Links for Sexy Feminists: The March on Washington Anniversary and more

March on Washington: In commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of this historic day, take a moment to think over all the ways we still don’t live in Martin Luther King Junior’s ideal society.

This is What A Feminist Looks Like: A woman whose photo was hijacked into an anti-feminist meme fights back. And a great account of what goes on within the fat acceptance community with regard to others with body image issues.

On Acting Bitchy: As Breaking Bad winds down, Anna Gunn reflects on why her strong female character has become so reviled in certain circles.

Feminism and Tech: If you’d like to show solidarity another way, consider joining the ranks of Wikipedia editors as a feminist ally.

Fun with Masculinity: This is a nifty photo project where men with long hair were offered stereotypically “feminine” hairdos. Meanwhile, we’re digging this piece from Salon about the project’s implications for feminism.

Gender Diversity: A look at Albanian women who, per an old custom, have chosen a life of independence and freedom by dressing and acting as men.

Work and Life: You’ll fall for this sweet cartoon that uses Bill Watterson’s words to advocate for a life of self-created meaning.

Sexual Harassment: An Indian woman reflects on why sexual harassment is a global phenomenon, and not limited to any particular place. Westerners who defend sexual harassers are deeply misogynistic, as this piece rightly brings to light. And in a different perspective on sexual harassment, we love this piece on what’s wrong with the internet harassment of an expatriated Afghan woman who isn’t afraid of showing off her body.

On Miley: The most problematic thing about her performance at the VMA’s is the cultural appropriation that went into it. Gradient Lair has an excellent in-depth look at this issue. Meanwhile, the Onion provides a pitch perfect explanation of how internet analytics has blown this out of proportion that is seriously funny.

Links for Sexy Feminists: White Privilege, the Burka Avenger, and more

White Privilege: A moving piece on why “Solidarity is for White Women” should not be forgotten. Meanwhile, a white sociology professor makes the case that white people don’t spend nearly enough time talking to their kids about race.

Having it All: A great book excerpt by the president of Barnard College argues that there is simply no way in hell to “have it all.”

Know Thyself: Gwyneth Paltrow’s bizarre quotes on GOOP aren’t that different from stuff people we all know say.

Social Media: Every feminist on the internet has a story about internet harassment, and this article offers some interesting perspective on how to deal with it.

Body Positivity: On the problems with distributing pamphlets about health consciousness at the Women’s History Museum.

Burka Avenger: A new series aims to entertain Pakistani children while showing them the importance of women‘s education.

‘In a World,’ Gives Voice to Women

UnknownThe feminist movement has always been about giving women an equal voice in the public sphere. The first wave was about getting the vote, inheritance rights and the right to be considered a separate being from one’s father and husband. In the subsequent waves, it’s been about claiming reproductive autonomy and being heard in industry, science, politics and the arts.

But in spite of more than a century’s work, many spheres remain resistant to valuing women’s voices, and Hollywood, even with its reputation as a liberal haven, is one of them. “In a World,” written, directed and starring Lake Bell, takes on the male-dominated world of actors who do voice-overs for movie trailers.

Named after deceased movie trailer legend Don LaFontaine’s catchphrase, “In a World” is about a young woman named Carol Solomon (Bell). Carol is a gifted but not very successful vocal coach with a habit of recording any unusual accent she comes across, with or without the speaker’s permission. A typical gig involves teaching Eva Longoria to speak with a Cockney accent. Carol also aspires to do voiceovers.

She lives with her dad, Sammy Soto (Fred Melamed), a famous voice actor and heir-apparent to LaFontaine. Sammy, who is about to get a lifetime achievement award for his work, doesn’t encourage his daughter’s vocal ambitions, telling her the industry has no interest in women. His protegé is a younger voice actor named Gustav (Ken Marino, better known in these parts as Vinnie Van Lowe on “Veronica Mars”), and he promises to support Gustav in his quest for the latest big trailer get: “The Amazon Diaries” quadrilogy, starring Cameron Diaz.

Sammy is also getting serious with his much-younger girlfriend Jamie (Alexandra Holden), and wants her to move in, which means Carol is out. Carol winds up couch surfing at her older sister Dani’s (Michaela Watkins), though Dani, a concierge for a fancy downtown hotel,  is having a rocky time with her husband Moe (Rob Cordry).

In spite of the tumult, Carol manages to get a trailer gig when Gustav gets laryngitis, and is thrilled when producers start talking about her being the new voice of “The Amazon Games.” But her success may very well cost her her relationship with her father.

“In a World,” for all its heavier messages (there is a scene where Carol tells a young woman her “sexy baby” voice and her habit of uptalking is adversely affecting her law career, saying “We’re women. We should sound like women.”) is one of those lovely slice-of-life films that just makes you happy at the end.

Bell, who moviegoers may know as the icy second wife in 2009′s “It’s Complicated,” plays Carol with a lot of goofy charm. She’s a bit self-centered and immature, yes, but she’s also that ugly duckling friend you know at some point is going to hatch into a force of nature.

Carol’s relationships with her unhappy sister (an uptight yet nuanced Watkins) and her dad feel very real. She despairs of them. They despair of her. Their love is dysfunctional, but they’re there for each other, and in the end come through.

Melamed is great as Sammy, the veteran chauvinist who fears becoming obsolete. In one scene, he talks about his own father, who always made sure to let his son know he would never surpass him. Now that Sammy is the dad, it at first doesn’t occur to him adopting his father’s outlook with his daughters is the wrong thing to do.

The smaller characters are equally nuanced. Bell could easily have made Sammy’s girlfriend a shrewish gold digger caricature. But Jamie is a very nice person, and even though she sounds like a little girl (and Holden has the requisite wide eyes and blond hair), she is far wiser and more mature than the Soto family.

Even Gustav, who Marino plays with his signature smarm, has a nice side.

Most of all, “In a World,” along with all the other amazing woman-fronted films that have come out this year, including “Frances Ha,” “The Heat,” “The To Do List” and September release, “Wadjda,” show that women’s voices are becoming louder and more common. It’s enough to make any woman proud.


Links for Sexy Feminists: Modern Day Lysistrata, Solidarity is for White Women, and more

Solidarity is for White Women: There’s been a firestorm on Twitter using this hashtag. It all started when Hugo Schwyzer had his Twitter meltdown, and now you can hear from Mikki Kendal on sparking the fire. Even better, she’s compiled a highlight reel that’s well worth reading.

Abortion Rights Watch: Speaking of solidarity, it’s worth considering that low-income women are more likely to face abortion harassment.

Geek Girl Watch: Male comics creators dismiss sexism as not their problem. Ugh.

Sexy Feminists Read: For a fun but feminist beach read, may we suggest Lizz Winstead’s hilarious book of anecdotes about her life.

Feminist Dad: A great piece by Livejournal legend The Ferrett on hoping his daughter has positive sexual experiences.

Sex is Power: In a surely-unintentional reenactment of an Ancient Greek comedy, the partners of gang members in Colombia are refusing to sleep with their men as a protest against the violence.

Feminist CurrentsIconic feminist Gloria Steinem will be honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, an act that also honors the past forty years of feminist action. Meanwhile, this ode to “pissed off women” talks about the future of the movement. Lots of progress to celebrate, but patriarchal gender roles are still harming both women and men.

The To Do List: A teenage girl having sex without punishment

images-1I once read an interview with author Judy Blume, where she said that one of the reasons she wrote “Forever” was for her daughter, who said she wanted to read a book about a teenage girl losing her virginity without getting pregnant or getting an STI or worst of all, dying.

“Forever” was published in 1975, and remains on the banned book list because way too many people still think any story about a teenage girl losing her virginity needs to include her getting punished for it.

Sadly, stories like it still aren’t that common almost 40 years later.

But stories about boys losing their virginity without some gruesome consequence? There are plenty of those, and lots of them have been put on film. From “Risky Business” to “Porky’s” to “American Pie” to “The Girl Next Door,” boys have, and continue to, get it on with gusto and live happily ever after.

That’s why “The To Do List,” written and directed by Maggie Carey and starring Aubrey Plaza, is such a nice change.

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Links for Sexy Feminists: Hugo Schwyzer, Female Engineers, and more

Hugo Schwyzer and Male Feminism: We’ve mentioned the problems with The Good Men Project before, and the problems with Hugo Schwyzer are well documented here. Schwyzer recently announced he is taking a break from the public eye to deal with some personal problems. Here is an interesting take on what these events mean for male feminists.

Wiener Flipside: The woman who rose to fame for sexting with Wiener dishes on her side of things. Feministe has an on-point rebuttal of what she had to say.

Homophobia is So Gay: Literally, in the case of these shirtless French homophobes who don’t seem to see the irony in what they’re doing.

Female Engineers: A resonant post on how women in tech are perceived differently, with a rather unfortunate sounding title.

Caring Careers: There is a stigma attached to those who work in the “care” professions and want to make money, a problem that disproportionately affects women.

Sexy Feminists Read: An early work of Nora Ephron, Crazy Salad, is well worth revisiting. For a poignantly surprising look at the female migrant workers of modern China, check out this excerpt from Leslie Chang’s Factory Girls. And here’s a fun compendium of excerpts from feminist graphic novels.

Interview With A Fan Girl

I recently wrote about how fan culture can be hostile and exclusionary to women.  While this unfortunate aspect of fan culture needs to be addressed and eliminated, I hoped to also address some of the positive ways in which women experience fandom.  Recently, the following video has been featured on sites like The Mary Sue and Jezebel, and presents a funny, sweet, and light-heartedly satirical look at “fan girls”:

It was immediately clear that for all of the jokes at fans’ expense in the video, the creator loves the fictional characters represented in the video and understands fan mentality.  (I definitely could relate to the plight of the Firefly Girls.)  I contacted Leigh Lahav, the video’s creator, to talk with her about her experiences as a “fan girl,” and what fandom meant to her, and her responses were quite intriguing.  (Note: This interview was conducted via email, rather than as a natural conversation.  The questions and responses are edited into a more traditional Q&A format, but answers may not lead directly into the next question.)

Sexy Feminist: The thing that really made me want to talk to you is that I noticed in the Fan Girl video that most, if not all, of the franchises depicted either had male title characters or were ensembles led by men. Is this a result of most media being about men, and thus there is more male-centered franchises to choose from, or is part of being a fan girl about showing appreciation for good-looking men?  (I thought it was the former, but a close friend of mine and self-professed fan girl thinks it’s the latter.)

Leigh Lahav: It’s no coincidence.  I deliberately chose these franchises.  I’m aware that there are women fans in EVERY fandom, but there’s something about these shows/movies in particular that have an interestingly large female fan base, and they do present a majority of leading men.
In an unavoidable way it IS a result of a “patriarch” media.  Female audiences got used to this and as a result are able to relate very strongly to both female and male characters.  It’s very male oriented even nowadays and that needs to be changed – we need more interesting female characters!  And I think that’s in progress.  A slow, frustrating one, but a progress nonetheless.  Having that basic fact, I’ll continue to elaborate on WHY I think the man-centered-fandoms I chose happen to have such an impact on ladies.

Yes, I can’t deny, it does have to do with the, quite bluntly put – usual “man candy” factor, but there’s more to it than that, in my opinion.  Most of these shows share alternative looks on masculinity, and present male characters and relationships that uniquely challenge social boundaries of gender and sex.  If it’s unusually passive, temperamental, and sensitive men, strong emotional male bonds and friendships that are mostly attributed to female relationships, and interesting gender role takes.  Take “Hannibal” for example.  Will Graham is the embodiment of the “damsel in distress” trope.  He is sensitive, passive, has qualities we perceive in society’s gender role perception as feminine.  Hannibal is very feline-like, seductive, sort of a male version of a Femme Fatale.  And not to mention their undeclared shared parenthood on Abigail.  You can also see a similar “married couple type” relationship with Sherlock and Watson.  These elements of “new masculinity” are very exciting and appealing.  It’s kind of how we wish to see our society – versatile and diverse in gender roles.  In a way, a world we as women can feel safer at, in terms of sex and gender.

I used this role-play also in how the characters looked – most of them wear gender-bendered cosplay – a feminine take on a male costume. A character we’d like to be, but in our own terms.
But at the end of day – these fandom are just GOOD. And attract women and men all the same.

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