When I last wrote about Mad Men two weeks ago I mentioned the affinity I had for Peggy, and a commenter noted that they'd never really understood Peggy's appeal, that she seemed entitled to them, and "embodies the kind of "feminism" that places the needs of white, cisgendered, straight, able bodied women at the center of the universe." As if on cue, this week Mad Men provided an episode in which proto-feminist Peggy is invited to comment directly on the civil rights movement and what she said was jarring.
Set up at a bar by her new friend Joyce (Zosia Mamet—yep, of those Mamets, hence the flat affect), Peggy got thrown for a loop when young (white) radical Abe (Charlie Hofheimer) decided to start lecturing her about the moral compromises of her career path. Pointing out that one of her clients was currently under a boycott for refusing to hire African Americans, Abe made fun of her work. "Civil rights isn't a situation to be fixed with some PR campaign," he said, snottily. Thus backed into a corner, Peggy noted, somewhat non sequitur-ishly, that she, as a woman, cannot do many of the things African Americans are also barred from doing. And then comes
the kicker. When Abe notes (incorrectly, both historically and in the show's own context) that there are no African American copywriters, Peggy says: "I'm sure they could have fought their way in like I did; believe me, nobody wanted me there." Abe snorts: "Alright Peggy, we'll have a, uh, civil rights march for women." Peggy picks up her purse.
Once, twice, three times a douchebag for Johns Hopkins University's student newspaper The News-Letter, who hit the student body with a double-whammy of sexist, rape-apologetic articles in the last two weeks.
Once upon a time, in an era that feminists called the "second wave," there was a group of women writers who thought that Western European fairy tales were pretty fucked up. Fascinated by this fucked-up-ness, the women decided to retell the stories in order to explore and combat the ancient -isms that lay deep, deep (actually not so deep) inside. Using fairy tales as their starting point, the women created awesome and super weird novels, poems, and short stories that would delight, perplex, and frustrate feminists forever after. In honor of the Make-Believe issue of Bitch (available now!), here are a few of my favorites.
We've got five new shows coming up with women on the creative team and I thought, as I wind up my time here, that I'd delve into them to see what we have to look forward to this fall/spring, and to see what kinds of women-led television make the brutal cuts of pilot season.
Two of them are romantic comedies. Two of them are cop dramas. One of them is a medical drama.
It's notable that these shows, for the most part, aren't being created by women writing about women's experiences. Evidently the networks feel that such a thing wouldn't be very interesting to members of the general public.
Boardwalk Empire, the new HBO series from a Sopranos alum that is probably best known to you for trumpeting its association with Martin Scorcese all around town, premiered Sunday night. I expect that the jury is going to be out in this show for some time. That's at least true for me. I've learned, through hard experience, not to judge these high-end cable shows based on their first hour. These things are slow burns, not forest fires; I actually can't think of too many of them that managed to get all their cards on the table in the premiere. When you have eleven or twelve hours to go, you usually lose much of the first episode to setup.
The show is set in 1920s Atlantic City, New Jersey, and centers around the life of Enoch "Nucky" Johnson (Steve Buscemi), a casino-owner gangster type. (The character is allegedly based on a real-life figure.) Prohibition is newly begun, and Nucky's already playing politics with the local women's temperance union, where he meets Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), a pregnant Irishwoman trapped in a bad marriage from which it seems inevitable that Nucky will liberate her. Meanwhile, his second-in-command, Jimmy (Michael Pitt), changed by the front lines of the Great War, is growing impatient with his income level and social status, and is eager to get scamming and killing, much to the comparatively laid-back Nucky's dismay. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service is beginning to watch the gangster activity in AC more closely, with Agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon) at the helm.
As even that preliminary list of actors should indicate, no expense has been spared as to casting the show, which is chock full of faces you'll recognize from other series, including Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire's quixotic Omar) and even Molly Parker (Deadwood's Alma Garret) in a framed photograph of Nucky's "dead" wife. The look of the show, though beautiful, is a little clean for the subject matter, all bright eyes and scrubbed faces and red lipstick, without a trace of grime or dirt. Even the eruptions of flesh and blood from the show's many gangster shootouts are clinical and clean in a way. That's probably just the Scorcese influence. And perhaps I've become too used to the sepia, nouveau-grime aesthetic of most of HBO's other period pieces like Carnivale and Deadwood.
Marketers are increasingly using Retro Sexism to sell products. This form of advertising uses irony and humour as a way to distance itself from the sexist and/or racist representations and stereotypes they perpetuate.
Retro Sexism (n.): Modern attitudes and behaviors that mimic or glorify sexist aspects of the past, often in an ironic way.
Happy Monday! I wanted to offer something a little light-hearted to start off the week, so I decided to dedicate this post to a few fierce fat female recording artists that have rocked my world and provided a counterpoint to how fat women are viewed in society. These women are all in control of their own image, their own unique styles, and have managed to find success in an industry that isn't all that friendly to non-Katy Perry looking women.
I think the best way to fight knee-jerk reactions to pop culture discussions, to resist the sense that one is being personally attacked, is to step outside the equation, and to step away from the keyboard to do some thinking. Remember that the writer probably doesn't know you, isn't thinking about you while writing the piece, and doesn't think that you are a bad person. The writer is just discussing something seen, an embedded message.
After all, you didn't create the piece of pop culture under discussion. You may be complicit in the social attitudes that it embodies, but that often happens on an unconscious level. You are not responsible for not seeing everything in all things, but you are responsible for seriously evaluating and considering critiques pointing out things you didn't see.
For ELLE magazine's 25th anniversary issue, they featured four different 25-year-old actresses on four different covers of the magazine. One of those actresses is Gabby Sidibe. This choice naturally brought out the fatphobes decrying her health and questioning her level of attractiveness before the cover even came out. Now that it's dropped, well, there's a lot for folks to talk about besides playing "guess her health status".
I've watched America's Next Top Model intermittently over the years. I can't really say why. I was never that interested in fashion magazines, which seemed to me to depict another planet altogether, accessible only to the very rich. I have, furthermore, never much understood the fascination with models. Understand that when I say that I am not trying to make any claims about the difficulty of the work they do - I don't "hate models" or anything so broad as that. It's just that they don't seem to hold for me the kind of visceral fascination they do for other people.
I admit I do have one philosophical objection to modeling. I simply do not know how we are going to build a world where everyone is valued if we keep insisting that no, really, some people are more valuable than others. Particularly if we do so on bases over which they have little individual control - such as being socially "attractive," meeting the critical mass of "pretty" that will get you on magazine covers and sigh-ingly acknowledged, by almost everyone, as "gorgeous." I don't see how that strain of the cultural conversation benefits anyone in the slightest.