Archives for posts with tag: feminism

In which Lindsay reveals that her muscles are made of CGI.

Hollywood hates women” is the line going around this week, thanks to Tad Friend’s New Yorker piece (sorry dudes, behind a paywall) about comedienne Anna Faris and the commentary (which I like to call “Internet dust”) it’s kicked up. Though it’s nice to see this conversation taking place in the mainstream media — and Friend’s article is thoughtful and refreshingly plaintive (“Studio executive believe that male moviegoers would rather prep for a colonoscopy than experience a woman’s point of view, particularly if that woman drinks or swears or has a great job or an orgasm.”), it all just prompts me to say, “Well yeah, duh.” Those of us who follow the Women and Hollywood beat know the drill: every year or so, we are treated to one of these State of the Lady in Hollywood exposes, replete with all sorts of quotes and statistics that make us feel totally helpless, and then up from the comments sections spring all sorts of well-intentioned but maddeningly vague rally cries about how we can make it better. “We just need more strong female characters!”, goes one of these refrains. And Hollywood, on the rare occasion that it acknowledges the sound of tiny people shouting, replies with a wave of its hand, “Strong female characters? We’ve got those! Have y’all seen Tomb Raider? And…like…Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle of Life?” Which makes obvious something that we’ve always known: Hollywood has no idea what a strong female character actually looks like.

Blockbuster Hollywood’s idea of a Strong Female Character involves some kind of hybrid between brute, male strength and hyperfeminized sexuality: an Uzi-toting Rosie the Riveter with a 16-inch waist and CGI boobs. In recent years, Hollywood has inundated us with representations of this particular vision of strength, from the aforementioned Tomb Raider (and, for that matter, the entire cult of personality surrounding Angelina Jolie) to Charlie’s Angels to Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle right up to Sucker Punch (the latter of which Sady Doyle terrifically skewered in an Atlantic piece last week).

The problem with this definition of “strength” is that it’s rooted in the patriarchal notion that bigger is better, might is right, and that “weakness,” its opposite, is inherently feminine. For these characters, strength is one’s ability to step in line with a paradigm that is already tainted with misogyny; feminine strength is one’s ability to, in the elegant words of pop phenom Jessie J, “do it like a dude.” (Interestingly enough, this is also the problem that Anna Faris and others experience in the realm of comedy; in Friend’s article, a director praises her for not being “light and sweet…she’s funny like a guy would be funny.”) Once those muscles have been sufficiently flexed, the only “feminine” traits that these Strong Female Characters are allowed to exhibit are those which have been pre-approved by the patriarchy; so, namely, CGI boobs.The Strong Female Character is not one who’s able to provide a personal revision as to what strength is and what it looks like, but one who’s able to successfully navigate the narrow channels in which she’s allowed to be visible in the mainstream Hollywood film.

So if we can’t look to Hollywood for unproblematic views of female strength, can we find them instead in the margins? Not really, says Elizabeth Greenwood, who recently proposed that indie cinema kind of hates women too. In an article entitled “Why So Many Boring Women in Indie Film?” she implicates a number of supposedly more enlightened films for portraying female characters as “meek,” “mild” and “utterly forgettable”  and accuses both male and female filmmakers of “hav[ing] shown little regard for their young female protagonists as people.”

It’s a brave and noble piece, one that articulates something I’ve felt but haven’t quite been able to name — but I only agree with her to a point. First of all, I’ll acknowledge the false dichotomy I’m setting up between “Hollywood films” and “indie films” here; in film as in music, “indie” is no longer synonymous with a  counterculture or a space in which the greater forces of sexism and other forms of oppression are challenged (plus, most of the films she mentions have relatively huge budgets and big names behind them). Greenwood calls out some female characters whose one-dimensional emptiness I find worthy of critique, from the title character in (500) Days of Summer to Michelle Williams’s Cindy in Blue Valentine. But I think she’s too quick to lump a large and varied group of films together — and in some cases her definition of “boring” relies on yet another preexisting paradigm.

“Some of the women Greenwood calls out as boring are deeply sympathetic, brave characters, even if the people around them on-screen don’t always see them for who they are,” Alyssa Rosenberg writes in a response to the original piece. She goes on to defend some of the characters Greenwood initially criticizes. Margot Tenenbaum, for one, she sees as a character who hides her inferiority from those who seek to externally define her. (And of course she’s successful. “What do you know?” her husband is asked right before seeing a dossier recounting the secrets about her love life. “Very little, I’m afraid.”) I’ll extend the defense along to Greta Gerwig’s Florence in Greenberg, a film that Greenwood also faults. Having seen the film twice now, I find Florence’s inarticulateness hugely sympathetic and relatable — even though she’s not a “strong female character” in the sense that she’s ambitious, has a “good job” or could kick your teeth out. Her tangential anecdotes and eccentric sense of humor don’t serve to fetishize her into the film’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but rather convey a disconnect between her and the rest of the people populating her world.  And in contrast with the film’s titular male protagonist, something about her has stuck with me. As my friend Kristen said upon rewatching the film last week, “That movie really should have been called Florence.”

So then, if it’s not the machine gun or the combat boots or a well-articulated interiority, what exactly makes a strong female character? Is it the character’s ability to evade a simple answer to that very question? Maybe. I’m not even sure. But, paradoxically, I have always felt a weird strength in not feeling sure, so maybe there is potential in that: characters who appear before us in the process of working things out. Or maybe, better yet, the word “strong” is too entangled in false, rotted-out visions of masculinity to ever do us any good. To end Hollywood’s hatred of women, I don’t think we don’t need more strong female characters — we need a complete reimagining of what strength is.

Amelia Long lives in Austin, Texas. She is a volunteer coordinator by day and a volunteer with her local abortion fund by night.

Because of recent rightward shifts in political power, both federally and in my home state of Texas, staying up to date on women’s stuff in the news has become increasingly distressing.  More than once, I have found myself deleting the entire blog feed from RH Reality Check in my Google Reader after looking at a single headline.  As a feminist who cares a lot about access to birth control and safe, legal abortion, I feel stressed out that most of the people who govern me don’t understand women’s bodies, think we can’t make our own decisions, and feel they deserve to have a say in something that is a legal and private medical procedure.

So I stopped reading the news for a while.  But I couldn’t stop seeing this billboard every day on my commute:

[Billboard reads,   “The most dangerous place for some children is in the womb.”]

At first, I thought this smiling African-American boy was warning pregnant ladies not to forget their pre-natal vitamins or something.  Then I learned that his image is part of a nationwide anti-abortion media campaign which began last year with similar ads in Atlanta.  It is hard to summarize all the ways in which this campaign is completely messed up, so I’ll just quote from SisterSong’s October 2010 policy report on race, gender and abortion:

These stunning billboards attempted to use the history of medical mistrust in the African American community to accuse abortion providers of racism and genocide in a bizarre conspiracy theory. Not so coincidentally, they launched a misogynistic attack to shame-and-blame black women who choose abortion, alleging that we endanger the future of our children.

[For an excellent discussion of this issue, click through to Miriam Zoila Pérez’s article.]

Seeing this billboard always makes me mad, and last week I was already in a bad mood while driving downtown.  When I saw it this time, I reflexively threw up my middle finger and waved it around, swearing.

I immediately felt like an idiot for getting mad at a picture and hoped no one had seen me.  But then I thought, what if the woman in the next car did just see me giving the finger to a billboard?  Maybe she’ll wonder what the billboard is all about.  Maybe she’ll get mad too!

I realized that if other people could see me getting mad, they might join me in protest.  I decided to call the billboard company to complain and to pass along what I learned to my friends.  The next time I drove by, I took down the advertising company’s phone number listed on the billboard frame.

I called them and said I found their billboard racially offensive and insulting to women.  I asked them to log my complaint in their company’s records.  And I asked them whether they planned to take the billboard down any time soon.

Then I went online to tell other people how they could do what I did.  I created a petition at explaining why I think the billboard should come down.  My petition includes a phone script and contact information for Dinosaur Outdoor Advertising, the company that owns the billboard space.  It also includes contact information for Heroic Media, the Austin-based “pro-motherhood” (read:  anti-choice) organization behind the billboards.  I sent out an email telling about 20 friends about my petition and inviting them to call Dinosaur Outdoor.  Several of them did, and then they emailed, facebooked and tweeted about it, using’s helpful widgets. My petition got 100 signatures in just over 24 hours.

Seeing signatures come in from all over reminded me that so many people do support women and abortion rights. It also made me feel like people aren’t giving up on Texas as some black hole of anti-feminism – like they weren’t saying to themselves Why should I even click on this because how will the internet ever change anything about that terrible, backwards place. Complaining – and seeing that others agreed with me – made me feel a lot better about things.

It also had an impact. When I first called Dinosaur Outdoor, they told me there was no timeframe for the removal of the billboard.  When my friend called one day later, they said staff would be meeting to discuss the billboard and they’d make a decision in a few days. (If you want to check in with them and suggest they decide against the billboard, you can call Dinosaur at 512-272-8887.)

In light of this experience, here are my suggestions on how you can make change in your community:

Speak out.  If something sucks in your community, find out who has the power to change it and speak to him/her.  If you’re contacting a business or an elected official, find out how they log complaints and make sure yours gets counted.  And think strategically about how you can get what you want – people may not care deeply about feminism, but they care about profits/reputation/reelection.  Point out to them how they will lose money, standing in the community or votes if they continue to be anti-woman jerks.

Coordinate. Tell your friends what it was like to contact that business owner or elected official so they’ll know what to expect.  Give people a script and contact information.  Tweet, post on Facebook, blog, email your friends, make a video. You can also create an online petition like I did. This article at Socialbrite discusses pros and cons of nine different petition websites – you should be able to find something that works for you here.

Connect with local groups and organizations. You’re probably not the first person to get mad about this issue. Figure out who else is doing something about it and work together. When I emailed friends about my petition, I learned that NARAL Pro-Choice Texas is working to track locations of Heroic Media’s billboards across Texas using Google Maps. Kailey Vollinger, an intern at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told me that allies in several states have rallied against these billboards. She says, “we hope to assist fellow Texans and advocates for choice in the same type of campaign.  We are currently updating our website with information about where these billboards are located – as well as how you can help defeat this racist anti-choice messaging campaign.”

Smart organizations like NARAL in Texas are increasingly crowdsourcing information and ideas through grassroots contacts.  Organizations can list crowdsourcing and other virtual volunteering opportunities through Sparked, a website where nonprofits post their “challenges” to an online volunteer community. (Hint:  even though they don’t show up on Sparked’s front page, you can search for “women’s issues” volunteer opportunities. You just have to log in first. However, at this time there are not a lot of feminist challenges listed.)

If you find a really great organization working on your issue, you can start your own fundraiser to benefit them. If you want to manage your fund-raising online, I recommend checking out websites like FirstGiving. They’ll allow you to list information about your fundraiser, post pictures and videos, collect donations and communicate with supporters.

Lastly, consider attending a conference. It’s energizing to meet new people who care about your issue and learn about how things are done in other places. I’m looking forward to attending the National Network of Abortion Funds’ National Organizing Summit this summer, and would love to make it to the annual Reproductive Justice Conference at Hampshire College sometime.

Are there any great grassroots opportunities where you live? Are you mad about something but don’t know what to do about it?  Have you made a feminist improvement in your community? Tell me in the comments. Let’s make this a conversation.

Katrina Brown studies Womenʼs History and Queer Theory for a living.

I have been thinking a lot about Eminem since his “Imported from Detroit” commercial dropped during the Superbowl. I love him, you see. Not just “love” in the way people “love” songs that make them bob their heads and get up and dance. His music is deeply inspiring to me, for reasons I will expound upon in a moment. I have a playlist of about 15 of his songs from various albums whose lyrics I have memorized. At this point, given how long and consistently Iʼve been listening to these songs, I swear that at least one whole wall of my soul is built out of his words. I cannot hear the beats on “Imported from Detroit” without my stomach flip-flopping from joy. I also harbor a secret fantasy of us being best friends someday!

When I divulge these facts, I am usually asked to defend my position. People ask me how I – an outspoken, unapologetic feminist – can reconcile my adoration of him with all his misogynistic lyrics and the abusive pictures he paints in some of this songs. The truth is, I canʼt really reconcile the two, and I donʼt know if I want to even try. I want to talk about my love of Eminem here, even if it is controversial and irreconcilable, because I can attest that his misogyny isnʼt the whole story of his cultural impact. There is also my story, which speaks to at least one real, concrete life that has changed for the better because of his music. So here it is:

The age of 17 found me in very bad shape, psychologically speaking. I had been cutting myself four to seven times a week for the better part of three years. I had more than flirted with suicide, though had been intercepted before any true attempt. I was on the cusp of falling into an eating disorder. I was close to dropping out of high school and had literally no idea or substantive care regarding where my life was heading. I wanted nothing more than to be dead: I prayed every night for God to uncreate me, to erase my soul from existence because being alive and existing at all didnʼt make the first bit of sense to me. My very being just hurt. I wish I had a David Foster Wallace-sized vocabulary that I could draw on to try to communicate the complexity and depth of that pain, but I donʼt. Hurt is going to have to suffice for now.

Eminem taught me how to say “fuck you,” in a very clear, and pointed way. And under the tutelage of his music I learned the beauty, catharsis and overall productive nature of a well-placed “fuck you.” I saw that he and I had comparable amounts of anger, but his was pointing in a completely different direction than mine was. He taught me how to be angry at something other than myself. A lot of other somethings, actually. When I saw him spitting lyrics and murderous venom at the world around him, it made me realize that I had been turning all my murderous venom on myself – but that that wasnʼt my only option. He made me feel understood and like I had a partner and teammate in my fury and despair. When I started listening to his music, it suddenly felt like I had someone in my corner, cheering me on. The world as he spoke it became so many pointed metaphors about my world. I cannot communicate to you how profound and important that was to me then.

2002 was the year I “discovered” him. It was the year of the movie 8-Mile, which was my first true exposure to his music, as so much of what I had known about him was filtered through my conservative Christian living environment. The lyrics of “Lose Yourself” quickly became my mantra: “No more games, I’ma change what you call rage / Tear this mothafuckin roof off like 2 dogs caged / I was playin in the beginnin, the mood all changed / I been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage…another day of monotony / Has gotten me to the point, I’m like a snail / I’ve got to formulate a plot fore I end up in jail or shot / Success is my only mothafuckin option, failure’s not.”

Songs like “The Way I Am,” in which he speaks about his public role, taught me about a self that exists independently of the self that everyone else puts on you, and his self, in particular,not bowing to what the media made of him in his early years: “So I point one back at ’em, but not the index or pinkie or the ring or the thumb / it’s the one you put up / when you don’t give a fuck, when you won’t just put up / with the bullshit they pull, cause they full of shit too. I thought he was so brave to be able to just say “fuck them, they don’t know me,” and it made me want that attitude for myself.”

But the sorts that made the deepest impact were lyrics that made me feel like fighting back against all the shit would get me to a better place in life overall: “I’m a show you what, you gonna feel my rush / you dont feel it then it must be too real to touch / feel to touch, i’m about to tear shit up / goosebumps, yeah i’m make your hair sit up / yeah sit up, i’m a tell you who I be / I’m make you hate me cause you aint me…I just got to beat this clock / fuck this clock, i’m make them eat this watch / don’t believe me watch, i’m a win this race / and i’m a come back and rub my shit in your face / bitch I found my niche, you gonna hear my voice / till you sick of it you aint gonna have a choice / if I gotta scream till I have half a lung / if I have half a chance I grab it rabbit run.”

I realized that if my life continued as it was going, I wouldnʼt be around long enough to develop or deliver my own personal “fuck you” to the world around me. If I dropped out of high-school like I was planning to, and kept cutting myself, and kept starving myself, and followed through on killing myself I would, in essence, be letting my “enemies” win. All these self-destructive acts were me capitulating and agreeing with the belief that I should never have existed in the first place because of what a pathetic, hated, disgusting and worthless creature I was. My 17 year-old self decided that, if these things were truly what God and most everyone else in the world thought of me (and I really believed that this was the truth), then the most effective way to say “fuck you,” would be to stick around and do some damage to the fabric of everyone elseʼs existence.

The externalization of my anger took me in a completely different direction. I stayed in high school. I showed up at a teen crisis center and demanded counseling and anonymity. It took a few years, but I eventually learned how to live without cutting myself; by age 22 you wouldnʼt have known how deeply anorexic I had been. At 19 I decided that suicide was not an option for me anymore. The constant weighing of if I was “supposed” to kill myself or not was exhausting, and I found I could live with the feelings more if I took the “choice” of the matter off the table. At this point, I donʼt think Iʼve even begun “doing damage to everyone elseʼs existence,” but I feel like Iʼm finally healthy enough to start thinking about how to do that in good, productive and feminist-oriented ways rather than destructive ones.

But Iʼm not here to crow about how amazing I am, or to prescribe Eminem to everyone who feels hopeless. Eminem probably wonʼt work for everyone. I honestly donʼt think Iʼm that amazing, and I have had an unquantifiable amount of help along the way. But large amounts of anger does crazy things to people. Everyone knows that when one is full of red-hot rage they can accomplish some unbelievable and unreal feats.

Now you know a little bit of where I am coming from when I tell you that I love Eminem and I hope you will believe me when I tell you that I cannot appreciate the breath in my lungs right now without attributing the fact of its existence, at least in part, to Eminem being a stubborn, controversial, angry ass of a person and a damn good artist.

I think the tension of my relationship to Em is an important tension to illuminate; it brings us to an oft-ignored observation I have made of what it means to be feminist or politically and socially conscious in this world. The world is not split into pure Good Guys and Bad Guys. I know that people try to draw lines like that, but those lines strike me as artificial and forcefully imposed to try to make ourselves feel better or more secure about who we are and where we find ourselves in our lives. I donʼt believe in pure Good Guys and Bad Guys at all. I think we are all just “guys,” for better or worse (forgive the gendered colloquialism), stuck in a world and in lives that teach us all kinds of gross and inaccurate things about the value of ourselves and those around us. Those things that we learn are the rules by which we live; it just so happens that most of those rules are fucked up, and result on some level in abuse, oppression and exploitation.

I don’t think that any of us are exempt from this particular tragedy of existence. However, it is true that some people have more power and influence and thus the negative effects of their fucked up rules are way bigger than those that some of us “little” people live by. Eminem is probably one of those people, and his words and collusion with oppressive ideas and forces do deserve critique. I donʼt want my love of him to let me excuse him or “let him off easy” or when it comes to misogyny and oppression. As a feminist I have made a commitment to critical inquiry and analysis of the world around me. I will not exempt Em from that, and I donʼt think anyone else should either. I just want to make sure that the positive, inspirational and brilliant aspects of his work get a little feminist ink and that he knows – should he ever read this – that at least one feminist in the world is much, much obliged to him.

In which Lindsay and James talk Oscars and end with an earnest plea: “Let’s never speak of this night again.”

Lindsay: Zzzzzzzz.

James: Lindsay! Wake up! The Oscars are over! I think you dozed off sometime after the third Melissa Leo “fuck” joke!

Lindsay: ACK, sorry James, I’m just now rousing myself from a daze induced by this year’s painfully dull telecast. Or by those brownies that James Franco dropped off at my house before the show. Either way! Well, I hardly have to ask, but how are you feeling about the show now that we’ve had a full day to reflect?

James: I feel a feeling that I haven’t felt since the anxiety nightmares I suffered during my middle school production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, except if my sweet and shy friend who didn’t even make the chorus was Gwenyth Paltrow, and everything gay was edited out.

It’s also similar because of all the agonizing over getting young people to come out and appreciate the performance when really we should have just focused on getting our moms to enjoy it.

Lindsay: Apt. Which I think speaks to what I saw as the night’s main theme: the harder the Oscars tried to cater to any “niche”-demographic-that’s-not-really-a-niche-demographic (young people! or women! or, to quote Anne Hathaway, “LESBIANSSSSS”!) the more they ended up looking painfully out of touch with said demographic. We can parse all of this from a feminist perspective in a moment, but first: did you also find yourself wishing midway through the show that Anne Hathaway and James Franco would magically morph into Sandra Bullock and Robert Downey Jr.? Could one of those Inception effects specialists have pulled off that kind of wizardry? Or perhaps Charlie Sheen? I hear he’s a warlock!

James: Do you have a subscription to MY MIND!?

All I was thinking while Sandy did her little Actor in a Leading Role banter was, “This would be the perfect opportunity for her to redeem herself for winning an Oscar she didn’t deserve for playing a condescending comparatively uncomplicated overprivileged white woman.” And RDJ2 with the navy suit and white on white tie/shirt combo, I was into it.

Lindsay: In a Better World, as they say.

James: I will say this of the hosting though, I fear more about the generalizations that will now be surmised about our generation from the hosts’ performances than I fear for the effect on the hosts’ careers themselves, you follow me?

Lindsay: I do. As if the Kirk Douglas set needed more fodder for their assumptions about Facebook turning our brains into oatmeal, I’m afraid that we young folk will be answering for Hathaway and Franco’s universally acknowledged faceplant for some time to come. Which leads me to bring up — as there’s no avoiding it – Franco. Is it just me, or do you find nothing at all challenging or subversive about his “performance art,” if we must call it that? And do you think the fallout from this show (and his bizarrely benign crossdressing moment) is going to finally make people stop trying to talk about him on such a conceptual level?

James: The thing is I don’t know that people really do talk about him on such a conceptual level, however, he’s more associated with that conceptual level. I mean, I was a very big fan, but recently, and I won’t pretend Sunday didn’t have a large part to do with it, I’ve become a bit tired of his high-brow attention-whore antics. Journalists like to draw attention to how, “He does it all!” But the bottom line is he does it all with a resounding mediocrity at best. He’s just hot and good at branding himself as playfully intellectual without having to do anything of substance to back up the laurels he rests on. (Though let it be known that he is really fucking hot.)

Lindsay: No one’s denying. But the reason I brought up the whole Boy Who Cried Performance Art thing is that I can imagine James Franco taking out a couple of Glamour Shots-esque “Consider” ads in Variety and everyone seeing it as some brilliant commentary on modern celebrity. But then Melissa Leo does these (admittedly totally, gloriously wacky) ads and the world is thrown for a loop. Am I wrong to smell a little gender bias here?

James: It could be that, though I’m not sure as to how much of the hoopla surrounding those ads was actually from the Academy’s reaction and how much was the media creating that reaction to heighten drama and build a narrative in a year where all of the major categories were so anticlimactic. This year, in particular, I’ve felt like I’d like the Oscars so much more if I didn’t read anything about them before. And that may seem obvious, but this illusion of a horse race driven by the media is exhausting and cheapening of the whole process.

But what I will say is between her fur-clad “Consider” ads and her Maleficent costume sprayed in gold paint and covered in doilies, Melissa Leo is America’s newest fashion it-girl!

Lindsay: Or its greatest performance artist. Melissa Leo is Banksy?

James: That would be something!

Lindsay: Well, before further grievances, let’s count the night’s small blessings. For only the third time in history, Best Foreign Language Film went to a female-directed movie: Susanne Bier’s In a Better World. (Though: in due recognition of literally the one and only subversive Oscar nomination this year, Team Dogtooth!) Also one of the producers of Inside Job was a woman. And Lora Hirschberg won for Sound Mixing, an historically male-dominated category. And, um. A woman who won an Oscar for playing a transperson shared the stage with a woman who won an Oscar for directing last year. The Oscars are really progressive, yeah?

James: Progressively irritating. It felt so clear that Hilary Swank’s grandiose introduction of Kathryn Bigelow was an extension of the pat-on-the-back the Academy is giving itself for honoring a woman with the Best Director Oscar, an extension of that unwarranted self-satisfaction and a distraction from their return to the status quo. Which, I feel it appropriate to say, is also what they were doing in having Halle Berry do the extension of the In Memoriam to Lena Horne, congratulate themselves by honoring a woman of color in film while distracting us from pointing out they honored ZERO PEOPLE OF COLOR THIS YEAR.

But, as you said, small blessings. Though it was truly devastating to watch the mesmerizing Annette Bening lose for a fourth time, I am very hopeful for the good things Portman’s new focus on production will bring to women. Between her speech at the Spirit Awards Saturday night and what she’s said in recent media profiles, I’m excited for what opportunities she will bring as a highly respected and intelligent woman in show business aware of the industry’s sexist infrastructure and interested in and proactive about working through that.

Lindsay: And I was pleased to see the Times remind us of the oft-forgotten fact that Natalie Portman can not only blind us with Rodarte, but also with SCIENCE. And I agree with you and Melissa Silverstein in noting that these overt acknowledgements of both Horne-by-way-of-Berry and Bigelow came off, in typical Oscar fashion, as weirdly self-congratulatory and only heightened the absence of black people and women in the winner’s circle. The Bigelow moment was particularly ironic, coming as it did right before the acknowledgement of this year’s five (white, male) Best Director nominees, and winner Tom Hooper’s acknowledgement of the “triangle of manlove” shared between him, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. But at least when Hooper thanked Helena Bonham Carter for staying out of the way of said triangle, she gave us fodder for the best gif of the night.

James: May God save that Queen! I think what The King’s Speech and the overall feel of the show taught us was that maybe the Oscars were a great year for lesbians, but they’re almost always better for kings.

Before we wrap up, we have yet to discuss the musical theatre major Adderall-head who fluttered about wearing a lot of expensive gowns. And no, I don’t mean Christian Bale.

Lindsay: Oh, Anne. While admit that I don’t understand why Hathaway seemed to be channeling Tracy Flick from Election and that at times she was downright painful to watch up there, the male/female pairing and the contrast of the hosts’ rather traditionally gendered personas make the critiques of their respective failings potentially really sexist. Already Franco’s just the brunt of a bunch of played out stoner jokes, but Hathaway’s “irritating” or “obnoxious.” Or, worse: the Times said Hathaway emphasized “the frequent industry argument that she lacks chemistry with her male co-stars.” Ouch. I’m not exactly out to defend her hosting chops, but I’d like to see a level playing field in the critique of what I thought was an equally bad job by both.

James: Well said, Lindsay. I think that overall the Academy should have learned that if you take something that is essentially old and stuffy, it’s best to just let it be that way. Trying to make yourself seem “hip and edgy,” by having younger hosts and repeating the words, “hip and edgy” will just make your viewership bored and uncomfortable, especially if you’re doing it while simultaneously awarding something like The King’s Speech, which is the furthest from edgy of all the nominees. Don’t futilely strive to look younger Oscars, Billy Crystal’s suspiciously lineless face has got that schtick covered.

Lindsay: But as a closing thought, I’ll say that given the pretty tepid crop of nominees this year, I was pleased with The King’s Speech‘s victories (though, as I’ve stated before, its problematic representation of women actually didn’t keep me from loving The Social Network too). While it was all too easy to view The King’s Speech as the preferred film of the stodgy old establishment, I found both Colin Firth’s performance and David Seidler’s script to contain some of the most quietly complex statements about masculinity in any film I saw this year. Firth’s “lefthanded/righthanded” speech can easily be read to have a subtext speaking about the dangers of perceiving identity – and gender — as a collection of binaries. And as much as I hated the phrase, I still preferred that triangle of manlove over any other bromance I saw in a theater this year.

James: Indeed. Now I can’t wait to look forward to weekend trips to the movies where I’ll watch Nic Cage kick ass in Drive Angry and then wind down by sneaking into Rango.

Lindsay: Yes, James as always it’s been a pleasure talking Oscars with you, but especially after this anticlimactic year I’m relieved to see the season come to a close. For the next couple of months at least, I think it’s time for us to make like Jean-Luc Godard and not give a shit about the Oscars at all.

Above all else, James Worsdale is pleased that it was a Kardashian-free awards show.

We’ve come upon the season for Hollywood to repeatedly congratulate itself in grandly celebrated ceremonious fashion and overlook its shortcomings in acknowledging and supporting work by women and people of color to bolster its own sense of self-importance and cultural relevance. But no! We feminists will not stand idly by and eat it all up without criticism! (Well, to be honest, I do eat a lot of it up, but with a perpetually uneasy stomach I examine the attributes of the slosh I consume to determine the causes of the symptoms and criticize the powers that be for feeding it to me).

The Golden Globes happened this past Sunday and reminded us of how white-male driven the Hollywood hierarchy is. This is nothing new to anyone reading this I’m sure, so instead of whining about it I’ll focus on the implications of the winners on a more specific level and examine the discourse surrounding these particular winners, rather than the institution as a whole.

One encouraging theme that played out was that, this year, the HFPA celebrates lesbians! Straight people playing lesbians! Lesbians with families! Films written and directed by lesbians!

Although recently the Director’s Guild of America honored, again, exclusively male directors with nominations, this shortcoming will hopefully not go quietly unremarked upon. At the press conference following The Kids Are All Right’s win in the Best Picture Comedy or Musical category (directed and co-written by lesbian filmmaker Lisa Cholodenko), one reporter asked (around the 9-minute mark) about the oversight and the challenge for female directors in such a historically male-dominated industry. Mark Ruffalo gives a tongue-in-cheek challenge to the Academy to “grow a pair” and nominate Cholodenko for a directing nomination.

Well played, you loveable schlub.

Though, not for nothing, I’d say that the real loss would be in overlooking Debra Granik’s desolate but quietly hopeful Winter’s Bone. But why should the category be unofficially limited to recognizing one female? Nominate them both!

Relevant side-note on this topic, the nominations this year for Golden Globes were appallingly pandering to high level celebrities and, even for the HFPA, lacking in artistic credibility. Favoring star-studded “comedies” such as The Tourist while overlooking excellently written and acted, original and subtly profound smaller films such as Nicole Holofcener’s Please Give demonstrated their desire to gain ratings over honoring great work in film. But I promised I wouldn’t dwell on these obvious prejudices! Back to what did happen rather than what didn’t!

Natalie Portman brought in a win for her (in some circles controversial) role as relentlessly ambitious and dark and ultimately maddeningly determined Nina Sayers in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Her speech, to me, showed an endearingly dorky side she doesn’t always show and also celebrated motherhood as a vessel of greatness and legacy. But of course nothing can stop the press from dwelling on how she stays so fit while pregnant.

Now: what to make of Aaron “Smart Girls Have More Fun” Sorkin. For those of you who didn’t watch, Sorkin took the prize for Best Screenplay for Facebook saga The Social Network and gave a special shout-out to his daughter assuring her that “elite is not a bad word” and “smart girls have more fun.”  What to make of such an anecdote from the man who wrote the probably most-celebrated misogynist script of the year. I saw it twice, the first time for enjoyment, the second time for closer examination of the issues presented to me from those whose opinions I trust, and who I do agree with. Women are accessories in this fictitious rise to power of Facebook despite their integral role in the company’s success. Was Sorkin’s anecdote meant to quell criticisms of perpetuating patriarchy? Or was it sincere? Who knows. Really, in my opinion, the movie is an all-too-conveniently-timed adaptation of Citizen Kane that has earned success because of historical and cultural context that it warped to make the story more marketable to old, white men. Plus all these accolades given to (hot) Andrew Garfield for this when he was infinitely better in Never Let Me Go (also criminally overlooked this awards-cycle).

I’ll leave this post with three last comments: 1) Ricky Gervais gave HFPA exactly what they were asking for in, as put by Ross Everett, “[putting] a knife in the hand Hollywood uses to pat itself on the back” and RDJ’s snide comment about Gervais should have been omitted, which would have made the transition to his (perhaps predatory) joke a bit smoother. 2) I love high-end clothing with pieces that cost more than I make in a month as much as the next gay, but let’s keep the body snarking to a minimum and let’s ensure we’re being equal opportunity employers in our criticisms. 3) Hollywood, let’s up the opportunity for success for people of color, and let’s make sure it’s not monopolized by one consistently limiting auteur who turns moving and complex metaphors for femininity into one-noted melodramatic messes. And let’s make sure that when that work does happen, it’s appropriately recognized.

This week NPR reported that a military commission is ready to recommend a policy that would allow female soliders to participate in ground combat. Though there are currently hundreds of thousands of women serving in the U.S. military, they are still barred from participating in ground “nose-to-nose combat.” This restriction leads to a further imbalance of power in the highest levels of the military, since combat success is often the swiftest and most direct way to move up in the ranks. There’s a fierce debate about whether or not lifting this restriction will help or hurt women in the military; some people argue that telling women they have the chance of being drafted into combat will lower female recruitment numbers — but yeah, we don’t buy that either. Personally, we salute this comment on the NPR story, written by a (male) former infantry soldier:

Women are and have been just as capable as men to lead, operate and survive in adverse situations. This is a debate between an ‘Old Guard’ and a more progressive and responsible force. What are we so afraid of? Anybody that is willing and able to volunteer should have the chance. Those with limitations be it physical or mental will not make it. It’s that simple.

This week in Dismantling Stereotypes about Feminists Being Unlovable Shrews, Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon interviews Stephanie Coontz, author of a new book about the cultural impact of The Feminine Mystique. Coontz makes the claim that feminism has actually benefited the institution of marriage, and that marriages that cling to the sharply defined gender roles of the past are today statistically more likely to end in divorce — all of which feels like an invigorating gust of fresh air given the soul-killing ubiquity of the Real Housewives franchise. The whole interview is full of insight about the changing definitions of marriage, feminism and masculinity. Coontz observes that, overall, in the last few decades,

[M]arriage has become much fairer. It’s also become much more satisfying for men and women, when it works. On the other hand, there’s a lot less support for the new model of marriage — which is that women as well as men should be breadwinners, and that men as well as women should be nurturers. Our whole political system, job structures and social expectations around work are based on the idea that the person who works will be totally available and will have someone else to take care of obligations. So, women end up trying to go back and forth between the roles, and men don’t really get access to both.

Speaking of Salon and Clark-Flory, we’ve got to discuss something that continued to reverberate through the blogosphere this week: Salon’s announcement that it was shutting down its popular feminist blog, Broadsheet. It’s undoubtedly a bummer, and many readers’ immediate assumptions were that Salon was either cutting the page because they didn’t value the importance of feminist journalism – or they were finally retreating from the controversy that it, like any feminist blog under a mainstream masthead, often incited (“no feature in Salon’s history kicked up the amount of righteous dust and ad hominem rage as Broadsheet,” they noted in its eulogy. Figures.) The full explanation paints a less sensational (though still pretty discouraging) picture: Broadsheet was Clark-Flory’s one-woman show, and now she’s interested in covering other beats. (To which we say, Salon: can’t you just hire another writer or two to take it over? I know these two writers with a feminist blog in DC; they’re not bad…) It’s an interesting parable about both the function of feminist blogs in mainstream media outlets and the perceived “limitations” of being seen as “only” a feminist journalist. Still, Clark-Flory’s done great work with Salon (and, as mentioned above, her great interview with Coontz makes us think she’ll still be covering the topics we read Broadsheet for), and we wish her the best of luck in the future.

Finally, we’d be poor record keepers – as well as failed proponents of over-sharing – if we didn’t amend yesterday’s post on diary-keeping with this important video. Feminist diary enthusiasts: we can assure you that this board game is worth every penny of that $1 that you paid for it in that thrift store in suburban Maryland. Or wherever SOMEONE might HYPOTHETICALLY pick it up and obsess over it for several secret-sharing-filled weeks in 2007. Or, you know, 2011.

Lindsay’s pro-pizza doctrine.

Maybe you were preoccupied with less important things over the holidays, but did you know that Kim Kardashian gained ten pounds? Oh, but phew, guys, no need to worry — she’s already lost those ten pounds. And provided a much-needed explanation as to why she would do something as crazy as gaining ten pounds in the first place. The culprit? That dastardly vice, mortal enemy to ladies the world over…PIZZA.

As a feminist, I feel like this kind of stuff isn’t supposed to get to me at all. We know the drill: Society puts absurd amounts of pressure on famous women to stay thin, and in turn this messes with the body image issues of “normal women.” But we are feminists! We should be exempt from such a predictable and transparently stupid cycle. We know better! We take stands against things like this! Well guess what: even self-proclaimed feminists grapple with body image issues.

I’m lucky. For my entire adult life (and even, against all odds, while I was working at a bakery) I have fallen smack-dab in the middle of the “healthy weight” range for women of my height. Completely, thoroughly average. I eat healthy, I run, I stay active — and I genuinely enjoy doing all of these things. There is nothing extreme or pathological in the way I feel about my body. Again, I’m so lucky. But even though I am constantly aware of all of this in the more reason-dominated parts of my brain, there are feelings that crop up, in a voice that doesn’t even sound like the normal one in my head, whenever I skip a run or an exercise class, whenever I eat a big meal. It’s a voice that I’ve internalized from decades of growing up in a culture that bombards healthy women with the message that beauty, happiness, and value of any sort are always at least ten pounds away.

As always, there have been some pretty troubling celebrity weight stories in the news lately. Portia de Rossi revealed on Oprah that, at the height of her success, she was struggling with an eating disorder that nearly killed her. There’s also been speculation about Natalie Portman’s stringent diet and exercise regime (not as severe as de Rossi’s story, of course) while shooting her celebrated performance in Black Swan. And in a recent interview with Health magazine, Janet Jackson confessed that for two weeks leading up to the shooting of her classic video “Love Will Never Do Without You” (linked, I must add, because it is truly one of my favorite songs and videos EVER) she ate nothing but an apple and a small bag of tortilla chips each day. Each of these stories is distressing because they follow a similar arc: a woman’s image adored and praised by millions of people, while the woman herself probably feels like absolute shit. As much as I love that Janet video, I think I’ll probably find it hard to watch in the future, thinking how miserable she probably felt during the filming.

We’re pelted with these kinds of mixed messages year-round, but it always feels particularly insidious around this time of year, as it’s usually disguised in some sort of feel-good, quasi-empowered sloganeering (This is the year. You owe it to yourself.). Losing “those extra ten pounds” seems to be the de facto resolution thrust upon us all by endless magazine covers and TV commercials. Well, this year I’m proposing a more feminist alternative: resolve to hold in higher esteem how your body feels rather than how it looks.

In support of this, I found an inspiring sentiment in the New Yorker, of all places. Karen Duffy (who has been an MTV VJ and a Victoria’s Secret model, among many other things, but I will venture to say that her greatest cultural contribution is playing the female lead in the truly classic film Blank Check) said this of New Years resolutions: “People always say they want to lose ten pounds, but I feel like that ten pounds could be where all my humanity and humor is, and if I lose it I might just be a skinny knucklehead.”

So this year may we all have the strength to define our own notions of beauty, regardless of the punishing images the media suggests we emulate. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is certainly a feminist act, but it is most so when the goal is personal and not socially defined. With that in mind, let’s raise a glass and toast to retaining our humanity and humor in 2011 — and all the Feminist Pizza Parties that our hearts desire.

Halfheartedly trying to create new trending topics on Twitter!

Mia: Hello dear readers! Lindsay and I have come together today because we’re sick – sick and tired, that is, of the under-representation of female writers in, well, a lot of places. (Oh and we’re both legitimately sick. So we’re cranky! Cranky and fed up!) Lindsay, will you please explain to our readership the latest news to break our bookish feminist hearts?

Lindsay: Gladly, Mia. On Monday Jezebel posted a story that was discussed in some other outlets as well: a New Yorker subscriber named Anne Hayes wrote an open letter to the magazine demanding a refund for the January 3 issue because it contained only two (“tiny”) pieces by women in all of its 76 pages. And in her later perusal through the previous issue, she found the proportions to be about the same.

Mia: And then Jezebel writer Jenna Saunders tallied up lady authorship in the recent issues of other political and cultural magazines. And most of them had the same dismal results as the New Yorker. To which I ask, are we surprised?

Lindsay: As an authority on the magazine trade (someone who is looking at her nightstand on which sit the three most recent copies of the New Yorker, unread) I have to say, “No, not really.” But perhaps that’s why I found Hayes’ letter – though admirable – kind of unexpected. Her attack is certainly focused at the New Yorker in particular, but is it futile to attack one publication when a lot of others have track records that are just as bad?

Mia: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I mean, the New Yorker is definitely a very high-profile, high-brow publication. And I think that’s important. I mean, Internet feminist critique magazines like Cosmo and Maxim all the time – which I support! – but I think their posts are often ineffectual because no one who’s reading feminist-oriented stuff online really expects to get anything out of those magazines to begin with. This is sort of akin to how Jezebel went after The Daily Show for having so few visible women on their team – people paid attention because they never considered that this beloved source of progressiveness might not be progressive in all regards. The New Yorker is something of a witty urbanite sacred cow, so I think this letter will get on people’s radars too.

Lindsay: Yeah, true. Gotta hold those progressives accountable too. But your comparison to the Daily Show protest brings up an interesting point: Jezebel received a lot of criticism for that piece, and much of it from the women who did work there – who were, certainly, a smaller percentage, but still making valuable contributions to the show. Hayes says she will continue to send back each issue if it doesn’t feature more than five female writers. In both cases, are we focusing too heavily on numbers? Are we weighing an ideal of quantitative equality over the quality of the work that women on staff are already producing?

Mia: I don’t think so. I mean, the issue in question had TWO female writers. To me, that’s completely unacceptable. I know the New Yorker is no one’s primary news source, but could you imagine a newspaper with only two female writers? (Ugh, and I’m sure some small papers like that do exist.) I’m not sure how effective the boycott will be. But the conversation around the boycott could be. What do you say, Lindsay, are you going to cancel your subscription?

Lindsay: Well, no, but it doesn’t mean I don’t respect Hayes’ move to do so. At the end of the day boycotts are personal decisions that you’ve got to weigh out on your own. I’m certainly not pleased by the New Yorker‘s number of female writers, and Hayes’ boycott might make me think more critically about the magazine in the future. But, just as the Jezebel piece didn’t stop me from watching the Daily Show, this isn’t going to keep me from enjoying the pieces by male or female New Yorker writers that I like. Just to prove that I sometimes read things that don’t have to do with feminism, let me just say that I am still reeling from how much James Wood’s recent New Yorker essay about Keith Moon ruled. What say you, Mia? To boycott or not to boycott?

Mia: I generally don’t seek out The New Yorker – like, I read it in waiting rooms and when people forgot their copy on the bus – mostly because I’m trying to read So Many Books and therefore have neither the time nor the mental energy to read magazines with 12-page articles and a layout that upsets my AESTHETIC SENSIBILITIES. Like, I’m sticking to Harper’s Bazaar, thank you, which I think has about one article per issue. But I digress, and I agree with you: it’s a personal decision, and it’s the kind of personal decision where I think you know your comfort level right away. This question of “Do I give them my money?” is something that comes up all the time for feminists. You and I have talked about this before, and I think we came to the consensus that it’s actually not hard to give up gross patriarchal stuff you used to enjoy, once you realize that it’s gross and patriarchal. I’m not saying the New Yorker‘s on that level for me, but maybe it is for Hayes.

Lindsay: Fair enough. And one thing I think we can all agree on is that whether or not you want to follow in Hayes’ footsteps and demand your $5.99 back, it’s pretty awesome that one reader posting a strongly worded letter on Facebook can make so many people think critically about gender in a context they probably took for granted. I think I like this even more than that time Jodi Picoult tweeted about Franzenfreude.

Mia: But what Twitter hashtag will we get out of this?

Lindsay: #newyorkershrug?

Mia: We’ll put that on our “ideas” bulletin board, next to the post-it that says “Maybe create a feminist utopia?”

But yeah, Facebook, man. The Internet’s really making things happen, isn’t it? Per usual, that’s just so awesome to me, and I hope this inspires other people to write strongly-worded Facebook notes about things they’re passionate about. (Though let’s be real: Hayes’ Facebook note is an example of the 4 percent of Facebook notes that I’ve actually enjoyed reading – the other 96 percent being about Ikea bookcases that people are giving away and, like, 45 albums that changed their lives forever.) But, like you said, it’s bringing a conversation about gender to the general public. Which I support. We try to be feminists of the people around here.

Lindsay: Yes! To 2011. The year of the meaningful Facebook note! And, perhaps, the year of the New Yorker hiring more female writers! Or, perhaps more realistically, the year of people having conversations about how they should. You know what, I’ll take it.

Mia: Listen, I’ll say to you what I inexplicably said to a coworker on my way to the bathroom yesterday: In 2011, we deserve to have it all.

Lindsay: Indeed we do, Mia. Indeed we do.