"Who says women don't write serious nonfiction?" ask the editors at Creative Nonfiction, the largest literary magazine dedicated to publishing exclusively high quality nonfiction prose. The meaty essay section in their winter issue, titled "Female Form," happens to feature (surprise!) solely women writers. In a fortuitous coincidence, the release of "Female Form" dovetails with the most recent national count of the gender of media-makers, the VIDA count.
The VIDA count is a staggering annual statistical breakdown showing the rates of publication between women and men in several respected literary outlets. This year, the count reveals that men continue to have 70 percent of bylines in mainstream media. VIDA, a burgeoning organization of women in literary arts, conducted the first count in 2011, hoping to initiate a long overdue conversation about gender discrimination in the publishing world.
"We did not go into this thinking we knew the answer to something and this was going to illustrate it, because this is a complicated issue," VIDA co-founder, Erin Belieu, told Mother Jones last April. "But you can't deny the starkness of such an incredibly wide discrepancy."
We were thrilled to learn so much from other like-minded women with passion for media and be a part of the panel discussing Best Practices in Social Media with Twitter Editorial Director Karen Wickre, VegNews Associate Publisher Colleen Holland, Google Wildfire Social Media Manager Maya Grinberg, and Maker Media Senior Editor Goli Mohammadi.
Here are three big things I learned at the exceptional conference.
1. If you want to meet a stranger, stare them directly in the eyes while asking personal questions. The day started with an exercise led by a group called Social Fluency. Everyone had to find a stranger, stand one foot away from each other, and stare into each other's eyes for five straight minutes while asking questions like, "What are you passionate about?" I was not excited at all when they announced the exercise, but it worked! Dozens of women who began as mildly enthusiastic networkers ended the day buzzing. Clearly, Social Fluency is on to something, no matter how awkward those first few minutes were.
In my role artistic director of the Third Coast International Audio Festival, I've noticed something that bothers me. It's nothing new, it's fairly obvious, and it deserves your attention. It's the lack of female hosts in the ever-widening world of podcasts.
According to the widely-used podcast-delivery phone app Stitcher, as of mid-February, 2013, out of the top 100 podcasts in their system, 71 are hosted by men (many by two or three men), 11 are hosted by women (of which three are just 60 second long podcasts), 9 are co-hosted by a man and woman, and 9 are either NPR or BBC news aggregation podcasts with alternating hosts and reporters, or it's unclear who hosts. The statistics for iTunes results are similar.
As a radio addict, I generally keep up (or try to) with what's out there in the audio cosmos. I've long been aware that male-hosted podcasts out-number women-hosted podcasts. But the actual numbers floored me. They should alarm you, too. The statistics point to a disappointing truth: that podcasting, hailed back in 2004 as a "revolutionary" new tool for freedom of expression and endless creative opportunity, quickly copped the same gender stereotypes and realities that traditional broadcasting environments have demonstrated throughout history.
Last week, novelist Benjamin Percy was interviewed on the TODAY show about his experience of being "man pregnant." Percy wore a Japanese-engineered pregnancy suit for nine weeks in an effort to be a better father by gaining an understanding of what women go through when they're pregnant. When I saw the story (and the smug interview), I was uneasy. Not only was the interview tediously unfunnny, Percy's pregnancy suit struck me as a rude, half-baked attempt to figure out what the hell women have been complaining about since the beginning of time. But Percy's story, originally written for GQ's humor section, isn't the first "dude tries to approximate pregnancy" experiment we've seen lately.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is the only film I've seen of this year's Best Picture Nominees. As someone who was once a little black girl who loved fantasy, I had to see it.
When Quvenzhané Wallis started filming her starring role as Hushpuppy, she was only five years old, just a year older than my daughter is now. About 15 minutes into the movie, I commented to my husband that Hushpuppy reminded me so much of our daughter. Like Hushpuppy, our girl has a fabulous head of curls and a penchant for running around without pants (we keep that indoors, don't worry). And like Hushpuppy and Quvenzhané herself, she's independent, determined, and brimming with energy and confidence.
So it broke my heart when I saw The Onion's "joke" calling Quvenzhané Wallis one of the most hateful words you can call a girl or a woman in the English language. On top of being sad and appalled for Wallis and her family, I also couldn't help but think of my daughter and the inevitable day that she will hear that word directed at her for the first time.
FOX News' coverage of Adele and Kelly Clarkson's performances at the Grammy's took a bizarre turn when the channel brought on a nutritionist to discuss the "critics who are taking to Twitter saying they need to slim down." Why random people calling famous women fat on Twitter is valued as a "criticism" that requires discussion remains a mystery. But the results were appalling. In their conversation, the anchor and nutritionist Keren Gilbert articulated that stringent body image standards can be harmful for young women—and then turned around and critiqued Adele and Clarkson's bodies for not being "normal." The anchor even took a pot shot at the nutritionist's body for being too thin.
Apparently, Fox News has gone meta. They're now wrapping a conversation of unrealistic female body standards within a conversation exemplifying exactly that problem.
Check out the whole hot mess, or there's a transcript below the video.
Using racial stereotypes for laughs in marketing is nothing new. Even these days, many people don't seem to notice the casual racism of some marketing campaigns—especially when their culture isn't the one being used as a punchline.
Case in point: Cibu International's line of hair products with names like "Miso Knotty Detangler" and "Geishalicious Shampoo." Many of Cibu's product names lump together food and martial arts references from different Asian cultures. But the worst are those that play on creepy, fetishizing stereotypes about Asian women, such as "Miso Knotty Detangler" and "Geishalicious Shampoo." In one image originally posted on Cibu's Facebook page, a naked Asian woman is pictured on her knees, hands behind her back, eyes downcast with the words "Seduced by Geishalicious" written underneath.
Concerned individuals made Cibu International and its owner Ratner Companies (which also owns Hair Cuttery, Bubbles, Salon Cielo, Salon Plaza, and Colorworks salons) the target of an online petition, demanding they change the name of the products. When people posted their complaints on the company's Facebook page, some fans of the products dismissed them, replying: "Can't anyone find anything better to do?" and "playing the race card as a knee-jerk reaction is dangerous and offensive." In another thread, a fan quipped: "Me love you long time!"
We were skeptical that Cibu would change its ways, but contacted the company last week to ask for an explanation of the clear racism in its marketing. To our surprise, Director of Public and Community Relations Diane Daly replied with a statement last Thursday: "We have decided to embark on a process of transitioning out of the current product names and reintroducing them with new names."
Victory! As the company moves forward, we hope that the voices of Asian Americans are sought out and heard.
While Cibu's is just the most recent example of a hair-product peddler employing racist stereotypes in its marketing, Cibu's racism has plenty of company. Below are four other examples of problematic hair product marketing, from old campaigns to new ones.
The Super Bowl is a spectacle you can't ignore even if you want to. Whether you spent the holiday pounding cheese sticks or eating redfish po'boys like me, you had to notice that yesterday's record-setting 47th Super Bowl featured another key component: terrible commercials. Companies shelled out nearly $4 million per 30-second segment and the spots battled each other to see which could be the most outrageous. There were so many regrettable commercials this year and it was really hard to choose which were the worst. Here are my top 5 most sexist Super Bowl ads of 2013.
1. GoDaddy: "Perfect Match" Domain name service GoDaddy reigns supreme as the Super Bowl's worst ad of 2013. This 30-second commercial features super model, Bar Rafaeli, and a fuzzy haired "nerd" by the name of Walter. Each represents the two sides of GoDaddy: sexy and smart. Naturally, Bar is reduced to her sexuality and the dude is reduced to nothin' but a brain. The two proceed to engage in a 10-second long lip lock, intended to gross the viewer out.
In many ways Germany is not an unprogressive state. People are free to elect, choose and live whatever they want. We have a female chancellor and a gay minister for foreign affairs. People were even supportive of me wearing a skirt to support my skirt-loving son.
But lately some things got pretty complicated. In the past few days, every channel on TV seems to be discussing big questions about sexism. The current conversation was sparked when journalist 29-year-old Laura Himmelreich published a portrait of 60-something political party leader Rainer Brüderle. Himmelreich mentioned meeting the politician at an informal occasion where politicians and journalists are trying to get comfortable and set the real deals over a glass of wine. She asked how it would feel to be suddenly some kind of hope for his party at his age. According to the Himmelreich, Bruderle didn't want to speak about age—at least not his age. He knows women her age, he told her before he made a comment about how her breasts would "easily fill a dirndl."