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Archives for : November2013

TODAYS USA MILITARY WOMEN ON INFO CHART

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NANNIES ENGAGED MORE NOW TO LOOK AFTER KIDS IN THE CHILDRENS HOMES

MORE families are employing nannies to care for children in their own home.

WOMAN CHILDREN VACUMN

The demand for in-home childcare has increased so much that last year the Australian Nanny Association was established to provide a support network for professionals in the field.

It’s an attractive option for families striving to achieve a work-life balance but, before entering an agreement, it’s worthwhile considering the implications, as outlined by our friends at MarketWatch.

These are the things that nannies will not tell you about – until it’s too late.

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1. “Your kid loves me more than you”

Nannies spend so much time with children, some kids become more attached to their caretaker than to their own parents, says Chicago-area psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo. “I had a child ask to call me Mommy,” says former Atlanta nanny Sarena Brook Carter, 35, which, she adds, wasn’t surprising: “The parents were never there, I got the kids up and put them to bed and went everywhere with them.”

2. “You’re the worst part of my job”

Parents are the worst part of the job, nannies say, for many reasons. They sometimes become jealous of the caretaker-child relationship and act out by yelling at the nanny, for instance. Or they develop typical terrible-boss behaviours: asking the nanny to do tasks he or she didn’t sign on for, demanding lots of extra work hours, or just being downright unpleasant to work with.

3. “I can’t save your kid’s life (or treat injuries)”

If a child is injured – or worse, in a life-and-death situation – the childcare provider may or may not know what to do. Some 13 per cent of nannies surveyed in the US admitted that they aren’t certified in CPR, and 20 per cent reported that they don’t have a first aid certification.

4. “My presence is a threat to your relationship.”

It’s not just the rich and famous who engage in a little hanky-panky with the nanny. While this behaviour is rare, it does happen. Often, it’s because they’re convenient – the nanny is in the home – and there can be a high level of emotional intimacy because you are jointly caring for the child. Some couples actively seek out caretakers that neither one will be attracted to, experts say.

5. “You’re not paying me enough”

Most nannies are paid under the table. This can be problematic for people employing domestic workers because it’s illegal in most cases. A US survey found only 38 per cent of nannies got a raise in 2011, only about half got a year-end bonus, and roughly one in four didn’t get compensated for travel expenses.

6. “I’ll sue you”

Some childcare workers find that their working conditions are so awful, they’re worth going to court over. While it’s the celebrity cases that typically make the news – Sharon Stone and Alanis Morissette have been sued by their nannies – it’s not just famous people that get taken to court by their household help. The biggest thing that nannies sue their employers for is wages, as many nannies are entitled to minimum wage and overtime but don’t receive it. After that, the most common complaint is on-the-job injury.

7. “I’m smarter than you are”

Childcare providers nowadays are often better-educated than in previous decades. Within the relatively elite circle of nannies surveyed in the US in 2011, 85 per cent have a least some college under their belt, 30 per cent have a bachelor’s degree, and 6 per cent have a master’s or Ph.D. Conequently wages increase as skills increase.

8. “Your secret’s not safe with me.”

What happens in your home doesn’t always stay in your home. Nannies talk to each other, friends and sometimes (ahem) the media about their bosses. Former nanny Pam Behan, for example, wrote a book – Malibu Nanny – about her experiences as a nanny for the Kardashian clan; former nanny Suzanne Hansen did the same, penning You’ll Never Nanny in This Town Again (published in 2006) about her experiences working for a high-powered Hollywood agent among others.

9. “I know about that nanny cam.”

More and more parents are using nanny cams to “secretly” spy on their nannies: Brickhouse Security, a leading US security and surveillance firm, says it has seen a spike in both sales and searches for nanny cams on its site.

10. “You’d better do a thorough background check on me.”

Unlike many other professions, like doctors and lawyers, there is no official license required to serve as a nanny. In the US, only six per cent of nannies have attended nanny training school, and nearly 16 per cent of nannies have three or fewer years of experience. These facts make it especially important for parents to thoroughly check a child caretaker’s background.

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THE REASON I PUT MY BABIES INTO FOSTER CARE

When Sarah* was 20 weeks pregnant she looked as through she was nearing her due date. “I was so big, I looked as if I was 40 weeks pregnant,” she says. Sarah put her large belly size down to carrying twins; her 20-week scan, however, revealed something worrying was happening with her babies.

sad-woman on bed image www.goodgirlsgo.com

“There was a complication called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, which ended up with me in hospital at 21 weeks having three litres of fluid drained,” Sarah says. Twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome is when blood moves from one twin to the other, often resulting in one baby having too little blood, and the other, too much. Left untreated, it can lead to the death of one or both babies.

 

Thirty ultrasounds, a plane trip to Sydney to have laser surgery, and another three litres of fluid drained later, Sarah was told that she was going to have perfectly healthy identical twin girls. “That was the best thing I had heard in a long time,” she says.

 

When the big day arrived, Sarah, her husband and their son were so excited to meet the new additions to their family. “After everything we had been through with the pregnancy, we just couldn’t wait for this moment to meet our healthy girls,” she says. But Sarah’s excitement didn’t last long.

 

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“When the girls were born they seemed to look different,” Sarah says. “They had deformed ears and deformed facial bones.” Sarah and her husband weren’t concerned at the time; they put the girls’ unusual looks down to being born at 36 weeks.

 

The twins were immediately taken to the special care nursery while Sarah recovered. “We had doctors coming in and out saying that they thought the girls had a syndrome,” Sarah recalls.

 

Three days after the twins were born, Sarah’s small hospital room was filled with doctors, paediatricians, craniofacial doctors, and counsellors who explained that Sarah’s twins had Treacher Collins Syndrome, a rare condition where the skull, cheek and jawbones don’t develop properly, causing facial defects and hearing loss. It affects about one child in every 50,000.

 

Sarah was overwhelmed with the news. “My first thought was ‘Why me? What have I done to deserve this?’” she says. “I’ve had such a hard life. I’ve lost my Mum, Dad, Nanna and Pop. I’ve done nothing wrong to deserve this.” So she coped the best way she knew how.

 

“I went straight into shut down and blocked everyone out of my life,” she says. “Everyone was trying so hard to be supportive, but at that stage whatever anyone said to me would come out negative. I had people say, ‘God has given them to you as he knows you will cope,’ and my response was, ‘Well, I wish he had asked me first’. Others would say, ‘You’re strong, Sarah,’ but there comes a time in your life when you just can’t be strong anymore.”

 

Sarah’s memories of that time are filled with darkness. “I wanted this to be a dream, but each day it was still there and it got the better of me,” she says. “The doctors told me there was no quick fix for this syndrome. I was heart-broken. All I could think about was my girls being picked on and questioning how I would cope without any support from my extended family.”

 

When the twins were two weeks old Sarah uttered a sentence that would change her life forever. “I suggested to a counsellor at the hospital that maybe the girls needed to go into foster care,” she says. “Before I knew it, the counsellor had contacted a foster care agency and the ball was rolling.”

 

The twins were placed in foster care shortly after that conversation. Sarah felt conflicted about visiting her girls once they were in the care of others. “I really didn’t want to visit, but something inside me said I had to,” she says. “I think it came down to the way my parents brought me up, that family is everything. I knew my parents would want me to bring my girls home.”

 

Sarah was determined to be reunited with her twins, but she needed to get help. She began seeing a psychologist. “I went through six psychologists before I found the right one, and this psychologist helped me tremendously,” she says.

 

Life was difficult at home without the girls, but Sarah says she knew they were in the right place until she got the help and support she needed.

 

After a year in foster care, the twins came in through Sarah’s front door – for good. “I finally felt strong enough, and had the support I needed to bring my girls home to where they belonged,” she says. Sarah says life at home with the twins felt “complete”.

 

Sarah believes things would have turned out very differently if she’d had different support at the hospital. “I look back and think that counsellor really should have said, ‘Hang on, you have severe depression, let’s get that sorted, then we can think about foster care’. But that’s not how it went, unfortunately.”

 

The twins have now been at home for seven years, and despite the bumpy start, Sarah says she now sees her girls as any other child, adding, “It’s really only when an appointment pops up for them that I think, ‘Oh, that’s right, my girls have a syndrome’. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t go through that,” she says.

 

“There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.”

 

*Name has been changed

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TODAY TONIGHT TV HOST HELEN KAPALOS GIVES ADVICE ON BEING VIGILANT ABOUT HEALTH

Television host Helen Kapalos shares her story of how vague symptoms turned into something more sinister – and why all women need to be vigilant about their health

‘My message to other women is to get that second opinion. Explore other options. There are always other options’ … Helen Kapalos. Photo: Damian Bennett

Helen Kapalos.photo www.goodgirlsgo.com

Stop worrying, the doctors told Helen Kapalos. It’s probably just the flu. You’ll feel better soon. Specialist after specialist waved her away. None could explain why her skin itched every time she ate, or why she seemed to catch every bug going around. Fatigue, disrupted sleep, night sweats: the list of symptoms kept growing.

The Today Tonight host knew something was wrong. She ate well, exercised and had always been healthy. Now, it was as if her body “just didn’t feel comfortable in its own skin”. Determined to get to the truth, she pushed for more tests. None gave an answer; they simply eliminated possible causes.

At this point, her best friend took her aside. Having had ovarian cancer, she was concerned that Kapalos’s symptoms were a sign of something similar. A scan was quickly arranged.

“I was lying there, watching it all on the screen,” Kapalos, 42, says. “They identified it straight away and said, ‘Wow. This is a really large tumour.’ The first thing I thought is that this is Mum’s story. But this time, I want it to have a different ending.”

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Until now, Kapalos has not spoken in detail about her experience. A private person, she was motivated to go public partly to encourage awareness of ovarian cancer, but also because of the death of her mother, Joanna, from cancer. Joanna’s symptoms were also initially dismissed by doctors, and she did not get the life-saving surgery she needed.

“I’ve decided to talk about this because I don’t want to see people going through what Mum went through,” she says. “But this is not about being alarmist, nor am I a ‘victim’. This is about women being proactive and positive about their health.”

The story begins almost 20 years ago in the NSW coastal town of Newcastle, when Kapalos – then a 22-year-old reporter at ABC Radio – was still living in the family home. She remembers every detail of that night. It was hot, the airconditioner humming in the background, and she had fallen asleep on the couch, still wearing her sandshoes. In the early hours, she was woken by her mother. “She just walked out and had a massive haemorrhage,” Kapalos says. “The paramedics told us she was only 20 minutes from death.”

An ambulance rushed her to hospital, where she received a radical hysterectomy and multiple blood transfusions. A few days later, doctors broke the devastating news: the benign fibroid on her uterus had morphed into malignant, inoperable cancer. If it had been removed even a few months earlier, they told her, she’d most likely have recovered.

Joanna died 15 months later, aged 56. “I was the one taking mum to the doctor when she had her fibroids,” Kapalos says. “I was really concerned they were growing so quickly. But the doctor just said to her, ‘It’s benign, we’ll leave it. Surgery’s too invasive.'”

“When I was diagnosed, I thought, ‘There are two columns I can put this into: reactive or proactive,” she says firmly. “Immediately, I went, ‘Of course this is confronting. But now that I finally know what it is, I’ll find out everything I can about it, how to deal with it and how to heal from it.”

The toughest period was the few weeks between finding the tumour and having it removed. Until they operated, the surgeons couldn’t tell if it was malignant, or whether they’d need to take out other organs. “The hardest part was ringing Dad,” she says. After her mother died, her heartbroken father, Dimitri, returned to Greece, where Kapalos visits him every year. “He was in shock. But I said to him, really emphatically, ‘It will be a different outcome this time.'”

In August, she went under the knife. Surgeons removed a tumour slightly bigger than a tennis ball from her right ovary. It was benign, and that’s all they took out. Six weeks later, she was given a clean bill of health. “It’s the best possible outcome,” she says, smiling.

She is under no illusions, though, about what might have happened had she “stopped worrying”, like her first doctor advised. At best, her tumour would have grown rapidly, requiring a major operation instead of keyhole surgery. At worst, it could have turned fatally malignant – just like her mother’s. “I felt Mum’s presence acutely at this time,” she says. “I think I’ve always had this story playing out in my subconscious.”

Her refusal to let doctors dismiss her early symptoms is no surprise. Yet even after her tumour was discovered, she kept a level head. Her first specialist, for instance, blithely ordered the removal of her ovary. When Kapalos questioned her, she was affronted. “I received a schoolgirl chiding,” she says. “Luckily, I sought another opinion and the next specialist said, ‘No, we don’t need to take out your ovary at all.'” This means her fertility has not been affected.

“My message to other women is, ‘Don’t let one doctor encase your diagnosis in alarmist terms. Get that second opinion. Explore the other options. There are always other options.'”

Kapalos stresses she is not criticising all doctors. In her experience, most are thorough, empathic and professional. Nor does she want people to self-diagnose via Google or start thinking they know more than their specialists. But she does suspect some women are reluctant to “make waves” by questioning their doctor or seeking alternatives. “We need to be vigilant about our health,” she says. “We need to be okay with checking in on ourselves and following through on that.”

Her commitment to preventative health is why she cycles to Channel Seven’s Melbourne studios most days, favours wholesome foods and devours books about philosophy and self-improvement. It’s also why she serves as an ambassador for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

“Ovarian cancer mortality rates are higher than those for other cancers,” she explains, pointing out that the symptoms frequently mimic those of other conditions. “It’s often not detected until the late stages. There’s so much more awareness about breast cancer now, thanks to all those fantastic campaigns. We need that same type of awareness with ovarian health.”

Kapalos was 18 when she met physiotherapist Craig Boettcher. They were together for 18 years before divorcing in 2007. “I married the first man I fell in love with and that was a rewarding experience. But I’ve since been happy on my own, too. This year has been about getting my house and health in order. I’m open to a relationship, though. I love the idea of being in love and having a fulfilling partnership.”

Professionally, she’s never been more satisfied. In the course of her two-decade career she’s worked in radio and TV – as a producer and presenter – for ABC, SBS and every commercial network. A highlight is The Last Whistle, a 1998 documentary she wrote, directed and produced at regional TV station NBN about the closure of Newcastle’s BHP steelworks.

“Journalism is the most rewarding profession you’ll ever be fortunate enough to be in,” she says. “I’m confounded when I hear young women say, ‘I want to be a presenter on prime-time TV.’ Is that about being a journalist or having a profile?”

Naturally, she is heavily involved in the planning of every Today Tonight episode. Her workday begins at 7.30am, when she dials in to a conference call from home. By noon, she is in the office, attending meetings, recording radio promotions and watching early cuts of each story.

“I’ve never worked in an environment where it’s so hands-on and rewarding as where I am now,” she says. “Everything that’s happened this year has made me even more positive. There’s so much more I want to do in this world. I see it as a green light to just get out there and keep embracing life.”

OVARIAN CANCER: FACTS, SYMPTOMS AND ADVICE

• Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of any gynaecological cancer and there is currently no early detection test.

• In Australia, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 89 per cent; for ovarian cancer, it is 43 per cent.

• The four most frequently reported symptoms for ovarian cancer are: abdominal or pelvic pain; increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating; needing to urinate often or urgently; feeling full after eating a small amount.

• If these symptoms are new and you experience one or more of them persistently over four weeks, consult your GP.

• You can also download Ovarian Cancer Australia’s symptom diary at ovariancancer.net.au, or the KISS & Makeup iPhone app, which allows you to record your symptoms and helps you communicate with your GP.

This article first appeared in Sunday Life.

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GETTING MARRIED COSTS HAVE ESCALATED, SO MAYBE THE $$$ SHOULD HAVE GONE TOWARDS A HOME..!

The price of weddings has gone up. Again. Now, a survey by a national bridal magazine shows, people will spend upwards of $54,000 on their nuptials.

money marriage image www.goodgirlsgo.com

When economics journalist Jessica Irvine wrote about her wedding while still at Fairfax Media last year, the average cost was about $35,000.

That was Only. Last. Year. The current rate of inflation is 2.2 per cent. A $19,000 increase is well in excess of that at 54.2%. And annual GDP growth sits at about 2.6 per cent – so it’s not like we’re all suddenly much better endowed and able to spend big on dowries.

So how did the average price of a wedding rise so much, so soon? Are the rich spending more and so lifting the total for everyone? Are we spending more in general? Or did the sneaky merchants of matrimony somehow figure out how to jack their prices up by half?

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Whatever the reason, it seems like a ridiculous price to pay for one big day. Especially when you consider what else you can buy for $54,000.

Like a house.

RP Data says the median price for houses in the capital cities of Australia is $490,000. Various banks suggest 5 to 20 per cent of the house price is good enough for a deposit. Is the price of a wedding really worth your own home?

And $54,000 is also about 64 per cent of the average Australian wage. Of course, if we’re talking couples, that means a larger income pool to draw on (do the bride’s parents still foot the bill?).

But even if a couple is sharing the cost, and presuming they’re each earning the average wage, a wedding could equate to 35 per cent of their combined annual income. That means one third of all the work they do in one year is devoted to a ceremony and reception that runs roughly as long as one working day. In other words, each party would need a job that paid about $3300 an hour to make the whole exercise worth a day’s work.

Chances of that? Pretty slim.

So what’s the point? Why spend so much on a wedding? And keep in mind that an average is only calculated on a sum of parts. Some people spend far more on their bridal bash than the paltry $54,000.

Yet, as someone planning a wedding, I know how easy it is to part with the cash. Even for a small, intimate gathering such as ours – although our costs may have something to do with a guestlist comprising journalists and political types and two families who know how to enjoy good champagne.

And why shouldn’t your wedding be a big celebration? Why shouldn’t you afford yourselves and your guests the pleasure of nice food and drink and fragrant, tastefully arranged centrepieces? You’re only going to do it once, right? May as well do it in a dress that fits and looks fantastic, in a place as memorable as your vows, with cake they can eat, with pleasure, till the small hours of a momentous occasion. Hang the cost and enjoy the celebration!

You won’t live to regret it. Right?

Well, I know a couple who did. They had sunk tens of thousands of dollars they didn’t really have into a wedding they didn’t really want. The debt they carried almost destroyed their relationship, not to mention the relationships they shared with the family and friends who set the standard so high. They are still paying for one day years later, in more ways than one. They’ll make it through because they love each other deeply. And they didn’t need a big wedding to prove it.

And that’s the point. A wedding isn’t a marriage. A wedding is a ceremony that officiates the union between two people. Specifically, a man and a woman in Australia’s current, narrow view. A wedding is also a great excuse for a party. But a party that costs as much as a very nice new car? Or luxury round-the-world trip? Is it wise to pour so much money into just one day?

Ultimately how much money is spent on a wedding is a decision every couple should make for itself. It’s a decision that should be balanced against their future together, not the immediate expectations of everyone around them. It’s about living within one’s means, not how one wishes one could.

We do need to put a stop to this culture that demands overspending. Far better to cultivate a community that values the bigger, deeper meaning of now and forever than the flashy, splashy blingy things that have become hitched to the sentiment.

Yet the cost keeps going up.

Have we lost the battle?

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SIGNS THAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP MAY BE IN TROUBLE, SO CHECK THEM OUT HERE

We know the big signs of relationship trouble: abuse, addictions, infidelity, deception, control, anger, etc. Many relationships don’t have these problems, but they’re still rife with other issues. They are the smaller red flags you’re not paying attention to that—when done every day—chip away the foundation of your relationship. These things happen to the best of us because we don’t think of them as that bad and we can always find a way to justify our actions. As in, I might be mean to him, but at least I don’t lie to him. He lies to me all the time. Team GEM has come up with 10 signs that your relationship might be in trouble. We don’t like to leave you wondering, so we offer our ideas on what you can do about it, too.

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1. STRANGERS GET BETTER TREATMENT THAN YOU GIVE EACH OTHER

This happens in all kinds of relationships, whether romantic or platonic. We’re nice to strangers because we only see them for a few minutes and it’s easy to be on our best behavior. It’s easy not to snap at them or nag them. But the person we see every day—who left his dirty laundry on the floor or locked her keys in the car again—doesn’t always get the best treatment because we’ve seen that person at his or her worst and, quite frankly, we’re sick of it.

What you can do about it:

Take a day to observe your own behavior. Be honest about whether you have a mean edge in your voice when you talk to your partner. If you do—don’t worry! You’re human and we all behave badly sometimes. Now that you see yourself, take another day to think before you speak to your partner. If you feel the urge to say something mean, bite your tongue (figuratively, of course). Say what you want to say without the nasty edge. Throw in a sincere compliment. Your partner may not notice or appreciate what you did, but keep doing it. Lead by example.

2. NEITHER OF YOU IS FOCUSING ON WHAT’S RIGHT

There is no way that one can be in a relationship and not have struggles or problems arise. As conflicts happen, there’s a tendency to have tunnel vision about fixing them by looking at everything that’s going wrong. You both feel like you’re doing the right thing by discussing your relationship, but you’re in the defensive mode of picking at every bad thing about it in the name of strengthening it.

What you can do about it:

Reframe your thinking about your relationship. What’s right in it? Seriously, think about the things you love, the stuff that’s going well, the last time you had a good time together. When you’re discussing your relationship, highlight the good stuff. Ask for more of it and do more of it yourself. You’ll feel better and so will your partner. It doesn’t mean that you don’t deal with pressing issues; it means that you change the conversation to one that’s empowering to the relationship.

3. YOU LIKE EACH OTHER BUT DON’T LOVE EACH OTHER

On your first date, it really was kinda cute the way your partner scraped her teeth with the fork at dinner. It wasn’t so bad the way he started every comment with, “Hey, you know what?” Now months or years have passed, and you think you’re going to lose it if you see that bad habit One.More.Time.

What you can do about it:

If love is still present, then you still have a chance to work on the “liking each other” aspect of the relationship. First of all, recognize that you yourself have habits that annoy your partner. Then, understand that there’s a good chance that your partner is not trying to annoy you! It’s impossible to hold on to the “first date façade” for months and years at a time. Let go of your annoyance and anger about small things that irritate you. It won’t be easy, but every moment you hold on to poisonous feelings is another moment that will steal your chance to be happy with the person you chose.

4. YOU DON’T MAKE TIME FOR INTIMACY

Sex is falling to the wayside or has stopped completely. You don’t hug or kiss each other. Communication doesn’t go much beyond the topics of kids, bills, and chores. You’re not connecting physically, emotionally, and mentally. This is a dangerous place to be because one or both of you is heading toward indifference—if you’re not already there. The textbook definition of indifference is a lack of interest, concern, or sympathy. It’s difficult to overcome a lack of concern for your partner

What you can do about it:

One place to start is to physically connect with your partner. For some couples, that could mean making love more often. For others, that might mean holding hands when you ordinarily wouldn’t. Human touch enhances the level of attachment we feel to others. Touch can send a powerful message of comfort, love, and security. It is a way to sympathize with people and show your care and concern. Your partner probably deserves your intimacy.

5. ONE OF YOU THINKS YOU ARE THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

A self-centered attitude will drag a relationship down subtly, but quickly. It’s hard to be in a relationship with someone who insists on always having his own way, who makes unreasonable demands, or who is unwilling to compromise. It sends the message that the other person’s needs are unimportant.

What you can do about it:

If your partner is the self-centered one, there isn’t much you can do about it since you can’t change other people. But, you have unlimited power to change your response. If he wants you to pick up the dry cleaning and it’s inconvenient for you, then communicate what you can do. You could say something like, “I can pick up the dry cleaning or pick up the kids, but I can’t do both. I can do one and you can do the other. What do you prefer?”

If you are the self-centered one, you have to ask yourself what you’re really trying to achieve in your relationship if your behavior is a source of unhappiness. If you want to salvage your relationship, you have to be willing to do the hard work of self-reflection and then take action to balance your partner’s needs with your own.

6. YOU HAVE NEW INTERESTS THAT DON’T INCLUDE EACH OTHER

Healthy couples should have separate interests. It’s part of what contributes to making each of you more interesting to the other. At the same time, it’s a problem if you—or your partner—have new pursuits that take the time you used to spend together or you have some of the same hobbies, but you no longer do them together. Of course, it may not mean anything to pick up a hobby, but beware if the hobby is leading either of you to spend more time with other people.

What you can do about it:

Bring your partner into what you’re doing and ask to join in what he’s doing. If you don’t enjoy golf, you don’t need to play 18 holes. Take a quick trip to the driving range instead. He may not want to join your theater company, but invite him to a rehearsal or show. The point is to find opportunities to come together sometimes.

7. YOU DON’T MAKE THE EFFORT TO IMPRESS EACH OTHER

Remember the days when you used to impress each other? You used to plan how you were going to look, think, and act when you were together. You put a lot of thought and effort into your appearance and behavior. Maybe now you don’t even bother to throw on lipstick and you no longer feel the need to stay abreast of issues your partner cares about. Impressing your partner in word and deed shows your investment in the relationship. If you do not impress each other, you’re losing your investment.

What you can do about it:

Time to start investing in impressing. Take a look at what you can do to pique your partner’s interest. It really won’t take much effort to look like you made an effort. If your usual date attire consists of sneakers, jeans, and a T-shirt, switch to nice jeans, a colorful blouse, and heels. You haven’t changed much, but it will look like you did. If your partner likes football and you only pretended to like it to seal the deal, then wow him with a nugget of information that you can easily get from watching ESPN on TV or online. There’s no need to be phony; you don’t have to learn the rules of football. But, you can talk about a human-interest story like the death of Adrian Peterson’s son.

 8. YOU ARE TURNING AWAY FROM EACH OTHER

Very little hurts more than your partner approaching you about something—anything—and your response is to literally and/or figuratively turn away. No matter how you feel, it shows a lack of care and concern not to respond—even if that’s not the message you intended to send. If your partner is turning away from you, then you know the pain.

What you can do about it:

Sometimes the problem is that the person doing the turning away is angry and doesn’t want to say something hurtful. Sometimes you—or your partner—don’t know what to say, so you figure it’s best to walk away without saying a word. You can prevent a bigger problem by acknowledging your partner as a person in a relationship with you. It could be as simple as saying, “I don’t know what to say right now. Let me think about it.” Or allow your partner some time to process his thoughts. You could say, “I know you need to think about this, but I do need to hear from you, too. Can we talk tonight?”

By doing so, you’re acknowledging that you understand your partner’s needs as well as your own.

9. YOU’RE TALKING TO THE WRONG PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP

There’s nothing wrong with seeking advice from friends and family about certain things. The point of having people in your life is that they help you on your journeys. The caveat here is that friends and family may not be very helpful when it comes to your relationship. Even if your aunt and uncle have been married for 50 years, even if your college roommate is a licensed marriage and family therapist, your connection with them is too close to look at your relationship objectively.

What you can do about it:

Stop talking about your relationship with friends and family. One member of TEAM GEM got this piece of great advice from her mother when she was a newlywed: “If you want me to love your husband as a son, then you can’t tell me all the things he has done to hurt you. You will forgive him and move on, but I won’t be so quick to forgive because you are my daughter and I love you more.” Your relationship will be better off if you talk to your partner first, then take your problems—individually and as a couple—to a licensed therapist. Can’t afford it? See if any colleges around you offer a degree program in therapy. You may be able to use the services of supervised graduate students and the fees are usually on a very reasonable sliding scale.

10. YOU’RE NOT SURE IF YOU SHOULD STAY OR GO

You’ve talked about all your issues, you’ve fought, and you’ve cycled through good and bad times. But, you wake up in the morning and you’re thinking that maybe your relationship is over.

What you can do about it:

Whether you stay or go is a decision that only you and your partner can make with some pretty deep soul-searching. If you choose to work things out, give it your all. Bring out your best self and treat your partner respectfully. Fully engage with your partner and really listen when he speaks. Avoid fighting. Wait at least three months have passed to evaluate whether your relationship has a future.

rsAfter two decades as a television news anchor, including four years on CBS’ The Early Show, Rene decided it was time for a change. Tired of reading from a teleprompter, René was determined to find her own voice and inspire women like herself – juggling busy lives, raising children and trying to live up to impossible parenting ideals. The result is René’s missive on modern motherhood, Good Enough Mother: The Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting and its subsequent website www.goodenoughmother.com.

As the daughter of two, breast cancer survivors, René underwent a preventive mastectomy in 2007 and now works tirelessly to promote early detection.

Rene is a regular guest on CNN, BET, Anderson, The Bill Cunningham Show, The Today Show and The Doctors and is an in-demand speaker. She is a proud wife to Buff Parham and parent to Casey and Cole.

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AFRO-BRAZILIAN WOMEN MODELS PROTEST WITH TOPLESS SHOW

Some 40 models, most of them women, have staged a topless protest in Rio de Janeiro against the low presence of Afro-Brazilians on fashion catwalks.

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‘‘What strikes you, your racism or me?’’ one of the female demonstrators wrote on her chest during the protest late Wednesday timed to coincide with Rio Fashion Week.

The demonstration also coincided with the signing of a deal between the Fashion Week organisers and the Rio ombudsman’s office setting a 10 per cent quota for black models in fashion shows, the G1 news website reported.

‘‘This agreement crowns a joint initiative that can open a space that does not yet exist,’’ said Moises Alcuna, a spokesman for Educafro, a civil rights group championing the labour and educational rights of blacks and indigenous people.

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More than half of Brazil’s 200 million people are of African descent, the world’s second largest black population after that of Nigeria.But Afro-Brazilians complain of widespread racial inequality.

‘‘If we are buying clothes, why can’t we parade in the (fashion) shows,’’ asked a 15-year-old model taking part in the protest. ‘‘Does that mean that only white women can sell and the rest of us can only buy?’’

‘‘Claiming to showcase Brazilian fashion without the real Brazilians amounts to showing Brazilian fashion (only) with white models,’’ said Jose Flores, a 25-year-old former model who now works in advertising.

After 13 years of debate, President Dilma Rousseff last year signed a controversial law that reserves half of seats in federal universities to public school students, with priority given to Afro-Brazilians and indigenous people.

In June 2009, the Sao Paulo Fashion Week (SPFW) – Latin America’s premier fashion event – for the first time imposed quotas requiring at least 10 per cent of the models to be black or indigenous.

Previously, only a handful of black models featured among the 350 or so that sashayed down the catwalk – usually less than three per cent.

But in 2010, the 10 per cent quota was removed, after a conservative prosecutor deemed it unconstitutional.

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IF YOU ARE A WOMAN IN NEED OF FRIENDS, THEN TRY THESE METHODS TO GET AHEAD

MEETING PEOPLE WILL GET YOU FRIENDS, SO HERE ARE SOME CLUES TO GO

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1. Building a new friendship is a lot like when you were kids.  You want to hang out with someone like yourself.  Someone just as fun, hip and cool.  You want to make time with that person, in a meaningful way, but usually based around common interests and activities you can do in your spare time.  Give some of these tips a whirl and enjoy your new friends!

2. Use a service like Meetup.com, which hosts outings for everything under the sun that you could imagine.  It is for other people like you, just looking to make a connection with others that share your interests.

3. Use a daily deal, like Groupon to help you find an activity you like. That’s a great way to meet others that are interested in that activity.  If it becomes a regular meet up, its easier to make friends and be in an environment where you are already both entertained.  A cup of coffee afterwards can be an easy segue into making a bond.

4. Meet people at church.  If you are involved in a religion, this is a great place to meet like minded people.  Churches have many opportunities to become involved in your community, and for regular meetups

5. Join an adult sports league.  Although I have never been, the signs for “adult kickball” do sound pretty tempting.  It seems like that would be a good place to get a little exercise, meet some people, and have a lot of fun.

6. Get out with your dog (or maybe even get a puppy). Lifehacker readers Em and Powermobydick (on Twitter) say that walking their dogs and going to dog parks have helped them meet new people. Other obvious but still effective ways to get out there include volunteering, starting a new hobby, joining a neighborhood book club, and even traveling.

7. Join the “Y”.  A gym has a lot of opportunities for you to get involved in classes, or just work out.  With everything from a light paced yoga class, all the way into the pits of the weight lifting area, you are sure to meet someone that has a similar interest.

8. Join a PTA or similar organization at your child’s school.  These groups are filled with people that, like you, love their children and want to be involved in their life.  To be honest, they also are usually filled with people that want to expand their social life outside of their children but don’t know how.  It’s a great way for you to make friends, and still involve your child.

9. Find some volunteer work!  My grandparents volunteer at a local theater and have found many people they connect with, but there are so many places you can get involved in and meet people that, like you, just want to help.  Pick a cause that is close to you, and by default you will meet others that also care.

10. Make a weekly activity time with a friend you have and would like to see more, or rekindle an old friendship with some friends.  If every Friday you make some time for you and a friend to go fishing, or to have a cocktail and dessert at a local restaurant, you will have something to look forward to with that friend, and it can make for a lot of fun!

11. And lastly, don’t forget to say “Hi!” to people.  I was born in the south and we could strike up a conversation with our “new best friend” in the checkout line at the grocery store, at the gas pump, or standing in line at the DMV.  Put yourself out there and good luck meeting new people!  It can be tough, but nothing is more rewarding than having an adult friend to confide in, and spend time with.

Sometimes its tough for moms and dads to think of ourselves first, but a little time out with a pal is so valuable to being a well balanced and loving parent.

modernJessica is the founder & managing editor of Modern Day Moms, an award-winning national publication with articles centered around the latest trends, arts & crafts, recipes, must-haves, travel & more. Aside from blogging, Jessica also manages to make time for social media by managing some of the most popular twitter accounts in the country. Wife to a talented artist, she is also mom to an adorable little girl who can navigate electronics like nobody’s business.

THE EVOLUTION OF BEAUTY & FACING THE FACTS

BEAUTY, the saying has it, is only skin deep. Not true.

woman & dog face each other image www.goodgirlsgo.com

Skin is important (the cosmetics industry proves that). But so is what lies under it. In particular, the shape of people’s faces, determined by their bone structure, contributes enormously to how beautiful they are. And, since the ultimate point of beauty is to signal who is a good prospect as a mate, what makes a face beautiful is not only an aesthetic matter but also a biological one. How those bone structures arise, and how they communicate desirable traits, are big evolutionary questions.

Until now, experiments to try to determine the biological basis of beauty have been of the please-look-at-these-photographs-and-answer-some-questions variety. Some useful and not necessarily obvious results have emerged, such as that one determinant of beauty is facial symmetry.

But what would really help is a breeding experiment which allowed the shapes of faces to be followed across the generations to see how those shapes relate to variations in things that might be desirable in a mate. These might include fertility, fecundity, social status, present health, and likely resistance to future infection and infestation. Correlations between many of these phenomena and attributes of the body-beautiful have, indeed, been established. But in a pair-forming, highly social species such as Homo sapiens, you also have to live with your co-child-raiser or, at least, collaborate with him or her. So other things may be important in a mate, too, such as an even temper and a friendly outlook.

It would be impossible to do such a breeding experiment on people, of course. But as Irene Elia, a biological anthropologist at Cambridge, realised, it has in fact been done, for the past five decades, on a different species of animal. Dr Elia has published her analysis of this experiment in the Quarterly Review of Biology. The animals in question are foxes.

Foxy ladies, vulpine gents

The story starts in 1959, in Novosibirsk, Russia. That was when Dmitry Belyaev, a geneticist, began an experiment which continues to this day. He tried to breed silver foxes (a melanic colour variant, beloved of furriers, of the familiar red fox) to make them tamer and thus easier for farmers to handle. He found he could, but the process also had other effects: the animals’ coats developed patches of colour; their ears became floppy; their skulls became rounded and foreshortened; their faces flattened; their noses got stubbier; and their jaws shortened, thus crowding their teeth.

All told, then, these animals became, to wild foxes, the equivalent of what dogs are to wild wolves. And this was solely the result of selection for what Belyaev called “friendly” behaviour—neither fearful nor aggressive, but calm and eager to interact with people.

The link appears to be hormonal. Hormones such as estradiol and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which regulate behaviour, also regulate some aspects of development. Change one and you will change the other. So in a species where friendliness is favoured because that species is social and the group members have to get on with each other—a species like Homo sapiens, for example—a “friendly” face is a feature that might actively be sought, both in mates and in children, because it is a marker of desirable social attitudes. And there is abundant evidence, reviewed by Dr Elia, both that it is indeed actively sought by Homo sapiens, and that it is such a reliable marker.

What men look for in the faces of women, and vice versa, is so well known that research might seem superfluous. Suffice to say, then, that features like those seen in Belyaev’s foxes (flat faces, small noses, reduced jaws and a large ratio between the height of the cranium and the height of the face) are on the list. People with large craniofacial ratios are, literally, highbrow.

More intriguingly, the presence or absence of such features skews parents’ attitudes to their offspring. At least 15 studies have shown that mothers treat attractive children more favourably than unattractive ones, even though they say they don’t and may actually believe that. At least one of these studies showed this bias is true from birth.

Some of the details are extraordinary. One researcher, who spent a decade observing how mothers look after young children in supermarkets, found that only 1% of children judged unattractive by independent assessors were safely secured in the seats of grocery carts. In the case of the most attractive the figure was 13%. Another researcher studied police photographs of children who had been abused and found such children had lower craniofacial ratios than those who had not been.

In a state of nature, this sort of behaviour would surely translate into selective death and thus the spread of the facial features humans are pleased to describe as “beautiful”. If such features do indicate a propensity to friendly, sociable behaviour, as they do in foxes, then such behaviours will spread too.

Crucially for Dr Elia’s hypothesis, they do indeed indicate such a propensity. Even as children, according to 33 separate studies, the attractive are better adjusted and more popular than the ugly (they also have higher intelligence, which assists social skills). And of course, they have less difficulty finding a mate—and as a result have more children themselves. One study found that the most beautiful women in it had up to 16% more offspring than their less-favoured sisters. Conversely, the least attractive men had 13% fewer than their more handsome confrères.

The beholder’s eye

An appreciation of what is “beautiful”, moreover, seems innate—as Dr Elia’s hypothesis requires it should be. Babies a few days old prefer pictures of the faces of people whom their elders would define as beautiful to those they would not, regardless of the sex and race of either the baby or the person in the photo.

People also seem to be more beautiful now than they were in the past—precisely as would be expected if beauty is still evolving. This has been shown by assessing the beauty of reconstructions of the faces of early humans. (Such reconstructions, sometimes used in murder cases where only skeletal remains of the victim are available, produce reliable depictions of recently dead people, so the assumption is that ancients really did look like the reconstructions made of them.)

None of this absolutely proves Dr Elia’s hypothesis. But it looks plausible. If she is right, facial beauty ceases to be an arbitrary characteristic and instead becomes a reliable marker of underlying desirable behaviour. It is selected for both in the ways beautiful children are brought up, and in the number of children the beautiful have. Face it.

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SUREFIRE WAYS TO MAKE WOMEN HAPPY

Ten ways to make women

happy instantly

Ten ways to make women happy instantly

YOU are probably a wonderful boyfriend and a great date.

You’re probably the friend all your friends wish they could be for just one night to see how you do it. You’re probably that awesome.

But still, you can always do better. No? We think so. AskMen’s female staffers are shedding some light on the little things you do (or should be doing) that make the difference between describing you to their girlfriends as “good enough,” and being the guy they want to hang on to:

1. Hello and Goodbye kisses
Nothing makes us feel at home like goodbye kisses in the morning and hello kisses when we get home. There’s a warm and welcoming effect to this small gesture that says to your partner, “I’m happy to see you” or “I’ll miss you” without actually having to say the words. For those of you who aren’t talkers, this will go a long way towards taking care of any relationship confusion.

2. Cuddling
Sorry, guys, but cuddling is key. We probably love cuddling more or as much as you love actual sex. But seriously. Other than science proving time and time again that cuddling reduces stress and releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin, it’s a real downer when, right after a session between the sheets, our partner gets right up and goes off to play Grand Theft Auto. Sex should not – and I repeat not – make you want to play GTA. It should make you want to cuddle us afterwards and tell us how beautiful we are. So if you end up leaping out of bed to your video game, pretty soon that same game will be keeping you warm at night.

3. Doing the little things
You’ve heard it before, no doubt, but while no woman will turn down a bouquet of flowers (and this is always much appreciated), you don’t necessarily have to go to that extreme. It’s the little things that show you thought about us, even if for no more than 10 seconds. Grab a sticky note, draw a lopsided heart on it (if we can’t draw a good one, we don’t expect you to!), and stick it in our purse for us to find later. If you’re at the supermarket, grab our favourite chocolate bar. If we’re in separate rooms doing things, randomly walk into our room, kiss us on the top of the head, and walk back out. No words required.

4. Noticing (and complimenting) the little things
Just saying something like, “You look nice today” goes a long way. A lot of women (no, not all) put effort into the little details of their appearance – makeup, hair, nails, etc. Women that don’t put effort into the aforementioned things probably put it into something else you’re well able to notice. If you’re considerate enough to see we’ve had our nails done or put on a dress or whatever it is that signifies we’ve made an effort, it makes us feel good when you verbalise that you notice. Most of the time, we’ve done whatever it is to feel (and look) pretty so that you’ll give us a positive response. Small compliments go a long way.

5. Doing the dishes
No, we’re not saying it’s glamourous, but at least we’re not asking you to cook (just kidding, we are – once in a while). Really, though, when you do the dishes after we’ve cooked a nice meal, it feels like you appreciate us and what we did. It’s one thing to simply say, “Thank you” and quite another to do something that shows us you’re thankful. Any guy who eats our food and then parks himself on the couch to watch the football game is going to get an earful, anyway. Also, we’ll do the same for you when you cook. And if we don’t, we expect an earful as well.

6. Helping us with our jacket
Helping us with our jacket might be the last remnant of chivalry that’s left and still appropriate in the age of do-it-ourselves womanhood. It also remains a surprising enough gesture that it will impress the woman you’re with; it’s not expected anymore. So it will make you look like a gentleman while not seeming conservative. Same with opening doors. If you’re in a committed relationship, you can pull back the covers and invite us into bed with you. It’s such a simple gesture of warmth and love.

7. Hugging from behind and kissing (on the forehead, nose, cheek)
Forehead kisses. Cheek kisses. Nose kisses. We don’t need an all-out makeout session in order to feel that you’re into us. In fact, sometimes we’d prefer not to have one. Instead, these sweet little pecks will show us you want us close (and you’re feeling close to us) without it being all about sex. Likewise, when you put your arm around us or rub our arm, that intimate-yet-non-sexual contact makes us feel closer to you. Also worth noting: Hug from behind around the waist. Put your face in our neck while you’re doing that and we’re all yours.

8. Letting us sleep
How many times have you watched a movie on a date where your girlfriend falls asleep in your lap or on the couch next to you? Chances are, when the movie ends, you’re wondering what you’re supposed to do with her. Hint: Don’t wake her up. Instead, grab a pillow and lift her head up a little and place the pillow underneath so she can keep sleeping comfortably. Or, if you’re sleeping over and getting up before her, pick your clothes out the night before so you don’t have to turn on the light to wake her up. When she finally wakes up, she’ll feel like you’ve put her first.

9. Leading us through a crowd
There is nothing that makes us melt more than feeling that you want to protect us. We don’t mean that you should get into fights with other guys over us or insist on seeing us everyday – that becomes obsessive. But putting a hand on our lower back or taking our hand to lead us through a crowded area makes us feel like you’re concerning yourself with our presence. This makes us feel like you’re there for us.

10. Saying thank you
Most women probably only notice this one once they date someone who says it, but a man who says thank you for the things we’re surprised to be thanked for (calling, grabbing you a drink from the fridge, dressing up) is a keeper. Not only does it show you’re considerate, but it shows you don’t take us for granted. Which, guys, is a big, big relationship killer. Don’t do it. Ever.

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MEN LOOK AT WOMEN’S BODIES MORE THAN THEIR FACES

MEN FOCUS ON WOMEN’S BODIES & NOT THEIR FACES STUDY SHOWS

face & body woman image www.goodgirlsgo.com

Most women have long since figured this one on their own, but a new study confirms that men look at women’s bodies more than their faces. Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that participants, when asked to look at full-body images of women, spend more time on breasts and waists before heading north.

Publishing their findings in academic journal Sex Roles, psychologists Sarah Gervais and Michael Dodd recruited 65 college-aged students in an attempt to discover the amount of time spent ogling the female form. Fitting them with an eye-tracking device, researchers asked the students to look at three photos of 10 different women while they measured the amount of time each recruit dwelt on various parts of the women’s bodies. The participants were then asked to rate the appearance or personality of each female pictured. In order to ascertain preference for a particular body type, the original image was manipulated – enhancing or decreasing sexualised body parts—in an effort to see which body type was more likely to draw attention. Responses show that men prefer curvier silhouettes, and judged their personalities more favourably.

“Although objectification theory suggests that women frequently experience the objectifying gaze with many adverse consequences, there is scant research examining the nature and causes of the objectifying gaze for perceivers,” explain the authors in the study’s abstract. “The main purpose of this work was to examine the objectifying gaze towards women via eye tracking technology. A secondary purpose was to examine the impact of body shape on this objectifying gaze.”

Beyond the confirmation of stereotypes, Gervais and Dodd seek to understand the mechanics behind the objectification of women in an attempt to prevent the limitations that come from reducing them into sexual objects. “It can undermine work performance,” said Gervais. “It can cause [women] to self-silence and it’s related to increased perceptions of sexual harassment. If you think about all of the negative consequences, figuring out what’s triggering all of those consequences, that’s the first step towards stopping it from happening.”

But it’s not only men who have been caught out; women are equally culpable when it comes to objectifying the bodies of other women. “We do have a slightly different pattern for men than women, but when we looked at their overall dwell times—how long they focused on each body part – we find the exact same effects for both groups,” added Gervais. “Women, we think, do it often for social comparison purposes.”

To reduce objectification, regardless of gender, Dodd says people first need to become aware of how they look at women – and make behavioural adjustments as necessary.

“By characterising the manner in which people fixate on the body when engaging in objectifying behaviour, it also becomes possible to determine methods of reducing this behaviour,” he said. “It’s not as though looking at the body of someone has to be, or is, a default behaviour. It just may be the case that cognitive control is required to engage in more appropriate, and less damaging, visual behaviour.”

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Henry Sapiecha

 

THE VAGINAL VIKING VICTORS OF ICELAND TELL A STORY

VIKING VAGINAL VICTORS OF ICELAND

Icelanders are among the happiest and healthiest people on Earth. They publish more books per capita than any other country, and they have more artists. They boast the most prevalent belief in evolution – and elves, too. Iceland is the world’s most peaceful nation (the cops don’t even carry guns), and the best place for kids. Oh, and they had a lesbian head of state, the world’s first. Granted, the national dish is putrefied shark meat, but you can’t have everything.

Johanna Sigurdardottir, Iceland's prime minister

Iceland is also the best place to have a uterus, according to the folks at the World Economic Forum. The GlobalGender Gap Report ranks countries based on where women have the most equal access to education and healthcare, and where they can participate most fully in the country’s political and economic life.

According to the 2013 report, Icelandic women pretty much have it all. Their sisters in Finland, Norway, and Sweden have it pretty good, too: those countries came in second, third and fourth, respectively. Denmark is not far behind at number seven.

Australia comes in at a dismal 24 on the gender gap index, just below the United States. In 2006 Australia was ranked 15th out of 136 countries. At least we’re not Yemen, which is dead last out of 136 countries.

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So how did a string of countries settled by Vikings become leaders in gender enlightenment? Bloodthirsty raiding parties don’t exactly sound like models of egalitarianism, and the early days weren’t pretty. Medieval Icelandic law prohibited women from bearing arms or even having short hair. Viking women could not be chiefs or judges, and they had to remain silent in assemblies. On the flip side, they could request a divorce and inherit property. But that’s not quite a blueprint for the world’s premier egalitarian society.

Icelandic performer Bjork on stage at the Adelaide final leg of the Big Day Out

The change came with literacy, for one thing. Today almost everybody in Scandinavia can read, a legacy of the Reformation and early Christian missionaries, who were interested in teaching all citizens to read the Bible. Following a long period of turmoil, Nordic states also turned to literacy as a stabilizing force in the late 18th century. By 1842, Sweden had made education compulsory for both boys and girls.

Researchers have found that the more literate the society in general, the more egalitarian it is likely to be, and vice versa. But the literacy rate is very high in the U.S., too, so there must be something else going on inScandinavia. Turns out that a whole smorgasbord of ingredients makes gender equality a high priority in Nordic countries.

To understand why, let’s take a look at religion. The Scandinavian Lutherans, who turned away from the excesses of the medieval Catholic Church, were concerned about equality – especially the disparity between rich and poor. They thought that individuals had some inherent rights that could not just be bestowed by the powerful, and this may have opened them to the idea of rights for women. Lutheran state churches in Denmark, Sweden, Finland,Norway and Iceland have had female priests since the middle of the 20th century, and today, the Swedish Lutheran Church even has a female archbishop.

Or maybe it’s just that there’s not much religion at all. Scandinavians aren’t big churchgoers. They tend to look at morality from a secular point of view, where there’s not so much obsessive focus on sexual issues and less interest in controlling women’s behavior and activities. Scandinavia’s secularism decoupled sex from sin, and this worked out well for females. They came to be seen as having the right to sexual experience just like men, and reproductive freedom, too. Girls and boys learn about contraception in school (and even the pleasure of orgasms), and most cities have youth clinics where contraceptives are readily available. Women may have an abortion for any reason up to the eighteenth week (they can seek permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare after that), and the issue is not politically controversial.

Sweden and Norway had some big imperialist adventures, but this behavior declined following the Napoleonic Wars. After that they invested in the military to ward off invaders, but they were less interested in building it up to deal with bloated colonial structures and foreign adventures. Overall Nordic countries devoted fewer resources to the military – the arena where patriarchal values tend to get emphasized and entrenched. Iceland, for example, spends the world’s lowest percentage of GDP on its military.

Industrialization is part of the story, too: it hit the Nordic countries late. In the 19th century, Scandinavia did have a rich and powerful merchant class, but the region never produced the Gilded Age industrial titans and extreme concentration of wealth that happened in other Western economies.

In the 20th century, farmers and workers in the newly populated Nordic cities tended to join together in political coalitions, and they could mount a serious challenge to the business elites, who were relatively weak compared to those in the U.S. Like ordinary people everywhere, Scandinavians wanted a social and economic system where everyone could get a job, expect decent pay, and enjoy a strong social safety net. And that’s what they got – kind of like Roosevelt’s New Deal without all the restrictions added by New York bankers and southern conservatives. Strong trade unions developed, which tend to promote gender equality. The public sector grew, providing women with good job opportunities. Iceland today has the highest rate of union membership out of any OECD country.

Over time, Scandinavian countries became modern social democratic states where wealth is more evenly distributed, education is typically free up through university, and the social safety net allows women to comfortably work and raise a family. Scandinavian moms aren’t agonising over work-family balance: parents can take a year or more of paid parental leave. Dads are expected to be equal partners in childrearing, and they seem to like it. (Check them out in the adorable photo book, The Swedish Dad.)

The folks up north have just figured out – and it’s not rocket science! – that everybody is better off when men and women share power and influence. They’re not perfect – there’s still some unfinished business about how women are treated in the private sector, and we’ve sensed an undertone of darker forces in pop culture phenoms like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But Scandinavians have decided that investment in women is both good for social relations and a smart economic choice. Unsurprisingly, Nordic countries have strong economies and rank high on things like innovation – Sweden is actually ahead of the U.S. on that metric. (So please, no more nonsense about how inequality makes for innovation.)

The good news is that things are getting better for women in most places in the world. But the World Economic Forum report shows that the situation either remains the same or is deteriorating for women in 20 percent of countries.

Maybe one day we’ll decide to follow the Nordic example. But at the moment, we seem to be moving away from Iceland and closer to Yemen. Is that really what we want?

Rueters

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