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Category Archives: Current Events

81 cents: The worth of a woman’s dollar in media.

When I was in kindergarten in 1980, we were asked who we wanted to be when we grew up.  I looked around: of the twenty or so occupational posters on the wall, women represented exactly two: teacher or nurse.  My mom was a stay at home mom, and later a teacher.  So I thought hard and creatively answered: Avon Lady, which is the only women-owned and women-operated business I knew.  A year or two later, that answer didn’t go over well in private school.  Today I believe we earn approximately 81 cents for every dollar a male earns.

Is there a gap in spending power also ?  I ask this because there’s a lot of mixed messages in the Ad Lands these days.  Take for example the NFL and Cover Girl.  Apparently, women account for 45% of the viewership of the NFL, which prompted CoverGirl to sponsor the NFL.  Then came the infamous Ray Rice incident and the NFL’s slow as molasses they’re only 45% and they’ll keep watching because they’re dumb response. Cover girl is still sponsoring the Superbowl Get Your Gameface On Campaign?  In other words, it continues to funnel money to an organization that disregards brutality to a core audience, women.   Converting that into spending power, it means that as women our dollar is also worth 81 cents, or a man’s dollar is worth $1.22 for every one of ours.  I feel like Canada at the UN when dealing with the NFL.  Of course we’re the little guy at the table.

Does CoverGirl know who their bread is buttered by?  I’m not sure they do, because of their lack of response to women’s issues.   With CoverGirl, we have 100% purchasing power.  Fortunately, someone expressed the frustration and  irony by photo shopping  CoverGirl’s Ravens Look makeup into a domestic violence victim (here: Ravens CoverGirl Makeup Spoof “Get Your Game Face On.”)  This look freezes the dopey happiness of the model, by the way.  It doesn’t help that she’s posed into a defensive parry.

Here’s the hero of the day:  Alway’s  “Like a Girl” campaign.  The short version is that younger girls believe “like a girl” means trying hard and fierce, and only with adolescence does it mean to do something poorly and awkwardly. Flailing and failing.  This information is brought to you by P&E, the makers of “Always” Products, who sell to women.  If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here:  Like a Girl Campaign

In the mean time, in the Philippines there is this bit of awful:  the infamous “Snuggle with a Struggle” t-shirts marketed to young boys in the Philippines. 

So while women celebrate being strong, it’s an arms race.

 

Back to that kindergarten problem. A brief history in media, according to me:

When women became tough in the year two double ought, we left behind chick flicks for chick action flicks. In 2001, Laura Croft Tomb Raider showed us how a pair of DDs can save the world. Then Kill Bill in 2003, showed that motherhood – that exclusive female experience – could be fierce and vengeful, sociopathic even. Then Quentin Tarrantino moved on to the Grindhouse films: We had Jessica Alba in Machete, Sophia Vergara in Machete Kills, next Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo… And always in the plot somewhere, a man tried to take advantage of our hot-tomale chick, who threw down and put the hurt on him. For example: Kill Bill. Which I personally love and say nothing bad about. Except to remind you when Bringing the Popcorn that like sex in porn, It Isn’t Real. But we called it progress nonetheless. Kick ass, take names.

This progress was important to me because once upon a time, there were only two Hollywood roles reflecting a woman my age: single mother or district attorney. (As an attorney, I personally loathe the DA role.)  Sometimes they could be creatively combined into one whole person, as in Erin Brockovitch.  You could say Uma Thurman single handedly added serial killer to the list of women roles and occupations, but really that became the club no one wanted to join when Charlize Theron took the role of Aileen Wuornos.   Never mind, beautiful women could now be assassins.  And in fact, the role of Salt was re-written from Tom Cruise to Angelina Jolie.   So we evolved away from lawyer, when Angelina Jolie experimented as an undercover agent in Salt.  (!!)  The thing is, Jolie’s character as Salt was terrible.  She had no CIA Cry-Face.  Now Claire Danes as Carrie with her cry- face, that’s something new:  Vulnerable, effed-up, self-destructive, brilliant, a loose cannon: everything that makes her real.

Enter Outlander, the new STARZ series.

To enjoy this series you must first get past the fairy dust opening credits. Joanna Robinson of Vanity Faire called it “hardcore Ren-meets-Lilith Fair action right there.” And she’s right, it’s insipid music that doesn’t reflect the rawness of the series and is an insult to women, because the series is really about war.  And women in war.

For the uninitiated, just as World War II ends and Claire is about to return to normal life, she falls through time to another war. And sex, all marital for the sensitive, much of which takes place in plaid. But that soundtrack insults women, nailing them into the cats and knits and Celtic Woman cds. Already the critics are wondering if this could be a “cross-over phenomenon” to the world of men’s dollars. And I think: Do we have to be? Or isn’t my cable dollar, and all the women dollars who love these novels, placing them on the New York Times Best-Seller Lists, good enough just for once?

No.

In the mid-season finale Claire kills her would-be rapist and then goes into shock. There is nothing sexy about the scene, nothing nice, no one rescued by our hero (proof this isn’t a bodice ripper, as stupid as those comments are.)  Her reaction is a REAL response.  What the holy hell? A woman actually has a real response to an attempted rape and murder? Something more psychologically complex than a Batman “BAM”? Now, I don’t believe that men are as shallow as they’re portrayed in film and cinema either. They simply couldn’t be, or we wouldn’t have so many being treated for PTSD when they come back from war. But this was the first time I’ve ever seen emotional shock portrayed in response to an attempted rape, and vividly too. Because like it or not, rape is an act of war.

In the next evolution of chick lit, Reese Witherspoon is playing Cheryl Strayed in Wild. The best part of Wild, in my mind, is how Cheryl comes to terms and accepts her own past.  Instead of feeling bad for her ex-husband, she appreciates how those mistakes brought her to her present.   Instead of the scarlet-A of a “self-destructive” past, then deleted my typing, and that’s the point of writing here. “What if” you would do it all again to get where you are today? And I thought, what if women ceased to judge themselves and how they use their bodies, and were allowed to embrace themselves, mistakes and all? True frailty, trying and succeeding, and sometimes just making a mess of things?  A bit like Carrie, who slept with a terrorist, by the way.

I thought what a cool world this is.  I’ll bring my eighty one cent dollars to Wild and the next installment of Homeland.  And CoverGirl?  I didn’t need you anyway.

Homland Season 3, Amanda Lindhout’s A House in the Sky

I can’t help it: I’m excited about the upcoming Season Premier of Homeland, and what happens to Saul & Carrie and Cody on the run.  I’ve been hooked by the scenes of Congressional Hearings.  Why?

For those of you who don’t know, I come from a multigenerational agency family.  Now confirmed and declassified, I relearned the lay of my childhood – what was spoken and unspoken – through watching the Iran Contra Hearings on television.   The toys of my childhood – knickknacks and coins from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and sometimes Nicaragua – became puzzle pieces that snapped together in sharp focus with a father whose job as far as we were concerned was “making money.”

This fact reiterated so often I came to believe it was literally true.   I believed that my father drove into Northern Virginia every day in a tie and suit to mint coins.   I even told my old-Dominion private school teachers, as we went through the introduction ritual of my daddy’s a lawyer, my daddy’s a doctor, and in my case – woebegone nine year old-child who felt so out of place already – my daddy makes money.

But that was a long time ago, with my father bridging the gap between cloak and dagger anti-communism and modern anti-terrorism.  My last memories of the “agency” belong to our travels together in my late-teens to the former iron-curtain as the walls tumbled down.  I am a bit nostalgic for those times and a Red Army caravan broken down in Poland, windswept Trabants on the Autobahn, and diplomatic folklore of emergencies on the road to Berlin.

But I do not know the people or culture that comprise the Agency post- 9/11, so I can suspend disbelief and be entertained.  When we watch Homeland, my husband and I often talk about who Cody really is – the transformation a person goes through in the darkness.  Can you really understand that different person who walks out of the cage, the hole, the torture, the darkness?  Who is that changed person who comes back?  For this reason, I devoured A House in the Sky.  Stayed up until 2 in the morning reading, which is a good bit better than staying up until 2 in the morning drinking.

Reading her descent into darkness and out required a full twenty four hours of trying to piece my world back together again after finishing.  She wasn’t naïve, as so many have tried to paint her.  She was freelance without true credentials, but she had traveled the world and done freelance reporting both from Baghdad’s red zone and Afghanistan.  The only hotzone left for her was Somalia.   The intended targets were the NatGeo reporters ahead of her that day.  She used the same fixer as they did, stayed at the same hotel, and tried to get the same story that got them awards.  I can’t judge her for her decision.  It could have been my sister, who happily resides in a narco-terrorist state with her husband and two children.

The world is open, she writes in promotion materials, but it doesn’t promise safety. In Somalia, the hellhole of the world closed its net around her and subjected her to “unspeakable atrocities.”   In the aftermath of this book, I realize the hardline fundamentalists are waging a war against women’s bodies.  It is no different from the warped sexuality of Christian fundamentalism found in backswept mesas not so far from my present home.  But it is all dangerous.  It is all hell.  And I’ve found through reading her putting her world back together, that – whether the rapes in India or Bangladesh – because don’t believe for a minute this book is not about bodily rape as well as the rape of the soul – that I will judge a religion creates by the world it creates.  Unfortunately, hardline Islam can only flourish in violence and hell, and it creates more violence and hell.  I really hope the good guys win this one.

The Woolwich Decapitation Attack, the Oresteia, & The Law of an Eye for an Eye

I wrote two weeks ago a draft as follows: The Oresteia, gives us the lens of an older, ancient system of justice: the lex talionis, the law of revenge. This is the law as set forth in Moses: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Here, it is a life for a life, the blood feud, initiated by child deaths, when Iphigenia was sacrificed for good winds to sail to war. The ‘elders’ – the old gray men tasked with enforcing the laws – failed to condemn this act. Consequently the ancient laws sought their own revenge.

Just when I begin to believe a text like the Oresteia has lost its relevance, enter Woolwich Decapitation Attack in London. If you haven’t seen the video – and I’ve watched it so you don’t have to – after delivering the coup de grace to soldier Lee Rigby, the attackers street filmed themselves in the street giving their manifesto – replete with blood stained hands while an indifferent shopper brushes by – proclaiming that they’ve struck an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth for the lives lost every year in Nigeria. I don’t say anyone should see this. Just that they should know in fact that the ugly debris of colonialism has washed up on our shores in its bloody, primitive law. Heart of Darkness meets the Oresteia, in its structure and narrative, this video shadows the freakish stage delivery of a fifteen-hundred year old text.

The Oresteia is a play structured in four books – the fourth comedy having been lost. Apparently, this was the art of Greek Tragedy, to be able to integrate from horrific acts into a comedic denouement, although I have no idea how, since I haven’t read it. The play portrays classical Greek patriarchy as overlaid upon an older matriarchal society with ancient laws – perhaps the laws of psychology. In Book I, Agamemnon – hero of the Iliad, has returned home victorious from the Trojan War. In addition to the blood of war, it is time for him to settle up his debts with the older, darker vengeful deities for killing his daughter for the war effort. Agamemnon answers to her mother, Clytemnestra, with blood for the death of Iphigenia.

Agamemnon brings with him the spoils of war: the beautiful and cursed Cassandra priestess of Apollo and princess of Troy. Although she is doomed, Cassandra tells the bloody history of Agamemnon’s house: small children were killed and fed to their fathers, releasing the intergenerational curse on the house. Cassandra also dies, and the grounds of her curse of prophesy are given to us. In Book II, Orestes avenges his mother for the death of Agamemnon, then is pursued by the furies of revenge into Book III, where he seeks sanctuary at the shrine of Pallas Athena, representing wisdom and persuasion. There, the beauty of the Oresteia unfolds in its transformation from darkness to light, as Pallas Athena delivers to Athens their jury system. She includes the concept of restorative justice, and the furies of revenge – who’ve been denied their ancient justice in blood – are offered a new role as the patron deities of Athens. They take the deal, transforming from dark to light, and introducing the concept of restorative justice.

Back to the Woolwich attacks. The attacker in the video speaks with a British accent, without Nigerian cadence. My understanding from the news is that this is a man of “Nigerian descent.” I take that to mean that the atrocities he speaks of he has not witnessed, but has only heard of, and I’m unsure the connection to modern British soldiers outside of his delusions. This is important to me, because I am wary of the twisted psychologies that comes to our safe shores in the hearts and minds of the refugees of war. He speaks of having engaged in this atrocity in revenge for what people supposedly see every day in Nigeria. I am unaware, to be truthful, of British involvement in Nigeria since the 1960s. I could be wrong though. My understanding is that several human rights groups have called for prosecution of internal atrocities, but I have no accurate information.

But the man there, the one in the video, hasn’t faced the truth of his call: An eye for an eye is not satisfied with only one death for a death. Instead, a new claim for new blood is founded by each act of revenge. Under his law, the laws of psychology, the lex talionis system is renewed, where each actor is equally culpable and justified in his involvement. And that cycle justified the violent, outraged backlash against the British Muslim community.

Britain, for the record, historically independently developed its Common Law for the same purpose of preventing blood feuds and vendettas during the days of kings. I can’t find answers in the biblical canons, nor the Talmud or Sharia, about what to do with a man like this, as these systems appear focused on sin and compliance with divine laws. I simply don’t know what they do with the evil they find in the world. But evil is in Britain through this man and his motives, not personified as a character in the bible. The lex talionis is a psychological system governing contact with evil but can’t regulate it, relying on action in retribution, I suppose. But a judicial system, on the other hand, is designed to halt the cycles of retribution. Each is judged on his actions and charges and reasons and mitigating factors and aggravating factors, but each is a “final” judgment.