Tag Archives: feminism

Curtain Call

27 Jul

good girls tallulah

Thank you so much for visiting 2000irises! I’m no longer updating this blog. I’ve got some new, pretty time-consuming projects happening, and I have to finally admit I’m just not going to make it back here very often.

In lieu of a new post, allow me to share some of my favorite feminist links.

Feministing

Feminist Music Geek

Feminist Majority

Feministe

Adios Barbie

Geek Feminism

Bust Magazine

Bitch Magazine

I’m still available via email and @dcohncomm on twitter. Feel free to contact me.

Be well, brainy women!

Edit — 1/5/13: updated twitter name. (Hi! *waves*)

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A Scandal in Belgravia

2 Jan

No worries. I’m not going to spoil anything. I’ll leave the details of “A Scandal in Belgravia” to your speculation, but I will say I seriously lost my cool. My friend G. later described my outburst towards the end of Sherlock as a “primal scream.”


I’ve been on sabbatical here at 2000Irises for a while, but it’s alright because only one of my posts draws much attention. You may have read it. Last February I debuted my little blog with a rant about the way the character of Irene Adler is portrayed in film. If you haven’t read it, I can easily sum it up: Dear Mr. Gatiss, Dear Mr. Moffat, when you recreate “A Scandal in Bohemia” for Season Two of Sherlock, please do a better job than Guy Ritchie did in Sherlock Holmes. Please stay faithful to the Irene Adler as written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Please don’t turn her into a romantic sap who can’t resist Sherlock, or worse, needs rescuing. Please don’t have her on her knees, weeping.

Guess what?

Yeah, that’s exactly what they did.

There is lots to love about Season Two’s first episode: it’s as sharply styled as Season One with excellent character development, humor, snappy dialogue, sexiness, coy nods to ACD’s original stories, and Benedict Cumberbatch sans pants. I even liked Irene for a while. Then the tear. The tear. Oh Jesus, not again.

So there you have it. Discuss. But have pity on most Americans and keep it spoiler-free, please. PBS still isn’t planning to air it until May.

Addendum: If you’d like a far more thorough and very beautifully expressed discussion of some of the more frustrating and offensive elements of Sherlock’s Irene, Vida S. dishes it at Buckish Eloquence and Pick-pocketed Wit. Spoilers aplenty, be warned.

Check out Another Angry Woman‘s thoughts on Irene as well. Feminism-fail. Perfectly said.

The September Vogue

24 Aug


Last week, coming into our bedroom to fold laundry, my husband picked up the hefty issue of Vogue I’d left on the bed and scornfully tossed it aside. “Why did you buy a magazine with Kate Moss on the cover?” He made no effort to hide his disapproval. Why should he? Every good feminist knows fashion magazines are evil.

“Because I wanted to.”

Apparently this was not the answer he was looking for. He scowled at me. I scowled right back. I mocked his derision. He told me to… well, you get the idea. In the end, we avoided a scuffle, but as he pointed out, I can do whatever I want, but I can’t make him like it.

Indeed.

Every August I face the same dilemma: to buy or not to buy the September Vogue. It’s everywhere, taunting me. It calls to me like free samples of Godiva, like Paul Konerko in tight pants, like an open bar with top-shelf margaritas. I know I shouldn’t and yet… Every August I lose my shit to the fall Vogue.

It’s just so big! So beautiful! So over-the-top glamorous! (The magazine, people.) With cover models swathed in richly hued fabrics, shiny like high-end lip gloss, the September Vogue promises luxury and excess few of us can dream of. That’s the whole point. The September Vogue is all about dreaming. Flipping through its pages, one loses the reality that she has just dropped $4 for a collection of ads, and gains the pretense that she too could spend her days shopping, sipping cocktails with celebrities, and attending charity galas with socialites who are talented and strikingly attractive, but not quite as talented or striking as she.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with fashion magazines, which is why Mr. Irises snarls about them. He’s really just looking out for me. (He’s honestly a very sweet, supportive guy.) But again, it’s my magpie problem – I like shiny, pretty things, and that’s all fashion magazines are. Pretty fluff. Few people read Vogue for the articles (although, at least in Vogue you can expect quality articles, unlike its more salacious counterparts.) Nonetheless, I am aware that when I buy Vogue I’m looking at a magazine which is 90% advertising, promoting products which are at best impractical for most women, and at worst degrading. We all know Vogue offers a very limited vision of what a ‘woman’ can be. I am not thin enough to fit into one single piece of clothing advertised in Vogue, but then, few people are. (Perhaps I could throw one of the photoshoots’ velvet backdrops around my shoulders.) I wear very little makeup. I have never been to Cabo St. Lucas. I’d break my ankles in a pair of Jimmy Choos. But looking at a Vogue, I can pretend, just for a few minutes, that I could stride along the Cabo beach in my Jimmy Choos and Alexander McQueen gown with perfect grace, if I only chose to. (As though I live in small town Indiana because I like cows and corn, not out of necessity.)

For years, knowing Mr. Irises disapproves of such an indulgent, limiting and frankly sexist form of entertainment, I snuck the September Vogue into my house like contraband and looked at it only behind the closed door of my office room. I didn’t like having to defend my interest. Now and then, at other times during the year, I’d have the urge to look through women’s fashion magazines, but I rarely bought them. I could just flip through them in the bookstore. The September Vogue, however, must be purchased. It’s 750+ pages, for heaven’s sake. I can hardly lift it.

Then, a few weeks ago, I saw an old issue of Vogue at my awesome friend Melissa Washburn’s home. (She is responsible for the lovely redesign of my blog. Have a look at her beautiful site featuring her art and design work.) I told her about Mr. Irises’ position, how I never brought women’s fashion magazines home because I didn’t want to debate my odd, decidedly non-feminist affection for them, how I felt guilty for even looking at them. I subscribe to Bitch and Bust. How could I explain the Vogue? She offered up the following point: as long as I am reading with a critical eye, how feminist is it to limit my own enthusiasms based on my husband’s approval?

Indeed.

So this year I carried my 4 lb. September Vogue to the Barnes & Noble counter with pride – not hidden beneath a stack of car magazines like a guy buying a Penthouse. I didn’t even try to hide it from my daughter. (If it’s okay for her to like imaginary dragons, it’s okay for me to like impossible dresses.) And I left it right out in the open, on my bed, where I’d been reading it when the dryer buzzed. And I prepped myself with my non-answer, because I knew he’d ask. Why did I buy it? Because I wanted to. That is feminist enough.

Speaking of Bitch and Bust, I offer Vag Magazine.

A funny, biting send up of pop culture feminist magazines. Produced by The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, this web series gently mocks those magazines’ sometimes vague, strident, crafty, celebrity-heavy, pop-culture feminism. *Hides knitting behind back* Think Portlandia for feminist mags. “Horses are tools of the patriarchy.”

Indeed.

Tina Fey’s Bossypants

31 May

To best enjoy Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants: 1. Have a couple of margaritas. 2. Be a female, 3. aged 40-ish, 4. who’s well-educated and career-minded, 5. with a kid or two. Now, these are general guidelines, and you can slide on one or two of these requirements, but don’t skip the margaritas (that’s just good policy.) It’s not that readers who don’t fit this description won’t enjoy Bossypants. It is funny as hell, and Fey doesn’t skimp on anecdotes from her stints at Second City, Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. Anyone will respond to those segments. But there is a reflective tone to the memoir which I think adult women in particular will relate to, as Fey examines how her experiences as a young woman and later as a mother shaped (and continue to shape) her ambitions, neuroses and successes.

Fey’s initial stories about her working-class upbringing and time spent in the trenches of the service industry humanize her enough that we’re willing to follow her when she turns her attention to the challenges of celebrity. She relates these stories by paying particular attention to anxieties most women will recognize. For example, I’ve never had to endure a professional photo shoot for a glossy magazine (and that’s really okay with me), but Fey describes the experience with such frankness and humor that anyone who’s ever had her picture taken will feel reassured.

“Somebody will put up a makeshift wall by holding a full-length mirror next to an open loft window, and you will strip down naked. You must not look in that mirror at your doughy legs and flat feet, for today is all about dreams and illusions, and unfiltered natural daylight is the enemy or dreams.

When you inevitably can’t fit into a garment, the stylist’s assistant will be sent in to help you. The stylist’s assistant will be a chic twenty-year-old Asian girl named Esther or Agnes or Lot’s Wife.

…at this point in time her job is to stuff a middle-aged woman’s bare ass crack into a Prada dress and zip it up. In my case, Esther and I are always mutually frustrated when zipping up the tiny dress. Esther is disgusted by my dimply flesh and her low status. I’m annoyed that her tiny hands lack the strength to get Pandora’s plague back into the box.”

Fey never shies from the fact that being a woman has shaped her experiences and successes. She’s up front about her feminism, but she’s not a cookie-cutter feminist. She challenges women to resist victimhood and plunge on with their ambitions, even in the face of sexism. One particularly funny segment of Bossypants details Amy Poehler’s arrival at SNL and exposes the sometimes subtle, unspoken sexism of the entertainment (in particular the comedy) industry:

“Amy (Poehler) was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start. There were always a lot of noisy “comedy bits” going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and ‘unladylike’.

Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her in and in a faux-squeamish voice said, ‘Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it!’ Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. ‘I don’t fucking care if you like it.’

…With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.”

I can’t say I love Fey’s advice to women facing workplace sexism, however:

“So my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this person in between me and what I want to do?’ If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. …

If the answer is yes, you have a more difficult road ahead of you … don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go ‘Over! Under! Through!’ and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”

I agree that trusting our own competence is definitely the most valuable response to sexism in the long-run, but sometimes (as Poehler demonstrates) calling others out on their assumptions is valuable and lets people know you’re not showing up just to ferry their coffee.

If you get a chance, I recommend supplementing Bossypants with Rosanne Barr’s recent article in New York Magazine. Both women discuss sexism in the entertainment industry, but Barr’s response is both more strident and more potent. Perhaps Barr’s unwillingness to compromise as a writer, actress and comedian (and ultimately as the boss of her own show) cleared a somewhat smoother path for the Tina Feys, Amy Poehlers and Kristin Wiigs of the next generation.

Fey’s comic timing and original point-of-view are fantastic, and I giggled through most of Bossypants, but long-form prose isn’t exactly her strong suit. Transitions tend to be slight or non-existent, her chapters tend to end abruptly, and her organization is inconsistent. It’s clear Fey spends most of her time writing short sketches and screenplays, as the book’s funniest moments are the lists like “The Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter,” which includes hopes such as:

“May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.”

and

“And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister,
Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends,
For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.”

Charmingly, Fey isn’t afraid to expose her own insecurities in the interest of honest reflection, and it’s these insecurities which resonate throughout Bossypants. But I believe the specificity of Fey’s point-of-view prevented even open-minded Mr. Irises from enjoying even the funniest bits I read aloud to him. He’s not a nearly-40-year-old woman writer, terrified of having her picture taken, with a working-class background and young daughter, for example – hence my recommended-reader qualifications. Perhaps I should have plied him with margaritas first? Nah. I think I’ll keep both the margaritas and Bossypants to myself (or share them with my girls.) After all, he has Woody Allen.

Weekly Round Up

10 May

While I wrestle my newest post-in-progress into submission, I thought I’d share some of the most intriguing/thoughtful bits of webby goodness I’ve come across this week. Some newish, some older, in no particular order:


First, I’m hosting the Downtown Throwdown Poetry Slam and Coffee Binge at Blackbird Cafe in Valparaiso on June 3rd. Click through for details, and then tell me you’re coming to read, ’cause I really want you to.

Second, Meet Laurie LaGrone at Fooleryland. Ms. LaGrone writes terrifically smart, funny pieces for Smartly.com (among other things) and her blog has way more.

Next, if you’re into positive sexuality, I give you Violet Blue, author, editor, educator. Her racy site is not appropriate for those under 18 or easily offended, but awesome for everyone else. I particularly enjoyed her recent podcast, How to Flirt With Geeks. (No, I’m not flirting with anyone, Mr. Irises. You’re the only geek for me.)

Also, I discovered the results of the Women in America study, released by the White House in March. It’s a lengthy PDF, but well-organized and pretty clear. Worth a look.

Finally, this is not new but it’s wonderful: the It Gets Better Project, founded by sexuality columnist Dan Savage, works to send positive reinforcement and hope to young LGBTs. Take the pledge, make a video, tell everyone you can.

Smiling at Strangers

5 May

2000irises: Smiling at Strangers

This piece originally appeared on Smartly Chicago:

Smiling at Strangers

At 21, with just $600 in my pocket and the full wind of naïve bravado at my back, I moved to London alone. This dumb fearlessness served me quite well in London, but not without cost. London aged me, taught me fear, and gave shape to my own limitations in a way I’ve been working to undo ever since.

One night, about 11 pm, I was walking the 2 ½ miles from SoHo back to the hotel in Paddington where I lived and worked, when I was approached by an elderly man. I walked the same route several times a week, and by then I knew to be alert and careful: walk purposefully, head up, never make eye contact. Never, ever smile at strangers. Aside from the plentiful homeless, no one ever said a word to me on the street. I was justifiably leery when the man stopped me, but he only handed me a bloom – just the bloom – of a small red carnation and said “Cheer up, love, night’s still young.” Then he smiled and continued on his way. I cradled that flower in my hand all the way back to my tiny room. I hoped it would live for a while, but you know it didn’t.

As soon as the man spoke to me, I realized I’d been walking about London for months with a fierce, cold expression on my face. This ferocity ran so counter to my ordinary cheerful, friendly nature that it disturbed me. I had to consider if my love of London was really worth such a sacrifice.

This transformation began as soon as I arrived in London. Fresh off the airplane, I settled into a window seat on the Tube with my considerable luggage flowered around me. I donned my earphones and cued up my portable CD player (cutting edge technology in 1994.) A man took the seat across from me. As he sat down, I looked up and smiled – just a polite “hello” smile. He smiled back, and I looked out the window.

A moment later, he tapped my arm and smiled at me again – a huge, inviting grin. I smiled weakly, nodded, and pointedly went back to looking out the window. A few minutes later he tapped me yet again and smiled. This time I didn’t respond, but I knew he was staring at me, grinning like an idiot. I hoped he would get off the train soon. Then he touched my knee. I frowned and shoved his hand away.

I resigned myself to hauling my luggage off at the next stop to wait for the next train. When we slowed for the station, I stood up, but he stood too. Then he leaned down and kissed my cheek. I was too astonished to react. I just stood there, horrified, frozen. Finally, another man realized what was happening. He shouted “Hey!” and loverboy dashed off. This was the moment I realized I might have gotten in over my head.

You would think I’d have learned my lesson after that, but I didn’t. All over London, men reacted very differently to me than any American man ever had. While, thank God, no one else ever touched me, I’m not used to drawing strangers’ attention, and it took me far too long to figure out what I was doing wrong. I was smiling at strangers.

Perhaps I overcompensated then, disconnecting from others completely in exchange for an imagined invisibility. The old man made me realize I wasn’t invisible at all – just afraid and angry: angry at myself for having been naïve, angry at the world for being dangerous for women. I wanted independence so badly that I fooled myself into believing I was invincible, and when I realized that wasn’t true, I mourned.

I still miss my stupid moxie, the beautiful illusion that I could do anything at all – the same necessary, optimistic lie we still teach our daughters. I would get on that plane to London again in a heartbeat, but if I did so now, I would have to take my fear with me. Heavy luggage indeed.

photo by d’n’c

Adapt or Die

18 Apr

2000irises: Adapt or Die — A Review of the film Hanna

I’m not normally a fan of the action film. Testosterone-drenched, glamorized violence does nothing for me. Generally, action movies are ridiculous at best, boring at worst. Yes, boring. I don’t care enough about pumping soundtracks and squealing tires to sit through a plotless parade of scantily clad women and sweaty men. Yawn. Action movies rarely show any inspiration or creativity, and the inevitable, endless regurgitation of sequels only waters down the already-bland content. Fast Five, for example.

Then, occasionally, an action movie comes along which surprises me. This year, it’s Hanna. If you haven’t seen Hanna yet, you really, really should. Hanna’s director, Joe Wright, is most widely known for his literary adaptations of Atonement and Pride and Prejudice. (He recently announced he’s tackling Anna Karenina next.) Hanna is nothing like his previous work, but it retains crucial elements of his auteur style, in particular, his focus on complex female characters and their social environments. In a recent interview with Morgan Denno, Wright said, “I think most action movies have a very dubious socio-political point of view. It’s all about the glorification of violence and women becoming objects. I wanted to make an action movie that had a moral and a socio-political conscious.” [sic]

Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is unlike any film heroine in recent memory. She’s s teen girl who’s been raised in the arctic wilderness, trained by her father to be an assassin. Sure, she kicks ass, but that’s a tiny part of why she’s so compelling. She’s lived away from civilization for most of her life, and despite her fluency in several languages, she doesn’t understand people or society. When it comes to relationships, motivations, falsehoods, love, she’s totally at a loss. This vulnerability balances out her fearsome fighting skills. Hanna has the innocence and self-preservation instincts of an wild animal – a comparison Wright sets up in the first scene. Hanna must kill her nemesis before she is killed, but her real challenge is to learn how to exist and survive among other people.

It’s notable that Hanna is not the only woman in this film. Unlike almost any other action film, the leads in Hanna are primarily women, none of whom are hypersexualized. (For comparison, check out what Joe Wright has to say about Sucker Punch.) Cate Blanchett plays Marissa, the CIA agent out to destroy Hanna and her father.

Jessica Barden plays Sophie, the “typical” teen daughter of the vacationing family that Hanna temporarily latches onto. And Olivia Williams plays Rachel, Sophie’s affectionate mother who tries to show Hanna kindness and protection. In contrast, only Eric Bana as Hanna’s father, and a truly sinister Tom Hollander have significant male roles. (Oh Mr. Collins, No!)

Hanna features gorgeous fairy-tale locations, fantastic cinematography, solid, terse dialogue, and amazing acting. What especially intrigued me, however, was the thematic question about mother-daughter relationships. Mothers populate this film: Photographs of Hanna’s dead mother haunt her throughout the movie. Hanna’s grandmother also appears briefly, and challenges Marissa to consider her position as a mother. (Watch Blanchett’s mouth and throat twitch when she admits she has no children.) Rachel is a surrogate protective figure, and Marissa, of course, is the anti-mother. Significantly, Wright doesn’t moralize about or idealize these mothers (or non-mothers) one bit. Instead, he presents complex characters in impossible situations and lets us consider how these mother-daughter relationships are relevant.

One doesn’t ordinarily expect such subtlety or philosophic consideration from an action movie. In his Vanity Fair interview with John Lopez, Wright explained, “Paul Greengrass showed us with the Bourne films that it’s possible to make an action film with a political, social conscience. I liked that idea of making an action film that was the opposite of misogynistic, gun-loving bullshit. Something that could entertain, first and foremost, but also have a social conscience.” Well done, Mr. Wright. Hanna is beautiful, well-written and masterfully executed.

Oh yeah, it’s also fast-paced, loaded with cool weaponry and impressive fighting, and set to a kicking soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers. No car chases though. You’ll have to (gulp) see Fast Five for that.

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