All posts by Laurie Fendrich


Blind Man’s Bluff in China

In this image made from video, blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng is seen on a video posted to YouTube Friday, April 27, 2012 by overseas Chinese news site (Credit: AP Photo/ Click on image to get to CBS News story.

Like many Americans, I know very little about China. As a casual outside observer, however, I’ve picked up a few things that have molded my views—reading Pearl S. Buck as a young girl, studying a little Chinese history in college (including reading Mao’s Littl…


Female Friendship

(Photo by Flickr/CC user eflon)

Merging commonsensical prose, sardonic wit and a broad knowledge of science, Natalie Angier writes smart, delightful essays about science. Like Brainstorm’s David Barash, she likes to connect the dots between animal and human behavior. In a recent column in The New York Times, “The Spirit of Sisterhood Is in the Air and on the Air,” Angier argues that when it comes to sisterly camaraderie, the young women on HBO’s new hit series Girls behave, in essentials, exactl…


Searching for Justice in Soho

Right now, a few blocks north of where I live, the New York City police and members of the FBI are methodically digging up the basement of a Soho building, hoping to find the remains of Etan Patz, a six-year-old boy who disappeared 33 years ago while walking the two blocks from his home to his school bus stop. It’s odd to think that if Etan hadn’t disappeared, he’d now be a middle-aged man.

The disappearance of this little boy precipitated the missing children’s movement. Etan’s was the firs…


America, Land of the Fat

Photo by Flickr/CC user LauraLewis23, who writes: "This photograph comes from my AS exam unit in photography. It looks at the way things people say or specific words can stick with you and mentally impact you in the long term. I look at how a word as simple as ‘fat’ can stick with somebody and provoke a hatred for themselves."

I see we’re heading into another angst-fest over how fat Americans have become. It was about a year ago that I blogged on the breaking news that America was first in the w…


Working Mothers

(Photo by Flickr/CC user Peter Baker)

There are times when the valiant efforts of Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem all seem to have been for naught. When “Democratic strategist” Hilary Rosen (who’s associated with no one’s campaign) remarked on CNN that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life,” she set off a storm of indignant responses. Everyone fell all over themselves to affirm that stay-at-home mothers know what it is to work. A chastened Hilary Rosen walked back …


The Other 1 Percent

You want beauty? Then you want Rita, not elementary school girls in minis. Please.

On Saturday, a friend who lives in upstate New York invited me to come along with her to an annual “county pageant” at a local resort hotel. As soon as I arrived, I saw that even though the word “beauty” wasn’t anywhere in sight—neither on the banner, nor on any of the brochures—the county pageant quacked a lot like the duck commonly called a “beauty pageant.”

The pageant I attended was in an enormous, dimly lit, …


Picasso Was a Genius. No, Really. He Was.

"Head of a Bull," 1942, Musée Picasso, Paris

Yesterday, as one of 14 professors teaching in a Hofstra team-taught Honors College course with over 200 first-year students, I delivered a lecture on Picasso. Easy, right? An artist who teaches and writes about art lecturing on Picasso? No, not right. Hard. This lecture had me holed up in a corner for two weeks. The stack of Picasso books next to my laptop grew tall, and I spent hours poring over images of Picasso’s work on such web sites as ArtSto…


Hilton Kramer

A lot of artists I know considered the art critic Hilton Kramer, who died today at the age of 84, too reactionary to be taken seriously. Kramer, who was chief art critic at The New York Times from 1976-1982, was also the founding editor of The New Criterion (which he started with the late Samuel Lipman). In addition, he was the art critic for the New York Observer (from 1987 to 2006), along with the New York Post (from 1993-1997). He was a major conservative player in the culture wars, attacking…


I Heart Obamacare

[CAUTION: The contents of this post may be offensive to conservatives.]

Today the Supreme Court begins hearing arguments over the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act—a formal piece of legislation that, from the start, Republicans have disparagingly referred to as “Obamacare.” It will be a sorry day if the Court strikes down the legislation.

Should the legislation stand, Republicans may rue the day they decided to cleverly malign this bold piece of legislation. They should keep in…


Here’s Looking at Me, Kid

That women are more vain than men seems obvious, at first glance. Take the vast amount of retail space and the enormous sums of money devoted to the shopping and primping needs of women, compared to those of men. Think about all the women who, daily, paint their faces before they go out in public. Or consider how many women happily drop a couple of hundred bucks on a new hair color, or willingly hobble around in a painful pair of super-high, spiked-heeled shoes, just for the sake of appearance. …


All About Eve

Expulsion of Adam and Even from Paradise, Brancacci Chapel, Florence, Italy

One of the overarching narratives of Western culture is the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. Although religious leaders and scholars revere the tale, it remains for women, a curse. Some people try to put a positive spin on the story of how Eve got herself and Adam expelled from the Garden of Eden by comparing her with Prometheus, in his longing for power. Yet it’s awfully hard not to see Eve as worse than …


Animal House

While I’ve been mucking around in the trenches writing about battles over birth control, insurance coverage and the poesy of Rush Limbaugh, David Barash has been having a jolly good time of it going on—for six fascinating posts—about the female orgasm. All this talk about sex and sexual selection is prompting me to ask all sorts of questions about sex and women I haven’t thought about in a long time. Rather than let David be the only one to have fun, I’ll sit myself down at the sex rou…


Rush Wants to Watch

Rush Limbaugh must be having one hell of a jolly time what with all the attention he’s garnered by calling Sandra Fluke—the young Georgetown University law student who spoke out publicly in favor of women having access to contraception through school or employment insurance plans (something currently denied them at places such as Georgetown)—a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Concentrate for a moment on what Mr. Limbaugh revealed about himself when he also said:

[I]f we’re going to pay for your contra…


On Not Seeing Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman. Untitled #466. 2008. Chromogenic color print, 8' 1 1/8 x 63 15/16" (246.7 x 162.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Robert B. Menschel in honor of Jerry I. Speyer. © 2011 Cindy Sherman

A calm sense of freedom overtakes mature artists—artists over the hump of their budding years. When I was a young artist trying to find my footing, I floated around in the art world the way a whale sucks in plankton while it moves through the ocean. I went…


The Vagina Dialogues

Talk about the vagina was all the rage this past week in the Republican-controlled Virginia legislature. With the backing of their Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, Virginia lawmakers put forth a bill requiring women seeking an abortion, even in the earliest stages of a pregnancy, first undergo an ultrasound. To all but those who enjoy sophistry, the intent of the backers of the bill was clearly to set up obstacles for women seeking what are, under current law, perfectly legal abortions.

Yet i…


Is President Obama a True Pagan?

Early yesterday, I had the privilege of interviewing High Priest Freddy Graham, brother of the Reverend Franklin Graham, ostracized son of the Reverend Billy Graham, and CEO of the Priest Freddy Graham Pagan Association. (To watch our interview in video format, go here.)

Priest Freddy started the interview off with the bold claim that he suspected President Obama might not be a true Pagan. “We Pagans are pretty darn good at sussing out whether people are true Pagans or not,” he told me, addi…


Harvard Grad Succeeds!

PHOTO AT CBSNEWS.COM–CLICK TO GO TO CBS NEWS PAGE. New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin celebrates his game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. The Knicks won 90-87. (AP Photo/Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

You’re right, I don’t know much about basketball. Even so, I’m caught up in “Linsanity”—infatuation with the story of Jeremy Lin, the super-great Knicks point guard who’s the first Chines…


Catholic Bishops, Natural Law, and Natural Rights

A couple of days after I wrote a post on the HHS ruling concerning birth control, health insurance, and religious-affiliated institutions, and the outrage by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and others that followed, President Obama offered a compromise. The Catholic Health Association of the United States approved the President’s new plan, saying, “the framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed.” Not so the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bish…


Back to Barefoot and Pregnant

Say I am a female Protestant employee hired by a Catholic institution that accepts federal funds (I’m not talking about working directly in a house of worship—I’m imagining a Catholic hospital or university). This institution has advertised for a job, interviewed me, found out I’m Protestant and am not about to convert to Catholicism, and decided they want me anyway. I have the talents they need, so they go ahead and hire me.

As part of my employment at this Catholic institution, I am offered he…


A Pink Rethink

Early this morning, I posted my thoughts on why the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation’s decision to cut most of its funding to Planned Parenthood was a sad thing for women. The cancer fund-raising charity has now apologized and retracted its decision. Planned Parenthood is again eligible for (although I must note, not in any way guaranteed) grant money from Komen.

Nancy Brinker, Komen’s chief executive, posted the following statement on the cancer foundation’s Web site: “We want to apolog…