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Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Biggest Loser is Sexist

This week I am going to write about the only Reality show I watch: The Biggest Loser. My office mate watches it, as well, and every Wednesday we talk about the night before. We have two huge issues with the show, but continue to be sucked in by it. The show has some underlying sexism that needs to be explored.

First off, last night, the black team had low weight loss. All but two of the contestants on the black team are women. My husband turns to me and says “They’re all having their period.” I said he was probably right. Then he says “don’t women get on the same cycle when they live together?” Why he is asking this is beyond me as we had a roommate for over a year who was a woman and she and I were most definitely in sync. What interests me most about this topic is that the show NEVER addresses it. They never say that women tend to fluctuate water weight throughout the month based on their menstrual cycle. In fact, statistics show that women can fluctuate as much as 2-4 lbs during their period. This might not seem a lot, but when you’re on The Biggest Loser, a four pound gain can mean you are going home. For me, this is more about addressing all the reasons that people gain weight and if they are going to ignore a natural bodily process because it is too controversial or “dirty,” I probably should stop watching it.

The other sexist thing that occurs on this show is what people wear. Early on, the women have to wear sports bras while the men get to wear t-shirts. And the men get to take off their t-shirts for the weigh-ins, but the women have to keep theirs on. Why would anyone make obese people show off their stomachs on national television? My suggestion is to keep them all in tank tops. It’s not fair to the women to have to wear sports bras and also not fair that the men get to take off their shirts.

So that’s my rant for the week. February is a crazy month for me with birthdays and V-Week, so my brain is not in its normal Feminist Critic mode. I promise to get it there for next week’s posting.

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Where are all the Women Playwrights?

For those of you who know me, I often lament the lack of women’s plays being performed on the American stage. Approximately 17% of all plays produced in the U.S. are written by women. We’ll break these stats down by race another time. We also know that only one woman has ever won an Oscar for best director and only four women have ever won Tony Awards for best direction of a play or musical. Marsha Norman, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of ‘night, Mother recently addressed my concerns in an article for Theatre Communications Group. What is even more compelling about this topic, however, is that women playwrights are not the only female artists not achieving parity; almost all women artists are affected. (Unless you play in an orchestra where they hold blind auditions).

She writes that
the U.S. Department of Labor considers any profession with less than 25 percent female employment, like being a machinist or firefighter, to be ‘untraditional’ for women. Using the 2008 numbers, that makes playwriting, directing, set design, lighting design, sound design, choreography, composing and lyric writing all untraditional occupations for women. . . If it goes on like this, women will either quit writing plays, all start using pseudonyms, or move to musicals and TV, where the bias against women’s work is not so pervasive http://www.tcg.org/publications/at/nov09/women.cfm.

Playwright Gina Gionfriddo, whose play I recently saw at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren, Rhode Island (www.2ndstorytheatre.com), protested the lack of plays produced in New York that are written by women. “Producers, directors and perhaps audiences, she said, seem much more willing to accept unappealing male characters than unappealing women” www.nytimes.com/2008/12/30/theater/30gina.html.

And her play, Becky Shaw, is full of unappealing women. It is the second of her plays I have seen, being blessed to attend the Humana Festival of New Plays in 2005 and seeing After Ashley. But I’m not going to write about how much I loved this play and what it is about. You can get that information in the local paper. The RI Monthly has a great review of it and asks the question where all the young theatre goers are?

I want you to go see this play because I want all of us to recognize the lack of women artists in our culture. If we don’t attend their art shows, go to their plays, listen to them sing, watch them dance, than we are buying into this mythical notion of a “human” experience that can somehow only be represented from a male world view. This is the crux, you see.

Let me give you an example. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is considered one of the best plays ever written because of its ability to connect with “everyman.” This play was considered an excellent representation of the human struggle. And while I love much of what Mr. Miller has put down on paper, this play does not represent MY struggle. I feel alienated from that play, particularly as a woman and even more so because of the way the women are portrayed in the play. On the other side, numerous plays by women have not been “mainstreamed” because they were too much about a “woman’s” experience rather than the “human” one. Huh? Are women aliens and nobody told me?

But Becky Shaw appealed to me and certainly appealed to the 150 + people packed into 2nd Story Theatre on one of the first warm and sunny days of winter in Rhode Island (including the three people who came with me). Apparently part of her interest in developing the character of Becky Shaw was to expound on a literary topic covered in numerous books for centuries; that of women being judged for changing their class status, or “moving on up.” And I’m sure if you go see the wonderful actresses and actors and the pinpoint direction, you’ll be glad you did.

No Waiting for Republicans

In just a few weeks in office, the Republican run House is already set to start stripping away women’s rights. Really? They have proposed legislation that would only provide federally funded abortion services if the woman was a victim of FORCIBLE rape, not just plain old every day run of the mill rape. So ladies, make sure you have your iphones ready to take a picture of your forcible attack so you can prove that you were forced into your sexual assault and that you were not willingly raped.

Even using the term forcible with the word rape doesn’t seem appropriate. Like all other rapes are not forced? It just makes me sick to my stomach. Do they even realize how this makes victims/survivors feel when they see legislation like this? The right wing is so anti-choice that they will stoop to making women prove that they were raped by force so they don’t have to carry their rapist’s unborn fetus to term. Otherwise, tough luck, sister, enjoy your pregnancy, carrying your rapist’s baby to term.

And that’s not even all. But I can’t even vent about it any more. Go to moveon.org for more information.

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Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.