WTH Femme Files: Mothers without men and movies without women

CC License_classic_film_WTHFemmeFiles1
From Flickr, used under Creative Commons attribution license. Flickr user Classic_Film is the owner of this image.

Most of us who are mothers have enjoyed a man, if only for a few minutes.

One of the things I do with my current man (he is worth it) is to (very occasionally) watch awful movies. The most recent? PACIFIC RIM. Really, Guillermo? My man said, “Yeah, he did it so he could get enough money to do something more interesting.” Somehow that doesn’t fly with me, even though it should: I wait tables so I can do something more interesting (write, read, grad school, general thinky awesomeness). I want artists who get paid livable sums of money, however, to be above all that.

The upsetting thing about PACIFIC RIM was not the poorly written screenplay, the wooden characters, or the insane, bullshit, lazy names for types of immense badass creature/robots. I mainly expect these things from CGI action apocalypse movies (I know, I know, there are one or two great ones, but pointing that out every time somebody mentions the general badness of the genre isn’t really doing anything to elevate our culture, is it?). The upsetting thing about PACIFIC RIM was that there was only ONE female character. Screen after screen of literal oceans of dudes. One of the halves of the Russian Jaeger team may have been a woman, but I couldn’t tell, and if she was, she got blown up sometime during act one.

Which leads me to the wonderful article by Geena Davis about making Hollywood less sexist. Take a minute and giver a read. You won’t be sorry. But in case you don’t have time, she suggests taking half of all male characters in any screenplay and making them women. No other changes, just played by a woman.

Which wasn’t actually where I intended to go next at all. I wanted to tell you about this NPR story I heard about Black Twitter that brought up a thing that makes me feel my privilege in a way that is, if more aware, certainly uncomfortable. Go listen to this NPR interview with Meredith Clark who’s writing her dissertation at UNC about Black Twitter. Or read the transcript. In the middle of a conversation about influential hashtags, specifically #solidarityisforwhitewomen, here’s the quotation that made me THINK: “#Solidarityisforwhitewomen when conversations about gender pay and the gap ignore white women earning higher wages than black, Latino, and native men.”

Yeah, howzabout that, anyhow? How can I help make solidarity for people of all colors? How can I be a better, more thoroughly informed ally? How can I do that without alienating good white male feminists? Or even just the white men I care about? Should I care if I alienate them?

Which leads me to this short French film called “Oppressed Majority where men are cast in typical women’s roles and women are cast as men–even pissing in alleys and running without shirts. The director is Elanore Pourriat. It’s only about five minutes long. If you’re like me, you’ll be all, Why did that make me sooo uncomfortable? The intro to the film is right–we stand for this very stuff every day when the roles are “traditional.”

Which makes me wonder why it does not make me uncomfortable that out of the thirteen short stories about motherhood I recently read (from a book called Stories of Motherhood) twelve had men who disappeared like the Russian Jaeger pilot, who were dead, or who were only in the stories peripherally, who the women in the stories seemed quite happy to be without? Of course, a short story is a different thing from a film, and in each piece, the absence of man/father worked to develop the conflict between mother and daughter (or son) and mother and motherhood. But why do women write stories about motherhood without men?

Which makes me wonder, too, why I tell other women I think they’re pretty when what I should say, and what is nearly always as or more true is, “I admire your mind. I am glad I know you.” Why do I tell my own daughter that she’s pretty more often than I tell her she’s smart? Why do I, sometimes thoughtlessly, passively participate in these age-old tropes, rhetorics, and massive piles of sexist bullshit that affect all of us women, the ones Justine Musk hints at when she describes the process of finding her Deep Yes in her TEDx Talk?

Any of you routinely getting your mind blown by your obsessions?

Anything to share or add?

Five Fabulous Memoirs by Women

How To Be a Woman How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran rocks.  The cover says, “The British version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants.” That is a lie. This book is at least seven times better than Bossypants. It is feminist and smart (not that Bossypants is not smart, it’s just not as substantive) and so, so funny. The gold, though, is at the end, when Moran talks with eloquence, heart, and genius about motherhood.

Orange New BlackOrange is the New Black by Piper Kerman is fantastic. It gave me a yearning to teach writing classes in women’s prisons. The best thing about this book, however, is not the writing. It’s the love and sensitivity with which Kerman renders this totally underrepresented American population: people, in fact women, in jail. It made me want to get involved.

I made one exception, but for the past year plus, I have only read books by women. Recently, VIDA, an organization that advocates for and tracks women’s literary success, celebrated five HUGE wins for women in literature during 2013.

book-looking-for-maryThe best-known work by Beverly Donfrio is Riding in Cars With Boys, which I also read, and her new book, Astonished, is near the top of my “to read” list. But Looking for Mary is this heart-wrenching, gorgeously historical, vulnerable, feminist work. Especially since I grew up with religion and have a lot of static about Biblical figures, and a lot of anger about the mythology. Looking for Mary showed me Mary as a feminist icon, as a symbol of motherhood and strength and an appealing mysticism.

surrendered childOne of the themes of the books I’ll continue to read over the next months, is motherhood. I am perplexed by my own relationship with motherhood (sometimes it is uncomfortable), and engrossed by other women’s relationships with their versions of motherhood. Therefore, Surrendered Child by Karen McElmurray, which is among the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, is appealing for literary and personal reasons. I’ve rarely read a book with such an intentional, belabored pace. In fact, I haven’t even finished reading it yet. I don’t want it to be over.

Boys of YouthFinally, The Boys of My Youth by JoAnn Beard is fantastic. It’s presented as individual essays, and they are mesmerizing. It was a useful book to read early in drafting my own memoir because Beard’s life, like mine, has been pretty regular–that is, the things that make me the kind of person who wants to write a memoir are fairly common: raised by Christians, single mother, etc. Beard had an alcoholic father and a shitty marriage.  The thing that makes the book worth reading is the telling, the introspection. Especially “The Fourth State of Matter,” which takes place during the shooting at Iowa University in 1991.

How about you? What is the best memoir by a woman you’ve read?

Open Letter to He Who Must Have the Last Word (In A Professional Context)

From Flickr user Northfielder

Dear He,

Please note the careful choice of pronoun.  I have never met a woman who is so enamored of delivering a bitter pill of haute vulgarisation to a poor, plebeian other.

I never met a woman who cradled her mons pubis while delivering her last word.  Who took such small-minded, bureaucratic joy in lording her position, her talents, her intellect.

Certainly such women exist, I am not saying that this is a uniquely male problem, I assert that it is a predominately male problem, that having the last word must be like the joy of release from orgasm, or from finding the perfect thing to complete a project, or giving an enthusiastically received gift.

It is, in our culture, a birthright.  Men pronounce.  Women do.

So especially, He, when  you are wrong, or when you encounter an other who is your intellectual equal, or equal in position, or perhaps simply arrogant, confident, or some other thing that only you and your kind are supposed to own, you come down with what shall henceforth be known as LastWorditis.

You do not approach the world with calm, open, curiousness.  You approach the world ready to hit it with something or penetrate it with something else.  You are so convinced, assured, cemented in your rightness that you will not step back for a moment and experience empathy.

You do not know how.  You never had to learn.

So you blast on, having rarely been called on to reconsider your rightness, or to think about it as a thing to earn with a quality of fact other than your penis. You do not think about who and what lay charred in your blast force wake.

And He, I must say that it is exhausting to do business with you. It often makes me hate you.

I am not hateful.  I love people.  I want to see the good in you, to enjoy working with you, to collaborate, to plan and do, to create things that aren’t babies together.  We can do that, you know.  All that needs to happen is for us to respect each other, and for you to remember that I am not for penetrating in literal or metaphorical terms.

Seeing the good or trying hard has landed me on the receiving end of LastWorditis. Often, I have replied with calm, reasonable, kind words only to be shouted back on myself.  To react by doubting myself, to strive to see myself as you do so that I may understand your point of view and work within it, or fix myself, or understand why it is you see me that way.  Because for me, being in the work world is not a given; it is a stroke of luck, a blessing of education and circumstances and doggedness.

And He, it was not until recently that I pledged to trust myself.  If it looks like a rat and smells like one, then it is, no matter what other un-ratlike qualities the rat may possess.  If a rat calls me a rat, I do not have to listen.  I am not a rat, and I know this about myself.

But there are lots of other not-rats who do believe you when you sneeze LastWord all over them.  That is why I am writing this letter.  To ask you to stop.  To give my fellow not-rats the ability to draw their own conclusions, and to give you the freedom of not knowing.  Not knowing is a joyful, liberating thing.

I may be physically weaker than you, and without the cultural-social gift of a penis, but I am still able to look at myself, to locate areas of opportunity, to see the ways in which I have been complicit in your LastWorditis.  But it feels truer.  And I’ve come to greater realizations without you, He, in my head.

Did you see the 30 Rock episode in which Liz Lemon gets Jack Donaghy in her head, and he tells her to break up with her boyfriend which she does not want to do, but does, then un-breaks up with him?  Despite the slapstick, that was a complex, layered metaphor for gender relations in modern society.

Take a lesson from Donaghy. He should’ve trusted Lemon.

You’re not helping.  It is not important to have the last word.  I know plenty of hes who do not need the last word, who are capable of collaboration, of admitting fault–occasionally–who value my mind and my ability to contribute.  If you’re a He, and you’re in my life now, this is probably true, or mostly true, of you.

But He, believe me when I tell you that I am finished nursing LastWorditis, and when you get LastWord, it’s because I simply do not care that you have it, because I am confident, arrogant, or some other thing that only you are supposed to be; not because you’re right.


An Independent Woman

Religions Disarm Women: Exhibit 1, Tom & Katie

from Flickr user Wamponi

I don’t really follow celebrity gossip.

But I’ve wondered what the hell was happening in Katie Holmes’s head when she married Tom Cruise.  His notorious religious zealotry would be enough to scare me away.  And the seventeen year age difference.  Sometimes I feel like being four years my partner’s junior is too much.

I used to work at a fancy restaurant that hosted the local Scientology clan, and those folks were SOOO cagey!  They closed the doors during their “meetings” (which appeared, from the window of the kitchen door through which I spied, to be fundraising sessions), wouldn’t even let us in to refill their coffees, and they were fastidious about collecting ALL of their documents and paperwork before leaving.  Which, if you’ve ever waited tables for business or church luncheons/dinners, you know is weird.  Typically, after those sorts of things, every surface is cluttered with piles of papers, folders, pamphlets, stickers, bookmarks, etc.

And I’ve always thought Tom Cruise was creepy, even when I was a kid, before I knew that there was such a thing as scientology.  In fact, my grandma was Christian Scientist, and for a long time, I thought that Scientology was the short version of Christian Scientist.

Maybe it’s his role in Magnolia that did it for me, and Katie Holmes’s role in Wonder Boys that made me feel like she’s a kindred spirit, but crazy lives in the eyes, and Cruise’s little ferret beads have always struck me as off.  Even in interviews, when he’s trying to be glib and good-natured, it seems like there’s a violent tide ebbing just below the veneer.

So over these years when I’ve thought about Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, I have pictured her, bruised below the neck and cowering under the stairs, moist eyes, praying that Suri doesn’t wake up. Or I have imagined her brainwashed, copying from L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction every day.

And then I read this article about how Christian women are sometimes convinced by emotionally or physically abusive men that God says to stay put, or they are self-imprisoned, they believe it is their duty to God to endure.  The piece is a book review of sorts.  But it’s frank and openly critical of that mindset, from the perspective of a Christian woman. Here’s a taste:

To begin with, the author assumes that only those husbands who abandon their faith become angry, bitter, and abusive — and she offers no help for women whose abusive husbands are fully committed Christians acting in accordance with patriarchal teachings derived from the bible; she quotes random bible verses out of context to convince abused women that they are safe from actual violent abuse so long as they remain close to God; she appears to believe a woman’s display of piety (praying out loud for her abuser and telling him that she is giving him over to the Lord, for example) is the way to truly intimidate her abusive husband and get him to back off; she advises victims not to “make the abuse worse” by reacting to their abusers’ anger (followed by the whiplash-inducing about-face when she admonishes victims to never allow anyone to convince you that the abuse is your fault); and to top it all off, the author encourages abuse victims to take charge of their lives by finding a hobby.

Laughable, isn’t it?

I have read, though I don’t recall where, perhaps on Facebook? that some women who wear burqas and participate in the other religiously mandated demurring view this as a feminist behavior.  And as a fair-minded feminist, I have to concede that it is their right to do that if it pleases them.  But I also have to wonder if they would feel the same if they could separate themselves from their contexts intellectually.  What mammal enjoys being caged?  Don’t we cage felons as a matter of punishment?  Don’t we cage people for lesser offenses than domestic violence, however it shapes itself? Don’t we make it insanely difficult for women to seek protection from physical and non-physical abuse for themselves and their children?  Isn’t there a kind of prevailing sense that “she deserved it”? What is a Burqa if it is not a cage?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how women remain at a disadvantage in most heterosexual love relationships.  Our men–the ones who are not thoughtful, who do not express and research feminist ideals as a matter of principle and awareness–are so culturally ingrained that their lives, work, preferences, goals have greater weight than ours; and more than that, though some men do bond with their children fully, women, by virtue of having carried and birthed our progeny, and by virtue of being culturally expected–and often desiring–to take a more active interest and role in our children’s lives remain indentured servants, relying on our partners to fill in the financial gaps, so that if we wish to flee, it is almost inconceivable.  We give up financial support, a partner in child care, our homes, sex.  Even rich women like Katie Holmes.

And so it strikes me as particularly insane that we women will imprison ourselves for religious reasons in addition to the cultural ones that many of us already fight (or embrace) on a daily basis.

Read this blog.  It’s terrifying, but I think that too often women put up with shitty behavior from their partners because they don’t leave physical marks.  Because we are taught from an early age that we are little more than accessories.  It is the exception for a woman to be both regular looking and successful.

My aunt stayed with us for a while when I was eight.  She and I shared a room and traded messages in a tiny mailbox.  It was cool.  As a kid, I had no idea what had happened, but she used to make me toast with butter all the way to the edges.  She had been sprung from her not-physically-abusive marriage by my dad.  He went and got her from this guy who’d beaten her up verbally to such an extent that she couldn’t swallow.  Her psychological damage had manifested physically.

I think the internet and television and the way our constant global access is shrinking the world is a good thing for women.  I applaud Katie for getting away from Tom and for fighting for custody.  I applaud her for seeing her way out of whatever extent to which she was beholden to the Scientology doctrine.

And I think that this global shrinking and the power of words and writing will ultimately disarm the patriarchy.  It will allow us to examine our own lives in light of other women’s, to find solidarity remotely, to work remotely for work-life balance, to, though there are feminists who have said very publicly recently that women can’thave it all.

[It’s not fair to suggest that Slaughter says women can’t have it all, she doesn’t say that.  She says women can’t have it all in the current paradigm.  She seems to harbor great hope that women of my generation and after will be able to reconfigure the way the world views women’s contributions, to redefine feminism & having it all.]

I’m reminded of my favorite scene from Mary Poppins and how ridiculous it is that this song–from a film in 1964–is still so relevant, more than 50 years later.

Solidarity, sisters.  Fuck the patriarchy.

Are The Mommy Wars Feminist?

From Flickr users Mike Licht and Nationscapital.com

It was Mother’s Day yesterday. My daughter gave me a mommy questionnaire that she filled out. My favorite question and answer was, “What was your mom before she had kids.” Child answered simply, “thin.” I laughed for an hour.

One of the troubles with having my relationship with ambition (a ton of it) and life (I’ve got a lot of shit to do, every day) is that my awareness of pop culture stuff is limited. I do not make time for current events as I should.  I only just learned about the asymmetrical hair cut and the Mommy Wars. At the advice of a trusted friend, I googled it. She called it an atrocity. She was right.

I am ashamed to admit that I made it into my twenties before I really understood that feminism is, indeed, relevant, important, useful, necessary. Part of what made me impatient with the paradigm when I first encountered it, was that second and third wave feminism seemed to be too much about whining and engaging in unproductive rhetoric. It also seemed to lack a clear, agreed-upon definition.  I still think it needs unity.

The Mommy Wars are a symptom of feminism being so widely misunderstood, even–or especially–by women. Because the Mommy Wars issues involve women and it’s been an occasion to talk, out loud, about working or staying home, in an election year, it’s being labeled a feminist issue, compared to feminist issues from the past, etc.

I was impressed by how all the different news sources I read: this, and this, and this, and this, and this (in which the first like five comments are all by men, which irritated me pretty tremendously) cited the most recent surge in the Mommy Wars as a–clearly under-considered, mistaken–comment by, ironically, a democratic PR person, who’s also a single mom, called Hillary Rosen.

I think it’s interesting that of the links above, the only person who noted that Rosen is herself a single mom was the self-professed “conservative” columnist. (Seriously, thanks Paul Begala, for the thoughtful and kind column.)

John Podhoretz, in the NY Post, said that stuff like Rosen’s comment about how Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life” is evidence that the War on Women conservatives currently wage is actually a war to protect gender roles. As much as I found his earlier comments in the piece about what feminism is and what women think to be ridiculous–after all, what can a man, an urban white man–really understand about feminism?,* I thought that last observation to be pretty spot on.

I think obliterating gender roles is where we need to focus, culturally, if we’re to make any further progress for women beyond pitting us against each other ideologically. Gender roles are an issue for men, too.

And, no. The Mommy Wars aren’t feminist. The debate between factions of women over which of their myriad options are better is the opposite of feminist. It’s like if peanut butter and jelly started fighting in a sandwich about which was better. It’s petty and unproductive and it’s a question that simply can’t be answered.  What the Mommy Wars do is shine a beacon on a deeper, feminist issue.

We women are individuals. We’re complicated. We need to be prized, respected, and honored regardless of the choices we make about our professions, and it’s pretty stupid that we also need to tell the world that. Culturally, men aren’t valued less if they choose to stay at home with their kids. We don’t value men who become lawyers over men who become taxi drivers. We herald them, regardless of their vocational choices, as engaging in something that’s in their nature: to pursue success and to provide for their families.

And certainly there are differing economic rewards and pursuant cultural consequences regarding manliness or perceived virility as a correlative with occupation, but those aren’t what I’m talking about here. I’m talking in terms of family–in terms of the Mommy Wars. Do men accuse each other of failing their gender if they choose to flip burgers over going to medical school? Or stay home with their kids over becoming a soccer star?


Do women?


Why? Because we are constantly told that we can’t be as valuable or as multi-talented or multi-interested as men, that our concerns and quests for self are “cute” and “nice.” We are told from birth that our true “place” is at home, and if it’s not at home, we’d better be either damn good or damn sexy, or better yet, both. By whom? Men! (and sometimes by each other, bur more on that in a moment) And those of us who choose to enter the working world as mothers do it from such an obscene place of disadvantage that we become insanely defensive about our progress, which we perceive as being enormous on our personal, culturally microscopic level.

The month I outsold my male colleagues at the Subaru dealership while taking all of my days off, I was elated. I felt ten feet tall. I was good at all of the parts of that job: I learned the hell out of the product, I was savvy with forms and computers, I had legible penmanship, I could write my own sales letters, I am well educated, I am personable, and I tell good jokes. And I was a single mom. The real kind, I didn’t get every other weekend and Wednesdays off being a mom. I didn’t and don’t get child support. I spent 100% of my time not at the dealership performing my momly duties and sleeping. The boys were pissed at me that March. They showed it in different ways, but they all upped their game.

See? I’m still defensive about it. I still feel the need to convince you that it’s possible for a woman to be good at doing something that has long been an male-dominated profession.

Why is it such a leap to imagine that women could be focused on success and providing for their families? I know those are the two things that I spend my days striving after.

For some of us, being at-home moms would be untenable. For others, it’s the only right choice. Some of us work at home so we can be reasonably present parents. And there are lots of factors at play in these choices. Some of us don’t have a choice. Some of us view our choice as a work in progress. Some of us made the choice and have been preparing for it for a dozen years, long before we have children.

The thing is, whatever our choice, we shouldn’t be criticized by our culture or by our fellow women.

We should look for ways to promote cultural celebration of these choices, and we should not relent in our quest to be privileged equally to men regardless of what we choose, regardless of whether we agree with each other or whether it’s the choice we’d make for ourselves.

Here’s what I mean:

If a woman wants to be a, for example, pro football player, she’s labeled a dyke, debated hotly on the six o’clock news, and once she’s “come to her senses” and left pro football to make babies, Lifetime will make a hugely sentimental film about her, emphasizing how being a “proper” woman is such a load better than the conflict she experienced on the field.

Women who break into “male” fields are held to much higher standards. We must know more, and be impeccable, and more energetic.

Books written by women–handling exactly the same subject matter as male authors–are handled differently by marketing departments, jacketed in such a way as to only appeal to women readers. If you doubt me, compare John Irving’s book covers to these by Margaret Atwood. Irving’s are pretty clean, pretty genderless.  Atwoods depict flowers and women.  And these aren’t even the highest contrast examples.  Watch Cathy Day’s blog for more on this. She’s the one who got me thinking about book marketing, who pointed it out to me.

Women readers are condescended to by each other in fiction they write, ostensibly for each other (I’m talking about my pet Romance Novels here). Whereas the few men who write romance are like princes at RWA’s conference, treated with kid gloves by editors, indulged in their flights of grammatical fancy.

Women who want to work want the message to be unilateral. We want all of the other women to work, so that our point has more power.  So of course it’s true that women who want to stay home want to criticize women who work as failures as mothers because motherhood is their professional capital.

Being a mom is freaking hard work no matter how you choose to do it.

And a woman’s choices about her family and how she chooses to be involved with it are between her and her family.  Not between Hillary Rosen and Ann Romney and everybody in America.  Why is this even a thing?

We women have a steep enough hill to climb culturally without in-fighting over whose hat is heavier.

What do you think, readers?  What do we do about mommy wars?  About fracturing the feminist cause with necessarily differing (and I would say, complementary) viewpoints?  How do we come together on this?  Acknowledge our differences and motor forth?

*Disclaimer: I know at least two white men who are keyed in to feminist issues and gender issues and are more feminist than most of the women I know, so this is not meant as a generalization toward men who’re holed up in academia getting their think on, it’s a generalization toward most other men).

Feminism Wow! A Great Week & Some Frank Dude Indictments.

Bitchin' Sweater. barb.howe from Flickr.

I’ve been a lot more feminist lately.  I’ve been pretty angry at men.  I think the impetus is all this hateful rhetoric about a woman’s right to choose that’s been aflame among the tea partying types.  That it’s even a question pisses me off and totally mystifies me.  Similar with homosexual marriage.  Why is it even a thing?  Live and let live.  Anybody should be able to marry anybody else, so long as it makes them happy and they’re not hurting anybody.

That anyone still thinks Dr. Nerdlove’s theory of Male Privilege is wrong,  is evidence of the hapless man brain having been influenced from birth by our largely misogynist culture.

I realized something about my young self today as I had a conversation I always wanted to have with my sisters (or that I always wanted some older, worldly woman to have with me) with a young woman.

I was able to tell her a thing I wish someone had told me, and while it’s crass, especially in junior high, it is absolutely true, and I am pretty sure almost any man would cop to it:

A dude will say just about anything if he thinks there’s even a remote chance that you’ll take off you clothes around him, hell, if he thinks he might get to palm your breast.  Over clothes.  So especially beware of platitudes without context.

Once upon a time, I had guilt about being a feminist.  In my very young youth (teenage years, when I was still pickled by the ideas of the Christians I’d been reared by), I would’ve actually blamed myself or other women for the misdeeds of a man.  If those women just loved him more, or gave him more sex, or trusted God more, or dressed less slutty, their man wouldn’t have had to hit them or go on a bender or beat their kids.

I’m overstating for effect, people.  I’ve never been that caliber of nitwit.  But thought things along those lines.

Here are two true things that occurred to me today:

1.  Christian mythology absolutely gives man carte blanche to blame women for all of his misdeeds and shortcomings.  “Really, God.  Eve did it.  Eve tempted me with the apple.  I’m powerless against her wiles.”

2.  That notion is so incredibly pervasive, that it stops men from dealing with the real reasons they do things.  “Wah wah wah, I’m an irresponsible drunk, but it’s not my fault because some girl I knocked up didn’t get an abortion like I told her to, and I just can’t live knowing there’s some little kid out there who doesn’t have my last name.”  But there’re clearly bigger problems than women for this penis holder.  What’s the source of his self loathing?  What would drive him to tie a noose?  In his last living breath, he would blame “that bitch.”  But what if he looked deeper into himself for the psychic answer to that question?  For the root of his misery that would drive him to slog off, a petulant ninny, when a woman he was only too happy to put his penis into had the nerve to choose not to abort, despite his whining and temper tantrums?

But two things happened on the internet this week that I feel particularly heartened and encouraged to be more aggressively feminist by.

Ashley Judd spoke out about how distasteful she finds the endless critique of her value as an object of desire to be.

Ms. Judd, though your rail wasn’t as eloquent as I wanted it to be (I wanted you to be Nobel bright. I’ll take 3.0 bright, though.), you said something that more people like you should say.  Sing it.

Donald Trump lobbied on behalf of a transgendered woman who wanted to be Miss Universe.

And Mr. Trump?  I’m a cynical man-hater this week, so I’m sure you did it for capitalist reasons, but f*cking yes!  Thank you!  I don’t get it, but women who want to be Miss Universe, regardless of whether they are biologically female or not, should ABSOLUTELY be allowed to.

That’s all I got for you peeps today.  I’m going to go the the Comic Con tomorrow and dig up some Bust worthy material.  Feminist Geek Journalism, here I come.

And finally, before I depart, thanks blog readers for making this one of the most successful blog weeks in the (short) history of my serious blogging.  Good times.  Good times.

Don’t forget, I’m on twitter @AprilLineWriter, and click “Like” over there on the April Line Writing Facebook Fan page.

Mad Men Vs. Walking Dead

Both are AMC shows.

Brad and I watched the first season of Walking Dead on the free trial we had of AMC during some Dish Network promo before we rented the rest from Netflix a few months later.

I’m kind of new to the Zombie genre, so maybe I’m just impressed because I’m newly exposed.  Probably not.  I studied the craft of the story in college.  I know tension, character development & plot when I see it.  These aspects to compelling narrative are universal.  Regardless of the medium.

I recognize mindless brain candy when I see it.  Law & Order Criminal Intent, all the casts, is my favorite way to shut off my mind & just kind of veg.  I see that it’s ostensibly the same show over and over again.  Some people read Romance Novels, I watch crime shows.

Mad Men is not brain candy. We’re about 2 episodes into the second season, but it’s not as compelling as it should be considering the cast, the show’s longevity.  The portion of it that I find to be the most interesting is the representation of women.  The AMC website for the show purports that the gender roles are “realistically represented.”

I’m not so sure.  I wasn’t alive during the 60s to be sure, but it seems to me that the show polarizes women too much.  I find Christina Hendricks’s character to be particularly puzzling and representative of a failure to give the same care to developing the character as is given to the gender tension she is meant to evince.

I mean, we know everything about Don Draper, from his birth to the present.  We understand where his principles and their foibles come from.  But Joan Harris, who’s in a similar position in her portion of the office is only portrayed as a woman who is only brassy and vulnerable about sex. There is some intriguing work there with showing that she is using sex to procure control that she only believes she has, but it’s too little.  I don’t care much because I don’t know why.  They totally dropped the ball on the lesbian roommate angle, and Joan Harris didn’t really even blink.  And while she wept when Mr. Sterling had his heart attack, it’s unclear whether she did so because she wasn’t called to the scene, or because she’s legitimately upset about the man.

And what about that little turd Pete Campbell?  The character is considerably more minor than Joan Harris, but he is infinitely better developed.  The women on this show seem only to exist at the office.  The men have home lives and conflicts and a place that is not Sterling Cooper.  Apparently Sterling Cooper is officially named Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce at some point in a later season.  Peggy Olson is the only character who has a life outside of the office, and that only because she has dipped a toe into the men’s world.  She had a baby which she gave up for adoption due to an office affair.  They didn’t show Peggy’s process over that, only that one moment she had a baby, the next she didn’t.

As you may know, the Walking Dead’s acclaimed writer/director, Frank Darabont, was canned by AMC because he refused to make better TV with less money.  Or some such struggle about which we will probably only ever read speculation from Hollywood journalists.

The thing about The Walking Dead is that it did so much more work with so much less time and many, many fewer words than Mad Men has done.

I suppose the Zombie Apocalypse is naturally much tenser than the 60s office and home world of Mad Men, but right up front we get these two men who are totally normal dudes, then a Rip Van Winkle moment when one of the two wake up after this character crystallizing accident to find the world has changed quite a bit.  Chasing his family, tired story, but every episode has a climactic moment.  With Mad Men, I sometimes feel like a season is just setting up some future climactic moment it’ll be impossible to adequately payoff.

Tired Story: Harried exec has selective extra marital love life, leaves harried wife home to manage solo.  Opportunistic idiots do short-sighted, mean things to each other, and make lewd comments every time a “skirt” is nearby.

Tired Story:  Zombie Apocalypse finds best friends at odds due to wife appropriation, and regular guy commits super-human acts of bravery with impeccible moral fortitude.

The hero & the anti-hero?  I mean, I understand that it’s probably a mistake to compare these two shows.  They’re not at all similar.  One is soap operaesque, the other is geek fodder.  Lucky for me, I live in a world that loves both things.

Despite all of my inner conflict about Mad Men, I expect that I’ll continue to watch, even if Brad jumps ship.  It’s kind of like Ally McBeal for me, in that I find myself asking all kinds of feminist questions and wondering how we think we’ve evolved.

If The Walking Dead manages a surprise 3rd season, I will be highly impressed and pleased, and am looking dearly forward to the 2nd season.  I wish cable was cheaper.