The She Hulk-Mary Tyler Moore Connection

411Nws28DOL._SY300_Marta Acosta, the author of  The She-Hulk Diariesguest blogs here about her heroines — She-Hulk and The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s Mary Richards.


Sometimes we think we’re the only ones still crazy about an old television series. We channel surf and always stop when we see the images we love, listening to dialogue that still makes us laugh. The Husband says, “Haven’t you seen that before?” and I say, “Haven’t you seen documentaries about the Ottoman Empire before?” Because, really, no matter how many of those documentaries he’s seen, he’s never been able to explain the Ottoman Empire connection to footstools, so what exactly is the point? Okay, I’m going to get back to this in a minute.

When I began my novel The She-Hulk Diaries, based on the iconic Marvel character, writing about a snarky, sexy 6’7” green party girl superhero was easy as pie. (Theoretical pie because I have never mastered making a crust, which my pie-shop owning neighbor recently informed me is a genetic ability. But I digress.) She-Hulk, aka Shulky, is as big, bold, and badass as she wants to be. However, I struggled to find the authenticity in her human identity, Jennifer Walters, a highly-accomplished and painfully shy attorney. I was stepping into more than 30 years of She-Hulk canon, but most of it centered on Shulky and all of it was written by men. I wanted to give Jennifer Walters the attention she deserved.

[Read more...]

‘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...]

Revisiting Liz Phair’s ‘Exile in Guyville’

I recently reassembled all of Liz Phair’s landmark 1993 debut album Exile in Guyville on my iPhone, having long ago lost various tracks somewhere between my first dubbed cassette, my CD version, and one crash of my old computer that destroyed all my old music. Some tracks had filtered through the mess somehow — it was maybe related to the fact that I ripped some music from friends and family in an effort to resurrect my music collection. So for the past three years “Help Me Mary,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!” and “Flower” have remained in my regular rotation, but the rest of the album had vanished. One could certainly do worse than those three songs (my inner frat girl never gets over the dirty-ironic humor of “Flower”), but downloading the whole thing over again has allowed me to investigate the phenomenon of ’90s-debut Liz Phair anew — and just in time for its 20th anniversary.

[Read more...]

Links for Sexy Feminists: Real Beauty, Anorexia, Girl Geeks, and more

Real Beauty:  We posted last week about Dove’s latest ad campaign, but The Frisky has a great article about issues the ad raises.  Writing for the Houston Press, Abby Koenig says that even if you find the ads problematic, they’re a step in the right direction.  Her article also discusses the controversial “You Are Not A Sketch” campaign, which Dodai Stewart of Jezebel says “passes the buck and misses the point.”

The Point Being: Speaking of anorexia, modeling scouts in Sweden apparently recruit from a clinic for those suffering from the disease.  Ick.

Girls and Geeks: The two terms aren’t mutually exclusive at all, of course.  But a great post by a guy about wanting to play videogames with his 9-year-old daughter is both sweet and thought-provoking.

Women Are Hilarious: And one of our favorite funny feminists, Katie Goodman, needs your help to get to Edinburgh Fringe.

Feminism in Action: A new UK arts project attempts to get us all thinking about how our feminism is part of everyday life.

Catcall Patrol: Writer Emmie Mears on why catcalls feel threatening.

Sex and Gender: After a recent post which compared a woman refusing sex with her husband to child neglect, NYMag has an appropriately eye-rolling response.  It’s worth mentioning that one of the experts quoted in the original article was talking about sexual desire irrespective of gender, and that’s clear in the article itself.





Links for Sexy Feminists: Valentine’s Day, One Billion Rising, Mansplaining, and more

Conversation Hearts: As Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s all take a moment to consider the plight of women in abusive relationships. And hope that the Violence Against Women Act makes it through the House. If you’d like a side of activism with your V-Day, seek out a One Billion Rising event near you.

Women are Citizens: The problem with Obama’s rhetoric in the State of the Union, explained at Feministing.

Opposite Day: Hilarious tweets which point out the clear silliness of Men’s Rights Activists.

Mansplained! A space for accomplished women to vent when men don’t take them seriously. And check out this list of ways society lies to women.

People Aren’t Props: Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition has a problematic approach to “other” cultures in this year’s issue.

Stay Cool: Fun valentines from Ryan Gosling, Forever Alone Guy, and Vladimir Putin (?).

Feminist History in Song: Beyonce’s ‘If I Were a Boy’

In this new feature, we’ll be exploring the stories behind some of our favorite feminist anthems.


Beyonce has famously talked about how she has a stage persona she evokes to become the monster-diva she needs to be for concerts — Sasha Fierce. For most of us, Beyonce herself is our Sasha Fierce. A few years ago, my sister and I resolved at New Year’s time to always think, “What would Beyonce do?” Since then we’ve both found relationships with fantastic men; she started her own boudoir photography business, and I have two passion-project books coming out this year. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I’ve been watching Bey’s “I Am …” concert tour video on demand lately just to up my inspiration factor, and it never lets me down.

Beyonce is a great songwriter, seemingly able to spin out a girl-power anthem on demand: “Single Ladies,” “Survivor,” “Independent Women,” “Run the World (Girls),” “Bootylicious.” She has appeared to struggle more with her sensitive side in songwriting, despite her protestations that she’s not Sasha Fierce in her everyday life. “Irreplaceable” slows things down and tells you she’s a little hurt by love gone wrong, but she can’t help doing a great, empowered woman scorned and giving us a kiss-off for the ages: “To the left, to the left.”

That all changed with “If I Were a Boy.” This 2008 ballad softened her vocal delivery and showed a new vulnerability even as it still catalogued double-standards still present in our everyday lives: “If I were a boy … I’d put myself first/And make the rules as I go/’Cause I’d know that she’d be faithful/Waiting for me to come home.”

Of course, what may have gotten lost in fans’ swooning over this new kind of song for Bey — and the undeniably satisfying video in which she and a guy switch roles for a day, she playing a cheating cop and he mooning for her back home — is that Beyonce did not write this song. Which is standard practice in the music business, but an interesting departure for the singer. And, as it turns out, it also included some intrigue and rivalry.

The song was actually written by a singer-songwriter named BC Jean. You can imagine her singing “If I Were a Boy,” with her soft-guitar-rock vibe. In addition to the song going into the big murky pot of song choices that many artists pluck from for recordings, Jean also recorded her own version. Beyonce, however, fell in love with it, recorded it, and decided to release it as a single. That’s when Jean first heard about Bey’s version, and she was not pleased. Bey’s version, of course, went platinum, and even inspired Reba McEntire to do her own cover.

Beyonce told MTV News she chose the song as a deliberate departure: “I had to try it, because I remember Aretha Franklin said a great singer can sing anything and make it her own.” But Jean vented to fans on her MySpace page: ”I have been reading some of these comments and to set the record straight from the horse’s mouth – IF I WERE A BOY is my song; YES, I wrote this song; It is my story; a painful one, and the song is very dear to me.” Eventually, however, she struck a deal with Beyonce’s manager/father, Matthew Knowles, that seemed to make everyone happy. She now proudly claims the writing credit for the hit on her website.

Beyonce, meanwhile, garnered particular acclaim for her version. Billboard said her vocals were “breathtaking, exquisitely emotive, mournful, and mature.” The LA Times raved,  ”This isn’t just another breakup song; it’s an elegy for female empowerment, Beyoncé’s admission that no amount of money, fame or skill can solve the basic inequity between her man’s heart and her own.”

Madonna Doesn’t Do Encores

We’re thrilled to have this fantastic guest essay by writer Kristin McGonigle, who’s featured in the new anthology Madonna & Me. The following is a special piece she wrote for a recent New York reading event, and we’ve got it exclusively here. Check out her other piece about the patron saint of sexy feminists in the book, which you can buy here.


I remember thinking, as I was walking to Dave and Laura’s place that night, that marriage seems like something I could give or take. It was a balmy fall night in 2008, and I headed to their place in Jersey City to meet their new baby. To me, I thought, marriage is like health insurance; I can successfully survive without it, but it seems like a responsible thing to get involved in at some point. I usually think about marriage when I have to do things like, walk alone at night in Jersey City or carry heavy things up the stairs in my fifth floor walk-up. Or when I really need health insurance.

What I do like about marriage, as it pertains to other people, is that it can often make your friends doubly excited to see you, just to have someone new in the house. When I got to Dave and Laura’s place, they were outside talking to a neighbor. Dave wore his tiny daughter in a Baby Bjorn, and because he is a considerably tall guy, it was kind of funny how high up she was. After I met her they introduced me to their neighbor, Amy.

“So, do you guys want to go see Madonna tonight?” Amy said, holding up an envelope. “I have two tickets, and I can’t use them. I have to get back to Sloan Kettering.”

I instantly assumed that Amy was a doctor or nurse, along with her role as a Madonna ticket-wielding angel from heaven. I looked at Dave and Laura, who were shockingly not eagerly grabbing at the envelope.

“Of course, we have to take them,” I said. “It’s Madonna.”

“I can’t go,” Laura said, “I’m nursing and I am still really uncomfortable. I just wouldn’t enjoy it.”

I looked at Dave, who along with being a dude, is a musician, and not exactly a fan of non-ironic pop music. I could understand his apprehension at first.

“If you can tell me how the hell to get there from here, I could go by myself,” I told them.

“I’ll go,” said Dave. “It will be interesting.”

“Dave,” I told him, “along with the birth of your daughter, this will be the most interesting thing to happen to you this year.”

“They are great seats,” Amy said, “put them to good use. Paul gave them to me for our anniversary.”

That’s when I realized she didn’t work at Sloan Kettering. Dave had a great affection for Paul and told a lot of stories about their nights out together in Jersey City. Paul was a great character. He had gotten sick really quickly, and his doctors were confounded about what was causing it. They realized he had a rare blood disease, and they putting forth their best eleventh hour fight. And Amy just handed over her anniversary present to us, unblinkingly, so she could go be with him.

[Read more...]

5 Reasons Britney Needs a Feminist Awakening

There’s no doubt that Britney Spears is not a feminist icon. But she could very well be the most important female pop culture figure of our times — which is exactly why it would be nothing short of revolutionary if girlfriend ever managed to escape the poptart prison her handlers have constructed around her during her decade-plus reign to realize her own grand significance. Here, we plead our case to the woman behind the Femme Fatale image. Oh, if only we believed she were reading!

Dear Britney,

Here’s why we need you to get with the F-word:

1. Madonna and Christina. Remember how you once made out with these two in a wildly overhyped menage a girl-on-girl-kisses-for-media-attention? We do. And we wish that Madge and Xtina had been able to somehow pass a little feminism your way while swapping spit onstage, because they’ve certainly got girl power to spare. As much as everyone likes to declare you “the next Madonna” — and as much as we understand why — you’re missing that element of self-determination that Madonna’s had since before she was even famous. (That kiss was her idea — go figure.) While you’ve long denied your sexuality even while selling the heck out of it, Madonna has … well, embraced hers. If you haven’t noticed. Same goes for Christina, who grew up with you on The Mickey Mouse Club and faced the same pressures of growing into womanhood very publicly. She may have been the one who ended up in unfortunate assless chaps, but she never pretended not to know exactly what they meant.

[Read more...]

SF Talking Points: Ladies Who Make Us Laugh, And Ladies Who Make TVs So We Can Watch The Ladies Who Make Us Laugh

Female Comedy Writers…Show Yourselves! It’s Women in Comedy Week over at Splitsider, and Sarah Schneider of CollegeHumor looks into the reason why the ratio of male-to-female writers on primetime sitcoms and other comedy outlets is so skewed. Her conclusion? It’s not that not enough women are funny — it’s that not enough funny women are trying to break into the biz. She puts it best herself at the end of the article:

“…there is SO MUCH ROOM for women to write comedy! Holy crap! The comedy marketplace is completely over-saturated with men and under-saturated with women. We just need to realize that the lack of female representation falls primarily on our (strong yet breathtakingly elegant) shoulders, and no one else’s. If you’re a strong female writer, now is the time to get noticed. The generations before us did the tough part, fighting hard against the misconception that women weren’t funny. Now all we have to do is not make it awkward for them.”

But perhaps all of the funny females out there aren’t entirely responsible for their small presence in the comedy community. Irin Carmon at Jezebel argues that there are still plenty of obstacles for those women trying to break in — specifically, the fact that many comedy outlets still only cater to men. Probably the most obvious of them is Comedy Central, whose unabashed target demographic is exclusively male. As Carmon points out, “The very first thing the channel lists under ‘benefits to advertisers’ is ‘Comedy Central Is A Destination For Young Men.’” Yet men only make up of 60% of the people who watch the channel. OK, 60% is a lot, but so is 40%! And that 40% — nearly half of CC’s viewers — are women. One commenter on Schneider’s article even wrote that she had submitted a pilot to the channel and they loved it — but told her that it wasn’t “male-centric” enough. [Read more...]

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

Switch to our mobile site