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Friday, December 3, 2010

Standing up for open internet = standing up for everything you care about!

Free Press writes: "After more than a year of waffling on Net Neutrality, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski just announced plans to issue weak regulations that give just about everything to giant phone and cable companies, and leave Internet users with almost nothing."

This rule goes to a vote on Dec. 21, so now's the time to sign the Free Press petition!  

I think this is *the* issue of the moment.  Here's my soapbox pitch on why true net neutrality is so important:

With a privatized internet, communities who work toward every other type of social and political change won't be able to connect and move as freely. People who can't afford to pay for 'privileged internet' will fall behind in education, job searching, cultural production, and more.  Companies who now champion free, open source internet tools will probably cave to deals with multi-national corporations...

Augh!  The same transition happened to TV back in the day -- don't let it happen to the internet!  We don't need one more venue where companies can push products and values on us.  We need a venue where people can speak freely, connect with each other, and make media that reflects the diverse face of our nation.

Sign, Tweet, post, stand on chairs and shout about it.  This is our last chance.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dear Victoria's Secret, get your paws off my feminism

Alright.  Victoria's Secret has really outdone itself this time. 

It's bad enough that this corporation promotes narrow ideals of beauty and sexiness that have horrible consequences on girls' and women's self-esteem, self-image, and co-ed relationship expectations.  But, in recent years, they've gotten hip to the fact that lots of us are sick of our bodies being chopped into scrutinizable bits by ads, and they've begun co-opting our media literacy efforts.  


First they featured the "Love Your Body" ad campaign, which twisted the Dove and other non-profit messaging intended to help women love their bodies and see themselves *apart* from commercial standards.  Now, they're touting the "Incredible" bra, which is advertised with a play on 70's bra-burning feminism: "Burn my old bra! This one's incredible!"  They may as well say, "Burn that old-fart, unappetizing sexism!  The coy, submissive woman is back!"

These 'clever' marketing techniques not only confuse public awareness while they poke fun and delegimitize the serious public health issues involved in low body image and sexism, but they go one step further in reaffirming and promoting the oppressive norms bra burning and self-acceptance initiatives try to combat.

I'm tired of living in a culture where women are taught to compare themselves to each other, to be jealous and competitive over men, and to never feel perfect or deserving enough to inhabit themselves fully.  I'm tired of living in a culture where women feel they must be like porn stars to make male partners happy, where the freedom to be sexually active has been usurped by the same old corporate interests, and male-pleasing, porn-performance promiscuity inserted where empowered fulfillment and true intimacy ought to be.  It's hard enough to get out a message celebrating uniqueness and real, personal beauty over the din of dollars and cents accumulating, without that same commercial monster using my cause...for their own profit, yet again.  Way to add insult to injury!

My panties certainly ARE in a wad.  Hm.  Maybe that'll be their next tagline.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

After all this time, is acting 'like a man' still the most powerful thing a woman can do?

Today I attended the stellar Women Who Tech TeleSummit.  (Thanks coordinators, speakers, and sponsors who helped make it cheap enough to go to!)

The panel that gave me the most food for thought was called "Self Promotion: Is This Really a Rant About Gender?"  The main question, riffing off of the debate stirred up by Clay Shirky's article, "A Rant About Women," was: "Is it necessary to be a self-aggrandizing jerk to get ahead?"

So yeah.  Some questions that were debated were:  What does it mean to get ahead?  What's the difference between aggression and assertiveness?  How do you handle the double standard wherein men can act 10 times as aggressive as women while women get called a "bitch" when they act confident and powerful?  How can we change the standards on both the supply and demand sides?

One conclusion of the panel I found particularly salient and helpful was that when people moan about sexism and double standards, the retort "stop blaming men" makes no sense.  Demanding diversity on panels, at schools, in work places (minorities as well) is not a way of blaming men, but a way to improve the quality of, well, everything, by widening the pool of excellent candidates.  It was also pointed out that creating systems that invite women and people of color does not "lower standards" (I can't even believe how prejudiced a comment that is, but it's a common repsonse!), but rather acknowledges and addresses the issue that there are a bajillion qualified people out there, yet usually the white, male, "jerks" (to use Clay Shirky's word) are the ones viewed as successful and enjoying that so-called success.

As a result of all of this, I revisited Deanna Zandt's post, "Shirky to women: ur doin it wrong."  Definitely worth checking out her articulate post, as well as the debate that went on in the comments.  The blogosphere firestorm stirred up by Shirky's article may have subsided, but these issues are far from solved, so this is all certainly worth a read, a think, a comment, a talk with a friend about over coffee.  Who knows, it might even inspire you to hire a different employee, stick up for someone in the classroom, or go after what you think you deserve.  (For the record, I *do* think you can do that without being a self-aggrandizing jerk, a quality of modern masculinity that I hope we can all grow out of someday.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

30 Allies in 30 Days

Hardy Girls Healthy Women is highlighting 30 Allies in 30 Days leading up to their SPARK Summit on how to fight the sexualization of girls in media.  You've got to check out all the inspiring things these women are doing and join them in their efforts! I'm honored to be included as today's sister ally.  See you at SPARK!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

[Re-post] The Dating Game: Sluts Don't Get to Be Happy

Read more at Bitch Mag...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Power, Money, + Sexism - A personal tale and feminist action point

Today I received an enewsletter from ING (I have an account there) of which the first headline reads “Is that a bank branch in your pocket or...?”--the rest of the phrase as we all know, is, “or are you happy to see me?”  

This really stuck out to me – a sexual innuendo that places men on the top of a sexist power dynamic should not be a ‘cute’ headline from a financial institution, yet sexism is so embedded in our culture that this headline could seem harmless, attention-grabbing, or funny.

I wrote an email to DailyWorth (a great blog with financial tips and resources aimed at women) to see if we could harness reader power in the form of letter or petition: I want to let ING know that sexist old boys’ humor and modern money management don’t go together.  I'll let you know if I hear from DailyWorth, and in the meantime, feel free to write your own letter or make some calls!

I’m a big fan of ING and the services and information offered me as a patron, and I often recommend the company to my friends—seems it’s time to remind them that women are among their smartest and most independent, loyal customers too (and that their most lucrative male customers will be thinking with their brains, not, pocket bank branches).

 Whad'ya say, activists?!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guest Post: Beauty and Popularity

by Nancy Gruver

Peggy Moss’ wonderful new book, One of Us, got me thinking about the definition of beauty and how girls decide if they fit into it or not. The book takes us along with Roberta James, the lively and open main character, as she navigates the cliques on her first day at a new school.

As various groups tell Roberta that “you’re one of us,” only to say she doesn’t really belong with them as they learn more about her she begins to feel she doesn’t fit anywhere. Nearly all of us have felt like this one time or another. 

To soften the blow of rejection, Roberta even starts telling groups she doesn’t belong with them before they tell her that. She’s internalized the message that she can only be part of a group if she’s like them in every way.
Fortunately for readers, a group has formed around being different from each other. They welcome Roberta as she is. 

In its simplicity, the story provides wonderful opportunities for readers to observe and relate to the many differences between people. It gently conveys the limited divisions we impose on each other and encourages us to transcend them. 

One of Us will start great conversations with girls and boys of all ages who are seeking ways to make peace between who they are and who the outside world wants them to be.  Read it and share it. 

Nancy Gruver is Founder of - a creative online community and magazine for girls ages 8 and up where girls also like being different from each other, even when it’s hard.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The *real* beauty issue

Some great reading for girls...

Check out New Moon's mag issue on real beauty and recommend these books to girls you know for their summer reading list!

(Full disclosure: I'm a New Moon affiliate--but I am because I believe in what they do and want to promote it!)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ms. Blog: Don’t Be Shamed by “The Weight Talk”

by Jessica Holden Sherwood

I recently had my annual physical, and I got The Weight Talk for the first time. Luckily, I had come prepared.  While driving to the appointment, I even rehearsed in anticipation.

When I got The Talk, I responded by saying that I will never count calories.  I asked the doctor in earnest why he would care about my weight if I had good health, good blood pressure and so on. I listened to his answers. And a week later, I sent him a copy of Health At Every Size (a book which also has a website).

After all this time, fat is still a feminist issue...

Read more on the Ms. Blog

Monday, April 12, 2010

Press release:’s “Beautiful Girls” Raise the Value of Inner Beauty

Spreading the word...! 


Girls Fight Harmful Beauty Messages:’s “Beautiful Girls” Raise the Value of Inner Beauty

Flashing zits on a virtual face seek to convince girls to retouch “unflattering” Facebook photos so no one will “gawk at them.” Relentless media and marketing tell girls that their looks are far more important than their minds, spirits, or talents.

Girls have had enough.

Now, girls are fighting back with’s “Beautiful Girls” campaign. Starting today, through June 30, anyone worldwide can honor a girl or woman for her inner beauty: her accomplishments, passion, creativity, compassion, and all the other things that make up a wonderful person by completing a brief nomination form at

Starting May 1, all the nominees will be featured in the Beautiful Girls section of the safe, ad-free, creative community made by and for girls. This powerful campaign counteracts unhealthy messages like those at, where “face detection & correction technology … can smooth out skin, remove skin flaws….

PicTreat is just a new example of the age-old messages that led 90 percent of the teen girls questioned in a 2009 Girl Scout Research Institute study to say they couldn’t measure up to “beauty” standards.

“Stuff like that makes me furious,” says Nneoma Igwe, 13, of New Moon’s Girls Editorial Board. “We girls know that what we do, think and care about is more important than how other people think we should look. With this year’s “Beautiful Girls” online event, and our What Is Beauty magazine (in bookstores May 1) we tell the world what really matters!”

New Moon Girl Media Founder Nancy Gruver says, “For 17 years, New Moon has believed in the power and beauty of girls being themselves. This year, we’re in the leadership group convened by the American Psychological Association and Girls Scouts of the USA to support H.R. 4925 the Healthy Media for Youth Act. Girls need it desperately.”

According to the American Psychological Association, three of the most common mental health problems among girls — eating disorders, depression or depressed mood, and low self-esteem — are linked to sexualization of girls and women in media.

Gruver says, “But there’s better news among the thousands of New Moon girls: when asked to define beauty for the May-June issue of New Moon Girls magazine, our members tell about their inner beauty shining out in creativity, courage, and compassion; the only beauty that can keep them feeling happy and fulfilled. “

Anyone can nominate someone (even themselves!) to be a New Moon Beautiful Girl—just go to and fill out the simple entry.

Then look for that girl’s first name on in May, June and July.

“After all,” Nneoma says, “Real Beauty isn’t about how we look. It's about who we are and what we do.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Break the Cycle (Kotex*) – Finally, an ad campaign I like

Wow, finally an ad campaign I like!

This Break the Cycle site set up by Kotex encourages women to be real about their periods, and to share their experiences. I dig that "Break the Cycle" is a very transparent campaign--it focuses on its product to sell its product (rather than showing a women's body to sell something unrelated like alcohol or cars)--and pokes fun, Sarah Haskins style, at traditional ad campaigns for pads and tampons that treat periods as a taboo subject.

I also like that, unlike other campaigns that have allied themselves with you, the consumer, to sneakily get you to still feel bad about yourself and therefore buy their product (see Victoria's Secret's latest "I Love My Body" campaign still advertised on the standard thin, buxom models), the "Break the Cycle" site is itself a public service to women while selling a product actually helpful to them.

All that said, not sure how I feel about the mainstream part of the "U by Kotex" ad campaign that features a stuffed animal beaver...but still want to give kudos where kudos are due.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Great summer media literacy programs!

Just got wind of a couple great media literacy programs this summer:

Press Pass TV Media Camp
Project Look Sharp Media Literacy Institute

And I'm sure there are please add them in comments!

Women's History Month guest post: Why Women’s History?

by Barbara J.Berg, Ph.D.      
“I’m not a hero,” said Jesse Ames. “I’m only doing what is right.”

What Jesse is doing is running the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota, the only medical facility in the state available to women who need to terminate their pregnancies. Although Cass County, where Fargo is located, counts in the 88% of all U.S. counties lacking an identifiable abortion provider, two female physicians, one from Texas, the other from Minnesota fly to Fargo and perform abortions twice a week, Jesse explained. The health center sees approximately 1,300 women each year, some drive over five hours to get there, many have no health insurance, but each one leaves with some form of birth control in her hands.

Red River has thus far escaped the violence inflicted upon other clinics in the nation, but the threat is ever-present. Jesse has had to brandish a stun gun to fend off aggressive protestors. She takes a different route home from work each day, always checking the rear view mirror, and her children use a different last name.

When I asked what led her to this work, she answered simply, “I took women’s history in school.”

Jesse is an heir to the rich legacy of second wave feminists’ determination to challenge the all-male canon and bring women into the historical narrative. We looked for inspiration in the lives of those before us, many from the civil rights movement, many excavated from the rich yet untapped soil of our distant past. Isabella Graham, defying formidable male opposition of the early republic, ventured without a chaperon through the notorious Five Points District in New York to assist the destitute of her sex; Harriet Jacobs, born a slave in North Carolina, endured unmitigated hardships, hiding in an attic for seven years so she could stay near her daughter and away from the horrific abuse of her master;  
Sarah Winnemucca, author of the first autobiography of a Native America woman, Life Among the Piutes, remained a tireless advocate for the rights of her people. Crippling restraints and staunched dreams had carved inner beings of indomitable strength.

We called these women role models. Our icons. Connecting to them urged us to continue fighting for equal footing in a soul-deflating society systematically forcing women into second place.  Their stories served as both life raft and compass in the perilous uncharted seas of sexism. Not because they were perfect, but because they weren’t, they empowered us.  We believed it was crucial for women and girls, but also for men and boys, nurtured on masculine superiority, to realize the sweeping range of women’s fortitude, tenacity and achievement.

I started teaching women’s history at Sarah Lawrence College in the late-1970s under the mentorship of the esteemed Gerda Lerner, a pioneer in the field. On my office door, I hung a poster proclaiming: Women’s History is a World Worth Fighting For.  Our struggle back then, to establish the field as a separate discipline, was  enhanced by the formation of the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) in 1980 by Molly Murphy MacGregor and four of her colleagues. The NWHP’s goal, “to broadcast women’s historical achievements,” initially took the form of lobbying Congress to designate March as National Women’s History Month, now celebrated all over the country.

The incorporation of women’s history into the curricula at colleges and universities across the nation created a sea change in how Americans viewed our past. Over the course of the next decade, feminist scholarship exploded, stimulating ever-more research and encouraging the formation of interdisciplinary courses. As women of color called for a more complex approach to women’s experiences, Black Women’s History emerged as a field in its own right.  The abundance of organizations, conferences, journals and monographs dedicated to analyzing the interconnections of gender with class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, cultural and, more recently, global disparities, have deepened our understanding of the relationships between different groups of women as well as between women and men.

I have been fortunate to have watched the delight and enthusiasm of students for whom women’s history is an ongoing discovery, a source of profound intellectual engagement,  pride and self esteem, sometimes transformative, often a prod for action, but always a gift. It offers girls and young women an opportunity to understand the distribution of power and privilege in society as it affords them a new visibility in development of our nation..

The benefits of knowing one’s past seem so obvious, I assumed, naively perhaps, that women’s history would remain a permanent  fixture in our national consciousness. But after surveying nearly 400 women of different ages and backgrounds, I discovered sadly that over the past fifteen years women are once again being marginalized in the master historical narrative. The majority of the respondents, especially those 35 years old and younger, had no opportunity to study women’s history and  confessed to knowing very little about women’s accomplishments, challenges, or even their rights.

Women’s history courses today are an endangered species, according to Molly Murphy MacGregor, currently Executive Director of the NWHP.  There have, of course, always been the naysayers like  Conservative writer and policy-maker David Horowitz. His academia-bashing One Party Classroom, cataloguing what he considers the worst 150 courses taught at American schools, highlighted 60 focused on women and gender. Horowitz’s charge—women’s studies courses are taught by ideologues rather than scholars—is nothing new, but in the  current economic climate, with women’s studies courses (which include women’s history) on the chopping block, right wing propaganda can have a destructive impact.

The late educator Myra Sadker once said, “Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less.” I would go even further and suggest that she learns that the lives of those before her are also worth less. The Stupak Amendment’s addition to the House Healthcare Reform Bill stimulated much discussion about the generational divide within the pro-choice movement. Women, born after the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, do not feel the same sense of urgency about choice—so the argument goes—compared to older women whose lives were shaped by the illegality of abortion. And while many members of Gen X and younger are committed to fighting for reproductive justice, there are others who told me they “simply can’t imagine a world without access to abortion.” 

Understandable. Also rectifiable.

It’s hard to read pre-Roe stories  (such as those reported by Dr. Edward Keemer of Washington, D. C.) and not imagine the absolute desperation of his young patients: “I had treated a woman…[who] still had the straightened-out coat hanger hanging from her vagina… Over the years I was to encounter hundreds of other women who had resorted to imaginative but deadly methods of self-induced abortion.…A sixteen-year-old girl…died after douching with a cupful of bleach...”  

We forget the dark and tragic stories of long ago at our own peril. Not knowing your past is a banishment of sorts, cutting you off from powerful connections and deepest parts of your being. It limits the opportunity to understand the multiple experiences that have shaped the nation, shaped your life as a citizen in it and will shape possibilities for the future. “Writing Women Back Into History,” the NWHP’s theme for its Thirtieth Anniversary Celebration, hopes to reverse this trend.

Throughout the month, workshops, symposiums and speeches honoring the vivid heritage of diverse American women will be held across the country.  Even if you can’t get to one of the formal events, there’s much you can  do: visit your local library and take out some books on women’s history to read to your children or talk with their schools about  how the contributions of more than half the population are woven into the curricula, not just in March but for the entire year. This might be a good time for your book club to add women’s memoirs and diaries to its roster or to ask your elderly neighbor about her youth, I bet she has a story or two to tell.

As for me—I’m going to dust off my Women’s History is A World Worth Fighting For poster, hang it up on my door again and get to work.

Barbara J. Berg, Ph.D. is on the Board of the National Women’s History Project and author of Sexism in America: Alive, Well and Ruining Our Future (Chicago Review Press, Sept. 2009). 

**Celebrate Women's History month with girls in your life at New Moon!**

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sexism at Work: Young Women, Newsweek, and Gender...and Race

I'm joining the Ms. Blog in its hearty hoorah to female Newsweek staff (and to Newsweek itself!) for publishing "a brave and candid piece calling out sexism at the magazine and in the publishing industry as a whole"...and also want to include Allison Martell's response piece pointing to the issues of race not addressed by this article.

I'm impressed that instead of silencing or punishing the authors, Newsweek is running a story that at first glance doesn't make the magazine look too great.  (At second glance, of course, running the article is a hip, face-saving way of not having this expose printed *about* them somewhere else.  But still!  Let's commend honest media.)

However, it's painfully true that, despite representing a cross-section of age (kudos for making women past 35 visible!), there are no women of color in the photo.  Does this reflect a creative oversight or the larger fact that in a more just society, Newsweek would have more women of color on its staff? 

Newsweek's sexism authors Jessica Bennett, Jesse Ellison and Sarah Ball are blogging at Equality Myth, and are upset that discussions of racism divide feminism, diminishing the power of women's efforts in an already-anti-feminist mainstream culture.  Martell replies to their call for feminists to "stick together": 
"I just don’t accept the premise that feminism is an easier sell without anti-racism. All of the major outstanding feminist issues are deeply entwined with issues of race, in ways that I think a broad, mainstream audience understands. By ignoring race, we only make ourselves more irrelevant." 
If Newsweek had added women of color to "correct" their photo, is this not just a form of tokenism?  Isn't it offensive to think that all minorities should be satisfied by the inclusion of a few (or as often happens, only one) in a photo?

I agree with Martell that pretending that race issues don't exist to show a veneer of unity only creates resentment and more reluctance to take part in a feminist movement.  I also believe in the virtue of critique and speaking up as pointed out by another blogger, Doree: "feminism can only get stronger when we allow ourselves to think critically about what it means and who it represents." Surely debate is the enactment of democracy and many horrifying historical events could have been stopped by louder dissent.  But, speaking from personal experience, I also resonate with the Newsweek authors' point that women fighting women--no matter what age, class, race, or background--negatively impacts our larger fight for common goals. 

With these issues being as complicated as they are, how can we truly address racism and sexism at a deeper level?  And how can we do so in a way that builds strength, rather than more division and disenchantment?  I would love to learn how, without glossing over or ignoring the various issues at hand, we can support each other and continue to make progressive change.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

All women are "real women"

Great rant by Andrea Owen about the dangers of anti-eating-disorder mentality.  I've definitely been guilty of using the phrase "real women" and am grateful for Andrea for pointing out how exclusionary that is!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Neural Advertising: The Sounds We Can't Resist

by Jeffrey Kluger on

"If you're like most people, you're way too smart for advertising. You flip right past newspaper ads, never click on ads online and leave the room during TV commercials.

That, at least, is what we tell ourselves. But what we tell ourselves is hooey. Advertising works, which is why, even in hard economic times, Madison Avenue is a $34 billion–a–year business..."

Read more.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Caught between casual sex and domesticity, women find regrets and false promises of empowerment

I'm liking this article by Jessica Grose, The Shame Cycle: The new backlash against casual sex, for the way she succintly ties feminist history and today's climate to real women's lives.

Grose talks about about why women might regret their casual sexual encounters and instead hanker for domesticity; one idea I want to add to that pot is--what ever happened to valuing the quality of relationships?  We don't think it's liberating, empowering, or fun to have a short, meaningless friendship, so why would having a sexual fling *not* take an emotional toll?  In wanting to be tough and independent, women have no space to think they deserve a loving, committed partner--and as Grose points out, when we crave that closeness with someone, we reprimand ourselves for being a crybaby who may as well aspire to '50s housewifery.  Women try so hard to deflect the demeaning stereotype of femininity as emotional PMS-induced hysteria, that we end up isolating ourselves socially.  And what exactly is powerful about that?

American pop culture tells us that sexuality is empowering.  But, in a way, not much has changed from women's powerless historical role: for today's Kill Bill-inspired feminists, sexuality remains wrapped in the pressure to *be sexy* for someone else...and to add insult to injury, we're now expected to somehow own and enjoy that feeling.

Rachel Simmons sums it up well in her post on hook-up culture, "As authors like Ariel Levy and Jean Kilbourne and Diane Levin have shown, the sexualization of girls and young women has been repackaged as girl power. Sexual freedom was supposed to be good for women, but somewhere along the way, the right to be responsible for your own orgasm became the privilege of being responsible for someone else’s."

Update:  More on the freedoms and debate about hook-up culture by Shira Tarrant.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Deisel is Stupid

Has anyone seen Deisel's new ad campaign, which plays on the age-old stupid = cool, sexy, and delightful / smart = nothing desirable, fun, or valuable?  I passed a slew of these in the subway, and decided to take a picture of this one--just a little sexism, promotion of irresponsible sexual activity, and the like--before going on my merry way.  Sigh.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Action Item: American Apparel Hits Rock “Bottom”

Hardy Girls is leading the protest against American Apparel's new search for "the perfect bottom," an ad campaign which encourages girls to post online pics of their derrieres in American Apparel intimates.  Sign this petition and spread the word!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some more mixed messages for the feminist file...

Just got a kick out of this juxtaposition of articles on a women's site someone sent me.  No wonder we're all so confused!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Eve Ensler's new book for girls

Eve Ensler’s Mission: Awaken the Girl Self

By Marianne Schnall

Eleven years after the launch of V-Day, Eve Ensler sets out to do for girls what she did for women—uncover the truth of their experiences and create a global dialogue. Her new book is being published February 9...

Read more.

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Moon "You Are Beautiful" ecard

From the wonderful girls' media company, New Moon: "This is just for fun and just in time for Valentines Day. Let people know they are beautiful just being themselves."

Create your own "You are Beautiful" ecard and make someone's day!

Friday, January 15, 2010

NY Times: The Triumph of the Size 12s usual:  great that we're expanding (no pun intended) our notions of beauty, bizarre that size 12 is considered "large."

Read the NY Times article here.

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