Statue of J. Marion Sims, Father of Modern Gynecology, Removed from Central Park

J. Marion Sims Statue in Central Park (Curbed NY)

J. Marion Sims Statue in Central Park (Curbed NY)

Dr. J. Marion Sims is considered the father of modern gynecology. But this honor comes at a heavy price: Sims carried out his experiments on African-American slave women. It cannot be overstated that these experiments were performed without consent of the patients.

From 1845 to 1849, Sims practiced his methods on 12 slave women who suffered from vaginal issues. In his records, three women reoccurred: Anarcha, Betsy and Lucy #SayTheirNames. Though we don’t know exactly how many operations he performed (and subsequently botched), Sims operated on Anarcha 13 times before successfully repairing her fistula.

Obviously, this is an extremely important and painful part of history, and it should never be repeated. On Tuesday, after 84 years, Central Park removed the statue of Sims. The statue will later be set up in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

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By The Numbers: Women’s March 2018

Women's March 2018 (Yahoo)

Women’s March 2018 (Yahoo)

Did you go to a Women’s March this past weekend? I went to the one in LA, and had a great time! It was wonderful being surrounded by so many positive people interested in change.

I was curious to see if there were any numbers on how many people marched this year. It does make sense that turnout would be lower this year than last year, which saw around 3M people around the country. It has been noted that year-over-year attendance in major cities decreased, while those in surrounding areas actually increased due to protestors opting to attend marches closer to home.

While it was difficult to estimate because some cities had marches spread out over the weekend and some cities didn’t have estimates, other cities still reported numbers:

  • Los Angeles: 500K
  • New York City: 200K+
  • San Diego: 37K
  • Washington, DC: 10K
  • Raleigh, NC: 1K+
  • Casper, Wyoming: 350

Hit the links to read more about the numbers. Can’t wait to march next year!

School Districts Shutting Down For “A Day Without A Woman”

1950s female teacher (Masterfile)

1950s female teacher (Masterfile)

Tomorrow is A Day Without A Woman, a day to call attention to women’s economic power and labor (including the unpaid and emotional kind). Because women do have economic power: Studies show that “women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force and influence about 73% of all household spending.”

One profession that is traditionally female-dominant is teaching. The National Center for Education Statistics found that for the 2011-2012 school year, female teachers comprised 76% of all public school teachers. (This gap is especially prominent in elementary schools.) These so-called “pink collar” jobs are ones where women dominate, but can be considered to be “lower” in status because of the feminine association (which is wrong, wrong, WRONG!!).

Naturally, the public school system might be hit hard tomorrow. Some school districts have already cancelled classes as a result of teachers taking the day off to strike. The Alexandria, Virginia public school system reported receiving over 300 requests for the day off. Brooklyn preschool The Maple Street School and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro public school system in North Carolina (where 75% of employees are women) will also be closed. All schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland, will also be closed, after 1.7K teachers and 30% of transportation staff requested the day off.

Tampons and Pads Will Be Free in New York City Schools and Prisons

Tampon (Lydia's Lunchbox)

Tampon (Lydia’s Lunchbox)

Last year, the New York City council voted in favor of providing free tampons and pads to women in public schools, shelters and correctional facilities. The measure passed unanimously, and the program will be the first of its kind.

It’s expected that the city will spend $2.4M for menstrual supplies across the public facilities. Within shelters, an estimated “2 million tampons and 3.5 million pads” will be distributed for the 23K women, costing $540K annually.

Here’s how it would work for public schools:

Dispensers will be installed in the girls’ bathrooms at 800 schools, reaching 300,000 students at an initial cost of $3.7 million and $1.9 million annually thereafter.

The bill was created by New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. Regarding why the bill was important, Ferreras-Copeland said, “Menstrual hygiene products are as necessary as toilet paper and should be treated as basic bathroom supplies.”

There’s also the fact that menstrual products are a necessary expense for women of childbearing age. This expense, which has been dubbed the “tampon tax” (though it refers to all types of menstrual products), takes a chunk (around $100 per year) out of women’s already diminished paychecks. Lately, there’s been some pushback on this price of being female-bodied: Last year, five women sued the state of New York to abolish the tampon tax.

No word on when the bill will become law, and the program can begin.

Diversity Amongst Principal Dancers in Top Ballet Companies: By The Numbers

San Francisco Ballet's Yuan Yuan Tan and Davit Karapetyan in George Balanchine's 'Scotch Symphony,' 2012 (Odette's Ordeal)

San Francisco Ballet’s Yuan Yuan Tan and Davit Karapetyan in George Balanchine’s ‘Scotch Symphony,’ 2012 (Odette’s Ordeal)

It’s a well-known fact that classical ballet companies aren’t known for their diversity. With the news that American Ballet Theatre (ABT) dancer Misty Copeland has been promoted to principal, I was curious to see just how (non-) diverse the major ballet companies are.

First, I identified the top classical ballet companies in the U.S.: ABT, New York City Ballet (NYCB), San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Houston Ballet. (I didn’t look at Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet because the company doesn’t use traditional levels, as far as I could tell.)

Next, I looked at each company’s roster, looking for diversity. I decided to narrow my search to solely the principal dancers to save time. I then made a spreadsheet of my findings:

Principal Dancer Diversity at Top Ballet Companies Excel Spreadsheet

Principal Dancer Diversity at Top Ballet Companies Excel Spreadsheet

The first glaring thing is none of the companies have any Black principals at this time. (Copeland will change that when she begins her new position in August.) Every company listed has at least one principal of Asian descent, and San Francisco has two.

Here’s how the various companies break down.

American Ballet Theatre (ABT):

ABT has 15 principal dancers. Four Latino/Latina dancers make up 25%+ of the company’s diversity.

Houston Ballet:

Houston Ballet has the smallest group of principals with just eight dancers. The one Asian dancer and one Latina dancer combine to make up 25% of the diversity.

New York City Ballet (NYCB):

NYCB has the highest number of principal dancers at 24. Latino/Latina dancers comprise 12%+. Though not noted above, NYCB also features one dancer of South Asian descent.

Pacific Northwest Ballet:

This company has the worst diversity score. No Black or Latino/Latina dancers, and only one Asian dancer, in a group of 12 principals.

San Francisco Ballet:

With six dancers among 20 principals, San Francisco Ballet’s Latino/Latina contingent make up 30% of that company’s diversity, the largest of the studied cohort. Though not noted above, the company also features one dancer of South Asian descent.

Misty Copeland is American Ballet Theatre’s First Black Principal Dancer

Misty Copeland in 'Swan Lake' (Vanity Fair)

Misty Copeland in ‘Swan Lake’ (Vanity Fair)

Last week, the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in New York City promoted dancer Misty Copeland to principal. Copeland is the first Black woman to attain the level of principal (the highest level possible for a dancer) in ABT’s 75-year history. (ABT has previously had one Black man reach principal: Desmond Richardson, who achieved the level in 1997.) Since she’s considered a classical ballet dancer, this is all the more rare.

Copeland is considered to be a ballet prodigy since she began studying at age 13, and began dancing in pointe shoes a mere three months (!) later. She came to the larger public’s attention when she starred in the now-famous UnderArmour 2014 ad spot “I Will What I Want,” which featured her dancing. Since then, Copeland has written a biography and a children’s book, appeared on the cover of “Time” for their 2015 Top 100 list, and was the subject of a documentery, “A Ballerina’s Tale,” that premiered at the Tribeca 2015 Film Festival.

Copeland’s notable roles include the titular role in “The Firebird,” Swanhilda in “Coppélia,” and the dual roles of Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake.” The “Swan Lake” roles were significant for Copeland, and the rest of the ballet world:

It was a symbolically significant moment in American arts, in which a black woman danced the role of ballet’s famed white swan—and sold out all of her performances from the moment tickets went on sale months earlier.

Copeland became a member of ABT’s corps de ballet in 2001, and was promoted to soloist in 2007. She’ll start as principal dancer on August 1st.

Thursday Trends: Female Celebrities’ Fluid Sexuality

Maria Bello (Salon)

Maria Bello (Salon)

Last week, actress Maria Bello released her new memoir. “Whatever…Love Is Love” chronicles Bello’s journey as a single mom who self-identified as straight, but then unexpectedly fell in love with her female best friend. She penned a piece for “The New York Times” in 2013 that centered on worrying how her son would react to the news. (If you’re wondering, his response is her memoir title verbatim.) From there, Bello decided to redefine her relationships in a way that worked for her, and she now sexually identifies as a “whatever.”

Bello isn’t the only female public figure whose sexuality has shifted within the public eye. Oscar-winning actress Tatum O’Neal recently revealed that she likes and has been dating mostly women for some time now. O’Neal didn’t self-identify as lesbian or bisexual (she had previously been married to, and had children with, tennis ace John McEnroe), and says she’s “not one or the other.”

The millennial generation also has its share of sexually fluid women who eschew labels. Actress Amber Heard dated photographer Tasya van Ree before marrying actor Johnny Depp earlier this year. She also doesn’t label herself “one way or another.” Actress Lindsay Lohan famously had a volatile relationship with DJ Samantha Ronson, but then publicly self-identified as straight years after the relationship was over.

Though the majority of examples come from entertainment, the political sphere can claim on entrant. Chirlane McCray, wife of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, self-identified as a lesbian when she met her now-husband in 1991. Years earlier in 1979, McCray had written an essay for “Essence,” titled “I Am A Lesbian,” which centered on gays and lesbians within the black community. McCray’s essay didn’t receive much attention until just before her husband decided to run for mayor in 2012.

What’s interesting about McCray’s case is how others in the media reacted to it: Many termed her some variation of “former lesbian.” But McCray never self-identified as anything remotely resembling that. Here’s how she responded in 2013 when asked if she self-identified as bisexual:

I am more than just a label. Why are people so driven to labeling where we fall on the sexual spectrum? Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins. Finding the right person can be so hard that often, when a person finally finds someone she or he is comfortable with, she or he just makes it work.

It’s fantastic how so many women (and people in general) are gaining the courage to step outside the box and do what works for them, especially in terms of sexuality and relationships. What I love about the above examples is that they’re all open to new experiences and don’t use labels to limit them. And that’s just beautiful.