feminism

"So, what's it gonna be? Do you want to be a writer... or not?" - Seminar

I'm in a play on Saturday! Yay!

It's Seminar, by Theresa Rebeck. I'll be playing Kate. You can still get tickets at seminartac.brownpapertickets.com

There are a few interesting things about this show. One is the discussion of how feminist it is. You all know by now that I'm pretty feminist, and I think this play agrees with the feminism that I believe in. But there's also a pretty easy argument that it is, in fact, anti-feminist. I'll go into that more in a different post. For now, though, no spoilers! You'll just have to come see the show and then discuss it with me afterwards.

More than that, though, is the level to which I've been able to discuss acting, performance, writing, and art with artists whom I respect and admire by working with them in this show. I know actors always talk about how much we learn in every show/film/whatever. But this is a play all about what it means to reveal yourself, to be vulnerable, and to be an artist. And here I've gotten to be surrounded by thoughtful, deliberate people and discuss what that means both within the context of the show and in our own lives.

And last night I had a wonderful experience with my Martin, Christopher Erlendson, where we spent hours going in depth about character, how Martin sees everyone else in the show, what it means to play emotions and how to do it. And I realized what a special place we're at in our careers, where we've found people who are really that good - the people we're going to "come up" with as we move through the ranks - and we have the time to sit down and really decide what acting means to us. Emotions. The human condition. Relationships and what it is to connect with another human being.

I've seen stories from people who "made it" and then later on in life looked back and their favorite part was their early careers where they didn't have the money they made later on, but they had everything in front of them, and I always used to look at those and be like "yeah, but career and financial security would be nice." But now I think I get it? I don't have the benefit of that length of experience yet, but I realized that I'm at that place in my career, and I'm so grateful to have such cool people with whom I get to go through it.

Anyway, come see Seminar this Saturday! I promise it'll be a cool show. 

"Women will never be able to relax about their bodies the way that men can." - Kristen Schaal

Yesterday this guy I know and I were teasing each other. Totally in fun, he said that I "better" do something. I don't even remember what. And I asked him "I better do it or what?" since it's not like he can make me do anything. And still totally joking, he said "Or I'm gonna grab you by the pussy."

So I looked him square in the eye and said "If you want to grab a handful of blood, that's up to you."

And upon realizing that meant that I'm on my period, he freaked out. I wonder why it's okay for him to have made a joke about rape, but it's disgusting when I bring up something that happens to half of all humans.

Yup, this is one of those posts where I am a strident feminist.

I'm not going to try to convince anyone why rape jokes are bad over the internet. There are plenty of well-written articles about that from more informed people than me. But just, can we, as a culture, get over the idea that a menstruating is disgusting? It happens to everyone born with female anatomy. If there are four random people with uteruses (uterusi? uterusae?) in a room, odds are that one of them will be bleeding on any given day. The feminine hygiene industry is massive.

And yet, for a quarter of my life between ages 13 and, roughly, 50, the natural things my body does is considered disgusting. Like, more so than the idea of molesting it.

I can't say I know what to do about it. It's hardly like this one post is going to reach 3.5 billion men and affect them the way I wish it could.

But if anyone ever wonders why I'm a feminist, shit like this is it. How a friend of mine, someone who is a lovely human and "one of the good ones," whatever that means, can still have this so deeply internalized is beyond me.

It's just - wait for it - bloody ridiculous.

EDIT/UPDATE: I just discovered Carmen Esposito. If you know who she is, you know which bit I just discovered.

Rape Culture and the Entertainment Industry - "Every two minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted." - RAINN

So, there's a certain point where, as an actress, I have to expect to be treated as an object designed only for sex and the pleasure of men.

No, scratch that. There's a certain point where, as a woman, I have to expect to be treated an an object designed only for sex and the pleasure of men.

And that's wrong. And it is preventable. If only men would pull their collective heads out of their own asses and notice it.

Now boys, before you get started on how "I would never do that!" and "not all men are like that," I need you to understand that I know. I have a father and a brother, both of whom are wonderful human beings and would never so much as look at a woman sideways if they thought she wouldn't want them to.

But also oh my god can you please sit down, shut up, and listen to the experiences of women without editorializing when you know as little about it as Jon Snow does about anything? (Which is to say, if you don't watch Game of Thrones, that you know nothing.)

No, stop, I don't care how much you think you know, boys. If you haven't been twelve, walking down the street with your mother, and had some guy lean in too close, whisper that he wants to fuck you, and grab your ass, (or have a comparable story) then you have no idea what it's like.

Last week, I went to an actors networking event, and I was chatting with this guy. He seemed interesting enough, and it was fun conversation, until he uttered one of the worst possible phrases to say to a feminist: "there's no such thing as male privilege."

Here's where I'll admit that I was impressed with him: He still thought that he had a snowball's chance in hell of getting into my pants even after he said that.

Well, naturally, I argued. I told him how few rapists ever see the inside of a jail cell. I told him about the girl at my school (my school which is known for progressiveness and social justice) who was raped, actually managed to have legal charges pressed against the guy who assaulted her, only to have the DA ask what kind of underwear she was wearing at the time, as if it mattered. I told him my own stories stories of times, even as a young girl, that people would yell sexual things at me as I walked down the street so I've never felt safe walking alone in my life. And his response to all of these, even my personal accounts, was "I find that hard to believe."

He said so because he believes that, as a pretty woman, I can talk to and therefore make career connections with anyone, and it'll be much easier for me than it would be for a guy.

Let's put aside for now the fact that the idea of a guy doing less well than a pretty woman in a business situation is complete crap.

Let's even say that it is easier for me to talk to people. And that my ease doesn't come from the charm and charisma that I have worked very hard to cultivate over my life so I can be a social butterfly instead of the shy kid I was in grade school. And that my ease also doesn't come from the excellent education I have worked very hard to attain. That my ease comes only from my looks. Even then, I have a hard time meeting people who want to do more than sleep with me. I have a very difficult time meeting people who want to be my friend and colleague, because they all see me sexually and romantically.

When I look at casting notices for projects that have characters in my demographic (women, 18-25) almost every character I can apply for is a male character's girlfriend who is sweet and supportive of everything that he does. Sometimes I can mix it up with the bitchy ex-girlfriend. These roles, of course, always require nudity. Male roles are plentiful, varied, and meaty. They're troubled, they come from interesting backgrounds, they're funny, they're poignant. But the women? No. We're pretty.

Don't believe me? Just watch. (Or, rather, read.)

And that's the less dark side of sexism in the industry. I haven't even touched on the thinly veiled porn, the women who feel forced to scenes with a level of nudity with which they're not comfortable, or anything like that. I'm not mentioning Bill Cosby, what a horrific monster he is, and how much it hurts that that's the case. Because I don't really want to talk about literal rape right now.

Just rape culture. Just the idea that women are pretty objects who receive everything like they're kindness coins that men put in so they can get sex out. And how, at all levels, the entertainment industry perpetuates this.

And, more than that, the men who do it who don't even realize that they're part of the problem because they're just trying to tell a good story, and they don't think about how they're treating the women.

Which is, in a nutshell, male privilege.

Don't get me wrong, I love the entertainment industry. Just like I also love academia, even though a disgusting number of universities have been cited now for Title IX violations. But that doesn't mean that it's problem-free, and this is one of the biggest ones.

Unfortunately, I could never convince the guy I was talking to of any of this. He continued to refuse to believe me when I told him about how regularly I personally experience sexism and bigotry. He wouldn't pay attention when I told him that stories like this are nothing new or exceptional in the slightest. He wanted instant sources when I gave him statistics like these. And these. And these. And these. And these. And these. And these. And he essentially just decided not to do the right thing, because it is far more difficult for men (especially white, cisgendered men) to acknowledge this hard truth than it is to pretend that that's all other men, other women, not connected with them at all.

For the record, it is always connected with you, boys. You may not have ever slapped a woman's ass, or groped her without permission. But I promise that your mother has had her ass slapped and been groped. So has your sister. And all of your female friends. Please remember that next time you look at them.

And that's literally it. I know, amazing, I'm writing a blog post that actually has a fully thought out point/answer/solution this week. But that's it right there. I'm not asking you to personally end sexism across the world. That'd be unrealistic and dumb of me. I just want you to be aware of it.

Like, instead of talking about how shallow an actress's performance was, try looking at the character she was written first. Next time you hear some guy complaining about Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy, actually tell them how not cool that is. Next time you tell someone that an actress must've slept her way to the top, how about you just... don't.

I know that this blog doesn't have a super high readership right now. I know that just about everyone reading this is intelligent, aware, and that I'm kind of preaching to the choir. I know that there are tons of other, similar blog posts out there about sexism. But I feel better for having said it, and I know that this post is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed, and that there will come a day when all our labor is returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have... and I feel better for having said it.

Thank you, John Green, for the best, most dramatic way to put things.

Oh, and if you're the guy I was talking to and you're still reading this? There are your damn statistics. I decided I didn't need to go out of my way for a sexist jerk and personally email them to you. And if you still think you have a shot at talking me down from this and "hanging out" again at some point, then screw you. Or, rather, go screw yourself, because I'm not doing it for you.

Here, have my favorite cat video, because that was one heavy blog post, man.