Friday, November 4, 2011

RIP Rudolph Byrd

Pardon me for being a little late with this, as I've been struggling to keep my head above (grading) water, but I'd be remiss if I didn't post a short note in honor of great Emory University professor, Rudolph Byrd, who died two weeks ago.

Here's an excerpt from his obituary in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Mr. Byrd, an Emory professor for two decades, died Friday at Emory University Hospital after a long-running fight with cancer. He was 58.

He had just finished writing a series of lectures about race and sexuality to be presented at Harvard University. He was writing a biography of author Ernest Gaines, developing a monograph of the early novels of Alice Walker and collaborating with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. on an anthology of African-American poetry.

You can read the rest of his AJC obit here as well as an additional obituary and slide show (the latter put together by my father) here.

I'll leave you with this:

In his moving and powerful essay, "On Becoming a Feminist," Byrd writes,
My commitment to feminism thus began with resistance to the abuse of women. When I ordered my father at knife point to leave our home, asserting “Get out and leave my mother alone,” I was uttering one of the oldest sentences in the world. Other boys had said such things to their fathers. I did not want my father out of our lives because I loved him and needed his protection and guidance; what I wanted out of our lives was the violence. As I would come to realize, it was in that moment that my commitment to gender equality crystallized. Such a commitment placed me, inevitably, in opposition to my father, who held—like many men of his class and generation—deeply flawed, patriarchal views of family and society. Views that he wrongly thought entitled him to abuse, physically and psychologically, my mother and doubtless other women.


My mother also reared me with a deep sense of egalitarianism. I regarded my siblings as equals in all things while I also fully acknowledged their complexity as individuals. Moving from boyhood to manhood, I valued the insight this rearing produced, especially in relationship to my two sisters who were, like my mother, all women to me. Reconstructing this early period in my life, I understand that my respect for women began with my respect for my mother—an abiding respect born of her feminist consciousness.

I believe that I would have resisted this vital principle, like other men, had it not been for my mother’s instructive, inspiring example and also for my ability to transfer and apply knowledge from the domestic sphere to the public sphere. Always the questions were these: Even though they are strangers, why would you treat women beyond your kinship group any differently from your mother and sisters? Even though they are strangers, why would you not wish these women to have what you wish for your mother and sisters: a life free of male domination and violence? Then and now, I understood that these questions bore the imprint of my mother’s hand, that is, the imprint of her feminist consciousness. And while she did not call herself a feminist, she understood, like all feminists, that the personal is political. For me, this is an insight, born, in part, of family life.

If only more people--men and women--remembered these simple principles about egalitarianism and basic humanity. RIP.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

The Personal and The Political: Feminism on The Good Wife

The online forum In Media Res holds weekly themed discussions between academics, independent scholars and other interested parties on a wide range of topics dealing with popular culture, film, television, and the media. This week, IMR's topic is CBS's television show The Good Wife and yours truly contributed a post about feminism and gender politics on the show ("Between the Political and the Personal: The Lawyer, Her Boss and Their Investigator"), which I conclude with the following questions:
From the beginning of the show, Alicia’s role as Peter Florrick’s wife has been a salable and essential part of her identity as a lawyer, whether she liked it or not. If Alicia is no longer the “good wife,” does that preclude her ability to be a good lawyer? At what point does the political become personal? And, on a deeper level, does the recent scheming and disquietude between Alicia, Kalinda and Diane necessarily evince a “bad” gender politics on the part of the show or can we chalk it all up to episodic television’s compulsive need to disrupt and/or destabilize relationships regardless of gender?

You can read my entire post, as well as access the excellent and insightful posts by other contributors, here.

And here's the Youtube video I made to accompany my post:

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Person of (Dis)Interest

Check out my review of the pilot for the new CBS series Person of Interest at the Ms. Magazine blog:
I’m not one to turn down a new crime show. Give me a detective, a forensic team or a vigilante out for the truth and I’m pretty much a happy camper. So I was expecting to enjoy the new CBS procedural “Person of Interest” (premiering tonight at 9/8 central), particularly since it’s the brainchild of “Lost” producer J.J. Abrams and Dark Knight/Memento screenwriter Jonathan Nolan. Unfortunately, after watching the pilot I’m feeling robbed–and not in the good way that’s followed by philosophical one-liners from street-hardened detectives.

First off, what could have been an interesting meditation on surveillance culture suffers from heavy-handedness and an out-there premise. The show hits viewers over the head with dozens of clips of gritty security camera footage, allusions to September 11, and images of cameras peering menacingly with their glowing viewfinders, like 2001‘s Hal, from every lamppost and stoplight. Instead of a subtle questioning of our Big Brother society, which might be interesting, the show goes with a convoluted sci-fi premise: A computer program gathers information from all this surveillance and predicts which members of the public will be involved in a crime. Yet this sophisticated program cannot tell whether they will be victims or perpetrators, or where, what, when and how the crime will occur, giving our team of human protagonists their mission–to figure it all out and stop the crimes before they are committed. As a premise this makes about as much sense as that 2008 Angelina Jolie film Wanted, in which a band of weaver-assassins receive instructions about who to kill from a mysterious loom.

You can read the rest here.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Jane Lynch and the Emmys

I didn't have a chance to watch the Emmys last night because I'm trying to finish a stack of grading, but I thoroughly enjoyed Jane Lynch's opening number when I saw it floating around the internets this morning:

I especially love the Big Band Theory skit and Lynch flirting with Peggy in the Mad Men office.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

On generational tensions and the third wave

I know this blog is called "Fourth Wave Feminism" and, as such, I should probably be claiming some sort of transition away from third wave ideologies and into a hypothetical fourth wave. The problem, of course, is that even after writing this blog for three years, I'm still not quite sure what the fourth wave might look like. That said, I do have some ideas, most of them revolving around a reapplication of feminism for the future while not denying or forgetting its past, which leads me to my reason for posting today...

Yesterday, my good friend L. sent me an article from The Huffington Post. She was curious about my opinion, she said, and, after I'd read the article and devoted an unnecessary amount of Facebook wall space to typing out a response, I decided I might as well turn my response into a blog post, as it so typified the kind of debate that I often see in generational disputes over feminism's relevance, efficacy and enactment.

The article in question is written by filmmaker Dawn Porter, with whose work, I'll be honest, I am not terribly familiar. For the purposes of the case she's making and my reaction, however, knowing her work isn't essential. My response is to her article, not her work (although now I'm curious and will make an effort to track some of it down). Porter's article is intriguingly entitled "Women Like Me are not Like Women Like You, Does That Have to Make us Enemies?" and in it she discusses the negative response she received from an unnamed, presumably older, feminist journalist regarding her latest film Dawn Gets Naked in which, you guessed it, the filmmaker gets naked. According to Porter, her film chronicles women's body image issues in today's society, specifically "challeng[ing] the media's idea of perfection and the pressure that it puts on women."

Porter expresses frustration that her unnamed critic "drew the conclusion that [Porter] presumed that feminism is just about getting your tits out" and "didn't like it one bit." She goes on to argue that feminism can mean a lot of things to different women and, essentially, that's it nobody's business if she chooses to trim her pubic hair, wear stiletto heels, and still call herself a feminist.

I wholeheartedly agree. She points to some of the same problems in the ongoing clash/debate/tension between feminist generations. Obviously, you can't expect a movement or an ideology not to shift as time passes, and for people not to enact its principles differently. (For further reading, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards' book Manifesta addresses these generational dynamics really well.)


I do take serious issue with one thing Porter says (although its worth noting that maybe she doesn't mean it the way it sounds or she wasn't really thinking what it could mean when she wrote it). Towards the end, she writes, "But I do think that as feminism is having a golden moment and there is a chance it might really go somewhere this time, women who want to attack others should pick their arguments more carefully." The latter part is all fine and good. Nudity in a documentary that purports an interest in building self-esteem and interrogating media representations of body image does seem like a rather silly thing to get worked up over vis-a-vis feminism.

So here's me picking my argument carefully: it sounds an awful lot like Porter's saying that feminism hasn't gone anywhere in the past, or anywhere worthwhile, which is a really reductive and naive thing to say (and is precisely what some older/second wave feminists find so disconcerting about the third wave: the elision of history). To suggest that all the advances that women made in the 1960s and 1970s were not worth anything, that feminism didn't go anywhere, is pretty insulting. Perhaps what she means to say is that feminism isn't over, that there are still things left to be done, which would make a lot more sense and, in my opinion, is very true. If that's what she meant to say, it doesn't come across. How about choosing your words carefully?

If Porter does indeed mean to say that feminism hasn't done anything worthwhile yet or ever, I'm not even sure how to respond to that, considering her ability to even make a documentary in which she and other women ride around London in a double-decker bus nude has a lot to do with previous generations of feminists and what they've done for gender equality.

I hope she misspoke, I really do. Although I was deeply disturbed to look in the comments and see that Porter seemingly agreed with one commenter who wrote, "You have equal rights. Now get over yourselves­. Feminism is really now just about narcissism­: debating the finer points of Brazilian waxing, SlutWalk exhibition­ism for Facebook photos, or academic navel-gazi­ng about one's unused ovaries" (unsurprisingly, this commenter's moniker is "Men's Rights Videos"). Yes, women have more rights now than they ever have, especially in so-called first world countries. But, do we have equal rights? No, not by a long shot.

Should women be able to wax their pubic hair, wear high heels, take joy in their nudity and bodies, be super feminine and still call themselves feminists?


Should older feminists accept that the younger generation might do things a little differently than they did but that doesn't make them any less feminist?

Again, absolutely.

But does that mean that third wavers or fourth wavers or whatever feminists want to call themselves these days should forget that there were women who came before them who had to fight and yell and break all the rules in order to help build the relative equality (in some areas, but still not all) we enjoy today?

No. No. No. Absolutely not.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

World Cup 2011 -- Women's Soccer

I'm not much of a viewer of sports, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching last night's World Cup finale between the US and Japan. Even though the sight of Hope Solo's sad little face afterward was kind of heartbreaking, I was happy the Japanese team won. Not only have they never won or even made it to the quarterfinals before--so what a milestone for them!--but they also really earned it. And, as the German sportscasters kept saying after the game (I'm in Germany right now), what it really came down to was that the Japanese team had better nerves; they simply didn't break under pressure like the American team did during the penalty kicks.

All that said, I was also pleased to see that all the people I've been around seemed pretty much as interested in women's soccer as they were in men's soccer in previous years I've been overseas. Of course, Germany got knocked out of the running several games ago, so people weren't quite as fanatical as I've seen them when Germany's made it to the finals.

In a similar vein, my father just sent me three interesting articles about women's soccer, two of which are German. I've provided brief summary/translations below.

The first, from the NY Times discusses the stigma surrounding homosexuality on the Nigerian women's soccer team.

The second, from the German takes a more positive spin on lesbian soccer players by profiling Germany's goalie, Ursuala Holl, who is one of the few openly gay soccer plays on a national team and just married her partner last year. Holl discusses how open and accepting all of her teammates, coaches and fans have been. But, she adds, there's still a stigma around homosexuality in the sport--especially for gay male soccer players--so she wouldn't necessarily advise others to come out since it's more of a personal matter. Still, she's happy hasn't had any negative responses to her coming out or her marriage.

The last of the three articles, also in German and from Die Zeit reports on the rampant sexual abuse and harassment in Nigerian women's soccer. The article considers the fact that most female players and many others will admit that trainers and coaches often ask for sexual favors or require that players sleep with them in order to get a chance of making it on the team, but, do to the fear of retribution and the very real possibility that they would lose their jobs, no one is willing to speak out or against the abusers.

Just some food for thought as we wrap up the latest World Cup cycle...

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

NY State Approves Gay Marriage Bill

I still feel a little burn from the turnaround in California with Prop 8, so I can only manage cautious optimism...but, nevertheless, this is very exciting!

From the NY Times:
Passage of same-sex marriage here followed a daunting run of defeats in other states where voters barred same-sex marriage by legislative action, constitutional amendment or referendum. Just five states currently permit same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.

At around 10:30 p.m., moments after the vote was announced, Mr. Cuomo strode onto the Senate floor to wave at cheering supporters who had crowded into the galleries to watch. Trailed by two of his daughters, the governor greeted lawmakers, and paused to single out those Republicans who had defied the majority of their party to support the marriage bill.

“How do you feel?” he asked Senator James S. Alesi, a suburban Rochester Republican who voted against the measure in 2009 and was the first to break party ranks this year. “Feels good, doesn’t it?”

The approval of same-sex marriage represented a reversal of fortune for gay-rights advocates, who just two years ago suffered a humiliating defeat when a same-sex marriage bill was easily rejected by the Senate, which was then controlled by Democrats. This year, with the Senate controlled by Republicans, the odds against passage of same-sex marriage appeared long.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Exploitation, Identity and the Internet

I have a new post up at The New Republic:
In 1993, Peter Steiner penned an oft-reproduced cartoon for The New Yorker that has proven to be remarkably prescient time and time again. In it, two dogs sit by a computer and one, turning to the other, explains, “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Meet the dog of the hour: Tom MacMaster , a 40-year-old white, male graduate student living in Georgia who, for four months now, has been masquerading as Amina Abdallah Arraf, the supposedly Syrian American author of the Gay Girl in Damascus blog. [...]
To add insult to injury, Paula Brooks, editor of the blog Lez Get Real (who, full disclosure, I corresponded with in passing in 2008, when both our blogs were just getting started), admitted a day after MacMaster that “she” is actually a 58-year-old heterosexual, male Air Force veteran named Bill Graber.


Basically, by taking on the personae of lesbian bloggers, what MacMaster and Graber were saying is this: “I am a white male and, as such, privileged by American society in almost every way. There is, however, one way in which I am not privileged; I don’t have the right to speak for minorities, and that makes me sad. Luckily for me, I’ve found a way that I can simultaneously enjoy all the privileges of being a white American male and all the media attention of being a disenfranchised political/sexual minority.”
Read the complete article here.

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U.N. Endorses LGBT rights

Good news from the U.N.:

The United Nations endorsed the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender people for the first time yesterday, passing a resolution hailed as historic by the United States and other backers and decried by African and Muslim countries.

The declaration was cautiously worded, expressing “grave concern’’ about abuses because of sexual orientation and commissioning a global report on discrimination against gays.

But activists called it an important shift on an issue that has divided the global body for decades, and they credited the Obama administration’s push for gay rights at home and abroad.

Read the rest here.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why Julianna Margulies is Awesome:

...and it's not only because she's the star of one of my favorite television shows, CBS's The Good Wife. Margulies also recently spoke out against networks pitting women against each other (or, more specifically, pitting her womam-centered show against ABC's crime procedural Body of Proof, starring Dana Delaney).

She's quoted in The Huffington Post this week:
"If you look this year at the pilots that they picked up, I would say more than not, women are the leads in network television, and I think we were the catalysts for that," she said. "And that makes me so happy."

Still, she understands that there's a lot of work to be done to change the perception and treatment of women stars, even when their shows are so successful. Citing the perceived women-led ratings battle between her show and "Body of Proof,' Margulies made no secret of her disdain for current scheduling practices.

"I don't understand executives that pit women against each other, the fact that they brought in 'Body of Proof,' Dana Delaney is a friend of mine, and the two of us were just rolling our eyes, it's like, of course, you finally have two great female leads and you're going to put us on against each other," Margulies said. "You're assholes. You should have put them on against a different show to see where they go, and then in the end, it was split down the middle. It's the feeling that you want to celebrate not de-calibrate."

Just one more reason to love her.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Women in Science (and a bonus zombie)

From the illustrious mind of xkcd:

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Monday, April 18, 2011

The "Art" of Exploitation

I have a new post up at the Ms. Magazine blog:

I consider myself fairly liberal when it comes to some of the most controversial 21st-century debates about sex. I’m not anti-pornography or sex work, as long as they are properly regulated, include health care for workers and require explicit consent of all participants. I also think that erotically charged art can be very compelling, provided it goes beyond prurient sensationalism. So it’s pretty impressive, though not in a good way, that French artist Antoine D’Agata’s photographs of himself having sex with Cambodian sex workers piss me off so much.

D’Agata, whom Flaunt magazine calls a “provocative social documentarian,” revels in the controversial nature of his art practice. He has expressed hope that the photos–which depict him engaged in a variety of sex acts with young women in brothels–might somehow bring light to the plight of sex workers in Cambodia.
Read the rest here.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Article up at The New Republic

I'm very pleased to report that I have a post/article up at The New Republic's website on Geraldine Ferraro's legacy (thanks to C.S. for the opportunity!).

An excerpt:
When news reached me this past weekend that Geraldine Ferraro had succumbed to cancer at the relatively tender age of 75, I felt an inexplicable sense of loss. This wasn’t a generic sensation—the abstracted sadness we inevitably feel when public figures die—or a civic mourning for the loss of a champion of women’s rights. Rather, my feeling of loss stemmed from something I never had, a sense of nostalgia for a moment I didn’t experience.

Ferraro’s funeral is today, her death justifiably triggering a surge of tributes and recollections about her life and career, including my own. I was born only a year before Walter Mondale made the groundbreaking decision to name Ferraro as his running mate, making her the first female vice presidential candidate for a national political party. Needless to say, I was not aware at the time of the momentousness of the occasion, but that doesn’t mean that his choice and her narrative do not affect me. It’s a trap that many of us fall into: assuming that those who did not experience an event first-hand won’t feel its ripple effects in time.

Ferraro’s nomination signified hope—a hope that a country mired in institutionalized misogyny could one day see its way to true equality between the sexes. Now, 27 years later, her death compels me to wonder whether we’ve seen much progress.
Read the rest here.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Call for Papers: Women as Breadwinners

Another PSA for my reading audience:

Call for essays: Breadwinning Broads: stories from women who bring home most (or even all) of the bacon

The topic of wives out-earning their husbands has received a lot of attention recently. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a third of all wives earn more than their husbands (2003). The Breadwinning Broads project wants to hear about life from the perspective of these meal-ticket mamas. Our hope is to shine a light on the shifting roles in modern marriages or relationships and how women feel these changes have impacted their identity as a wife, girlfriend, partner, mother, daughter or woman.

The Breadwinning Broads project is seeking first person essays of 2000-3500 words from wives, girlfriends, or partners, who earn, or once earned, most or all of the household income. Rather than social commentary or man-bashing rants, we are looking for stories focusing on unique perspectives of being the breadwinner.

Here are some questions that may help spark your essay:

1. As the breadwinner, how to do you see yourself? How do you think others see you? Has been the breadwinner changed you? What have you learned about yourself?

2. Does being the breadwinner feel liberating or confining? How and why? What are your hopes? What are your fears?

3. How has being a breadwinner impacted your role as a daughter? Was your mother a breadwinner, as well? Has your role as the provider affected your relationship with your mother or father?

4. How do you feel about your work outside the home? Are you passionate about it? Hate it? How do your feelings about your job affect the way you see yourself as the breadwinner?

5. How might your role as breadwinner impact your daughter(s)? Son(s)? Does being the breadwinner shape your feelings about motherhood? How? Why?

6. What about your marriage or relationship changed, improved or deteriorated as a result of your breadwinning status? Did you willingly enter into your role or did circumstances require you to take it on? If your marriage or relationship did not last, was it due to your role as the provider?

Above all, we are looking for writing that moves us, makes us laugh, surprises us and gives us unique insight into life as a breadwinning broad.

Please submit essays to breadwinningbroads[at]yahoo[dot]com by May 31st, 2011.

We look forward to hearing from you.

The Fine Print:

Submission of an essay does not guarantee publication in the book. Several factors will be considered when determining which works will be selected for publication by the editor and publisher.

1. Electronic submissions only, please. Essays will not be returned to the author.
2. No contributors will receive financial compensation for their work whether or not it is selected for publication. Contributing authors will be recognized in the book and in the book publicity for their published work.
3. If selected for publication in the book, authors agree to terms in a consent agreement (e.g., permission to publish the work in the book, use in promotional materials, use of name in the book, release of copyright).
4. Authors affirm that submitted work was not previously published.
5. The editor and publisher reserve the right to reject any submissions and to edit the stories for grammar, style and space.

Editor: Katie Griffith holds an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Wyoming and has spent the last ten years studying cultural and social trends in the United States. The Breadwinner project began when she and many of her thoughtful friends realized that things had really changed—and they weren’t sure they liked it. Katie has worked as a lecturer in American Studies, a young adult librarian, an educator and, of course, a breadwinning wife and mother.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Tough Women on Contemporary Television

While I'm not, personally, a huge fan of NCIS (I like my crime procedurals bloody and dramatic, not goofy), this NY Times article about it's tough, female character, Ziva, caught my eye (and was referred to me by a friend): "Sugar and Spice and Vicious Beatings."

What was of more interest to me, though, was the "TV's Female Enforcers" slide show that accompanied it. The slide show features women like Elizabeth Mitchell's character Erica from V, Buffy, and Archie Panjabi's character Kalinda from The Good Wife.

I think their list could be much longer, but it's still a fun diversion on a Sunday afternoon (and it will perhaps give you a new list of television shows to check out).

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

PSA: Engendering Progress Event in NYC on Thursday, March 23rd

A representative from Manhattan Young Democrats asked that I pass along this event announcement to my readers and, since it's for a good cause, I agreed. Contents of the email follow:
A group that I volunteer for is having an event in NYC soon. It is called MYD's [Manhattan Young Democrats] Second Annual 'Engendering Progress' event honoring women thought-leaders, activists and trailblazers.

NARAL Pro-choice NYC will be speaking and passing around a petition for attendees to sign. They will deliver this petition to our Senators in Washington. I really want to get as many pro-choice women in the room as possible.

HERE is information on last year's honorees as well as some pictures of the event which attracted over 100 young people and brought together many women's groups that had not had the chance to meet previously.

Engendering Progress will be held on Thursday, March 24th from 7-11pm at popular establishment Marquee in Manhattan.

Honorees include: GEMS, Domestic Workers United, Women's Media Center, Krista Brenner (a pro-choice activist and one of the few women in New York State to hold the position of campaign manager in 2010) and Lizz Winstead, co-creator of the Daily Show. We are expecting a strong showing of several hundred progressive young people.

The Facebook is HERE.

Co-sponsors include: Paradigm Shift (NYC's Feminist Community) and WomenElect and NARAL Pro-choice NYC.

It would be awesome if you could post this! You don't have to include all the details. I just want women to know that there is a war on women's health being waged and pro-choice people really need to sign this petition before it is too late.
So if you live in or near NYC, consider stopping by for a good cause. Tickets are $5 for MYD members, $15 for non-members or you can purchase a $20 MYD membership and get into the event for free.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Daniel Craig in Drag for International Women's Day

I'm a bit late on this, but here's Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench (v.o.) in their International Women's Day PSA.

"We're equal, aren't we Mr. Bond?"

(h/t Female Impersonator)

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21st Century Girl

This is a little random, but I can't help but find myself charmed by Willow Smith's music videos, especially her most recent, "21st Century Girl," which features a bevy of girls rocking out, skateboarding, BMX biking and, you know, not dressing in miniskirts or playing with dolls and tea sets:

I like her first video, too, but the constant refrain of "I whip my hair back and forth" makes my ears bleed a little:

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Secretary Clinton Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day

Just a little reminder on the importance of women's issues (particularly global ones) from our Secretary of State:

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pop's Diva Daughter as Primal Mother

I have a new post up at Ms.. Magazine's blog (after a long dry spell which was primarily the result of writer's block and lack of time) about Lady Gaga's newest music video, "Born This Way":
I’ve been looking forward to the music video of Lady Gaga’s much-hyped single “Born This Way” for several weeks, so, when it premiered Sunday on Vevo I really wanted to love it. Unfortunately, “Born This Way” just doesn’t have the twisted, Mad Hatter brilliance of Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video or the movie-pastiche playfulness and queer pleasures of “Telephone” (featuring Beyonce).

What “Born This Way” does share with earlier Gaga videos is an unabashed willingness (nay, insistence) to push the already elastic envelope of music video propriety, a penchant for dancing around in her underwear and a clear, but not completely realized, desire to blur the boundaries between pop rock and video art.

“Born This Way” refers to the idea that homosexuality is the result of nature not nurture, something Gaga emphasizes both through her lyrics (“No matter gay, straight or bi, / Lesbian, transgendered life / I’m on the right track baby / I was born to survive”) and with the neon pink triangle that opens and closes the video. But visually, she seems more interested in metaphors of childbirth and Motherhood (capital “M” intended) than in dwelling on images of queer pride.
Read the rest here.

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Monday, February 28, 2011

The War on Women

An important op-ed in The New York Times from Friday (h/t Feminist Law Professors for the link):
The War on Women

Republicans in the House of Representatives are mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families. And this is just the beginning.

The budget bill pushed through the House last Saturday included the defunding of Planned Parenthood and myriad other cuts detrimental to women. It’s not likely to pass unchanged, but the urge to compromise may take a toll on these programs. And once the current skirmishing is over, House Republicans are likely to use any legislative vehicle at hand to continue the attack.

The egregious cuts in the House resolution include the elimination of support for Title X, the federal family planning program for low-income women that provides birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the absence of Title X’s preventive care, some women would die. The Guttmacher Institute, a leading authority on reproductive health, says a rise in unintended pregnancies would result in some 400,000 more abortions a year.

An amendment offered by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, would bar any financing of Planned Parenthood. A recent sting operation by an anti-abortion group uncovered an errant employee, who was promptly fired. That hardly warrants taking aim at an irreplaceable network of clinics, which uses no federal dollars in providing needed abortion care. It serves one in five American women at some point in her lifetime.

You can read the rest here.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Ladies Drink Free!

Jamie Keiles of The Seventeen Magazine Project fame* just posted a clever chart about frat party politics (particularly iterations of the "ladies drink free" ideology) on her new blog Teenagerie. Check it out!

She makes a good point, especially, about the way men pay for access to women in these situations; the cover and drink charges function then as a kind of fee securing their place in a space where, presumably, many women have flocked, lured by the prospect of free alcohol. What she doesn't really bring up, though, are the issues of consent that go along with a "ladies drink free" philosophy. Without an economic incentive to stop drinking, "ladies" might get drunker than their male counterparts ergo it will be that much easier to take advantage of them. Of course, women have just as much agency over their alcohol consumption as men do--free or not--but that doesn't change the implications of this idea. And the fact is that many college students (at whom this type of advertising is primarily aimed, even when it's a feature of a bar rather than a frat house), male or female, will find it difficult to pass up free alcohol.

* In another life, I had planned an interview with Jamie for the Ms. blog, but I think she got swamped with requests as her website took off and that, unfortunately, never came to fruition.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Women Allowed! -- Dr. Pepper 10

And today in super-annoying marketing decisions:

Unfortunately, Colorado must be one of the "selected test markets" Time alludes to in the linked article, because I've been seeing this damn commercial for the last three days and I hate it with a burning passion. You know what's really sad? I would probably buy this soda, since I've long been on a quest to find a soda that doesn't taste like aspartame but also isn't sugar- and calorie-laden. Of course, part of me wants to buy this soda in spite of the advertising--no girls allowed! I'll show you, Dr. Pepper!--but, of course, they're probably counting on women either not caring about their men-only advertising or being irked enough to buy the soda because of their men-only advertising.

I understand that advertisers need to push their products towards certain markets and that it may be difficult to sell diet sodas to men (because of a bizarre social stigma, or perceived stigma, that already doesn't make sense). What I don't understand is why they can't make ads that are either gender-neutral or advertise towards men without reinforcing gender stereotypes (and particularly inane ones at that). God forbid you like "romantic comedies and lady drinks." (Actually, what are lady drinks?) And women definitely don't like action films.

In anticipation that people will claim I just can't take a joke, I'm perfectly fine with ads that make fun of gender stereotypes (like the Old Spice "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" ads, which I love). But, I mostly just think this ad this dumb and, hence, not funny.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Adventures in Women's Studies 101

I have two little anecdotes to share:

Last week, I asked my women's studies class how many of them consider themselves feminists; one student raised her hand (out of 60). When I asked them if they believe women and men should be equal in society, everyone raised their hands. This was a perfect set-up for talking about the antifeminist backlash, but also extremely depressing.

Earlier today, I asked my students to discuss what needs to be changed in terms of gender equity/inequity in society today. A guy in the back of the room who has barely made a peep so far this semester responded (this is an approximation of what he said), "I think it's really important that women have the right to abortion because from my perspective, as a guy, it's my job to support her decision no matter what because it's her body and not mine. And I don't think it's right that society makes being pro-choice look so bad and that some people, like the religious right, think it's okay to make decisions about women's bodies for them."

I now love this guy...although he still didn't raise his hand when I asked if anyone considered themselves a feminist. Peer pressure? Cultural denigration of a term that should be more neutral than it's often presumed to be? Any other theories?

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Classic Feminist Writings

I just found this amazing internet resource, funded and provided by the Chicago Women's Liberation Union (CWLU). It's a collection of classic feminist essays and manifestos, available online and for free, including Barbara Ehrenreich's "What is Socialist Feminism," Jo Freeman's "The BITCH Manifesto," Judy Syfer's "Why I Want a Wife," Pat Mainardi's "The Politics of Housework," Kate Millet's "Sexual Politics" (the essay that led to the book) and many more!

Happy reading.

(Also, I'm planning a series of posts syncing up with my women's studies class--something I started last spring, but on which I never followed through. I'll be starting it in the next two weeks or so!)

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

It Gets Better: The Music Video(s)

I was listening to the Savage Lovecast the other day, and Dan Savage featured a new tune from comedian Rebecca Drysdale (whom one of my former contributors wrote about here a couple years ago), inspired by the It Gets Better Project, which Savage founded.

In any case, Drysdale's music video is pretty brilliant, not to mention hilarious (it does have explicit lyrics, just so you know). Also, just as a bonus, I've included a music video by former American Idol contestant Todrick Hall: a very different kind of "it gets better" anthem than Drysdale's satiric pop number (possible trigger warning).

You can also find a vast collection of heartfelt and (sometimes) heart-wrenching It Gets Better videos on their website and Youtube page. I posted a couple--less musical but no less compelling--videos a few months: President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their contributions to the project.

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