Category Archives: feminism

Giving feminism a bad name, Chapter [insert astronomical number here]

So this morning, this showed up in my Twitter feed:

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Out of morbid curiosity, I followed the link and found this article in the Jewish online magazine, The Tablet, which skewers “male critics” for giving lukewarm reviews to the new Disney feature, Frozen, and missing its feminist message.

To start with: I haven’t seen Frozen yet.  I’m really disappointed that Disney made a film very loosely based on Andersen’s wonderful story The Snow Queen, rather than an actual adaptation of the story (which has a courageous, active female protagonist, an awesome and terrifying female villain, and other great characters including a lady bandit chief and her bratty but good-hearted daughter).  One friend of mine thought it was great.  Another, a feminist who has a strong interest in female-driven stories, thought it was so-so.

If Frozen is getting mediocre press, that’s news to me: the film has a very impressive 89% “fresh” rating on RottenTomatoes.com (though some of the reviews counted as “good” are not quite as enthusiastic as Tablet author Marjorie Ingall, the magazine’s Life and Religion columnist, would prefer).  Plenty of male critics loved it: Time‘s Richard Corliss, for instance, or The Wall Street Journal‘s Joe Morgenstern (who concludes his review by calling one of the sisters, Elsa, “a heroine for our times”). And some female critics, such as Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com, were every bit as lukewarm as the male critics Ingall castigates.  The Village Voice‘s Sherrilyn Connelly thought that in terms of its portrayal of female characters, Frozen is a step back from Brave; Ingall emphatically disagrees, which is fine.

What’s not fine is that (1) under the guise of feminism, Ingall has penned a disgustingly sexist and crass attack on male critics, a respectable online magazine published it, and some people are apparently loving it; and (2) Ingall seriously misrepresents both the overall tenor of the reviews and some of the actual critics she slams.

After cherry-picking a few “meh” reviews, Ingall writes:

All these critics are boys. This movie is an extraordinary, subversive story about sisterhood, and it is funny and surprising and weird, and they do not get it because they are writing with their penises.

Really, Ingall?  Really, Tablet?  “Boys”? “Writing with their penises”?  Good grief.  Imagine the reaction if a male writer derided “girl” critics who were insufficiently enthusiastic about some male-oriented movie and opined that “they do not get it because they are writing with their ovaries.”  (Yeah, okay, Rush Limbaugh says this kind of crap, which he rightly gets slammed for.  But I can’t imagine, say, Commentary or National Review Online publishing anything of the sort.)

Speaking of “not getting it,” I think Ingall actually misunderstood the meaning of a line that particularly incensed her in Stephen Holden’s New York Times review.  Holden wrote:

“Frozen,” for all its innovations, is not fundamentally revolutionary. Its animated characters are the same familiar, blank-faced, big-eyed storybook figures. But they are a little more psychologically complex than their Disney forerunners. Its princesses may gaze at a glass ceiling, but most are not ready to shatter it.

Ingall fumes:

Wait, what? It’s true, animated movies fall down spectacularly when it comes to body-image diversity. This is no exception. (My daughter Josie observed that the princesses’ eyes are wider than their arms, and I know of someone who dismissed the film as “Battle of the Snow Barbies.”) But how are they not shattering a glass ceiling? It’s a cartoon in which both of the leads are female, the love story is secondary to the tale of the sisters’ relationship, and oh yeah, audiences are flocking to see it in record numbers despite the tepid reviews.

Actually, I believe Holden is contrasting the film’s princesses, Elsa and Anna, to “their Disney forerunners.”  The last line in the paragraph Ingall quotes is rather clunkily written and confusing, but it sure looks to me like “Its princesses” refers to “Disney’s princesses,” not Elsa and Anna (“most” of two makes no sense).  I think Holden is saying that Frozen‘s princesses do shatter the “glass ceiling,” an interpretation supported by the fact that his next paragraph notes that this is the first Disney animated feature with a female director.

But back to Ingall for this snarky aside:

(I did laugh at the conservative New York Post’s response: “[Disney] too often panics at feminist pressure and orders up formulaically ‘strong, capable, smart’ girls.” Heaven forfend! Love those quote marks. Who’s really panicking here, monkeyboy?)

What Ingall doesn’t say is that the New York Post review by Kyle Smith is actually highly positive (he gives the movie 3.5 stars out of 4, compared to 3 out of 5 from gender traitor Elizabeth Weitzmann in the rival, and liberal, tabloid The Daily News).  Also, Smith is — in this case, unmistakably — contrasting Frozen‘s Elsa, whom he calls “intriguingly nuanced” and “cool,” to the “formulaically ‘strong, capable, smart’” girls from other Disney films.

Oh, and just to remind you: Frozen did not get “tepid reviews.”

To recap:

This is a year in which female-driven movies (Catching Fire, Frozen, Gravity) have done amazingly well with audiences and with critics.

And out of this, a feminist writer manages to get a male-bashing whinefest about slights to women and girls (or to feminism) at the hands of beastly men.

Imaginary slights, I should add.

And then feminists complain that feminism gets a bad press.

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Filed under feminism, gender issues, journalism

The date-rape debate redux

Yes, I know that this blog has been gathering dust for a while, and I’ve kept meaning to come back to it.  I don’t know if I’m back on a regular basis (too much else on my plate right now), but I will try to blog at least part-time.

And I’ll start off with a follow-up to my recent Boston Globe column (April 14) on the new sexual misconduct policy at Duke University.  An excerpt:

The policy, introduced last fall but recently challenged by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, co-founded by Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate, targets “sexual misconduct’’ — everything from improper touching to forced sex. Some of the examples given in the text of the policy, such as groping an unwilling woman’s breasts, are clearly sexual offenses not just under university regulations but under the law.

But the policy’s far-reaching definition of sex without “affirmative consent’’ covers much more. Unlike the notorious Antioch College rules of the 1990s that required verbal consent to every new level of intimacy, Duke’s policy recognizes non-verbal expressions of consent. However, it stresses that “consent may not be inferred from silence [or] passivity’’ — even in an ongoing sexual relationship.

What’s more, consent can be invalidated by various circumstances — not just obvious ones such as being threatened or unconscious, but also being intoxicated to any degree, or “psychologically pressured,’’ or “coerced.’’ The latter is an extremely broad term, particularly since the policy warns that “real or perceived power differentials . . . may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.’’ As FIRE has noted, a popular varsity athlete may face a presumption of coercion in any relationship with a fellow student.

Meanwhile, women, the default victims in the Duke policy, are presumed passive and weak-minded: Goddess forbid they should take more than minimal responsibility for refusing unwanted sex. In one of the policy’s hypothetical scenarios, a woman tells her long-term boyfriend she’s not in the mood, but then “is silent’’ in response to his continued non-forcible advances; if he takes this as consent and they have sex, that is “sexual misconduct.’’ Why she doesn’t tell him to stop remains a mystery.

The man’s behavior may be inconsiderate. However, adult college students have no more of a right to be protected from such ordinary pressures in relationships than, say, from being cajoled into buying expensive gifts for their significant other.

On April 20, I received an email from my occasional sparring partner Barry, a.k.a. Ampersand, of Alas, a Blog.  Sayeth Barry (posted here with his kind permission): Continue reading

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Filed under academia, feminism, rape, sexuality, women

My latest on (oh no!) Sarah Palin

She’s not the savior of conservatives.

And she’s not nearly as much a victim of the “liberal media” as her defenders make her out to be (at least if we’re talking about the mainstream media; there has been some incredible nastiness on left-wing blogs, though at least no one that I know of tried to claim that she left a trail of bodies in her wake).  About the mockery of her religion: yes, it was suggested with no real evidence that she believes the dinosaurs lived 5,000 years ago (it’s actually unknown whether she’s a creationist or not; she does support the teaching of both “intelligent design” and evolution in public schools).  However, I do think she got off rather easy on her connection to a witch-hunting African pastor (I suspect for two reasons: one, bringing up a wacko pastor connection would have inevitably called up the ghost of Jeremiah Wright; two, it might have seemed somewhat un-PC to make too much fun of a crazy pastor from Africa and his looney medieval beliefs).

Is it possible that in a few years Palin will reinvent herself as a brilliant candidate?  Perhaps; F. Scott Fitzgerald notwithstanding, there are second acts in American life.  But it would have to be one hell of a second act.  And if it is, I’ll gladly eat my words.  As I said in the article, and in other venues, I think there is definitely a place and a need for a conservative/libertarian/individualist feminsm that embraces female strength, femininity, family, and small government — and for the kind of female leadership Palin could have provided if she had lived up to her billing.

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Filed under feminism, Sarah Palin, U.S. politics, women

At family violence conference in LA

I’m currently in LA for a fascinating conference on family violence, “From Ideology to Inclusion,” which examines alternatives to conventional feminist views of domestic violence.   (Glenn Sacks of Fathers & Families is here, and we’re getting along fine.)   The event is fascinating, especially the first speaker I got to hear, Erin Pizzey.

More later — I will be writing about this one.

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Filed under domestic violence, feminism, gender issues

Fathers and “paternalists”

About a month ago, I had an op-ed in The Boston Globe about the rise of single motherhood and what it means for fathers — ironically, at a time when equal parenting as an ideal has been making a lot of inroads.  A couple of days later, there followed this commentary from Shannon LC Cate on the Strollerderby parenting blog.  I meant to reply to it sooner, but first I was busy with other things and then I decided to put it off until Father’s Day.  So, here is it.

Ms. Cate’s post is titled “Unwed Motherhood on the Rise; Paternalists on the Warpath.”  Evidently, to point out that in general, children are better off having a father (and that, among other things, the glorification of the mother-child family unit takes us back to the not-very-feminist notion of child-rearing as women’s work) is to be a “paternalist on the warpath.”

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Filed under fatherhood, feminism, gender issues, men, motherhood, women

Barack and the women, Part II

My column on the “women’s issues” part of Obama’s Cairo speech is here.

See also this excellent piece by Christopher Hitchens on Slate.com on the same topic.

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Filed under Barack Obama, feminism, gender issues, Islam, Muslims, women

Barack and the women

As I said in my previous post, I had a largely positive reaction to Obama’s Cairo speech.  However, I agree with David Frum’s criticsm of Obama’s comments about women’s rights — which should have been a key part of an “outreach to Muslims” speech.  In contrast to Obama’s strong affirmation of the principles of democracy, his discussion of women’s issues and Islam was too general, too weak, and afflicted with excessive even-handedness.  (Contrary to what many readers on Reason.com’s Hit & Run blog believe, I am not really a champion of indiscriminate moral equivalence.)

Here is the passage in its entirety: Continue reading

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Filed under Barack Obama, feminism, gender issues, Islam, Muslims, women

Defending motherhood from straw men (or women)

This caught my eye of National Review‘s blog, The Corner:

Momma Mia!: The Case of Candace Parker [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

A married 22-year-old is subject to scorn for embracing motherhood.

The link is to a column by Colleen Carroll Campbell, described as “an author, television and radio host and St. Louis-based fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.”  Campbell writes about 22-year-old Women’s National Basketball Association star and Olympic gold medalist Candace Parker, a player for the Los Angeles Sparks and wife of Sacramento Kings forward Shelden Williams who recently announced that she was pregnant.  According to Campbell:

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Filed under antifeminism, feminism, motherhood, women's sports

… in which yours truly gets Palined

So I googled myself today (yes, I ego-surf) and came across this piece on the Slate blog, The XX Factor, eviscerating a feature in More magazine (a glossy targeting 40+ women) in which three writers, including yours truly, comment on the Sarah Palin phenomenon.  Slate ladyblogger Susannah Breslin snarks that the magazine ran the feature “in a blatant, desperate, and misguided bid for page-views and newsstand sales.”  Which is pretty … misguided, because the Palin forum is not on the cover of the magazine and, as far as I can tell, not on its website either.

Breslin then comments:

Lisa Schiffren writes: “Knowing that conservative, evangelical Christian women want their daughters to see such a role model [as Palin] tells us that feminism, in its best sense, has won its central battle.” Eh? What? I can’t even figure out what that means.

Now, I’m not a huge Lisa Schiffren fan, but is it really that hard to figure out what she means?  (You know, like … even conservative, evangelical Christians now admire women who are strong leaders and achievers in the public sphere?)

And then there’s this:

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Filed under feminism, Sarah Palin

Feminist male-hatred and The Vagina Monologues

Over on Alas, a Blog, in a thread where the comments are limited to “feminists and feminist allies,” Barry Deutsch (Ampersand) deconstructs a speech by Christina Hoff Sommers, a leading critic of feminist orthodoxies (and a good friend of mine, though there are certainly times when we disagree). In particular, he takes her to task for saying that many feminists are anti-male.

Does Christina paint with too broad a brush? Quite possibly. But a couple of things about Barry’s post:

(1) Barry says he hasn’t seen any male-hating attitudes from feminists except for a few people on the Ms. boards way, way back. I’m guessing the late Andrea Dworkin, famous for such aperçus as, “Under patriarchy, every woman’s son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman,” or “Male sexuality, drunk on its intrinsic contempt for all life, but especially for women’s lives…”, does not qualify? Continue reading

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Filed under antifeminism, feminism, men