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.

Five Women File Class Action Suit to Lift New York’s Tampon Tax

Tampon (Salon)

Tampon (Salon)

Did you know that a tampon tax exists? No? A lot of people don’t. Thankfully, that’s about to change.

The “tampon tax” is a sales tax applied to feminine hygiene needs (tampons and pads). Many states have one in place, and it’s been proven to really add up over time (especially since the average women menstruates for around 37 years).

Right now, women aren’t going to take it any more. Five women in New York have filed a class-action lawsuit against commissioner Jerry Boone and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Their stance is that feminine hygiene products aren’t classified as medical use, and so are relegated to the 4% sales tax.

The lawsuit also models the amount of money women are spending through this tax:

According to the lawsuit, women spend on average more than $70 a year on tampons and pads, and women who menstruate constitute more than one-quarter of New York state’s 20 million population. The plaintiffs estimate that the state collects around $14 million in taxes by imposing a four percent sales tax on tampons and pads, less than one-hundredth of one percent of the state’s annual budget of $142 billion.

And the five women bringing the lawsuit aren’t the only ones who think the tax should be outlawed:

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that the tax should be repealed. Earlier this year, Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal introduced a bill seeking to end the state’s taxation on tampons and pads.

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes to affect change in this area.

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.

Sofia Vergara’s Frozen Embryos: Is There A Precedent for IVF Egg Custody?

Sofia Vergara (Celebrity Post)

Last week, “Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara’s former fiancé Nick Loeb penned an op-ed for “The New York Times” regarding Vergara’s frozen eggs. The pair had initially frozen the eggs via in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in case they later wanted children, before their relationship ended last year. (Vergara is currently engaged to “True Blood” actor Joe Manganiello.) Now Loeb wants to unfreeze an eggs to implant within a surrogate, and have a child using his ex-fiance’s egg. (When the two were together, they had signed an agreement regarding using the eggs only with permission from both of them, but there wasn’t any discussion on what might happen if they split.) Vergara, as owner of said egg(s), is (naturally and understandably) refusing to release her eggs.

I wanted to find out of there was a precedent set for IVF egg custody. According to “Chicago Lawyer” magazine, there are no definitive laws or one-approach-fits-all (yet), but 10 states so far have made rules regarding IVF custody and procedure cases.

One big commonality between a lot of these approaches is an issue familiar to sexuality: consent. Courts are generally weighing the desires of each partner, called “balance of interests.” This can be applied if one partner wants to use the eggs, but the other doesn’t want that person to use them. Iowa takes a “co-consent” approach, in that both parties must agree to “sign off when the embryo is implanted in the woman.”

Contracts guide decisions in other states. In these instances, courts rely on “contracts drawn up by the couple before the embryos were created.”  New York, Washington, Texas and Oregon follow this method.

Some states take a blended approach (kind of like a blended orgasm). Tennessee, New Jersey and Pennsylvania first look for existing contracts between both parties before moving on to consent.

Other states are complete outliers in their approach. Iowa has “contemporaneous-mutual-consent,” which is a written agreement that states that both parties must sign off on use of the embryos. Massachusetts is another outlier, stating that the woman receives custody of the embryos in event of divorce.

Vergara and Loeb’s situation may bring attention to this dilemma shared by other ex-couples, and it could drive inquiries and move future legislation forward. We’ll have to see how it plays out.

 

How Many States Cover Transgender Medical Care?

Estradiol estrogen pill (Open Minded Health)

Estradiol estrogen pill (Open Minded Health)

As the transgender community continues to gain visibility in mainstream culture, the issues they face will become more common. Receiving proper medical care is one such issue that will continue to gain prominence.

Last week, Oregon became the latest state to cover transgender care under Medicaid. According to NPR, services include hormone therapy (for example, giving a transwoman estrogen pills), puberty suppression and gender reassignment surgery. Other states with health coverage that cover transgender care include California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York and Vermont. (New York made the decision to cover gender reassignment surgery just last month.)

Only 14% of the United States covers transgender medical care by state. Let’s hope the population’s new visibility helps other states make the right decision to include medical care for transpeople.