The Amazon vs. Chevron – An indigenous plea and a toxic legacy

Priscilla Queen of the Dessert, the bio-diesel bus, is whizzing down the freeway in the drizzle. About 20 activists in sopping fleece jackets sit inside on lumpy cushion seats that have probably carried protesters since the late 1960s. It’s about 7:30 a.m. and they sip coffee, pass around dried mango slices and sign over-sized cardboard petitions that, in a few hours, will hit the desks of Chevron’s top executives. Emergildo Criolo, who sits shoulder-to-shoulder with activists from Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch, has been up for three hours.

Criolo is an indigenous man visiting California from Ecuador’s rainforest. He woke early to dress in his tradional Cofan garb and to paint his face with customary red markings. Then he sat and thought about his responsibility representing four Amazonian tribes. “I wanted to think about what we were going to do and make sure I was in the right head space,” Criollo says through a translator. He says oil drilling in Ecuador’s rainforest from 1964 to 1992 killed two of his sons and nearly took his wife.

Partnered with an Ecuadorean oil company called Petraecuador, Texaco left 17 million gallons of crude oil spills, 917 unlined crude pits and dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic waste, according to ChevronToxico, an environmental campaign for justice in Ecuador. Over the years, Texaco and Petraecuador produced about 1.7 billion barrels of oil. When Chevron bought Texaco in 2001, the company inherited the burden of tens of thousands of Ecuadorians claiming their water supplies are poisoned and more than 1,400 of their people dead because of the oil mess.
Today Criollo is going to the home of Chevron’s new CEO John Watson to deliver a petition with over 325,000 signatures of people from 150 countries urging Chevron to clean up the oil giant’s toxic legacy. John Watson took over the position at the beginning of this year. As part of his new job, Watson must also deal with the largest environmental lawsuit in the company’s history. Thirty-five thousand Ecuadorans filed a $27.3 billion lawsuit against Chevron, but the oil company begrudgingly disputes this as a corrupt figure. Chevron recently produced information showing that, “the author of a report recommending that Chevron be ordered to pay $27 billion in damages is the majority owner of an oilfield remediation company that stands to gain financially from a judgment against Chevron.”
“It’s been 16 years of legal process,” Criollo told San Francisco Chronicle. “People are still dying. They’re sick. So we’re really hoping this new CEO takes a new position.”
Criollo exits the bus in Lafayette, CA and makes his way to the intersection of Deer Hill and Happy Valley Roads for a photo opportunity. A videographer from Rainforest Action Network and members of the press photograph a stoic yet unassuming Criollo as he stands in a cotton shirt and pants at the signpost in the light rain. The documentation is important so that Criollo’s people can witness his actions, one activist explains. But, critics argue these types of “camera-friendly” events are more stage shows than substance.

A swarm of activists and the press follow Criollo as he walks for about a mile over the wet road to deliver his message to Watson’s home. He rings the intercom doorbell at the CEO’s front gate. He stands for 15 minutes at the front gate, telling the intercom system of the havoc Chevron wrecked on his home.

To little surprise, Watson doesn’t invite Criollo in for a cup of coffee. By the time Criollo leaves a few voice messages, two cop cars speed onto Watson’s property and politely tell the group to leave.

Criollo was six years old when Texaco came to Ecuador. “They arrived in these big helicopters that looked like big birds,” he says. “We hid because we didn’t know what they were.” About three months later, young Criollo remembers walking into a Texaco worker’s camp while selling jewelry. He greeted the American senior oil executives and the oil drillers. They responded by lifting the flap of the traditional wrapping he wore around his waist in order to check his gender. From then on, Criollo gave up dressing in the customary garment and started wearing pants. This was his first encounter with the oil giants.

It’s approaching 10:00 a.m. and Priscilla is loaded up again and driving the few miles to Chevron’s headquarters in San Ramon, CA. Han Shan of Amazon Watch says he’s proud of the people on the bus. “I’m inspired by people like Emergildo and those from Ecuador’s rainforest who’ve sounded the alarm to ask for solidarity from us,” he says.
“We’re trying to build a grassroots movement of support for something that ultimately rippled out of California,” Shan says of America’s responsibility in outsourcing oil drilling. “We need to take responsibility for this California company.”
By quarter after ten, everyone’s lining up in Priscilla’s center aisle to exit the bus. Armed with a loud speaker and big colorful photographs of Ecuadorans impacted in their oil-saturated rainforest, the activists are ready to take on Chevron.
Criollo, his interpreter Mario Ramos and Mitch Anderson from Amazon Watch are the last to get off the bus and they make their way to Chevron’s entry kiosk. Chevron has been expecting the group. Through the glass, the security guards are busy making phone calls and lots of exaggerated gesticulation.
Only Criollo and the two others are allowed into the headquarters’ main building to talk with top officials. Security keeps everyone else outside. Meanwhile, the activists form a semi-circle on a grassy patch in front of the headquarters’ entrance. They make cell phone calls to the executives inside, read off the names of petition signers and impacted Ecuadorean. Several belt their manifestos into the loudspeaker as passing cars honk in support.

Later, after returning from the trip inside, Mitch Anderson describes the Chevron executives’ “disingenuous” empathy during the meeting. After Criollo told his story, Anderson says Chevron said his problem was with Petroecuador and that Chevron had already cleaned up its portion of the mess “They won’t say Texaco did a bad job in Ecuador. Texaco was supposed to clean 40 percent of the spill because they owned 40 percent of the drilling operation. But they did a remedial job of covering oil with dirt.”
Chevron didn’t respond to several requests for comment, but here is the section of their site that addresses their role in Ecuador and here is a video on Chevron’s YouTube channel indicating a $3 million bribery scheme implicating the judge ruling over the lawsuit in Ecuador.
Summing up Chevron’s ethics and litigation strategy about the $27 billion environmental lawsuit, last May Chevron spokesman Donald Campbell told reporter John Otis that, if Chevron loses, they would appeal. “We’re going to fight this until hell freezes over,” he said. “And then we’ll fight it out on the ice.”

The lawsuit is playing out in an Ecuadoran court in Lago Agrio and the judge is expected to have a ruling by the end of the year.

Hummer's fate as a Chinese Humdinger

Each day this week seemed to bring news about the fate of Hummer, America’s polluting elephant in the room. Early in the week it seemed that an obscure Chinese machinery company called Sichuan Tengzhong would buy the General Motors marque for $150 million.

But as it turned out, Tengzhong couldn’t get its act together. Chinese banks withdrew lending offers and American banks are weary of becoming involved. Tengzhong even tried to go through a subsidiary outside China to buy Hummer, according to Chinese media.“The deal is on the ropes, if it’s not on the canvas yet,” Michael Dunne, the president of a Hong Kong auto consulting firm told The New York Times.Hummer-H2-rear

Also, the Chinese government didn’t approve regulation for the deal. Why, you might ask? The New York Times reports, that it’s in large part because “senior Chinese officials are trying to put a new emphasis on limiting China’s dependence on imported oil and protecting the environment.”

And to think that in the early days of the Iraqi war, the Hummer epitomized pro-America. Now that sustainability is on our radar, it would seem that things have changed. Now everyone wants in on a piece of the sustainability pie.

As of Wednesday, the bid is off. Hummer could be destined for the junkyard. A New York Times editorial said, “We suspect the deal collapsed because the Chinese Communist Party — which rarely shows much shame — is worried about China’s image as the most polluting nation on the planet.”
GM said it would shut down Hummer after the Tengzhong’s bid collapsed.

Then on Thursday, Hummer had a come-back when news broke that GM contacted four Chinese companies to gauge interest in the brawny military-derived SUV.

It’s unlikely a Chinese firm will buy the entire unit, analysts said, but the firms may only be interested in buying parts of Hummer’s assets (i.e. tooling and equipment at Hummer’s Louisiana factory.)

In response to GM’s announcement, Detroit Free Press joshed that “flags across oil-rich Saudi Arabia were lowered to half-mast while the entire Exxon/Mobil board of directors were seen at a group grief counseling session. On Wall Street, oil speculators were jumping from windows while in Michigan, some people were mourning the possibility of a world without Hummers.”

Photo: All Right Released.

Biological Clocks Keep on Ticking, What’s a Girl To Do?

photo credit: Flickr's batcavernaTick-tock, tick-tock. Listen carefully, ladies. That’s the sound of our quickening biological clocks telling us that we’ll lose around 90 percent of our eggs by age 30. As it turns out, we can’t dilly-dally around baby-making for as long as we thought.

Right when we’re starting to get a handle on juggling life/work balance, yet another study pummels us with conflicting messages about what we should be doing? We’ve forged through three waves of feminist politics for equal access to equal opportunities and it would be a pity to get this far to be outfoxed by something as trivial as “fertility.” Dammit, I WANT TO DO IT ALL, and why shouldn’t I?

But, before a foot-stomping temper-tantrum takes the best of me, let’s step back a moment.

As it turns out, that remaining ten percent (around 30,000) of viable eggs, are sufficient for making a baby. You might have to kiss good-bye that quaint notion of relying on good, ol’-fashioned fertility, and instead concoct your bundle of joy in a petri-dish. But, why not? Modern medicine has given people new knees, unclogged their hearts, and done wonders for erectile dysfunction. In most respects, we’ve kissed goodbye the notion of au-naturel to accept a happy medium between nature’s path and science’s convenience. Infertility technology is one way to achieve the ultimate goal: A healthy child.

Women are waiting longer to have children. More precisely, we’re waiting until around age 26.5, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. This is nearly six years later than in 1970.

Society has certainly changed. But reproductive endocrinologist Robert Stillman told The Washington Post, “ovaries will take another million years or two to catch up to that.”

But since high-powered women don’t exactly want to wait another million years for mother nature to catch on, we’re left with what Carolyn Butler from The Washington Post describes as “balancing the personal, primal urge to partner up and procreate with worthwhile social goals such as pursuing higher education and a successful career — not to mention economic stability.”

Do you think women should push our ears to the ground and listen to mother nature’s fertility message or freeze youthful eggs and get back to the board meeting?

image credit of Parent Map Magazine, May 2007

The 39/19/33 Computer Scientist: Barbie Gets a New Job

In case you didn’t hear, Barbie’s into roll play.

Admittedly, I was that sexually curious little kid who stripped my dolls of their clothes to pretend they were doing the nasty; in all seriousness, Barbie gets around. But not in the way you might think.

Mattel’s darling blonde bombshell just switched jobs for the 125th time in fifty years. She’s been every thing from a police officer to an aerobics instructor and now…(cue drum roll)… she will be a news anchor and, this is the best one: a computer scientist!

She really does it all, doesn’t she? And, all the while, looking so good.

The “dismantle the patriarchy” angel on my shoulder just whispered something to me about how I should actually feel sorry for Barbie. Supposedly she suffers from “super woman” syndrome, a cultural backlash that infects women with an urge to be everything to everyone and leave no time for themselves? Whatever that means.

But the corporate folks at Mattel claims the “I Can Be…” Barbie serves a purpose to girls as they grow. “Role play becomes real play,” the PR dude says. “ They’re able to experience this amazing world of possibility and imagination, all without leaving home!” To be fair, in her days as an astronaut Barbie landed on the moon four years before any man walked its surface. In the 1980s, she broke the “plastic ceiling” when she took to the boardroom as “Day to Night” CEO Barbie. She even ran for president before Hillary Clinton—the ultimate Super Woman—ever made it onto the ballot. Co-option-much? No! Never.

All this on-the-job experience has made Barbie an excellent networker. To celebrate her 125th career this year, she’s launched a global campaign to inspire girls by partnering with The White House Project and Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Foundation. The taking kids to work thing makes sense, but what is The White House Project? That could be anything…

As it turns out, The White House Project is working to ignite a national movement to encourage the next generation of female leaders. Okay, okay. I can go with that. But then we get to this: the project’s mission is “add women, change everything.”

Has the “add under-represented groups and stir” approach ever worked? I guess it’s up to Barbie to decide. She seems to be calling all the shots around here these days.

Commercial Culture Wars

You might want to schedule your beer refills and bathroom breaks during the actual game this year because word on the street is Super Bowl commercials will be as juicy as ever this time around.

As it turns out, more people tune in for Super Bowl ads than for the actual football game (51 percent compared to 49 percent), according to a Nielsen Co. survey from last month.

The coveted 39-second commercial slots go for as much as $2.8 million, down from $3 million last year. CBS had companies vying for the 45 minutes of ad space, but the network has the last say on what gets in.

It’s pretty clear why an ad of a man running over a woman for a bag of Doritos chips didn’t make the cut, but why not a commercial for a gay dating site that shows man-on-man action? A little out there for football watchers, perhaps.

The most controversial ad centers around a certain A-word that shall not be named. (okay, I give in… “a-bor-tion.”)

The incensing ad supposedly features Florida Quarterback Tim Tebow’s mother Pam talking about how, while pregnant with Tim, doctors advised her to abort the fetus because of expected fetal damages. Pam ignored the warnings and had the baby that would grow up to be a professional football player.

One point for the pro-life side.

But, wait, before you flip the score card…this just in: While pregnant, Mrs. Tebow was living in the Philippines where abortion is illegal. Will the commercial admit the fact that abortion wasn’t technically an option for Mrs. Tebow?

Women’s rights advocate and attorney Gloria Allred said the Focus on the Family advocacy ad would be misleading if it didn’t include all the details of the story.

And president of Women’s Media Center Jehmu Greene quipped on Fox News that “This is clearly a thinly veiled attempts to undermine a woman’s right to make reproductive rights.”

Planned Parenthood retaliated with an ad that references the Tebow commercial with former Viking Sean James and Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner saying they “respect and honor” Mrs. Tebow’s choice and that only women can make the best decisions about their health and their futures. “We’re working towards the day when every woman’s decision about her health and her family will be respected […] We celebrate our families by trusting women.”

One point for the pro-lifers.

But, before we get ahead of ourselves, how about a reality check?

No one has seen the ad yet. Focus on the Family hasn’t even released the script to anyone but CBS, who contradicting a longstanding policy to not run advocacy ads, approved the segment.

Planned Parenthood hasn’t bought any commercial time to air their public service announcement and a spokesperson for the organization said it felt their money was better spent on its health centers.

Though CBS plans to run the Tebow ad, the network nixed one for the Internet domain service The company’s “Lola” ad racked up nearly 190,000 views on YouTube. It features a flamboyant football retire turned lingerie tycoon frolicking around with undressed women, pursing his lips at all the right moments.

And an ad by a gay-dating site that depicts two male sports fans cheering—and kissing—after a touchdown also won’t appear during the Super Bowl. Despite over 540,000 YouTube views, CBS rejected the ManCrunch commercial.

Doritos is better off not running this ad. Running people over in your car to get a bag of chips isn’t funny.

But CBC may have had its head up its ass on this one. This KGB directory assistance ad is funny, right?

Who's Drawing the Lines?

Last time I checked, a room full of white men is not an accurate representation of California’s demographic.

That’s why as California gears up to redraw its legislative boundaries to reflect new census data from 2010, the state is creating an independent and “depoliticized”  redistricting committee of 14 people that will supposedly mirror the real California. As the golden state continues to sputter in political gridlock, redistricting is beginning to catch on as an important issue. This is especially true in the wake of accusations that California legislatures have used boundaries as political tools or “incumbent protection plans.” California’s move to draw new lines could very well reflect a national trend. But before a collective pat on the back is in order for this political innovation, let’s dig into the can of worms we’re about to open up.

Think folks from all walks of life are lining up to be on this committee? Not so much.

Michael Krasny from NPR’s Forum pointed out the general perception that this redistricting work is arcane, boring, dull, and overall, not too sexy. We’re not seeing people quite as eager to jump on the civic engagement bandwagon like they were in 2008 when Obama called for grassroots campaigners, especially when this redevelopment work has traditionally been done by white men at the state capitol. Go figure.

But the state is trying its darndest to bring in 14 men and women who actually represent the diversity of California by the Feb. 12 deadline. But so far three-fourths of the current applicant pool is made up of white men.

These new lines drastically impact how the state represents its citizens and the real question remains: Can you get enough applicants from diverse areas in California to redraw district boundaries that the state Senate, Assembly and Board of Equalization will use to make political decisions?

California voters thought so in November 2008 when we passed the Voters FIRST Act, the proposition to create this Citizens Redistricting Commission. To sit on this committee you have to be a few things:

-You must be a registered California voter and you must have voted in at least two of the past three statewide general elections as a five-year dedicated political member of your party of choice.

– You can’t have  served on a school board, served on legislature, be a registered lobbyist, or a campaign contributor of $2,000 or more.

-Basically, you shouldn’t be too involved in politics.

These restrictions are meant to bring in people outside of the political junket, but maybe these efforts are more political than we think.

Michael Krasny pointed out that 60 percent of Californians are people of color but only 30 percent of them vote. Krasny, perhaps naively, asked one of  the guests on his show if “we have a problem with apathy.”

Nancy Ramirez, Western regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund said that she didn’t want to call if apathy. “It goes along with a history of really putting barriers in place for the Latino community and other minority communities where there were restrictions in terms of making ballots available in other languages, and other discrimination measure put in place. After a while, people ask of their vote is really going to make a difference.”


Organizations like Ramirez’s are reaching out to widen the traditional breadth of applicants and working to educate people about the role of the redistricting commission.

This depoliticizing and “reach out” process are becoming expensive. Governor schwarzenegger just added $5 million to the $3 million originally designated to draw new lines.

Do you think we’ll see a state commission that looks like California?

Trafficking Worries Amid Haiti Adoptions

After an 11-hour flight from Haiti, four-year-old Jersen Silvester Eefting met his new parents in his new home in the Netherlands. Jersen is one of 123 children flown to the Netherlands on Thursday. Between 1,200 and 1,500 adoption cases like this are thought to be pending in France. US officials think there are at least 300 such cases in the states–some advocacy groups predict the number of pending adoptions is more like 900.

Last week’s devastation in Haiti–a country that had 380,000 orphans before the earthquake–triggered an influx of questions about adopting Haitian children. Amid the adoption flurry, aid groups warned last week that this could easily lead to human trafficking.

A Unicef spokesperson said that a Haitian government report found that 15 children had disappeared from hospitals and they’re thought to be “taken.” There have also been observations at the airport of children being loaded onto planes. “Unicef has been working in Haiti for many years and we knew the problem with the trade of children in Haiti which existed before,” the Unicef representative said. “Unfortunately many of these trade networks have links with the international adoption ‘market’.”

Human trafficking among Haitian children was a big problem for the country before the quake. A Haitian newspaper estimated 173,000 Haitian children internally trafficked for domestic servitude in 2008.

The Haitian government worked to track down families and make sure that all kids under five were in a safe place and properly fed by this weekend.There are 29 agencies pooling child protection resources in the country, according to a report by The Guardian. Aid groups have set up about 20 safe centers that are catering to  2,000 children every day. Groups have also established surveillance system to monitor disappearances and work to prevent them from happening.

People are coming together to help the children that need help in Haiti, but the goal is not to export the kids. Several Haiti adoption websites say new adoption applications are not being processed.

Unicef has also opposed outside adoption saying it’s a last resort. After all, an unaccompanied child on the street is not necessarily an orphan. “It will take some time before we reach an understanding of the number of children who are going to be orphaned,” a Unicef spokesperson said. “Do not forget that Haitian society has a very strong setup and that there will be a lot of family members willing to care about children from their own families.”

Carolyn Miles of Save the Children said, “the vast majority of the children currently on their own still have family members alive who will be desperate to be reunited with them and will be able to care for them with the right support.” And according to a Unicef spokesman, it’s not uncommon for poor families to put their kids in orphanages with a view of getting them back later.

Some of the adoption scenarios involve families who entered the adoption process before the earthquake hit, but are now anxious to speed up the process. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN she was “personally directing that we do everything we can to try to find and identify those children who are already adoptable… and to try to expedite all the paperwork… to get them to their new home.” And And Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the U.S.’s move to waive visa requirements for Haitian children already on the path to adoption would allow them “to receive the care they need.”

Some worry whether removing a kid from her country further disrupts a country that’s been seismically torn apart. The relocation could save her life and give her opportunities she might not have if she stayed, but it could also upend her entire sense of community. The bottom line:  Most officials agree that sending emergency aid resources to Haiti is a better option than withdrawing anything or anyone.

These are sticky questions. Should homeless Haitian children be flown out of the country for adoption? In what cases?

Roe v. Wade turns 37

Thirty-seven years ago the Supreme Court established a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. “The guarantees in Roe have provided tremendous opportunity and choice for women to control our lives and bodies,” Eleanor Smeal of The Feminist Majority Foundation said about the famous court case. “It’s so much a part of the fabric of our society that people take it for granted.”

But those who care about protecting reproductive rights are far from crossing this one off our collective “to-do” list. Eighty-seven percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider, according to NARAL Pro-choice, the reproductive rights advocacy group. What does it all boil down to? This basic human right is under attack on many fronts.

In the courts: Today an anti-choice fanatic from Kansas City, Mo. named Scott Roeder is being tried for the premeditated, first-degree murder of Wichita physician Dr. George Tiller. Roeder told The Associated Press in November that he was driven by religious zeal to shoot Tiller in order to protect unborn children. For 33 years Dr. Tiller defended women’s constitutional right to access safe abortion care. “Abortion is about women’s hopes and dreams,” he said. “Abortion is a matter of survival for women.”

In congress: After four months of debate around health care reform, its still unclear if our leadership can stand up against Catholic Bishops and other extremists like Bart Stupak whose efforts in health care legislation chip away at abortion rights.

Where does the president stand? The last few presidents have used the anniversary of Roe v. Wade to make a statement about their stance on abortion rights by flip-flopping America’s policy on the global gag rule. The “gag rule” denies American funding for HIV/Aids clinics, birth-control providers and other organizations that council about abortion to countries that even mention abortion to women with unplanned pregnancies. This policy has become a political punching bag for incoming presidents. But last year, Obama broke the cycle and reversed the order several days after Roe v. Wade anniversary in an attempt to disrupt the political bantering.

Abortion protesters continue to rouse their dissent. Today March for Life activists marched the National Mall, the Supreme Court and Capitol Hill to promote anti-abortion legislative action. The pro-life advocacy group thinks the “life of each human being shall be preserved and protected from that human being’s biological beginning,” according to the organization’s Web site.

In the shadow of this year’s anniversary is the death of a leader of the reproductive rights movement. Yesterday, Ruth Proskkauer Smith died at 102 years old. Smith advocated for women’s access to birth control in the 1940s and in the late 1960s she co-founded NARAL pro-choice, a reproductive rights organization that helped shape the kind of culture that led to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v.

A few feminist-friendly stories for hump-day

*If a Virginia driver wants a cute little canary yellow license plate with smiling stick figure kids, they’re supporting a “Choose Life” campaign. Fifteen dollars of the $25 processing fee goes to Heartbeat International,  a Christian group that funds crisis pregnancy centers. The Washington Post reports that as of yesterday, “1,678 of the license plates had been purchased, and $10,170 has been earmarked for Heartbeat.” The plate has a drawing of a boy and girl under the words “Choose Life.” Jessica over at Feministing had an appropriate jaw drop at this news. Thank you WashPost for covering this story!

*Lifetime is running trailers for its new original movie “The Pregnancy Pact.” The story is about a gaggle of high schoolers who make a pact to get pregnant. Together. Yes, all together. Whatever happened to the good ol’ days when we just opted to pact together and be friends forever? Right when I was thinking that, Tina (otherwise known as Thora Birch) from the ama-zing 1995 film “Now and Then” walks down the hallway of the High School. She’ll throw her hand in the pile and chant “one for all…and all for one” with me. But nope, she’s in on it too. Well, not quite. Birch plays a  hard-nosed reporter who comes into the school to sniff out the pregnancy phenomena. Seriously, what’s up with our uncritical obsession with teen pregnancy recently? Juno, 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, The Secret Life of the American Teenager…please add to this list. The sad thing is a voyeuristic urge in me yearns to actually watch this. It’s interesting to see how our society reconsiles a life altering (I hesitate to say “ruining” for sake of being sensitive to people’s life choices) occurance such as teen pregnancy with our obsession with baby-mama-drama. The Pregnancy Pact, check it out for yourself.

*Kathleen Hanna? Bikini Killer? Le Tigress?  Riot Grrrl? Any of these names rink a bell? New York University’s Fales Library recognize them, and is archiving precious documents of the Riott Grrrl Manifesto and its offshoot movement in the early 1990s. Why does NYU care? They say because “the Riott Grrrl Collection will support scholarship in feminism, punk activism, queer theory, music history and more.”  Right when I thought the last Riot Grrls were dying off like an exotic species of birds they were, we get this news.

Move over lady and let him rev the engine

About a quarter of the way around the “Life” board game, the solo driver must pause at a mandatory red light to marry. As a kid, I distinctly remember putting my little blue lemming groom in the driver’s seat while plugging my pink one in shotgun. Why? My miniature alter ego wanted to look out the window, of course! Besides, the guy always drives.

I didn’t think anything of the social brainwashing at the heart of my innocuous driver switch-a-roo. But, as it turns out, the heroic male driver is somewhat of a phenomena. The New York Times today reports that the Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey showed that, “women do indeed spend a disproportionate share of their in-car time as passengers — 29 percent. This is more than twice the share of men, who only spend 14 percent as passengers. This certainly suggests that when men and women ride together, men are behind the wheel.”

Is this a remnant from the cult of domesticity, or maybe a residual chivalrous custom? Probably so, those buggers are hard to shake. But according to sociologist Pepper Schwartz, even in self-declared feminist households, men are far more likely to drive when the couple hops in the car together. As it turns out, upper class folks spend relatively less time as passengers while immigrants, especially Hispanics, carpool more. Is driving a rich, white guy thing? No, it can’t be this easy.

Our transportation scholar and NYT reporter Eric A. Morris brilliantly points out that the gap between men and women is explained by the fact that men tend to work more hours, which in turn causes them to spend more of their in-car time driving. Morris’ post hits a PING! when he asks the question we’ve all been wondering: “is this state of affairs due to men’s preferences, women’s, or both?”

That a little feminist in training (that would be 9 year-old me) put the blue pin in the driving seat, even though the pink one was doing the job just fine, indicates that these gender norms are instilled early and instilled compulsively. I’m not gonna go to that dark place and say men’s insecure egos need coaxing only a joy stick can provide because we all know that’s not fair. And is it really that productive? Let’s just put this little driving factoid on our collective radars and think a bit more about what compels us to do the things we think we’re supposed to do

Many thanks to Google images

Many thanks to Google images