5 Feminist TV Shows for the New Season

The shows you should be watching this winter — both to support positive female depictions, and because they’re damn good:

1. Grey’s Anatomy and Off the Map: This is a two-for-one deal, recommended on the strength of creator Shonda Rhimes’ vision, which builds strong femininity into its DNA. This woman cannot create a female character without depth and dimension, and without the ability to stand up to the men around her. Real, multi-layered relationships — of the very, very grownup kind you don’t often see on TV — only add to the power of her shows. Oh, and she’s a female showrunner with three shows currently on the air and more to come. This deserves support in and of itself.

2. Teen Mom: If you want a stark reminder of the massive inequalities built into the process of human reproduction, watch even a few minutes of MTV’s riveting documentary series. Depressing at times, but all too true. And the girls’ transformations into (hopefully, eventually) responsible moms is a heartening sight to behold.

3. 30 Rock: Tina Fey. Hilarious singledom. Lady in charge of TV show. Most hilariously written show, period, and it’s written by a woman. Sorry, this won’t be off our list until its canceled. Which is to say, hopefully, never.

4. The Good Wife: You are missing out on everything good about television if you’re not watching this. Juliana Marguilies has finally found the role worthy of her in the title character, and her subdued-but-strong Alicia Florick is so compelling you forget that the premise of the show revolved around her trying to recover from the sex scandal that brought down her politician husband. Bonus points for the ambi-sexual investigator Kalinda, played by the kick-ass Archie Panjabi.

5. Skins: The Parents Television Council is already denouncing this edgy, sexy teen soap before it’s even premiered on MTV. But the series — adapted from the totally addictive and inventive U.K. show of the same name — has a feminist bent beneath all of its overt subversiveness: The girls here are totally in charge of themselves, their lives, and, most of all, their sexuality, from popular sex bomb Michelle to unapologetic lesbian Tea. Not to mention the show’s just unbelievably compelling, especially once you get past the pilot. It’s Degrassi meets the early-awesome years of Gossip Girl, if you can believe it — in the best possible way.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @jenmarmstrong

Why Is Feminism Sexy? Let Us Count the Ways

Why feminism is sexy:

1.  Because miniskirts were actually invented as a symbol of liberation and rebellion.

2.  Because of Tina Fey.

3.  Because a bikini wax can make you ponder major feminist principles.

4.  Because of Gloria Steinem.

5.  Because you can eat steak instead of salad. (Unless, of course, you just want salad.)

6.  Because you can love your body.

7.  Because of Michelle Obama and Christina Aguilera. (Together, at last!)

8.  Because we can appreciate good men.

9.  Because we can throw away those maddening dating books.

10.  Because there’s no such thing as too smart — or too feminist — to come.

Tell us why you think feminism is sexy.

Deserving to Die

What other possible conclusion could we draw from this?

Idaho Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Mark Johnston confirmed that the board received the complaint alleging that on Nov. 6 a Walgreens pharmacist refused to fill a prescription ordered by one of Planned Parenthood’s Boise-based nurse practitioners. The prescription was for a Planned Parenthood patient for Methergine, a medicine used to prevent or control bleeding of the uterus following childbirth or an abortion.

An inquiry to Walgreens’ Corporate office seeking comment was not immediately addressed.

Planned Parenthood officials said the complaint states that the pharmacist inquired if the patient needed the drug for post-abortion care. The nurse refused to answer the question based on confidentiality of health information.

According to Planned Parenthood, the pharmacist then stated that if the nurse practitioner did not disclose that information, she would not fill the prescription. The nurse alleged that the pharmacist hung up when asked for a referral to another pharmacy that would fill the prescription.

Conscience clauses that allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control, Plan B and other such medications and now Methergine, are just the latest assault on women’s reproductive rights by pro-life political activists, who are just fine with the state forcing you to bear a child against your will but can’t stomach making someone hand a bottle of pills over a counter.

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Feminist or Not?: ‘Black Swan’

I love a good head-trip drama and am an unabashed fan of Darren Aronofsky’s weird sensibilities. So I can easily list Black Swan as one of my favorite movies of the year. First off, I adore Natalie Portman, whose acting evolution has been so effortless, she’s bound to take home an Oscar before her 35th birthday. She’s also a damn sexy feminist. Sexy just because—well, look at her!—but also for never playing the slutty role for the sake of a magazine cover. Even her stripper in Closer was toned down, and she refused to compromise herself and appear naked—a decision for which much of the industry and world berated her.

In Black Swan, Portman plays a woman we all know (and can perhaps identify with, even if just a little): a perfectionist introvert who’s still a bit immature and will stop at nothing to be the best and reach her dreams. She’s faced with a startling degree of sexism and chauvinism—who knew ballet was so penis-driven?!—which she eventually smacks down to rise to the top. Despite how far her obsessions plunge her deep into the crazy, that’s a feminist message I can get behind.

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SF Talking Points: Real Little Miss Sunshines, The Female Midlife Crisis

What Are Beauty Pageants Doing To Young Girls? We’re all for sexiness, but maybe not when you’re two. If you’ve ever watched an episode — hell, even just a commercial — of the TLC show “Toddlers and Tiaras,” you know that dressing up like mini Madonnas can’t have anything close to a healthy effect on these children. Sexuality should be celebrated at the right time — not when you still think the stork brought your baby sister. But there is still no definitive scientific evidence to prove that toddlers might have an adverse reaction when they’re older after being forced to gyrate on stage in skimpy ruffled dresses. North Carolina Rep. Annie Mobley tried to set up a committee in 2009 to study the effects of beauty pageants on children under 13, but the law supporting it didn’t pass. Fortunately, now Senator Barbara Mikulksi and Change.org are trying to look into the lack of regulation in the child pageant industry — click the link to sign the petition to support their efforts.

The New Female Midlife Crisis: While in the 1970s women who felt stifled by the lives carved out for them often fled — their families, their homes, their countries — their daughters are now fleeing elsewhere: to yoga. But the feelings attached to this need to escape haven’t entirely changed. Judith Warner writes,

In a sense, it’s a measure of how far couples have evolved that women in midlife are facing the same realities that men have always faced: you can’t take off to “find yourself” when a family depends upon your salary and health benefits. Given the constraints of most family’s lives these days, there really is nowhere to go but in.

It’s interesting, sad, and at the same time, exciting, to see that at middle age, now that we have so many choices, the same feeling of being trapped arises. Because it no longer emerges from the sense of shackled dependency, but the stress of having people you love dependent on you.

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Why We Still Love Liz Phair

Photo: Chelsea Lauren/WireImage

Sexy Feminism in an awesome dress.

SF Talking Points: Chess Queen, Does Snooki Value Herself?

Chinese Chess Player Hou Yifan Is a Female Force To Be Reckoned With: Sixteen-year-old Hou Yifan, the women’s world chess champion, is the youngest player, male or female, to ever win a world championship. Now she is not only proving that she has the potential to become one of the best players in a male-dominated sport, but also, as Nick Kristof suggests, the face of China — which has increasingly been granting more opportunities for their young women. And it is huge to see that what used to be one of the most sexist countries in the world is now finally investing in the second sex.

Jared Lee Loughner’s Misogynist Postings: While Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ 22-year-old attacker certainly has more serious problems than his bitterness toward women, the Wall Street Journal has recently unearthed his postings on an online gaming forum that reveal just that. In a tirade he posted called, “Why Rape?” he wrote that women in college actually enjoy getting raped.

“There are Rape victims that are under the influence of a substance. The drinking is leading them to rape. The loneliness will bring you to depression. Being alone for a very long time will inevitably lead you to rape.”

He also wrote stories about girls who didn’t follow up on dates with him, or who rejected him outright. And even though his motivations might not have had anything to do with Giffords’ gender, it is nonetheless disturbing.

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Why 'Men of a Certain Age' Is Sexy — and Feminist

It’s about three middle-aged guys. It stars a guy, Ray Romano, who headlined one of the most mainstream family sitcoms of the last decade — a show I have never seen, even though I write about television for a living. And it’s a dramedy, that noncommittal genre that can mean anything (oftentimes: not that funny, and not that dramatic). Men of a Certain Age has no business appealing to me — the characters are nothing like me, a 36-year-old single woman in New York. And, in fact, I have loathed all previous attempts at men-with-feelings shows — yes, I mean you, Big Shots. And yet, once I gave it a chance, I was hooked: Truly, from the first few minutes of the very first episode, it charmed me, like an unassuming guy you start talking to in a bar just to pass the time and end up slowly, imperceptibly, falling madly in love with him by the end of the night.

As the show hits its midseason finale tonight on TNT, I beg of you, ladies: Please give this one a chance. There have only been 16 episodes so far — watch them online and be caught up by the time the show returns later this year. You will fall for Ray Romano’s doofy divorced dude, Andre Braugher’s struggling family man, Scott Bakula’s man-boy actor who’s finally trying to grow up, and the absolutely believable bonds between them. They talk about their feelings, but in guy terms — no Entourage showboating, no Sex and the City-wannabe salaciousness. You’ll understand men — and, yes, their struggles, which, yes, they do have — more. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll develop a surprising crush on Scott Bakula. I’m not the least bit shocked his character can still date a 25-year-old. I’m only shocked at how accepting I was of this plotline, and it’s once again due to the subtle writing and character development.

And while it may not have an overt feminist message, its progressiveness is built into its DNA: If men are free to be this vulnerable on TV, we’re no longer diminishing such traditionally “female” behavior. Not to mention that the way they treat the women in their lives — well-rounded, interesting, powerful entities in themselves — is nothing short of revolutionary on a male-centric show. Please give this one a watch. You’ll be doing it for mankind — and womankind.


Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @jenmarmstrong

Sexism's Latest Victim: Your Vagina

There’s a new sexist scapegoat: our vaginas. The way we’ve been treating our poor ladyparts — a sexist movement sadly led mostly by women themselves — is not just disrespectful, but downright unacceptable!

No longer is it cutesy to nickname our lady business ridiculous things such as “vajayjay,” adorn her with rhinestones and — for the love — make her go under the knife to reclaim her youth.

The two latest vagina-upgrade “trends” include vagina facials and — seriously?! — makeup to make your pink parts prettier, specifically, to “restore the pink back to a woman’s genitals.” (If this confuses you, which is understandable, what they’re getting at is pinker = younger.) The way things are going, women are spending more time and money to alter the appearance of their privates than working on finding her a play date. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather end my day with an orgasm than have to carefully swab anti-inflammatory ointment on a fresh set of rhinestones or newly “tightened” labia.

Taking care of your vagina is important, and I’ll even get behind waxing — despite its feminist complications — as a means to a  neat-and-tidy end. But treating your vagina like a pageant queen or refugee in the name of keeping up with the Kardashians — and every other sex-tape/porn star out there — is taking it too far.

Ladies, please: before you invest in anything to change the look, shape, or “attitude” of your vagina, please take a moment to appreciate how awesome she is — just the way she is. If you’re suffering from low-vag self-esteem, check out these awesome websites that remind you why vaginas — and women in general –  rule. Or simply ask a guy what he thinks of them. Guaranteed he’s not going to wax poetic about rhinestones or a specific shade of pink.

What do you think about vagina adornment trends?

SF Talking Points: The Speaker's Anti-Choice Agenda Makes Us Cry

Your Tears Are A Turn-Off, Scientists Say: In a recent study in the journal Science, scientists were surprised to find that the chemicals in women’s emotional tears suppress arousal in men — signaling a message that says something like, “Not tonight, dear.” Though they don’t know for sure why (some experts say maybe it’s because, over time, tears have evolved to reduce aggression in men when they are around stressed out ladies; they think it may also have something to do with menstruation: men not wanting to have sex with women conveniently because they are on their period, since apparently this is the only time/reason women cry), it is a breakthrough in tear-science. They are still working on finding out what the implications of men’s emotional tears are, citing that it was quite difficult to come by male “criers” who could bawl on demand for the experiments. Why didn’t they just call the new House speaker, John Boehner?

Speaking of Boehner, now he’s really pushing his anti-choice agenda: According to change.org, Boehner has voted against women’s choice 142 times and his health reform plan threatens to wipe away every shred of legislation that protects women’s reproductive rights. In Boehner’s ideal world, the health reform law that allows millions of women access to birth control and prenatal care would be repealed,  women’s abortion coverage would be done away with, family planning programs would have no government funding, and Bush’s clearly effective abstinence-only education programs would be reinstalled. So what’s the reason behind Boehner’s seeming contempt for women? Could it be that his tears have washed away Mrs. Boehner’s arousal? Don’t take it out on us, crybaby.

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