And the Winner is… Taste!

I know I said I was out of town. And I am. I am posting this FROM THE BEYOND…

(Well, just beyond Santa Barbara.)

In today’s Vagina News, the 2013 Oscars will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.

This makes me happy in part because I quite disliked last year’s frat boy angle, and largely because it’s the third indication in a short time that the Motion Picture Academy is learning what the Republican party is not… How to stop being perceived as a bunch of old, rich, straight, white men.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with being an old, rich, straight, white man. There IS something wrong with being an organization made up of nothing BUT old, rich, straight, white men. As of 2012, Oscar voters were 94% white and 77% male, with a median age of 62. So if your movie doesn’t appeal to that demographic, the odds of you getting Oscar attention are pretty tiny.

(The first indication is the newest ‘class’ of invited members, which has a younger median age and more gender and ethnic diversity than ever before; The second, the recent election of Cheryl Boone Isaacs as President. Boone is the first African-American and third woman in the role, and has been working in high level positions at the Academy for decades.)

For stat nerds, there have been 13 female co-hosts and 2 female solo hosts in Oscar history (Whoopi Goldberg, who hosted 3 times, and DeGeneres, who hosted once.) The remaining 67 Oscar ceremonies have been hosted by men.

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!)


Steubenville Followup from The New Yorker

I’ve been swamped this week, Vagina News friends, but wanted to share this article.

It’s long, and problematic in lots of ways, but it does a good job of a few things:

  • Explaining what rape culture is, and that yes, it exists
  • Providing several examples of ongoing protectionism and victim-blaming in Steubenville
  • Illustrating the complicated nature of misogyny and rape culture, in which there are rarely clear ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Vagina News Movie Review!

I saw The Heat last night… The Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy cop buddy movie. 

I wasn’t expecting much, the previews make it look pretty dumb.

You guys, it’s GOOD. 

Nevermind the subtle feminist tweaks to the usual formula; a misogynist bad guy whose misogyny is repeatedly identified and shamed… lots of women with non-Hollywood-standard faces and bodies cast in non-gender specific ensemble roles, playing not just moms and girlfriends but also cops and scientists… it passes the Bechdel test every 5 minutes… and critically, includes several uses of the word “vagina.”

Most importantly, it’s $%#@& hilarious – and not at all in a ladies-only way (which surprised several of the guys sitting around us.)

There was constant laughter and several bursts of applause (and if you’ve never seen a movie in LA, we’re a tough room, because it’s an industry crowd. We stay for the credits and clap for our friends, and when the jokes suck, we hiss and groan and leave. Room-sized laughs and applause in this town are hard-won.)

The point is, if we want more mainstream movies by and about women, we have to support them when they show up. Sometimes, that’s a drag. This time, it’s a pleasure.

It’s a vagina must.


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.