Links for Sexy Feminists: Ethiopian Child Brides, Self Acceptance, and more

Reproductive Health Watch: Don’t let the recent holiday weekend and heat wave distract you from noticing this picture of eight men discussing women’s reproductive health.

I Need Feminism: So here’s a great piece on the necessity of feminism in current society. And the feminist blogosphere finally got Facebook to rethink its blind eye to pages supporting gender violence.

Brooklyn is Funny: And so is Katie Goodman in Park Slope Episode 1

Women in STEM: National Geographic rounded up six exceptional female scientists you may not have heard of–let’s help them get the posthumous recognition they deserve.

Fatshion: A new clothing line, currently being designed by a Cornell student, is designed to embrace the curves of larger women. Hooray!

On Self Acceptance: Amanda Chatel wants us to accept that she’s dissatisfied with her physical appearance, and her essay raises interesting thoughts for anyone who doesn’t look a certain way.

Women are People: A great piece on how to appreciate an attractive woman without objectifying her. We’re pretty sure these female artists who painted “pin-ups” would agree.

Women in the World: The International Women’s Forum is being held this year in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The UN criticized Iran for suppressing its female citizens’ right to run for political office. And this article spotlights an international aid organization that improves the lives of Ethiopian child brides.

Why Are So Many Women Veterans Going Homeless?

bpwfoundation.orgI just read a headline that blew my mind: “Women veterans becoming the fastest-growing homeless population in the U.S.”

There are so many things troubling about that, it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the fact that veterans in general are increasingly more likely to wind up homeless or in severe poverty once they re-enter civilian life. The Center for American Progress cites that 1 out of 7 homeless adults are veterans. And while the end to the war in Afghanistan is most certainly a good thing, it will bring an estimated 100,000 veterans home to live lives they may not know how to handle. Physical and mental injuries are all but guaranteed for most of them, yet social programs that support assistance such as mental health care, extended disability insurance and job training are quick to wind up on the Congressional cutting room floor. Oh, and the VA can’t find their application forms anyway. [Read more...]

Why I Loved ‘Behind the Candelabra’

behind-the-candelabra-michael-douglas-matt-damon1Most critics reviewing HBO’s Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra mentioned director Steven Soderbergh’s brilliant decision to temper the flamboyance of Liberace’s life with a gritty and unflinchingly realistic framing of the story. Even the slightest tic toward taking the movie over the top could’ve felt like farce, and besides, there was plenty of over-the-topness in the story — the sets, the costumes, the plastic surgery. Maybe Soderbergh overcompensated a little, thus sapping a bit of the joy Liberace clearly took in sparkly and ornate things. But I liked his approach more than the alternative.

Because he shot it like any straightforward, serious biopic, he instead brought out both the intimacy and the intensity of Liberace’s relationship with Scott Thorson. He also, through that relationship, focused on the politics underlying their lives, and thus the lives of many gay men in the ’80s. The closest they could get to being married was for Liberace to adopt Thorson, a bizarre realization that ought to send everyone running to do whatever we can to get gay marriage legalized. And how heartbreaking to see people still trying to pretend, even after Liberace’s death, that the great love of his life was a woman! There’s something so devastating about not being acknowledged for your place in your great love’s life — even as an ex-spouse, you get some recognition at the funeral for your loss.

And, oh, the vanity! Being gay and famous made Liberace, and thus Thorson, as vulnerable to the pressure to be beautiful and young as women are. I loved the brutal cosmetic surgery sequences — I couldn’t even watch them, which I think is a good thing. We too rarely acknowledge how painful cosmetic procedures are — calling them “nips” and “tucks,” cutesy names that make us forget that this is major surgery. Not to mention that this is the creepy end result. Something about seeing men go through this on screen makes a difference, too, highlighting the inherent weirdness of it all because we’re not as used to it.

Most of all, the film normalized even a rather bizarre relationship between two men, something we could stand to see more of as we march toward the (hopefully) inevitable breakthrough of legalized gay marriage.

Feminism, Fawning Bimbos, and True Love in ‘Before Midnight’

SONY-BDOS-01_Onesheet4.16.13_Layout 1No matter how feminist he may be, a man still loves a fawning bimbo.

Or at least that’s what Celine claims in Before Midnight, the third installment in  the Richard Linklater-directed series starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, which follows Celine and Jesse’s epic romance. That romance began in 1995’s Before Sunrise, when Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) are 20-somethings who meet on a train and decide to spend the night together wandering Vienna. They don’t exchange contact information, but agree to meet six months later.

In  2004’s Before Sunset, set nine years later, we catch up with them in Paris. Jesse is now a successful writer, and Celine works as an environmental activist. They never met as promised, though Jesse uses their night in Vienna as the plot for his bestselling novel. His book tour takes him to Paris, and that is how Celine finds him. They spend the film reconnecting, but there is a big obstacle – Jesse is married with a child. Unhappily married, but still. Nonetheless, as the film ends, they may get together.
[Read more...]

Revisiting Queen Latifah

QueenLatifahWhen I first met Queen Latifah, I called her “ma’am” and got a lecture.

“Who you calling ma’am? My mother is not around.”

I was mortified. I was a newbie entertainment journalist who scored the dream of talking to one of my heroes. It was in 1999 when Latifah launched her (short-lived) eponymous talk show. I couldn’t figure out what to call her and show both respect and knowledge of her influential career. Do I call her Dana? Ms. Owens? Latifah? The Queen? (For the record, it’s “Latifah.”) I got nervous and fumbled, but quickly redeemed myself by gushing about how I grew up with her TV show, “Living Single,” and most of all was changed by her music. She told me, “You’re all right,” which I so wish she had written on a napkin so I could have framed it and looked to it in moments of self-doubt over all these years.

Listening to her music offers an equal ego boost.

Today she’s a Cover Girl and an Oscar-nominated actress, but when the world first met Queen Latifah, she was nothing short of a feminist revolutionary. Her debut album, “All Hail The Queen,” tackled topics such as black-on-black crime, socialized poverty and pretty much every pertinent feminist issue–from rape to domestic patriarchy–in the iconic single, “Ladies First.” Her flow–on par with LL Cool J and Chuck D–was as penetrating as her message: Look at me, respect me, listen to me–and bow down. The album sold more than 1 million copies. She was 19.  [Read more...]

Gendered TV: Is ‘Game of Thrones’ for Boys, ‘Girls’ for Girls?

This guest post is from Andrew Daar, who writes about pop culture, baking, photography, wordplay, and the law on his blog Pop Tortes. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewDaar 


wallpaper-cersei-1600Pop quiz: Whom is the show Game of Thrones “made” for?

A.    Men

B.     Women

C.     All people

“All people” seems like the obvious choice, right?  No one involved with the show – not HBO, the network that broadcasts it, not showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and certainly not George R. R. Martin, author of the books upon which the show is based – has ever said that the show is intended only for a certain gender.

And yet, some critics seem to be under the impression that Game of Thrones is a “man’s show,” and that it does not appeal to women.  In one of the earliest reviews of the show, New York Times television critic Ginia Bellafante argued that the showrunners include romance plots and sex in the show “out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise.”  Bellafante goes on to state that women are uninterested in fantasy and that Game of Thrones is “boy fiction.”  More recently, in one of the worst-argued pop culture pieces I’ve ever read, Renata Sellitti of Thrillist made the sweeping generalization that women don’t like the show because it caters solely to men with its ickiness, swordplay, and nakedness.  Sellitti’s arguments were made without citation to any evidence and were insulting to both women (one of her arguments was that the plotlines are too complicated to follow) and men (they only like the show because it’s “gross” and features lots of naked breasts).

This idea that television shows, or, for that matter, any work of popular culture, is meant to be consumed by only one gender is one that needs to be eliminated.  It is not only insulting to both genders, it is bad for our culture.  Many people who would otherwise enjoy a work will dismiss it based on a silly prejudice, and many potentially great works will go unproduced out of fear that not enough people will consume it because of said prejudice.
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Links for Sexy Feminists: The Great Gatsby, Tattoos, Women in Stem, and more

The Great Gatsby: A fine look at the reality of flappers as compared with Fitzgerald’s story, and an interesting dissection of Daisy’s sketchy characterization. But this feminist writer points out that one can just relax and enjoy the story.

Fighting Harassment: One woman finds the courage to tell her street harassment story. On the other side of things, a comedienne wrote a great little piece on how not to harass people.

Tattoo Empowerment: A critique of the obnoxious coinage of “skank flank.”

Women in STEM: The Florida honor student who inadvertently exploded a Sprite bottle hasn’t just had the trumped-up charges against her dropped: her story resonated with the man whose memoir inspired “October Sky,” and he’s sending Kiera Wilmot and her twin sister to Space Camp.

U.S. Immigration: Latinas commend the Senate Bill on Immigration for broadening the inclusiveness of Medicaid.

Women in the World: Pollution in the developing world puts women at risk. A British writer points out that Western society has toxic attitudes about masculinity. And women in Jordan are facing open biases as they fight for equal pay for equal work.

Why Women Should Write Their Own Roles

Michelle Rodriguez made us swoon this week by using the Fast and Furious 6 (6!) press junket to speak out about the problem of good female roles (via Jezebel): 

It’s so hard to find really good writers. It’s a fairly new, last-twenty-year thing to have strong, independent, free-spirited women on film. Eighty percent of the writers are guys, most of them are married in Beverly Hills and they’re married to some woman who obviously annoys them or they wouldn’t write the way they write.

Actress-comedian, and now writer, Suzanne Smith had the same feelings when she tried to navigate Hollywood, so she recently did what more women are doing all the time — she created her own damn material. She wrote for us about how she got started.

“Nobody knew what to do with me besides me.” –Roseanne Barr

As an actor, I have always known this, but only at 36 years old did I finally have the courage to take action and start my own web series. Prior to this project, I was a working actress, with roles in Sex and the City, Law and Order, and Double Whammy, an independent film with Denis Leary. I always loved being part of a team and working with talented actors, directors and crew. Early in 2003, I had a near-death experience, which changed everything, including the way I looked at sharing my talent and the purpose of my life. In all actuality, I thought about leaving acting completely and focusing more on other interests, including writing, making collage art, and running a story time for children. But the acting bug had never completely left me, and in 2008, I got back into acting class with Wynn Handman, which inspired me to merge my writing and acting interests. Suddenly, I was creating my own characters, and it felt right.

I had always loved Woody Allen, Larry David, Christopher Guest and John Cassavetes. This new approach gave me full creative control, and I started creating parts for myself that were fuller female representations. I loved the roles that others had scripted, but let’s face it, the really meaty parts for women are few and far between. I remember Wynn saying to me in my early 20s, “You are not an ingénue.” I interpreted this to mean that my natural character was too strong for many of the existing female roles. I had always been a character actress, but apparently it confused people that I was “attractive.” I had auditioned for many big parts, but there were very few that I felt connected to. Plus, some of the feedback on my appearance was confusing. I was told I was “too thin,” “too fat,” “not fat enough” because I had a “pretty face.” Then I was told that there weren’t a lot of roles for me at my age. After my brush with death, I realized that life is too short to fit myself into someone else’s box.

When a friend suggested a couple of years ago that I play a quirky psychic with strong opinions, I took to the idea. Earlier this year, I launched Saige Winters: My Psychic Life, which I now cast, produce, write, co-direct occasionally and act in. Creatively, I have never been happier (though I do like the collaborative process and am open to playing excellent roles). I love having the freedom to tap my artistic and comedic sides without having to fit into someone else’s agenda. There are so many different types of women walking this earth, each of us unique and strong in her own way. This experience, which includes the positive feedback I’ve received, affirms for me the need for us all to live our true north—and write our own roles.

Why Is Marissa Mayer’s Work-Life Balance an Issue … When Male CEOs’ Isn’t?

witw-logoWe’ve been wondering this since Marissa Mayer made headlines by taking charge at Yahoo while still pregnant. On the one hand, she’s done a lot for other women by virtue of her ascendence. On the other hand, one reason it’s important to have more women in charge is so that they can make woman-friendly changes from inside the corporate suite. Jessica Grose tackles the issue in a post on Women in the World.

‘Frances Ha’ Shows The Pain of Losing Your Best Girlfriend

Frances HaThe only really disconcerting part of “Frances Ha” (opening May 31, nationwide June 14) is that the filmmakers decided to shoot it in black and white. Not that there’s anything wrong with black and white; the shadows pop and even the bleakest landscapes look beautiful. It just kinda screams artsy pretension, especially since the film is mainly set in New York among 20-something hipsters. 

But that’s not fair to this lovely little gem, directed by Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”), nor are the inevitable comparisons to Lena Dunham’s “Girls” (though some of those might have been avoided by not casting Adam Driver in a supporting role).

Because “Frances Ha” is a great look at women’s friendships, particularly those intense bonds you form in your late teens/early 20s that, when they end, hurt far worse than any romance.  [Read more...]

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