Work-life balance is a hot topic these days. Famously non-feminist Marissa Mayer caused a recent stir by eliminating telecommuting at Yahoo!, a move that many mothers decried as family unfriendly and economically counterproductive. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is sparking heated conversations about women, workplace, leadership, and motherhood. Each time a powerful working woman joins the conversation about family and work, the media reacts as though this conversation is new when it is anything but. It’s been circulating around the kitchen table and the office water cooler for quite a while. And it’s time we moved it to the courtroom.
I wrote two posts analyzing last year’s Superbowl commercials: Who’s Buying It? and Girl, Look at That Body. This year, I figured there would be plenty of material to work with: lots of examples of men being masculine by hurting each other and turning women into trophies, whatnot like cars or, just to change things up a bit, cheeseburgers. And I was right: examples abound. So many, in fact, that it’s nearly impossible to choose which ones to discuss. Should I spend my words on Audi, who encouraged teenage boys to take the car, take the girl, take the punch, and smirk all the way home? Or GoDaddy, which presented a close-up, geeked-out fantasy in all its stereotyped glory? I could examine, in excruciating detail, what it’s like to imagine being a woman lying on the beach while a scorpion cuts the tie on your bikini top (hint: it doesn’t make you want to cavort topless in the ocean, as Fiat seems to think it does). And then there’s Calvin Klein, not to be outdone by last year’s H &M commercial, jumping on the bandwagon of male objectification so joyfully you can almost hear the gleeful cackling of the ad execs, prying open the door to a whole new world of possibilities.
A recent article in The Washington Post by Ann Hornaday entitled “Guns, blood and film: Sea change at the box office?” discusses the possibility that Hollywood might dial back the violence in the wake of our latest national school shooting. Ms. Hornaday notes that, after Newtown, “Studios immediately canceled splashy premieres and tweaked marketing campaigns” for recently released violent films. Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), also verbally supported the idea that the MPAA is “…ready to be part of the national conversation” about gun violence. After noting the industry’s reactions, the article discusses recent violent films and moviegoers’ continued support of them; Ms. Hornaday emphasizes that real change lies in the hands of spectators. In other words, we must rely on the market—in this case, the media-consuming market—to help us make the right choices when it comes to the connection between fantasy violence and actual violence.
Gail Collins, in her book When Everything Changed, quotes a 1961 Ladies’ Home Journal article entitled “Is the Double Standard Out of Date?” In the article, Betsy Marvin McKinney asserts that women behaving like men in the bedroom—enjoying sex for pleasure—would bring the end of the world “…as surely as atomic warfare.” Just this week, author Suzanne Venker, in an article for Fox News entitled “The war on men,” stated that women need to “…surrender to their nature—their femininity—and let men surrender to theirs,” thereby reasserting the “natural” order in which men provide for women. This, Ms. Venker believes—as did Ms. McKinney before her—will save us all. What drives these two women to call for a retreat on progress, over 50 years apart, is the same thing: fear.
I used to think sci-fi TV had to be a guilty pleasure, whatnot like eating all the icing from a piece of birthday cake (not that I’ve ever done that). Sci-fi is for geeks—it’s a cult thing, a fringe thing, right? I mean, most people have seen an episode of Star Trek, but only the die-hard have seen every episode of the spin-offs, and movies, and—Comic Con? Shhh…act like you don’t know what it is.
That’s how it used to be, anyway—but no more! Comic Con is huge, baby, and I’m coming out of the sci-fi closet!