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Bess Myerson: The only Jewish Miss America, pianist, politician you’ve never heard of

7 Jan
Image via wikipedia

Image via wikipedia

Bess Myerson

Bess Myerson
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Meet the late Bess Myerson: the first and (as of today) only Jewish Miss America, pianist, adviser to three presidents, Senate primary candidate and consumer rights advocate. I’m not sure about you, but I had never heard of Bess Myerson before Monday when headlines announced that she had died at the age of 90 at her home in Santa Monica California. (Though she died last month, her death wasn’t confirmed until January 5.) Nor had I heard about Miss America’s rule number  seven, which required that contestants be “of good health and of the white race.”

Born on July 16, 1924, Myerson grew up in the Sholem Aleichem Cooperative Houses in the Bronx. She started piano when she was nine years old, and after she graduated from Hunter College, hoped to get a graduate degree in music. Despite teaching piano at 50 cents an hour, Myerson was unable to afford the piano or education she wanted. According to Myerson, her sister Sylvia sent Bess’s photo to the Miss New York City contest, without telling her, during the summer of 1945. Myerson borrowed a bathing suit and performed the piano and flute. After becoming Miss New York, Myerson went to Atlantic City and participated in the Miss America pageant.

Before heading to Atlantic City, however, Myerson had a private meeting with the Miss America pageant director and Southern Baptist, Lenora Slaughter, who urged her to change her name to something more “attractive” — i.e. less Jewish-sounding — like Betty Merrick or Betty Meredith. Slaughter, who directed the pageant from 1935 to 1967, had, at some point in the 1930s, made it a rule that the Miss America “contestant must be in good health and of the white race.” This rule was abolished in 1950 but the first Black candidate was not until 1970 and the first Black Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was not crowned until 1984.

Myerson recalled the conversation with Slaughter and why she refused to change her name:

I said… the problem is that I’m Jewish, yes? And with that kind of name it’ll be quite obvious to everyone else that I’m Jewish. And you don’t want to have to deal with a Jewish Miss America. And that really was the bottom line. I said I can’t change my name. You have to understand. I cannot change my name. I live in a building with two hundred and fifty Jewish families. The Sholom Aleichem apartment houses. If I should win, I want everybody to know that I’m the daughter of Louie and Bella Myerson.

She would later tell her biographer, “Already I was losing my sense of who I was; already I was in a masquerade, marching across stages in bathing suits. Whatever was left of myself in this game, I had to keep, I sensed that. I knew I had to keep my name. It turned out to be one of the most important decisions I ever made.”

Another way Myerson maintained her identity was by being the only woman in the Miss America pageant who appeared in her cap and gown and not a bathing suit. And when she won the contest, the announcer said, “Beauty with brains, that’s Miss America of 1945!”

Not everyone was so happy about her victory, however, and three of the five sponsors pulled out of their partnerships with Miss America because they didn’t want their products to be represented by someone Jewish. During her Miss America tour around the nation, country clubs and hotels barred her and appearances were canceled. Myerson recalled, “I felt so rejected… Here I was, chosen to represent American womanhood, and then America treated me like this.” She also witnessed segregation in the South.

So Myerson cut the tour short, went back to New York and went on tour again, this time lecturing for the Anti-Defamation League, in cooperation with the NAACP and the Urban League, reading from her speech against anti-semitism and racism titled, “You Can’t Be Beautiful and Hate.”

Nor did her accomplishments stop there. Meyerson performed piano with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. She became New York City’s first commissioner of consumer affairs in 1969, passing some of the toughest laws in the country, including “sell-by” dates and unit pricing. In 1977, she chaired Edward Koch’s successful campaign for New York City mayor and served as director of cultural affairs under him. In 1980, she entered the Democratic Senate primary, but was defeated by Representative Elizabeth Holtzman. Myerson was an advisor on the White House conference on crime and violence under Lyndon B Johnson, on a board dealing with workplace issues under Gerald R. Ford, and on commissions on mental health and world hunger under Jimmy Carter.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Originally posted on Feministing

The Surprising Relationship Between Sex and Pizza: 4 Things We Learned About Sex This Week

29 Dec

The Surprising Relationship Between Sex and Pizza: 4 Things We Learned About Sex This Week

This week, we answer several fascinating questions: how long do car-based sexual interactions last on average? Why should you consider rolling around in pumpkin pie and/or cheese pizza? Why do people watch condom-free porn? Enjoy, and be sure to share these discoveries with your loved ones over the holidays.

1. Friends don’t let friends sex and drive. Or maybe they do, but they probably shouldn’t. It turns out lots of young people are have sex in cars, and the results can be a little dangerous. Looking at 195 men and 511 women, researchers from the University of South Dakota found that 33 percent of men and nine percent of women had sex while driving, and nine percent of men and 29 percent of women had sex as a passenger. According to the study, the sexual activity lasted 1-10 minutes for 42.7 percent of the respondents. Approximately 49% traveled at 100-130 km per hour during sex. The most common side effects were speeding (37.8 percent), drifting into another lane (36 percent) and letting go of the steering wheel (10.8 percent). Ah ha! “Letting go of the steering wheel.” So, that’s what the kids are calling it these days. Though fewer that two percent of those DWS (driving while sexing) had an accident.

2. The sexy smell of cheese pizza and Good and Plenty. If you want to turn on a man, you may want to put your face in a pumpkin pie or rub some pizza grease behind your ears. Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, reveals some interesting findings about smell in his book The Real Science Of Sex Appeal, which will be published in January. Dr. Hirsch looked at how 46 different scents affected penile blood flow in 31 men and found that lavender and pumpkin pie (individually, not combined) increased it by 40%. Cheese pizza increased it by 5%. So maybe you should wear lavender oil instead of pizza grease.

Hirsh also surveyed 30 women and found that vaginal blood flow was increased by pumpkin pie smell as well. But the winning combination was the scent of cucumber and Good & Plenty licorice candy, which increased vaginal blood flow by 13%. I guess if you really want to increase your odds, you should make a pumpkin pie with plenty of lavender, licorice, and cucumber, topped with cheese and tomato sauce. Then bring it out with you and see who comes around.

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New survey shows the gender leadership gap in the non-profit world

17 Dec

The corporate world is famous for its all-too-often shatter-proof glass ceilings and old-boy network sexism. But, as a new study of Jewish non-profits highlights, the non-profit sector isn’t exactly a beacon of gender equality either.

When Jane Eisner became the editor-in-chief of The Forward, the largest and oldest running national Jewish newspaper, she was shocked by how few of the leaders of non-profits were women. As she explained to me, “I come to The Forward and that first summer in 2008 my boss takes me around to meet all these Jewish leaders and they were all men. So, I’m thinking, well, just because this was my anecdotal experience doesn’t mean that’s in fact the landscape.”

So, Eisner decided she would look at the actual data. In 2009, The Forward published its first salary survey which determined that only 11 of the 75  biggest Jewish non-profits had women leaders. Today, The Forward came out with its 6th annual salary survey. Continue reading

Men More Sexually Aroused When They Suspect Cheating? 4 Weird Things Science Told Us About Sex This Week

8 Dec

Here are some things we learned about sex this week. Rats: They’re just like us! Or a little like us, when it comes to liking their ladies in lingerie.

1. Male rats like their lady rats in lingerie: If you thought human males were the only ones into lingerie, you are wrong and very anthro-normative. It’s not that either humans or rats are evolutionarily programmed to like Victoria Secret. It’s that both humans and male rats can learn how to associate certain things with sex and thus find them sexier. Psychologists from Concordia University in Montreal gathered a dozen of male virgin rats (I know! Where do you find even a handful of virgin rats these days?) and threw a rat mixer for them. All the lady rats in attendance were wearing little rat jackets. And the male and female rats mated, as the do. On another occasion, scientists took the same bunch of now not-so-virgin male rats and threw them into a room, or cage, with two lady rats. One was naked and one was wearing the same jacket. The rats preferred the jacketed one. And by prefer I mean mounted her more frequently and ejaculated faster. Co-author Gonzalo R. Quintana Zunino explained that the experiment demonstrated that rats were able to learn, “Each time my partner wears lingerie [a jacket], I’m going to have sex.” Sounds a little presumptuous.

2. There must be something in the mistletoe: I must go to very boring holiday parties because I find this next study shocking. According to a survey done on 1,500 people by married dating site IllicitEncounters.com, 34% of Brits have sex with their colleagues after office holiday parties. So, a married dating site may skew a little, statistically speaking, when it comes to shagging (that’s what the Brits call having sex). Also 67% kissed a co-worker.

3. Indonesia introduces male birth control: Indonesian scientists are making pills with from the gendarussa shrub, which men on the island of Papua have long used as birth control by boiling it in tea and drinking it a half hour before having sex. According to scientists from the government’s National Family Planning Coordination Board and Airlangga University, the pills, which have been tested on 350 men, are 99% effective. They will go on sale in 2016. Why is male birth control so exciting? Well, it doesn’t mess with a woman’s hormones, which can have unpleasant side-effects.
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‘I can’t breath,’ ‘please don’t let me die,’ and other last words of police brutality victims

5 Dec
Eric Garner arrest (Screenshot)

Eric Garner arrest (Screenshot)

“I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath, I can’t breath.” Those were the last words uttered by Eric Garner. He told the police who was holding him in a chokehold eleven times that he couldn’t breath. Yet the policeman, Daniel Pantaleo, kept his arms around his neck and, perhaps even more appallingly, neither the police nor the EMT even attempted to revive Mr. Garner who lay on the ground for seven minutes.

Shirin Barghi, a filmmaker from Iran and based in New York City took the last words of Eric Garner as well as other unarmed Black men killed by law enforcement and turned them into very minimalist images that are truly heartbreaking.

View the images at RawStory

The best and worst moments in the Supreme Court hearing on pregnancy discrimination

5 Dec
image via wikipedia

image via wikipedia

Yesterday, the question of whether it is legal to fire someone for becoming pregnant went before The Supreme Court. December 3, 2014. That’s not a typo. TWO THOUSAND AND FOURTEEN!

Peggy Young had been working for UPS for four years when she became pregnant. When she told her employer that her doctor told her not to lift packages heavier than 20 pounds, she didn’t anticipate she would lose her job and health insurance for nine months. But that’s what happened, and that’s why her case is now in front of the Supreme Court.

Though UPS requires that its drivers be able to lift up to 70 pounds, Young assumed she could keep her job during her pregnancy because almost all of the packages she handled were under 20 pounds. She only handled packages weighing over 20 pounds a few times each month, and a co-worker had already offered to help on those rare occasions.

And here’s the thing. Part of the reason Young expected more flexibility from her employer was because UPS does, in fact, accommodate other workers by giving them light duty if they need it due to a disability or an on-the-job-injury. Its policy even accommodates workers who lose their commercial driver’s license because of a DUI. But if you get pregnant, instead of busted for driving while drunk, you’re screwed.
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California’s first ‘revenge porn’ conviction sends man to jail for topless photos of his ex

2 Dec
A public (not private) Facebook photo of Noe Iniguez

A public (not private) Facebook photo of Noe Iniguez

Monday was a historic and wonderful day for humanity (except for those people who post naked photos of their exes to try to get them fired, though I’m not sure how much they fit into the humanity category anyway, in which case ignore this whole disclaimer.)

California made its first ever conviction under a 2013 law against “revenge porn.” So, what is revenge porn, criminally speaking? As attorneys at Jackson & Wilson explain,

To prove this crime, the criminal prosecutor must show that the defendant (1) took pictures or videos of another person’s intimate body parts, with the mutual understanding that such images will be kept confidential; (2) distributes such images, where the victim is identifiable; (3) has the intent to cause serious emotional distress to the victim; and (4) the victim actually suffers such distress.

Continue reading at RawStory

 

A man kills a German woman for daring to intervene as he harassed girls in a bathroom

1 Dec
image via facebook

image via facebook

Earlier today I wrote about two Indian women who attacked three men who were harassing them on a bus. That story has a happy ending: the video has gone viral and the three men were arrested. But this case, also involving a group of men harassing young women, turned out very differently.

On November 15th, Tuğçe Albayrak, a 23-year-old university student studying to be a high school teacher, entered a women’s bathroom of a McDonalds in Offenbach, Germany, after hearing screams. It turned out that a group of young men were harassing a group of young women. Albayrak intervened in some way and this, apparently enraged one of the men. Because he returned and in video captured in very poor quality, by CCTV cameras, struck her on the head with something that caused her to fall to the ground, suffer a traumatic brain injury and fall into a coma.

Keep reading at RawStory

 

Indian women beat their male harassers with belts in viral video

1 Dec
image via youtube

image via youtube

To paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson  these women “have had it with these motherf****** snakes male harassers on this motherf****** plane bus!” Friday, two sisters fought back against three men they claim were harassing them. Sunday, the police arrested the men. The incident, which a bus-rider filmed on a cell phone, is now a viral video sensation. The women, 22-year-old Aarti and 19-year-old Pooja, were riding a bus home in India’s Rohtak district when, they say, three male passengers  started to harass them physically.

Keep reading and see the video at RawStory

Thanks for the massacre help, big guy! 4 quotes thanking god for killing ‘Indians’

29 Nov
via wikipedia

via wikipedia

Happy Thanksgiving! You probably know that many myths about the holiday still persist. And you probably have Thanksgiving romanticizes, to put it lightly, the history of the United States and the relationship between European and indigenous people.

Throughout history, European settlers have thanked god for help killing off indigenous populations. Because I would literally be here until the next Thanksgiving if I tried to compile all the “thanks for the extermination back up, God” quotes, I’m going to focus on the way a particular massacre inspired gratitude and thanksgiving celebration among the British.

The Mystic Massacre was part of the Pequot War (1637 and 1638), which took place between Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut and Plymouth colonies against the Pequot tribe. The Europeans (Surprise! Surprise!) took advantage of tensions among the different tribes and convinced the Naragansett and Monhegan tribes to join them. On June 5, 1637, the English, supported by the  Naragansett and Monhegan, surrounded the fortified village of Mystic, burned it to the ground and killed between 400-700 Pequots. As you will see below, this massacre really added to the celebration of Thanksgiving that year.

Continue reading at RawStory

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