Undoing the Downton Damage

It’s the holidays, so lets keep it light.

Downton Abbey. I don’t care if you watch it or love it or whatever (I will take any excuse to watch Maggie Smith work her magic,) but we all know it’s a thing. One of the central conflicts of Downton Abbey (this is not a spoiler, and if you think it is, you have an overly broad definition of ‘spoiler’) is the fact that in post-Edwardian England, inherited titles (like that of the show’s patriarch, the Earl of Grantham) could only be passed to a male heir. Hence the desperation to marry daughters off as early as possible, to preserve titular legacy.

Turns out that while society has evolved such that the viewing audience generally agrees that’s some sexist bullshit, the law was never changed. So a  bill has been proposed in the House of Lords that would “allow dukes, earls, viscounts and other hereditary peers to pass their titles along a female line of succession.” (The bill left out ‘baronets,’ which apparently are kind of like knights but fancier, so four families have come together to get them included.) And it looks like it will pass. Because who can believe this hasn’t already happened?

So while inherited titles are ridiculous, at least they may soon be ridiculous in a non-sexist way.

Pip pip, cheerio, and happy new year!

One More Reason to Love Jennifer Lawrence

It’s Christmas eve, and whatever that means for you, for me it kicks off a week of watching movies.

If you’ve ever wondered how Hollywood decides which stars to put in movies, it has a lot to do with ROI – return on investment – or how many dollars a star brings in for every dollar s/he is paid.

Like other industries, Hollywood has a habit of paying female stars less than their male counterparts. Funnily enough, that increases their ROI. Right now, the four stars with the highest ROI are women.

Wage gap aside, it was a good year for women in movies. (Have you seen The Heat? See The Heat!) Here’s to more progress in 2014.

Michigan, “Rape Insurance,” and Pro-Choice’s Choice

I have a bit of a policy when it comes to state laws restricting reproductive rights… I don’t pay much attention until they pass. Covering proposed laws would be all-consuming – there were 694 in just the first three months of 2013 – and doing so would distract from the more important issue; The anti-choice strategy of getting one of these laws appealed up to The Supreme Court, in order to get Roe v. Wade overturned.

Which brings us to Michigan, where legislators recently passed a law that prohibits private insurers from covering abortion, even in cases of rape or incest; Women who want coverage for abortion must purchase a separate rider at an additional cost. Supporters argue that the law protects anti-choicers from having to pay for something they object to; Opponents argue that the law places financial restrictions on abortion access, and that by denying coverage even to victims of rape or incest, the state is essentially telling women that they must either buy ‘rape insurance‘ or risk bearing the cost of ending a pregnancy borne of rape. The bill was presented to the legislature by way of a petition signed by just 4% of state residents, and is opposed by more than 60%. It’s an all-too-common case of elected representatives opposing the will of the people, in service to a different master.

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Remembering Mandela the Feminist

I feel a strange sense of connection to South Africa. In high school, I was part of a community theater run by a South African emigree who fled after being persecuted for protesting apartheid. In college, I studied South African theater and was introduced playwrights like Athol Fugard and Ian Frasier. I finally visited South Africa on my honeymoon in 2011, and fell in love with the country and people. I was on vacation in Mexico when I heard Nelson Mandela died, and cried the only tears in an otherwise joyful week.

Obviously Mandela is a controversial and iconic political figure who leaves behind a legendary legacy. An oft forgotten part of that legacy is his work toward equality and justice for women in South Africa. A few examples:

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