Women who Help Other Women are Smarter, not Harder

Pictured: Margaret Moth, New Zealand’s first female television news camera operator.

Last night I went to a Women in Film-Chicago event where Ruth Ratny, creator of Reel Chicago, spoke about women helping other women.  What follows are my thoughts on helping other women and breaking down the barriers that prevent gender equality in the film and media industries.

“We need to work smarter, not harder,” Ruth explained in relation to women surpassing males in the workplace.  This is true; a “hard” woman will shut out other women to protect her own position, prevent them from excelling, and ultimately, be a cog in the wheel that is our patriarchal culture.  A “smart” woman will not fear an up-and-coming industry star–in fact, she will encourage her, mentor her, or at the very least, be a helping hand.

Ruth noted that while men hire their “buddies,” women shut out other women out of insecurity.  These insecurities are possessed by all victims of the 2012 economy but are exacerbated by a predominantly female desire to overcompensate for our heightened emotional intelligence–an emotional intelligence that, in the professional field, can be perceived as weakness.

As a woman, I do not believe that emotional intelligence suggests weakness; on the contrary. Emotional intelligence is a valuable skill that allows you to read body language, mannerisms, and tone of voice.  This is a vital skill in the professional field, and trains you in the art of “perfect timing.”  Yes, it’s likely women possess this skill set as an adaptation to motherhood; mothers read their children in order to find out what they need before they can even speak!  The skill surpasses the infant stage and continues through teenage years when the kid at risk of sheer stupidity.  At this time, it is the mother’s duty to read her teenager, understand his/her inner turmoil, and do her best to prevent him/her from getting into a sticky situation that could impact the rest of his/her life.

If you have ever been in a relationship with a woman, this situation should sound familiar:

Man: “What’s wrong?”

Woman: “Nothing.”

Ask yourself: what is upsetting the woman in the above conversation, given the context?  If your answer is “nothing,” then congratulations–you are a man.  You live in a world where your receive preferential treatment in every vein.  However, you may also consider yourself emotionally-retarded.  Being able to see past the surface of words to the meaning behind those words is a skill that the grand majority of woman possess and a minority of men possess.

Being a man, you may expect the woman to verbalize exactly how she feels.  However, that is simply not the female way.  And why should we conform to the male way?  Just as we women cannot expect men to understand our words are often spoken in code, men cannot expect women to speak exactly that which they mean.  So there needs to be some kind of compromise here.

Why do I mention all that in the scope of women in the workplace?  I don’t know, it just seemed relevant. It’s not just men who get fed up with speaking in code; its women as well!  Women can turn on other women for this fact of life; I’m sure we’ve all heard some female, at some point, say: “Ugh, I hate girls. All of my friends are guys.”  All cards on the table-I’ve even said that before, and it was a lapse in judgment.  To all the women who say that now: congratulations! You enjoy spending time around people who are nice to you because they want to have sex with you.  If you surround yourself with people like this, ultimately you will find yourself cold and alone.

From an evolutionary perspective, being able to befriend women is a huge advantage.  In groups, you are protected, and I’m just talking pure “safety in numbers” right now.  Show up at a bar alone and men will think you’re there for them; show up with a posse, and most men will be too intimidated to bother you with sexual advances.  Get rejected by a lone woman and you may try again–hey, what’s she gonna do about it?  But get rejected by a woman with four female friends, and you’ll receive five dirty looks that’ll shame you out of the bar.

Furthermore, befriending women has an empowering effect on all women, for in numbers, you also have power.  To divide women is to disarm women, the same way that to unite men is to create an army.  We have many divisive forces in American society: the fashion industry, women’s magazines, advertising, and hypersexualized female characters in film and tv serve to undermine real women’s success every day.  For women working within these industries, such as myself, your moral beliefs can be put at odds with the task at hand–after all, sex sells, but what woman really wants to sell sex?  As Ruth Ratny discussed, a key difference between men and women is that men monetize everything.  For men, everything is about money.  A male advertising executive will sell sex and see dollar signs while a woman will sell sex and see the destruction and ostracism of a gender.

Take this classic beer commercial as an example:

 A man sitting at a bar turns his head to see a thin, beautiful, made-up woman strutting towards him with the beer of choice.  Male takeaway: “hot women and beer-yes please!”  Female takeaway: “how can I become as desirable as this woman?” Or even worse: “I am irrelevant because the only thing that matters is an appearance I do not posses.” This is a HUGE problem, because here you have a woman reading a man-made commercial in code when it was originally written, and meant to be read, in plain english.  Women code and decode everything; it is in our nature, it protects us from making poor decisions and choosing untrustworthy partners.  I consider this coding process the infamous “female intuition”; it is an energy flow that stays with me 24/7, that I have trained myself to be in touch with, and that I always, always trust.  I have not once regretted following this “intuition.”  The trick- and this is pivotal for compromising language with men– is to recognize which situations require this sort of decoding and coding.  Both men and women can and should know this about the opposite gender.

I digress.  As it is, there are so many things to consider when it comes to gender roles as they exist, let alone how they play out in the advertising and media industries.  My head fills up with these considerations constantly as I go through my life, my career, and my relationships.  For every question answered, a new question springs up.  It’s impossible to answer all the questions in one lifetime.  It’s impossible to try to absorb answers from those who lived before you, because real knowledge comes only from experience. So we’re stuck in a bit of a catch 22…but hope is not lost! Read on for the moral of my story.

There is only one takeaway from this conversation that is absolute and concrete: You, a smart woman, will help other women. You will not judge nor criticize them for their womanhood.  Other smart women will respect that, respect you, and in turn help other women climb the professional ranks.  The more women in power there are, the more they can help other women, and the more likely women are in general to take each other and themselves more seriously.  And it goes on-the more women take themselves and other women seriously, the more men will take women seriously because they can see our confidence and self-assuredness.  And there you have it–men are no longer hiring “buddies” over capable women.  You mustn’t harden yourself, and you MUST “smart-en” yourself.  Get smart, ladies.  If you’re a woman in power, look for female ambition around you.  I guarantee you will find it in every corner.

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What is a Pussy Riot?

Get in the know: Pussy Riot for Women’s Issues in Russia

Venus Radio

Here’s what we know:

-Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist political collective and punk band formed days after Vladimir Putin’s announcement in September 2011 that he would return to the presidency. It includes 30-some members and 10 performers.

-Since their formation, Pussy Riot has conducted flash protests in public locations around Moscow, performing politically charged punk songs specifically calling out Vladmir Putin’s regime and its hostility toward women’s issues. The locations of their protests have increased in daring, taunting authorites and drawing attention to the repression of free political expression in contemporary Russia.

-The members of Pussy Riot have maintained secret identities. They used day-glo balaclavas and tights to hide their faces and refused to reveal their names, ages or day jobs. Why? “It shows we can be anybody”, they said.

-On February 21, 2012, Pussy Riot stormed Christ the Savior Catherdral for a protest performance/ “punk prayer”. The group…

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Women to Watch Out For: Happy International Women’s Day!

1. The most powerful woman in the world, and the fourth most powerful person in the world, Angela Merkel kicks ass and takes names as the Chancellor of Germany.

“The world’s most powerful woman heads Europe’s most vibrant economy and is widely viewed as the de facto leader of the EU. A recent poll in France showed that the French have more faith in Germany’s leader (46%) than in their own president, Nicolas Sarkozy (33%).” (Forbes)

2. A woman after my own heart; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to college in my hometown of Wellesley, Massachusetts.

“Impressive marks for her handling of a ­difficult year, which included the Arab Spring uprisings, WikiLeaks’ release of sensitive American diplomatic cables, Iran’s alleged murder attempt on the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and the death of Osama bin Laden.” (Forbes)

Hillary also visited Burma as a diplomat after fifty years of estrangement.  Heck yes.  This is a woman that should have been President.  Maybe some day.

3.  Ranked #3 on Forbe’s most powerful women list, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil is a total badass.  She is the first woman to hold that office. Called the “Joan of Arc” of the guerilla movement, she was arrested from 1970-1972 and repeatedly tortured, having been captured participating in a Marxist guerilla group that fought to remove the military dictatorship.  After her release she helped found the Democratic Labour Party.  She’s also the first economist to be elected as President.  Interesting to note: she doesn’t approve of gay marriage but doesn’t seem to be homophobic, is pro-life but sane enough to see it’s appropriate for cases of endangered mothers or rape, and doesn’t want any drugs decriminalized for the foreseeable future.

4.  Indra Nooyi is an Indian-born American who is the Chief Executive of PepsiCo and oversees a staff of almost 300,000.  After seven years at the company she was named President and CFO, and in 2007 became only the 5th CEO that PepsiCo has had in its 44+ year life.  Since she’s worked there, annual revenues have risen by a whopping 72% and she’s brought them billions of dollars of business (Business Week).

5.  Sheryl Sandberg should be a household name by now, being the COO of mega-giant Facebook and the person responsible for making it profitable.  She got her Bachelor and Master’s degrees from Harvard University, and before joining Facebook in 2008 was a VP at Google, and before that, Chief of Staff for the US Department of the Treasury.  Wow.

So there you have it.  Happy International Women’s Day!

Stalking Suffragettes in 1912 and Women’s Status 100 years later

‘In 1912, Scotland Yard detectives bought their first camera, to covertly photograph suffragettes. The pictures were compiled into ID sheets for officers on the ground.’ - BBC through Retronaut

With all eyes turned to the Republican “War on Women,” and the rapidly approaching International Women’s Holiday on May 8, I thought it might be appropriate to take a look back in time and see how far we’ve come 100 years later.  Well, women’s rights supporters are no longer being stalked by the police, but they are still apparently on the cops shit list:

In the video above, hundreds of citizens peacefully protest at Capitol Square in Virginia for women’s rights (as shown on the Richmond Times Dispatch Website).  31 citizens–17 women and 14 men–were arrested by officers donning riot gear.

‘”The legislators should not be legislating medical procedures, especially for women,’ she said earlier. ‘We have a freedom of choice and they’re trying to take that away.’ said Glenn Allen resident Bonnie Ward.” (RTD).

I think we can all agree that in general, politicians are the stupidest and most selfish/corrupt people on Earth (which makes sense, because only power-hungry individuals want that kind of responsibility).  You know the saying–politics are best left to non-politicians. So why on Earth are we “letting” them legislate medical procedures, when they are elected to legislate for political issues?  Sounds clearly out of their jurisdiction.

In recent months, there have been multiple blows for women’s health:

1. Very successful attempts at defunding Planned Parenthood, including the removal of Susan G. Komen breast cancer screenings (which were later re-installed due to much complaint, thank god!)

2. The bullshit-named ““Woman’s Right to Know Act,” which MANDATES a very invasive (vaginal penetration, yup) ultrasound for all women who need an abortion.

3. Rush Limbaugh’s verbal attack on testifying Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke

4. Republicans try to take away insurance coverage on birth control

It’s amazing that despite the real world issues that require America’s attention –Iran’s nuclear program, our terrible education system, the debt crisis, unemployment, unbelievable amounts of oil dumped into our oceans between 2010-2012–there are groups of people who are determined to take away human rights from women.  Leave Roe v. Wade alone and go fix the ocean or something.

Pictures from Scotland Yard’s stalking of suffragettes in 1912, courtesy of Retronaut.

Source: Retronaut

Famous Nudes Get Photoshopped Skinnier

“What would have happened if the aesthetic standard of our society had belonged to the collective unconscious of the great artists of the past?” asks artist Anna Utopia Giordano.  Interestingly, Giordano is also a model.  Whether or not that impacts your view of the pieces, her site is worth checking out.

Commenters on Jezebel say:

“This comment might strike some as bizarre, but I actually really enjoyed viewing these Photoshops. Just a few small alterations and the ‘shopper was able to “translate” seminal stylized depictions of the female form into the prevailing stylized female aesthetic. I feel like I’ve gotten to look at the paintings with fresh eyes and really see them the way they were meant to be viewed – as iconic and sexy. Say what you will about the prevailing female ideal aesthetic, but I enjoyed the trip” (Seize, Jezebel)

“And it reminds me that these were worshipful forms back then, largely because only the wealthy could achieve this level of voluptuousness. So I wonder if the masses of the time would also have wanted to decry it as an unachievable beauty standard?” (Mooooo, Jezebel)

The interesting thing is that these standards have completely reserved.  You can maybe chalk it up to Whole Foods vs. McDonald’s dollar menu, or the fact that sushi and yoga tend to be pretty expensive while the invention of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) has made it super cheap to sell sugar-dosed foods.

I have to agree with it all–it’s a fresh perspective on an old classic.  However, the irony of it all is that models who are that thin are photoshopped anyway. Other commenters weren’t quite as excited to see the slim-downs:

“I suppose this is kind of interesting, but I figured we had enough photoshopped images to make women feel inadequate and bad about themselves without altering older art, some of the few pieces of imagery that women have that make us feel that maybe having big boobs, a tiny waist, and an almost unattainable perky [but] are not necessarily the absolute definition of [normalcy] and beauty.” (Chelsey, Flavorwire)

Whatever your stance is on touching up the untouchable, I’d say the works are extremely successful given the cross-spectrum reactions people are having.  See Anna Utopia Giordano’s portfolio here.

Related articles:

Barbie Trolling Famous Art Masterpieces

Plus Model Magazine Reveals Models Meet BMI Criteria for Anorexia

Hilariously Hot: Jesse Rosten’s “Fotoshop by Adobe”

Barbie Trolling Famous Art Masterpieces

Jocelyne Grivaud’s “Barbie Ma Muse” lets you take away from it what you will. For me it’s a laugh, for some, criticism. Whatever you decide, these juxtapositions are bound to give you some sort of reaction! See more at Grivaud’s Barbie ma muse.

(From top to bottom: “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” by Johannes Vermeer, “L’evidence Eternelle,” by Rene Magritte, “Olympia,” by Edouard Manet, “Marilyn Dyptic” by Andy Warhol, “La Gioconda” by Leonardo da Vinci, “Sylvia” by Otto Dix, “Le violon d’Ingres” by Man Ray.)

Why we Need More Female Directors in TV and Film: Advertising and the Imbalance of Male Fantasy Potrayals

Whose fantasy is this?

I think one of the biggest reasons many women and parents are displeased with the media today is that there is a harsh imbalance of male-female fantasies portrayed in the media.  In this essay I will discuss the reasons this imbalance prevents gender equality and creates a malevolent, one-dimensional view of young women in America.

Introduction

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that all visual media has been edited.  It is the art of editing–of selecting specific close-up, medium, and long shots in a particular order–that tells a story.  Each shot is chosen specifically and delicately in this order, as to perfectly illustrate the story being told.  Each cut simulates a blink of the eye, and with each blink we are concentrating on a new facet of the portrayed experience.

Editing rolls of film to tell your story is a tedious task

In real life, this is not so.  When we blink, our eyes show us the same scene, the same environment.  We cannot skip over the boring, monotonous, or irrelevant moments like in film.  Life is one long, uncut scene. By editing these moments together with a specific intent (the intent to create a story), we are creating pure fantasy.  Every piece of edited media you see is fantasy.  Commercials, tv, film, video games, and the horribly misnamed “reality” tv.

Problem

The problem is, if you look at the people directing and editing these commercials, they are almost all male.  The director of photography (person behind the camera), the director itself, and the editors tend to be male.  When you get a combination like this, even if the script’s writer is female, the story being told is influenced by the desires of these men in the same way that any film or piece of media is influenced by each hand that touches it.  I want to reiterate that there is nothing wrong with male fantasies, something that vocal people posing as feminists will contest.  The problem occurs when our society is dominated only by these fantasies, and there is a lack of female representation.

All male crew.
Even on shows such as Alias and Buffy, we see that makeup comes before ass-kicking.  Somehow on Dark Angel, Jessica Alba’s character has time to perfect her hair and put on mascara before going to fight the bad guys…In real life, makeup and hair to that effect can take an hour or more to achieve.  It enslaves you, in a real way. Women who see “looking good” as a necessity are prevented from acting on spontaneous decisions and their freedoms are limited because they need to spend an hour doing hair and makeup before they can go to lunch, or the beach, or to work.  Men don’t need to worry about these things because they are told through advertisements and tv that they don’t need to.
Evidence
Here is an example of a GoDaddy.com Superbowl 2012 commercial that objectifies women. This will be shown to families with young girls watching all over America for this year’s Superbowl XLVI.  WHY do you need sex to sell domain names? What on earth does sex have to do with domain names? Simple…sex sells.

And here is another one, also by GoDaddy (are you noticing a trend here?):

By the way: every single crew member, ad executive, and pre-production member for the GoDaddy commercial above is male.  The only exceptions? The actresses.

Now that you’re hopefully starting to feel enlightened, let’s move on to the next part of this essay.  The “equality part.”

To illustrate my point, I would like to use the Old Spice campaign as an example.  Note that this campaign differs only from the Axe campaign in that it switches the stereotyped gender roles.

Well what do we have here? From the advertising agency we have a female Executive Creative Director, a female Producer, a female Producer Interactive, and another female Producer Interactive.  And in the crew, there is a a female Executive Producer, and a female Line Producer.

Hm. Interesting.

Solving the Problem

I love Old Spice commercials.  First and foremost, they are hilarious.  You have a good-looking guy fulfilling every female fantasy in one long take.  One reason this works so well is because of the editing reasons I mentioned before–there is no cut.  It is one long take, and this lack of editing simulates real life.  However, its motion graphics and special effects make it very clear that it is still only a fantasy.

However, if you are to look at this commercial in the manner that sexualized female characters are looked at by other women, you will see that not everything is so fine and dandy after all.  The Old Spice guy is being objectified and sexualized. His character’s only mission is to satisfy women.

Is that sort of male objectification ethical? No. Objectification of either gender causes people’s personalities and souls to be disregarded as we cast them off as objects for looking at, or, as we commonly call it, “pieces of meat.” So how do we combat this? There is clearly objectification coming from both sides of the gender pool, with one side greatly outweighing the other…

The answer: balance it out!  There is no way you can ask a male artist not to paint his fantasy, whether on a canvas or on camera.  That’s not fair nor ethical, as we should all have the freedoms to write, film, or paint our fantasies.  But what you can do is balance out those male fantasies with female fantasies.  And this is important for empowering young women and helping them understand they do not need to be sexual or beautiful to be successful people.

Conclusion

A lot of things have changed for women’s status since our parents time, our grandparents time, and the generation before them, but that doesn’t mean the struggle is over yet.  More women than ever are attending college (and out-attending men even), working, and running for office.  Men don’t offer women seats on the train anymore, and they won’t pay for your dinner every time you go on a date.  We are living under the pretense that both genders are equal, and yet we are lacking a HUGE female influence in the media and political arenas.  This is not right, it has to change.  Too many women and men live in ignorance of our world’s domination by male fantasies and the insecurities it creates for both men and women (but especially women).

Not all women want to be viewed sexually, but thanks to the push to widely distribute photos like this, they are.

Equality can only be achieved by equal representation.  Ever heard the saying, “99% of life is just showing up?”  Well women, you (we) need to start showing up and getting out there.  In film, in tv, in advertising, and in politics.  Don’t be intimidated by male dominance in the industry.  What’s the worst that can happen by trying? In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, a champion of equality, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”