Colin Stokes of Citizen Schools gets it absolutely right:
This is the season when a clutch of successful women — who have it all — give speeches to women like you and say, to be perfectly honest, you can’t have it all. Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don’t be frightened: you can always change your mind.
Read the rest of her very funny and inspirational speech here.
Or perhaps Ephron and Slaughter wouldn’t have disagreed at all; read Slaughter’s full article for her very thorough and nuanced take on what it means to structure society so that women (and men) get to lead full, and fulfilling, lives.
(via Brain Pickings)
In her inspiring letter to her daughter, Mur Lafferty links to this powerful TED talk by activist Tony Porter, who reminds us that raising up women doesn’t mean putting down men; on the contrary, liberating men from the twisted social conditioning that leads them to denigrate women is absolutely crucial to the liberation of women as well. See the whole thing:
Dar Williams, in her incredibly wise “When I Was a Boy,” puts it this way:
Men and women are allies, or should be. And the idea that men should feel threatened by feminism is ludicrous, because feminism is a win-win situation: a path not to an imbalance or reversal of power, but to a society of mutual respect among fellow human beings, who have access to the entire range of human emotion and potential. We men need to try harder, to be humble, to learn more about how to be the fiercest allies we can be to our daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, friends. We owe it not just to them, but to ourselves.
Author and podcaster Mur Lafferty writes a must-read letter to her daughter, offering the love and support that I hope I’m giving my own:
So. The world hates you. You are considered the worst thing to be compared to. Throw like a girl. Talk like a girl. Cry like a girl. God forbid we ever be girls.
No, we wouldn’t want to take utter delight in beauty and love. We wouldn’t want to carefully watch and study something to learn. We wouldn’t want to look at the world and for just one second think that we have as many opportunities as boys. That we can play sports. Play the drums or saxophone. Play video games. Excel at science/math. * And for that second, before something or someone starts opening their shit-hole to put down little girls, we can fly.
So what can we do, dear daughter? When you get a little older, I will be honest with you and tell you — fuck ‘em. You will not change their mind by arguing, by telling them they are wrong. You change their mind by showing them how being a girl is awesome. You show them by not hiding, by not being demure. [...]
You show them by being more than your looks, even if that’s all people comment on. You show them by your independence. You show them by being more than they expect to see. You show them by not taking their shit. [...]
So they hate you. But fuck ‘em. Because you are a force of nature, a powerhouse of emotion and talent and stubbornness and potential.
You’re worth a billion of them.
Read the rest here.
I really have nothing to add to Ashley Judd’s fantastic takedown of the current media obsession over her appearance, except to encourage you to read it in full. A lengthy excerpt:
The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us. The Conversation about women happens everywhere, publicly and privately. We are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted. [...]
[T]he recent speculation and accusations [have been] pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embod[y] what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about. [...]
That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times — I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women. [...]
I hope the sharing of my thoughts can generate a new conversation: Why was a puffy face cause for such a conversation in the first place? How, and why, did people participate? If not in the conversation about me, in parallel ones about women in your sphere? What is the gloating about? What is the condemnation about? What is the self-righteous alleged “all knowing” stance of the media about? How does this symbolize constraints on girls and women, and encroach on our right to be simply as we are, at any given moment? How can we as individuals in our private lives make adjustments that support us in shedding unconscious actions, internalized beliefs, and fears about our worthiness, that perpetuate such meanness? What can we do as families, as groups of friends? Is what girls and women can do different from what boys and men can do? What does this have to do with how women are treated in the workplace?
I ask especially how we can leverage strong female-to-female alliances to confront and change that there is no winning here as women. It doesn’t actually matter if we are aging naturally, or resorting to surgical assistance. We experience brutal criticism. The dialogue is constructed so that our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others — and in my case, to the actual public. [...]
If this conversation about me is going to be had, I will do my part to insist that it is a feminist one, because it has been misogynistic from the start. Who makes the fantastic leap from being sick, or gaining some weight over the winter, to a conclusion of plastic surgery? Our culture, that’s who. The insanity has to stop, because as focused on me as it appears to have been, it is about all girls and women. In fact, it’s about boys and men, too, who are equally objectified and ridiculed, according to heteronormative definitions of masculinity that deny the full and dynamic range of their personhood. It affects each and every one of us, in multiple and nefarious ways: our self-image, how we show up in our relationships and at work, our sense of our worth, value, and potential as human beings. Join in — and help change — the Conversation.
NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand talks to The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown about a range of political issues, including the urgent need to include more women’s voices in the national conversation:
Gillibrand is spearheading a project called Off The Sidelines in order to inspire more women to get involved in the community-wide and nationwide decisions that impact their lives:
Getting off the sidelines is a state of mind. More women need to embrace the fact that their voice matters and that they can make a difference, with their vote, with their advocacy, with their candidacy.
More women must get off the sidelines and make a difference in their community. Whether it’s in the classroom, the boardroom, Congress or at home, it’s crucial that more women adopt this philosophy to affect change in ways both big and small. Because if they don’t, decisions will be made without them that they won’t like the outcome of.
Women have the power to shape the future, it’s just a matter of getting off the sidelines and getting involved.
I’m absolutely appalled that, in 2012, my daughter is growing up in a country where a major political party is waging a war against women’s health and women’s choice; where a congressional hearing on contraception fails to include any women’s voices; where (as the video points out) women are still earning less than men and still disproportionately occupying fewer positions of power. Clearly there’s more work to do, and I’m very glad that Senator Gillibrand is rallying people to this cause.
More videos, testimonials, ideas, and resources here.
A follow-up to my previous post: While movies are still failing to represent women adequately onscreen, television — at least some television — appears to be a different story. The Daily Beast has posted a great interview with the three female cast members of Community — Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Gillian Jacobs — along with Megan Ganz, one of the show’s writers; and if you’re a fan looking forward to the show’s return on March 15, this is definitely worth a look.
On the effect of having several women on the show’s writing staff:
Jacobs: [...] It’s hard for us to tell when we get a script at a table read who wrote what line or who pitched what joke. But you always just have this feeling that there are women — smart, articulate, funny women — in the room advocating for these female characters.
Ganz: You wouldn’t be able to pull anything apart. It’s not like women work on the women types of storylines. We don’t just come in every day and say, “I think Troy and Britta should kiss.” Everybody works on every storyline. It’s the same reason that it’s good to have women in the room, and the same reason it’s good to have men and ethnicities represented and older people and younger people. If you find a story that everybody likes and everybody relates to in some way, then you know you have a good story. But if you’re telling a story and all the women are going, “I’m checked out of this, I just don’t really care,” then you’re going to have some problems.
Brown: [...] I think what’s changing now is that more women are in positions of power. With your Tina Feys and Kristen Wiigs, you have more women in the driver’s seat. They know what we really are. The ladies in the Community writers’ office, they know who we really are.
On how the show challenges ethnic and gender stereotypes:
Jacobs: A friend of mine wrote a script, a feminist romantic comedy. She had a feminist scholar consult on it. My friend said, “Oh, my friend Gillian read it and really loved it.” She goes, “Gillian Jacobs, you mean: Britta Perry, feminist icon?” That gives me a lot of pride that women really identify with Britta. The thing that is unique about her is that she is never the subject of slut shaming. Like, she’s one of the only female characters that doesn’t ever get punished for having an active sex life. [...]
Brown: As a black actor, it’s refreshing that I’m not playing the “sassy black woman.” It’s something that [show creator] Dan Harmon was cognizant of from the beginning. It is something that I’m always cognizant of. Every woman on the planet has sass and smart-ass qualities in them, but it seems sometimes only black women are defined by it. Shirley is a fully formed woman that had a sassy moment. Her natural set point, if anything, is rage. That’s her natural set point, suppressed rage, which comes out as kindness and trying to keep everything tight. [...]
Brie: You could say the same thing too about Danny [Pudi] and Abed. I mean you know Danny’s played four or five Sanjays. [...] Even still he’ll get called in for auditions and they’ll be like, “Can you do the accent?” We get to do different things in every episode, and it’s not just about gender or race. It’s about having well-rounded characters and a wide range of adventures so that we’re just never playing the same thing. [...]
Ganz: The same thing that drives Dan away from your typical sitcom storylines is the same thing that drives him away from making any one character a stereotype, because it’s just too easy.
Read the rest. Community has been brilliant so far, and and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. Including, I hope, a fourth season, if there’s any justice in the universe.
(Photo via NBC Universal)