Taking on TED

There’s a really interesting debate going on right now between the wonderful Jessica Valenti, the TED conference people, and the internet.

Valenti asked TED why they’ve never done a talk on abortion, and got a response saying, “We tend to focus on wider issues of justice, inequality and human rights. Abortion is more of a topical issue that we wouldn’t take a position on, any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill.”

Got that? According to TED, abortion has nothing to do with justice, equality, or human rights.

The Kiddie Wage Gap

We all (hopefully) know that women earn less than men for doing equivalent work. (There are debates about how much less, but that’s a digression.)

But did you know the same goes for little kids?

As this excellent article explains, numerous studies have shown that:

  1. Little girls spend an average of two more hours per week doing chores than little boys do; little boys spend those two hours playing.
  2. In households where children are financially compensated for doing chores, little girls are paid less than little boys, and traditionally female chores are given lower monetary value than traditionally male chores.
  3. 75% of little girls are expected to complete housework chores, versus 65% of little boys.

Compounding the issue, as traditionally female chores tend to take place inside home (like folding and dishwashing) whereas traditionally male chores take place outside the home (like mowing the lawn and taking out the trash,) work done by women is often unseen, and consequently undervalued.

Those disparities carry into adulthood all over the world.

WAM! Ladydinner

Remember Women, Action & the Media, the organization working with Facebook to change their approach to misogynistic hate speech?

Well last night, I attended WAM! Los Angeles‘s ‘Ladydinnner’, and had a ball. SO many badass women (and 1 kickass man.) Filmmakers, tv writers, journalists, organizers, activists, an editor from Ms. Magazine, the creators of The Big Feminist BUT comic book… And Mexican food. Just fantastic.

If you’re so inclined, check out their shiny new site and get involved in a branch near you (or start one!)

Sandra Fluke, here I come!

In a few hours, I’m heading to my first official feminist event… A fundraiser for Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP), honoring Sandra Fluke and Frances Kissling, retired President of Catholics for Choice.

I can’t think of a better week to gather and honor those who are leading the fight for reproductive rights. I’ll take lots of pictures and bring back a full report!

(In the meantime, check out WRRAP and the great work they do!)

 

Kickstarter Apologizes

Kickstarter has apologized, explained their thinking, pledged to change some policies, and is donating $25k to RAINN.

The core of their defense-with-apology is that they’ve never acted quickly to remove a project so close to funding. But the question they don’t answer is what it would take to get them to do so. I suspect if the project was revealed to advocate violence against people of a particular religion, race, or sexual orientation, they would have taken it down; But we’ll never know.

As with Facebook, only time will tell whether this indicates substantive or superficial change. The larger point is that institutional sexism isn’t getting a cultural pass anymore, and if you get caught, you’re not getting out of it.

At the Movies, the Women are Gone

Also… GREAT piece about the total absence of women’s voices in the current slate of mainstream movies. 

It’s easy to feel powerless to change something like this, but here are a few things every one of us can do:

– Start applying The Bechdel Test to all of the entertainment you consume; Movies, television, books, video games, etc. Make it a regular part of how you think about entertainment.

– When you talk to friends and family about the latest movie/tv show you’ve seen, book you’ve read, game you’ve played, etc., include your observations of how women were represented and portrayed.

– When you hear about a movie/tv show/book/video game/etc. that was created/led by a woman, tells women’s stories, etc., support it.

(Right now, check and see if The East is playing anywhere near you. The writer/creator is a woman named Brit Marling, it features excellent female actors like Ellen Page and patricia Clarkson in leading roles, and gets a gold Bechdel star.) 

 

Vagina News Link Roundup #3 – Entertainment

As you may know, in addition to being your Vagina News host, I’m an actor. Since high school, my life choices have been dictated by my determination to do what I love for a living. I’ve been very fortunate and worked my proverbial ass off to get as far as I have. For many, television, film, and professional theater (if they’ve ever seen it) are frivolous distractions from real life. For me and millions of my colleagues, they’re our jobs, careers, and passions all in one. So for me, these pieces are about more than abstract cultural context, they’re about my daily life.

– I’ve been a fan of comedian Patton Oswalt for a long time. Last week, he posted this piece about how his views on rape jokes have changed. I like him even more now. (He talks about rape jokes in Part 3, but Parts 1 & 2 are very much worth reading.) 

– The matter of gender in advertising is more media than entertainment, but the two are so inextricably intertwined, it makes sense to include it here. Long story short, American Apparel billboards are all over LA, and they make it really difficult to resist slipping into road rage. Their exploitative crap doesn’t touch my body.

 – Last week, Laura Linney received an award from Women in Film. In her acceptance speech, she talked about her experience with gender inequality in the film industry, and gave voice to the experiences of millions of women in entertainment, myself included. 

– Finally, I want to plug the fantastic Geena Davis Institute in Gender in Media. She and they are a leading voice in research, education, and advocacy around identifying and changing the conditions of institutional sexism in media and entertainment, specifically content aimed at children. Check them out. 

 

This ad is making Republicans Ca-RAYZEE.

A successful young woman made an ad for Obama that contains sexual double entendre.

 

Some people are very, very upset about it.

Which makes me like it even more.

They seem to fall into two basic categories:

1 – It’s inappropriate.

There are various flavors of this; Analogies between sex and politics are inappropriate, the Obama campaign should be ashamed to be associated with such an ad, it’s in poor taste, etc.

The sex & politics analogy objection is a pretty weak argument, given how much actual campaigning has been done around the various issues surrounding reproduction – and Republicans have only themselves to blame for that. You want to separate sex and politics? Stop trying to legislate reproductive issues, and for the love of all you think is holy, BACK AWAY FROM THE RAPE BABIES.

The shame and bad taste objections just boil down to people’s discomfort with a young woman talking about sex in a way that doesn’t objectify or shame her. Lena Dunham has had sex. She’s not ashamed of it, she doesn’t regret it, she’s not embarrassed if other people know it. That just squicks some people out, and to them I say TOUGH SHIT, GET USED TO IT.

2 – It panders to women.

Yes, it does. It’s a political ad. Every political ad there’s ever been has pandered to someone. So why are some people particularly bothered by an ad that panders to young women? First, it challenges what the culture tells us about young women. They might bear no resemblance to cheerleaders or sexy co-eds or uptight virgins or teen moms or the other representations of young women we usually see. They might have tattoos, they might embrace their sexuality, they might be smart at the same time, and they might have political opinions and priorities that differ from our own. There’s a generation of female voters out there who are far more progressive on “social issues” than the generation before them, they care about these issues a lot, and they don’t care whether the rest of us like it. That scares the crap out of some people. And I love it.

“Free to Be You and Me’ Turns 40

It’s hard to overstate the influence this album had on who I am, and I am endlessly grateful for it.

The first script I ever memorized came from it. My belief
that I can be anything I want to be came from it. It is one of my favorite
gifts to give expecting parents.

And it is still progressive and necessary.

This article is long, I haven’t read all of it yet – but I’m
thrilled to have the chance to learn more about the grown-up side of something
that did so much to shape me as a child.