Tag Archives: women

Sandberg: The Final Chapters

sandbergAlright, folks, chapter 9 through 12, the end of the Sandbergian road! If you missed it, here are rounds one and two of my discussion of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, and here’s my bit from the radio.

Before I recap some of the big ideas of the last third, it’s probably worth summing up my feelings on this book. They go something like this: Skeptical, but read it anyway. Old news, new language. Big ideas, pithy terms. Fix the system, beat the system at the same time. Dudes, this is for you too. Hoorah!

So what did we learn in the last chapters? Stuff like…

Setting limits = longterm success – While burning yourself out in the short term may earn you quick kudos, you’re setting yourself up for a fall in the long run. If you crash and take your exhaustion to your boss, the last thing you want your boss to say is “Well, why didn’t you take your vacation days?” Self care is step one in being a productive member of any team.

“Intensive mothering” is a new phenomenon – The last few decades have seen the perceived importance of spending large amounts of time with your children culturally elevated to the point of imperative. A “good” mother is always around, 100% focused on the needs of her kids 100% of the time. This all-consuming standard is socially created; parenting has not always been this way and it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Keeping guilt-free time for yourself and your work is setting a good example for your kids; you’re teaching them about balance.

Whoever has the power takes the noun – This is a Gloria Steinem adage that Sandberg borrows to talk about being labeled the “female” COO. The reverse would be someone referring to a “male nurse;” “nurse” is assumed female and “COO” is assumed male. Many women don’t want to be the female XYZ because “no one wants their achievements modified.”

“Is this your thing now?” – If you start speaking up about an issue (gender, racism, homophobia, whatever it may be), suddenly that’s your “thing.” While quietly fitting in may still be the safest path (and in past worlds may have been the only safe path), it’s not a strategy that bodes well for the gender as a whole. So yeah… it’s one of my many “things,” got a problem?

The Bias Blind Spot – If you are overconfident in your own powers of objectivity, you can fail to correct for your biases. And we all have biases. Studies show that people who believe themselves to be the most impartial actually exhibited more bias in hiring and promotion.

Benevolent Sexism (aka Nice Guy Misogyny) – Men who hold positive but outdated views of women tend to view women in the workplace less favorably, promote fewer women, and think that companies with high percentages of women run less smoothly. Benevolent sexism often manifests in admiring but reductionist comments about women, i.e. “Women are good at nurturing, that’s just what they’re best at.” These comments, while technically positive, will ultimately lead to the discrediting, consciously or subconsciously, of female accomplishments that don’t fit a traditional gender model.

Raise the ceiling, raise the floor – While Sandberg’s advice is mostly targeted at professional women on a particular career path, her point is that women in power (in business, in policy, in everything) will lead to better conditions for women everywhere. Forty % of working mothers don’t have any sick leave at all. Families with no paid leave can go into debt taking care of sick kids or elderly parents. Basically, working conditions suck, and diversifying the pool of leaders who form those decisions can only mean good things for everyone.

So there’s that. Hey readers, did anyone think I missed anything big?

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If women don’t talk about men all the time, what do we talk about?

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. 

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How Different Are Men and Women? Does It Matter?

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.

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The idea for this post was a mishmash of a few strange things. I was watching Brief Interviews with Hideous Mena 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.

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Update on the Re-education Project

The view from the Sixth Floor Museum, in Dallas. See those green signs? That's about where Kennedy's car was when he was shot.

The view from the Sixth Floor Museum, in Dallas. See those green signs? That’s about where Kennedy’s car was when he was shot.

Apologies for the radio silence, mi amors. I’ve been in Texas complaining about the weather (I was cheated out of my 75 and sunny!), eating, and weeping at the Sixth Floor Museum (in the building from which Kennedy was shot).

You guys are seriously the best. Last week, I put out the call for movie/TV suggestions to help launch my “re-education project”  in which I try to round out my knowledge of historical on-screen portrayals of the ladies. The suggestions were fantastic and I’m just about ready to quit my job and sit in front of netflix all day. Later this week, I’ll list out all of the suggestions in case you want to undertake your own watch-a-thon.

Let’s talk about Waitress. This wasn’t even supposed to be an official part of the project; I had it filed away in my head as cutesy romance about a pregnant pie maker and her OB. Wow was I wrong. I mean, I’m not entirely wrong, that is what it’s about, but it’s about so much more! This is a feminist movie. About pie. And pregnancy. And romance. This proves, once again, that feminism is not about shitting on pies or babies, but is instead about thinking critically about what choices we afford people, what assumptions we make, and how gendered expectations can limit opportunity.

Waitress, if you don’t know, was a film written and directed by Adrienne Shelly (who was murdered in 2006), about a small-town diner waitress, Jenna, stuck in an abusive marriage. It could have been a heavy-handed film about domestic violence, capital D, capital V. Instead, it’s a sweet, silly, beautiful movie that also happens to capture some truths about domestic abuse that we are all very good at ignoring.

I happened to spend my Texas weekend with a friend who is a domestic violence counselor and she agreed that Waitress, through it’s humor and likability, is able to get at some of the insidious, less acknowledged components of abusive relationships. So many people say to her, why don’t these women just leave? Money is often the culprit, as it is with Jenna, who addresses “how lonely it is to be so poor and so afraid.”

waitressHer husband, Earl, is also not the caricature of an abuser we often see. He is not outright mean and aggressive, but controls Jenna through manipulation and subtle threats. He keeps her money so she won’t have other options. He undermines her confidence with casual insults. He tells her exactly what to say, and how to say it, forcing her to repeat to him the words he wants to hear. He also cries against her pregnant belly. He is weak and insecure, and he hides his insecurity behind faux swagger. He says things like:

“After everything I’ve done for you…”

“I provide for you. I put the clothes on your back, the roof over your head.”

“You’re the only thing I’ve ever loved.”

“You belong to me.”

“Ask me how was my day. Ask me like you mean it.”

Not all abuse looks like a black eye. Waitress also acknowledges the extremely precarious position Jenna’s pregnancy forces her into. Take Jenna’s observation about her unborn baby:

It’s an alien and a parasite. It makes me tired and weak. It complicates my whole life. I resent it. I don’t know how to take care of it.

It’s frank, it’s candid. She later says to her friend, “Not everybody wants to be a mama, Dawn, that doesn’t make me a bad person.” These are poor women. They are uneducated women. They are diner waitresses who expect to be diner waitresses forever, because there are no other choices. The ending of the movie (Spoiler Alert) also reinforces how trapped they are. Jenna is given a whopping financial gift from a dying customer and is able to rescue herself and her baby from her situation. It’s a fairytale, but through the transparent rosy glow of Jenna’s happy ending, it’s all the more evident how few happy endings real women in her position would have.

So yeah, it’s a movie about pie. There are lots of pastel colors, and Cheryl Hines cracking jokes, and Nathan Fillion looking dashing. But really, it’s a movie about what happens when you’re trapped and how hard we’ve made it to rescue yourself.

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The Re-education Project (aka How Have I Never Seen Thelma and Louise?)

I would like to attempt something. Consider it a belated New Year’s Resolution, or an ongoing project in self-improvement and continuing education. I’m a feminist. Duh. You’d have to have been skipping the content of this blog and only looking at the dazzling photos to have missed that (Unrelatedly: Sorry for all the stock photography, that’s not really my thing).

I took a bazillion gender studies classes in college. I’ve read a lot, from Mary Wollstonecraft to Ariel Levy, Betty Friedan to Andrea Dworkin, Alix Kates Shulman to Adrienne Rich. I am well versed in the theories of the various waves, and I know where I stand on most of the issues, give or take a few of the finer points. And, of course, I’m always looking to broaden/deepen/complicate my own understanding.

But if you’re going to publicly comment on media and gender, as I do, reading is not enough. Watching and listening has to be part of the education process, and this is where I’ve started to find some serious holes in my own mental map of gender studies and women’s history. While my formal education required that I go back and read the sacred texts, I don’t feel like I truly have a handle on other forms of influential media.

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How have I never seen Thelma and Louise?

I recently watched an excellent documentary on the evolution of Wonder Woman (if it’s in your city, go see it), and how her character changed in both comic books and on screen to match the flavors of feminism (or backlash to feminism) over the decades. One reference included Thelma and Louise, and I realized that I’d never seen it. A few weeks ago, I watch the PBS documentary Makers about the history of the women’s movement (streaming online, go watch it right this second). It also featured clips from other television shows and movies that I’d missed along the way, like Murphy Brown and The Mary Tyler Moore show. Obviously, most of this content was before my time, but given that I take great pride in being media literate and well-versed in this particular history, it seems I have some catching up to do.

I spend a serious amount of time keeping up on what we’re talking about now, but I want to contextualize the present by rounding out my knowledge of the past. If Girls wouldn’t have been possible without Sex and the City, and Sex and the City wouldn’t have been possible without Golden Girls, then I need to have seen Golden Girls to really understand how far we’ve come? How does the groundwork laid by Murphy Brown add depth to the current conversation we’re having about Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” philosophy? How does Tina Fey follow in the tradition of Mary Tyler Moore, or not? 

So, I need your help. If my goal were to fill out my understanding of “women in the media” over the last few decades, especially as it pertains to gender roles, feminism, sexism, etc., what do I need to go back and watch? I can’t watch everything, so what are the moments in media history that are influential, pot-stirring, game-changing? Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Thelma and Louise 

Golden Girls

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Murphy Brown 

Nine to Five 

Maude 

What else? Post in the comments or tweet at me, @rosiesaysblog!

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A Lazy Post About International Women’s Day

I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do on International Women’s Day that I don’t do everyday. Think about how awesome it is to be a lady? Check. Think about how the rest of the world still treats ladies like shit? Check. Think about how here in the U.S. we still treat ladies like shit? Check. Think about the kind of world I want my hypothetical children to grow up in and how much work we have to do to get from here to there? Check. Sigh.

I don’t really feel like celebrating or writing; the very existence of International Women’s Day kind of makes me sad. Really? We’re still stuck at this point? We still need this? It just seems to make it so obvious that the other 364 days are International Men’s Days. I suppose it’s worth calling attention to that inequality, of course, it just makes me feel tired.

So, in honor of this holiday that I wish weren’t a holiday, here is a collection of things that I like, find powerful, find moving, find tragic. Creating art about “the female experience” (more accurately, about the range of female experiences) is one of the many tools we have at our disposal to tell our stories and remind everyone just what a long way we have to go.

  • An illustrated account of the attempted murder and miraculous recovery of 15-year-old Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai (by artist Gavin Aung Than).

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<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/51920265″>”You Don’t Own Me” PSA</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user14231652″>You Don't Own Me</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Feminist

Is there any art or writing that you want to share this International Women’s Day? Anything that rings familiar, makes you proud, feels enlightening? Post in the comments!

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You Know Her

In honor of yesterday’s 40th anniversary of Roe, I wrote up a little something for Role/Reboot. 

On This 40th Anniversary Of Roe v. Wade, Here_s Why It_s More Important Than Ever

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Sunday Scraps 85

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1. SPORTS: This Charles Siebert piece for the New York Times Magazine about the rigors and stresses of trying to make an NFL team is fascinating. How much do you want it? And how much are you willing to take to get it?

2. BOOKS: Super great Atlantic essay about author Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, State of Play) and her new bookstore in Nashville. As a lover of independent bookstores, I think this is all kinds of awesome.

3. CHRIS BROWN: After violent exchange with a female comedian on Twitter, Chris Brown deleted his account. The always excellent Roxane Gay on why criticizing Brown isn’t racist, and why it also is pretty f’ing complicated.

4. ELECTION: Curious about how all those Obama for America emails with subject lines like “Hey” or “It’s officially over” played out? Businessweek has some answers.

5. PAIN: There’s an extremely rare medical condition where you feel no pain. Sounds great, right? Not unless you step on a nail, scratch yourself bloody, or break an ankle and don’t realize it. The New York Times has an examination.

6. MEDIA: The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has put together an excellent report about the representation of women on screen (especially on children and family programming) and Mother Jones has a summary of some of the most telling facts and figures.

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Filed under Body Image, Books, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Politics, Really Good Writing by Other People, Sports, Uncategorized

Bright Spot?

Warning: The bright spot referenced in the title of this post will not be arriving for several paragraphs. First, you have to go some dark places with me.

I do not hold grudges well. I am also generally incapable of going to sleep upset, of keeping my feelings to myself, or otherwise letting emotions incubate for reasonable lengths of time. When I feel shitty, whether for external or internal reasons, the shittiness sits front and center in my brain. I can’t think about other things, I can’t distract myself, and I can’t just let bad vibes dissipate at their natural pace; I have to force them out.

One of the ways I do this by dumping them on someone else. I never mean to dump, it just kind of happens, and then it takes the stricken look of a coworker caught off guard for me to really realize what  a lunatic I sound like.

Take Wednesday for example. Every piece of news I consumed (and I consume a lot of news) was horrifying. Not like, oh man, the CTA is raising their prices (which does suck,) but like legitimately filling me with actual horror/fear/desperation. And once that horror snowball starts, I can never seem to stop it. It started with the story about the rape case in Cleveland, TX, where the 11-year-old was raped by 20+ boys and men. Is this story in and of itself horrifying? Yes, but it is unfortunately old and faded news. The latest development is that the defense attorney described the 11-year-old girl as a “spider” who “lured” men into her “web.”

So I stared at that for a while, frothing at the mouth, and then shifted my gaze to my email, where my daily Chicagoist updates had arrived, leading with, of course, a horrifying story about a high school coach who condoned (maybe facilitated?) heinous sexual assault on a boys soccer team under the auspices of “hazing”. Does it ever end?

And then, when it seems like it will never end, I stumble on this ad for toy computers in which the boy computer (blue, obviously) has 50 functions and the girl computer (guess what color?) has 25 functions. And this, of course, is the least horrifying thing I’ve seen so far today, but I am already so worked up that this idiotic ad, this thoughtless, sexist, horrible dumb ad, is the thing that tips me over the edge.

My friend senses my consternation, likely because I am at this point moaning into my hand and rocking back and forth (I exaggerate, only slightly), and I unleash on her an incomprehensible torrent of angst, DID YOU SEE TEXAS, CLEVLELAND RAPE CASE DEFENSE ATTORNEY SAYS SHE’S A SPIDER SHE’S A CHILD WHY WHY WHY NO ONE UNDERSTANDS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD AND CHIAGOIST SOCCER TEAM HAZING WHAT???? EVERYONE SUCKS I HATE IT ALL COMPUTERS FOR BOYS? WHO APPROVES THIS SHIT? I AM NEVER HAVING CHILDREN. And she just stares back at me, waiting for the steam to cool. I immediately felt better. What had been bottling up all day was at least released, the pressure was gone.

And then she did a cool thing, and sent me something to brighten my otherwise gloomy day. It was the reactions of Jada and Will smith to the criticism of their daughter Willow’s hair (she recently shaved her head). Jada wrote this:

willowThe question is why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.”

And I’m fist-pumping, I’m hollering, I’m jamming out in my chair like this is the best, most joyous song I have ever been privileged enough to hear. And then there’s Will:

We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself

And I’m like… Fresh Prince, I knew you had it in you. You tell ‘em! And so the cloud passes, because although the world is most definitely not an okay place right now, we have allies, and the arc of the universe is long and it bends toward justice, and because some people speak up, and because we are not alone. 

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Raunch Humor and Feminism

Today’s Role/Reboot piece was inspired by my dissatisfaction with Bachelorette, the Lizzy Caplan/Kirsten Dunst/Isla Fisher/Rebel Wilson wedding comedy that I was so looking forward to.

I watched it by myself, which might be why it made me so sad, but I just couldn’t find the heart under the coke, vomit, and mean-girl one-liners. On the one hand, I want women to be allowed to behave “badly” on screen–I think it’s humanizing compared to the many one-dimensional, shellacked, lingerie-sporting sidekicks we often see,–on the other hand, what’s the difference between this and Real Housewives? Women treat each other like crap, friendship is mostly a platform to act out your envy, and filling the gaps in your happiness with drugs and sex is normal.

I think Bachelorette was supposed to have more substance, but it felt told instead of shown. You drove your friend to the abortion clinic? That must mean you care about each other. Too bad nothing you do reflects that you like each other, much less any deep wells of emotion.

Anyway, I was thinking about the relationship between potty humor, raunch culture, and feminist media, which is what inspired this, which is mostly about Bridesmaids and not Bachelorette, but whatever…

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