Archive for the Feminism Category

A THINKING GIRL’S GUIDE TO THE TAMING OF THE SHREW

Posted in Feminism, Theatre on October 3, 2011 by Miranda Wilding



This article is written by LAUREN GUNDERSON at THE HUFFINGTON POST

Without hesitation I can say that CAL SHAKES’ production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (running now through OCTOBER 16) is a lovely funny smartly directed production performed with muscle and wit.

Director SHANA COOPER dreamed up a MIAMI VICE version of Padua that was equal parts Hustler Club, Jersey Shore and Malibu Barbie (complete with ALEXANDRA HENRIKSON’S BIANCA as BARBIE herself). I don’t know exactly why every single thing DANNY SHEIE said as GREMIO made me giggle but it did. It was a seamy treat and the Thursday night audience I was with just loved it.

Now…There is the issue of the script.

And no matter how smart the direction, how poised the KATE, how fiery the lust between our violent lovers it’s still a play about a mean woman tricked and trapped to the point of submission, whose father barters with her life and whose new husband starves and abuses her in public. The same meanness and vitriol that we find in PETRUCHIO is cheered, but in KATE it is wretched. In a generous world this is a play about two horrible people that deserve each other – that is if KATE stayed a righteous bitch and battled with PETRUCHIO till the day he died.

Now it’s about a prank that sticks.

I am not the first to take issue with this play. And the publicity for most productions of this play tends to be overly apologetic to counteract – you know – society.

But everything you need to know is still right there in the script.

Particularly that final speech of KATE’S (you know the one) that ends with “your hand under your husband’s boot.”

Basically, PETRUCHIO makes a bet that KATE would prove more obedient than any other new wife at court. He calls for her. She comes. And ERICA SULLIVAN’S puckish KATE perfectly delivers the speech I was positively dreading. This KATE seemed to challenge PETRUCHIO to step up and be a man for her (finally), to be a man that would deserve a wife “bound to serve, love and obey.” But after that speech – which many great and varied female actors have delivered with wit, intelligence, strength, defiance and humanity – his line still reads:

PETRUCHIO: There’s a wench.

Yeah.

We finally see KATE as a human being, intelligently connecting her own life with the global female experience. She is a KATE we’ve never seen (and one that PETRUCHIO sure as hell never asked to see) – not one ready to insult and flail, but one who is calm, articulate and queenly.

She is *gasp* a nice person. Then…

PETRUCHIO: There’s a wench.

Which basically means that PETRUCHIO was right. The way to make a mean lady into a nice lady is to trick her, buy her, insult her, embarrass her, starve her, puppet her and demean her.

That’s how you take a fiery outcast of a woman and make her perform as you like in this play’s twisted loveless world.

If it weren’t a tactic in use right now against women in more than one country in the world it would actually be funny.

Of course SHAKESPEARE might have been a secret feminist satirist – and maybe the whole point of the show is to expose the fact that we laugh at the unfair and unique stress of women and that we’re all idiots when it comes to love and lust and that PETRUCHIO is thoroughly awful and would never deserve a kind wife and that a world without mothers (as Padua seems to be) is a backwards place full of out of control men and rash weddings.

And it is a comedy. And it is SHAKESPEARE.

And many of you will say, “Oh lighten up” – but it seems a luxury to laugh at abuse when there is no chance for the abused to change the game, save themselves and get out of a world that either wants to own them or wants to change them.

But usually both.

As much fun as we have with this play and as much winking and tongue in cheek we can make at the sexual dynamics, we can’t change the plot. And the story ends with a psychopathic husband celebrating his wife’s changed (broken?) spirit by calling her a wench, grabbing the money he just won betting on her and taking her to the bedroom.

If that’s not a frat party nightmare I don’t know what is.

Let’s do this play. Let’s just not kid ourselves about it.

AND I SHOULD KNOW…

Posted in Feminism, Media, Phenomenons, Television on August 17, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

This article is written by ROSEANNE BARR at NEW YORK MAGAZINE

ROSEANNE BARR was a sitcom star, a creator and a product, the agitator and the abused, a domestic goddess and a feminist pioneer. That was twenty years ago. But as far as she’s concerned, not much has changed.

During the recent and overly publicized breakdown of CHARLIE SHEEN, I was repeatedly contacted by the media and asked to comment, as it was assumed that I know a thing or two about starring on a sitcom, fighting with producers, nasty divorces, public meltdowns and bombing through a live comedy tour. I have, however, never smoked crack or taken too many drugs, unless you count alcohol as a drug. (I don’t.) But I do know what it’s like to be seized by bipolar thoughts that make one spout wise about Tiger Blood and brag about winning when one is actually losing.

It’s hard to tell whether one is winning or, in fact, losing once one starts to think of oneself as a commodity, or a product, or a character or a voice for the downtrodden. It’s called losing perspective. Fame’s a bitch. It’s hard to handle and drives you nuts. Yes, it’s true that your sense of entitlement grows exponentially with every perk until it becomes too stupendous a weight to walk around under, but it’s a cutthroat business – show – and without the perks, plain ol’ fame and fortune just ain’t worth the trouble.

Winning in Hollywood means not just power, money and complimentary smoked salmon pizza, but also that everyone around you fails just as you are peaking. When you become #1, you might begin to believe, as CHER once said in an interview, that you are “one of God’s favourite children,” one of the few who made it through the gauntlet and survived. The idea that your ego is not ego at all but submission to the will of the Lord starts to dawn on you as you recognize that only by God’s grace did you make it through the raging attack of idea pirates and woman haters, to ascend to the top of Bigshit Showbiz Mountain.

All of that sounds very much like the diagnosis for bipolar disorder, which more and more stars are claiming to have these days. I have it, as well as several other mental illnesses, but then I’ve always been a trendsetter, even though I’m seldom credited with those kinds of things. And I was not crazy before I created, wrote and starred in television’s first feminist and working class family sitcom. (Also its last.)

I so admire DAVE CHAPELLE. You did right for yourself by walking away, DAVE. I did not have the guts to do it, because I knew I would never get another chance to carry so large a message on behalf of the men and women I grew up with…and that mattered most to me.

After my 1985 appearance on THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON, I was wooed by producers in Hollywood, who told me they wanted to turn my act into a sitcom. When Marcy Carsey — who co owned CARSEY WERNER with her production partner Tom Werner (producers of THE COSBY SHOW) — asked me to sign, I was impressed. I considered THE COSBY SHOW to be some of the greatest and most revolutionary TV ever.

Marcy presented herself as a sister in arms. I was a cutting edge comic and she said she got that I wanted to do a realistic show about a strong mother who was not a victim of Patriarchal Consumerist Bullshit — in other words, the persona I had carefully crafted over eight previous years in dive clubs and biker bars: a fierce working class Domestic Goddess. It was 1987 and it seemed people were primed and ready to watch a sitcom that didn’t have anything like the rosy glow of middle class confidence and comfort and didn’t try to fake it. ABC seemed to agree.

They picked up ROSEANNE in 1988.

It didn’t take long for me to get a taste of the staggering sexism and class bigotry that would make the first season of ROSEANNE godawful. It was at the premiere party when I learned that my stories and ideas — and the ideas of my sister and my first husband BILL — had been stolen. The pilot was screened and I saw the opening credits for the first time, which included this: CREATED BY MATT WILLIAMS. I was devastated and felt so betrayed that I stood up and left the party.

Not one person noticed.

I confronted Marcy under the bleachers on the sound stage when we were shooting the next episode. I asked her how I could continue working for a woman who had let a man take credit for my work — who wouldn’t even share credit with me — after talking to me about sisterhood and all that bullshit.

She started crying and said, “I guess I’m going to have to tell Brandon [Stoddard, then president of ABC Entertainment] that I can’t deliver this show.” I said, “Cry all you want to, but you figure out a way to put my name on the show I created or kiss my ass goodbye.”

I went to complain to Brandon, thinking he could set things straight, as having a robbed star might be counterproductive to his network. He told me, “You were over 21 when you signed that contract.” He looked at me as if I were an arrogant restaurant server run amok.

I went to my agent and asked him why he never told me that I would not be getting the created by credit. He halfheartedly admitted that he had “a lot going on at the time” and was “sorry.” I also learned that it was too late to lodge a complaint with the WRITERS GUILD. I immediately left that agency and went to the WILLIAM MORRIS AGENCY. I figured out that Carsey and Werner had bullshitted Matt Williams into believing that it was his show and I was his star as effectively as they had bullshitted me into thinking that it was my show and Matt Williams was my scribe. I contacted BERNIE BRILLSTEIN and a young talent manager in his office, BRAD GREY and asked them to help me. They suggested that I walk away and start over, but I was too afraid I would never get another show.

It was pretty clear that no one really cared about the show except me and that Matt and Marcy and ABC had nothing but contempt for me — someone who didn’t show deference, didn’t keep her mouth shut, didn’t do what she was told. Marcy acted as if I were antifeminist by resisting her attempt to steal my whole life out from under me. I made the mistake of thinking Marcy was a powerful woman in her own right. I’ve come to learn that there are none in TV. There aren’t powerful men, for that matter, either — unless they work for an ad company or a market study group. Those are the people who decide what gets on the air and what doesn’t.

Complaining about the created by credit made an enemy of Matt. He wasted no time bullying and undermining me, going so far as to ask my costar JOHN GOODMAN, who played ROSEANNE CONNOR’S husband DAN if he would do the show without me. (JOHN said no.) That caused my first nervous breakdown.

To survive the truly hostile environment on set, I started to pray nonstop to my God, as working class women often do and to listen nonstop to PATTI SMITH’S PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER. I read THE ART OF WAR and kept the idea She that cares the most wins upmost in my mind. I knew I cared the most, since I had the most to lose. I made a chart of names and hung them on my dressing room door; it listed every person who worked on the show and I put a check next to those I intended to fire when ROSEANNE became #1, which I knew it would.

My breakdown deepened around the fourth episode, when I confronted the wardrobe master about the Sears Roebuck outfits that made me look like a show pony rather than a working class mom. I wanted vintage plaid shirts, T shirts and jeans, not purple stretch pants with green and blue smocks. She bought everything but what I requested, so I wore my own clothes to work, thinking she was just absentminded. I was still clueless about the extent of the subterfuge.

Eventually she told me that she had been told by one of Matt’s producers —his chief mouthpiece — “not to listen to what Roseanne wants to wear.” This producer was a woman, a type I became acquainted with at the beginning of my stand up career in Denver. I cared little for them: blondes in high heels who were so anxious to reach the professional level of the men they worshipped, fawned over, served, built up and flattered that they would stab other women in the back.

They are the ultimate weapon used by men against actual feminists who try to work in media and they are never friends to other women. You can trust me on that.

I grabbed a pair of wardrobe scissors and ran up to the big house to confront the producer. (The big house was what I called the writers’ building. I rarely went there, since it was disgusting. Within minutes, one of the writers would crack an utterly tasteless feminine hygiene joke that would make me want to murder them. Male writers have zero interest in being nice to women, including their own assistants, few of whom are ever promoted to the rank of writer, even though they do all the work while the guys sit on their asses taking the credit. Those are the women who deserve the utmost respect.)

I walked into this woman’s office, held the scissors up to show her I meant business and said, “Bitch, do you want me to cut you?” We stood there for a second or two, just so I could make sure she was receptive to my POV. I asked why she had told the wardrobe master to not listen to me and she said, “Because we do not like the way you choose to portray this character.”

I said, “This is no fucking character! This is my show and I created it — not Matt and not Carsey Werner and not ABC. You watch me. I will win this battle if I have to kill every last white bitch in high heels around here.”

The next battle came when Matt sent down a line for me that I found incredibly insulting — not just to myself but to JOHN, who I was in love with secretly. The line was a ridiculously sexist interpretation of what a feminist thinks — something to the effect of “You’re my equal in bed, but that’s it.”

I could not say it convincingly enough for Matt and his hand picked director walked over and gave me a note in front of the entire crew: “Say it like you mean it…That is a direct note from Matt.”

What followed went something like this: My lovely acting coach ROXANNE ROGERS (a sister of SAM SHEPARD) piped up and said, “Never give an actor a note in front of the crew. Take her aside and give her the note privately – that is what good directors do.” She made sure to say this in front of the entire crew. Then she suggested that I request a line change. So I did.

Matt, who was watching from his office, yelled over the loudspeaker, “Say the line as written!” I said, “No, I don’t like the line. I find it repulsive and my character would not say it.” Matt said, “Yes, she would say it. She’s hot to trot and to get her husband in bed with her and give it to her like she wants it.”

I replied that this was not what she would say or do: “It’s a castrating line that only an idiot would think to write for a real live woman who loves her husband, you cocksucker.”

ABC’s lawyers were called in. They stood around the bed while the cameras filmed me saying, very politely, over and over, “Line change, please.” After four hours of this, I called my then lawyer BARRY HIRSCH and demanded to be let out of my contract. I couldn’t take it any longer — the abuse, humiliation, theft and lack of respect for my work, my health, my life. He explained that he had let it go on for hours on purpose and that I had finally won.

He had sent a letter to the network and CARSEY WERNER that said, “Matt wasted money that he could have saved with a simple line change. He cost you four hours in production budget.”

That turned the tide in my favour.

BARRY told me Matt would be gone after the thirteenth episode. Which didn’t stop him from making my life hell until then. Some days, I’d just stand in the set’s kitchen weeping loudly. The crew would surround me and encourage me to continue. CJ, one of my favourite camera operators — an African ­American married to a white woman — would say, “Come on, Rosie, I need this job. I have five kids and two of them are white!”

I was constantly thinking about my own kids being able to go to college and I wrote jokes like a machine — jokes that I insisted be included in the scripts. (Lots of times, the writers would tell me that the pages got lost.) But thanks to BARRY, my then manager ARLYNE ROTHBERG, ROXANNE, my brave dyke sister GERALDINE BARR, the cast of great actors, the crew — who became my drinking buddies — the wardrobe department and the craft services folks, I showed up and lived out the first thirteen episodes, after which Matt left. Without all of them, I never would have made it.

(Most of the crew now work for Chuck Lorre, who I fired from my show; his sitcoms star some of my costars and tackle many of the subjects ROSEANNE did. Imitation is the sincerest form of show business.)

Matt stayed just long enough to ensure him a lifetime’s worth of residuals. Another head writer was brought on and at first he actually tried to listen to what I wanted to do. But within a few shows, I realized he wasn’t much more of a team player than Matt. He brought his own writers with him, all male, all old. Most of them had probably never worked with a woman who did not serve them coffee. It must have been a shock to their system to find me in a position to disapprove their jokes.

When the show went to #1 in December 1988, ABC sent a chocolate 1 to congratulate me. Guess they figured that would keep the fat lady happy — or maybe they thought I hadn’t heard (along with the world) that male stars with #1 shows were given Bentleys and Porsches. So me and GEORGE CLOONEY [who played ROSEANNE CONNER’S boss for the first season] took my chocolate prize outside, where I snapped a picture of him hitting it with a baseball bat.

I sent that to ABC.

Not long after that, I cleaned house. Honestly, I enjoyed firing the people I’d checked on the back of my dressing room door. The writers packed their bags and went to join Matt on TIM ALLEN’S new show HOME IMPROVEMENT, so none of them suffered at all. TIM didn’t get credit either.

But at least everyone began to credit me.

I was assumed to be a genius and eccentric instead of a crazy bitch and for a while it felt pretty nice. I hired comics that I had worked with in clubs, rather than script writers. I promoted several of the female assistants — who had done all the work of assembling the scripts ­anyway — to full writers. (I did that for one or two members of my crew as well.)

Call me immodest — moi? — but I honestly think ROSEANNE is even more ahead of its time today, when Americans are, to use a technical term from classical economics, screwed. We had our fun; it was a sitcom. But it also wasn’t The Brady Bunch; the kids were wiseasses and so were the parents. I and the mostly great writers in charge of crafting the show ­every week never forgot that we needed to make people laugh, but the struggle to survive and to break taboos was equally important. And that was my goal from the beginning.

The end of my addiction to fame happened at the exact moment ROSEANNE dropped out of the top ten, in the seventh of our nine seasons. It was mysteriously instantaneous! I clearly remember that blackest of days, when I had my office call The Palm restaurant for reservations on a Saturday night, at the last second as per usual. My assistant HILARY, who is still working for me, said — while clutching the phone to her chest with a look of horror, a look I can recall now as though it were only yesterday: “The Palm said they are full!”

Knowing what that really meant sent me over the edge. It was a gut shot with a sawed off scattershot, buckshot loaded pellet gun. I made HIL call The Palm back, disguise her voice and say she was calling from the offices of TOM CRUISE and NICOLE KIDMAN. Instantly, HIL was given the big 10 4 by The Palm management team. I became enraged and though she was uncomfortable doing it (HIL is a professional woman), I forced her to call back at 7:55 and cancel the 8:00 reservation, saying that ROSEANNE — who had joined TOM and NICOLE’S party of seven — had persuaded them to join her at Denny’s on Sunset Boulevard.

The feeling of being used all those years just because I was in the top ten — not for my money or even my gluttony — was sobering indeed. I vowed that I would make a complete change top to bottom and rid myself of the desires that had laid me low. (I also stopped eating meat for a year, out of bitterness and mourning for The Palm’s bone in rib eye steaks.)

As inevitably happens to all stars, I could not look myself in the mirror for one more second. My dependence on empty flattery, without which I feared I would evaporate, masked a deeper addiction to the bizarro world of fame. I had sold my time and company at deflated prices just for the thrill of reserving the best tables at the best restaurants at the very last minute with a phone call to the maître d’ — or the owners themselves, whose friendships I coddled just to ensure premium access to the aforementioned, unbelievably good smoked salmon pizza.

I finally found the right lawyer to tell me what scares TV producers worse than anything — too late for me. What scares these guys — who think that the perks of success include humiliating and destroying the star they work for (read Chuck Lorre’s personal attacks on CHARLIE SHEEN in his vanity cards at the end of TWO & A HALF MEN) — isn’t getting caught stealing or being made to pay for that; it’s being charged with fostering a hostile work environment. If I could do it all over, I’d sue ABC and CARSEY WERNER under those provisions. Hollywood hates labour and hates shows about labour worse than any other thing. And that’s why you won’t be seeing another ROSEANNE anytime soon.

Instead, all over the tube, you will find enterprising, overmedicated, painted up capitalist whores claiming to be housewives.

But I’m not bitter.

Nothing real or truthful makes its way to TV unless you are smart and know how to sneak it in and I would tell you how I did it, but then I would have to kill you.

Based on TWO & A HALF MEN’S success, it seems viewers now prefer their comedy dumb and sexist. People do what they can get away with (or figure they can) and CHARLIE is, in fact, a product of what we call politely the culture. Where I can relate to the CHARLIE stuff is his undisguised contempt for certain people in his work environment and his unwillingness to play a role that’s expected of him on his own time.

But, again, I’m not bitter. I’m really not.

The fact that my fans have thanked and encouraged me for doing what I used to get in trouble for doing (shooting my big mouth off) has been very healing. And somewhere along the way, I realized that TV and our culture had changed because of a woman named ROSEANNE CONNER, whom I am honoured to have written jokes for.

GLORIA STEINEM: A FIERCE & INSPIRATIONAL WOMAN

Posted in Feminism, Phenomenons on August 16, 2011 by Miranda Wilding


FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

“It’s shocking, I know,” remarked GLORIA STEINEM, allowing herself a wry grin.

And for once, the author, activist and feminist icon isn’t talking about a case of gender inequity at home or a human rights violation across the globe. This time, she’s talking about her age.

GLORIA STEINEM is 77…and most people are even more shocked than she is. Not only because she barely looks middle aged, but because she is, in the minds of many, frozen in the 70s — a tall, slim, striking woman with long streaked hair (it’s still streaked, but shorter now) and those big aviator glasses.

But four decades have indeed passed since Ms. Steinem helped launch the women’s movement. And this summer finds her in a reflective mode: working on a book about her years on the road — a combination of essays and memoir — and promoting a new documentary celebrating her life. GLORIA: IN HER OWN WORDS premiered last night on HBO.

Nestled on a couch in her comfortable Manhattan apartment one recent afternoon, Ms. Steinem acknowledged that often such tributes come at the end of one’s life and career — and she has no intention of either ending any time soon.

But, she said, maybe this isn’t such a bad time to look back a little.

“My hope is this film will make people think: ‘It’s been 30 or 40 years. Where do we want to be 40 years from now?”’ Besides, she added: “I want people to realize that if a very imperfect person did this, maybe they can, too!”

That self effacing tone runs through much of what she says — she likes to stress, for example, that if she had never come along, the same progress for women would have been achieved anyway. Her admirers are not so sure.

“It would have been like Christmas without Santa Claus — she was the goddess of the movement,” stated SHEILA NEVINS, coproducer of the new documentary with PETER KUNHARDT, who directed.

“She doesn’t take credit, but I give it to her.”

One of Ms. Steinem’s most important qualities, said SHEILA NEVINS, is that she showed “how you could be the bull and the china shop — aggressive and gentle.”

She noted that growing up, she was taught to think a girl couldn’t be good looking and smart at the same time: “Gloria made me realize I could.”

Ms. Steinem, though, makes clear that being branded the beautiful sexy feminist was a double edged sword at best.

“It’s a problem we all share, getting identified by your outside looks. The most hurtful part is that you work very hard and people say it’s because of your looks.”

Ms. Steinem learned that lesson well before she became an activist — with her famous Playboy adventure in the early 60s, where she donned the bunny suit to go undercover for a magazine and expose degrading working conditions at The Playboy Club.

She deeply regrets the whole episode. “I could not have made a bigger mistake. It was personally and professionally a disaster. In the short term it was much harder to get serious assignments and in the long term it’s been used to ridicule me.”

She can’t escape the Playboy story: Recently she’s been asked by many journalists what she thinks of an upcoming NBC period drama about The Playboy Club. For the record: not much, though she hasn’t seen it yet.

“They were tacky, awful places to work,” she said of the clubs. “This will no doubt be a glamorized version.”

She also wondered why a TV interviewer recently used precious air time to ask about that long ago episode. She would rather have been asked about a NEW YORK TIMES op ed piece she had just written, about a controversial new naval base on Jeju Island off South Korea.

Such an issue may seem off the beaten path for Ms. Steinem, but she’s long been vocal about a wide range of international issues, like sex trafficking, genital mutilation or violence against women across the globe.

“I’m just not sure I believe in boundaries any more.”

At home, it won’t be surprising to see her weigh in on the 2012 presidential race, as she did in 2008 — opposing SARAH PALIN and decrying what she saw as sexist media treatment of HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, whom she supported over BARACK OBAMA in the Democratic primaries.

GLORIA hopes the current secretary of state might yet become president. “Many more Americans can now imagine a female chief of state because of her. After a second Obama term…”

For the documentary, producers amassed a treasure trove of film clips, photos and other tidbits that tell the story of GLORIA STEINEM’S long career.

We see a young GLORIA tap dancing in an elevator — it was one of her talents — and flirting with GEORGE BURNS in a TV interview. We also see some striking negative reactions to Ms. Steinem and her feminism: A vicious call from a female viewer on LARRY KING LIVE, telling her to “rot in hell” and advising her never to have children; or, more recently, conservative host Glenn Beck call her a “cranky feminist” and making a vomit gesture.

There’s also news anchor HARRY REASONER predicting that MS. MAGAZINE, which GLORIA cofounded in 1972, would fail (it’s still publishing today) and, perhaps most interesting, a segment from the Nixon tapes, with the former president dissing Ms. Steinem to Henry Kissinger.

Asked her biggest mistakes, GLORIA replied with a laugh: “How much time do we have?”

Turning serious, she mentioned her father. She did not travel to California to see him in the hospital after a car accident and he died alone.

“I had taken care of my mom as a child and I feared I’d never come back.”

She also wishes she’d “fought harder” for things she believed in. One of the choices she doesn’t regret, however, is not having children.

“I was in Mumbai at a women’s centre a few years ago and they asked whether I regretted that. I thought, ‘If I tell them the truth, I’ll lose them.’ But there was no point in lying and so I said, ‘No, not for a millisecond’ — and they applauded. Because they don’t have the choice.”

As for marriage, she surprised many when she married for the first time at age 66, to entrepreneur DAVID BALE, father of actor CHRISTIAN BALE. Mr. Bale died a few years later.

“I hadn’t changed — marriage had changed. We wanted to be together. We loved each other. And he needed a green card. But it was so lucky, because when he got sick, he was on my health insurance.”

The experience strengthened her commitment to same sex marriage.

Her greatest satisfaction, she said, is still when people come up to her — in the subway, on a plane — and tell her stories about their lives.

Like the man at the ticket counter at the Washington airport a week ago, who wanted to talk to her about his mother and all her accomplishments.

“It happens all the time.”

Though an agitator by profession, GLORIA spoke today of a new kind of contentment. She was in a taxi recently and her iPhone was out of juice, meaning she had time to look out the window.

“I was looking out and I had an amazing feeling of serenity, of well being. A sense that I don’t want a house in the country or anything I don’t have. I was feeling a unity, a oneness.”

What was that all about, her interviewer wondered?

“It must be my age.”

GLORIA STEINEM: THE ICON, THE GIRLFRIEND

Posted in Feminism, Phenomenons, Relationships on August 16, 2011 by Miranda Wilding


This article is written by MARLO THOMAS at THE HUFFINGTON POST

In the forty years I’ve known GLORIA STEINEM, we have been confidantes, soul mates and sisters. And only once can I remember feeling any worry about our friendship. I had fallen in love with a white haired Irishman and had decided to marry the guy.

This was not going to be easy to break to my soul mate.

Until that moment, GLORIA and I had always been philosophically synced. We were two unmarried women who were obviously not man haters, which is how many people at the time tried to portray feminists. We were women who had loving relationships with men and shared a passion about women’s freedom – and the concept of marriage just never fit in the equation for either of us.

In fact, both of us would often get mail from women who’d write, “I refer to you whenever my mother nags me about settling down. I say to her, ‘Well, Gloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas aren’t married and they’re not crazy!'”

But in 1977, I met PHIL…and the idea of marriage surprisingly seemed possible for me.

But there was still GLORIA – and that had me worried. So the night before my wedding, I wrote her a long letter, pouring out my feelings and assuring her that walking down the aisle would never mean walking away from all we believed in.

“This will be the greatest test of our sisterhood,” I wrote.

“We’ve always been a support for each other on this issue and I hope now you won’t feel abandoned by me.”

As it turned out, I’d been worrying for nothing. Of course, she was fine, she told me. And she was happy for me.

(Well, OK, maybe she did tell me that the first weekend was a little rough…)

And that, I suppose, is the truest example of what I believe to be GLORIA’S most precious of attributes (and she’s got a million of em): Her durability. Her self confidence. Her balance.

Not only did PHIL’S and my marriage not change GLORIA’S and my relationship one whit, but she used it to remind me to keep balanced myself – and with humour, no less. A few days after PHIL and I returned from our honeymoon, she and BELLA ABZUG threw me a bridal shower. But balloons and ribbons were pointedly not the decoration of choice. Instead, GLORIA and BELLA had created little posters bearing every sassy remark I’d ever made about marriage and hung them around the room.

Marriage is like living with a jailer you have to please.

Marriage is like a vacuum cleaner — you stick it to your ear and it sucks out all your energy and ambition.

What a shock it was to see them all together like that. I laughed out loud. No wonder I’d never wanted to get married.

Last night, like millions of Americans, I watched the HBO documentary GLORIA: IN HER OWN WORDS, directed by PETER KUNDHARDT and edited by the talented PHILLIP SCHOPPER.

I sat back and marvelled, all over again, at the consistency of this remarkable woman. For an entire generation, she has symbolized the very qualities of the feminist movement – strength, courage, tirelessness – and she has never once lost her fire. Not only has she inspired a new wave of feminists, but she stands by their side, leading the charge with them. The fight for women’s equality has never been something that GLORIA does.

It’s something she is.

And she brings that something to her friendships. We met in 1967, when a Hollywood agent brought us together for a TV movie, with the idea of my playing the part of GLORIA, who had just written a magazine piece about going undercover as a bunny at The Playboy Club. The agent’s pitch meeting was a disaster, but our friendship was forged – and that friendship would become woven into the tapestry of our activism.

I’ll never forget the first time she asked me to pinch hit for her.

“I’m scheduled to speak at a welfare mothers event this weekend in New Hampshire,” she told me, “but I’m double booked. Can you step in for me?”

“Welfare mothers?” I said. “Are you crazy? They’ll hate me. I don’t have any children and I’m a kid from Beverly Hills. What will I talk to them about?”

“Trust me,” GLORIA said. “They’ll love you – and you’ll love them. You’re all women.”

I was terrified – but I wanted to rise to the occasion and I think I was curious to see if these women and I would be able to connect. So I started by talking about my family and I made them laugh with stories about my eccentric and fiercely independent Grandma, who played drums in a beer garden in Pasadena. Then I talked about my aunts and my mother, who struggled with the dominance of the men in their marriages.

And then the women talked back to me. And I listened.

That event changed my life. It educated me. It politicized me. And it taught me that GLORIA’S instincts were as acute as her wisdom.

You’re all women.

Just so you know, despite her historic achievements as a feminist icon, as a girlfriend, GLORIA STEINEM is every bit as real as you and me. Her favourite expression is bananas. She’s a terrific tap dancer. And like a lot of us, her greatest fear is being misunderstood.

OK, well, I lied a little. We’re not at all alike when it comes to swapping gifts. I’ll give her a trendy handbag and she’ll give me a fertility goddess bracelet from Africa.

But that’s my girlfriend GLORIA.

HOW GLORIA STEINEM FORCED ME OUT OF THE CLOSET

Posted in Feminism on August 16, 2011 by Miranda Wilding


This article is written by KELI GOFF at THE HUFFINGTON POST

Recently I accidentally came out of the closet.

Now before the rumour mill begins buzzing I don’t mean that closet. (Although thanks to my height, in TV makeup I’ve probably been mistaken for a drag queen more times than I care to count. But that’s another blog post…)

I’m referring to the other closet that many childless, career oriented, single women find themselves boxed in: that of a closeted feminist.

I didn’t even know that I was in the closet until I mentioned via social media that I had attended a screening of the terrific new HBO documentary on feminist icon GLORIA STEINEM, GLORIA: IN HER OWN WORDS. A self professed fan of mine expressed surprise and later horror that I would identify with that feminist stuff considering how (allegedly) detrimental it has been to society.

I initially assumed he was joking.

After all, I write about women’s issues so much that during a recent interview about my new book (shameless plug alert) THE GQ CANDIDATE, a reporter asked me if I consider myself first and foremost a women’s issues writer. I had never given the matter much thought, explaining that I write about issues that I find interesting and consider important. As a woman it’s probably not a coincidence that a number of those issues affect women, among them reproductive rights, a topic I care a great deal about and have stated that I consider one of the most important political issues of our time.

But as I noted on THE DYLAN RATIGAN SHOW, my fan’s criticism spurred some reflection on my part. I don’t know that I have used the f word once in any of my writing – except to describe other people like GLORIA STEINEM – but never to describe myself.

Conscious choice on my part? Definitely not.

Subconscious choice? Well now I wonder.

According to a 2005 CBS News survey, though 69% of women polled believe that the women’s movement has definitely made their lives better, nearly the same number – 70% to be exact – said that they do not consider themselves feminist. This despite the fact that a plurality of those polled still believe there are greater advantages to being a man in society than to being a woman. I assume that like my so called fan many of the women polled don’t actually know the actual definition of the word feminist or feminism, which according to MERRIAM WEBSTER is “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

Gee. Isn’t that controversial sounding? Who would want to stand for that? (Sarcasm, in case you missed it.)

And yet as we see from the GLORIA STEINEM documentary, the word feminist has long been used as a pejorative by those opposed to the feminist movement’s primary goal of gender equality. I guess it was easier for equal rights opponents to vilify the movement by exploiting people’s ignorance of the true meaning of a funny sounding new word. So they were able to successfully hijack it and turn it into a synonym for man hating, unattractive, angry witch.

(Which I guess would make the feminist movement a covenant. If so, pass me my broom.)

Witch certainly makes a better political target than say, freedom fighter.

So perhaps the poll (and subconsciously my own writing) reflect the notion that even among those who support feminism’s goals, there’s a lingering fear that the word is so radioactive that using it may hamper our efforts to advance a feminist agenda, on reproductive rights or anything else.

But I’m beginning to wonder if this has become a self defeating prophecy. So many of us who have benefitted from the feminist movement and continue to believe in its goals have become afraid to use the f word – consciously or not – so the idea of feminist as a bad word lives on generations after the movement first began.

(I will say for the record that I do believe that some of feminism’s more high profile voices bear some of the blame for younger women’s fear of the f word. The politics of with us or against us are rarely effective at persuading converts and unlike some feminists, I don’t believe that a woman choosing to pose in a men’s magazine, or a man choosing to buy one, makes either one of them any less of a feminist than myself.)

The way I see it, the only way for us to stop f word panic is for more of us to come out of the closet.

Allow me to do just that.

My name is Keli and I’m a feminist.

SUSAN SARANDON & GEENA DAVIS: LIVE AT ROY THOMSON HALL

Posted in Feminism, Film on June 8, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

FROM THE CANADIAN PRESS

GEENA DAVIS said that shooting the heroic road movie THELMA & LOUISE profoundly changed her life because the reaction to the film from women was so extraordinary.

“All of a sudden people were grabbing me by the lapels to tell me what the movie meant to them or telling me their story and: ‘My friend and I acted out your trip!”’ GEENA told a crowd of about 1800 at Tuesday night’s THELMA & LOUISE: THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY HOMECOMING event at ROY THOMSON HALL in Toronto.

“So it really made me realize how few opportunities we give women to feel that way about a movie – about the female characters in the movies.”

GEENA noted the film was “kind of a phenomenon.” But despite all the excitement, it didn’t become the catalyst for more female centric films that many thought it would.

“The press predicted when this movie came out that: ‘Oh my God, now it’s been proven that female road movies or female buddy movies or whatever could be very successful and we’re going to see a whole stream of them‘…and nothing happened.”

“I mean, we really haven’t built any momentum since this movie came out.”

GEENA and her THELMA & LOUISE costar SUSAN SARANDON stopped in the city to celebrate this month’s 20th anniversary of the landmark 1991 film, which was a hit with critics and won an OSCAR for BEST SCREENPLAY.

GEENA stars as THELMA, a bored Arkansas resident who’s married to a controlling husband (CHRISTOPHER McDONALD). SUSAN plays her best friend LOUISE, a headstrong restaurant server.

Together they hop in a 1966 Thunderbird convertible for an uproarious weekend getaway. Things go awry, however, when LOUISE shoots a man who tries to rape THELMA.

With the cops (one of them played by HARVEY KEITEL) surrounding them on the ground and in the air, the accidental outlaws choose to end the chase in a grandly tragic fashion: by slamming on the gas of the Tbird and driving it off the edge of the Grand Canyon in a dusty haze.

That final scene has become iconic and yet it only took just a few minutes to shoot, said the stars, noting director and coproducer RIDLEY SCOTT filmed it on the last day.

“By that time we’d been through so much, we’d put in so many hours in the car together and we’d done everything that really we earned that scene and we earned the sentiment of that scene,” stated SUSAN, who won an ACADEMY AWARD for DEAD MAN WALKING.

“If we had had to do it in the beginning I think it would have been more forced. But by the time we got to it, it was the perfect time to do it.”

CALLIE KHOURI won an OSCAR for penning the THELMA & LOUISE screenplay. The film also received five other ACADEMY AWARD nominations, including one each for GEENA and SUSAN, as well as one for RIDLEY SCOTT.

With its feminist overtones and original plot, the drama became a quintessential symbol of women’s rights, yet Mr. Scott didn’t set out to make a feminist film, SUSAN remarked.

“It wasn’t trying to be a polemic. It wasn’t trying to be anything and he’s not a feminist, really…and so it was a turning point for him too,” she said during a Q&A that was moderated by TORONTO STAR reporter RICHARD OUZONIAN and included clips from the film.

“I think it could’ve been a very small movie if a very serious feminist had made it that didn’t put it in this heroic, I mean, that’s what he does, he just put us in this huge heroic kind of setting and we took care of the human part. So we have to thank him for making it iconic.”

GEENA — who won an OSCAR for THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST — said she thinks one of the reasons why there haven’t been more iconic female centric movies since is that the male dominated industry isn’t writing enough interesting female characters, even in children’s entertainment.

“The female perspective is not really fleshed out as well,” stated GEENA, who founded THE GEENA DAVIS INSTITUTE ON GENDER IN MEDIA in 2007, which studies gender representation in media, especially children’s media.

“I think a big part of the problem is there’s a great lack of imagination in creative female characters. The best advice I give anybody in the industry is, ‘Change the male characters to female.”’

Of course, THELMA & LOUISE also launched the career of BRAD PITT, who plays J.D., a strapping paroled robber who befriends the women on their journey.

GEENA, whose character has a steamy motel sex scene with BRAD’S character, said BILLY BALDWIN had originally landed the part but backed out to do another film. When BRAD walked in to read for the part, she was gobsmacked and could barely get through her lines.

“I kept losing my place and I’m like, ‘Oh my God. I’m totally screwing it up for this guy,”’ she said, noting she wasn’t the only person on set who was taken aback by his distracting physical presence.

“Ridley was personally spraying Evian (water) not on me, but on Brad’s stomach (for the love scene).”

Money raised from Tuesday’s event will benefit THE WOMEN’S COLLEGE HOSPITAL FOUNDATION.

CANNES 2011: WOMEN ON TOP

Posted in Feminism, Film, Film Festivals on May 17, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

It’s a good year for women at the CANNES FILM FESTIVAL. But not everyone is cheering just yet.

Four of the 20 films in the festival’s main competition are by female directors, a record number — and better than last year’s total of zero.

It’s still a small minority, however, and in the festival’s 64 years, only one film by a woman has won the top prize: JANE CAMPION’S THE PIANO in 1993.

Ms. Campion said there is still a long way to go.

“I think, weirdly enough, progress in the arts for women is really slow,” the filmmaker said after a screening of JULIA LEIGH’S CANNES entry SLEEPING BEAUTY, a film she has championed.

“This festival has been very kind to me, but I’m still the only woman that’s ever won the Palme d’Or.”

Films from female directors at this year’s festival include LYNNE RAMSAY’S mother/son tragedy WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, Australian director JULIA LEIGH’S SLEEPING BEAUTY, an icy motion picture about a student who becomes an object of male erotic desire and POLISSE, a vibrant movie about a Paris police child protection squad from actor turned director MAIWENN.

Screening today is HANEZU NO TSUKI, a film about ancient and modern life in the Asuka area of Japan by NAOMI KAWASE, a former winner of CANNES’ second place GRAND PRIZE.

If the three films already shown have anything in common, it’s a willingness to tackle tough and intimate subjects, from child violence to pedophilia to sexual exploitation.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN has met with the widest praise and is a favourite to win prizes when CANNES trophies are announced Sunday. Most critics approved of its unflinching and inventive depiction of a woman struggling to cope, first with parenthood and then with an unspeakable act of violence by her son.

In POLISSE, the blend of pathos, melodrama and humour was not to all tastes and some viewers found SLEEPING BEAUTY contrived and exploitative. Its central character spends a great deal of time naked and unconscious, while elderly men enact their fantasies on her.

JANE CAMPION thinks the negative reaction may partly result from the comparative rarity of women’s voices in cinema.

“We really need women’s voices out there. People that may have problems with this film, they are just not used to a strong feminist voice being shown on the screen.”

MAIWENN, who goes by just one name, said a director’s gender shouldn’t be relevant to discussion of their movies.

“I’d hate to think that my film was selected because there was a quota for women. I know my film was chosen because people like the film, not because I’m a woman.”

But she conceded that “it’s hard to be a female director on the set.”

“It’s a very masculine role. We have to cope with people putting up the funds who may be more comfortable working with men than with women.”

A walk around CANNES‘ film market, where hundreds of movies are bought and sold, reveals that cinema is still largely a man’s world. The market is dominated by thrillers, horror and action flicks — still largely male dominated genres.

CANNES is full of high profile performances by women — TILDA SWINTON as the grieving mother in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, BERENICE BEJO Bejo as a silver screen star on the rise in the silent film THE ARTIST, CECILE DE FRANCE as a hairdresser who takes in an abandoned boy in THE KID WITH A BIKE.

But moving behind the camera can still be a struggle.

FAMKE JANSSEN, who played a glamorous but lethal Bond woman in GOLDENEYE and telepath JEAN GREY in the X MEN franchise, has made her writing/directing debut with comic drama BRINGING UP BOBBY. The film is for sale in the CANNES film market.

She said that although “we’ve come a long way…it’s still a male dominated business on every front.”

“And there are not that many actresses who direct either. It is very difficult to do, especially in a male dominated world. Studio movies especially are still directed primarily by men.”