Movie Review: Over The Hedge

I saw Over The Hedge the other day. I know I’m a little late reviewing it, since it came out over 4 years ago, in 2006, but in my defense, I don’t watch many movies.

While I was uncomfortable with the way the wild animals were thriving on human junk food (umm, no, human junk food is really bad for wild animals), the rest of the movie struck me as, well, a movie. Until my little daughter asked, “Mommy, why did they make the woman a bad woman?”

If you haven’t seen the movie, there are two main human characters. One is a parody of an exterminator (male), and the other is a single, well-dressed woman, president of the Homeowner’s Association, and the villain of the piece.

I told my daughter that they (the makers of the movie) hadn’t made the woman bad because she was a woman, but because they needed a bad person, a villain. I ended up explaining how a movie plot generally works and left it at that.

Until I started thinking more about the original question. Because, on second thought, the woman seems to be a caricature of a high-powered female executive. She’s dressed in a power suit (or expensive-looking pajamas), her hair is nicely styled, and she’s always on the go. She doesn’t seem to have a family, or even a significant other, just a snooty Persian cat.

She’s portrayed as obsessive, uptight, and terrified of wild animals or anything else disturbing her precious orderly neighborhood. Why should the single woman doing well in life be the villain? I can easily see a mother being much more worried about the wild animals in the neighborhood — what if they bite one of her children, she might think.

But no, the one mother in the movie who has a speaking part is portrayed as kindly and concerned for the animal, although she doesn’t want her children to touch it (understandable, considering it’s a possum playing dead).

Now, the traits of the villain I have described could easily also apply to a high-powered male executive. So why don’t they? What is it that makes the villain perfectly cast (if such a term can apply to an animation) as a woman?

If you know me, you know that I don’t generally consider myself a feminist. And you know that I don’t rant on about discrimination against women. But sometimes, I still feel the need to speak out.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the way this woman is portrayed in this movie (and the way she is humiliated at the end) makes me think that the directors are threatened by competent, capable women and felt the need to bring them (or at least one) low.

It makes me sad that my little daughter (and my son) saw this humiliating portrayal of women and that strong women need to be brought down.

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Want your daily dose of BPA?

Become a cashier in a store that uses receipts printed on thermal paper. A new article in Science News, Receipts are a Large — and Largely Ignored — Source of BPA, claims that the average receipt on thermal paper contains 2.5 percent of a person’s daily dose of BPA. This probably isn’t a problem for the average consumer, but cashiers, particularly if pregnant, could conceivably be getting their daily dose or more by handling the receipt paper.

BPA is used in plastics production and is a hormone mimic and

has been tied to health risks from behavior problems to obesity and heart ailments.

There is tentative evidence that not only does the BPA easily transfer from paper to skin, but that it may be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream. Certainly it would be a good idea not to touch your face after handling receipts, as mucous membranes (think of your eyes, and the inside of your nose and mouth) are very good at absorbing things into your bloodstream, much better than your skin.

Cashiers might be tempted to wear gloves, but according to another article in Science News, Cashiers may face special risks from BPA, that is a bad idea. Gloves are often a poor barrier to small molecules like BPA. The BPA will most likely permeate the glove and then be trapped next to the skin, making it more likely to be absorbed into the skin.

Children also should not be handling receipts, in my opinion. I will describe how to calculate the probable amount of BPA in a receipt (using numbers from the article), and compare that to the daily dosage of 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight thought by U.S. and European agencies to be tolerable (also in the article).

How to calculate BPA in a receipt and compare to (probably tolerable) daily dosage level:

  1. Estimate weight of receipt. Probably .1 gram (I’m sorry I can’t be more precise, my postal scale won’t go so low)
  2. Multiply by 1 million to convert grams to micrograms = 100,000 micrograms receipt
  3. Each receipt has 1.09 to 1.70 percent BPA by mass (Warner). We’ll use 1.70 to get the high estimate (worst case scenario). Multiply 100,000 by .017 = 1700 micrograms BPA in the receipt.
  4. Weigh yourself. I’m in the U.S., so let’s take 150 lbs as our example (no, it’s not my weight, I have to put something here :) ). If you’re in the U.S. like me, divide the weight in pounds by 2 to estimate weight in kilograms. Skip this step if you live anywhere else. :)  So for U.S. readers, divide 150 by 2 to get 75 kilograms.
  5. Now, this is the complicated bit (because I have to type it out in this blog instead of just writing the equation out). We want to divide the micrograms of BPA in the receipt by kilograms of body weight to get the dosage of micrograms of BPA per kilogram body weight. Divide 1700 by 75 = 22.67 micrograms per kilogram of body weight.

Okay, that’s well within tolerable limits for the average adult woman. No worries there. But, that’s just one receipt. What if the woman is a cashier and handles receipts and the rolls of paper they are printed on all day? She might be getting worrisome dosage levels.

BPA affects development, so children and babies can be especially affected. Let’s take a 30 pound child, a typical weight for a 2 or 3 year old. After we do all the math, the toddler will get 133.33 micrograms BPA per kilogram of body weight. That is well beyond the safe range with just one receipt. Don’t let your children play with your store receipts.

On July 15, the (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency launched a BPA Alternatives in Thermal Paper Partnership. The program is recruiting paper companies, receipt-paper retailers, environmental groups, chemical companies and trade organizations to brainstorm ways to move “towards safer alternatives.”

I hope they come up with something, and there are some safer alternatives, one of which is used by Appleton Papers, the largest thermal paper producer in the U.S., but for now, there is no way for cashiers and consumers to tell which kind of paper they are using.

Airbrushed Photos

I certainly never thought I’d be writing about Britney Spears (and I’m probably going to get tons of spam for this post), but I can’t resist sharing this article I found yesterday: She did a photo shoot for a company, and when they airbrushed the photos, obtained and released the originals. She looks so much more real in the originals. Thanks, Britney, for helping fight for how real women look! Be sure and check out the original article, I can’t possibly convey the startling difference between the two sets of photos.

Baby Girls Missing

Did you know that there are 100 million baby girls missing worldwide? They were not born, aborted when an ultrasound showed the ‘wrong’ gender, or killed at birth, or abandoned to the elements as infants.

If they are missing, how does anyone know they are gone? The gender ratios are wrong in many countries in Asia and the surrounding area. Naturally, there should be slightly more baby boys born than baby girls, to account for the higher rate of birth defects and infant mortality due to illness in baby boys, as well as the slightly higher death rate of boys up through adolescence. The ratio should be something like 103 to 106 baby boys born for every 100 baby girls (then, by late adolescence, there are usually 100 boys for every 100 girls). However, in the last decade in China, the ratio has changed from 108 to 100 (already high) to 124 to 100 (which is impossible naturally), with even higher ratios in some provinces.

Why is this happening? Apparently, parents really only want sons to carry on the family name. This is most prominent in areas where custom dictates that women are no longer part of their birth families when they marry, but belong only to their husbands’ families.

What are the consequences? Higher suicide rates among women, apparently distressed at having killed their daughters; a huge surfeit of young men, unable to find wives; a decrease in dowries and a decrease in dowry size when it is offered; and, perhaps most ironically, an increase in the value placed on women. Women become much sought after for wives, even being brought in from other places (generally taboo in Asia).

South Korea faced increasing gender ratios in the 1980s, but has since managed to return to natural levels through laws and public policy campaigns by the government. However, it is still facing side effects, as men in the countryside cannot find wives and end up marrying a non-Korean women and having mixed children (who would before have been outcast but are now so numerous as to be more accepted).

Disclosure: This post, up to this point, is summarizing a set of Economist articles from early March 2010. I highly recommend reading all the articles. They are quite shocking.

These articles just make me want to cry. I don’t think that there’s really anything anyone from outside these cultures can do, but I hope and pray that the changes to the mindset and culture happen sooner rather than later. If you have a little girl in your life, give her a big hug, because she is incredibly lucky. She is alive.

Justice for Women

As regular readers of this blog will know, justice for women around the world is a topic I’m thinking about a lot lately. I am still thinking, and collecting information and ideas, but I wanted to share with you a few links and news items that have come my way lately.

From Amnesty International:

Demand Dignity for pregnant women in the United States: Maternal health care is in crisis in the USA, and Amnesty International will be lobbying Congress the week of March 29.

Demand Dignity in Burkina Faso: More than 2,000 women die each year in Burkina Faso. Most of those deaths were preventable.

Demand Justice for the Women of San Salvador Atenco, Mexico:

In May 2006, over 45 women were arrested without explanation in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico. Many were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual violence by the police officers who arrested them and then held in prison for days before being released on bail. More than three years have passed and they are still waiting for justice.

And a petition from Care: Voices Against Violence

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights in the world.

Stay tuned for more on this terrible topic. I have a column due for the newspaper at the end of the month, and I am planning on writing about justice for women and the missing baby girls worldwide.

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