UCSF's Center for Gender Equity hosts its annual "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" on Thursday -- but judging from the list of activities being offered, the gender equity program is anything but equal.How about having separate "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" and "Take Our Sons to Work Day"? Or would that be "gender discrimination"? And don't get me started on "gender sensitivity programs." I started "gender sensitizing" my brother at an early age too, except I didn't use "media, role playing and group games." My weapons of choice were toys, comic books and a few kicks in the shin.
For example, the 9- and 10-year-old daughters are being invited to participate in 17 hands-on activities such as working with microscopes, slicing brains, doing skull comparisons, seeing what goes on in the operating room, playing surgeon, dentist or nurse for a day, and visiting the intensive care unit nursery, where they can set up blood pressure cuffs and operate the monitors.
They can learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness, how to use a fire extinguisher, how to operate several types of equipment -- even fire a laser.
And what do the boys get to do?
Learn about "gender equity in fun, creative ways using media, role playing and group games" -- after which, the boys can get a bit of time in with a microscope or learn how the heart works.
"It's ridiculous," says one UCSF doc, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation from the university. "I have no problem with the Center for Gender Equity, but just make it equitable."
Longtime center director Amy Levine, however, tells us the program isn't intended to give boys and girls the same learning opportunities -- nor, she says, is it a career day.
"It's about dealing with effects of sexism on both boys and girls and how it can damage them," she said.
Hence, while the boys undergo gender sensitivity training, the girls focus on their capabilities -- be it handling a scalpel or microscope.
UCSF tried mixing the boys with the girls a few years back, but Levine says it just didn't work out.
"It mirrored the same sexism that occurs in the classroom daily," she said, "where boys raise their hands more often, demand more attention and have discipline problems."
So now the boys have their own gender sensitivity program, where "they learn about violence prevention and how to be allies to the girls and women in their lives," Levine said.
By local standards, they were an ideal match: first cousins, raised in the same house since birth and, within a year of their marriage, the proud parents of a plump baby boy.
But not long after their son's first birthday, Ahmad and Mazari Ayubi noticed that little Masi's head was starting to wobble. By the time he was 2, the boy was paralyzed and mentally retarded, and Mazari began to suspect what the doctors would later confirm:
"It's because (Ahmad) and I are related that this happened," she said sadly, cradling the youngest of three more children born with the same disorder. "Perhaps it is better for cousins not to marry."
Such doubts are the first hairline cracks in what remains a bedrock tradition in Afghanistan.
"There is a saying in our country that a marriage between cousins is the most righteous because the engagement was made in heaven," said M. Marouf Sameh, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Kabul's Rabia Balkhi Women's Hospital.
He estimated at least 10 percent of his patients are married to a first cousin. Doctors at other hospitals and clinics reported even higher rates of cousin marriage among their patients — almost always matches arranged by families.
Some parents want to keep their property within the family or lower the "bride price" that men must traditionally pay their in-laws.
Others say they're simply trying to find their child a good mate. Choosing a stranger is something of a gamble. Far better, goes the thinking, to pick a nephew or niece whose character you've been able to observe over years.
Masooda Jalal, the minister of women's affairs, said she was seeking funds to start a nationwide awareness campaign. "I'm sure if they know about the possible miserable results, future generations will be convinced to avoid this practice," she said.
The Ayubis' experience suggests otherwise.
Two sons, including Masi, have already died, and two daughters grow more disabled by the day. Yet Ahmad's younger brother insists on arranging the engagement of his 10-year-old daughter to one of Ahmad's healthy sons, now 13.
To Mazari's dismay, Ahmad is considering the offer. "First I will try to find my son an unrelated wife who is responsible and obedient," he said. "But if I can't find one, I will have no other option."
Put the handcuffs aside. We'll get back to them in a minute.
Frankly, there's something else on that video that troubles me almost as much. And if you're saying to yourself, "What video?'' well ... welcome home. How are things in the rainforest?
Here in the States, everybody's talking about a much-televised video — shot in March but made public last week — of a 5-year-old in St. Petersburg, Fla., being taken into custody by police officers after throwing a tantrum at school. Ja'eisha Scott cries out as her arms are pinioned behind her.
As I said, we'll get to that. For now, let's talk about what the half-hour video shows in the moments before police arrive. I've seen temper tantrums before — I've got five kids — but this one was different. Not because the child seemed out of control but rather, because she seemed so very much in control.
This wasn't stomping and shouting and throwing a fit. This was walking over to a shelf and sweeping items off it. Walking to a wall and snatching photos down. Walking across the room to pick things up and break them. Walking back and forth, in no apparent hurry, methodically wrecking the room with the calm deliberateness of someone who knows you can't do a thing to stop her. And then punching at the hapless administrator who kept telling her this behavior was "unacceptable.''
Beg pardon, but am I the only benighted member of the old school who wanted to spank that child's backside?
Not "beat.'' Not "abuse.'' But spank? Definitely.
Granted, I don't know anything about this girl. Maybe she has emotional problems. Maybe she's been mistreated. Maybe there are mitigating factors. In which case, I'll be the first to admit I'm wrong.
But assuming I'm not, assuming Ja'eisha is what she appears — a brat in a snit — you have to ask yourself if anybody has ever laid down the law to her, said no and made it stick, socialized her. It's a job, I hasten to add, that begins not with schools, but with parents.
Of course, no one seems to be doing the job these days, so tremulous are we about bruising fragile self-esteem. Small wonder we wind up in a place where adults are helpless before the furies of children.
What happened in St. Pete is but the most widely publicized episode in what seems a mini-epidemic. Last year, a kindergartner in St. Louis was handcuffed for disruptive behavior. Last week, a 7-year-old in Bethlehem, W.Va., wound up wearing jailhouse bracelets for much the same reason.
Can it be just coincidence that we're also seeing a not-so-mini epidemic of parents defending and rationalizing the misbehavior of their little terrors? I'm thinking of the parents in Kansas who harassed a teacher for flunking kids who cheated on a project. Of the mother in greater Chicago who dismissed her daughter's part in a mob assault as something that just "got out of hand.'' Of the mother in New Orleans who blamed the school — school with security guards and metal detectors — after her son and another boy shot each other.
And I'm thinking of Ja'eisha's mother, Inga Akins, saying on television that her daughter's misbehavior stemmed from the fact that she doesn't get along with "Miss D'' — presumably assistant principal Nicole Dibenedetto, seen in the video deflecting the child's punches. Beg pardon again, but ... who cares? How does the fact that a 5-year-old doesn't like somebody justify her behaving like a hellion?
Akins has a lawyer and he's talking lawsuit. Fine. The police overreacted. You don't handcuff 5 year olds. But also, you shouldn't feel that you have to.
So I hope mom doesn't do what we too often do when our kids misbehave these days. Make it not their fault. Tell them they are victims. Spare them the burden of onus. I hope that between media interviews, Akins is getting her child straight. Otherwise, I can promise you one thing:
Someday, you'll see Ja'eisha in handcuffs again.
Night after night, there was one thing that gave Noemi Mattis hope: an empty bottle of Arpege perfume tucked under her pillow. Although the perfume was gone, a faint sweetness remained — a powdery floral with notes of vanilla, jasmine and sandalwood.Nazi survivor recalls pain as 'hidden' child
The scent of her mother.
Sixty years later, Noemi still recognizes the fragrance wherever she goes, but she can now smile through the sadness. Her mother, Fela Perelman, was a fighter, determined to do anything to save her only child from being killed, even if it meant giving her away.
More than a million Jewish children were exterminated in Nazi death camps during World War II, but Noemi survived because her parents put her into hiding.
Leaders of Belgium's Jewish underground resistance, Fela and Chaim Perelman told their 5-year-old daughter the truth: The Nazis were bad people who wanted to kill her. She would be safe, though, with non-Jewish friends, and when the danger had passed, they would come and get her.
For 2 1/2 years, Noemi waited with that golden bottle of perfume, wondering when that day would arrive. "It felt like an eternity," she says today, flipping through photo albums in her airy Salt Lake City home.
Black-and-white snapshots show a happy reunion with her parents after the war, but something is missing. There is no record of the years Noemi lived with three different families and was known as "Marianne Peremans." There is only her memory.
"That's one thing about being hidden — it's a childhood with no pictures," she says quietly. "I don't dwell there. But I know now that it's important to talk about it."
With Holocaust Remembrance Day coming up on May 5, Noemi, 68, thought it would be a good time to share her story, hoping to show others that "things that seem impossibly horrible are very possible."
"If we don't want to believe it, we risk letting it happen again," she says. "Look at Sudan, look at Rwanda. We have a responsibility to speak out."
Noemi's earliest memories are of picking flowers alongside bombed-out roads, as thousands of Belgian Jews fled the approaching German Army in 1940. When her parents volunteered to lead the resistance movement, they placed Noemi with neighbors and kind strangers who risked their lives to help save a child they barely knew.
"At the same time that horrors were being perpetrated by the Nazis, there were simple people who stepped up and took a chance, for no reason except it was the right thing to do," says Noemi. "These people were heroes. I wouldn't be here without them."
One of her caretakers, a schoolteacher, told the youngster daily that she would soon be able to shout her real name proudly in the streets. "She taught me that the Jewish people were great people who had done many wonderful things," Noemi recalls. "She made sure that I never felt my plight was my doing."
Even so, Noemi didn't speak about her experience for almost 50 years. In counseling, none of her therapists ever asked about her years as a hidden child. "I want to tell people, it's OK to ask, it's important to ask," she says. "The worst thing we can do is act like it didn't happen."
Her eyes brim with tears as she recalls going through her mother's belongings after she died and finding two postcards mailed from the Jewish ghetto in Poland. The notes were from her grandparents.
"My grandfather died of starvation, my grandmother died at Auschwitz," Noemi says. "I never knew them. Those cards are the only correspondence I will ever have from them."
Was she ever bitter? Noemi is silent. "I'm alive," she finally says. "That's the best revenge."
Scientists have used DNA to figure out the origin of Gibraltar's Barbary macaques, which may have played a small part in winning World War II.
The macaques have long been figures of Gibraltar lore. As the story goes, when they are gone, the disputed British colony will return to Spanish rule.
In 1942, a handful of the monkeys remained. Gibraltar was militarily important, and any jolt to morale had to be avoided. Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent out a secret edict: Get more monkeys and bring them to the rock.
"Nobody knows where they got the macaques — they just suddenly appeared in Gibraltar," said Robert D. Martin, provost for academic affairs at the Field Museum in Chicago.
Martin and colleagues Lara Modolo and Walter Salzburger provided a partial answer in a paper published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The scientists used DNA comparisons to conclude that the creatures came from two places — Morocco and Algeria, the only regions where Barbary macaques still reside in the wild. Macaques from these two places are genetically distinct.
Martin said the mixed origins of the imported macaques helped explain why the roughly 200 macaques now in Gibraltar were relatively healthy despite the inevitable inbreeding.
"My expectation was that the macaques in Gibraltar would be a genetic disaster area," he said. "But when we looked, their genetics was a lot more varied than I expected."
If the legend is true, Spain may have to wait a while before it gets Gibraltar back.