene first, unconditionally, I don’t think there is always an understanding of what is being asked. Even on a busy corner, in the middle of the day, you risk pulling the grenade off of some stranger’s temper, whose capacity for intimidation and violence you can’t be sure of.

There are techniques men can use to reduce the risk of an altercation. Offer your presence by walking near the woman being harassed or ask her if everything is okay to let the man/men know you are there and aware of what is happening but avoid speaking to them directly. Unfortunately, none of this is helpful if you feel too threatened or vulnerable to intervene, in which case calling the police may be the best option.

I think Anthony Sacco should be extremely proud of what he did. I hope he is sent so many flowers and gifts that he doesn’t have enough room for them all. But I also cringe when I think of the violence he suffered. If he hadn’t intervened, I know I couldn’t blame him.

Study: Women Tend to Speak Less Around Men

I was arguing with a fellow student about his doom and gloom vision of America’s future when he began to speak over me and explain to the professor why he was right.

My heart beat faster and my face turned red as I waited for him to finish but I could not abide. “You just interrupted me for the second time!” I shouted.


“I’m really sorry,” he said.

His response was genuine. I wondered how often, if ever, he thought about the act of interrupting someone. It seemed like the kind of kneejerk impulse that he, and most men I’ve disagreed with, have been groomed for since childhood.

But there were many more group conversations where I stayed silent and let the man interrupt me. That is often how women participate in political conversations, if we participate at all.

An article published in the American Political Review reaffirms this sad truth:

1. When there are fewer women at the table, women are less likely to speak up.
2. When those few women speak up, they will be less influential in doing so.

The idea of women being shut out of conversations, particularly on traditionally male topics, like politics, is not revelatory. Feminists and sociologists have been studying this form of gender inequality for decades.

Yet it isn’t something that we talk about very often. We don’t want to think that the men in our lives, our brothers, fathers, friends and boyfriends, could be ignoring our point of view on a regular basis.

That’s an unpleasant issue to explore but it’s especially relevant now.

Notably, two female Michigan lawmakers were barred from speaking on the House floor after “disrupting the decorum of the House.” The two lawmakers spoke against a bill limiting abortion access.

CNN political contributor Erik Erickson called the DNC the “Vagina Monologues” because…women were speaking.

Even before the lid blew off of debates on women’s reproductive rights, elected officials were using gendered language to encourage women to shut it. Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was called “vile” and “despicable” after she questioned Florida Congressman Allen West’s stance on Medicare.

Worst of all, she was accused of being unladylike.

And there’s this gem:

This is often when people say, “Geez, ladies. Why can’t you be loud, mean, ego-obsessed bullies? What’s wrong with you?”

Women could take classes to become more assertive, dare we say, aggressive. We could try to break through gender assumptions by straining our vocal chords equal to or more than the other guy, purple veins protruding from our temples, a bride of Frankenstein to complement Jim Cramer.

If we do, there are two possibilities: 1. Everyone will stop talking and stare in fear at the Lady Rage Monster. 2. We won’t solve anything.

I fear the second possibility more than the first. The loudmouth vs. loudmouth method of working through our problems isn’t effective. Our politicians can’t come close to an agreement over how to lower the national debt, raise the debt ceiling or grow the economy.

This doesn’t mean we should assume there are only two types of communication based on gender (If you missed it this nugget of wisdom, women like feelings and men like facts!) and one must be superior. Men are missing out when they are taught to disregard what other people are saying and women need to learn how to stand up for themselves.

DNC Fails To Make Use of Its Female Political Stars

As I watched Michelle Obama give her convention speech, full of the gusto her husband’s speech was missing two days later, I felt a pang of disappointment. I wanted to feel hopeful. “Ah, can’t you just shut up and enjoy an easily digestible form of women’s empowerment, you miserable feminist? It’s good for you!” I told myself.

But it isn’t good for us.

The problem with the reception of Michelle Obama’s speech and all of the fake discussion of a presidential run is that actual female politicians could have spoken in place of wives, relatives and actresses. Women who are better positioned to run for president.

It is interesting who, out of all of the inspiring women serving in Congress, were chosen to speak at the most widely viewed convention spots.

Sandra Fluke, reproductive health advocate, Tammy Duckworth, a Congressional candidate, Elizabeth Warren, a Senate candidate and Jennifer Granholm, who left her office as Governor of Michigan, were effective speakers but none of them are currently holding office.

Scarlett Johansson, Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria spoke briefly, but again, none of them are holding political office nor is it likely they will seek a political future. Jill Biden spoke as Joe Biden’s wife.

Caroline Kennedy, the most boring orator of the convention, was given a prominent spot.

That leaves some of the better speaking opportunities to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic National Committee chair, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and junior U.S. Senator of North Carolina, Kay Hagan. Wasserman Schultz clearly has ambition but her political future is very uncertain, according to sources close to her. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has reached the pinnacle of her career. Hagan was chosen to woo North Carolinians, not to give a long substantive speech on Democratic values.

For that job, the DNC picked mostly men as their fresh faces, including the man labeled the next Obama, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

The younger women of the Democratic Party, however, were not given the same opportunities. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand did not receive a spot at the convention. She has attracted press attention, made the rounds at late night shows, and proven she is willing to fight hard for women’s and veterans’ issues, two topics Democrats have embraced this election season.

The DNC has provided viewers with the appearance of women’s empowerment without actually having to make the tough choices needed to propel the careers of Democratic women. The Republican Party may have ignored the existence of single childless women but the Democratic Party ignored many of its female political stars.

The Never Ending Gift

Oven-baked, filled with raisins, glazed orange peels,pockets of lemon cream, soft and delicious, and at times, NUTTY! ‘Tis the season for Panettone as soon as Thanksgiving leftovers leave the fridge.

Bring your aunt Wilma a holiday gift that will sit under the Christmas tree until the garbage man hauls it away. It is a sad reality: a gift widely given, but one that is not always received so eagerly. Just the other day I watched a Panettone sit at a holiday party in all of its dry-fruited glory. While smiles were exchanged and empty social gestures of thanks were made for this wonderful contribution, pieces of the cake were slowly torn off. Meanwhile, you mumble under your breath that you’d just rather have the cannolis.

Its not quite fruit cake, even though technically, it is- but it’s much more than just a dessert. Gifts and greetings are almost as abundant as the number of Panettone boxes that you can find in store-front after store-front in New York City. Pastel pink, yellow, blue, even brown, there are many different varieties of this dessert.
The city is filled with wonderful baked goods, and the Panettone is one that is very hit or miss despite their ubiquity. But the fact is that people buy them because it looks like a gift ready to be given. Every year, thousands of these red ribboned boxes fly off the shelf because you know anyone will be happy to receive a colorful and sweet gift – even if it means having dry candied orange peels in one’s coffee.

The popular dessert originally from Milan, Italy is enjoyed worldwide and can be found almost everywhere here in New York. See the map below for places Ive been to and recommend for good Panettone. The price for one cake ranges between $2.99 and upwards of $20. But from authentic pastry shops in the Bronx to midtown stores like Jack’s 99c Store in Manhattan, you can be sure to find a version of this traditional holiday dessert.


View Panettone in NYC in a larger map

Contemporary Artist Hyungsub Shin Continues His Work Despite Challenges

Hyungsub Shin’s artwork has most often been described as “beautiful.” Whether his sculptures are an 8-foot-long wall hanging of entangled grass roots or a giant corn cob, the viewer is compelled to approach closely and examine every detail.

In an art culture defined by what is most shocking and politically-minded, Shin has focused on creating contemporary art that is both well crafted, conceptual and visually pleasing.

Shin’s sculptures are mostly inspired by grassroots, ivy roots, or Bonsai trees but sometimes he draws from the patterns he finds on roads and maps.

Patrick Regan, executive director of Crossing Art in Flushing, Queens, said Shin’s work is a departure from the approach of many Asian contemporary artists.

“Unfortunately contemporary art is almost a dirty word,” Regan said. “For so many years people were looking for something that is edgy or almost discordant or very jarring colors with controversial subjects, and you wonder, how can beautiful work be appreciated?”

Shin said that it is difficult for a lot of popular Korean artists to come to New York, not only because the lifestyle is more expensive but because Korean art that is appreciated in Seoul is not necessarily bought in America.

“With Americans it’s not a consideration of well-finished work, it’s more considered for its philosophical issues,” Shin explained. “It’s considered more for what it’s saying than how it looks.”

Shin said artists are struggling now more than ever and he is not an exception. Since the financial crisis began he has found that people who used to stop by the studio from time to time to shop won’t make a visit at all. Shin rents the studio space for $450 as one of three artists who share it. Now that one of the artists is moving out Shin is struggling to find an artist to take her place so that he won’t have to make up the difference.

“$50,000 after tax would be a great amount to make,” Shin said. “Then I can pay for my studio and home bills and material and maybe even an assistant.”

Shin said he does not regret the decision to become an artist. “This is what I love to do. I can’t go back now.”



The Sculptor

The annual Winter’s Eve Festival at Lincoln Square  celebrated its twelfth year on Monday. Just days before the Rockefeller Center lighting commences Christmas season in New York, this less known festival kicked off the holiday season with a tree lighting of its own.

From Lincoln Square to Columbus circle the festival incorporated live bands, ice sculpting and food tents, which sold everything from hot-chocolate to spicy crunchy tuna rolls.

Among the performers was Ben Grasso, sculpting a giant nut-cracker. Grasso, 27, studied painting at CUNY Hunter before he began a five-year stint carving ice. He acknowledged the difficulty of his trade, but said he would rather create something expressive. Or at least something more intricate than a nutcracker.  Nevertheless, Grasso is a quality craftsman who wields a motorized ice-pick with exactitude and precision.