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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Just a few more captions I thought of for the Wiig and McCarthy GQ photos

Damned if you do

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Damned if you don’t

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“Sexy despite being funny”

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Funny because she’s not sexy

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Wrong on one level

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Wrong on another

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These two BRIDESMAIDS star shoots are both for GQ. Kristen Wiig’s shoot is for her “Bro of the Year” cover. Yeah, that’s right, “BRO OF THE YEAR”. Usually it’s “Man of the Year”, but Wiig’s not a man! And since women threaten dudes in GUYLAND, she can pass muster in the mag by 1) being sexualized, you know, like a girl! And 2) being given a dimininuitive but still affectionate title, you know, like a bro!

Et tu, Wiig? Et tu?

So yesterday when BITCH Magazine posted a link to xoJANE’s new series “Getting Pregnant with Michelle Tea” on its Facebook page, it also listed a disclaimer that “xoJANE is emphatically not awesome”. Several followers asked why, so I posted the link to Cat Marnell’s article on using Plan B as her primary birth control option as one reason lots of people aren’t so psyched about Jane Pratt’s new site. About a month ago the post created an uproar in the feminist blogosphere, and ignited a war of words between THE GLOSS and xoJANE. Personally, I was shocked and dismayed by the piece, but so many people were writing about it and it received so many comments on the site that I didn’t feel the need to put in my two cents. There was a fairly wide range of opinions. GIRLS LIKE GIANTS, a blog run by fellow media scholar Phoebe Bronstein, posted a response I appreciated on the difficulties of “fair” critique on the Internet. Pratt herself wrote several revelatory responses, including this statement on the site’s philosophy toward its writing:

“We believe in giving each woman the agency of her own story, and the freedom to be whatever kind of woman she wants to be. We don’t ask our writers to change themselves to fit any mold. We do ask them to be honest, and willing to expose their own mistakes and flaws. We have no ‘expert’ perspectives. Every story is a personal story.”

This emphasis on freedom of expression was especially important as many questioned how Marnell could have a position like “Health Critic” when she appeared so irresponsible and unknowledgeable. Pratt explained that

“I was looking for someone to write about Health issues from a non-healthy perspective. I personally find it more interesting to read about someone trying/struggling to be healthy than someone who has it all together (plus there are plenty of those awesome experts out there already and I turn to them when I want sound Health advice).  The title I gave Cat was ‘Health Critic’. She does not give health ‘advice’.”

Now there’s this.

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So more back story is that Marnell seems to have a history of problems with substance abuse and mental health. She still uses on a regular basis, and she still writes about it on a regular basis, even though it seems that she’s been warned not to. Now Jane Pratt is actively inviting readers to weigh in on what they would do in her position.

Admittedly I’m not very sympathetic to such issues, and I’m not a fan of the Hunter S. Thompson School of Journalism, so here’s my stance: enough is enough. I get that freedom of expression is valuable, and I get that women’s stories are valuable. But Marnell’s stories don’t seem to be contributing much except controversy. I don’t think I’ve seen one piece by Marnell that made me think, “Wow, that really opened my eyes to an important issue facing women today”. All of her articles ultimately end up being about her, in really unnecessary and disturbing ways. For example, this piece was supposed to be about making your bed sexy smelling. Alright, not a Pulitzer Prize-winner, but enticing enough to draw me in. Suddenly however, I’m not reading an article about sexy-smelling beds but instead reading a workplace drug drama.

And that’s the truth of this situation. This is a WORKPLACE issue. Jane Pratt is an editor, not a counselor. She’s obviously a caring woman, but she seems like she’s also one whose care is being abused by a troubled woman using the forum of xoJANE to air her issues.

Let’s be frank about that forum too. xoJANE is comparable online to JEZEBEL, CRUSHABLE, or THE GLOSS, and in print to GLAMOUR or MARIE CLAIRE. It’s a nichecasted, profit-driven enterprise. It’s designed to draw certain readers to sell certain products. It’s not hard-hitting investigative journalism or in-depth personal think pieces. I didn’t design it that way; Jane Pratt did. Most of Marnell’s writing involves beauty products. Her role is not to blow the lid off drug addiction or detail personal experiences of rehab. It’s essentially to recommend creams and powders, just not the ones she seems to be getting the most attention for writing about.

As another respondent commented, Marnell is a liability. She’s a liability because she’s making her problematic personal (and illegal) behavior so central to her work to the point of admitting that she’s writing coked up. She’s also a liability because she detracts from so much other good writing on the site, from people I’ve enjoyed and admired like Lesley Kinzel. From this point if I read Marnell it will be out of curiosity for her current level of crazy, not out of any interest in her topic or trust in her voice. She’s not an attraction; she’s a distraction. If she gets her act together she might write some really interesting stuff some day. In the meantime let her write it someplace else.

Looks like it’s official: SMASH is debuting on NBC Monday, February 6th. The story follows the production of a Broadway musical on Marilyn Monroe. Can’t deny I love the reflexive musical thing, but I’m archiving it here mostly as a component for possible class on Marilyn Monroe. We’ll see how far it goes!

So for the past three weeks, I’ve been watching this PBS doc series AMERICA IN PRIMETIME, on the evolution and construction of major character types on primetime American television. The series episodes have been broken down by these types, consisting so far of “The Independent Woman”, “The Man of the House”, and “The Misfit”. Next week is “The Crusader”. The show features writers, actors, producers, and programmers, discussing the particularities of these characters and their shows in relation to their historical and cultural contexts.

The series is important in a number of ways, primarily because it verifies the value of television in American culture. The first two episodes have also been particularly important in tracking the changing gender roles in female and male characters over the past six decades, the ways that television has both responded to and helped to bring about some of those changes. The episodes have tackled some issues of sexuality, and even some issues of class. However, one issue seems to be glaringly overlooked, one that seems glaringly obvious to me from the screen cap of clips below.

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That is the issue of race. Each episode, I’ve been looking, hoping, wondering when the producers were going to make a significant stab at discussing race in relation to the characters, the series, the industry, and American culture. So far, not so much. Firstly, there’s the overwhelming level of whiteness in the characters, the producers, and the programmers that goes unaddressed. This might be expected, but that’s still a part of the problem. However, secondly and perhaps less expectedly, there is the issue of the characters of color who are not framed in relation to race. For example, THE COSBY SHOW is noted solely as a reconstruction of the father as the head of the house. The only time I can recall race being specifically mentioned is in the segment on THE BERNIE MAC SHOW, with an excerpt from the show when Bernie Mac mentions that he doesn’t want his sister’s kids to go to a white family “but it’s not about race”. It might have come up in terms of the Cristina Yang character on GREY’S ANATOMY, but it’s very quickly subsumed by the assertion that the storyline is intended to be a female friendship “love story” between Cristina and Meredith, a colorblind doc treatment of a colorblind series if there ever was one.

Now I realize that the treatment of race in this doc series may simply be a reflection of the very thing that the series is intending to study. It seems fitting that a medium that has a history of under- and misrepresenting racial minorities should have a doc treatment that mirrors such a history. The next episode, “The Crusaders”, might have more. The thumbnail for the episode features Michael K. Williams, who plays Omar from THE WIRE. However, a cursory glance over the featured participants for the episode shows that Williams may be the only person of color represented. Overall, these omissions might reflect the current state of the industry, but still represent a missed opportunity to actually address those issues within that state.

I’m sitting here, trying to finish a paper for the National Women’s Studies Association Conference this week, but my thoughts are with the child sexual abuse scandal now unfolding at Penn State. Here’s a few things going through my mind.

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I’m not a Penn State fan, but I am a college football fan. I’m a child of Knoxville, Tennessee, who became an alum of the University of Tennessee, under the shadow of Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena, Volunteer football and Lady Vol basketball. I’m also an academic, bound for a career in university life, currently living in Bloomington, Indiana, a small college town comparable to State College with a legendary basketball program arguably as storied Penn State’s football program.

Although my focus is academic, I believe in college sports. I believe they do good things. I believe that they can fit into the educational mission of the university, not only through the teaching of complicated athletic skills that require both mind and body, but also through the teaching of important moral and ethical lessons, on and off the field. I think that the right coaches make all this learning happen. This includes Tennessee’s own Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Head Summitt, who for me epitomizes the best in collegiate athletic leadership, as well as coaches like Joe Paterno, who has essentially become a figurehead for Penn State’s athletic and academic reputation.

I am also Catholic. I understand that Paterno is Catholic too. In light of this scandal, being Catholic calls up two seemingly different but actually interconnected elements: 1) the Church’s unconscionable cover-ups of pervasive child sexual abuse, and 2) the Church’s conscionable moral code. The Church did the wrong thing. Paterno did the wrong thing. However, both still have codes that prescribe the right behaviors. Neither the Church nor Paterno can go back and stop the abuse that occurred due to their wrong action, but admitting that they did the wrong thing is still part of making things right.

According to the NEW YORK TIMES, Penn State is already planning Paterno’s exit. The exit alone, however, is not enough. Paterno needs to admit his role in perpetuating the abuse. I hope this happens. I hope it happens for his sake, as a part of the preservation of his legacy and the moral code that he helped to create in Penn State’s athletic culture.

More importantly though, I hope it happens for the collective recovery of child sexual abuse survivors. This includes more than the ones who were injured by Sandusky. It is important that all childhood sexual abuse survivors see that dominant and predominately masculine cultures like the Church and football can admit culpability as a way to face the problem and ideally begin the steps to eradicate it. This is important not only for the recovery of survivors, but also for the future safety of other vulnerable populations.

Plenty of other people have had valuable things to say about this, particularly Michael Tomasky in THE DAILY BEAST and Michael Weinreb in GRANTLAND.Tomasky’s peice is particularly helpful at elucidating the moral and legal quandary, while Weinreb’s piece gives a thoughtful view of the scandal in light of his relationship to State College and Penn State. Lots of people will have other things to say as the scandal continue to unfold. I just hope that whatever happens, healing and justice occurs to those who most need it.

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