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Men are in constant competition with each other, trying to assert dominance, or at least a place on the upper rungs of the hierarchal ladder. Men are motivated by a multitude of punishments and rewards to compete in this game of being a “Man.” This game is unwinnable though, and being successful at the patriarchal version of manliness is not the same as being a successful person. Or a good person. Or a happy person.

Men compete with each other in many ways, like how tall they are, how athletic, prestige of their job, how much money they make, how expensive and fast or large their car is, how large their house is, and other trappings of power. Men also use the woman at their side in this competition.

I have heard many men say that physical attractiveness is very important, if not the most important thing, when choosing a girlfriend or wife. I think this is mostly/mainly conditioned and a response to the constant competition they are in with other men in the patriarchy system.
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I believe men can be and are actually attracted to women of all shapes, colors, and sizes. I have come to this conclusion by reading lots of book set in different lands and different times, as well as just living life and seeing it with my own two eyes.

First of all, what do we mean by attraction? Do we just mean sexual attraction? Do we just mean what we see can see with our eyes? Like roundness. A smoldering stare. The fine curly hairs at the nape of the neck. All the beautiful tones of skin color. A shrug of possibility.

What about your other senses? The texture of skin on different parts of the body. The sound of a gasp. A scent that smells like coming home or visiting a foreign territory. The taste of a warm, hungry, wet mouth.

What other aspects add to attraction (def. – 1. providing pleasure or delight, pleasing 2. arousing interest or engaging one’s thought)? Are they funny? Interesting? Smart? Do they share your interests? Do they inspire you ? Do they support you? Do you feel safe to be vulnerable? Do they excite you with the promise of something you can’t get by being alone? Are you sexually compatible? I would say that all of these things are more important to a happy relationship than physical attractiveness.

Even if we are only talking about a one night stand there are more important things than physical beauty. Good looking doesn’t equal good in the sack, or up against the wall. A symmetrical face and shiny hair don’t necessarily bring fun to the bedroom, or sexiness, playfulness, shared kinks, stamina, imagination, tenderness, or intimacy.  Men are severely limiting themselves when they make a certain kind of physical attractiveness (young, thin, bosomy, long hair, blond, etc)  a priority in a relationship, even just a sexual relationship.

So, why do men make such a big deal about the physical appearance of women? I think it is in part because physical beauty is easy to see and judge and so easier to make use of in their competition with each other.

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For women to be useful in their competition they have to be flattened out, compartmentalized into various pieces so they can be more easily compared to each other. Then the judges (other men) know how many points of power to add to or subtract from the man to whom the woman “belongs”. Common attributes to be judged are:

weight (we all know thin is a win)
height (not taller than the man because men reserve height to compete with each other)
breasts (C and D cups get the most approval)
skin color (White in the western world, and we are unfortunately exporting that prejudice around the globe)
hair length (long is traditional and conforms to gender norms, so, of course, the patriarchy rewards it)
age (youth ranks higher than maturity)
and averageness of facial features (nothing too ethnic, and it is better for the nose and mouth to be too small than too big, but large eyes are a sign of youthfulness)

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Other aspects about a women like her intelligence, sense of humor, kindness, interests, ambitions, and  creativity take too long to ascertain. It is much too complex to compare personalities of one woman with another and also take into account personality compatibility with her partner. So those most important aspects are disregarded and physical looks, which are quick and easy to judge, are prioritized.

Of course men do take personality and compatibility into account. But there is enormous pressure put on them by the patriarchal society to compete and they worry that other men will add or subtract points of “man power” based on the physical attractiveness of the woman they are with.

Yet, many men have opted out of this and other areas of patriarchal competitions. They are honest with themselves that they can be and are attracted to women of all shapes, colors, and sizes. They long for something more than a trophy. They want intimacy and friendship and good sex with an equal partner.

Actually, I think pretty much all men would want that if they could have it. But some are afraid to give up whatever trappings of power they think they possess. They are afraid of being on a lower rung of the ladder than the other men around them. They are afraid of losing the competition. But life doesn’t have to be a competition.

Men who are reading this, wouldn’t it be nice not to have to worry about that shit anymore? Wouldn’t it be a relief to just stop playing a game that limits your choices, wastes your finite time, and hurts you? Not to mention oppresses the lives of half the population, including your mother, your wife, and your daughter. Because, while focusing on a narrow definition of physical beauty limits your choices and chances of a happy and healthy relationship with compatible partner, that focus affects women in much more damaging ways. Women are bleaching their hair, their skin, and their vaginas, cutting up their faces, their breasts, their stomachs and butts, straightening, flattening, botoxing, suctioning, starving themselves to death, dieting themselves into depression, hating and shaming themselves every time they look into the mirror. In a patriarchal system men’s attempt to feel powerful and secure makes women literally depressed, disfigured, and dead.

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p.s. I use Barbie Doll in the title as shorthand for young, thin, bosomy, long hair, blond, etc. If you are young, thin, bosomy, long hair, blond, etc I am not judging you. Young, thin, bosomy, long hair, blond, etc is one of many ways that women can look. I do not mean that you are a doll, that you are fake, or that you are less than other women. I am not actually talking about you. I am talking about men and how they are conditioned to find a specific look attractive.

p.p.s. I hope that as you read this you understood that when I said men or women I didn’t mean every single man and every single woman but that I was speaking in generalities and talking about a system to affects all our lives to some degree. If you are a guy that does not feel like you use woman in in your competition with other men that is a good thing. I hope more men make the choice. We don’t have to argue about that. If you disagree that that is a thing that happens, or that it is a bad thing, or that the majority of men should and can opt out of that competition then we can continue the debate in the comments.

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The Perils of Pretty

I wasn’t that attractive as a kid and teen. I had short hair, braces, acne, glasses, no breasts, and a malnourished thinness (also big teeth and long toes). Whatever boyfriend I had, and I always had one if I wanted one, I’m pretty sure I got by sheer force of personality.

Back then I didn’t worry too much about being “pretty.” In my teens I cultivated a look, but it was a look that pleased my aesthetic. I dyed my short hair many different colors and and got my clothes, which were always too baggy, from the thrift store. I wanted boys (and girls) to like me but I wasn’t trying to get there with my looks, because I never had.

Then, when I was around 18, the braces and acne were out and contacts and c-cup were in. My hair had grown out long and I dyed it blond. I looked pretty good. Good enough that it mattered. Now people paid attention to me without ever having talked to me, without even having made eye contact (Pre-pretty I had developed exciting eye-contact skills).

I look back now and try to remember how being conventionally attractive helped me. Did it open any doors that I wanted to walk through that I couldn’t have opened pre-pretty? I am not so sure it did. But it did get me unsolicited attention from people I didn’t want to talk to. Creepy stuff like “anonymous” presents left on my desk at work (I knew they were from an older Director level guy, outside of my chain of command). And guys I had only briefly talked to a handful of times in a professional setting, getting drunk and calling me late at night. And attractive but ultimately annoying co-workers calling to ask why I don’t like them and why we couldn’t “hook up” since, hey, we are both attractive. And lots of married men letting me know that they weren’t that married, and basically ruining my faith in menfolk for a long, long, time. And always jokes and comments about my breasts and my body that were probably supposed to be complimentary, and in some ways made me feel special because I was getting approval from men, women, and society, but also made me feel unsafe, targeted, like my mind was divorced from my body, and devalued.

As this kind of behavior went on from age 18 to my mid-thirties I developed coping devices, like not making eye-contact (when you are an attractive female regular eye-contact can be interpreted as an invitation for much more than you intended). I erected a stony wall that would protect me from smarmy guys. I mostly stopped befriending any guys, even though growing up guys were my best friends and I tend to have a lot in common with them (comic books, role-playing games, fantasy novels, horror movies, sci-fi television, etc).

As my weight, post-baby, fluctuated I struggled with feeling like a failure and a loser because I knew my body wasn’t sticking to the narrowly prescribed standards of beauty communicated to me through the media (even the geeky media I continued to consume). I felt like I was losing something, a special power that male/patriarchal society had granted me. Their approval. And, it was all the worse because there were so many things I could be doing to earn back their approval. So many different kinds of diets, exercise, constricting and uncomfortable undergarments, pills, eating disorders, surgery (both outpatient and in), and even sickness (I used to say the silver lining of getting really sick is losing weight.)

I didn’t try all of those things but almost everyday I felt like a loser. Was it because I lost society’s approval or because a long time ago, when I was still pretty much a kid, I had lost the power to define my own self-worth? I didn’t give up that power knowingly. But the approval you get from conforming to society’s standards is pervasive. The skinny, ample breasted girl with long blond hair is practically an archetype, and she is celebrated everywhere.

But I am not an archetype. I’m really really not. And if I could choose to be one I would be the Hero, the Rebel, or the Sage, not a drawing of a person that can be summed up with a silhouette on the back of a trucks mudflap.

I am not saying this is the experience of every slender, blond girl in America. I have my own complicated reasons why this approval was important to me. When I was growing up and still the too skinny girl with short hair and big teeth I was also the smartest kid in my class. I was smart and weird. I read thick books and wanted to talk about deep things. I valued that about myself but being an intelligent and different girl rarely gained me approval.  With an emotionally absent mother and physically absent father the opportunities for validation of who I really was and what was special about me were few and far between.

I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that being pretty is not the answer. It is not how you make friends, it is not how you find love, it is not indicative of your value. Being pretty may bring you attention and approval, but not the kind that matters. Being pretty is not an uncomplicated good feeling. Being pretty has a price.

I wish I could help my younger self stay strong and stay true. I wish I could have helped her when the message she got from society, that her appearance was more valuable that who she was or what she did, started to infiltrate and get a strangle hold on her self-worth. I wish I could have been there to validate who she was as a person rather than what she looked like. I wish I could have told her that she could walk through this world with true friends, true love, a strong sense of self-worth, and the power to make a difference. That all that and more could be hers and it didn’t matter one damn bit the color or length of her hair, the size of her breasts, or if she was pretty.

I can’t go back and help myself, but I have a 12 year old daughter.

Do it Anyway

I have a new personal theme song. It’s Ben Folds Five “Do It Anyway.” The last time I had a theme song it was 1997, and I was newly divorced, and had also just been dumped for the first time after a brief but intense rebound love affair. I was skinny, because I always lose weight when I am in a doomed romance. I had a awesome new hairstyle, because when you are trying to start a new life you definitely need a new ‘do. I even got my belly button pierced. I was an energetic mix of optimism, determination, and  fuck-you-ness. And I think I might have also been writing some bad poetry.

I was renting pool house/efficiency, the kind where your couch is also your bed, and if you cooked you’d cook on a hot plate. I didn’t cook. My narrow refrigerator only had milk for cereal, hard cheese and a pepperoni stick in it. I really liked my place. It was the first place I had ever lived alone. And I really liked my life. I felt like I could do anything, be anyone, (even do anyone. ;P) My anthem during those times, the song I shouted in the shower and blasted in my car was Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping.

Apparently “Tubthumping” is number 12 in Rolling Stone’s list of 20 Most Annoying Songs and it is mostly hated by people who rate music. I am not going to argue that it is good music. But it fueled my fuck-off-ness, which was what I needed then. Because I’d be singing, when I’m winning. 😉

My new personal theme song has much less fuck-off-ness. It is much more optimistic. It is more open. It is sometimes frenetic while also being thoughtful. It hits me where I am right now. And the video has Fraggles in it.

Many of the lines speak to me about specific things I am going through right now, but my favorite lyrics are the chorus:

“Tell me what I said I’d never do
Tell me what I said I’d never say
Read me off a list of the things I used to not like but now I think are OK”

A few months ago I realized that over the last 39 years I’ve built up quite a list of things I don’t like. Most of them were random and irrational. Many I couldn’t even remember why I didn’t like them. Some of them had just become jokes, like my hatred of Kevin Bacon, “because he is noodley.” Like, the first time I tried running, back in 2005, I hated it. Now I sometimes love it. I used to dislike Van Morrison, now I’ve totally found the appeal.

It’s exciting to challenge myself. To notice when I am disliking something and asking myself “why?” and if it still makes sense in my life, if it ever did. It feels good to shed some of the negativity I’ve accumulated over the years. I am challenging and shedding all over the place. I’m running. I’m hanging out with new people. I’m getting involved. I even applied for a job, (only one day a week.)

I think I have always been a pretty honest person and I’ve always tried to meet challenges. I’ve even created challenges, just for the fun of it. I thought of myself as a person who wasn’t afraid to do the hard thing. But now I have found there are even more layers to that. There is even more that I can do to become more the person I want to be. Plus + Fraggles.

Parallel Realities

Very infrequently I post articles and comments about Women’s Issues and Gender Equality. Some of those posts make me outraged and/or disheartened. The reality is that many women around the world and the U.S. are oppressed. They are physically attacked, harassed, excluded, secluded, confined, marginalized, and belittled. But women, all over the world, still manage to do great things. There is a parallel, but no less real, reality where women are achieving, succeeding, and doing exactly what they want and need to be doing.

I know women who started their own school.
Women who run their own non-profit.
Women who have Ph.D.s.
Women who are the primary breadwinners.
Women who are the only breadwinners.
Women who are publishing books.
Women who are leaving unhealthy relationships.
Women who are reinventing themselves.
Women who have paintings in galleries.
Women who are working for LGBT rights.
Women who are their own bosses.
Women who are programmers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, writers, photographers, musicians, editors, psychologists, television producers, actresses, and poets.
Women who are redefining their field.
Women who travel around the world.
Women who are wicked smart and marvelously hilarious.
Women who are handling everything all by themselves.
Women who write music.
Women who run marathons.
Women who run ranches.
Women who are doing the best they can with what they have.
Women who are starting new ventures.
Women who are off on adventures
Women who are kind and compassionate and also powerful.
Women who are going back to school.
Women who are graduating.
Women who are activists.
Women who have changed things and helped many.
Women who are teaching their sons and daughters to treat everyone with respect.
Women who are doing very interesting things that are important to them and that just might change the world in a small or big way.
Women who are creating a better future for themselves and their children.

And when I say women I mean several, not just one. And my friendship circle isn’t even that large, although it is obviously pretty accomplished. The women I know are inspiring, smart, funny, strong as steel, and awesome.

I also know some really good guys:
I know more than one stay at home dad and even one stay at home husband.
I know several men who are Feminists and use their voices to further gender equality.
Men who support their wives’ dreams and ambitions.
Men who are gentle and kind and good.
Men who listen.
Men who are actively engaged in parenting, teaching and homeschooling their sons and daughters.
Men who are activists.
Men who will not let themselves be defined by archaic gender roles, nor define others that way.
Men who share and help and are awesome at cooking.
Men who watch Downton Abbey. 😉
Men who are good husbands and good fathers and interesting people.
Men who want to make the world a better place and are doing something to make it so.

I mostly know cool men. They give me faith in men and mankind. I know there are guys out there who are oppressing women, making things worse, and making things harder. But not my peeps. I know so many inspiring people and I haven’t even mentioned the amazing kids.  It is good to remind myself of this reality, a reality that is closer to home.

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

12th Birthday Party

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Women in Movies of 2012

Sometimes I just get tired of watching movies where 5 out of 6 characters are men, and a man is the protagonist, and a man is the villain, and a man is the best buddy, etc.

I thought I would go through the big movies of 2012 (not all the movies that came out because that would be 100+) and see how many women are represented in the more popular films.

The Top Five – The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, Skyfall, and The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Part 2.

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The Avengers was the biggest movie of 2012 and, like this picture, it was overwhelmingly male. I admit I was disappointed that Joss Whedon, one of the more feminist directors out there, didn’t have more women in his movie. You could say he did a good job with what he was given. The cast was already chosen before he was tapped for the job. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and Nick Fury were already cast in preceding films. I am not sure why he choose Black Widow out of the 20+ other female members of The Avengers (like Wasp, The Scarlett Witch, and Tigra) or why the female characters from the preceding movies like Jane Foster (Thor) and Betty Ross (The Hulk) were left out of this movie. Pepper Potts only had a very small role in the beginning and almost got a phone call from her lover and partner Tony Stark at the end.

Part of the problem, the same problem that I have seen over and over again the last several years, is that Hollywood isn’t writing anything new, but just rehashing popular movies, television shows, comics, video games, theme park rides, etc from the 1960 – 1980s, a time with few good female characters. If Hollywood keeps going back to the safe tired place of retro male action heroes we are unlikely to see change in this dynamic.

I hear the next Avengers movie will have more female characters. I can almost believe that since Joss will be directing again. But even if they double the amount of female superheroes from this movie to the next, that wont be near enough.

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The next big movie of 2012, also based on a comic, was The Dark Knight Rises. The consistently wonderful Anne Hathaway played Catwoman, a female character who was intelligent, a force to reckon with, and an agent of her own destiny. Marion Cotillard SPOILERS might have been playing Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Liam Neeson’s character from the first movie. She was just using Bane to finish her father’s plan to destroy the corrupt city of Gotham. But there is other talk on the net that Miranda was not Talia, which I hope is true because Talia has a much more important role in Bruce Wayne’s life. Okaaaay… I’m getting off topic. Miranda may have been the mastermind but Bane was the real villain of Dark Knight Rises. He might not have been very scary or even intelligible, but he had more screen time than Cotillard, as did pretty much all the other male characters in the film (Gordon, Blake, Fox), except maybe Alfred.

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Another huge hit of 2012 was The Hunger Games, our first movie to have an honest to goodness female lead. Many articles have been written about Katniss Everdeen and her bow. The books were huge and the movie was the third highest grossing film of the year. Katniss is kind of a superhero too but she was created in 2008, not 1963 (The Avengers) or 1939 (Batman.) She is from a Dystopian future where children have to fight each other to the death for a chance to sit at the buffet table.

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Skyfall was the 4th highest grossing movie and, after Bond himself, the most important role in the movie goes to a short seventy-eight year old woman, Judi Dench. Bond’s partner, played by Naomie Harris, is strong, cool, and sexually adventurous, but I am not sure about the job she ended up with at the end. And I have a real problem with Bond jumping into the shower, unasked, with a victim of sex trafficking. Yeah, think about it. That is what happened. 😦 On pure action alone this was a great Bond film. But Bond has become an anti-hero, not cool but cold, and even cruel. He has always used women but you got the impression that sex with Double O was worth it. In Skyfall the sex is hot but it is also really cold. Overall I feel conflicted about the role of women in the latest Bond movie.

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I did not see Part 2 of Breaking Dawn but I did see the first two movies and I read the books, so I can imagine how it went. The finale of the Twilight Saga was actually the fifth highest grossing movie of the year. We have 2 movies with female leads in the top 5, one that appealed to tweens of both genders and one that pretty much only drew in women (only women i.e. 1/2 the population).

So, 2 of the 5 highest grossing movies of 2012 had female leads and they were also pretty equal in number of male and female named characters. And both were also based on books written in the last 10 years.

Bond was both good and bad in its portrayal of women. Created in 1953 by Ian Fleming, this Bond has been updated for a modern audience, although not always for the best.

Dark Knight Rises had Catwoman in a central role but the ratio of main male characters to female was 7/2 and of named males to named females was 11/3. The ratio of The Avengers was 8/1, unless we include Agent Hill and Pepper Potts, which would mean we also have to include every named male character, bringing the ratio up to 12/3. But Agent Hill and Pepper Potts had fewer lines and screen time than the other non-supers.

Other notable films of 2012: Lincoln, Argo, The Hobbit, Cabin in the Woods, and Les Miserables.

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Lincoln. What to say about Lincoln? The reality is that a drama set in the House of Representatives during the Civil War is going to be about white old men. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the movie or that it shouldn’t have been told. The problem is not that there are stories to be told that center around white men, it is that Hollywood overwhelmingly chooses to tell those stories.

Sally Field was great and gave a edgy energy to every scene she was in. But I don’t think she had more than a 30 sec conversation with the other female character in the movie Gloria Reuben, who was supposed to be Mary Todd’s confidante.

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Argo is the first movie on this list that I haven’t seen yet but it might win several Academy Awards so I thought I should include it. Here is a quote from Nico Lang at Thought Catalog. You can read his whole article here.

“Of the movie’s thirteen or so lead roles, two of them are played by women — the relatively unknown Kerry Bishe and lesbian icon Clea DuVall, who hasn’t been near a lead role in a major film since 2004’s The Grudge. (Two of her last three efforts went almost straight-to-video and the third, the 2010 Hilary Swank drama, Conviction, she was barely in.) Playing the supportive yet timid wives and girlfriends of men with larger parts, DuVall and Bishe get to stand around and look nervous, and Bishe looks forever on the edge of tears. I can’t recall either of their characters’ names or a distinct thing they actually do in the film, and the actresses get to share the scraps of lines thrown to them. (My generous estimate is 20.)

However, they get off better than poor Taylor Schilling, who plays Affleck’s estranged (yet still supportive) wife. Having acted in a major film in the last year (the Zac Efron vehicle The Lucky One), Schilling is the de-facto most famous woman in this film — which is a tallest Hobbit situation if there ever were one. Schilling’s only other big role was in the shockingly inept 2010 adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, and Bishe’s most famous work was on the last season of Scrubs, aka. Scrubs University — that no one watched. Despite her relative fame, Schilling doesn’t get any lines in the film, and you can see her face onscreen for three-ish seconds. Her job in the movie? She gets to hug Ben Affleck, a feat of acting prowess I bet she can’t wait to add to her IMDB profile.

With Schilling in the part, I imagine that her role was reduced from a larger one, and her plot line screams of Phantom Storyline syndrome. Throughout the film, much reference is made to Affleck’s wife and son, a device used to garner sympathy for his character, Tony Mendez. (He’s not just a tortured CIA agent; he’s a tortured CIA agent who cares.) This plot point isn’t necessary for the overall arc of the main action, and so I can see why Affleck whittled down its screen time. However, Affleck is able to give roles, jobs and actual lines to no less than 10 name character actors (like Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Victor Garber), TV actors (Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina and Bryan Cranston) and lesser-known-but-respected vets (Richard Kind and Tate Donovan). Arkin and Goodman, who steal the film, get ample screen time to cut up and be merry, and Garber and Donovan, who play smaller parts, are allowed to have a part in the narrative in a way the female characters simply are not.

Part of the movie’s marginalization of female characters can be rationalized away by the true-life nature of the film. Because the movie is “based on a true story,” Affleck and his screenwriter, Chris Terrio, have to somewhat stick to the facts and show the story the way things happened. But unlike this year’s Compliance, which told about as accurate of an account of real-life workplace abuse possible, Argo plays fast and loose with the facts for cinematic impact — to ramp up the drama and intensity. (If you needed someone to tell you the airport chase probably didn’t happen that way, you have no idea what the definition of a movie is.) Thus, the “we-had-to-stick-to-the-facts-so-no-lines-for-womenfolk” argument doesn’t hold up. If you can make room for an airport chase, a protracted dénouement where Mendez is awarded an Intelligence Star, a speech from Jimmy Carter (that adds nothing to the film) and a gratuitous shot of Affleck’s abs, you can give one woman something to do. Anything at all. I’m not saying they should create a new role for a woman or magically create a female spy (it’s not Alias, after all), but the women here deserve more than virtual silence.”

Well said, eh? I think I am going to have to start following Mr. Lang. Based on what he is looking for in a mate I think we would be besties.

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Um…

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Oh yeah. Heh.

I am so glad this movie got made and I don’t care that much if the awesome Kate Blanchett was in it or not. Tolkien wrote great literature (Yes, I am calling it literature and not fantasy) that was pretty much devoid of women. In the book the only female Hobbit mentioned is Lobelia. And there are, apparently, no female Dwarves, no female Goblins, no female Trolls, no female Wizards, no female Elves, etc. Maybe someday someone will figure out why Tolkien wrote such a sausage fest, but it was the story he was inspired to write and it was well done.

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Cabin in the Woods is our third movie with a female lead. It also has Joss Whedon written all over it. CitW was hilarious, intelligent, surprising, and dark. If you haven’t seen it yet, let me tell you that it is not the movie that you think it is. It plays with tropes, including the “whore” and “virgin” characters seen in most horror movies. I don’t want to say too much, other than this movie got it right.

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Les Miserables has very strong box office numbers so far, coming in as the second biggest Christmas opener ever. This is yet another story drawn from times gone by where women only existed to give men something to struggle for. But Les Mis is larger than its stereotypical gender roles. It is a story about humanity, both large and small.

The named characters were 6/4 male to female. Jean Valjean and Javert were the leads but you could easily argue that Anne Hathaway, as Fantine, did much more with her role than Russell Crowe. Her time on screen was painful yet captivating. I’m really happy for this very interesting woman and accomplished actor. Besides starring into two huge movies this year she has also played great characters in some other very good movies, like Brokeback Mountain, Becoming Jane, and Rachel Getting Married, the last truly showcasing her talent. Hathaway is also an LGBT rights activist, and involved in various charities for women, children, human rights, and arts advocacy.

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Children’s Movies of 2012 – Brave, Frankenweenie, Wreck-it Ralph, and Rise of the Guardians.

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Brave was Pixars first movie with a female lead. Which is kind of crazy to think about, given how much we love Pixar. But still, it’s true. Pixar came out with 12 feature films before they had one with a female lead. At one point I did a break down of male to female main characters in Pixar films and, before Brave, it was 24/9. That isn’t good, but it is even worse if you compare male supporting characters to female, there you have something like 106/26. With the addition of Brave that goes up to 116/29. What is up with that?

I think we can say that Pixar had a lot to answer for with Brave. Unfortunately it didn’t say what I wanted to hear. Brave was beautiful, for sure. But it was not as funny as most Pixar films, it did not work on two levels, like most Pixar films, and the female was mainly dealing with the bitter fact that she was female, rather then just having an adventure, making choices, being a hero, like the male characters do in most Pixar films. Brave is still totally worth watching. If I wasn’t expecting Pixar to right all the gender issue wrongs in one fell swoop I would have enjoyed the movie more.

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Unlike Brave, Frankenweenie was clever, had humor that reached out to both kids and adults, and had zombie pets. While Brave dealt with gender roles  and mother/daughter relationships, Frankenweenie dealt with highly intelligent children (a subject that is also near and dear to my heart), passion, and science.

This movie still had 8/3 male to female ratio, although none of the boys or girls fit into tired old gender stereotypes. It was a very nice, heartwarming movie.

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Looking at this picture you can do the math, 2 guys and 2 girls. Two tall, two short. Two powerhouses, two with other useful skills. Two have dark hair and two are blond. But only one goes barefoot. Wreck-it Ralph is another movie that did it right. I don’t just mean the male to female ratio. It was funny, interesting, well plotted, nostalgic, and also very modern in it’s themes and sensibilities. Also we all love Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch. Wreck-it Ralph gets 4 Gold Stars.

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I didn’t see Rise of the Guardians and I don’t plan to. I’m just not up for seeing another “super-hero” movie, this one based on a series of illustrated books that came out in 2011 and 2012, with such a lopsided representation of male to female characters. In RotG, the Tooth Fairy is the only female with powers. The other main non magical character is a boy, Jamie Bennett. Really Dreamworks? Is that how you are going to do this? *sigh*

Some of these movies also didn’t pass the Bechdel Test. Which is a pretty easy test, made up of three parts.

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
These movies didn’t pass:
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
Lincoln
The Hobbit
Frankenweenie
Rise of the Guardians
These did:
The Hunger Games
Skyfall (Just barely passed, with one conversation in the beginning between M and Eve)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (which doesn’t mean this movie is a good example of feminism)
Argo (which doesn’t mean this movie actual did anything more than have two female characters talk to each other for 1 minute)
Cabin in the Woods
Les Miserables
Wreck-it Ralph
So what is the point of all this? Am I saying that Twilight was a better movie than Lincoln or The Hobbit because it had more women? No. I’m making a point that although women make up half the population we are still woefully underrepresented in films. This is a problem. Both women and men and boys and girls need to see films that represent the reality that women are real people, with their own motivations, drives, agendas, and stories. A few women may be getting more complex roles but they are still enacting those roles in a man’s world. I think Hollywood can either add to and support the male dominated establishment that harms both men and women, or they can aim for equality. Of course, Hollywood is going to focus mostly on making movies that make money. So it is up to you, the audience, to spend your dollars wisely and be that change you want to see in the world. Speaking of equality, let’s look at those movies again to see how many people of color are included… Seven. Seven characters in Fourteen movies. Jesus… Movies, we are doing it wrong.

Why do we even call it homeschooling at this point? I guess our home is still our base, the HQ of her education, but this year, more than ever, Z is ranging out far and wide to meet her educational needs. She is actually taking more classes outside of the house than in and I am only teaching five of her seventeen subjects.

Seventeen? Really? Wow! How are we managing that? I don’t know! I have been really lucky finding local resources that are a good fit for Z, especially her homeschooling school, which is she going to two full days a week this year. This year she is doing more subjects but spending less time on each of them. We will see how that works out.

Here they are:

Math: Holt Fuse Algebra app for the iPad  – 3 x wk

Piano: private lesson –  1 x wk + practice –  3-4 x wk

History/Geography : Post Revolution stuff I’m cobbling together/ Around the World in 180 Days – 2x wk

Current Events: OnlineG3 – 1x wk + homewrk (With Z’s favorite teacher Headmistress Guinevere.)

Reading: Right now we are reading The Great Gatsby and various poetry. After TGG we will start on Master Pieces of Short Fiction from The Great Courses.

Language Arts: Another one that I am teaching, we are still using Michael Clay Thompson Word within the Word, Advanced Academic Writing, Magic Lens, and Poetry– 2x wk

Odyssey of the Mind: a collaborative creative problem solving class she is taking at our local homeschool school. – 1x wk

Model U.N.: another collaborative class at her homeschool school where the students are doing hands-on/roleplaying learning about current events, international relations, diplomacy and problem solving. – 1x wk

Naturalist Training: Her 3rd class at the homeschooling school. Described online as teaching an awareness of the patterns of animal behavior and the key characteristics of plants, maintaining a nature journal, creating a plant and animal census, participating in a Hawk Watch, learning to use a variety of field guides, using a compass, making watercolors and sketches, and drawing maps. – 1x wk

Writing Workshop: Her 4th class at the school. This is the same class she took last year where the students made their own newspapers, wrote lots of poetry, participated in Nanowrimo, and wrote and performed a 45min play. I don’t know what they are going to do this year but I expect it will be great. – 1x wk

Biology: a high school class for homeschoolers. Most of it is stuff she already knows but it is cool for her to have access to labs.- 1x wk + homewrk

French: private lessons – 1x wk +homewrk

Musical Theater: Z is finally getting to fulfill a dream she had since she was 3 or 4 to be in Les Miserables. This is a local theater production for middle and high school students. – 1x wk

Circus Aerials: Z moved up to the advanced class this year. – 1x wk

Art: Another class I facilitate. We just do a lot of random projects. Zoe enjoys anything hands-on. – 1x wk

Girl’s Choir: This is Z’s second year at Girl Choir. – 1x wk

Hebrew/Religious School: When we changed temples I moved Zoe back a year (she was grade skipped) so that she (actually so I) would have another year to get ready for her Bat Mitzvah. The verdict is still out on this new Temple. . . but I feel like we just need to stick with it. We can’t keep changing communities this close to her Bat Mitzvah. – 2x wk

Don’t those classes look great?! Some of those might need to drop off in the Spring if, as I fear, we over-scheduled ourselves.  But, even with all those classes, I have managed to protect some free time for her every day. She uses it to write music or stories, read, swim, design outfits, hang out with her friends, play, etc. She is a creative girl and she needs that downtime to create, to be herself, find herself, create herself, etc.

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