Update 08/29/2012 11:00 PM: Today a federal judge blocked same-sex classes at the Van Devender middle school in West Virginia for the 2012-13 school year. The ACLU's lawsuit (filed on behalf of one of the school's families), however, will continue to move forward, and the court's ruling doesn't put a permanent end to the program. The court found that the sex-based program at Van Devender violated federal law by not being completely voluntary. It also noted that "certain gender-based teaching techniques based on stereotypes and lacking any scientific basis may very well be harmful to students." Van Devender middle school must return to coeducation on Monday.
At the Van Devender middle school in Wood County, West Virginia, girls and boys learn in separate classrooms. The girls' rooms are lit with dimmer light than those of the boys. They are also kept at warmer temperatures. Girls must sit still, at shared desks. Boys get individual desks and are allowed to move around, sit on beanbag chairs, even lie on the floor. If girls fidget, they're sent to the boys' classroom—where they can't participate in the lessons, and must instead sit facing the wall. The school motto: "Van Devender Middle School: Where Gender Matters."
The school claims that its sex-segregated classrooms are a scientifically proven way to boost academic performance. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, not only are they not scientific, they're illegal. Last week, the organization filed a federalsuit (PDF) against the Van Devender school, alleging that its single-sex classrooms violate Title IX, as well as the 14thAmendment's equal protection clause. (Not to mention that they diminish the quality of students' education.)
The case is led by ACLU cooperating attorney Amy Katz, who's got her own spin on the school's motto. "[Kids] are getting the message that the single most important thing in this place is whether you're a boy or a girl," she says. "I like to say, 'Van Devender: Where Gender Matters, more than anything else.'" At a court hearing yesterday, the ACLU's request for a restraining order to prevent the school from splitting sexes when classes start this Thursday was denied—so Van Devender will enter the school year with its single-sex program intact. (The program can still get cut off down the line; the ACLU has another hearing on the case next week.)
The Van Devender suit is one of several that have cropped up against school districts mandating gender-differentiated education. Late last year, the ACLU shut down single-sex ed in the Vermilion Parish school district in Louisiana; it also unsuccessfully sued a sex-segregated school in Kentucky. More cases are likely. Since the Department of Education eased federal restrictions for single-sex programs in 2006, hundreds have materialized around the country. ACLU offices in Alabama, Florida, Maine, Mississippi, Virginia, and West Virginia have sent cease-and-desist letters to school districts, warning them that their single-sex programs may be illegal.
BP may not be top-notch at preventing huge, toxic oil spills, but the companyis certainly PR-savvy.
In this spring's run-up to the Olympic games, London 2012 organizers announced that BP would be a main sponsor of the event—specifically, a "Sustainability Partner" helping to create the "greenest Games ever." The enviro community balked at the move, launching campaigns, circulating videos, and pranking high-profile orgs to underscore the irony. But to little avail, it seems: Despite the controversy, a survey published this week shows that the oil and gas giant's Olympic ads seem to be rekindling the public's BP love.
Of all the main Olympic sponsors, BP went into the games dead last in brand perception ratings—in fact, it was the only company with a rating in the negative numbers, according to the survey from YouGov BrandIndex. Now, with ads on billboards and television (see below), BP has catapulted from a -5.9 perception rating to a 2.6, a massive jump rivaled only by Visa. And that's among the US population specifically, since all of YouGov's survey respondents were US adults:YouGov G BrandIndex
Part of BP's massive Olympic ad effort is "BP Team USA," a group of nine US Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls serving as the brand's athlete ambassadors. Two of the team's members—track and fielder Sanya Richards-Ross and swimmer Rebecca Soni—have already brought in three gold medals and a silver, likely further boosting the hunky-dory US attitudes towards BP at the games.
Also notable: A couple of those BP Team USA ads are grouped on its YouTube channel under thetitle "Overcoming Setbacks." An admirable athletic sentiment, sure, but an ironic one when employed by a company that's using these ads—and the athletes in them—to fix its own "setbacks."
It might seem a bit out of character for Lidia Yuknavitch to find inspiration in a kiddie cartoon. Best known for her 2011 memoir, The Chronology of Water, the 49-year-old author and English professor is revered for her raw, revelatory approach to tough themes—sex, desire, addiction, and abuse. She's been featured in sex writing anthologies, kicked it with badass writers (Ken Kesey, Kathy Acker, and Cheryl Strayed, to name a few) and even pole-danced (recreationally). Yet some years ago, while watching Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer with her toddler, it was in this innocent, animated character that Yuknavitch found the key to a book idea she'd been incubating for decades.
Back in college, Yuknavitch and her classmates were asked to read Sigmund Freud's 1905 case study of "Dora." The report follows an 18-year-old girl in 19th century Vienna. She's romantically inclined towards both men and women. She's been fending off sexual advances from a family friend for years—and manifests the trauma through spates of muteness and coughing fits. The famed shrink deems Dora "neurotic" and "hysterical." "It just blew my mind that not everyone in the room was filled with rage reading this," Yuknavitch remembers. The advent of cartoon Dora, who is Latina, "was total destiny!" she adds. "She was both a really popular cartoon in mainstream America—and an outsider figure at the same time." In other words—a Dora whose differences don't make her any less socially acceptable.
With July 4th approaching, perhaps you're planning for the cornerstone of patriotic party-making: the barbeque. An Americana standard, this is the sacred time when friends and family gather round the grill. Dad flips burgers, and Mom, well, she sets out the lemonade or fusses over the napkins or something.
Well ladies, behold the post-feminist era's gift to you: Now you can turn the tables on your unsuspecting spouse/lover/friend/dad with "Girl Grill Power!" a guide to help ladies navigate the open pit, presented by "The Other White Meat" campaign.
Pork Information Bureau
According to the Pork Information Bureau, here's what you need to know to become a lady-grillmaster:
1) Confused? Just pretend your grill is a man you're trying to romance.
This pamphlet is your staple "little black dress" to ensure you look good on your "first date with the grate." Just "work it," and your first hangout with Mr. Char-Broil will be a smashing success!
2) Grilling meat will make you "one hot mamma."
And another thing that will make you the most fetching of grill-ladies? Absolutely no risk-taking at all when it comes to your homecooking. Heaven forbid you should gamble on your family's taste buds! Just make "certain they're satisfied," and you'll "light up the night."
3) You'll probably better understand how to prepare meat for the grill if the directions are couched in a sexual metaphor.
The Pork Information Bureau recommends that, when prepping your grub, you "rub it right" with the "Spicy Girl's Dry Rub," which you can use a little or a lot of, "depending on your mood." Really?
4) But don't forget about gender equity!
Wouldn't want to make your man feel like you're treading his territory, i.e. "the grilling throne". And of course your partner is a man, because meat grilling is something only heterosexual couples do.
5) Everything should be perfect. Always and forever.
If your table is absolutely flawless, all your female friends will be double-floored by your gender-bending grill antics.
6) Grilling is empowerment!
Yeah, enough with the booze already. Think of the calories! And speaking of: You might not know what "loin" means—tough word, I know—but just be sure it's on your meat label. That means it's healthy! And another vocab tip: "Loin" is two words. No, really:
In 1957, New Yorker staffer E.B. White hired 19-year-old Janet Groth, a doe-eyed Midwesterner, as the magazine's receptionist. For 21 years, Groth was gatekeeper to the literati hub, rubbing elbows with J.D. Salinger, Calvin Trillin, and Jamaica Kincaid while dreaming of publishing her own stuff. In the Mad Men-esque meantime, she marshaled staffers' wives and their philandering husbands, minded kids and empty houses, and sorted rejected cartoons. For all its intrigue, her graceful memoir aptly portrays the lot of the aspiring writer: self-loathing, loneliness, and a desperate desire to inhabit the literary world.