Slate: Dana Stevens' review of the newly released Craig Brewer movie "Black Snake Moan" critiques the film's sexual and gender dynamics. She observes, "Just as in 'Hustle and Flow,' there's an unsubtle message here that race trumps gender ... In interviews, Brewer makes it clear that 'nymphomania' [from which Christina Ricci's character Rae purportedly suffers] is a nonexistent condition, an invention of cultural fantasy. But you'd never know that from watching 'Black Snake Moan,' which would rather indulge that fantasy than provide its own characters with credible motivations. Ricci's character spends days in nothing but a cut-off Confederate-flag T-shirt and white panties -- the outfit in which [Samuel L. Jackson character] Lazarus found her, raped and beaten, by the side of the road. If Lazarus is supposed to be so concerned with Rae's well-being, not to mention immune to her sexual appeal, wouldn't he insist she change into one of his clean shirts right away? Brewer stirs the pot with commendable bravado, but he seems curiously uninterested in thinking through the issues of race and gender that he himself raises."
Washington Post: Many professional women can attest to the de facto sexism around office refreshments, which female employees often wind up procuring, serving and/or cleaning up. But in Japan, the delineation of responsibility is both more formalized and more deeply entrenched. Plaintiffs in a sex-discrimination suit against Kanematsu Corp. complain that, among other indignities, women have been required to leave their offices to serve tea at meetings held in fancier, all-male office areas. Women workers had to make the tea-service trip, Michiko Koseki told the Post, because "of course, there was no way a man was going to do it." The Post notes that Japan's labor laws lag behind those of other industrialized nations, and "women on average earn 44 percent of what men earn -- the widest income gap between sexes in the developed world."
Washington Post's On Balance: Family-issues blogger Leslie Morgan Steiner breaks down new data on childcare standards, including a recent National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies report listing the top 10 states for good childcare (Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Washington state) and the 10 states in which day care is, on average, poorest (California, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Utah). The NACCRRA also offers referrals for local facilities and "a very useful Average Rates Finder, so that you can see what the going rate for different kinds of care is in your Zip code."
Associated Press: A wave of intolerance seems to be sweeping Largo, Fla., city manager Steve Largo out of his job, after five of the city's seven commissioners voted to fire him because he plans to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Largo told the commission, "It's just painful to know seven days ago I was a good guy and now ... I have no integrity." But he says he's going ahead with the operation.
AP, again: Two young women accused of perpetrating what sounds like the laziest bank robbery in history -- they stuck up an Atlanta-area Bank of America branch disguised only by sunglasses -- have been arrested, along with two bank employees believed to have helped with the crime. Side note: Initially, the news media had dubbed the women "cat-eye bandits" in reference to their shades; now the accused have graduated to an even sketchier sobriquet: "the Barbie bandits."
AP, thirdly: Sex workers in India are in negotiations with government officials and are demanding the right to work legally. In related news, Reuters reports that the Indian state of West Bengal has declined to tax local sex work in exchange for providing protections to prostitutes.
AP, yet again: Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine says he'll sign the state's HPV vaccine bill, which would require all sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against the disease starting in October 2008. Good stuff! But in today's Boston Globe, Ellen Goodman laments the backlash against Merck's vaccination campaign: "The folks at Merck saw Gardasil as their anti-Vioxx, the drug that would help them do well by doing good. Let us say that the lobbying and advertising that ensued were not heavy-handed by drug company standards. Let us not say much about drug company standards.
"Nineteen states introduced legislation to add Gardasil to the list of school vaccines. But the plans blew up when Rick Perry, the governor of Texas and a conservative darling, issued an executive order mandating vaccines. His order allowed parents to opt out on religious or philosophical grounds, the same all-purpose loophole that has worked with other vaccines. But it turned out that Perry's former chief of staff is now a lobbyist for Merck. Did that look bad? Whoa, Nellie. Did it look bad that Merck had funded an organization of women legislators backing similar bills? Whoa, Merck."