Tag: women

The Wicked Stepmother

Missy

As you all know I’m a big Survivor fan and part of the reason I love the show is while it is fabricated and packaged as entertainment, it is also an interesting window into human nature.  We see the way people behave when eating 100 calories a day, pushed to extremes and how they interact when forced to make choices that service themselves and the group.  That is fascinating to me.  The power structures, social customs, group theory and patterns that develop are interesting and the fact that every winner has been different is a testament to the show.  There is no one way to guarantee a win because what is effective in a game amongst one group may not be in another.

For me season 29 was a disappointment.  This is partly because I loved the previous season 28 so much.  We had so many dynamic personalities in Cagayan that made it fascinating (and hilarious) to watch.  This season San Juan Del Sur I never bonded with anyone (or hated anyone).

But it had its appeal and curiosity factor as every season does.  And one of the interesting threads was a mother daughter pair named Missy and Baylor.  Missy was announced on the show in her introduction that she had been married and divorced 3 times.  I’m not sure why this was such a big deal?  Surely there have been Survivor men who have been married that many times and it was never brought up?

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From the beginning it seemed like the show was disdainful of Missy for her marriages even though I didn’t really see her doing much worthy of that disdain.  Certainly in the world of Survivor villains she was very thin gruel (and if they had the footage we would have seen it!).  She did protect her daughter (who I also didn’t ever see proof that she was that bad) but I didn’t think much more than any other person protected their loved one in the game.

She may have been a real jerk but this was not proven in the footage I saw, even the extended footage outside of the show.  There was really only one spat Missy had with Reed where he called Baylor a brat and there was a brief exchange. But again in the world of Survivor it was nothing. I could probably think of about 100 players who have been more obnoxious and villainous in their seasons.

The reason I bring all this up is in the finale Reed, a Broadway actor, got up in his jury speech and obliterated Missy as not only a bad mother but ‘a wicked stepmother’.  Here’s the speech:

So he defines the wicked stepmother as ‘the eccentric woman who comes in and makes demands on everyone for the things to which she feels so entitled”.  Again, that may have been Missy but it was not shown in the edit of the show and I believe if it entitled behavior was there it would have been shown.

Missy was the one who made the rice and they had to barter to get more (a Survivor first) but Reed was a beneficiary of more rice so you think he would be grateful for that?  So she didn’t like her daughter being called a brat on national tv?  That makes her a wicked stepmother.  Again, in the world of Survivor villains she was so not wicked.  For instance, Kass from Cagayan was way more critical, entitled, condescending and judgmental.

It really bothered me to see a woman criticized for playing the exact same game that many men have played, especially after she refused to give up after an ankle injury.  You think the show would have treated her as a hero (they don’t have control over jury speeches but still the tone the last 3 episodes was very Missy critical and yet I never was convinced she was doing anything that bad).

The reason why I mention all of this (because I know most of you don’t watch the show) is because I think it is emblematic of our societies strange view of maternal instinct, motherhood, femininity and womanhood.

survivor-caramoan-dawn-meehanThis is not the first time a Survivor Mom has been raked over the coals.  The worst time was Dawn Mehan in Survivor Carmoan who was forced to take out her dental implants and apologize to a fellow contestant (something men who have backstabbed people have never been asked to do).  People were very tough on Dawn because they felt she had betrayed them.  She was the Mother on the island and then had used that relationship to manipulate her own spot in the game.

Again if a Father figure had done the same thing like a Bob Crowley or Tom Westman it would be seen as great game play but not for a mother. We just expect mothers and ‘mother figures’ to behave in a particular way, which is decidedly unfair as all women are not the same and not all maternal instinct manifests itself in the same way.

Dawn was also very emotional which did not help her game but I kind of get that too.I would probably also be very emotional if I was hungry, tired and away from loved ones. I think her emotional state only made people hate her more.  Missy showed that even if Dawn had not been a cry baby she would still have been looked at as a bad mother for simply playing the game as the ‘mother figure’. Dawn received incredible backlash after the season including death threats and the most vile of insults forcing her to take down her social media all together. Other people have played the game poorly and not received such backlash but other people were not a mother of 6 children. It’s just a different playing field.

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Over at Entertainment Weekly Melissa Maerz has a great article called ‘Survivor’: Why that ‘wicked stepmother’ speech enraged me’. 

She says:

” I have no beef with mothers defining themselves as mothers. I’m a mother, too, and proud of it. It’s the question of who is branding women that way, and why, that makes me uneasy”

And then she says

“the term is “rife with contradictions”: “On TV and in movies and in modern fiction, mothers are frequently portrayed as protective yet focused on the trivial, wise yet neurotic, sexy yet sexless, monumentally important but deeply silly,” she writes. Worse yet, we villainize mothers for failing to live up to the standards set by the latter-day Donna Reeds we see on screen, even though those contradictions make those standards impossible.

Mothers can be anything, we’re told, as long as they’re both that thing and its opposite, and as long they’re not any one thing too much

Going back to the broader sociological discussion (again why I like Survivor) do we put Mothers and motherhood on too high a pedestal?  Do we expect women to be perfect and to never be self-serving or make mistakes? I kind of think we might. Most of us would have a much harder time forgiving an insult from a mother than a father.  Why? I guess because our fathers typically don’t raise us and teach us what is right and wrong (even in extreme patriarchal societies Mothers do most of the teaching and caring of children).

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Perhaps because Mothers are our consolation and sanctuary from the world they are put on the pedestal, almost more a saintly role intervening in our behalf against the evils that surround us than a real person?  I guess in some ways that is a good thing but it seems part of growing up is seeing your parents as flawed creatures who did their best but made mistakes too.  I think that’s why Reed’s speech felt so off-putting and immature to some of us. She was doing the best she could under tough circumstances but clearly she was not the motherly figure he expected her to be.

It was interesting in exit interviews yesterday Baylor said she felt her Mom was bullied. She said normally she was the one going to her Mom for comfort from the meanness of the world but this time it was her Mother receiving it and her doing the comforting.  In that respect perhaps it was a healthy experience for her. Again helping her see her Mom as a real person and not just her role as a mother.

I guess I get annoyed when anyone tries to put me in a mold and I feel that is what happened here.  Missy did not fit the mold of what Reed and others see as a ‘mother’ so that made her wicked despite showing little to no actual villainous behavior.

If I have children or participate in child rearing activities I do not want to be pressured to behave in some socially acceptable way.  I want to be me and the best mother I can be for me. Luckily I do not have people voting on my mothering like Missy did but it makes me sad we are so closeminded in 2014 in what behaviors are befitting a woman and womanhood.

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Wasn’t the whole point of feminism to allow women to be themselves, to be whatever they wanted to be? Why does that not include a wide spectrum of mothering styles and personalities? Why must we have one way and if you are different you are wicked and wrong? I guess that’s what bothered me the most about Reed’s speech it said to me ‘there is only one way for a mother to behave and you did not act as you should’.

Melissa Maerz ends her article with a challenge to Survivor and to all of us to throw off the Motherly stereotypes and see people for who they are not an idealized vision of who the perfect mother should be:

“Maybe it’s not Survivor‘s fault that Reed has such a twisted view of motherhood. Even so, it’s time for the show to stop devoting so much airtime—including a big chunk of the reunion—to rehashing unfair stereotypes. And it’s time for Survivor‘s host, Jeff Probst, to stop defending them…

Just because she has a daughter doesn’t mean that Missy has to be a great role model in the game—though, in my mind, she is one.”

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I couldn’t agree more. In a boring season she was a fighter and certainly deserved better than to be attacked and lambasted as a villain for her best efforts to win a game.  It just shows how much more work we have to do to break down gender stereotypes and accept people as people not classifications. It will never go away completely but we can do better.  We must do better.

(At least it is good to see many in the cast come to Missy’s defense.  Reed was trying to perform to the TV audience and was probably purposefully dramatic and over-the-top but it certainly didn’t win him any points in my book but I am not a reality tv producer looking for drama…)

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An Original Expression of Faith

Back when the movement of feminists within the Mormon church started (ala pants protest) I had a bad feeling about it. I chose to show my support for people, not protests in my own way. My opinion on today’s events is basically what it was when I wrote this post.
I have not commented on the recent hoopla because I felt like I couldn’t add anything new to the discussion. I’ve written a number of posts on the blog about being a Mormon woman and I’d love for any of you to read them. However, I felt reposting this said everything I wanted to say.
There is nothing more important to me than my faith. It is the anchor of my life and I know it is where I am supposed to spend my life engaged in it’s service.   Every time I read it, I feel anew that the  Book of Mormon is true. I am a daughter of God with a unique mission and gifts. It is not my place to judge anyone else for their choices and I wish all peace and comfort.  God bless you all.

Smilingldsgirl's Weblog

“The number of people who subscribe to these beliefs and values is dwindling, but you and I remain true. We have covenanted with the Savior to represent Him...

We must be bold in our declarations and testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ. We want others to know that we believe He is the central figure in all human history. His life and teachings are the heart of the Bible and the other books we consider to be holy scriptures. The Old Testament sets the stage for Christ’s mortal ministry. The New Testament describes His mortal ministry.

The Book of Mormon gives us a second witness of His mortal ministry. He came to earth to declare His gospel as a foundation for all mankind so that all of God’s children could learn about Him and His teachings. He then gave His life in order to be our Savior and…

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Feminist Fantasies

women actresses

So yes it’s another one of my feminism posts but it’s late at night and I feel like writing about something so why not! Over the weekend I was talking with my sister about her women’s studies classes and it got me thinking about the differences between the ideal woman of her era and of mine.

When I was in college we talked about a cycle of female imagery that we saw in the 40’s and 50’s. From Rosy the Riveter of WWII to the June Cleavers and Donna Reeds of the 50s.

I particularly remember analyzing I Love Lucy and how the working woman of the war had been turned into a silly, foolish, klutz always needing to be rescued and scolded by her husband (btw I think some of the episodes are very funny but that does tend to be the theme- Lucy get’s in trouble, Ricky groans and then saves the day)

I remember thinking that such a cycle was an oddity of the past and surely wouldn’t be seen again in my enlightened future.  Little did I know that I had already seen it in the change from the 80s to the 90s.

Then we have seen it change again in 2000’s and 2010s

See if you recognize them and if my descriptions ring true.

Feminist Fantasies- What I mean by that is the kind of woman that is put out as the ideal or ultimate example of womanhood.

1980’s feminist fantasy-

Well, the formation of the 80s ideal really started in 1978 with films like An Unmarried Woman with Jill Clayburgh and then in 1979 Kramer vs Kramer with Meryl Streep.  Both movies are about women dealing with divorce- one forced upon her, another by her abandonment of family.

While Streep never seems quite happy after leaving her family in KvsK, Clayburgh is happier, and by the end of the film grateful for her husband’s cheating ways. She’s liberated and free to experience all the new things suburbia and housewife life could have never taught her.

So the fantasy of the free woman starts…

Then the next decade you had women “learning” all kinds of things from divorce or not marrying.  Working Girl, 9 to 5, Dirty Dancing, Flashdance, Broadcast News, When Harry Met Sally all have women that rebel what’s expected of them, are independent and strong. Even if they found love it was a very ‘don’t put me in a corner’ kind of love- no rescuing required.

On television we saw young women living together (The Facts of Life) and old women living together (The Golden Girls).  There were also women cops, attorneys, executives and even the mothers were kind of tough girls (Growing Pains, Family Ties).  Even the cartoons of the 80s featured independent women.  I mean Smurfette is the only woman of her species…

So then the 90s

The fantasy woman of the 90s technically started in the late 80s and it is what I call the ‘perfectly balanced. I can do everything woman’. No person exemplified this more than Clair Huxtible from the Cosby Show.  I realize the show ended in 1992 but I still think it influenced that generation of girls more than the 80s.

Clair was a fantasy woman for any era.  A lawyer married to a doctor with 5 kids in a seemingly perfect brownstone neighborhood of Brooklyn.  Never once did the show discuss the problems such a lifestyle would face- daycare, family abandonment issues, latch key kids etc.

They got around a lot of it by having Cliff’s office at their house but the idea that someone like Clair wouldn’t have a nanny was a true fantasy.   Who needs a nanny when the modern woman can balance home, work, life, community so well?  Sigh…

Another great example of the 90s superwoman is the movie Baby Boom.  It’s a charming movie but the ultimate in feminine fantasy.  Diane Keaton plays a busy career woman who literally scoffs at the notion of home and family creeping into her work.  Then surprise her distant cousin dies and gives her a baby as an inheritance.

Now the workaholic must allow a baby into her busy schedule.  At first she’s overwhelmed but eventually (spoiler) she quits her job, moves to Vermont, dates a hunky vet and starts a gourmet baby food company that her former employer ends up offering a bid on which she turns down so she can run her little company and take care of her baby.

What I think is amazing about this movie is there is no even semblance of ‘let’s try to make my old world work with this new world of family’-a dynamic you’d have seen in the 80s.  In the 90s, it was this illusion if you retooled things and moved them around you could balance everything- even dating the hunky vet… (Murphy Brown would be a TV example of a Baby Boom type story).

Then we get the 2000’s.   I was already in college at this point so most of my female life fantasies had been fully entrenched by that point but there was definitely a shift.  The independent power woman of the 80s, and the perfect balancer of the 90s gave way to a dichotomy of women on one end of the spectrum or another.   The fantasy woman of the 2000’s was either a heroine or a villain.

Villains you ask?  What I mean is someone we might have lauded in the 80s as ambitious and accomplished became an ice queen who never took time for life.  Nowhere is this more true than in 2006’s Devil Wears Prada- a favorite movie of mine.

The career and image obsessed Meryl Streep (twice on this list. I guess she’s just an all around fantasy woman!) doesn’t have time to even pick out Christmas presents for her kids or have a stable relationship within home or the work environment.

In one of their first interactions Streep’s character Miranda gives a list of things for Emily to do.  It is remarkable how this same list would have been seen as great in the 80s and 90s but was definitely the sign of a witch here:

“Details of your incompetence do not interest me. Tell Simone I’m not going to approve that girl that she sent me for the Brazilian layout….Yes to Michael Kors’ party…Call Natalie at Glorious Foods and tell her no for the 40th time. No! I don’t want dacquoise. I want tortes filled with warm rhubarb compote. Then call my ex-husband and remind him that the parent-teacher conference is at Dalton tonight. Then call my husband, ask him to meet me for dinner at that place I went to with Massimo”

Perhaps it is an improvement that such multitasking is even acknowledged as opposed to Clair Huxtible it being all tucked under the table?  And I must admit I relate to this movie because when it came out in 2006 I totally had a Miranda boss who made my life miserable.  What can I say- sometimes people live up to the female fantasies of their era.

At the same time you had the ambitious ice queens of the 00’s you had the ‘desperate to be married’ and be loved group of women (like I said a dichotomy).  Every movie starlet of this era played the part of ‘I can’t get a date to save my life and all I really want to do is get married but I have to work’.  JLo, Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Hiegel, Sandra Bullock to name a few.

The ultimate example of this type of needy, desperate woman is in JLo’s The Wedding Planner where her lonely character has to be rescued from a runaway dumpster (you read right) by the hunky doctor (quite the comparison to Baby Boom…).  She then sits and plans his wedding to another woman as the chemistry percolates.  (huge hit I might remind you).

The description on Imdb says a lot about this end of the fantasy woman of 00s. “Mary Fiore is the wedding planner. She’s ambitious, hard-working, extremely organized, and she knows exactly what to do and say to make any wedding a spectacular event. But when Mary falls (literally) for a handsome doctor…or will Mary finally get to be the bride herself? When it comes to love, you can never plan what’s going to happen.”

Some of these desperate women were actually quite likable and funny because let’s be honest those women exist and there will always be cream in any trend.  Bridget Jones for one was just witty enough to make it work (and the fact it is based on one of the best books ever written Pride and Prejudice helped).

2010-present

So, what’s the fantasy woman now?  What is the image none of us can live up to?  I would say we have abandoned the desperate woman rom com (literally only 2 released last year)and embraced the tough, grizzled warrior woman (Hunger Games, Divergent, even Snow White is a warrior).  You also have the crass, grizzled, foul-mouthed comedic female characters such as in Bridesmaids.
Even Bella was turned into a warrior at the end of the Twilight movies!

That or we have reverted back to the more submissive roles of the 50s (again we are talking about media here).  You have Bella needing to be rescued at every turn and the women on Mad Men falling sway to the alpha males in their lives (I realize that show is set in the 60s but it still can be emblematic of a type of current fantasy).

It’s like the idea of being objectified for sex is suddenly a desirable thing. (The Mad Men website literally has a quiz ‘which of Don’s women are you’?  Not which character on the show but Don’s women)

The women on Mad Men are also kind of a tough talking and world-weary type you see a lot lately. I even read an article the other day about how the CDC did a study and that women report being more exhausted on a regular basis than men.  (Duh!).  To me that is interesting when you think of the cycle of women.  Are we trying too hard to be the warriors?

Clair Huxtible was tired once and Cliff took her to a hotel for a night and then she was fine.  In 2010’s even in our fantasies the women are tired from all the fighting, and warrioring they do.  Interesting.  (I mean can you imagine Miranda Priestly admitting she was tired?  No way!).

The warrior woman also demonstrates an undercurrent of boldness and leadership while being an inherent part of a movement or team.  Part of that is probably due to social media and the dichotomy it gives women between isolation and togetherness.  So, the ideal woman is the warrior with a dash of fatigue and dependence thrown in.

What do you think about the ideal or fantasy woman throughout the years? What have been some that have tantalized you or perhaps made you work harder (fantasies are not always negative)? What do you think are current trends? What women do you wish you could be more like? Or am I totally off on the idea of a fantasy woman changing in different eras?

Even minutes after writing the post I have thought of many other women roles and parts I could have mentioned.  What women came to mind as you were reading my post?

Nanowrimo Day 9- Girl Tax

WritingGirl.MR_Before I start.  We got the 300th follower on the blog today.  It is very exciting!  Thank you to everyone that reads.  Please don’t forget to comment and add into the discussion which I try to start.  I love my readers!

So today I did the Nanothon which is a day of writing.  After I got back from volleyball I wrote for 5-6 hours straight and got over 5k added to the story.  I have had repeated requests on twitter and this blog to share a bit of what I am writing.  I am hesitant to do so because I’m not 100% in love with my story.  Plus it is very, very rough (how can something you write in 30 days be anything but rough?)

But I’ve gotten enough requests that here is a section.  We are introducing the single character who grew up with a single Mom who felt that romance was a fairy tale and that life was going to be hard so you better be prepared.

She told her daughter about something called ‘The Girl Tax’.  This meant that any woman was going to have to work twice as hard as a man for success  because they are a woman.  She wants her daughter to prepare for the hard work and to not expect anything in life to be handed to her, especially a big ring on her finger.

I feel like there is potential in this dynamic.  I know people who feel there is a ‘girl tax’ or at least there certainly was and I can picture a weary single mom giving such advice to her only daughter.  Like I said, this is just my initial thoughts so don’t be too tough on it but the concept for a character is there.  Enjoy and I’ll keep sharing with you!

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Girl Tax-

This wasn’t the way life was supposed to turn out.  Growing up in a home with a single Mom Marnie knew that as a woman she would probably have to make her own way in the world. In fact, she hadn’t spent much time with men.  Aside from Becca’s husband she didn’t know her father and never bonded with male teachers or neighbors.  They were like a foreign oddity.

Her mother hadn’t helped with this either.  She would start her speeches with a give away about ‘saying I’m sure you will meet someone great who will love you but you need to make sure you are protected and can stand on your own.  A few people are happy  with men but most of us get a harder handout in life.

She would always end her speeches saying ‘nobody is going to hand you anything.  You better be ready to pay the girl tax”

“The girl tax?” marnie would ask.

“Yes, any woman is going to have to work twice as hard for everything as a man and don’t trust a man anyway.  They have the luxury of a world that expects them to lie and cheat and be successful.  It’s a man’s way in this world and life will not give you any favors” she says with more than a hint of bitterness.  It had been a hard life.

Marnie had seen her mother go through men like candy and a few of them were great.  There was one named Randy who would give her candy and take her to the movies.  Unfortunately he only stayed around for a couple of months.  Another nice one was named Sam who showed her how to bake bread.

It was amazing to see the yeast bubble and then punch down the dough as it blew up like a balloon.  The smells while it was baking was intoxicating and there is nothing better than hot bread with butter and honey.

Sometimes the speech would varied with men being “scumbags” and “disapointments” depending on the romantic entanglement of the moment.   That was why Marnie had moved so much.  Different men with all the same outstanding character traits of laziness and apathy.  Luckily none of them had hurt her but she couldn’t say the same for her mother.

Really the only constant was the playhouse her friend Becca and her shared at a field behind their homes (former home for Marnie but she was close).  It was beautiful, quiet and perfect.  This was the type of home she wanted.

One thing is for sure she would have a different life than her mother.  She wanted a career where she could support herself, a husband who loved her and kids that knew they were protected and supported.

She wanted love from more than just a mother who took care of her, fed and bathed her.  She knew that her mother loved her as much as she could but she also knew that she resented her for the life she could have led.  A life without a little girl to tie her down.

High school was the worst time of all.  She didn’t fit in with any of the clicks and all of the classes seemed so boring.  She wanted to be active, and busy not sticking her nose in a book.  That wasn’t the life that would work for her.  Fortunately she had her best friend Becca who stood by her no matter how many ear piercing or nose rings she got .  She had even thought about getting a tattoo at one point but Becca had talked her out of it.

Thank goodness for that because she’d still have a four leaf clover on her arm from a guy named Mike that she thought was her lucky charm.   For that act alone Becca was a lifetime friend but as long as she had been alive she had known that she had a friend in Becca.

So off to college she’d gone and so had Becca.  They spent every minute together but the boys were more taken with Becca than Marnie.  It was unclear exactly why but it wasn’t long before Becca was pairing up on dates with different men and eventually one stuck named Scott.  He was a handsome man with dreams of a career in the army.

They would excitedly tell the story to anyone who would listen about meeting at the ROTC on campus and how Becca helped him register for class and how she had sworn off dating.  For some reason that whole sworn off dating thing worked better for Becca than it ever had for Marnie.  In fact, dating at all wasn’t her thing.  She couldn’t figure it out.

“A man in uniform” she remembered Becca saying with a sigh.   “That is the life”

Now a marriage and 4 kids later Marnie’s best friend seemed to have gotten everything in life.  A handsome husband, beautiful kids and a house in the suburbs and what did Marnie have to show for her life?

She had gone into hospitality and then on to the culinary institute to become a chef.  Food had always been a fascinating thing for her and was a way she could make her mother happy on her long days of working in a factory making wheel barings  or waiting tables.  Food was love and she learned early h ow to make stews, sauces and pastries.  A specialty of hers is called Indian fry bread and it is fried dough that puffs up into a cloud and covered with powdered sugar.  Marnie and her mother would make it and get powdered sugar all over their noses and take photos of their sugar whiskers.

Sadly her mother was now gone.  She’d worked hard till the end and had a stroke 2 years ago.  Becca had been there for Marnie but she still felt so alone.  She hadn’t been able to give her Mother any grandbabies or show her what a great life she had gotten for herself.

Chick Flicks and Lit

Must admit the feminist in me has never liked either the term ‘chick lit’ or ‘chick flicks’ but I’m afraid ‘Books and Movies that Appeal to Women more than Men’ is a little heavy handed for a blog title (although it could make a good phd thesis… 😉 ).  Women clearly like a broard range of movies and books, but there are certainly a set that are marketed to the female sex more and usually they find an audience (chicken and egg thing.  Do we make chick flicks because chicks want them or do chicks watch chick flicks because they are made? Another phd topic 🙂 )

Unfortunately, most of this genre are not particularly  worthy or flattering of the genre.  In fact, more often than not they are clearly made or written by men (edited by men, directed by men etc).  I find it fascinating that since losing the divine Norah Ephron in 2012 the romantic comedy genre has practically ceased to exist.  This year by my recollection there have been 3 romantic all given paltry recommendations. (Big Wedding 7%, Baggage Claim 15% and Austenland 32% all certified rotten by RW).  These may be underrated movies.  I haven’t seen them but even if they are 3 ‘chick flicks’ in one year is kind of baffling.  Has Hollywood abandoned the attempt to appeal to women?

On the other hand, I don’t know if that is necessarily a bad thing for women.  Like I said, most of these movies are lame and they feature two predominent types of women- 1. Desperate, shrill, complaining, lonely woman (with usually equally obsessed mother), 2. work obsessed ice queens who stare down coworkers and snear at dates.  Neither fits the description of any women that I know.  Well, we all have our moments of both (thinking of myself only in that last statement 😉 ).

Women deserve better.  They deserve to have their feminine sensibilities and romantic natures excited without being talked down to or objectified.  It can be done and it can be done well.

Here are some recent examples of good ‘chick flicks and lit’

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Films

1. Silver Linings Playbook-  warning this has a lot of profanity but it is about real people, or at least real sounding people.  Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman who is depressed but not over-the-top.  She wants to dance and build friendships but they are not her life.  She wants love like anyone else, and had it but still hopes to have it again.  She’s sarcastic without being annoying.

2. Some Kind of Wonderful-  The movie I wish people watched instead of 16 Candles and The Breakfast Club.  Both those movies feature cliched female characters who act according to the part they are given (spoiled rich girl, rebellious stoner, etc).  In Some Kind of Wonderful you have a loyal tom boy who see’s her friend/crush get a date with the prettiest girl in town- who by the way isn’t stupid or evil like so many pretty girls in movies.  A real treat.

3. You’ve Got Mail/When Harry Met Sally/Sleepless in Seattle- Everyone knows I love Norah Ephron.  Yes, her stories are charming and perhaps her men are slightly over-the-top with the romantics but not unbearably so.  With Sally, Kathleen and Annie she creates 3 women (all played by Meg Ryan) who all have careers, all want love and all are witty, brave and silly at times.  Sounds like some women I know.

4. Clueless- A longtime favorite of mine.  Yes Cher and Dionne are ditzy and spoiled but they are also smarter than nearly everyone else around them while still making a complete mess of their lives.  It is funny and romantic without being patronizing.  Another movie written and directed by a woman that works so well with feminine sensibilities without crossing lines.

5. Bridget Jones Diary- This is obviously a comedy so its a bit over the top but Bridget is silly in ways that many women are.  She can’t cook, doesn’t know how to dress properly, says the wrong thing at the wrong moment and doesn’t have a perfect body.  She also charms the socks off of Hugh Grant and Collin Firth so that’s a bit of fantasy but it works.  Bridget is never talked down to or demeaned by the script.  I love her line ‘I already feel stupid most of the time.  I don’t need you to remind me’.  or “It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.” (hint to Austen in there).   That is so true!

6.  Other favorites- Legally blonde (yes, she’s smart.  It’s kind of like Clueless grows up), Love Actually, Nottinghill, Three Weddings and a Funeral, About a Boy, Return to Me, Just Wright, IQ, His Girl Friday, Bringing up Baby, Sweet Home Alabama etc.

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Chick Lit-

1. Undomestic Goddess- All Sophie Kinsella books except for maybe the last 2 shopaholic books.  She is so good at taking a modern theme and then exploring it in a slightly silly character.  Her women are sweet, sympathetic without being total pushovers.  They are also not desperate to meet a man but hope to.  The men and women in her books are basically equal but caught up in a crazy, admittedly unrealistic scenario.   That’s what makes it funny.

2. Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisenberger- A very good movie.  A great book.  Biting satire into the world of high fashion and the wicked witch of the CEOs.  Evidently Anna Wintour of Marie Claire was the inspiration for the boss and I have no idea what she is in real life but in the book she is a pure villain but in a funny way.  Weisenberger is smart and I related to every page of her experience and that being bossed around by a woman is no better than being bossed around by a man.

3. Jane Austen- I don’t know how you could have such a list without talking about Austen.  I’ve often wondered how she manages to stay relevant in 2013 maybe even more so than 1813.  I think what makes Austen’s writing work is that she always has one woman that is smarter than everyone else.  Whether it is Lizzy, Eleanor, Anne, Emma or Fanny, they all believe they know what’s best for everyone else.  The thing is they don’t know their own hearts and that is an extremely romantic notion.  Women can be smart in life, blind in love without being sophomoric about it.    If women feel patronized too it will not matter the quality of the writing.  That was true in 1813, true now.  We want to believe that we are 90% there and through one big life lesson we will get all the way to perfection.

4. Elizabeth Gaskell- we are reading North and South for book club and I just love it so much.  Reading it every year it never get’s old.  Here you have 2 incredibly complex characters that do not accept convention or even each other without some rebellion.  Margaret and Mr Thornton read like real people who think one way about something and then something happens and they see it another way.  They are neither innocent nor evil.  They want good for the people they love, and each other but keep messing up on how to obtain that good.  What person can’t relate to that?  They are my favorite characters in literature

5. This one is a cheat because there are too many to list- Jane Eyre, Rebecca, No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Help, Secret Life of Bee’s, Gift from the Sea, EM Forster, My Life in France, Summer at Tiffany’s, Gilead, To Kill a Mockingbird (yes, I can count it).  Susan Elizabeth Phillips books, Judy Blume, Little Women, Secret Garden, Georgette Heyer etc.

I’m not an expert on the biological reasons of why men tend to like one thing and women another, but I know what I like.  I like stories whether in book, play, music or film, that give me a female character with layers.  Someone that isn’t a block character I’ve seen a thousand times before.   Maybe she surprises me or make me laugh, maybe she’s more tender and heartbroken than expected.  I also like to see these characters happy and all human beings desire to be loved for who they are.

That’s what makes a good story, chick lit or not.

What are some of your favorites and why do you think women are drawn to certain books (or is that a misnomer)?

Warriors in Pink

I have been having a rough go of it lately and honestly felt like most things I do have been a mess.   What is the best thing to do when feeling depressed?  Usually find a way to serve so I’ll ask for you all to keep reading my blog if you’ve found any of the 720 posts helpful over the years and forgive me if I have offended you in any way along the way.  I have certainly done the best I could to make this as compelling reading as possible.  My choices haven’t always been great but don’t give up on me!  We’ll get another 720!

But let’s focus on other people and let the chips fall where they may.  I want to tell you about the Warriors in Pink program because its pretty awesome.    It is a program of outreach and well made/attractive products that helps to prevent and find a cure for breast cancer.  The goal is to “keep the topic of breast cancer part of everyday conversation and encourage women and men to engage in self-exams. Greater awareness can lead to earlier diagnosis, which in turn, could save lives”

I can’t think of a much better goal than that!  Breast cancer is particularly important to diagnose early because it is so treatable.   The American Cancer Society says in 2013:

  • About 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 64,640 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 39,620 women will die from breast cancer

So clearly if we can spread the word on diagnosis and treatment we can save lives.   To read about how to do a proper self-exam and to know what to look for go to nationalbreastcancer.org.  This is important stuff so if it feels awkward, do it anyway.

After monitoring your own health, would you like to contribute as I desired to?  That’s where Warriors in Pink comes in.  They sell wonderful clothing, scarfs, bags, and a variety of items for reasonable prices with 100% net proceeds going to 5 breast cancer charities- Susan G Comen, Susan G. Research Foundation, The Pink Fund and the Young Survival Coalition.  You can give to one of the 5 or all 5.

I was really impressed with the quality of the items I got and just the apparel proceeds since 2006 adds up to almost 5 million in donations.   Pretty great!

The prices are very reasonable with beautiful scarfs selling for $35 down to keychains for $10.  There are also beautiful ties for men to show their support.  The more women we can keep around for their families the better off this country will be.  I firmly believe that.

So its a win-win situation.  You get a quality product at a good price that looks cute and you donate to a very important cause with 100% net proceeds going to the charities.   Please follow my lead and contribute if you are able.

Thanks, Rachel

I love the big and wide pink scarf.
I love the big and wide pink scarf.
Scarf and bag.  Bag has a nice lining in it.
Scarf and bag. Bag has a nice lining in it.

Want to see them up close and personal on this video!  Go for it!

Feminism and Fairy Tales

Disney Female Villains
Disney Female Villains

 

This morning I slept in until about 11:30 and feel greatly improved.  Enough so that I found myself looking over old blog entries and making them better.  I often am amazed at the mistakes I make after having reviewed my writing several times before posting.  Sigh…

Anyway, I found myself reading an old post I had done on the children’s author Roald Dahl.  In the post I wrote about rereading Roald Dahl books and how the depiction of women was kind of disturbing.  Whether it be the aunts in James and the Giant Peach or the Trunchbill in Matilda most of his books have a beastly villainous women at the center.

As I was thinking about the post I started to ponder about other stories.  Snow White? Evil Queen.  Cinderella?  Wicked Stepmother. Sleeping Beauty? Maleficent.  Little Mermaid?  Ursula.  Wizard of Oz? Wicked Witch.  Rapunzel? Gothel.  I could go on…

Isn’t that strange?  Why do you think that is?  It’s especially weird when you think that men have been the more dominating force over the years.  The devil is almost always thought of as a man and yet his minions are sultry temptresses or women.   A man would seem the more natural choice for a villain in previous eras because they had all the power and control.  Strange?

I was talking about this with my sister and she suggested that these characters are almost always middle aged childless women. “Supposedly it is because childress women past their child rearing age were considered a societal threat”.   Lonely figures have always been viewed as isolated by choice, scary, and backward especially by children.   When I first lived alone you wouldn’t believe the number of people who were horrified by the idea, even today.  They expressed concern and amazement that I could do such a thing and be happy.

You look at the idea of the old maid or the crazy lady with all the cats that still persist today.  I’ve known girls who have refused to get a cat because they don’t want to be that kind of single woman.  One dating advice column I read recently said to girls “Owning More Than One Cat Does Not Mean You Will Die An Old Maid”  .  Perhaps the refusal (or bad luck) of these middle-aged childless women to conform to social norms made them scary and ripe for fairy tale lore?  What do you think?

My other theory is since we all start life in a female, and hopefully being loved by a mother, there is nothing scarier than a woman gone wrong.   Its like it takes the maternal instinct and twists it to its evil side.  Almost all of the fairy tales with female villains have a female heroine as well.  These innocents are young, hopeful and beautiful (fairest in the land…).   Ever since I took feminist classes in college I’ve struggled with the whole princess ideology because I loved it so much growing up but I see how it can be harmful to young girls.

I don’t know what I would do if I had a daughter.  I certainly didn’t see something like the Little Mermaid as anything but empowering as a girl.  I wanted to get out and try my own ways just like Ariel.  I wanted to read and be bold like Belle.  It never occurred to me that there was these more negative subtle social influences.  If they didn’t occur to me until I was in my 20s do they matter?

You look at something like Dorothy who fights evil and saves Oz from the wicked witch and it seems super empowering.  Never did I think that all of the people surrounding Dorothy are men except for the wicked witch. What do you guys think?  Do these negative female characters affect the way girls grow up (or boys for that matter)?  Are they harmful?  Are they harmful to adults and male/female interaction (as in the old maid example)?

What are stories that have a male villain?  I thought of Tolkien but all the characters in his books are male for the most part so it doesn’t count.  Don’t you find that odd that the women is always the villain?  Maybe this is part of the reason I didn’t really like fantasy growing up.  I didn’t relate to the perfect ingenue and I certainly didn’t get the villainesses.