Sunday, November 28, 2010

"The Truth About Beauty"

(excuse the lack of organization...it's law school finals...)

As soon as I saw the cover of the magazine, I knew that Psychology Today's piece, "The Truth About Beauty" would annoy me. And I was correct. The author, Amy Alkon, makes several ridiculous claims and drastically over-simplifies issues of women and self-image.

The basic premise of the article is, "it would be nice if inner beauty triumphed over outer appearance, but men are designed to care about packaging over content...the only way to get ahead in life and love is to accept the not-so-pretty facts about looks."

The summary on the title page is enough to make me want to rip my hair out. Aside from the fact that this statement assumes heterosexuality and that sexual orientation is fixed throughout one's lifetime, the snazzy little synopsis also assumes one monolithic definition of "getting ahead." Naturally, the author never defines what "getting ahead is"--but I wouldn't be surprised if it was something in the form of marrying a rich man and reproducing (since the author is also coming from an evolutionary biology perspective, and clearly, under that lens, that's all we women could ever want).

Shocker: all women are different, despite some sweeping mainstream generalizations. Depending on what the end goal is, most women consciously or subconsciously decide at the margin whether continue and to what degree to pursue "beauty." That's right--we each conduct our own cost-benefit analysis. Yes, I could forgo this dessert and most desserts in general to look like [insert under-weight celebrity here], but the cost of lost joy is OR is not worth it. For different women, the cost at the margin might be more or less than others, e.g., if you live in L.A., your "ideal weight" or "look" might be less realistic or less attainable than some non-urban center.

What is more, not all of us with a vagina a) have a heteronormative female gender performance; b) desire to marry a man; c) desire to marry a man who subscribes to the western idealized cultural script of masculinity; d) is sexually attracted to men; or e) ever wants to reproduce.

But fine--let's be nice. Let's at least get through the cover page and into the article. BOOM--all it takes is one paragraph: "Welcome to Uglytopia--the world reimagined as a place where it's the content of a woman's character, not her push-up bra, that puts her on the cover of Maxim."

Ms. Alkon, first of all, some women strive for goals other than landing on the cover of Maxim. Further, I doubt there is any reasonable person that believes mainstream society does not value looks. However, women are entitled to non-conform altogether, or to non-conform to whatever degree they so desire, and to seek a partner who non-conforms to a similar length. I am also sure women who do not engage in any self-grooming are aware that their compatible partner will most likely not be a typical mainstream hetero male. If said woman desires this sort of mainstream man, then, at the margin, I am sure she would do her eyebrows more and ditch the moo moo.

Moving along, the author also states that "Americans are so conflicted and dishonest about the power of beauty..." What? Are you serious? Where have you been living? Please view Exhibit A below (hat tip to e.k.):



Don't worry, the over-generalizations keep going. The author also insists on a singular definition of "feminism." Newsflash: there are multiple different types of feminisms. While the author, who refers to "feminist sob sisters" is trying to convey a brand of feminism that urges male/female equality in a strict sense, other brands of feminism, like cultural feminism, emphasize that men and women are different, and that those differences are commendable.

I also find it interesting that the author can chalk superficiality off to evolutionary biology, but then also dedicate a paragraph to explaining how ideals of beauty differ from culture to culture....meaning that, although deeply ingrained, these standards are arbitrary and reasonably transcend-able. (My mind goes back to a story I read of a man dating an under-weight woman, and the joy he took in later falling in love with a fuller-figured woman who loved life, pasta, and was not afraid to occupy space. When his ex said, "I didn't know you like fat girls," he responded, "I like happy girls").

After writing a very extreme article, seemingly positing a bi-polar perspective of "ugly" versus "beautiful," the author tosses in a sentence about moderation at the end: "...we, too, need to understand that a healthy approach to beauty is neither pretending it's unnecessary or unimportant nor making it important beyond all else."

This leads me to believe that, in a feeble attempt to make a splash and say something avant-garde, the author hid a more temperate message behind an extreme narrative. While the magazine somewhat off-sets this by including a small blurb article called "Can You Be Too Beautiful?" this article focuses on how pretty women are disadvantaged in job interviews. Neither article discusses the possible ramifications of "beauty" on self-identity and self-esteem.

Monday, November 15, 2010

vegetarian thanksgiving

Since my vegan-versary falls on the day before Thanksgiving, this year I plan on celebrating three years of plant-based eating with a vegan Thanksgiving feast--and some delightful company.

I haven't picked out my recipes yet (this is my first time I will be cooking a feast from scratch)--but I did just find this wonderful resource of veg recipes from the NY Times. Granted, some of these are lacto-ovo vegetarian and not vegan, but I'm sure it's simple enough to modify.

I'll keep The Colonic posted with the recipes I actually use (since these will obviously be the perf balance of easier and delicious).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

2010 congressional winners opposing GMOs OR demanding labels

Organic Consumers Association highlighted several members of Congress who oppose GMOs or demand labeling:

Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA)
Del. Donna Christensen (D-VI)
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA)
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Rep. George Miller (D-CA)
Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS) Retired
Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ)
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA)
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
Rep. David Wu (D-OR)
Rep. Don Young (R-AK)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

RECORD NUMBER OF LGBTQ CANDIDATES ELECTED TO OFFICE

If you're feeling a little Demy Downer, it is uplifting to know that last night, America elected a record number of LGBTQ candidates to office. (Note: image taken from The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund).

According to Gay Politics, at least 106 of 164 candidates endorsed by The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund took the prize as of Wednesday morning.

Gay Politics sums up the results:

–David Cicilline’s election to Congress. The Providence, R.I. mayor will be the fourth openly gay member of the U.S. House of Representatives, joining Reps. Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank and Jared Polis, who each won reelection.

–Jim Gray’s election as mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, the state’s second-largest city.

–Nickie Antonio’s election to the Ohio House. Antonio will be the first openly LGBT person to serve in the state legislature.

–Marcus Brandon’s election to the North Carolina House. Brandon will be the state’s only openly gay state legislator and one of just five out African Americans to serve as state lawmakers.

–Victoria Kolakowski’s election as a Superior Court judge in Alameda County. Kolakowski becomes the first openly transgender judge in America.

–Kevin Lembo’s election as Connecticut State Comptroller. Lembo joins just a handful of openly LGBT candidates to have been elected to statewide positions.

–Laurie Jinkins’ election to the Washington State House. Jinkins is Washington’s first openly lesbian state legislator, and could help her gay colleagues pass a marriage equality bill in the next legislative session.

–Maryland’s and California’s expanded LGBT state legislative caucuses. Each will include seven openly gay and lesbian lawmakers. In Maryland, the caucus is poised to help pass marriage equality legislation, which the reelected Gov. Martin O’Malley has vowed to sign.

–Dan Hill’s loss in his Nevada House race. The Victory Fund’s endorsed Republican candidates for state legislative seats were not successful, meaning no openly LGBT Republicans will be serving as state lawmakers next year.

Monday, October 25, 2010

GMUSL Ally Day is a Sucess!

Below are my thoughts on George Mason School of Law's first-ever Ally Day, also cross-posted in The Docket.

GALLA would like to extend a special thanks to everyone who participated in Ally Day on Tuesday, October 12th, in support of National Coming Out Day. Ally Day was extremely successful, with nearly 100 members of the GMUSL community wearing "ALLY" t-shirts, including two professors and several members of the administration and staff. Additionally, dozens more members of the GMUSL community participated by wearing stickers and making donations to offset the cost of the event. GALLA would also like to thank the SBA and the Director of Diversity Services for helping to make this event happen. Kate Oakley, President of GALLA, and I were truly moved by the enthusiasm and support we received in planning and executing this event.

Ally Day is very important at GMUSL. For starters, it's a great opportunity to spread awareness about what an ally is--a person who supports and respects LGBTQ equality. Whether this support is motivated by a libertarian, humanist, or religious perspective, allies share a common belief that people should be free to love whomever they choose. Allies, who typically identify as heterosexual, recognize the privileged position they occupy as part of a majority, and take positive action to include and affirm their LGBTQ friends. One 2L commented, “it’s nice to know that, even at a school like George Mason, our libertarian friends have our backs.” Another student shared, "It's important to recognize that Allies do not represent a certain political or religious affiliation. Allies symbolize support and respect among the entire student body of GMUSL. Events like Ally Day communicate this powerful message and provide a united front to the D.C. community and potential future students."

Aside from fostering general awareness, Ally Day is extremely important at GMUSL in particular. Multiple instances have contributed in shaping GMUSL’s reputation as unwelcoming to the LGBTQ community. These are a few that stand out in my mind: 1) one of our deans co-authored an amicus brief defending the constitutionality of federal funding withdrawal from schools that refuse on-campus military recruitment in light of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell;[1] 2) VA attorney general and GMUSL alumnus, Ken Cuccinelli, advised that VA universities remove sexual orientation and gender discrimination from anti-discrimination policies;[2] 3) Cuccinelli was shortly thereafter welcomed on our campus to speak—leaving students to organize a protest against his LGBTQ policies outside; 4) the Christian Legal Society hosted Alliance Defense Fund on campus—an organization that describes the the “homosexual agenda” as the “principle threat to your religious freedom;”[3] and 5) the GMUSL website publishes as newsworthy a professor’s writing against marriage equality.[4]

Further, based on my own experience in the classroom, lectures assume heterosexuality with rare exceptions (to professors who mention same-sex issues in class, for example when discussing federal income tax and marriage, I sincerely thank you). Some students feel that professors reveal their anti-equality biases, however politely, in the classroom. The majority of self-identified LGBTQ students I have spoken to at GMUSL feel on the defensive at school. In this kind of atmosphere, it is difficult to know to whom it is safe to come out, and on whom one may count on if feeling sad or uncomfortable.

Considering all of these factors, it was very important for Kate and I that GALLA sponsor an event that would allow the GMUSL community to speak up and support equality. While I don’t seek to take away any person’s right to speak, I believe that expression at GMUSL must be a (respectful) two-way street in order to foster a dynamic and happy student body. Again, thank you to all those who participated!



[1] Brief Amicus Curiae of Law Professors and Law Students in Support of Petitioners at 6, Rumsfeld v. FAIR, 547 U.S. 47 (2006).

[2] Letter from Ken Cuccinelli, Attorney General, VA, to Presidents, Rectors, and Visitors of Virginia’s Public Colleges and Universities (March 4, 2010) (available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/05/AR2010030501582.html).

[3] Alliance Defense Fund, The Issues, Marriage & the Family, http://alliancedefensefund.org/Marriage.

[4] GMUSL, Current News, Lund in SF Chronicle: Prop 8 Judge Ruling Puzzling, http://www.law.gmu.edu/news/2010/lund_prop8_judge.

Vegan Treats at Arlington, VA's Bakeshop

On Sunday, a Certain Someone and I hit up Vegan Day at Bakeshop in Arlington, VA--in celebration of Bakeshop's new vegan items. In short, I will def go back again when in VA (but if in DC, Sticky Fingers still takes the cake, no pun intended).

I ordered a rice crispy treat with dark chocolate and peanut butter. I would describe it as "good" but not "great." Why, you ask? Namely, I felt like I couldn't concentrate on anything because there were too many intense delicious flavors in my mouth. Looking back, I should have ordered the peanut butter cookie I sampled, with one end dipped in chocolate. That peanut butter cookie was legit. Bakeshop, if you're reading, I think you should sell a plain rice crispy (a vegan version of which is tricky to come by), and then keep up the PB choco cookies. But hey--that's just me.

Certain Someone, on the hand hand, did a way better job of ordering. To your right, there used to be a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. I didn't order a cupcake because I tend to dislike the chocolate cake in chocolate cupcakes (but not in chocolate fudge cake). However, this chocolate cupcake was bangin'! From me, this is a HUGE compliment because I refuse to eat choco c-cakes from both Sticky Fingers and Hello Cupcake. On the down side, Bakeshop is STINGY with the frosting, which is best described as a mere dollop.

Certain Someone also had the bright idea of ordering two cupcakes. The chocolate mint, pictured on the left, definitely packed more frosting than the beloved choco vanilla--not sure why. I didn't try it because I don't believe in mixing mint with chocolate, and to be honest, Certain Someone gave it a standard rating--nothing special. Maybe he'll pipe up if I'm not doing the mint choco justice.

Interestingly, Bakeshop sells Coca Cola from Mexico, which does not contain high-fructose corn syrup AND comes in a glass bottle.

To my Celiac friends, I did not notice any treat to be marked gluten-free. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask if there was an unmarked GF goodie.

All in all, it was a nice visit, and where the quantity of frosting fell short, the quaint ambiance picked up the slack. I might have to do a finals study sesh here come November.

1025 N. Fillmore Street, Suite G
Arlington, VA 22201
(571) 970-6460

Mon: closed
Tues thru Fri: 8am – 8pm
Sat: 10am – 8pm
Sun: 12pm – 6pm

Monday, September 13, 2010

Whole Foods color-codes sustainablity of wild-caught seafood

Like everything in life, Whole Foods (WF) has done some super awesome things and some super annoying things. Thankfully, today's report is super awesome!

If you haven't heard the news, WF is amping up its sustainability efforts by filling a gap in its treatment of wild-caught fish. While some of its wild-caught seafood at WF is MSC-certified ("meets the highest benchmarks for credible certification and ecolabelling programs, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization guidelines and the ISEAL Code of Good Practice"), consumers are left to wonder about the rest--until now.

Enter Blue Ocean Institute and Monteray Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch--both of which use color coding to rate the sustainability of wild-caught seafood. WF is using these to cover wild-caught fish not from WSC-certified fisheries.

Groovy!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Men's Journal advocates veganism

Lemmie tellya--hegans are hard to find. The heternormative script of "masculinity" doesn't exactly reward men who love animals or cherish the earth. But if male health can be re-routed away from animal flesh and fat, maybe we will develop more cultural space for the hegan.

Enter The Men's Journal (thank you, Gluten Freeway, for the link). In it's September 7th post of "The Men's Journal Guide to Going Vegan," MJ claims that just three weeks of a vegan lifestyle has you feeling better head to toe. I can definitely corroborate the quick time line.

Aside from listing vegan supplements, proteins, bars, and grocery tips, MJ also talks about "what to expect." I've inserted my comments in orange.

II. What to Expect

Week One:

Your entire body will feel lighter, as the meat built up in your gut is literally forced out by the deluge of fiber from all the vegetables. You will also feel less sluggish. “You start to come out of this fog that many people have from eating heavy, fatty foods,” says Susan Levin, the director of nutrition education at the non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “When you give up dairy, you immediately breathe easier.” You’ll also have to deal with cravings for things like cheese. Find an appropriate substitute, like soy cheese. Your taste buds will adjust within a week. Uhhh...I don't know about any "cheese craving." But if you don't get enough healthy fats, you will crave animal products. When I first became a vegan, I was so busy eating beans, veggies, cookies, and rice, that I found myself craving meat. My friend told me my fat levels were likely down, and so I immediately incorporated nuts, seeds, and olive oil into my cooking and snacking. Voila! Also, soy is not the solution to all. It is generally over-processed, and there is controversy as to whether over-consumption has adverse health implications. Try making your own cashew cheese or picking up rice milk or almond cheese (available at Whole Foods).

Week Two:

You will have noticeably increased energy, and you’re likely to see some slight weight loss, because your overall calorie intake has likely gone down. “Not much weight loss,” says Levin. “We don’t want people dropping weight like crazy.” With increased energy, she says, you will find your workouts getting better and, as pro athletes have noted, your recovery time will become shorter. By the end of your second week, says vegan ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, you won’t feel as achy after your workouts.

With more energy, says Levin, comes a brighter mood and outlook. According to a 2009 Arizona State University study, people who cut all meat from the diets, including fish, showed less tension and stress.

Week Three:

“Enjoy everything you had in week two, but even more energy and probably a final layer of weight loss,” says Levin. But really, this week is where it gets molecular. “If you were someone who was meticulous and into blood labs, you’d actually see your blood sugars and cholesterol levels go down,” says Levin. “Your blood pressure will also fall as you’re breathing better and your arteries are clearing out.” If you are already in your target range of caloric-intake, a vegan transition likely won't result in weight loss. If you over-eat dishes with animal fat regularly, then perhaps. And don't forget--veganism still means cupcakes, cookies, brownies, fried seitan, and other deliciousness. Also, a note on the increased energy: it is true that you feel a crazy boost of energy. But then that becomes your everyday life, and the feeling normalizes over time.


Monday, September 6, 2010

How Big is "Too Big"?

Cross-posted on GMUSL student publication, The Docket.

As I sat in a morning class of Federal Income Tax on my first day as a 2L, there was something particularly wonderful about the experience—there were only about twenty students around me. Looking forward to the joys of small class sizes to come, I suddenly wondered how the incoming class of around 300 1Ls would affect my GMUSL experience (Not to say all you 1Ls aren’t lovely. Shout out to my mentees). Even worse, if 1L classes keep getting bigger, tuition keeps rising, and SBA is not receiving increased funding, what exactly am I paying for?

After hearing about my concerns, Deans Polsby, Huber, and Kelsey were all kind enough to sit down with me and answer my questions. First, although the 1L class is unexpectedly large, our overall student body population is about 29 over the target 720-50. In 2007, GMUSL had an entering class of 267;[1] in 2008, the class size went down to 160;[2] in 2009, the number went back up to 247.[3] Although the new 1L class is bigger than usual, the difference makes up for smaller classes in the past.

Notwithstanding the extra bodies on campus, the 1L day sections are still sized appropriately because a chunk of the extra students are in the evening section. Also, the deans haven’t forgotten that our professor-to-student ratio affects our ranking. Dean Polsby is in conversations with the provost to get additional teaching help in the spring when it’s needed.

Next we moved onto tuition. If the 1Ls didn’t need an extra section, where is the extra money going? Turns out, GMUSL is responsible for only a small percentage of our tuition and a surcharge. Although the law school can increase the surcharge every year, it has only done so twice in GMUSL’s history. The rest of our tuition is in the hands of the Board of Visitors, and the law school is not at the table for tuition discussions. It was speculated that since tuition increases have less of an impact on cheaper undergraduate tuition and the law school is only about 3% of the total university, the Board doesn’t think it’s such a big deal. But it is, and Dean Polsby agrees. GMUSL attracts students because of our location, reputation, and price. Our 1L numbers demonstrate loud and clear that GMUSL has got the goods. Annual tuition increases are not sustainable, and the law school will lose its competitive edge if the trend continues. Dean Polsby believes our tuition should be as cheap as possible, consistent with other objectives. He along with other alumni are pushing to end the blind increases to our tuition, particularly in light of a 12% increase predicted for next year.

Aside from controlling the bulk of what we pay for school, the University also controls our SBA funding—not the law school (GMUSL does supplement certain academic activities like moot court). Although SBA funding has remained at about $200,000 throughout the years—even with a total student population bigger than what we have now—Dean Polsby will endorse any SBA request for increased funding.

And finally, the biggest question: how are we all going to get along on our small campus? For starters, the new building is scheduled to open in January 2011. Once the temporary wall in the atrium goes down, a lounge will open up into a new eatery. Law students will also have access to all lounge space in the new building, and we’re currently slated to get most of the 4th floor (this is subject to change). If you ride your bike to school, then you’re in luck; the basement bathrooms will have showers. What’s more, the cafĂ© downstairs will soon be vacated and turned into student space.

As for next year, Dean Polsby explained that getting back on enrollment target is a high priority. The school relies on a complex formula that is modified annually to guide the law school’s acceptance numbers. Since the University gives tuition back to the law school based on the enrollment target, as opposed to the actual numbers, GMUSL has to fight for every extra dollar—an incentive not to over-admit.

Until the new building opens, things might seem a little tighter on campus, especially in the library. So far it looks like we have come together to deal with it. Take the lockers, for example. While I am just as guilty as the next person for panicking in the face of a locker shortage, enough students made arrangements to share before they went on sale that we even had some leftover. SBA is also looking into temporary lockers if need be. In the meantime, looks like we’ll all make some new friends.



[1] http://www.law.gmu.edu/admissions/2007profile

[2] http://www.law.gmu.edu/admissions/profile2008

[3] http://www.law.gmu.edu/admissions/profile2009

The Elephant in the Room: Diversity & Conservatism at George Mason Law

Edited version cross-posted on GMUSL student publication, The Docket.

While job interviewing last spring, I was asked how I liked George Mason. I answered that GMUSL is academically rigorous, but that I didn’t quite fit in with the campus culture at large. The hiring attorney replied, good—If you liked it, you wouldn’t fit in here, and I wouldn’t hire you.

I was stunned. Where does the stereotype of a GMUSL student come from? Regardless of the school’s political affiliation, GMUSL has a reputation for its strong academics; “Mason Law has moved steadily up the ranks since first cracking the top 50 in 2001” and “remains the youngest law school ranked in the U.S. News top 50.”[1]

Notwithstanding its quality curriculum, has GMUSL’s reputation as conservative impacted the school’s ability to foster a more diverse student population? It seems that the school’s entanglement with social issues, whether justified or not, has potentially impacted its image and ability to attract a wide range of students (not to mention its ranking, which takes into account peer assessment and assessment by lawyers/judges).[2]

In early 2000, the ABA, disturbed by 6.5% of entering minority students, issued a site evaluation describing “serious concerns” with GMUSL’s "unwilling[ness] to engage in any significant preferential affirmative action admissions program"—although it noted that GMUSL has a "very active effort to recruit minorities."[3]

To secure its reaccreditation, GMUSL amped up diversity efforts by creating both a minority coordinator and “Minority Recruitment Council,” and raising the proportion of minorities in its entering class to 10.98% in 2001, 16.16% in 2002, 17.3% in 2003, and 19% in 2004.[4] The ABA was still unhappy because, of the 99 minority students in 2003 and 111 in 2004, the number of African Americans remained a steady 23 in both years.[5]

But those numbers are an unfair reflection of Mason’s diversity initiative; in fact, Mason had granted admission to 63 African Americans[6]—those students simply didn’t choose to attend. The question is, why not?

Additionally, GMUSL’s reputation might suffer from the association of high-profile GMUSL figures with controversial issues relating to sexual orientation. As law schools across the country sought to ban military recruiters in light of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Congress reacted in 1996 with the Solomon Amendment—allowing the DOD to withdraw federal grant money from universities that prevent on-campus military recruitment. Essentially, an entire university could lose millions of research dollars from a ban particular to the law school.[7] An amicus brief, co-authored by Dean Polsby, countered allegations that the Solomon Amendment “violates the First Amendment by impeding the law schools' rights of expressive association and by compelling them to assist in the expressive act of recruiting."[8] Dean Polsby explained that the Solomon Amendment “merely conditions a university’s continuing receipt of federal funds on affording military recruiters the same access to the student body that the school grants to all other prospective employers. The Solomon Amendment thus is a perfectly ordinary contractual condition.”[9] A footnote read, “Amici do not take any position with regard to the policy’s merit”[10]

While loss of federal funding arguably impacts more students than those in the LGBTQ community (not to mention LGBTQ students would also be impacted by diminished school funding), one cannot deny the sting to a minority group and its allies. And just last spring, the same feelings were re-kindled when a GMUSL graduate, Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli,[11] advised, “"[L]aw and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including 'sexual orientation,' 'gender identity,' 'gender expression,' or like classification, as a protected class within its nondiscrimination policy, absent specific authorization from the General Assembly."[12] However, shortly thereafter, the GMU Board of Visitors elected to keep GMU’s non-discrimination policy in place, and issued a resolution declaring that the Board “remains deeply committed to equal treatment of all persons...”[13]

Regardless of GMUSL’s association with touchy issues and its potential impact on public perception, the bigger question is “what is the on-campus experience for a ‘liberal’ student?” One classmate remarked that she felt a “general aggression towards anything liberal,” and noted a “nastiness that is not conducive to constructive dialogue.” Another student reflected on a professor who "was happy to throw out 'how is gay marriage different from bestiality or polygamy' and then not be terribly interested in the answer." In all fairness, another student observed that some liberal peers act “equally or even more judgmental” than conservative counterparts.

Personally, born and raised in Los Angeles, I had a difficult time adjusting to GMUSL campus culture. During my first year, I was most troubled by a lack of sensitivity in language choice on campus, and, as a Jew and advocate of female empowerment, bothered that several Internet sources attribute the genesis of “feminazi” to a GMUSL professor.

At the same time, despite a series of uncomfortable instances at school, I have cultivated very strong friendships with students both similar to and very different from me, as well as gained a new skill set in economics. While I have felt disrespected on campus at times, I have also been engaged in and benefited from discussions with students whose views greatly contrast mine. I wish that my experience at a “conservative school” could be less of the former and more of the latter. To the extent that my experience has been a mixture of both, learning how to succeed in a challenging environment is an invaluable skill that, retrospectively, I am happy to have acquired.

As we welcome a new class on campus, I know that some students who identify as liberal or as a member of a minority community are nervous about attending GMUSL. I know this because, while tabling at the perspective students fair, I was bombarded with questions from various potential 1Ls who saw the LGBTQ & Allies Law Association as the go-to for all liberal and diversity concerns. I hope that as we engage those around us, we can hold both polarized views, and respect for one another. That is the reputation I would like George Mason to have—and employers to hear about.



[1] GMUSL Current News, Mason Law Climbs to 34th in US Ranking (2008), http://www.law.gmu.edu/news/2007/721.

[2] U.S. News Best Graduate Schools, Law Methodology (2008), http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/best-graduate-schools/2008/03/26/law-methodology.html.

[3] Gail Heriot, The ABA’s Diversity Agenda, Minding the Campus, July 8, 2008, http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2008/07/by_gail_heriot_the_aba.html.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Jan Roh, Supreme Court Rules Against Schools in Military Recruiting Case, Fox News, March 6, 2006, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,186936,00.html.

[8] Id.

[9] Brief Amicus Curiae of Law Professors and Law Students in Support of Petitioners at 6, Rumsfeld v. FAIR, 547 U.S. 47 (2006).

[10] Id. at 7 n. 4.

[11] Ken Cuccinelli, Education, http://www.cuccinelli.com/index.php/meet-ken (last visited Aug. 9, 2010).

[12] Letter from Ken Cuccinelli, Attorney General, VA, to Presidents, Rectors, and Visitors of Virginia’s Public Colleges and Universities (March 4, 2010) (available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/05/AR2010030501582.html).

[13] Mason Media Blog, Mason’s Board of Visitors Reaffirms Commitment to Nondiscrimination (2010), http://mediablog.gmu.edu/2010/03/masons-board-of-visitors-reaffirms-commitment-to-nondiscrimination/.

DC Vegan Goodness

The most recent issue of VegNews brings great joy for the veg, the veg-friendly, the lactose intolerant, and the kosher.

Item 1: Founding Farmers now has a vegan menu. I cannot wait to taste test and report back.

Item 2: DC VegFest is in one week! If you don't have a mental image of what this entails, here is a picture from last year to get your mouth watering:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

veganism and pro-choice politics are compatible

Every once in a while, I hear the argument that, if a vegan valued life, a vegan would necessarily be anti-choice. This is incorrect.

For the sake of argument, let's talk first-trimester abortion. Pro-choicers, including myself, often hold that a fetus in its first trimester is not conscious and, as such, may be aborted without violating an ethical duty to the fetus.

The abortion debate from a pro-choice perspective can only logically relate to eggs--not animals. Animals are conscious, and many are intelligent. Like a fetus in its first trimester, however, a chicken fetus is also unconscious. By my same rationale, then, a chicken fetus could be aborted without violating an ethical duty to the fetus.

Then why don't vegans eat eggs?

I suppose different vegans may have different views on eggs, so I will only speak for myself. I do not abstain from eggs because I believe the chicken fetus is tortured in the egg production process; rather, I abstain from eggs because the hen is tortured in order to produce the egg (and free-range is legally meaningless).

Both the abortion debate and my vegan perspective on eggs turn on the same issue: the rights of the animal producing the offspring (humans are animals). I do not think that women or hens should be forced to reproduce, particularly when the circumstances are abusive or disenfranchising to either animal.

I'm sure some reader is wondering, then, whether I would eat an egg if it were produced without coercion in a natural setting. Honestly, that answer has changed over time. I have been a vegan for over 2.5 years. If I were given that option in year 1, perhaps it would have sounded appealing. But now eggs are so off my radar that I no longer frame them as food and have zero desire to consume them under any circumstances--apart from the unlikely event that I were starving and only eggs could save me.

Although I believe that a vegan can logically be pro-choice, I do not believe that an anti-choicer can logically be omnivorous. If one values unconscious life before birth, then it would seem one would certainly value conscious life after birth. Pigs, after all, are believed to have the intelligence of three-year-old children; chickens can process surrounding circumstances enough to flap wildly when shackled in the live hang.

I suppose the only scapegoat would be a brutal sense of speciesm where pre-human consciousness is priceless and animal consciousness is worthless. I find that problematic.

It is very difficult for me to wrap my head around a person who will protest an abortion, but be perfectly comfortable with the institutionalized torture of animals.



While I realize the narrator has an agenda, I think the footage speaks for itself.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

GREENPEACE VICTORY

I'm really excited to report that Greenpeace won its campaign in Slovakia to change Slovakian law, allowing local communities to weigh in on the establishment of uranium mines near them. This is particularly great news for me, as I worked on this campaign a couple years ago in Slovakia with the Greenpeace Organizing Term. Check out the full scoop from Greenpeace:

The campaign was started three years ago by a coalition of groups which included Greenpeace. In Slovakia, any petition gaining 100,000 signatures must be discussed by the country’s parliament. The coalition’s petition gained 113,000 and it was delivered to the parliament in September last year.

This week the campaign was victorious when, in a momentous decision, the Slovak parliament agreed on legal changes to geological and mining laws to give more power and control to local communities, municipal and regional authorities. This will allow them stop or limit geological research of uranium deposits and to stop proposed uranium mining.

This is a huge achievement for the Slovak environmental movement and should be an inspiration for groups around the world. For the first time in Slovak history non-governmental organisations were able to collect over 100,000 signatures, have an environmental issue submitted to the Slovak parliament by a petition, and to achieve a change in the law by a petition.

This does not mean a complete ban on uranium mining in Slovakia but gives significant powers to local and regional authorities in the mining permission process. All 41 municipal authorities facing proposed uranium mining projects in their territories have already declared their opposition. There’s an excellent chance that Slovakia’s uranium will never see the light of day.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tarzana Whole Foods rocks the house, part II

However brief my stint in LA, I always try to cram in as much deliciousness as possible before I return to the veg-mediocre District of Columbia. Thanks to the new Tarzana Whole Foods, the perfect meal is a hot 5 minutes from my house.

On my last trip to LA, I ranted about the new location's vegan baklava and to-go bar. On this trip, I had the pleasure of breaking in the sandwich bar. Although there are a few options, I hit up "Mediterranean Goodness" the first time and haven't been able to break the cycle since. It's honestly one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. What's more, it also passes The Dylan Test (More on the DT below).

The ingredients are simple enough: olive ciabatta, some kind of flavored hummus, a really rockin' babaganoush, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and I add onions. It doesn't sound exciting--but whatever herbs are in the hummus and baba really take the experience to a whole new level.

But, don't take my word for it. As my cousin once told me, "Vanessa, your politics impact your taste buds." My little brother, on the other hand, is the perfect taste-taster. Dylan is basically a black hole of hamburgers, french fries, and well, hamburgers and french fries. I always know when he likes something I eat, it really must be delish.

So what's Dylan's verdict? He thinks that the sandwich tastes like IN N OUT Burger, most likely because the flavor of the babaganoush and hummus together mimics a sort of thousand island dressing. In any event, he was so into Mediterranean Goodness that, after sampling mine, we returned the next day and had at it again.

Note: Dylan and I had a long discussion about whether pickles "match" the ingredients and should be added. He insists pickles do not go at all, but I'm thinking I might give it a try next time.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

regulating female bodies the "French way"

Upon reading "Aging Gracefully...the French Way," all I have to say is, there is nothing particularly "French" about it. It's the same old story: sexism + ageism = hyper-regulation of female bodies. New York Times author Ann Morrison spouts the same methods we see right here in good old America:

1. French women enjoy regulating their own bodies ("Frenchwomen I know regard the pampering of the skin, hair and body as an enjoyable, gratifying ritual").

2. French women feel as though exposing "flaws" somehow lessens them sexually or as women (“I never discuss these things in front of my husband”).

3. French women internalize the pressures of weightism and restrict caloric intake...even if it means spending extra dollars on pills and procedures ("Frenchwomen won’t get fat...If Frenchwomen don’t walk enough to stay en forme, there is always a pill, a lotion, a machine or a treatment to do the trick").

4. French women seek multiple treatments and services, spending large sums of money to preserve their youth ("Frenchwomen also recommend facials, massages and spa “cures” in their campaign against wrinkles, cellulite and saggy bottoms, bellies and breasts").

5. French women finance a multi-billion dollar skin care industry ("As for makeup, Frenchwomen of almost every age (except those teenagers) regard less as best...Of course, it’s easy to look natural if your skin is great. And that may be where the French secrets really are. According to a 2008 Mintel report, Frenchwomen spend about $2.2 billion a year on facial skin car").

6. French women get plastic surgery ("The objective of plastic surgery in France, according to Dr. Michel Soussaline, a Paris surgeon with more than 30 years of experience, is “to keep the natural beauty and charm of each individual woman, not to fit some current ideal of beauty.” After all, trends change. In the United States, he says, women who spend a lot of money on face-lifts want to show off their investments...Frenchwomen prefer results that look as natural as possible").

In conclusion, the "way" of female aging is the same in France as in America: fight it at all costs.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

cancer, neurotoxicity, and cosmetics

Remember The Story of Stuff? Well, Annie Leonard is at it again with The Story of Cosmetics.



From a gendered perspective, heteronormative women suffer the most from toxic cosmetics; it's difficult to reap the social "rewards" of sexism without some makeup, nail polish, and a good perfume.

If you're concerned about what you're rubbing on your face or buying for your family, check out the Environmental Working Group's cosmetic safety database, Skin Deep.

And yes, I realize that toxins in moderation may not be poisonous--but we're talking about using several products a day, every day, for a lifetime (while drinking contaminated water, breathing contaminated air, and eating contaminated food, no less).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

PETA is on crack

My dear friend over at Gluten Freeways really threw me for a loop when he sent me PETA's ranking of the top most veg-friendly cities in North America.

I moved to DC from LA--and how the bleep is DC ranked #1 and LA #8?

LA owns DC when it comes to vegan options and convenience. Aside from the disparity in veg-friendly hot spots, a veg girl can't even ask ingredients around these parts without getting a puzzled face or an attitude.

See the ranking for yourself.

Monday, July 19, 2010

giving back to your dry cleaner

Now that I'm a working woman in a walking city, my dry cleaning bill has more than quadrupled since my days of air conditioning during LA gridlock.

Aside from the added expense, I began suffering from another increase--an army of fugly metal hangers in my closet. For months, I have felt too guilty to throw them away (you know, one-timers headed straight to the landfill)--until I had a brilliant idea.

Why don't I just return the hangers to the dry cleaner? My dry cleaner does not advertise itself as eco-friendly, but was still mighty happy to take all the hangers back for re-use. Awesome.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Vanishing of the Bees, part II

Nearly a year ago, I blogged about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

In sum, billions of bees are dying faster than they can be replaced. Their dead bodies reveal pathogens and disease. While the exact cause is unknown, all fingers point to modern agriculture: we are poisoning bees with our excessive use of toxic agro-chemicals, and severely straining them by transporting and working them year round.

A 2007 National Academy of Sciences report "blamed the decline of pollinators around the world on a combination of habitat loss, pesticides, pollution and diseases spilling out of greenhouses using commercial bumblebees."

Today I had the opportunity to chat with a very reputable scientist in the agricultural world. Turns out, the honey bee situation has not improved in the last year. According to her, at this rate (40% loss in one decade), domestic produce production will die within 10 years...almost.

Turns out, climate change is prompting the migration of the africanized honey bee, also known as the "killer bee." The Center for Invasive Species Research reports:

Immigration of africanized honey bee results in a greater density of highly defensive bee colonies. Africanized honey bee respond to activity near their colonies with increased numbers of stinging bees over much greater distances. This can make them life-threatening, especially to people allergic to stings or with limited capacity to escape (the young, old and handicapped), and to confined livestock or pets. In each country into which they have migrated, they have killed humans and animals. Beekeeping is also disrupted by africanized honey bees, which are more difficult to manage and transport. Maintaining colonies of European bees in areas with africanized honey bees is the best defense, but to do so beekeepers face greater expense, more difficulty finding sites for bees because of public fear, and greater liability concerns.

With regard to using our domestic bees are a defense, my source told me that because of vanishing bee populations, the killer bees will just take over.

Obviously, I prefer highly-aggressive bees to no bees (and thus no domestic produce), but the situation ain't pretty. While the exact cause of honey bee disappearance remains "unproven," the writing is on the wall. Just another price we pay for modern agro business...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

a note on high horses and the vegan delusion

"I know that all revolutions must have ideologies that spur them. That in the heat of conflict those ideologies tend to be smelted into rigid dogmas claiming exclusive possession of the truth, and the keys to paradise, is tragic." --Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

Although we often get lumped together, vegans can be very different from one another. Some of us are militant, some low-key, some freegan, some eco-conscious, some animal focused...the list goes on. I dedicate this post to the high horse vegan (HHV).

In short, a HHV is self-righteous, or "smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others." Now, there is a fine line between developing a personal set of ethics, opinions, and disagreements...and being self-righteous. Perhaps it is even an art.

My most recent [virtual] encounter with a HHV took place yesterday. Potentially developing asthma, I am currently on a steroid inhaler to counter my lung inflammation. I've been a vegan for 2.5 years, and in the doctor's office struggling for a deep breath of air, I didn't think to talk ingredients. A couple of hours and a lot of money later, I purchased and used an Advair inhaler--which, after reading the directions, turns out to contain lactose.

Bummed I didn't inquire when chatting with the doc, I get online to google vegan asthma medication. I stumbled upon an online forum where an asthmatic vegan articulated concerns similar to mine. One of the responses came from a stereotypical HHV:

"Even if it does not contain animal products, it was definitely tested on animals. Just wheeze."

Hell to the no. First, animal testing on an approved drug already on the market is a sunk cost. Second, this commentator is living what I call the "vegan delusion." The vegan delusion is the idea that, by being a strict vegan, you do not harm animals. This is wrong. Being a vegan means reducing harm to animals where possible--not reducing all harm (which is impossible).

Why? Because simply existing necessary displaces and inevitably harms animals. Your home, your city, your beloved co-op, your yoga studio are currently situated in former ecosystems. That sustainable local farmer you love so dearly? S/he displaces animal populations by planting fields of veggies. Tractors invariably run over and kill some field animals. The list goes on.

For any human being to exist in a modern setting, some amount of animals will be displaced and/or die. As a vegan, the most you can do is reduce that number where humanly possible and where it is efficient to do so. Take my inhaler for example. Seeing as I mistakenly purchased an animal product, from an environmental/efficiency perspective, I am not going to throw away a perfectly usable inhaler. Under this same rationale, I grandfathered in my old leather products when I stopped purchasing new ones (and I am likewise comfortable with recycled leather).

If there is no lactose-free inhaler alternative, I will continue to purchase inhalers as needed. Again, as being a vegan necessarily means mitigating harm to animals where possible (as opposed to eliminating harm all together), in the matter of breathing, this is one corner I cannot reasonably cut.

Is it speciesism to value my life more than the cow tortured for its lactose? One can make that argument. However, it is not only humans that necessarily occupy space and displace others--it is all living things. Call it natural selection, call it the circle of life--whatever you'd like. I am comfortable existing and occupying space, so long as I eliminate harm where I reasonably can.

If you do avoid anything containing any trace of animal and anything ever tested on animals, that is honestly very wonderful. However, the truth is that the vegan delusion of zero harm is and will always be just that--a delusion.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hey Cosmo, female shaved heads are not "skanky"

I thought this discussion ended once Britney's extensions blended in with some of her own hair...but I was wrong. I'm sure my readers remember when Allure magazine called bald a "beauty breakdown"--it spurred a heated blog post and a Facebook group in support of bald women. Now Cosmo wants to play.

In its July issue, Cosmo showcases a picture of Mel B--who rocks the half buzz--and impliedly calls a female shaved head "skanky" (as opposed to "sexy").

To be exact, men with "missing shirts" are "sexy," and women with "missing hair" are "skanky."

And Cosmo is just plain uneducated. Hegemonic gender performance is largely heteronormative and varies across cultures and throughout time. To say that two holes for a set of pearl earrings is "good" and one for an eyebrow piercing is "bad" demonstrates how inherently meaningless dominant cultural assessments actually are. Any assigned value would be a classist assessment (that wouldn't even be accurate in 2010 among a large portion of medium- to high-income urbanites).

Hair is a form of self-expression. It need not be so loaded. But in a gender-, race-, and class-stratified world, the shaved and half-shaved female head does carry a message. The message isn't "skanky" and it isn't "sexy"--it's "I do as I please."

It's no mystery that mainstream fashion magazines targeted to women (haven't analyzed those targeted to men) discourage high self-esteem (see overwhelming tips on caloric restriction, ab exercises, and photos of starving women)--but they pretend to champion the opposite. I don't buy the idea that flashing articles on sexual pleasure and career women makes an establishment empowering to women. I believe that loving women means encouraging them to be healthy, not hungry...to be active, not underweight...to recognize that being a woman means different things to different people.

I digress. The bottom line is, if Cosmo wants to pretend to care about independent, empowered women...it should respect the buzzer, not call it skanky.

Tell Cosmo what you think about female shaved heads here.

And speaking of the side shave, check out the actress in this video against commercial whaling.

victory for whales

Thanks to grassroots pressure, the moratorium on whaling is fully in tact. And no thanks to Obama, who supported lifting the ban.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sprinkles rocks the vegan cupcake

I don't know if I mentioned this, but The Colonic is done with year one of law school, taking a breather from a super stellar summer job in food safety, and enjoying the LA heat for some much-need vacay.

What's number one on the vacation list of a sugar-obsessed vegan, fresh out of a culinary nightmare? (okay--a veg nightmare would be somewhere in the south...but DC is no LA, lemmie tellya) DELICIOUS FOOD, that's what.

Enter my first adventure back to Sprinkles since I became a vegan, 2.5 years ago. Since I left Sprinkles for the last time several years ago, I have not found a mind-blowing non-dairy cream cheese frosting alternative...until today.

I'm not talking just any mediocre veg treat. The vegan red velvet cupcake at Sprinkles made my Very Vegan Top 3 Desserts list. I actually just made that up right now, but if I did have a Very Vegan Top 3, it would include (in no particular order):

1. Coconut cake from Sticky Fingers
2. Red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles
3. Banana cupcake with vanilla frosting from Hello Cupcake

ooohhhhh, wait. Make that the Very Vegan Top 4 and add the baklava from the Tarzana Whole Foods.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

oil spill--blessing in disguise?

While coverage of the oil spill makes me cry, the disaster might prove beneficial after all. In its nascent stage, the spill cast energy reform as a "political impossibility," primarily because compromises expanding offshore drilling attracted otherwise-opponents to the measure. Post-spill, those compromises would be pulled, and opposition would increase.

But that assessment was nearly a month ago. Six weeks later and still no solution, the spill has become truly frightening. So frightening that, despite my heated criticism of Obama's stagnant efforts to push an energy bill in the past, looks like we are both singing different tunes. Now the President is actually willing to do something, and now I believe it.

The New York Times reports:
President Obama will call Wednesday for rolling back billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies, and will vow to push for climate change legislation “in the coming months,” setting the stage for another potentially divisive battle in Congress. full article

Holler.

new Whole Foods in Tarzana, CA is the vegan money spot

Now that I am visiting LA, I had the pleasure of experiencing the valley's newest glory: the Tarzana Whole Foods (the older glory being Madeleine Bistro).

Before I rave about how veg-friendly it is, I would like to say that there was no visible compost or recycling bins. I'll have to take a second trip to see if they were there and I was just too excited from the gooey vegan baklava to notice (you best believe if there is no compost, I will host a complain campaign). I was also annoyed that the utensils were plastic instead of biodegradable.

Okay, okay...I digress. Back to vegan nirvana. First of all--do you see this?

Aside from the Vegan Bar, dishes are also appropriately marked "vegan" or "vegetarian" throughout the rest of the bar. While I could not find vegan doughnuts, I did find vegan cherry/apple turnovers, brownies, cookies, and...drum roll...BAKLAVA.

I know vegan goodies have a bad rep, but let me tell you: I had no problem giving up animal flesh, but if the dessert was bad I would never have made 2 1/2 years of being a vegan. As with any type of food, you can get something disgusting or something delicious. That being said, this baklava was OFF THE CHARTS.

The brand is called Nutty Baklava, but I can't find it online (WTF? I was planning on getting that ish shipped to the vegan baklava desert known as Washington, DC). Aside from being dairy-, egg-, and honey-free, this doughy delight features ZERO hydrogenated oils, ZERO preservatives, ZERO refined sugar, ZERO trans fats, and uses 100% unbleached fillo. For two ginormous hunks of heaven, I think a price of $6.99 is reasonable.