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