1992 Iowa and the rebirth of feminism

1992 Iowa and the rebirth of feminism

Gazette Column
Some may view it as a setback, but I think renewed interest in the word feminism is women (and men) finally deciding for themselves. Each year, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary selects one word that received increased attention and interest throughout the year, naming it as the “Word of the Year.” Not surprisingly, given the current state of our union, the word for 2017 is “feminism.” The word was one of the top lookups throughout the year, increasing by 70 percent from 2016. “The general rise in lookups tells us that many people are interested in this word; specific spikes give us insight into some of the reasons why,” Merriam-Webster explains on its website. It began with the Women’s March last January, and continues amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault. That has…
Read More
This year of uppity women

This year of uppity women

Gazette Column
Survivors of sexual harassment and assault didn’t need a magazine cover story to justify or validate ongoing cultural shifts. Blunt and comprehensive cover stories are for the naysayers, “witch hunt” proclaimers, perpetrators and apologists who mistakenly believe this movement toward a more equal society is either overblown or will soon run its course. “This is just the start. I’ve been saying from the beginning it’s not a moment, it’s a movement. Now the work really begins,” Tarana Burke, mother of the #MeToo movement, told Time magazine. The publication named as its persons of the year “The Silence Breakers” — those who could no longer stomach merely whispering about serial perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault. These women and the millions more they represent don’t need a cover story to understand the depth and…
Read More
Newtown was nearly five years ago

Newtown was nearly five years ago

Gazette Column
At times, the juxtaposition of information makes it all the more poignant. In December five years ago I wasn’t employed by The Gazette, but by another local company that had a large on-site corporate cafeteria, complete with large screen televisions. I was sitting in that cafeteria as co-workers put the finishing touches on an upcoming holiday celebration. Each year the company invited employees to bring their children into the facility, where Santa presented each one with a personalized gift. That day, the children’s gifts had all been wrapped and tagged and a final count was underway. One worker read the children’s’ names from a list while others searched out the gift and, once found, placed it in a different pile. The name was checked off the list to ensure no…
Read More
Fort Madison prison advocates pray for public reprieve

Fort Madison prison advocates pray for public reprieve

Featured, Gazette Column
1839 prison could be breakout attraction, economic draw Driving by the original Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, I always wondered if the offenders housed within were tormented by happy sounds emanating from the miniature golf and ice cream stand located just outside its sandstone walls. This past weekend, I found out. Nothing from the outside penetrates the razor wire and thick rocks that jut several feet skyward, surrounding the buildings and yard. A blessing? A curse? I honestly can’t say. The facility, established nearly a decade before Iowa became a state, has been effectively shuttered since Aug. 1, 2015, when more than 500 offenders were bused to the state’s new Iowa State Penitentiary, built a little more than a mile away on a site that once housed a prison…
Read More
Concert Across America remembers victims of gun violence

Concert Across America remembers victims of gun violence

Gazette Column
A national coalition of gun violence prevention artists, activists and organizations are coming together for a second annual Concert Across America. Iowa voices will rise up as part of organized events Sunday, but readers can sing out now. Last year, more than 5,200 artists performed at 350 events across 43 states to call for universal background checks and stronger laws in every state to reduce gun violence. As I write this column, more than 180 concerts across 40 states had been announced for 2017 — including the Iowa communities of Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Clinton. The events are planned for Sept. 24 because Congress designated the day for remembering murder victims. For this year’s series of events, national organizers hope individuals and groups from coast-to-coast also will take part in a world…
Read More
Parenting a freethinker made easier

Parenting a freethinker made easier

Gazette Column
Two decades ago, as our family reeled from a full-term stillbirth, I grappled with ways to help our then 6-year-old daughter work through the grief of losing an infant brother. I searched for resources to offer reassurance and comfort, but there were scant few on the topic of death. And none I could find on stillbirth. So, we muddled forward with our own words. Was I saying the right things? Were there “right things” to be said? About a decade later, when a different daughter’s best friend died unexpectedly, I was given a book, “Parenting Beyond Belief,” edited by Dale McGowan. Suddenly I had a compass to help guide my child through grief, and advice on many other thorny topics. McGowan later co-authored a practical, companion book and, this past year,…
Read More
Donald Trump puts the ‘bully’ in bully pulpit

Donald Trump puts the ‘bully’ in bully pulpit

Gazette Column
The Trump administration has rescinded Obama-era guidance for public schools that promoted use of bathrooms based on student gender identity. In a joint letter, officials within the justice and education departments rejected the previous administration’s position that non-discrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. Under Title IX, schools that receive federal funding are not allowed to discriminate against students on the basis of sex. Obama justice and education departments, as well as numerous civil rights watchdogs, said long-standing Title IX protections encompassed gender identity. [caption id="attachment_497" align="alignleft" width="300"] A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)[/caption] And while the…
Read More
Video: Conversations from the Iowa Women’s March

Video: Conversations from the Iowa Women’s March

Featured, Gazette Blog
DES MOINES — Thousands of Iowans gathered at the State Capitol last weekend as part of the Women’s March, a movement that began as post on social media and grew into an international force. [caption id="attachment_401" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Participants in the Iowa Women's March gather on the steps of the State Capitol in Des Moines in January 21, 2017. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] [caption id="attachment_402" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Thousands of Iowans filled the sidewalks and streets surrounding the State Capitol in Des Moines in January 21, 2017. It's estimated more than 25,000 people participated in the Iowa Women's March. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] In this video, a few of those Iowans explain why they needed or wanted to be part of the demonstration. This is why they marched. This blog post and video…
Read More
Under the watchful eye of the ‘misfits’

Under the watchful eye of the ‘misfits’

Gazette Column
Replicas of the residents of the mythical Island of the Misfit Toys have graced a windowsill my home office for more than a decade. This year I feel especially aware of what they represent. I discovered the tiny statues shortly after moving to Iowa, shortly after I admitted to myself that I’d never felt more out of sync with the world around me. Readers who aren’t familiar with the Misfit Toys should click over to YouTube and search for clips from the 1964 stop motion holiday classic “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Since the hourlong special has been replayed during the holiday season each year since that time (with one major change, which we’ll get to in a minute), the film could very well be on your television this Christmas Day.…
Read More
Wishing for less fear, more words

Wishing for less fear, more words

Gazette Column
Before your turkey leftovers can be turned into sandwiches and soup, the war of words begins. The cashier that wishes you a hearty “Happy holidays!” is a front-line soldier, as much in need of a fox hole as the bell ringer shouting “merry Christmas!” The supposed War on Christmas is the center of the dispute, forcing acquaintances to decide what, if anything, is appropriate to say. By wishing neighbors a happy holiday, we’re removing Christ from the celebration. By inserting Christmas, we’re making a religious assumption. [caption id="attachment_344" align="alignleft" width="640"] A poinsettia flower decorates a table. (Crystal LoGiudice/The Gazette)[/caption] What I’ve noticed this year — and maybe you’ve noticed it too — is that fewer people seem willing to cross the battleground. Instead of warm wishes, however contrived, people in…
Read More