Caturday: ‘Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa’ edition

“I’m wearing the damn sombrero. Now, you be the piñata.”

Good morning, newsjunkies — and welcome to May 5th!

A little history blurb to start your morning off… via CNN, Cinco de Mayo a Mexican import? No, it’s as American as July 4, prof says:

In his interview with CNN, Hayes-Bautista stated: “Now it’s become this big commercial holiday and a wonderful opportunity to get services and products in front of the Latino market and it even got its own postage in 1996 and in 2005 President Bush even had a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House.

“But if you ask why is anyone celebrating, no one knows. And then you get some people who say it shouldn’t be celebrated at all because it’s a foreign holiday — and yet it’s as American a holiday as the Fourth of July,” he said.

“No one has seemed to link it to the Civil War,” he added about what he called groundbreaking research.

UCLA history professor Stephen Aron said Hayes-Bautista’s finding is significant.

“For the general public (and even for many historians), the California origins of the Cinco de Mayo holiday come as quite a surprise (since the holiday is so generally presumed to be a Mexican holiday that was only recently imported into the United States),” Aron said in an e-mail to CNN. “That Hayes-Bautista’s book ties these origins to the American Civil War is also of great significance.”

While conducting research as director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, David Hayes-Bautista — a UCLA professor of medicine — scoured Spanish-languish papers in California and Oregon during the 1800s, which led him to the connection between the Civil War and the Cinco de Mayo battle:

“I’m seeing how in the minds of the Spanish-reading public in California that they were basically looking at one war with two fronts, one against the Confederacy in the east and the other against the French in the south,” Hayes-Bautista said in an interview with CNN.

Very neat stuff, I must say! Check it out.

I plan to add Hayes-Bautista’s book, El Cinco de Mayo: An American Tradition, to my reading list. (You can read Chapter One at the link, which is on the UC Press website, or on your kindle via Amazon.)

Another fantastic read this morning, via Buzzfeed’s Amy Odell — Are Teenagers Better At Solving The Thin Model Problem Than “Vogue” Editors?:

Extremely thin girls have been the ideal in fashion for years — and this may be the most pushback against the super thin movement we’ve seen in a decade. So if you really are sick of it, Vogue editors, actually do something about it. Stop talking about it, stop drawing up toothless guidelines that fit into tidy press releases, and just change it. Don’t call in the tiny clothing samples for shoots. Don’t hire girls who are so thin you wonder if they have eating disorders. Don’t only shoot Adele from the neck up. And don’t talk about it. Don’t write it down. Just do it.

Like 14-year-old Julia Bluhm, from Maine, did yesterday, when she led a protest outside of Seventeen magazine’s New York office to try get the editors to feature one spread a month that features girls with a realistic appearance, who aren’t photoshopped. (She gained entré to the Seventeen editor’s office to discuss her concerns, but the magazine would not say if they would start meeting Bluhm’s painfully reasonable demands.) She did it. She up and went to New York one day, with her friends, with her 24,000 signature-strong petition in support of her cause, and just did what she needed to do.

A little self-disclosure here: I battled anorexia up close and personal during my entire adolescence through my twenties. I am a survivor of that battle. It’s a mental and emotional war that has to be refought in different ways, even after one is fortunate enough to regain physical health. I have been hesitant to share this part of my life with the Sky Dancing community up until now, even though I consider y’all my family of sorts. However, I think you can gather from my blogging on gender politics et al. that the cause of supporting women and girls so that they can lift themselves up is one that is very near and dear to me and comes from the bottom of my heart.

I see a huge void in the media–an entire audience spanning multiple generations that is not being spoken to in any comprehensive, consistent, cohesive way–at least not by any major magazine. My (very very pipe)dream job after getting a postgrad degree (either in psych or nutrition, or possibly both! yes I hope to be in school forever, that is the goal –heh!) is to become founder and editor of my own magazine for girls and women–Mona Mag, as it is tentatively titled. (Emphasis on PIPE dream.)

And with that–a baby step from my pseudonym! You can call me ‘Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa‘…or Mona the Wonk for short 😉

It’s been a long road full of baby steps. At age 14, I was too busy–starving my body, mind, and spirit to near-death–to organize a protest. The media diet I was fed as a child can be summed up by saying… during those days, Monica (my namesake) and Rachel on Friends got thinner and thinner as the actresses who portrayed them broke a glass ceiling in women’s pay.

All this to say… I salute the young Julia Bluhm for muckraking it up right outside Seventeen‘s door. What a bright young shero star she sounds like!

And before I wrap this up… one final link for you to check out this morning, from earlier in the week, about the DC couple who recently launched the website ‘A Might Girl‘:

(Cliff Chiang – DC Comics)

A better approach for those of us concerned about the messages all things princess send our girls may be the one taken by D.C. residents Carolyn Danckaert and Aaron Smith.

The couple has just launched a new Web site called “A Mighty Girl.” It’s a repository of books and movies with girl empowerment themes.

“A major impetus for us in creating the site was the frustration we’ve experienced when seeking out presents for our four nieces over the past 12 years,” Danckaert said.

For Princess Week, they created a special page for “independent princesses.” It highlights classic and new works “with a non-traditional interpretation of what it means to be a princess,” Danckaert said.

Some of the books on the site include “The Apple-Pip Princess,” by Jane Ray (Candlewick, 2008) about a budding environmentalist, “The Invisible Princess,” by Faith Ringgold (Knopf, 1998) about an African American girl during slavery and “Princess Pigsty,” by Cornelia Funke (The Chicken House, 2007 ) about a princess who is banished from castle life to live with pigs and finds herself much happier.

Now, I don’t hate the concept of a Princess Week entirely–but I do LOVE  and much prefer A Mighty Girl’s version of it 🙂

The Wapo link continues:

It’s true that women are reaching new educational and professional heights, and are also embracing more equality-minded attitudes. Still, the traditional gender messages are often strictly enforced when it comes to children.

Disney’s “Princess Week” is one example. There is ample evidence during the rest of the year, too.

Remember the introduction of girl-themed Legos with which girls are encouraged to build not a rocket ship, but a beauty salon? Remember the viral video [sic dead link; youtube removed] from this past holiday season of a little girl ranting that boys had superheroes but she had only pink frou-frou toys to choose from?

Ok, let me interject here real quick to say–if you missed that video during the holidays, you must watch it RIGHT NOW.

Back to the blog piece:

“We’ve always been dismayed by the extreme gender segregation that you see in mainstream toy stores and by the content of the toys designated as ‘girls’ toys,’” Danckaert said.

“We searched online for sites with girl empowerment product recommendations and didn’t find anything very comprehensive, although there did seem to be a lot of other people looking for these types of toys and book.”

So she and Smith, both of whom have backgrounds in advocacy work and technology, decided to create their own online store.

Ah, two advocates after my own heart.

Alright, well that’s it for me… your turn in the comments, Sky Dancers. Let’s hear what’s on your Cinco de Mayo read+rant list!


58 Comments on “Caturday: ‘Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa’ edition”

  1. Another interesting read that didn’t quite fit in with the theme of my roundup.

    Via Sci Am Mind…

    Are Believers Really Happier Than Atheists?
    Who is better off: the religious or atheists? Cultural values determine the answer

    • From the link:

      For the first time, researchers affiliated with Gallup have collected a representative sample of the world that measures religiosity and happiness. They found that the positive effects of religion depend enormously on where you live. Religious people may be happier than their godless counterparts, but only if the society they belong to values religion highly, which not all societies do. For atheists and the growing ranks of unaffiliated individuals, these findings bode well. Although many questions remain about how nonbelievers can acquire the health benefits of religion, scientists are now finding that secular communities of like-minded people can offer similar social support.

      • NW Luna says:

        Why am I not surprised? “Godless,” indeed! Bit of a bias there.

      • quixote says:

        Erm, it seems to me what they’ve found is that people are happier when they feel they fit in their society. Or, to put it another way, when they have a like-minded peer group.

        To test whether religion or non-believing really makes for happiness, they should test how comfortable people are with themselves when they lack social support.

  2. Via the Texas Tribune…

    In Court Reversal, Planned Parenthood May Stay in Women’s Health Program:

    The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the emergency stay it granted to the state of Texas on Tuesday, meaning that the Texas Health and Human Services Commisssion may not begin excluding Planned Parenthood clinics from the Women’s Health Program while a lawsuit on the matter is pending in district court.

  3. ecocatwoman says:

    Thank you, Wonk, for your courageous post. I think most girls struggle with image problems, whether because of their parents, peers and/or media blitz. My struggles were on the opposite end of the spectrum – being the only overweight girl/woman in school. Feminism helped me say frag it.

    The princess thing, I do have a problem with. I was thrilled when Cinderella Ate My Daughter was published. Here’s a link to the author’s, Peggy Orenstein, website: and the Diane Rehm interview with Orenstein:, just in case ya’ll missed it last year. Going on record to say that I can’t stand anything Disney. Master manipulators of children and their parents.

    And on Cinco de Mayo, NPR had a story yesterday & attributed the holiday to a band of Mexican villagers beating the French, in Mexico. Hayes-Bautista’s work wasn’t even mentioned. The first I ever heard of Cinco de Mayo was about the celebration in Miami. I just assumed it was a Cuban holiday/celebration. Never gave it more thought. Not due to any prejudice. I just don’t like holidays in general. It seems to me that they have all become a marketing extravaganza. BUY – BUY – BUY. SPEND – SPEND – SPEND.

    Thanks again, great post.

    • Connie, thank you so much. I have been wanting to write a post like this for a couple months but was still quite nervous about broaching the topic.

      I was chubby before I was anorexic plus painfully shy — a recipe for being bullied relentlessly. So I understand your experience too, and frag it indeed 🙂

      I had seen that NPR headline on Cinco de Mayo too, though I hadn’t actually clicked on it. Was wondering if it had mentioned Hayes-Bautista and his book– so muchos grassy-ass for answering that question 😉

      Re: holidays in general… I just try to do my own personal Festivus version of all the holidays I can. Life can be so dreary–especially if one is a political/newsjunkie. The more reasons to celebrate life’s simple joys, the better. The “crass consumerism” (waves to Dr. Dakinikat) of everything and the inevitable proselytism and evangelism really grates though and sometimes can push me back to wanting to put on my witch hat every holiday and cackle at the Borg 😉

      Re: Disney. I have a love-hate/hate-love attitude toward that too. On the one hand, I grew up loving Ariel (the little mermaid) for example — she was this feisty redhead who refused to conform, settle for mermaidhood, and reclaimed her voice, literally (after first giving it up.) On the other, I HATE that no one (except Tina Fey, in an interview once, and perhaps elsewhere as well) has ever really publicly asked WTF, what kind of message is that that “to be part of that world” a woman has to give up her voice first? And, her mer-tail too for that matter?!

      The same sort of problem with other Disney ‘princesses’ et al.

      I do know some cool Indian princess/warrior/goddess stories though, so I can’t bring myself throw the princess herself out with the patriarchal framing 🙂

      Love that title — “Cinderella ate my daughter”… another book to add to my list, yay! Thanks for the links.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        In my day it was called teasing, not bullying. “Fatty, fatty, 2 X 4” I heard all too frequently. But I was often the smartest kid in the class, which fueled my self confidence. I was fortunate in that way.

        I live in the belly of The Mouse – Orlando, otherwise known as The Tragic Kingdom. And I grew up on Disney too. I credit it with helping to form my empathy with the real animal kingdom. Unfortunately Disney doesn’t practice what it preaches. I could do a whole post on Disney’s maltreatment of real animals. And they treat their employees much like Walmart does theirs. Glad you’re going to check out the book. Hope everyone will take a few minute to read or listen to Diane Rehm’s interview. It’s on my list of her favorite interviews.

        The “family” meme surrounding holidays is at the root of my distaste for them. Having lost my father at 15 led to my feeling like my family was abnormal. Never marrying or having children as an adult reinforced the feeling. There isn’t just one type of perfect/normal family, but the holiday stories seem to indicate that those who don’t have a dad, mom & 2.5 kids just don’t matter. Makes me feel bad for those kids/people who are made to feel that they just don’t fit in. It’s those types of messages that make me angry. Why not messages that support compassion, empathy, generosity, integrity, honesty & sharing instead?

        Hugs to you & your furry girls. Seriously, a terrific post!

      • But I was often the smartest kid in the class, which fueled my self confidence. I was fortunate in that way.

        Me too… but also a perfectionist (to the point of self-destruction/defeat)… which tore down my self-confidence. Nothing was ever good enough.

        Oh, it was called teasing in my day too 😉 I think it still is often called teasing when it comes to being overweight (and other sizes/shapes outside the box/ideal too). We’re slowly starting to address bullying as a society, but hatred and blind judgments of ‘fat’ people is still pretty socially accepted. As well as other appearance-related stuff.

      • There isn’t just one type of perfect/normal family, but the holiday stories seem to indicate that those who don’t have a dad, mom & 2.5 kids just don’t matter. Makes me feel bad for those kids/people who are made to feel that they just don’t fit in. It’s those types of messages that make me angry. Why not messages that support compassion, empathy, generosity, integrity, honesty & sharing instead?

        Oh, I hate that too Connie and agree…(((hugs back atcha)))).
        To me it’s always about kindness, healing, hope, resilience–and companionship, in whatever form it takes. Every day is, holiday or not!

  4. Pilgrim says:

    Monica, I am pleased about your Mona Mag thoughts, pleased too about your educational aspirations. I have long thought that your gift for writing clearly, and with sparkle, needs to find outlets that would benefit readers in a large arena. We who read you here certainly appreciate the benefit.

    • RalphB says:

      What Pilgrim said!

    • And I certainly appreciate and benefit from y’alls readership and writing and discussion, whether on the frontpage or comments. Indulge me while I get very sappy for a moment… I just love Sky Dancing and how we’ve grown together…IMHO we have truly answered Hillary’s question/call-to-action, as to whether ’08 was just about her or not. It wasn’t just about her. It was about her campaign for women and girls and for all of us–every man, woman, and child (and our fur-babies too, I might add…) It was about the kind of country and world we want to live in and how we want to treat each other. And, it was… a little bit about her extra specialness too 🙂

      • dakinikat says:

        I think we all share that vision that we’re here to help make things better for others. This was a really heart warming post and this was a heart warming comment. There is no better way to shine than to be honest with your self and to be honest about your self with others!

      • Oh wow…you got me crying Mona. I can’t even see what I am typing right now….and I cannot begin to express my feelings about the life and death struggle you have shared with us. So many of us here are survivors of one thing or another. Our stories intertwine and become connected in very deep personal ways. Oh, what a significant part of my life this blog, and this Sky Dancing family have become…

        I am not a religious person, you all know that, but I have to say this…I do feel truly blessed to be a part of this team of writers, readers and friends.

        (Still can’t see what I am typing…I feel a good cry coming on…)

      • Oh JJ … hugging you big! I have been waiting for you to come home from shopping etc. and read my post… my day was not complete without you being a part of this 🙂

        • Mona, your post and the comments that followed was something that has touched me deeply…I’ve noticed the growth you mentioned, and there has been many a time that I’ve said to myself, yes…the thing we got going here is very special.

    • NW Luna says:


  5. bostonboomer says:

    Brilliant post this morning, Mona! The Cinco de Mayo story is fascinating, and I loved that little girl’s rant. I was at Target with my nephews a couple of weeks ago, and I was horrified when I saw the Lego sets for girls. And WTF is with everything for girls having to be pink? I’m so grateful to have grown up in a simpler time.

    I saw the story about the Seventeen protest yesterday and I cheered. Julia Bluhm is a shero for sure.

    Thank you also for sharing your own experiences. I’m glad you survived. You’ve become a brilliant and beautiful young woman–inside and out.

    • That means the world coming from you, BB.

      I went through a strong anti-pink/anti-girly phase before I realized I do like pink, or at least certain shades, and I am a girly-girl 😉 I just hated how it was shoved down my throat and that I wasn’t encouraged to explore OTHER aspects of my personality.

      I still can’t really stand that really really baby pink shade of pink. Small doses sometimes can be nice, but ugh. It just reminds me of ugly hospital walls.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I like pink too, especially fuscia. I had a pair a fuscia loafers when I was a little girl. I picked them out myself and my dad let me get them. But I don’t like walked down an aisle in Target and seeing that every box is pink. They don’t make every toy for boys light blue.

      • Exactly!

        My sister and I volunteered this Thanksgiving and had a lot of fun picking out toys for the drive… we tried to pick out stuff that challenged gender norms 🙂

  6. janicen says:

    Good for Julia Bluhm and her compatriots! I have a lot of confidence that the upcoming generation is not going to let the fashionistas decide how to feel about one’s body. I doubt that we’ll see models of normal weight since fashion models are nothing more than living coat hangers upon which designers can hang their latest improbable creations. All we can hope for is that women will see fashion models for what they are rather than aspire to look like them. My daughter and her friends seem much more focused on keeping their bodies healthy and strong than they are on starving themselves. I am optimistic for future generations of women.

    • So thrilled to hear that about your daughter and her friends, janice! I bet that is at least in part a credit to you as mother(s) too, as well as to them 🙂

      Unfortunately, the research stats I’ve seen on elementary and junior high gradeschool girls over the years has been very disheartening. Way too many are on a diet, have been on a diet, and/or dissatisfied with their body at such an EARLY age. I saw one where something like 2/3 of third graders hated their bodies and were dieting…that was a few years back, but I doubt things have changed drastically since then.

      Eating disorders are about lot more than emulating fashion models, but the emaciated look perpetuated in the media definitely is gasoline on the fire. I frankly think the problem is a lot deeper, though. I do have hope that there is a new wave of appreciation for a woman’s body+mind+spirit (all three are so intertwined) somewhere on the horizon, and it’s always good to hear whenever mothers/communities like you are raising girls who are focused on health and strength (!! strong health girls, strong healthy women, strong healthy voices!) 🙂

      • janicen says:

        Thank you Wonk. I’m sorry to hear the sad statistics about young girls today, but thank you for the reminder. It’s easy to look around in my small world and think the rest of the world is the same. It’s an important issue that deserves a lot of attention. Your sharing your story is accomplishing that. I’m so glad you’re healthier now, you bring so much to this blog and those of us who follow it. {{{{{Wonk}}}}}

  7. SweetSue says:

    I’m so glad that you are in recovery.
    You are a person of great quality and it shines through all of your writing.
    How do you want to be addressed? Mona, Monica or Wonk?

    • Thank you for your sweet, kind words, Sue…

      all three work, but Mona is how my closest friends+family know me …and y’all are both friends and family to me 🙂

  8. RalphB says:

    Politifact and Glenn Kessler are absolutely useless tools. Steve Benen has been doing a great jobs of chronicling Willard’s lies. Some of the lies Benen chronicles require some explanation and background to understand, but these two are just plain old lies. Where are Mitt’s “Pants on Fire” and “Pinocchio” ratings?

    Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity, Vol. XVI

    15. In a speech in Virginia yesterday, Romney blamed “card check” for making things “tougher” on businesses.

    Card check didn’t pass, so it’s impossible for Romney’s argument to be true.
    18. Romney went on to condemn Obama for “shutting down” a “wonderful” school voucher program in the District of Columbia.

    Obama didn’t shut down the school voucher program in the District of Columbia. It still exists.

    Willard just keeps lying and the MSM keeps burying it. Ugh!

  9. RalphB says:

    During George W.’s first term, big government boosted employment. For Obama, it’s the opposite. Since Willard is going back to Bush policies, this is worth noting.

    Bush vs. Obama: Jobs

    • I posted this graph on my facebook earlier this week and my best friend said it should be a PSA… so…

      Graphic coming in a few moments, please standby!

    • dakinikat says:

      It’s state governor’s like mine that are wrecking the economy. Our unemployment rate has more than doubled since he took office. He’s wrecking our public sector. Education and Health Care are taking huge hits. Public safety is too. It’s clear these folks don’t even believe in state and local governments. They only believe in hand outs to their donors and friends.

      • RalphB says:

        This is interesting and sounds plausible. What’s your opinion Dak? I know I can trust it.

        Labor Force Participation Is Lower Than It Has Been In 30 Years — Why It Matters And Why It Doesn’t

        • dakinikat says:

          Yes. I’ve written about this. I’m seeing a number of people either being forced into early retirement or staying in school. I also think people are just giving up and leaving the labor force. That’s a good discussion of the situation.

      • Would love to hear Dkat’s thoughts on the women angle of this economy…

        FWIW, New Deal 2.0/Bryce Covert has done some of the best blogging on the woman angle I’ve seen. From what I remember, if it’s the public sector job losses driving this slump then women are bearing the brunt of it… lots of public sector jobs are women.

        I also remember a few graphs and features on this topic at NYT’s Economic blog.

        I’ll see if I can bring up some of those links… maybe a good idea for a separate post.

  10. ecocatwoman says:

    Really OT, but had to share. One of the news stories on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me this AM begged me to find a link & share it: Peter’s comment that followed the story was that Wolf bought the motorcycle to recapture his youth, he just didn’t expect it to be 8th grade. Apologies, but that made me LOL.

  11. Joyce L. Arnold says:

    Hey Mona, another rather crunched on time day for me, but I really wanted to say thanks for the entire post. Regarding anorexia, a particulr thanks. I didn’t have to fight that battle, but in years as a therapist and yes, even an ordained minister (long story; short version: they kicked me out for being lesbian; lots of changes since then), I’ve listened to and worked with girls and young women, and when they were fortunate, with one or both parents and even siblings. It’s an obviously serious problem that, even after decades of research and publicity, is still often minimized.

    • I want the LONG story sometime~we’ve had different struggles on the surface, perhaps, but you are a survivor too!

      Thank you so, so so much… for everything! advocates and professionals like you give me real hope, Joyce.

      Thanks too for the share on facebook! Much appreciated.

  12. RalphB says:

    Wonder if it’s already too late to buy stock in Yoplait?

    Yogurt diet leads to ‘swaggering’ mice with larger testicles

  13. RalphB says:

    This I think is funny.

    tbogg Obama/Clooney Fundraiser could bring in $12 million. Romney/Nugent fundraiser could bring in 3 dead possums, a squirrel, and some meth