Category Archives: Women

What I’m Consuming: Women on Screen, Part II

Continuing on from Part I, I give you:

Good Girls Revolt

In the Amazon series Good Girls Revolt, it’s 1969 and News of the Week only runs bylines with men’s names. The media is all about guys like Doug and Randy and Sam. This show, though, is all about Patti and Cindy and Jane. I watched the ten-episode Season 1 soon after it came out last fall, and I’m still thinking about it.

The three main characters work at News of the Week — a fictitious magazine — as researchers and a caption writer, each supporting a man. Patti is a striver whose passion for news wins over her personal life every time. Cindy writes photo captions and feels more at home in the newsroom than at home with her law student husband. Jane was the editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, but now bows to the editorial control of male editors.

The story line clings to those three, but others make welcome appearances along the way. The first cameo is Nora Ephron, who pops up in Episode 1, faces sexism, and … well, I won’t spoil it. Let’s say she’s about nine episodes ahead of her time.

The dialogue moves fast. Patti or Jane talk out who they need to probe, dial a source, and get the job done. They’re the Ginger Rogers of the newsroom, doing everything the men do, but behind the scenes and in huge hair.

Does this sound like a ladies’-view version of Mad Men? If you think so, you’re in the company of many, many reviewers.

Patti, Cindy, and Jane face their own battles and injustices, but with refreshing results: They don’t take out frustration on fellow women. When Nora joins them, Jane gamely shows her around. When Jane hits a wall getting a source to go on record for her reporter’s story, Patti steps in to nab the right interview. Next to these alliances, Don Draper’s friendships with men look downright catty.

I agree with critics who say that the atmosphere is simplified. The race relations, especially, leave me wondering. Could a white man who buys into mainstream culture dig an FBI conspiracy against the Black Panther Party? Would a black woman in an all-white, male-dominated newsroom find her biggest challenge is awkward small talk? The women are also so selfless and forgiving. Crab mentality and gender stereotypes aside, would that come easily to anyone in the competitive world of journalism?

The best part? For me, it’s the DC connection. That comes in the form of Eleanor Holmes Norton. Today, she’s a congressional delegate for DC in her third or fourth decade as a DC statehood crusader and law professor. In 1969, she’s a self-possessed attorney with the ACLU. It is the Norton character who looks into the researchers’ wide eyes and tells them they have a case.

Occasional complications and nuances help move the story along. Patty is a complicated soul, as she grapples with her obsession with getting the story and advocating for herself. She also shows tender feelings for her reporter lover boy while resisting commitment. The male characters are also well-developed. Aside from the chorus of horn dogs and misogynists, several show the pull between the waning ways of the 1950s and the social justice groundswell of the ’60s and ’70s. In another notable twist, the feared and revered publisher happens to be a woman named Bea. She shows up one day to treat the male cadre of reporters and editors to a three-martini lunch. Bea’s appearance shows that gals can be both powerful and sexist.

I haven’t come across a parallel of Erin Ramsey’s essay urging people to see Good Girls. I will give my own endorsement, though. Give the show a chance — especially if you’re a writer, journalist, or witness to injustice.

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What I’m Consuming: Women on Screen, Part I

It’s time for another What I’m Consuming. This is a two-part deal focusing on a recent film and TV show. I dedicate this series to Hillary Clinton.

Women and men in Ghostbuster costumes

Image based on photo by uniquelycat (Cathy Smith)  frin PAX East 2015 [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

For Part I, let’s talk about “Ghostbusters: Answer the Call”

This remake of the 1984 “Ghostbusters” is known for one thing: A ghoul-fighting cadre that is all female. When the movie came out over the summer, reviews sounded like the wheeze of a noisemaker at a lame party. “Ra ra, it’s got a female cast,” critics said. “I wish I liked it more.”

When I finally saw it this month, I was amazed.  In two words: It’s wonderful. Perhaps a cult classic in the making.

The co-star Kristen Wiig plays scientist Erin Gilbert. At Columbia, she’s a physics professor up for tenure. In the world of movie tropes, she’s the cowed loser up for transformation. You can practically see the blinking red arrow over her head, declaring Keep your eye on this one! She’ll change by the closing credits! In an early scene, a male administrator at Columbia advises Dr. Gilbert on strengthening her tenure application. His condescending advice? Get a recommendation from a school more prestigious than Princeton. Continue reading

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Publication: Pressure Point Therapy in O

Oprah magazine July 2015

Look who’s in the July issue of O the Oprah Magazine!  In the A-Z guide to relaxation for the busy woman, I explain (veeeery briefly) how P is for pressure point therapy. Check out page 104.

It was a pleasure to work with editors Elyse Moody and Molly Simms on this, and to draw on the expertise of Cat Matlock.

 

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What I’m Consuming: Home Fires Burning by Karen Houppert

Book cover: Home Fires Burning It seems fitting to finish Home Fires Burning: Married to the Military–for Better or Worse on Memorial Day.  And that’s what I did. Considering my last What I’m Consuming post* was a while ago, I’m also due for another one. So here it goes.   What it is and why it’s here This is a book of nonfiction by a writer I respect, who spends years researching her books.** She is also the daughter of a U.S. Air Force pilot. Home Fires Burning weaves together portraits of, as Houppert puts it, “women who straddle the military world–one foot on post, one foot in the civilian sector.” Most of the interviews took place on an army base in New York. But each personal story reifies a larger narrative–about war widows, domestic violence, the economics of military jobs, political dissent. Though Houppert is a seasoned journalist, the picture she paints is far from neutral. The book takes a critical angle on military practices, especially when it comes to spouses and children of the enlisted. The stories highlight hypocrisy on the bases and in the military in general. Continue reading

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What I’m Consuming: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Feminist graphicIt’s time for another What I’m Consuming post. I started with a collection of shortish fiction. This next one is a collection of short nonfiction (i.e. essays) — Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial, 2014).

What it is and why it’s here

Bad Feminist is a collection of essays by a fiction writer and cultural critic. Gay chews on and critiques all manner of things in pieces you may recognize from Slate, The Rumpus, and others.

The book starts off with disarming reads. Gay’s first essay on feminism has her questioning the absolutism many associate with the term. “I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy,” Gay writes. She is also:

…a woman who loves pink and likes to get freaky and sometimes dances her ass off to music she knows, she knows, is terrible to women and who sometimes plays dumb with repairmen because it’s just easier to let them feel macho than it is to stand on the moral high ground.

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What I’m Consuming: The Liar’s Wife by Mary Gordon

In the first of what I hope to make a series of posts, I’d like to talk about The Liar’s Wife: Four Novellas by Mary Gordon (Pantheon Books, 2014).

I’m calling the series “What I’m Consuming.” I’m going to write about things I’ve watched, read, or heard (and maybe even eaten) that I liked and would recommend.

What it is and why it’s here

The Liar’s Wife is a collection of an odd genre. I’ve never seen more than one of these long stories/short novels together before. The quartet comes to 288 pages in all, and comes together well. Three of the protagonists are women — two very young and the third just past retirement age. Only one of the main characters is male — an elderly man looking back on his teenaged years.

Two of the novellas plop real historical figures Simone Weil and Thomas Mann into plausible but completely fictional settings.  Gordon then imagines a central character to put in his or her path and a series of events steeped in the figure’s heyday.

I’m writing about this here — with a heading that pledges I would recommend it — because of the characters, especially the female protagonists Jocelyn, Genevieve, and Theresa. Here are brilliant women, one of them fortunate in life (financially, family-wise, professionally) on top of that. The other two are survivors of World War II Europe and an affair with a pretentious professor, respectively. These women bask in and benefit from their enviable luck and talents, but also question their worth. It takes a great writer to create a woman who has a comfortable retirement, a loving husband, and thriving children, but wonders if she might be better off roaming the country in a Frito Lay truck and singing in dives — and Gordon makes the reader wonder, too.

How I came upon it

I read this book because Gordon’s daughter was a childhood friend. No joke! I didn’t realize at the time that Anna’s mother was a famous writer. But by this past fall, I knew it well enough to hightail it to Politics and Prose to see the mom from the stone house on North Oakwood Street.

Gordon is a fantastic reader. She read from the title work, performing the parts of the Irish truth twister, his Southern-born companion, and the Italian pizzeria owner as easily as the protagonist with a familiar northeastern American voice. I dug into the book a few months later, during what I’ll call a “working staycation” between semesters.

The upshot

I could have binge-watched yet more Scandal over those cold, laid-back weeks, but the characters and stories in The Liar’s Wife kept pulling me back to the printed page. They kept me reading and made me think.

 

Until next time, happy consuming!

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One writer’s experience at Binder Con

Check out my experience at Out of the Binders, aka #BinderCon, on Storify: https://storify.com/RheaYK/out-of-the-binders.

I was inspired by the Storify version of the Google For Media Summit, I decided to make one myself for this conference for women and gender non-conforming writers. Thanks for reading!

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