Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We do not embrace sexism (Marcia, Ann, Ava and C.I.)

Last week,  "Shut up, Richard Kim, it's a sexist ad,"  "Well the men have spoken . . ." and "I Hate The War" all took on Lena Dunham's idiotic and offensive get-out-the-vote commercial for the Barack Obama re-election campaign.

For some, the reaction has been, "Who?"

Not a surprise.  The 'creator' of Girls isn't a household name and the program's ratings are so bad they make NBC look like a high achiever.  Of the show's ten episodes, one broke a million viewers and one broke over a million (don't get excited, it was 1.09 million).  Ten episodes?

Yeah, that's all the genius has offered us.  She's a media sensation because she's trash and part of the trash culture.  Judd Apatow is her enabler, sponsor and the executive producer of her show.  Apatow's sexism in film after film -- yes, that does include Bridesmaids -- is well known.  But for those who don't follow trash comedy (Knocked Up, for example), we realize you might want some supporting evidence.  We thought of going to pop-culture watcher/obsesser Jezebel but their site is down except for updates due to the storm.

We found other women weighing and we nodded our heads in agreement with their on-the-spot criticism; however, we just felt it was missing something.  Then we came across a male fan of Apatow's work who wanted you to know that Judd The Redundant is not a sexist and the fan rejected Katherine Heigl's analysis of Judd's sexism.  What did she know anyway?  She was just the female lead in one of his films.  So here's fan boy explaining (he thinks) why Judd is not a sexist while revealing (he doesn't grasp) just how sexist Judd is:

But I take issue with what she said. One of the reasons that I found Knocked Up so compelling was that it didn't pander to the audience by playing into our expectations. I didn't think Heigl's Alison was a "bitch" -- like the leads of director Judd Apatow's last surprise hit comedy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, she is a complex character who defies easy, one-note characterization.

Judd is not a sexist, fan boy explains, because when he saw Knocked Up, he didn't think Heigl's character was a "bitch."  And by that (low) standard, fan boy judges the work.

So all of you writers and directors and combo platters who reduce women to stereotypes and keep them away from the action, remember, just don't make them come off a "bitch" and you won't have written a sexist character.

Lena is a 26-year-old 'writer' who felt compelled to write Girls because she looked at what was on television and saw that the real stories weren't being told.

Before you exclaim "Halleuja!" and think maybe she's doing an expose on what teachers have to go through these days in the teach-to-the-test scheme of things while even supposed friends of public education (that would include the Obama administration) push for vouchers and charter schools (ibid), hold off on the hosannas.

See, while you may look at TV and notice how few people of color there are, Lena looked and saw the 30-ish Sex and the The City gals and the teenish Gossip Girl crew and thought, "Well, gosh darn it, what about us White girls with rich parents who aren't teenagers and haven't yet had to grapple with crows feet or Sarah Jessica Parker's chin wart removal?"

And thus was born yet another show allegedly set in New York City which features yet another all White cast.  You know the thing is, when Friends started, it was called out for that.  By the time Sex and the City, Gossip Girl and now Girls come along, no one bothers to object.

The show revolves around 5 characters -- all White, 4 females, 1 male.

And we're sure that the spoiled, babies and pampered Whites in a pro-longed adolescence despite being in their 20s are thrilled to have a show about themselves.  They make a point to watch, after all, all almost one million of them.

It's really amazing that Barack's campaign hired this woman to do an ad at all.  Are they unaware of artists of color or artists who are inclusive?  Do they want to reward shows with no people of color in the cast?

If your show is set in Iowa, demographics of the state more than explain why you might have an all White cast.  (93% of Iowa is Anglo-White.) But when you're show is set in New York City?

We do realize that less than half of NYC is Anglo-White, right?  That a quarter is African-American and slightly over that is Latino or Latina?  That 11% are Asian-Americans?

Yet Lena's brought us a show revolving around 5 characters in NYC and all 5 are White.

Lena explained to Lesley Goldberg (Hollywood Reporter),  "Gossip Girl was teens duking it out on the Upper East Side and Sex and the City was women who figured out work and friends and now want to nail family life. There was this whole in between space that hadn't really been addressed."

What a pioneer.

The stories of the human equivalent of veal will be told and they will be told by superficial notionalist Lena Dunham who also told Goldberg,  "I revere that show [Sex and the City] just as much as any girl of my generation."

Revering Darren Starr's view of women?  In The Simpsons' "Half-Decent Proposal," Patty explains the TV show Nookie in New York to sister Marge, "It's a cable show about four single women who act like gay men."

There was a lot of truth in Patty's critique.

 So that this show would be revered is rather strange.  That it would be 'revered' by a woman, a college graduate bringing in big bucks, who refers to herself as a "girl" may explain the stupidity.

Sex and the City was not about feminism.  It was about shopping, it was about sleeping around, it was about drinking, it was about many things.  It was not about feminism.

And while an actress with the show did come out -- after the series ceased production -- as a bi-sexual, lesbians on the show were always treated as a joke (most obviously in Samantha's brief affair with Sonia Braga's character but also in Charlotte's attempt to On The Road with Charles Kuralt-it with a group of lesbians).

 Maybe that homophobia explains why Lena made a get-out-the-vote commercial targeting young women that made a point to exclude lesbians?

Lena's sexist premise is that voting is like sex.

Let's correct her sad impression, all four of us have sex regularly.  Not just once every four years or every two if you toss in mid-term elections.

If Lena's premise was accurate, then she did a lousy job.

Any feminist talking male-female sex today to a young woman who didn't know anything about it would bring up the importance of protection, would explain the risks of AIDS and STDs.  Pregnancy would be addressed as well.

But for Lena, voting was male-female sex with no strings, no obligations and no fears of pregnancy.  She and Hugh Hefner share a great deal in common.  And to clarify for Lena, he's not  a feminist either.

Females are sexualized enough in our society.  That's women, that's girls.  That's toddlers.  WHy the hell would a woman decide that the way to get women to participate in voting was to tell her it was like sex?

Not only did she liken it to sex and not only to male-female only, but she likened it to tepid sex.  It was so tepid that "vanilla" doesn't begin to describe it.

In fact, watching the commercial, we were left to wonder if Lena is a virgin or a prude.

Either would explain her commercial which plays like overcompensation of something.

Some have insisted that criticism of Lena has only come from the right-wing.

We're four feminists who are pro-choice and wish NOW didn't cave and cater to a masculine desire for female surrender.  We wish NOW today had a little of Molly Yard's fighting spirit.

So try another tactic.

And a few have.

An e-mail insisted that we only called out Lena because she endorsed Barack.


Have you seen this video?

It's been out for over sixteen days.  It's Kerry Washington, Eva Longoria and Scarlett Johansson getting out the vote for Barack Obama.

Check our archives for even one sentence when we called these three women out for the video?

We never did.

We happen to disagree with their conclusion that Barack is good for reproductive rights.   Our take is similar to Samantha Goldman (World Can't Wait):

In reality however there is no option within the electoral process for women. Our basic rights to control our bodies, or not to be blamed and shamed is not up for a vote. Despite what Obama supporters would like us to believe, these past four years have been a horror and have shown a dangerous trajectory. It is only through this overall context of the War on Women that the impact of these comments becomes starkly clear. State legislation aimed at limiting birth control and abortion has been proposed and enacted at unprecedented rates. The legislation that has passed includes but is not limited to: state sanctioned rape through vaginal ultrasounds, anti-science mandatory counseling prior to abortion, increased waiting periods for abortion, and gestational limitations. An analysis by the Guttmacher Institute found that 2011 saw the most restrictions on abortions passed through state legislatures ever: 135 anti-women laws were enacted.

That's our opinion.  We weren't bothered by the opinion of Eva Longoria, Scarlett Johansson and Kerry Washington. And we were grateful that they treated women (the target audience for that video) as thinking human beings and talked about actual issues.

Scarlett, Kerry and Eva are actresses.  They play varieties of roles.  Some of those roles require them to come off sexy.  They can do that very convincingly.

But they didn't go there for a get-out-the-vote commercial.

They didn't have to use sex as a weapon because they trusted that women are smart enough to know their own bodies and to know what their rights are and need to be.

Again, we disagree with the three that Barack's going to do anything to help reproductive rights.

But grown ups can disagree.

We applaud the three women for treating women with respect, the way they would want to be treated.

Lena thinks she's so much better than women.  Lena thinks she needs to smut it up, to tart it up, as though women are so stupid that if we're not playing Mystery Date Extended Version, we're going to lose interest because our female brains just aren't capable of actual thought.

Lena was called out because her commercial was insulting.  She was also called out because her art is restrictive, sexist and (to put it mildly) White-centric.

But the fact that she endorsed Barack Obama had nothing to do with it.  If she'd made that commercial for Mitt Romney, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Virgil Goode, Jerry White, Rocky Anderson or whomever we would have called it out.

That's because the commercial discredits women.  It operates on the same principle and belief that led observers to proclaim that George H.W. Bush picking Dan Quayle as his running mate was a smart move: His good looks would capture women voters.

Lena's commercial is as insulting as the notion that the female brain is just swayed by man-pretty, that what we are is biology and nothing more.



1)  Ann is a Green and will be voting for Jill Stein.  Marcia is a Democrat who will not vote for Barack and who has gotten tired of the "die" and "you bitch" and all the other attacks men have been making on actress Stacey Dash (for endorsing Mitt Romney) including calling Stacey the n-word.  As a result of the attacks on Stacey, of the threats, of the repeated use of the n-word, Marcia's voting for Mitt Romney and showing solidarity with Stacey DashAva and C.I. are voting in the November election; however, they are not voting for president.  They do not feel that any candidate running for that office earned their vote.

2) Thank you to Elaine.  We attempted to bring her in as a co-writer.  She said no.  But she offered input, advice and read several drafts of this tonight.  That should earn her a co-writing credit alone. She was very much a part of the process; however, she didn't want to claim credit so we will just publicly thank her.