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Posts Tagged ‘ny times’

I have been so bad about blogging lately, which is in part due to the fact that I have a big paper due soon, and I’ve been desperately trying not to procrastinate. The procrastination has won over, however, especially after I saw this article.  Written by Manohla Dargis, one of the NY Times film critics (and, I admit, my least favorite NY Times critic), this article discusses the lack of opportunities for female directors in Hollywood.  She cites to some pretty depressing statistics, not the least of which is that in the 81 years of the Academy Awards, only 3 women have been nominated for best director. (!!) None of them won. Organizations like The Women’s Media Center and the blog Women and Hollywood are vigilant about tracking these statistics.

It’s hard to know why women have fared so badly in Hollywood in the last few decades, though any business that refers to its creations as product cannot, by definition, have much imagination. The vogue for comics and superheroes has generally forced women to sigh and squeal on the sidelines. Even the so-called independent sector, with its ostensibly different players and values, hasn’t been much better, as we know from all the female directors who have made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival only to disappear. New digital technologies and the Internet have leveled the field — though usually it seems as if it’s sheer grit that pushes filmmakers like Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy”) along the hard road from idea to distribution.

I recently wrote a law review article that discusses the idea of digital technology and its democratizing potential. (Soon to be published…) I think there’s a lot to be said for the fact that more women are starting to use new (cheaper) digital technologies to create their own films without the backing of a studio. These films always tend to be more interesting anyway. But, I think it’s insane that the studios haven’t caught on to the fact that women go see movies. And, many women are interested in more than cheesy romantic comedies. I enjoy rom-coms as much as the next girl, but I personally feel so refreshed when I go see a movie like Whip It! or Bright Star. Not to mention that it would be nice for younger girls to see role models on the screen, rather than just Bella and her dysfunctional relationship with Edward. (Sorry, at this point I feel like a Twilight reference is obligatory).  I could go on and on about the blatant discrimination that happens in Hollywood, but I’ll spare you.

What I would like to say, however, is that this year there has been a whole slew of films that are directed by women and are starring women. And, many of these movies are not your typical rom-coms (see Bright Star, Coco Avant Chanel, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Julie & Julia). Many of these movies and directors are getting Oscar buzz, but predictably, male-driven films like Up in the Air and Avatar threaten to pull ahead and woo the Academy with quirky style or crazy special effects (respectively).  Bright Star, Coco Avant Chanel, and Julie & Julia, I think, are the best three movies that I have seen all year. I am not advocating for the Academy to give the best director award to a woman, just because she’s a woman, but I think they should at least take it into account. And, this year seems to be the perfect year to do it. I also hope that the studios will get their heads out of the ground (to be kind) and look at how many both financially and critically successful films came out this year that were led by women. Next year, I hope to see even more…

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So my friend sent me this article today – published in the NY Times a few months ago – about Japanese men who have relationships, not with dolls, but with 2-D pillowcases that are illustrated with anime characters. The worst part about it is that these anime characters are all illustrated to look like young teenagers posed in sexual positions. I’m sorry, but how is this different than child pornography?

Some of these men bring these pillows with them everywhere:

He treats her the way any decent man would treat a girlfriend — he takes her out on the weekends to sing karaoke or takepurikura, photo-booth pictures imprinted on a sheet of tiny stickers. In the few hours we spent together, I watched him position her gently in the restaurant booth and later in the back seat of his car, making sure to keep her upright and not to touch her private parts.

I just don’t understand how someone actually thinks that it’s okay to have a meaningful relationship with a 2-D cartoon character. The article suggests that it is especially hard in Japan for young people to navigate a meaningful love life, and that this fact might contribute to the rise of these 2-D relationships. I find this hard to believe. There are hundreds of thousands of people who have trouble finding dating successfully, and yet they do not turn to dolls or 2-D cartoon characters to fill that void in their lives. I think that these doll phenomenons speak to a culture of men who want to be able to objectify women in a way that they cannot, so they turn to inanimate objects who will not resist.

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My love for the NY Times magazine just seems to grow with time. This weekend’s issue includes a story by Benoit Denizet-Lewis (who wrote a fabulous piece last year about young, gay married couples) called “Coming Out in Middle School.” The article documents the struggles as well as the triumphs that young gay adolescents have experienced as they try to navigate their way through the terrifying world of middle school.

 

What is clear is that for many gay youth, middle school is more survival than learning — one parent of a gay teenager I spent time with likened her child’s middle school to a “war zone.” In a 2007 survey of 626 gay, bisexual and transgender middle-schoolers from across the country by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Educators Network (Glsen), 81 percent reported being regularly harassed on campus because of their sexual orientation. Another 39 percent reported physical assaults. Of the students who told teachers or administrators about the bullying, only 29 percent said it resulted in effective intervention.

I think this article does a great job in describing both the progress that has been made in schools (formation and protection of Gay Straight Alliances) while also explaining how far we have to go before gay adolescents truly feel safe coming out to all of their peers and teachers rather than just a handful of close friends.

What always shocks me the most about accounts of discrimination and harassment of gay adolescents is how frequently their teachers ignore the discrimination and even participate in it. It’s one thing for schools to put anti-bullying measures in place that prevent bullying among students, but I personally would like to see more towns and states taking action to prevent teachers from being complicit in the discrimination and harassment. Every student, whether gay or straight, should be able to view his or her teachers as role models and people that he or she can trust – I know I wouldn’t have made it through high school without the support of a few fabulous teachers. For schools to not take action against teachers who are not providing this kind of support is appalling.

This article is also lacking a discussion of transgender adolescents and the different kinds of discrimination and harassment they face at school. These children are often misunderstood, and their gender identity is not taken seriously. Any school that seeks to address LGBT discrimination must make sure that it is specifically addressing the “T” in addition to the “LGB.”

It gives me some hope when articles like this are published in the NY Times (although I do realize that it has quite a liberal reader base), because I like to think that it will make readers more aware of these issues than they have been before and incite some people to action.

For further research and reading here are some organizations with great information about LGBT Youth:

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gossip-girl20In not-so-shocking news, the senior girls at a high school in Millburn, NJ apparently, for years, have created a “slut-list,” where they list the names of “pretty and popular incoming freshman with crass descriptions on loose-leaf paper.” These girls are then subjected to what the NY Times is calling “hazing.” I tend to agree more with the writers over at The Frisky who say it sounds much more like bullying than mere hazing. The pattern of mean-ness among high school girls is not so surprising anymore after the barrage of books about this phenomenon and the movie “Mean Girls.” What’s shocking to me is that the principal at the high school has apparently known about this tradition for years and the school is only addressing it in a big way now. It’s time that we start paying more attention to teenage girls and giving them the support they need to cooperate rather than compete with each other. I must admit that I love the movie “Mean Girls” and shows like “Gossip Girl,” but we should be teaching young girls that these movies and TV shows are entertainment and satire, not models of behavior that they should be emulating or striving for.

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I just finished reading this piece by Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn, for this week’s issue of the New York Times Magazine.  Called “The Women’s Crusade,” it discusses why helping women across the globe become financially independent and sufficient will help to solve the world’s problems. Kristof spends a great deal of time discussing the merits of microfinance organizations, which lend small amounts of money to (mainly) women living in poverty in order to help them start their own business and become financially independent. Kristof also discusses how the Obama administration is starting to realize that the well-being of women and girls should be a central issue, not something tangential to other mainstream policies.

The rest of the issue is dedicated to women as well (although admittedly I have not gotten through all of it yet).  I have to commend the NY Times for publishing these articles, but it is certainly not the first time that journalists are writing about microfinance institutions and why we need to help women and girls. I hope this article will help call more attention to the thousands of bloggers, journalists, and researchers who are writing about these issues every day. But for now, this article is a great start.

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Just a quick post, even though I know I’ve been particularly bad about posting lately. I’m heading back to CA today, and once I get there I promise I’ll start blogging more regularly.

I questioned the NY Times’ motto this morning (“All the news that’s fit to print”) when I read this article about how potbellies are the new hip fashion statement among the Brooklyn hipster set.  The article explains that many of these Brooklyn hipsters are sporting potbellies with their v-neck t-shirts, fedoras, and ray-bans.  The article suggests that this new devil-may-care attitude about body image might be a reaction to Obama’s passion for exercise and health, as hipsters, according to the article, like to be contrarian.

Personally, I could care less what the hipsters are wearing these days, but what bothered me about this article was how quickly the author dismissed the fact that men don’t have to care nearly as much about their body image as women do:

Women have almost never gotten a pass on the need to maintain their bodies, while men always have, said Robert Morea, a personal fitness trainer. (Full disclosure: my own.) It would be too much, he added, to suggest that “potbellies are suddenly O.K.,” but as lean muscle and functionality become the new gym mantras, hypertrophied He-Men with grapefruit biceps and blister-pack abs have come to resemble specimens from a diorama of “A Vanished World.”

The Times could have at least taken a moment to explore this phenomenon, or at least taken a moment to suggest that maybe potbellies aren’t the new fashion accessory to strive for. Not to mention that Obama’s emphasis on physical health is something that everyone in this country should be emulating rather than rebelling against.

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There is a fabulous piece in this week’s NY Times Magazine, by Peggy Orenstein, about female superheroes.  Orenstein introduces the article by talking about her daugher’s new distaste for Disney Princesses and new love for Wonder Woman.  She goes on to discuss the allure of superheroes, but also why it may be so unusual or difficult for women to embrace them. Female superheroes, often, she notes do not have compelling back stories, and they certianly do not receive the same kind of attention from movie studios as male superheroes do. Orenstein also suggests that superhero play may be useful for little girls, who may learn from them to be more assertive and more willing to stand up to authority because of the lessons they learn from superheroes.

I always love articles that discuss the inequities in this type of mainstream media. What is the hold up of the Wonder Woman movie? Why can’t there be more female superheroes who receive the same kind of success and attention that male superheroes do? I don’t have much more to add, other than that you should go and read Orenstein’s article. It’s an important commentary on the gender stratification of children’s culture.

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