Tag Archives: media

Celebs, Jerry Lewis, Roman Polanski and Me

In case you missed it, on The Morning AMp this morning the Council on Feminist Thought discussed many important things including Jerry Lewis’ idiocy over female comedians (do you remember Tina Fey’s response? “We don’t fucking care if you like it.”), Roman Polanski’s moronic comments about birth control, and more on celebrity overshares vs. megashares.

Sidenote: Council on Feminist Thought is a badass name. Wish I had come up with that.

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Recommended Viewing

By request, here’s the complete list of recommended movies and television for the Re-Education Project. Just a reminder, these are not endorsements, or even necessarily “great” movies. I asked the Internet (well, my Internet) for recommendations of movies and TV that are defining, genre-challenging, game-changing, emblematic, problematic, or representative of depictions of women/gender/feminism/sex. I want to contextualize what I currently see and watch with some of their important predecessors, and these were your suggestions. Thank you!

Anything with an asterisk is on Netflix Watch Instant!

Television:

  • Ozzie and Harriet (1952)
  • The Jackie Gleason Show (1952)
  • Father Knows Best (1954)
  • Leave it to Beaver (1957)*
  •  that girlThat Girl (1966)
  • Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)
  • All in the Family (1971)
  • Maude (1972)
  • The Jeffersons (1975)
  • Laverne and Shirley (1976)
  • The Cosby Show (1984)
  • Golden Girls (1985)
  • Roseanne (1988)
  • Murphy Brown (1988)
  • Prime Suspect (1991)*
  • Living Single (1993)
  • X-Files (1993)*
  • Xena  (1995)*
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997)*buffy
  • Farscape (1999)
  • Girlfriends (2000)
  • Alias (2001)*
  • Ellen (not the talk-show) (2001)
  • Firefly (2002)*
  • The L Word (2004)*
  • Veronica Mars (2004)
  • Damages (2007)*
  • Dollhouse (2009)*
  • Lost Girl (2010)*

Movies:

  • Morocco (1930)
  • Sylvia Scarlett (1935)
  • Streetcar Named Desire (1951)streetcar
  • Calamity Jane (1953)
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)*
  • Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)
  • The Taming of the Shrew (1967)
  • The Stepford Wives (1975)
  • Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
  • I Spit on Your Grave (1978)*
  • Norma Rae (1979)
  • 9 to 5 (1980)*
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
  • The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)*
  • Tootsie (1982)
  • Silkwood (1983)
  • Yentl (1983)
  • The Color Purple (1985)
  • Aliens (1986)
  • Fatal Attraction (1987)
  • Baby Boom (1987)
  • Big Business (1988)
  • Working Girl (1988)working girl
  • Bull Durham (1988)
  • Steel Magnolias (1989)*
  • When Harry Met Sally (1989)
  • Thelma and Louise (1991)
  • Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
  • A League of Their Own (1992)*
  • Sleepless in Seattle (1993)*
  • Natural Born Killers (1994)
  • Boys on the Side (1995)
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
  • Jackie Brown (1997)*jackie
  • Elizabeth (1998)
  • All I Wanna Do (1998)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
  • Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999)
  • But I’m a Cheerleader! (1999)
  • Erin Brockovich (2000)
  • Chocolat (2000)
  • Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
  • Anita and Me (2002)
  • Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
  • Whale Rider (2002)
  • Mona Lisa Smile (2003)*
  • House of Flying Daggers (2004)
  • Brick Lane (2007)
  • Becoming Jane (2007)
  • Caramel (2007)
  • Persepolis (2007)
  • Juno (2007)
  • The Duchess (2008)
  • I Spit on Your Grave (2010)
  • Easy A (2010)

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The Re-education Project (aka How Have I Never Seen Thelma and Louise?)

I would like to attempt something. Consider it a belated New Year’s Resolution, or an ongoing project in self-improvement and continuing education. I’m a feminist. Duh. You’d have to have been skipping the content of this blog and only looking at the dazzling photos to have missed that (Unrelatedly: Sorry for all the stock photography, that’s not really my thing).

I took a bazillion gender studies classes in college. I’ve read a lot, from Mary Wollstonecraft to Ariel Levy, Betty Friedan to Andrea Dworkin, Alix Kates Shulman to Adrienne Rich. I am well versed in the theories of the various waves, and I know where I stand on most of the issues, give or take a few of the finer points. And, of course, I’m always looking to broaden/deepen/complicate my own understanding.

But if you’re going to publicly comment on media and gender, as I do, reading is not enough. Watching and listening has to be part of the education process, and this is where I’ve started to find some serious holes in my own mental map of gender studies and women’s history. While my formal education required that I go back and read the sacred texts, I don’t feel like I truly have a handle on other forms of influential media.

thelma

How have I never seen Thelma and Louise?

I recently watched an excellent documentary on the evolution of Wonder Woman (if it’s in your city, go see it), and how her character changed in both comic books and on screen to match the flavors of feminism (or backlash to feminism) over the decades. One reference included Thelma and Louise, and I realized that I’d never seen it. A few weeks ago, I watch the PBS documentary Makers about the history of the women’s movement (streaming online, go watch it right this second). It also featured clips from other television shows and movies that I’d missed along the way, like Murphy Brown and The Mary Tyler Moore show. Obviously, most of this content was before my time, but given that I take great pride in being media literate and well-versed in this particular history, it seems I have some catching up to do.

I spend a serious amount of time keeping up on what we’re talking about now, but I want to contextualize the present by rounding out my knowledge of the past. If Girls wouldn’t have been possible without Sex and the City, and Sex and the City wouldn’t have been possible without Golden Girls, then I need to have seen Golden Girls to really understand how far we’ve come? How does the groundwork laid by Murphy Brown add depth to the current conversation we’re having about Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” philosophy? How does Tina Fey follow in the tradition of Mary Tyler Moore, or not? 

So, I need your help. If my goal were to fill out my understanding of “women in the media” over the last few decades, especially as it pertains to gender roles, feminism, sexism, etc., what do I need to go back and watch? I can’t watch everything, so what are the moments in media history that are influential, pot-stirring, game-changing? Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Thelma and Louise 

Golden Girls

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Murphy Brown 

Nine to Five 

Maude 

What else? Post in the comments or tweet at me, @rosiesaysblog!

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Bright Spot?

Warning: The bright spot referenced in the title of this post will not be arriving for several paragraphs. First, you have to go some dark places with me.

I do not hold grudges well. I am also generally incapable of going to sleep upset, of keeping my feelings to myself, or otherwise letting emotions incubate for reasonable lengths of time. When I feel shitty, whether for external or internal reasons, the shittiness sits front and center in my brain. I can’t think about other things, I can’t distract myself, and I can’t just let bad vibes dissipate at their natural pace; I have to force them out.

One of the ways I do this by dumping them on someone else. I never mean to dump, it just kind of happens, and then it takes the stricken look of a coworker caught off guard for me to really realize what  a lunatic I sound like.

Take Wednesday for example. Every piece of news I consumed (and I consume a lot of news) was horrifying. Not like, oh man, the CTA is raising their prices (which does suck,) but like legitimately filling me with actual horror/fear/desperation. And once that horror snowball starts, I can never seem to stop it. It started with the story about the rape case in Cleveland, TX, where the 11-year-old was raped by 20+ boys and men. Is this story in and of itself horrifying? Yes, but it is unfortunately old and faded news. The latest development is that the defense attorney described the 11-year-old girl as a “spider” who “lured” men into her “web.”

So I stared at that for a while, frothing at the mouth, and then shifted my gaze to my email, where my daily Chicagoist updates had arrived, leading with, of course, a horrifying story about a high school coach who condoned (maybe facilitated?) heinous sexual assault on a boys soccer team under the auspices of “hazing”. Does it ever end?

And then, when it seems like it will never end, I stumble on this ad for toy computers in which the boy computer (blue, obviously) has 50 functions and the girl computer (guess what color?) has 25 functions. And this, of course, is the least horrifying thing I’ve seen so far today, but I am already so worked up that this idiotic ad, this thoughtless, sexist, horrible dumb ad, is the thing that tips me over the edge.

My friend senses my consternation, likely because I am at this point moaning into my hand and rocking back and forth (I exaggerate, only slightly), and I unleash on her an incomprehensible torrent of angst, DID YOU SEE TEXAS, CLEVLELAND RAPE CASE DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAYS SHE’S A SPIDER SHE’S A CHILD WHY WHY WHY NO ONE UNDERSTANDS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD AND CHIAGOIST SOCCER TEAM HAZING WHAT???? EVERYONE SUCKS I HATE IT ALL COMPUTERS FOR BOYS? WHO APPROVES THIS SHIT? I AM NEVER HAVING CHILDREN. And she just stares back at me, waiting for the steam to cool. I immediately felt better. What had been bottling up all day was at least released, the pressure was gone.

And then she did a cool thing, and sent me something to brighten my otherwise gloomy day. It was the reactions of Jada and Will smith to the criticism of their daughter Willow’s hair (she recently shaved her head). Jada wrote this:

willowThe question is why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.”

And I’m fist-pumping, I’m hollering, I’m jamming out in my chair like this is the best, most joyous song I have ever been privileged enough to hear. And then there’s Will:

We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself

And I’m like… Fresh Prince, I knew you had it in you. You tell ’em! And so the cloud passes, because although the world is most definitely not an okay place right now, we have allies, and the arc of the universe is long and it bends toward justice, and because some people speak up, and because we are not alone. 

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It’s telling that they call it “cover-up”

This week at Role/Reboot I wrote about my relationship with make-up. The inspiration for this piece was some combination of Caitlin Moran, Leighton Meester, Hillary Clinton, Toddlers in Tiaras, Sephora, and those annoying Latisse ads.

In How to Be a Woman, Moran wrote:

“I love drag and make-up and reinvention and wigs and make-believe and inventing yourself from the floor up, as many times as you need to. Every day, if you want.  At the very end of all this arguing, women should be allowed to look how they damn well please. The patriarchy can get OFF my face and tits.” 

Gah, she is just the best. And then, Gossip Girl actress Leighton Meester was recently quoted in Cosmo saying, “I don’t care if there are a million photos of me with no makeup. I love being able to walk down the street without it. We should promote women not having to wear makeup, or at least feel we can go out without it.”

I couldn’t agree with her more, but the language of her statement makes it clear that the default position is to be plastered in cosmetics, and that “being able” to go without it is somehow a bold statement. It seems to me that face-painting would be the unusual case, not our baseline for leaving the house, but I think I’m deluding myself (at least, for celebrities).

And then there’s Hillary, who is just the biggest BAMF around. Her quote, my favorite, is in my essay:

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Sunday Scraps 76

1.VOTING: Slate has a time lapsed map marking the last 100 years of presidential elections. Oooh, watch the pretty colors change!

2. SMARTS: Atlantic interview with Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd, about his uber famous comic and his new geeky science project, What If?

3. BOOKS: How to pair cocktails with book club books, a guide from Flavorwire. We’re reading Boss in my book club at the moment, which I think requires a Chicago beer that has been purchased in exchange for a couple of votes in a tricky precinct.

4. MAGS: The Daily Beast profiles Vice, a Brooklyn based online and print magazine that uses raunch humor, on-the-ground cheap reporting, and multi-media to try to make millennials care about the world.

5. FOOD: As nutritional labels hit McDonald’s, do consumers care if their lunch is 1,800 calories? Apparently not.

6. WRITING: Words of writerly wisdom from Zadie Smith, whose new book NW I’m very excited to read.

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Is Parks and Rec the Most Feminist Show on TV?

I had an epiphany last night while watching the episode of Parks and Rec where Andy takes a women’s studies class. I said to myself, “I think this might just be the most feminist show on television.”

Then I was all, “Whoa there, girl, what are you metrics? Criteria? A rubric perhaps? Where’s your evidence?”

Emily: It’s just a gut feeling!

Emily: Gut feelings aren’t academically rigorous. What makes a show feminist?

Emily: Um…Gotta pass the Bechdel test, for sure, plus healthy stuff about female sexuality, male female relationships, body image, women in the workplace, etc. You know, women as well-rounded, fully-formed (and flawed) characters with concerns that extend beyond men, yada yada yada.

Emily: Make me a list. Check that shit twice.

Emily: (sigh).

After more rigorous analysis, I stick with my initial epiphany. Here is my hastily assembled rubric for determining if a show is “feminist”:

  1. The central drama is not aimed at addressing the question “when will she get married and have babies?” (Leslie Knope is 37, FYI).
  2. Women like sex too, and not just when they’re in love. Corollary: A one-night stand, though sometimes a mistake for emotional or practical reasons, does not lower a woman’s worth as a friend or partner.
  3. Lots of bodies are beautiful (Have you noticed how Donna’s size is never a plot point on Parks?)
  4. Men and women can have deep, meaningful platonic friendships (Leslie and Ron, Leslie and Tom, Donna and Tom).
  5. Female friends do not only discuss their boyfriends and the boyfriends they wish they had.
  6. Men aren’t just after sex. Women aren’t just after love. (See the respective plot arcs of Chris Traeger and Jennifer Barkley).
  7. Some women are bitches. Some men are douches. These are not stand-ins for some sort of Battle of the Sexes, but are representative of the fact that, oh hey, sometimes people suck.
  8. Feminism is not a dirty word. In Parks, we get Gertrude Stein jokes, portraits of Madeleine Albright, a women’s studies class (that isn’t a joke about lesbian colleges), debates about “Separate but Equal,” and so, so much more.

I know that there are other shows that fit this list as well (The Good Wife and Friday Night Lights come to mind). Some shows definitely do not (2 Broke Girls, The Newsroom). Are there bullet points I’m forgetting to qualify something as a feminist show? Are there sexist elements of Parks I’m ignoring?

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