I'm a feminist and a high school English teacher in the south suburbs of Chicago. Last year, one of the students in my class was inspired to start a group for girls at our school and approached me about sponsoring it. Of course I agreed! A few weeks ago, we tackled the topic of positive female role models in pop culture. The high school students came up with a list of eight current, mainstream "feminist idols" they and their friends look up to.
The list is a good insight into what interests teen girls these days, as well as hopefully a helpful resource. We talk a lot about degrading and regrettable portrayals of women in media, here are eight actresses and comedians my high schoolers are excited about supporting.
1. Emma Stone: My students loved the movie Easy A, a modern film inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. In it, Emma Stone plays a high school student who tries to bring the book into her real life. The movie definitely has feminist undertones, but Stone herself is a major feminist. In a recent interview she did with her boyfriend Andrew Garfield, she was asked who her style icon was. After Garfield said he never got asked questions like that, Stone piped up, "You get asked interesting, poignant questions because you're a boy... It is sexism." Way to call out sexist media, Emma Stone!
Tonight, 30 Rock ends its seven-year run. I'm a fan of the show, but I think it's time to say goodbye to Liz Lemon, Tina Fey's goofy loser star of the show.
Lemon is one of the best characters on TV: she's a hard-working, independent, sloppy person that always flashes to mind when I, say, spill soup down the front of my "professional jacket." Lemon's right in line with what the New York Times said about Fey's influential work this morning, that she's "a pioneer who resists being taken too seriously. She prefers to be revered for her irreverence."
But in recent seasons, it felt to me like Lemon's looks and age became more and more punchlines in the show. Joking about how ugly a woman is gets tired extremely fast. In some episodes, as a viewer it felt like Lemon's character was less an interesting, funny person we could commiserate with and more a foil for everyone else's fat jokes. The constant pokes at Lemon's physique often fell flat, in part because they're such a stretch from how Lemon actually looks. Lemon's a messy woman who is prone to wearing sweatpants, but the show occupied a bizarre reality where staffers agreed that Fey's character was a hideous crone. This was partly a smart commentary on how women in show business are often written off as old and ugly if they're a healthy weight and over 30. But many of the jokes were just easy, unfunny jabs.
For me, at least, the Lemon-needling was always the least funny part of the show. I've got my fingers crossed that Fey will take her excellent writing skills and well-earned prime-time cred to a new character whose looks are less of a punchline. Goodbye and good luck.
RuPaul's Drag Race debuted its fifth season this week. If you've never watched the show, all you need to know is that it's the sparkling vision of glamazon mastermind, RuPaul. In this reality show that far makes Project Runway look like crumbs on a cubicle desk, fabulous men embody women, creating and presenting glittering outfits for judges. They make you shout at the screen, "Oh snap!" and, "Oh no, she didn't!" But she did! And her realness is sickening.
I illustrated six of my favorite moments from the season premiere. They are the moments of moments.
Much of Girls so far has dealt with romantic relationships. But in last night's episode, "Bad Friend," the drama centered on the hard work of handling friendships. Namely, best friendships. The tension that has been simmering between Hannah and Marnie since the beginning of this season finally exploded in a coke-and-bad-sex-with-a-terrible-artist-fueled showdown.
When Girls premiered last year, so many pop culture–loving feminists had pinned hopes on the show that it disappointment was almost inevitable. In a raft of post–Season 1 interviews, Dunham hinted that many critiques of the show—chief among them the issue of its attitude toward race—would be addressed in Season two.
Last night marked the 70th annual Golden Globes, an awards show known for its snap, crackle, and pop (pop being the sound of champagne corks as the nominees get wasted). If, like me, you tuned in mainly to watch dream team Tina Fey and Amy Poehler put the "broad" in broadcast, you were not disappointed.
Over the last two months, I've written more than 20,000 words (!) about male primary caregivers in popular culture. I hope I've illustrated that while the rise in non-stereotypical portrayals of men is in some ways a step forward, it's also often just another means by which the mainstream media reinforces gender norms — often at women's expense.
When I started this series, I thought the increase in narratives about single and stay-at-home fathers reflected a genuine sociological phenomenon, because more men than women lost jobs in the recession and became stay-at-home dads as a result. However, I soon discovered that while the number of men who take care of their kids full-time has doubled over the last 12 years, it's still just 176,000 people, or 0.8% of the population, according to Philip N. Cohen's interrogation of the stats. (This rises when dads who work part-time are included, but only to 2.8%.) Plus, men are returning to work more quickly than women, making this much-discussed "trend" little more than a blip. What's more, as Bryce Calvert pointed out in her Forbes column, it was only ever a partial victory considering that being a stay-at-home parent wasn't a choice for many of these men, just as it isn't a choice for many women.
If you'd asked me a couple of months ago when the pop cultural trend of dads as primary caregivers began, I might have guessed the 1970s (when we saw an increase in single moms on TV). Turns out I'd have been off by a couple of decades.
Like many people, I associate the 1950s with nuclear families like those on Leave it to Beaver, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and I Love Lucy. But the '50s also brought an avalanche of shows about single fathers, most of whom were widowers. The earliest example, My Little Margie, was about the relationship between a dad and his daughter, who was 21 but still lived at home (and would always be his little girl, etc).
With its over the top premise and mining of dementia for "comedy", I could never get into Raising Hope, but there's one thing I do appreciate about the sitcom: it's one of very few successful shows to feature a working-class single dad.
It centers on Jimmy Chance (Garret Dillahunt), who is 25 when he finds out that a former one-night stand has become a serial killer, been sentenced to death, and left him with sole custody of their baby girl, Hope. As he still lives at home, his haphazard family helps him out as best they can.
Similarly, in Ugly Betty, sisters Betty and Hilda Suarez both lived at home, where their dad Ignacio acted as a surrogate father to Hilda's adolescent son Justin, helping to take care of him both practically (including cooking and housework) and emotionally. These shows highlight the fact that for many working-class single parents, a support system which provides affordable childcare is essential. They also illustrate that single parents may have to move in (or never move out) from the family home for financial reasons, a fact rarely explored in discussions (or statistics) about homelessness.