1. GAYS: In the 2010 census, one county in the US reported 0 gay people. None. Zilch. Nada. Explore Franklin County with CNN and find out if the census is true. Hint: Doubtful.
2. SCOTUS: A little late to the game on this one, but Courtney Milan’s concise play-by-play of the Prop 8 Supreme Court case is the first time I actually think I know what’s going on. Sample truncated piece of dialogue: COOPER: But these people were injured. They didn’t want gay people to marry, and now look! Gays. Lesbians. Able to marry at will. It’s very injurious. They’re injured just thinking about it.
3. FEMINISM: I dare you not to cry at this amazing obituary of feminist revolutionary Shulasmith Firestone. Written by the incomparable Susan Faludi, it’s just… a lot. Sniff.
4. POLITICS: To my surprise, I came out of Jonathan Van Meter’s NYT profile of Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin feeling pretty sympathetic for Weiner. Maybe sympathetic’s not the word…
5. FOOTBALL: From Grantland, what would happen if an NFL player died on the field? 8 years ago, Al Lucas died during an Arena football game. Is that where we’re headed?
6. LOOKS: Why does it matter that the President called Kamala Harris good-looking? Amanda Hess at Slate knows why, and I couldn’t agree with her more.
Related Post: Sunday 99: Megan Mullally and Ron Swanson, Tavi Gevinson, Rolling Rock history and more
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I was on the radio this morning! Spent 20 minutes with Molly Adams and Brian Babylon of Morning Amp talking Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In and why dudes should also be reading this book. Listen below!
Related Post: I’m reading Sheryl Sandberg so you don’t have to.
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That’s kind of weird title for this post. I know with some people I follow on the interwebs, I’m always surprised to find out what they actually look or sound like. Sometimes they’re a different gender than I thought (ahem, Nico Lang) and I’m all like…whoa…I’ve got biases too!
Anyway, if you’ve been wondering what I sound like when I talk (hint: I have a bit of a Joplin rasp at the moment), tune in tomorrow at vocalo.org around 8:30am CT to me hear me talk some feminism, Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In etc. If you’re in Chicagoland, you can listen at 90.7 or 89.5.
Filed under Chicago, Gender
Hilarious stock photography of “work life balance”
My trip through Lean In continues this week with chapters 5 through 8. While I found the first third of the book to be a helpful account of some of the attitudinal prejudices facing women in the workforce (and some reasonable strategies for coping with them), the middle third is not doing it for me. It may be because large swaths of it are about parenting (and I am not a parent), but I also find the advice to be less follow-able. Finding a good husband is not as straight-forward as collecting “kudos” emails from co-workers to share at your performance review, you know?
Sheryl uses these four chapters to discuss the “work life balance” question (the old WLB? Can we call it that?), and spends, in my opinion, an awful lot of time discussing guilt in its various forms and not quite enough time on institutionally sexist policies that reinforce that guilt. For example, I’d love to see a real discussion about how childcare arrangements can be influenced by gendered policies. If you’ve got 3 months paid maternity leave, and your husband has two weeks of all-purpose family leave, well, who do you think is going to take a step back from work for a while? Rather than allowing each family to find the right balance for themselves, these policies put strong economic incentives behind traditional gender roles.
Anyway, there was definitely still some good stuff in there, and I continue to think that if nothing else, Lean In is asking the right questions and starting the right conversations. From Chapters 5 through 8:
- Managing a Business vs. Managing a Career – Sandberg observes that a lot of the questions she gets from young women revolve around career decision-making, rather than business-decision making. While these questions are valid, they are not impressive, and the clear-thinking, insightful, carefully plannd business questions she gets from young men are the ones that really show off your smarts. This is particularly relevant, she says, when looking for a mentor. Rather than ask for help managing your career trajectory, ask a mentor to help you solve the toughest questions you face in your current role so you can be the best employee ever.
- No Such Thing as Objective Truth – There is my point of view, and there is your point of view, but there is rarely an absolute truth to a situation. Beginning from “here’s my take, now tell me yours” is a quicker, more gracious way to figure out where the sticking points are then coming out of the gate swinging about the Way Things Are. So,… approach work convos like marital counseling? Lots of “I” statements.
- The Problem with “Telephone” – The higher up you get, the more your employees will take your words as gospel, and they more they will get repeated. From co-worker to co-worker, simple ideas can get twisted into messy ones, and nuanced ones get oversimplified. Don’t trust the message to get through eight rounds of telephone intact, so make sure that everyone who needs to get it is in on the first round.
- The Whole Self – The arrival of smart phones etc has in many ways made the division of “professional time” and “personal time” obsolete. Consequently, the idea of having a professional self and a personal self that are separate personas is increasingly hard to maintain. Sheryl’s POV (which I share) is that we are happier and more productive when we bring our “whole selves” to work. That can be as simple as sharing basic truths about ourselves (i.e. a gay employee confidently hanging framed family photos in the office) to allowing ourselves to be more emotional at work. That we are parents, windsurfers, marathoners, ukelele-players, volunteers, pet-owners, highly trained chefs, fluent in Spanish, or bloggers on the side (ahem), doesn’t need to be a secret.
- “Career-Loving Parent” – The “working mom” title can be a big cross to bear, fraught as it is with connotations about being neither fully-committed to your parenting, nor fully-committed to your career. Sandberg cites a friend who prefers “Career-Loving Parent,” as a better, more accurate, more positive spin on the old standby. It’s also gender-neutral, which can allow women to confidently own the “career-loving” part, and men to confidently own the “parent” part.
- “The Designated Parent” – Apparently, the Census Bureau still refers to the mother as the “designated parent” even in two-parent households. I find that pretty insulting, and I know a bunch of dads who probably feel the same way. More broadly, this kind of nomenclature carries with it all sorts of assumptions about caretaking and division of labor. When mothers take care of their kids, it’s “parenting.” When fathers take care of their kids, it’s “babysitting.” That’s clearly some serious b.s. and it’s easy to see how it puts extra expectations on women and demeans men. Not good for anyone.
- Maternal Gatekeeping – This is a cool one, since I’ve never heard this term before. It refers to moms who constantly instruct their husbands on how to parent or criticize their techniques. It results in the “Oh here, just let me do it,” mentality that eventually contributes to severely lopsided divisions of labor. In the short term, it seems like the quicker solution, but in the longterm, it creates patterns about who does what that may not be what you want.
- Averaging 50/50 – Even if your goal is to ultimately land at an evenly split division of household labor and child care, you can’t expect it to be perfectly 50/50 at every moment of every day. From week to week, month to month, quarter to quarter, the pendulum can swing between partners on each front, but it has to come out feeling fair or someone’s going to be pretty unhappy.
So yeah. The whole idea of men leaning in to their families while women lean in at work so everyone is happy seems really great. I just don’t have a husband at the moment, so the advice, while probably good, doesn’t feel especially relevant. Let’s talk in 2025, cool?
Related Post: The “Idiot Dad” trope
Related Post: On Anne-Marie Slaughter and “having it all”
Filed under Books, Gender
This week on Role/Reboot I wrote about the the term “role model.” I realized that, in my own head, I have a tendency to hold successful women to a higher standard, expecting them to be on “good behavior” and set the “right example” all the time, and for everyone. There are so many bad-behaving male celebrities, and we never talk abou them as being bad role models. I think in some ways it’s as simple as the fact that there are many more men in the limelight, and so the need for “role models” is not so dire.
We assume that women who seek fame or success should also be moral role models as well. We don’t hold men to that standard. Some of them just want to be rich and famous and don’t give two shits about who they influence along the way. I’m not suggesting that’s a great attitude, only that it’s one we accept from men. Maybe Rihanna just wants to be rich and famous? Being a “role model” has never seemed to be her priority, so we do keep trying to drape her in that mantle?
Related Post: You guessed it, I’m a privileged white girl
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Remember the Bechdel Test? It’s that set of three rules that helps determine the presence of women in TV and movies? Rule 3 stipulates that two women must discuss something other than a man. Back when I wrote that overview, some hilarious internet denizen wrote back, “but women do mostly talk about men…” Hardee har har. Bro, I think you’ve been watching a little too much SATC.
Though his joke was clearly stupid, it did make me wonder how much of what I discuss with my girlfriends has to do with dating, men, sex, etc. We like data and graphs around here, so we did a little experiment. My best friend and I gchat much of the day most days. Although our gchats are in no way a comprehensive view of communication (lacking face-to-face, phone, text, and email), there’s no reason to think they aren’t a reasonable proxy for our typical patterns of communication.
I went through and tagged two weeks worth of gchats with their subject matter and the amount of time devoted to each item. Then, I graphed that as a ratio of the whole. Bottom line: Gentlemen, we hardly talked about you at all.
Related Post: What are the most common names of men I’ve dated?
Related Post: Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman
Filed under Gender, Media
1. TAVI: 16-year-olds have no right to be so cool and self-assured. This kid says everything I figured out ten years later about media, feminism, stereotypes, yada yada yada.
2. HEALTH: This American Life is on a roll. Killer piece about the huge upward trend in Americans filing for disability. Why? When? How did this happen? Better question, what do we do it about?
3. ADVERTISING: Sociological Images uses the interesting case of Rolling Rock beer to discuss the appropriation of working class iconography by upper class cohorts for the purposes of “seeming real.”
4. ROMANCE: Nick Offerman + Megan Mullally = Forever. THEY ARE THE BEST, and lucky us, NYMag compiled a history of their love.
5. POLITICS: Just for kicks, cats that look like politicians. Or politicians that look like cats?
6. LGBTQ: Really thought-provoking essay for BuzzFeed about the importance of gay porn, by gay porn performer Connor Habib.
Related Post: Sunday 98 - Marriage in China, mean girls, George Saunders and his editor, etc.
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By request, here’s the complete list of recommended movies and television for the Re-Education Project. Just a reminder, these are not endorsements, or even necessarily “great” movies. I asked the Internet (well, my Internet) for recommendations of movies and TV that are defining, genre-challenging, game-changing, emblematic, problematic, or representative of depictions of women/gender/feminism/sex. I want to contextualize what I currently see and watch with some of their important predecessors, and these were your suggestions. Thank you!
Anything with an asterisk is on Netflix Watch Instant!
- Ozzie and Harriet (1952)
- The Jackie Gleason Show (1952)
- Father Knows Best (1954)
- Leave it to Beaver (1957)*
- That Girl (1966)
- Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)
- All in the Family (1971)
- Maude (1972)
- The Jeffersons (1975)
- Laverne and Shirley (1976)
- The Cosby Show (1984)
- Golden Girls (1985)
- Roseanne (1988)
- Murphy Brown (1988)
- Prime Suspect (1991)*
- Living Single (1993)
- X-Files (1993)*
- Xena (1995)*
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997)*
- Farscape (1999)
- Girlfriends (2000)
- Alias (2001)*
- Ellen (not the talk-show) (2001)
- Firefly (2002)*
- The L Word (2004)*
- Veronica Mars (2004)
- Damages (2007)*
- Dollhouse (2009)*
- Lost Girl (2010)*
- Morocco (1930)
- Sylvia Scarlett (1935)
- Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
- Calamity Jane (1953)
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)*
- Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)
- The Taming of the Shrew (1967)
- The Stepford Wives (1975)
- Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
- I Spit on Your Grave (1978)*
- Norma Rae (1979)
- 9 to 5 (1980)*
- Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
- The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)*
- Tootsie (1982)
- Silkwood (1983)
- Yentl (1983)
- The Color Purple (1985)
- Aliens (1986)
- Fatal Attraction (1987)
- Baby Boom (1987)
- Big Business (1988)
- Working Girl (1988)
- Bull Durham (1988)
- Steel Magnolias (1989)*
- When Harry Met Sally (1989)
- Thelma and Louise (1991)
- Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
- A League of Their Own (1992)*
- Sleepless in Seattle (1993)*
- Natural Born Killers (1994)
- Boys on the Side (1995)
- The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
- Jackie Brown (1997)*
- Elizabeth (1998)
- All I Wanna Do (1998)
- 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
- Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999)
- But I’m a Cheerleader! (1999)
- Erin Brockovich (2000)
- Chocolat (2000)
- Riding in Cars with Boys (2001)
- Anita and Me (2002)
- Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
- Whale Rider (2002)
- Mona Lisa Smile (2003)*
- House of Flying Daggers (2004)
- Brick Lane (2007)
- Becoming Jane (2007)
- Caramel (2007)
- Persepolis (2007)
- Juno (2007)
- The Duchess (2008)
- I Spit on Your Grave (2010)
- Easy A (2010)
This week on Role/Reboot I wrote about the idea of fundamental gender differences and whether or not this is a useful way of thinking.
The idea for this post was a mishmash of a few strange things. I was watching Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, a movie based on the David Foster Wallace novel about a female researcher interviewing a range of men about their relationships. It becomes this surreal series of monologues about gender roles and modern masculinity that is both appalling and engrossing at once. It also stars a ridiculous cast of dudes including Josh Charles, Chris Messina, Jim Krasinski, and Clarke Peters. Even the “good guys,” the ones who speak about women with tenderness, admiration, or respect, still had this strange veil of “othering” layered over everything they said. The way each fictional monologuer addressed the researcher revealed how many of them viewed women as this sort of alien other that needed to be addressed as they we are a different species.
Then, I was watching Battlestar Galactica (Spoiler Alert), and there’s this horrible scene where a captive female Cylon (the robotic-but-humanoid enemies of humans) is about to be raped by her human guards. When two men try to prevent the crime, they accidentally kill one of the rapists. During their trial, her defenders explain their behavior by saying, “But they were going to rape her!” only to be told by the commanding officer, “You can’t rape a Cylon.” The implication is very clear; despite having by all appearances complete agency and autonomy, the Cylon woman is deemed sub-human and treatment of her no longer has to abide by rules of human decency.
This is what I worry about when I see women dehumanized and objectified in the media. It creates the space for men to think of women as somehow fundamentally different than themselves, and consequently deserving of different treatment. Anyway, there’s more on that, plus some homemade graphs, in my essay.
Related Post: Genderswapping the Internet
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