5SR - March 8, 2024

Hitha on rewriting motherhood, women in sports, and romance novels

A quick refresher - I’m Hitha Palepu, the founder of #5SmartReads. If you’d like to connect with me elsewhere, I’m most active on Instagram and write a weekly newsletter about smart, random things. Looking forward to connecting there!

Your daily unsurprising-and-infuriating read of the day this report on how television and film represents moms today.

Spoiler alert - it’s not all that different to how she’s been portrayed in the 80’s and 90’s (though moms are allowed to be hot messes now for the sake of plot).

The dads are still the predominant breadwinners, the moms on screen are largely thin, white, young, and attractive, and homes are spotless without any of the house work shown.

What follows this analysis is more important. Moms First and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media listed out tangible, thoughtful actions that television executives, producers, and writers can take to shift these norms - both in their writing rooms and on-screen.

In People Magazine’s reporting of this study, Reshma Saujani (all around rockstar and founder & CEO of Moms First) quotes Meghan Markle (whose foundation funded this study) on how moms should be portrayed on screen:

"The most important title I have is mother. The one ask is to show our multidimensionality. Show us both as moms and workers, don’t just show one or the other. Show us as we are: both."

Moms are multi-hyphenates. It’s high time we showed them this way - on and off-screen.

I caught F1 Academy’s quals yesterday and first race today, and it helped settle my utter frustration and incredulousness of the Horner mess at the moment.

Not completely, but enough.

I’ve been thinking about where I direct my time and money as a sports fan, and am increasingly investing both in women’s sports (we’ve bought tickets for Gotham FC matches and New York Liberty games, watching F1 Academy), but I also well aware and uncomfortable how women’s sports are used to sanitize the men’s side or help disguise significant human rights issues.

I’m still reconciling these mixed feelings, but I had an overwhelming sense of pride and excitement in watching the F1 Academy drivers race (even more than the F1 races, which are frustratingly predictable).

Words have consequences. And the rise of hate crimes in this country - anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Latino - has lead to deadly, heartbreaking consequences of inflammatory speech about these groups.

They’re also tragically related.

“An Axios review of data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found that since 2016 hate crimes against Latinos spiked during various news events involving them or after comments made by Trump.

For example, anti-Latino hate crimes skyrocketed by more than 50% in July 2018 from the previous month, at the height of the Trump administration's family separation policy at the border.

"We've seen a correlation between brazen, anti-Latino immigrant rhetoric and anti-Latino hate crimes in recent years," Brian Levin, the recently retired director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, tells Axios.

Levin said anti-Latino hate crimes also tend to rise when other groups are targeted or in the news, such as when Trump imposed a Muslim travel ban during his presidency.”

I hate sharing reporting like this, but I also don’t see it getting the same coverage as the hateful rhetoric that causes these hate crimes.

Shifting gears to happier things - 5 excellent new romance novels.

I still think about (and constantly recommend) Tia Williams’ A Love Song for Ricki Wilde to everyone I know, and the rest of these books are at the top of my reading list (starting with This Could Be Us).

There’s a positive side of words having consequences, and these books are proof of that. Art has a power to change minds and hearts that nonfiction works and news reporting doesn’t, and reading about Black love and joy across different genres is both a gift and a lesson.

Please add these books to your list (and let me know what you read and loved).

Apparently we end the week with an incredibly obscure zoological piece.

Last week it was a potential universal anti-venom. This week, it’s radiation-free worms in Chernobyl.

O. tipulae worms appear to be resistant to the exposure of radiation, with no chromosomal mutations appearing in the species found in Chernobyl. And while you may be wondering why these radiation-resistant worms matter, this can help us in our longtime fight against cancer and figuring out why some humans are more susceptible than others.

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