RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: May 2014

Reviewers, Representation and Bullshit

I blogged in March about the lack of female theatre critics. Click here.  Recently, I found an article about the top 50 film critics.  The article examined how film reviewers stacked up against their peers in terms of whether they tended to critic with the crowd, so to speak.  But what most intrigued me about this list was the percentage of women (of course!).  Of the top fifty film critics, how many do you think are female?  Twelve! 24%.  Less than a quarter. Bullshit.

Then I see this story in Women and Hollywood last week about the fat shaming British male reviewers of Opera singer Tara Erraught.   I didn’t even think there was such a thing as a skinny Opera singer.  Alice Coote, a peer of Erraught’s wrote an open letter critiquing this body hatred by these male reviewers, explaining that the voice is the instrument, in this case, and body shaming Opera singers will do nothing for the genre.

But again, I go back to the source.  Women are continually under-represented as writers in this media.  I harp on this issue, maybe too much, but things are never going to change if the same people are the ones doing all the criticism.  And we need to start complaining about this.

Let’s look again at numbers of female writers in the big papers.  28% in the New York Times, 23% in the Washington Post and 20% in the Wall Street Journal.  Bullshit.

62% of books reviewed by The New York Times between 2008 and 2011 were written by men.  Bullshit.

Men are quoted five times more than women in news articles and a Women’s eNews story reported that only 24% of news subjects in 7,000 news stories and 14,000 news sources were women.  Bullshit.

Men are writing the world, responding to the world, critiquing the world and running the world.  18.2% of women are in the House of Representatives and 20% of the Senate.  That’s not even a quarter when we’re well over half the population.  And if we take this topic globally, only 22 women run the 196 countries on Earth.  11%.  Bullshit.

Until women and the men who love them, or give a damn about equality and balance, start pissing and moaning about how we’re MIS-represented on the planet, we’re only getting half of the truth.  I’m reviewing my first play as an “official” theatre reviewer tomorrow.  I think I am one of none in the Rhode Island theatre scene.  Baby steps or bullshit?

Women must write op-eds and submit them to papers.  Continually ask questions about who is behind the story, who is writing the story, who is in the story, and who is telling the story.  Demand, as a consumer of media, that you get full representation. And call bullshit wherever you see it.


Positive Women Role Models Non Existent

There is an advertisement out by General Electric called “What My Mom Does at GE.”

It’s just lovely.  It doesn’t exactly describe whether her mom is an engineer (it seems like it) or what her title is, but it is clear that this woman is a scientist and she builds and designs things.  And her daughter is proud.  The feminine pronoun used throughout the commercial is “she.”  This is positive.  So positive, in fact, that I am blogging about it.

I did a talk in 2012 for the UMass Dartmouth Kaput Center’s Interdisciplinary Colloquium Series called “Choosing Science:  Succeeding without Visible Role Models.”  I ask how girls go into science when there are no positive representations of female scientists in any media, except for a few forensic crime scene investigators.

When is the last time you saw a commercial that represented a woman as a scientist?  If these representations are so few and far between, what is all that junk we are seeing in the middle?  I could write 20 blogs about bad commercials to every good one.  This Business Insider article provides a pretty depressing look at print ads for women through the years.  In a Google search “positive representations of women in commercials,” I got ZERO hits.  The horribly sexist EU video “Science:  It’s a Girl Thing!” almost makes things worse, until you check out this website.

I’m good with the world if I stay on Netflix, avoiding commercials.  But some days I need a dose of Colbert and Stewart and I’m left seething.  Huff Post did a list of bad commercials in 2012 (Gag warning!).  Seeing some of these commercials makes me wonder how people are even ALLOWED, by law, to put this shit on television.  If these were depictions of children being treated like this, people would freak.  But, whatever, it’s just girls, er . . . I mean women.

The Superbowl is yet another great opportunity to poorly depict women.  See this post.  And as we live in a world where girls and women are simply a commodity that should be bought and sold, never educated (See our #BringBackOurGirls campaign at UMass Dartmouth Center for Women, Gender, & Sexuality’s Facebook Page), and even selectively reduced, I am left to ask the misogynist male leaders of the world where they think more boys are going to come from?   Keep reducing the number of females on the planet and I can assure you, you will lessen the time on earth in which you can rule.

A Day Late and a Dollar Short: the White House Addresses Sexual Violence

rape stats

Last week the White House released the highly anticipated “The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault.”  This task force is charged with coming up with recommendations and FAQ’s to help colleges deal with sexual violence as well as the often conflicting rules set up by the two government departments, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice.

As someone who has been working in the field of higher ed for over twenty years and doing sexual violence work for all of that time, the media frenzy this has incited makes me want to puke.  First, there’s the PSA’s.  Then there’s the 23 page report, listing all the components that schools need to be doing.  You can find that here, along with all kinds of other information for schools.  Then there’s the news coverage over the past week every time you turn on the radio or the tv.

First I want to say, “Hallelujah!  Praise Jesus! the White House gives a shit about rape!”  Why now?  After years of sweeping this issue under the rug and calling it a “women’s” issue, now the government cares?  The Violence Against Women Act has been in place since 1994.  It took 20 years to look at college campuses?  Really?  Is this because of all these high level investigations going on by the Office of Civil Rights, under the Department of Education?  Or is this all Joe Biden (don’t get me wrong, I think Biden gets it.)?

And in the meantime, is anyone going to take the time to talk about the schools that are doing it right or have been plugging along, with no funding and no support for years and years and years?  My department, which is primarily responsible for sexual violence prevention and education, has been staffed by a director and an administrative assistant since 1998.  Since 2008 we have gotten funding for 1/2 time graduate assistants, during the school year, to help with this work.  And this year, after being awarded a $300,000 grant by the Department of Justice’s Office for Violence Against Women, we hired our first full time person.  No one at my institution ever felt this topic rose to the level that hiring someone else was critical.  And I’m sure I’m not alone with my sisters (yes, most of them are sisters) running Women’s Centers or running Sexual Violence offices at most colleges and universities.

I mean, let’s just look at Harvard College for a minute.  They have had a sexual assault program, called the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response.  A good colleague/friend of mine was their first director in 2003.  They’ve had two other Directors since and now include two other professional staff and two interns.  But even with this office in place, it appears that staff either do not connect students to this office or students are unaware of it.  Here is a recent open letter to Harvard published in their student newspaper.

Again, I question all this attention, now, to these issues because of high profile cases filed with the Office of Civil Rights.  Is this really what it had to come to?  Women having to file complaints with OCR to get their day in court?  And now, universities are scrambling to cover their asses, like I have never seen before.  Just do a simple search on for Title IX investigator.  I came up with seven positions.

Furthermore, posting the list of 55 schools who are being investigated, in my opinion, is just a scare tactic by the federal government to show universities that they are “serious” about sexual violence.  If you were so “serious” about it, why has it taken 20 years to actually start conducting these investigations?  Why is it only now that we have PSA’s of famous male actors talking to other men about being respectful to women.  Again, more puke.

Sexual violence has been a problem longer than any of us were alive.  No one has figured out how to stop it.  Globally it’s an epidemic that includes human trafficking.  But now that a few fancy privates, whose hallowed halls contain our next president or governor, are under attack, the government has decided to make this one of their top agenda items.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for ending rape, rape culture, domestic violence and stalking.  I’m just another female statistic who has experienced the full gamut, including the ever popular street harassment.  But I’m tired.  It’s tiring doing this work.  It’s tiring helping women become sexually assertive about their needs in a climate that teaches them to be passive and submissive.  It’s tiring begging for dollars and people.  It’s tiring asking administrators to pay attention to this. It’s tiring convincing people to come to the table.

And it’s tiring having to defend the issue.  Teaching sexual violence to young people is not easy.  So many of them have bought into the notion that women are to blame and, “oh those poor men who get accused of rape.”  There’s always that person in the room whose friend was wrongly accused by some lying scheming bitch (even though we know that false reports average under 8%).   I wrote in my blog last year about a young woman who blamed the victim in a skit on date rape for our first year students.  She said to the actress playing the rape victim “You deserve what you got and you should get off the floor crying like a little bitch.”  You can see my struggle.

I guess I will end by thanking the federal government, and the White House for finally giving a shit about rape.  Thanks for that.  But I ask you to question this media attention.  Ask why now, when it has been so prevalent in our culture for so long.  What is being done at the grammar school level to end rape culture? What is being done by the media that perpetuates it in so many ways, but especially with all the SVU Crime shows.   It’s too late, in many respects, to address prevention when they get to college.  But we do it anyway.  And now we do it because the federal government told me to.


my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

The Feminist Critic

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