>Hard to believe, but 2006 is almost gone. As every year is, it was chock full of change, progress, and unfortunate events. I thought a quick recap of some of the important things that happened this year under the rubric of Feminism & Gender – the topic for which I became a contributing editor at BlogHer this summer - would be enlightening as we look toward 2007. Without further ado, in no order whatsoever, I present 2006:

Plan B was finally approved for over the counter sales after years of political delays that prioritized the religion of some over scientific evidence that the medicine was safe and that it would help thousands of women. While this was a huge step in the right direction, the next hurdle for many women is finding a pharmacy that stocks the drug.

Katie Couric became the first female evening news anchor. Her publicity photo was airbrushed to take off a few pounds. Ratings were initially high, but dropped off over time. It seems that women are as boring as men when it comes to delivering the news. Yay, equality!

New York City announced a plan to make it easier for transgendered people to change the sex on their birth certificate. Weeks later, the plan was rescinded because of conflict with Department of Homeland Security rules and regulations. However, the decision to allow transgender people to use the restroom for whatever gender they consider themselves to be at Metropolitan Transit Authority rail stations (Long Island Railroad, MetroNorth, and subways) stands.

Lawrence Summers finally gets the boot after repeatedly insisting that women are biologically unable to excel at math or science. I hope the door did not hit his ass too hard on the way out. Or, perhaps such a sharp rap would have knocked some sense into him, as his thinking seems to emanate from that region. You know how men are.

A vaccine against HPV was introduced for young girls. While overall good news, manipulative advertising led consumers to believe that this will prevent cervical cancer, which is not entirely true. Fanatics protested that the vaccine will cause young women to be more promiscuous because it is obvious that one of the main reasons girls decide against premarital sex is fear of cervical cancer. Right.

The Dixie Chicks came out with a new album and documentary about their right to free speech and the controversy that ensued after they told concertgoers that they were ashamed that Bush hailed from their home state of Texas. Despite lack of radio play, the album sold 1.8 million copies and was nominated for five Grammys. Karmic victory.

The Duke rape case. Charges of rape were ultimately dropped against the three white lacrosse players from privileged backgrounds. The alleged (not my choice of term, but the charges were dropped, so I suppose I need to use it) victim was a black student who was hired to strip at a party at the team’s campus house. A nasty smear campaign was launched by the defense from day one. Regardless of the outcome, I’d like to know why there was not much outcry over alcohol-soaked parties featuring strippers for sports teams. In other rape news, the Pakistani legislature considered repealing Hudood laws, which requires women to have four male witnesses to prove she was raped; the UK launched a ridiculous ad campaign to remind men that rape is wrong; it was reported that girls in Cameroon are subjected to “breast ironing” to slow down their breast development so that they will not be raped; women in London protested lenient sentences on convicted rapists stemming from judges’ “blame the victim” mentality; and several cops in New Zealand were acquitted of raping a woman repeatedly, including with their police baton.

Nicaragua followed the example of El Salvador and banned abortions to save the lives of the mother. Isn’t it great that women’s lives somehow don’t count as life?

Britney Spears followed the very bad fashion advice of Lindsay Lohan and wandered around sans coulette. My eyes bled, yet like zillions of other people, I could not look away from the photos of her baldness. Amy Poehler became the hero of all women who fear dangerous objects like sharp razors, hot wax, or scary lazar beams near our crotches by delivering a wonderful monologue on Saturday Night Live promoting the joys of pubic hair.

Democrats won the majority of seats in the US House and Senate, and elected Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House.

Several shooting incidents continued the fine tradition of angry men taking their rage out on random women for whatever slights or injustices they feel the world has inflicted upon them. These killings were not reported in the mainstream media as hate crimes, but ho-hum, another-dead-woman incidents. Yawn.

Madrid and Milan banned undernourished models from fashion shows. I ate a cupcake (OK, several) to celebrate.

Important women’s voices were lost when Betty Friedan, Ann Richards, Octavia Butler, and Ellen Willis died. Other women’s voices unfortunately scraped my eardrums and made them bleed: Ann Coulter, who attacked a book by a Sept. 11 widow criticizing the Bush by insisting that the author’s husband would have left her anyway had he not died first; Caitlin Flanagan, a writer with a maid and a full-time nanny who takes care of her offspring, insisted that women belong at home with the kids doing housework, and that feminists have ruined everything for women. Fortunately, we still had the Dixie Chicks.

Barnyard, an abrasive animated movie featuring male bovines with udders that also enforces gender stereotypes, grossed almost $100 million worldwide. It is probably the most gender-confused movie in history. Well, it confuses me anyway.

The battle around contraceptives gained new attention. As pharmacists around the nation refused to fill women’s prescriptions for birth control pills due to religious beliefs, Illinois (my state of origin) Gov. Rod Blagojevich took a stand and filed an injunction demanding that all women have the right to have their prescriptions filled in a timely fashion. In my current home state of New York, the State Court of Appeals upheld a law that requires employers – including religious organizations – who offer prescription drug coverage to their employees to include contraceptives. However, the year saw no new developments on Viagra, Levitra, and other erection drugs, reminding us that men’s sexual pleasure is a right, even if it might kill them.

Forbes ran a disturbing opinion piece ranting against career women and their unsuitability as wives under the category of “news.” Oh please. There’s nothing new about that – how long have we known that smart, ambitious women are unloving, frigid hags? At the same time, the Census found that 1/3 of married women were now the breadwinners in their families. I guess this emasculation of American men explains why Viagra is so popular that most insurance plans cover it.

The JonBenet Ramsey case was solved. Then it was not.

The South Dakota government banned abortions. The voters overturned the ban. Sometimes the people know what they are doing. Other times, they elect George W. Bush as President. I can’t explain it.

On the personal front, I quit my nicely paying job as a do-gooder a few months earlier than anticipated to attempt to forge a new career as a writer. It is thrilling and scary and enjoyable and depressing (at times, but then again, my old career was always depressing…) Husband also started a new job, but one that actually comes with a pay check. This is nice because he is very generous, thus I do not have to sleep on the street or eat trash although I make a whopping$100-$500 a month these days. He also does not need to listen to me complain. OK, not as much, anyway.
I know that this was not remotely comprehensive, so please add any issues or happenings that you found significant this year.

Here’s hoping for a great 2007 for all! (OK, not all. I hope Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other people lacking souls, morals, or any sort of conscious who contribute to making the world a worse place will have a terrible year. The first of many, even.) Happy New Year!