April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Lena Dunham’s new series Girls has been hotly anticipated, to put it mildly. It’s produced by Judd Apatow. It is directed, written by, and starring Lena Dunham. It has been Tweeted. A lot. Girls will supposedly be the new show that will be scarily relevant for young women who still hadn’t gone through puberty when Sex and the City premiered. I wanted to like Girls, because the current entertainment landscape is deviod of television and shows that include women in above-the-line positions, or barely pass the Bechdel Test.
However, my lovely roomate Rachel could have written a much funnier, relevant, and heartbreaking show about young women in their twenties sturggling to make it in a world where a college degree no longer guarantees a decent job.
Hannah (played by Dunham) is distraught when her parents announce that they will no longer be “bankrolling her groovy lifestyle”. Subsequently, Hannah is fired from her internship when she informs her boss that she can no longer work for free. Both of these situations are not uncommon for young twentysomething women. Unpaid internships in the world of theatre, media, and publishing seem to be the new way that many employers get around pesky fair-pay laws and devalue the earning power of women. So while I share Hannah’s frustrations about being mistreated as an intern, her opiomtastic plea for more money from her parents was bizarre and unrealistic. When I asked my parents to send me money for rent after I lost my low-paying, soul-crushing food service job, I broke down and cried. Money is a very sensitive subject, and whenever my friends confess that they have no way to pay for rent, food, bills, and loans without outside help from relatives, they do so with shame.
While Hannah is spoiled and shameless, she is the only character so far that has at least some dimension and vulnerabity. Jessa is the stereotypical bohemian Brit, and Shoshanna, in her one major scene in the pilot rambles on about nothing but Sex and the City. And while I have met women who talked about nothing but SATC they were slightly more interesting to be around than Shoshanna.
Being a young woman with a degree and far too much student loan debt is hard. And occaisonally, frightening. But most of the people I know wound up moving back in with their parents after graduation due to the lackluster job market, or worked multiple jobs in order to stay afloat with bills. They didn’t get the privilege of a financial crisis after 2 free years of rent. The girl-Women of Girls seem to be living in an alternate universe where moving back home is worse than death and Brooklyn is an exclusively white borough, with soft, photo-ready lighting. If Girls is the new Sex and the City, the show is following in its predecessor’s footsteps of featuireing a New York City exclusively populated by white people, save for that one black catcaller, since apparently all black men ever do is yell at white women.
The one thing Dunham did get right in the pilot was Hannah’s (deeply dysfunctional) relationship with Adam. Some writers have criticized the sex xcene between Hannah and Adam as being unglamorous and degrading. And that is the point. While I don’t have parents willing to pay for two years worth of my rent and bills while I try to “find myself” in New York, I know far too many men who believed that condom use was optional, and thought that a women willing to have sex was also willing to have anal sex. And I can understand why Hannah went out of her way to contact this slimy, somewhat abusive, habitual non-texter. Even smart, college-educated young women have a hard time turning off the voice that says everyewhere, in books, tv, movies, and magazines that bad (or even not especially consensual) sex is better than being alone, especially after your boss has fired you from your unpaid internship because you don’t know PhotoShop.
Girls should not be a unique show because it is written and directed by a woman. There should be so many shows directed, written, and produced by women that viewers should not have to feel like they should settle for a mediocre one in order to support female writers and directors. If the girls of Girls don’t grow up soon and move beyond their Gen Y versions of SATC charictatures, I won’t have a reason to keep tuning in. Especially because HBO gives the show a late evening time slot, and I’ve got work the next morning.
February 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
As I have mentioned before, I live with several fantastic film and dramatic writing majors. One of my roomates, Kelsi, is midway through shooting her senior thesis film, The Big @#$%! Apple. The story is about Morgan, a recent college graduate, who is facing bleak career prospects in life after college. It’s a funny film that features strong female characters, women in above the line positions, and passes the Bechdel Test.
Films are expensive to make, and students at SCAD must raise the budget for their senior projects themselves. If you like supporting female filmmakers, and have a little cash to spare, please donate at Kelsi’s IndieGoGo page.
February 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
I am thrilled to announce that Elena, blogger and actress extraordinaire, will be the new editor of Women’s Glib.
As for myself, I will be taking a break from blogging to focus on my studies and other pursuits.
Women’s Glib has been a profoundly important part of my life, and it was a unique pleasure to serve as its editor. I’m excited about Elena’s leadership and I look forward to much more feminist conversation!
November 19, 2011 § 1 Comment
Are you a white, cisgender, educated, New Agey, feminist woman? If so, then Linda Weber’s book Life Choices: The Teachings of Abortion (published by Sentient Publications) is an excellent book for you. If you are not, then Linda Weber has very little to offer. Weber, a prominent feminist and counselor wrote Life Choices using her experience as an abortion counselor at a women’s clinic in Boulder, Colorado. While Weber’s intentions were good, the execution is far from it.
Like many “second wave” feminist leaders who rose to prominence in the 1970s (I’m looking at you, Gloria Steinem), Weber follows a cissexist, binarist point of view throughout the book when she repeatedly writes about women’s unique/magical/etc ability to bear children. Could someone please inform Ms. Weber that not all women can get pregnant? And that some men can? And that sex and gender is not nearly as cut-and-dried as she makes it out to be? Weber missed a great opportunity to write about special issues and concerns of nonbinary individuals seeking advice about abortion — an issue that is not mentioned enough in our current reproductive rights dialogue.
Weber does make some good points: a crisis pregnancy and/or abortion can be an opportunity for personal growth and development, and this perspective is refreshing. In writing about the history of the pro-choice movement, she makes a very important point about the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision: Roe had more to do with establishing physicians’ rights than it did with protecting the health, well-being, and bodily autonomy of people seeking safe abortions. Unfortunately, these passages get lost among her New Age navel-gazing. I have no issues with those who enjoy meditation and/or worshiping The Divine Feminine, but if your spiritual habits are not of the “woo-woo” variety, you’re not going to enjoy this book. Weber’s message alienates both Christians (surprise: some Christians are feminist!) and skeptics alike. Some of her advice is simply not practical: while I can’t deny the possibility of abortion via soul-to-soul communication between a fetus and its carrier, I do not think that this a realistic or practical method to recommend to anyone.
Legislators in Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, and Michigan have introduced anti-choice legislation, from increased restrictions to abortion access and funding to even more disturbing proposed “personhood amendments” that would also outlaw most forms of birth control.
Rick Snyder, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, et al want to restrict our bodily autonomy, and bring us back into a world where, like a teenaged Weber, we would have pretend to be married so we could receive an abortion via IUD implantation, and risk an infection. They are not interested in going on a vision quest. They don’t care if we meditate. They are not going to listen politely to us. The personal stories in Lie Choices are touching, but out of place in an increasingly hostile political and social environment.
Now is not the time to get in touch with our inner goddess. Now is the time to hurl bricks.
October 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
Planned Parenthood of New York City will soon host its annual Fall Training Institute, a series of free and low-cost training sessions “for health professionals and anyone who wants to learn and remain knowledgeable on sexual and reproductive health issues.” Selected topic titles include Public Insurance & Reproductive Health Care; Empowering and Supporting Our Transgender Youth — Taking Lessons from the Film Gun Hill Road; Don’t Forget the Pleasure in Sex Education; and Talking About Abortion With Confidence.
For more information and to sign up for a training, visit the website here.
September 1, 2011 § 2 Comments
So, there’s a bit of a tradition of veteran MLB relief pitchers making their rookie counterparts do embarrassing and unpleasant things. The NYTimes reports the latest update: “A hazing ritual that has gone on for years seems to have reached a new level of absurdity at major league ballparks: rookie relievers are being forced to wear schoolgirl backpacks — gaudy in color, utterly unmanly — to transport gear.”
“Unmanly”! “Painful”! “Torment”! “Flamboyant”! “Amusing”! “Humiliating”! And — take a deep breath — “pink”!
They’ve spelled it out for me: there’s nothing more humiliating than being a girl. It’s a trope that’s entirely undisguised, and actually entirely unoriginal.
I’M SICK OF IT.
There is a bit of girl inside everyone. Regardless of your age or gender, she’s there. She’s the part of you that’s strong, feisty, vulnerable, compassionate, and resilient. She might be at the surface but more often she’s been repressed — like a voice silenced, like tears held in. Take a page from Eve Ensler’s book and EMBRACE YOUR INNER GIRL. If we’ve all been told to suppress her, imagine the vast power she might wield if released. She’s anything but a humiliation.
August 29, 2011 § 2 Comments
This is a guest post by Dr. Jim Kenley, the former Commissioner of Health in Virginia from 1976 — 1986. Thanks to Dr. Kenley and also to Katherine Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia.
A few weeks ago, a disturbing situation arose in Kansas that brought the state perilously close to banning abortion within its borders. The legislature, with the governor’s support, enacted a new licensing and regulatory law that resulted in the creation of “emergency” regulations giving abortion providers just a few days to comply with impossible and medically unnecessary requirements.
These regulations, which demanded precise sizes for janitorial closets, no-variance room temperatures, and other ridiculous requirements, were purportedly established to protect the health and safety of women, but in truth had one and only one purpose: to shut down the three existing abortion facilities in the state.
Fortunately, a federal judge temporarily enjoined the new regulations, and all three clinics in Kansas are still able to provide services, at least for now.
The situation in Kansas should serve as a warning to Virginians. Our General Assembly passed its own regulatory law this spring motivated by the same anti-choice agenda that spurred the foolishness in Kansas. And now Governor Robert McDonnell is forcing the Board of Health to adopt new regulations in an unprovoked “emergency” process that bypasses the normal public notice and comment periods for changes in state regulations, and reduces opportunities for input from the trained professionals at the state agencies who know the most about the issues at hand.
As a retired doctor and former health commissioner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, I am deeply concerned about these developments, because I fear that we, like Kansas, are attempting to turn back the clock on women’s health in a way that could have devastating effects.
Although I never performed an abortion, when I was a young physician in Cincinnati and Atlanta in the 1950s, I helped women who needed emergency medical care following either self-performed or “back alley” abortions. Later, in practice, one memorable case was a mature, educated mother of two whose spouse had recently survived a brain hemorrhage. Pregnant some 20 years before the Supreme Court legalized abortions and with nowhere to turn, she desperately tried to self-abort with a hat pin.
In the middle of the night, I was called to her house where I found her in excruciating pain suffering from severe chills and a fever of 105 degrees. After telling me what she had done, I rushed her to the hospital where she received emergency medical treatment that thankfully saved her life.
In September, the Virginia Board of Health will propose emergency regulations to require abortion clinics to meet hospital-like standards of care, even though abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available in this country and is already heavily controlled by state and federal regulations.
To be certain, supporters of these new regulations will claim that elevating abortion providers to mini-hospitals by forcing them to make costly architectural upgrades will somehow protect women’s health and safety. Women definitely deserve the highest standard of medical care especially when it comes to reproductive healthcare. But women in Virginia are already receiving abortion care at the highest standard, and medically inappropriate and unnecessary regulations will only serve to restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care services and further marginalize young, low-income, uninsured and minority women by decreasing their health care options.
Early abortion care is already difficult to access in the Commonwealth, with 86% of Virginia’s counties lacking any abortion providers at all. The new regulations could make abortions both harder to get and more expensive, possibly taking us back to something akin to that time I recall with such great dismay, when every abortion was a health risk.
That’s why I hope my fellow medical professionals with the Board of Health will not bow to political pressure or rhetoric from special interest groups. Women in Virginia are already receiving outstanding abortion care, so there is no need for medically inappropriate and unnecessary regulations that will not only reduce access to abortion for all women, but especially for existing marginalized women.
There are additional consequences of fewer providers and more expensive abortion services as a result of overregulation. Virginia abortion providers also offer an array of reproductive healthcare services to women as well as men, including life-saving cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment and pre and post-natal care. These critical health services could be reduced or eliminated altogether.
As the former Commissioner of Health under four governors, I urge the members of the Virginia Department of Health and the Board of Health to adhere to their charge — to protect the public health and safety of the people of the Commonwealth by adopting only those regulations that are medically appropriate, and based in science.
If they do, they will show us that on important matters involving constitutional rights and health care, Virginia can rise above politics. We can be better than Kansas.
August 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
This is a guest post by Sam, who will return to the University of Chicago this fall as a sophomore. Thanks Sam!
Just as rape charges were dropped against Dominique Strauss-Kahn earlier this week, an off duty NYPD officer was arrested for allegedly raping a woman in Upper Manhattan. The case is the third high profile rape incident to confront Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., following the Strauss-Kahn case and the trial of two police officers that were acquitted of charges that they raped a drunk East Village woman in her home.
Vance, who is just over a year and a half into his four-year term, has faced intense public scrutiny for failing to earn a conviction in both previous cases. While these criticisms and frustrations are understandable, energy spent criticizing Vance can be better used to draw attention to the thousands of rape victims in New York City and across the world who will never have the opportunity to face their attacker in a court of law.
While convicting a powerful man of rape would have made a strong statement that rape is wrong, a guilty verdict would not have made rape unacceptable. Even though we live under a system of justice that assumes innocence until proven guilty, it remains disturbing to see how much more credible a denial of rape is seen than an accusation. Public fascination with the backgrounds of victims reflects a culture that is more interested in seeing a drama play out in the courtroom than in having a responsible conversation about rape.
While both previous rape cases collapsed because of a lack of credible evidence, the newest accusation is the first case in which a witness other than the victim supports the rape accusation. Paul J. Browne, the NYPD’s chief spokesperson, has acknowledged that the officer was drunk and that he used his licensed weapon to intimidate his victim. Vance must use this evidence to vigorously prosecute the officer, while activists must elevate a conversation about rape.
Just as Vance must use this moment to ensure that women across New York are safe, activists must ensure that the voices of the women brave enough to speak out against their attackers inspire other women to do the same. To do so would be to do true justice for all women.
August 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for Perfect and Find the Career — and Life — That’s Right for You by Barbara Kelley & Shannon Kelley
Mom-and-daughter pair Barbara and Shannon Kelley have a gem here — an important read for basically any shrewd woman of my generation. It’s a relentlessly chatty book but it dives right to the core of women’s “analysis paralysis,” wisely eschewing self-help rhetoric in favor of a more rigorous cultural investigation of the professional challenges that plague today’s young women. The Kelleys thoroughly map the complex web of expectations, both social and internal, that push women to agonize over each and every life decision, and to grieve excessively for the loss of the option given up.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that I feel right at home in discussions of the laundry list of institutional forces that manipulate women’s professional choices. But what shook me up about this book was its insightful analysis of the ways in which we paralyze and punish ourselves. By ascribing so much meaning to our decisions large and small, meaningful and inconsequential, we lock ourselves into a cycle of yearning and remorse. And in our haste to take advantage of our newly afforded privileges in academia and in the professional world, it’s all too easy to sacrifice authentic decision-making in favor of other people’s estimations of what we are — or aren’t — capable of. (Me becoming an engineer just to disprove sexist stereotypes doesn’t mean shit in the big picture if I’m not truly invested. It’s just another way of conforming, of basing my decisions on patriarchal frameworks.)
It’s steadily depressing fare, but the Kelleys rescue the reader by concluding with advice to pursue “work worth doing” — work at the intersection of pleasure and meaning — and a spirited vision of what a feminized professional landscape might look like: one in which women and men are given social permission to implement leadership styles that emphasize collaboration, relationships, emotional connection. It’s a meaningful read.