On the (Rest of the) Net.

My friend Laura Money—who’s written for this blog here—writes about friendship in the Olsen twins classic, It Takes Two. [Bitch Flicks]

What Grey’s Anatomy‘s Meredith Grey and Olivia Pope of Scandal can teach us about relationships and love. [Bitch Magazine]

To cut or not to cut: the circumcision debate. [Aeon]

“Are you a feminist?” has become the question du jour to ask female celebrities. [Daily Life]

We’ve heard this before, but the AFL has a woman problem. [Daily Life]

The NFL also has a woman problem, and ESPN is enabling them through their lucrative broadcasting deal. [Esquire]

Outlander, women, sex and TV. [HuffPo]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Pulling Rihanna’s song as Thursday Night Football’s song in the wake of the Ray Rice domestic violence controversy because she’s a survivor of domestic violence herself is idiotic and a form of victim-blaming:

“While the network may have been peeved at Rihanna’s reaction, this is a terrible decision. The Ray Rice controversy blew up not just because of the video, but also because the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL initially portrayed domestic violence as a couple’s mutual responsibility, instead of holding the abuser solely responsible. By cutting Rihanna’s song in part because she got beat up by her now-ex Chris Brown in 2009, CBS is treating yet another victim like she’s the problem here. The move is also troubling because it suggests that no matter how many records she sells or where she goes with her career, in many people’s eyes (such as those of CBS executives), Rihanna is defined by someone else’s choice to attack her.” [Slate]

Why comparing Ray Rice to Hope Solo is stupid. [Slate]

A video series on what it’s like to be Duke porn star Belle Knox. (NSFW) [The Scene]

Talking to Shonda Rhimes about Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder and that New York Times piece that called her and many of her characters “angry black women”. [NPR]

And Janet Mock expertly debunks the “angry black woman” stereotype. [Janet Mock]

An ode to Romy and Michele’s enduring friendship. [Bitch Flicks]

When being in a fraternity makes college-aged men 300% more likely to commit rape, should we ban frats? [The Guardian]

The problem with Emma Watson’s UN gender equality speech. [Black Girl Dangerous]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Can men please stop singing songs about women who don’t find themselves beautiful? (I explored the same topic here.) [Buzzfeed]

The man who coined the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” wishes he never did. [Salon]

There will always be hand-wringing and pearl-clutching over the youth’s sexuality by older generations:

“What remains the same is that sex is made out to be a game, one in which men are competitors and women are prizes. Men are tasked with pleading, urging and coercing women into sex, or sexual behavior…

“Young women’s sexuality is so policed and constrained that they are often looking for excuses to be sexual — sometimes it’s drinking too much, sometimes it’s a silly contest. Anything for plausible slut-deniability.” [Salon]

Like Anna Gunn before her, Leighton Meester takes issue with the misogyny hurled at her character on the latest Broadway iteration of Of Mice & Men:

“The insults are thrown at Curley’s wife: bitch, tramp, tart. The further along in the production we go, the more I realise that the audience agrees. In rooting for our heroes—the everyman protagonists who scorn and demean the only woman—the audience finds themselves unquestioningly hating her, too. But why? … [I]n dissecting this piece for five months now, I’ve found that within the writing, there is both a lack of reason to truly hate this woman, and the inevitable and undeniable urge to do so…

“If this woman is purely a victim, why is she so hated? And if she is truly harmless, why is she so threatening? Without question, it was a commentary on the social climate at the time, which still surprisingly applies today. But if sexism is one of the featured themes, why not say it?” [HuffPo]

My Lean In/Grey’s Anatomy post from a couple of weeks ago is cross-posted at Bitch Flicks. Head on over and check it and their other pieces out.

Naked women as props (NSFW). [Sociological Images]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

disney princess cinderella domestic violence

The latest artists’ take on Disney princesses and social awareness features Cinderella, Ariel et al. as victims of domestic violence. [Daily Life]

Occupy protestor Cecily McMillan reports on the conditions inside Rikers Island Correctional Facility. And let me tell you, this ain’t no Orange is the New Black shit. [Jezebel]

There’s a difference between a feminist character and a character who’s a feminist. [Persephone Magazine]

Speaking of, Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy is more feminist than Scandal:

“… The attention and praise Rhimes has received for casting [Kerry] Washington as [Olivia] Pope has overshadowed the fact that what Rhimes got right with her female characters in Grey’s, she got wrong in Scandal

“When it comes to their personal lives, the women in Scandal are insecure, vulnerable and reactive, while the ones in Grey’s are stronger, self-assured and reflective.” [In These Times]

And ICYMI, I wrote about feminism on the latest season of Grey’s Anatomy and victim-blaming.

The 74th Down Under Feminist Blog Carnival is up, and one of my pieces about Orange is the New Black is featured. Head on over to check it, and much more feminist writing from the Aussie interwebs, out. [Pondering Postfeminism]

Jasmine Shea boycotted her local Hobby Lobby store by making pro-choice statements with their craft supplies. [Feministing]

In the wake of True Blood‘s final season, Katherine Murray discusses its troubling sexual politics. [Bitch Flicks]

Image via Daily Life.

Leaning In to Grey’s Anatomy*.

ELLEN POMPEO, PATRICK DEMPSEY

Grey’s Anatomy is one of the more feminist shows currently on the air. Hell, it’s created by Shonda Rhimes (she of Scandal and Grey’s spin-off, Private Practice, fame), a big champion of woman-centric storytelling on TV.

Across its ten season run, Grey’s has dealt with parenting, childlessness, abortion, romantic relationships—both heterosexual and otherwise, illness, loss, friendship and career mostly through the eyes of its female protagonist, Meredith Grey, and her colleagues, friends and family: Cristina, Izzie, Lexie, Callie, Arizona, April, Addison, Bailey and so on. This season, though, seemed to really tap into the oft-mentioned feminist issue of “having it all” (meaning kids and career) and what happens when a woman shuns that path.

Early on this season tensions were brewing between Meredith and Cristina when Meredith gave birth to her second child, Bailey, named after Dr. Miranda Bailey who helped deliver him, and leant out of the surgery game. As Meredith’s life became increasingly family oriented, Cristina felt alienated from “her person”, with whom she used to compete for surgeries and get drunk on tequila at Joe’s bar. This is not to suggest that just because Cristina doesn’t want children (a character consistency since season one) she’s not involved in that part of Meredith’s life: Cristina is often shown caring for and engaging with Meredith’s daughter Zola. But this story arc illustrates that having two children is a lot different than parenting just one (cue Elizabeth Banks-style outrage over mothers of one child being less than mothers of more) and Meredith’s redirected attention certainly takes its toll on her friendship with Cristina.

This comes to a head in episode six of this season when Meredith chooses to continue her mother’s portal vein research using 3D printers (which Cristina later co-ops for one of her groundbreaking medical coups). This is partly because of Cristina’s recriminations in the previous episode, “I Bet It Stung”, that Meredith doesn’t do as many surgeries or as much research as Cristina because she chose to lean in to her children. There is much talk about “choosing valid choices” but ultimately Meredith identifies an impasse between the two friends and surgeons because Cristina doesn’t “have time for people who want things” that she doesn’t want.

meredith cristina april's wedding grey's anatomy

Business continues much this way until April’s wedding, in the episode “Get Up, Stand Up”, in which Meredith and Cristina are both featured as bridesmaids. During a dress fitting, Cristina takes issue with Meredith calling her “a horrible person, over and over… because I don’t want a baby”. Harkening back to their very first day on the job, Meredith accuses Cristina of sleeping her way to the top, while Cristina retorts that in her struggle to maintain work/life balance, Meredith’s “become the thing we laughed at.” By episode’s end, Meredith acknowledges her envy of Cristina’s surgical trial successes:

“I’m so jealous of you I want to set things on fire. You did what I tried to do and I couldn’t… I don’t want to compete with you… but I do.”

Come the shows’ mid-season return, Meredith and Cristina’s friendship is back on track, with them bonding over Meredith’s anger at her husband Derek reneging on their agreement to focus more on Meredith’s career upon her realisation that she doesn’t want it to slip by the wayside in the wake of motherhood. They do this while drinking wine and looking after the kids at Mere’s place while Derek’s out of town.

Derek’s absence throughout the season, in Washington D.C. on business at the behest of the President (I know!), is juxtaposed with Meredith’s desire to be an attentive mother, which she didn’t have growing up and was the cause of many of her ills, whilst balancing her first love of medicine. In last season’s “Beautiful Doom”, Meredith worries about leaving Zola in the care of others while she operates. Callie, a working mother herself, assures Meredith that “it’s good for Zola to see you work. It’s good for her to see you achieve. That’s how she becomes you.” The season finale sees Meredith decide to stay in Seattle despite Derek accepting a job in Washington D.C. She doesn’t want to become her father, who was a “trailing spouse” to her abovementioned mother.

grey's anatomy do you know cristina yang

As far as Cristina’s concerned, though, her ex-husband Owen’s desire for a family is what’s kept them in flux from on-again to off-again for the better part of the past three seasons. In the Sliding Doors-esque episode “Do You Know?” Cristina is given the option of two life paths: one in which she has children, whilst in the other she continues her focus on her career; both involve Owen, and both see Cristina becoming miserable. The married-with-children scenario elicits a certain empathetic desperation as it’s made clear Cristina’s only succumbing to it for her lover. And when Owen meets maternal-fetal surgeon, Emma, whom Cristina described as “picket fence; a dozen kids; fresh-baked goods,” it seems he’s found his happy ending. But Owen’s desire for Cristina, despite his better judgment, causes him to cheat on and subsequently end things with Emma who is befuddled at how her boyfriend went from house hunting to breaking up with her in the space of a day. Owen asserts it’s because Emma wanted to stay home with their kids when they had them and he wanted someone who is “as passionate about her work as I am.” Make up your mind, Owen!

While Owen’s indecisiveness is annoying, it’s refreshing to see a woman who doesn’t want children framed as desirable over the traditional portrait of womanhood. This is not to mention Cristina’s hardheaded drive. On the other hand, Emma represents the losing battle women face in the fight to “have it all” perpetually highlighted by the concern-trolling media: you’d better want to be a mother, but you’ve also got to be driven in your career; you have to be around to raise your children, but you’d also better be leaning in in the workplace.

Grey’s has always been a staunchly pro-choice show. Upon April and Jackson’s shotgun wedding, Jackson’s mother brings up the issue of April’s faith when it comes to raising their future children who will be on the board of the Harper Avery Foundation, but no pressure! Catherine Avery asks whether April believes in limiting reproductive rights, and whether she’ll raise her children with those views. If so, will that colour their judgment in providing funding to hospitals that perform abortions, like Seattle Grace/Seattle Grace Mercy West/Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital/whatever it’s called now?! And what about stem cell research?

Grey’s certainly doesn’t sweep these issues under the rug because it’s convenient for a storyline or for the show to remain politically unbiased. Rhimes has spoken about Cristina’s unintended pregnancy in a season one/two crossover storyline in which she was scheduled for an abortion but miscarried before she could have the procedure due to an ectopic pregnancy:

“… [T]he network freaked out a little bit. No one told me I couldn’t do it, but they could not point to an instance in which anyone had. And I sort of panicked a little bit in that moment and thought maybe this isn’t the right time for the character, we barely know her… I didn’t want it to become like what the show was about… And [Cristina’s miscarriage] bugged me. It bugged me for years.”

Come 2010/2011’s seventh season, Cristina again finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy to Owen. Rhimes said:

“I felt like we had earned all of the credentials with the audience. The audience knew these characters. The audience loved these characters. The audience stood by these characters. You know, we were in a very different place even politically, socially. Nobody blinked at the studio or the network when I wrote the storyline this time. Nobody even brought it up except to say, that was a really well written episode.”

With no signs of slowing down, but with perhaps one of TV’s most feminist characters departing, Grey’s Anatomy is sure to continue presenting women, work and the myriad choices in between in a positive and realistic way.

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: Grey’s Anatomy Final Asks “When Does Life Begin?”

Grey’s Anatomy: “You Killed Our Baby”.

Grey’s Anatomy: You’re Abnormal If You Don’t Want Children.

Cristina Yang as Feminist.

Elsewhere: [HuffPo] Elizabeth Banks Angers Parents of “Onlies”, Says She is “Really a Mom” After Having Two Kids.

[Time] Why 2014 Should Be the Year We Talk About Abortion on TV.

[Cosmopolitan] Why Cristina Yang Leaving Grey’s Anatomy Is So Devastating.

Images via TV.com, Grey’s Reviews.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

jessica simpson rolling stone cover

Cleaning is still women’s work. [New Republic]

Is Jennifer Lawrence really as body-positive as she’s made out to be? [Sweaters for Days]

Unpacking the dissolving friendship between Meredith and Cristina on Grey’s Anatomy. [Vulture]

TV: Modern Family is Anything But.

modern family mud portrait

After a recent spat with my housemate about the apparent modernity of Modern Family, in which he defended the show for its gay couple with an adopted Vietnamese baby and a strong Latino presence while I cried stereotyping, I decided I should actually watch an episode or two of it before I denounce Modern Family as an archetype perpetuating farce.

Now, with three and a half seasons and some informed opinions under my belt, I can wholeheartedly say I abhor the sexist tropes of the fiery Latina, Gloria, and the shrill, controlling housewife, Claire, and Modern Family’s blatant racism, homophobia and slut-shaming. Let me count the ways…

Right off the bat in the sixth episode of season one, “Run for Your Wife”, there were some troubling stereotypes about stay-at-home mums. When the Dunphy kids head off to their first day of school for the year, mum Claire looks forward to some downtime to get started on a new book. Phil, who’s supposed to be the breadwinner of the family, is also home and wants to hang out with his wife. After blowing off some open-houses he’s supposed to be putting on as part of, you know, his job as a real estate agent, Phil gets embroiled in a mid-afternoon jogging race with Claire.

As a child who grew up with a stay-at-home mum, I can tell you that I never once saw her sitting down to read a book in the middle of the day or challenge my dad to a childish competition. There was too much cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and picking up to do. In fact, my dad was barely home and often working more than one job in order to put food on the table and keep us in a home one fifth of the size of the Dunphy’s, which is more than we can say for Phil who is rarely shown at work.

While the acting of Ty Burrell (Phil) and Julie Bowen (Claire) is something to write home (or at least the awards shows) about, their characters leave a lot to be desired. Phil is always dropping the ball (or getting it thrown into his face, as in “Door to Door” in season three) on being a functioning human being, let alone a good husband and father, and Claire often refers to him as her fourth child (she technically only has three: Haley, Alex and Luke). The trope of wife-as-replacement-mother is a tired one, but that doesn’t stop Modern Family for milking it for all it’s worth.

This brings us to Gloria, who is anything but. She’s young, sexy and, most notably, a loud, sassy Latin woman who’s always getting arked up about something. In season one’s “Up All Night”, Gloria’s son Manny’s dad comes to visit. While Gloria is now remarried to the older and dependable Jay, ex-husband Javier is a fellow fiery Latino who tries to make up for his absence by showering Manny with extravagant gifts. In the episode, Javier takes Jay and Manny to a baseball field in the middle of the night, and the next day comes bearing motorbikes. Gloria becomes audibly incensed that Jay’s falling for Javier’s tricks, like she used to, and storms off, yelling in Spanish. Every portrayal of a Hispanic woman in pop culture doesn’t have to be that of the “hot blooded” Latin mama; just look at the gay, Latina orthopedic surgeon Dr. Callie Torres in Grey’s Anatomy, a show that is far more modern than one with that word in its title, for example.

Speaking of the gays, what portrayal of contemporary American life would be complete without the requisite homosexual couple with an adopted Asian baby? Certainly not Modern Family, which turns the gay dial up to eleven with stay-at-home dad, former farm-dweller and part-time clown Cam, the uptight, dogmatic (unsurprisingly the brother of Claire) lawyer Mitchell and their über inappropriate ways. For example, in “Run for Your Wife”, Mitchell accidentally bumps baby Lily’s head against a door frame, and they take her to the doctor. The doctor happens to be Asian-American, so Cam embarks on a sermon about how he and Mitchell intend to raise Lily with influences from her Asian roots, completely disregarding the fact that the doctor was born and raised somewhere in middle America and identifies first and foremost as an American.

Later on, in season two’s “Unplugged”, Cam and Mitchell try to get Lily into a preschool. When they realise Lily’s going up against an adopted African-American boy with disabled-lesbian parents for the last spot at a prestigious private school, Cam flubs the interview by emphasising his 1/16th Cherokee heritage and speaking in pidgin English. As someone who is also 1/16th Cherokee, I’m sure you can imagine my offence at this.

Cam, as I’m sure you can imagine if you don’t already watch Modern Family, is the flamboyant half of the couple, and enjoys dressing Lily up as famous gay icons and encouraging her creative side. In the episode “Chirp”, in season two, Cam goes against Mitchell’s wishes and has Lily film a commercial for a furniture store. The ad is completely racist, using emphasised Asian accent voiceovers and Godzilla, and when Mitchell points this out, Cam uses the defence of hipsters the world over: “It’s ironic.” I suppose because they have an Asian kid, they’re allowed to be racist…?

While there are some redeeming qualities throughout the show’s run, such as the “Mother’s Day” (season two), “After the Fire” (season three), and “Schooled” (recently aired as part of season four) episodes which seek to unpack gay parenting and stereotypes of femininity, masculinity and homosexuality, it’s also rife with slut-shaming (Jägermeister is a magic potion that puts girls to sleep but instead of waking up “in a castle, you wake up in a frat house with a bad reputation” in “Moon Landing”, whilst Phil marvels in “Travels with Scout” that with his “emotionally distant father” it’s a miracle he didn’t end up as a stripper), homo- and transphobia (dad Jay insinuates that Mitchell is a cross-dresser because he’s also gay in “Starry Night”), and jokes about domestic violence (when Mitchell asks his dad to teach him how to fight in “Game Changer”, Jay asks if he’s having problems with Cam).

As I’m sure Glee can attest, an after school special-esque episode here and there doesn’t make up for Modern Family’s utter lack of modernity the majority of the time.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee‘s “On My Way” Episode.

Elsewhere: [Chica & the City] Casting Call for “Hot Blooded” Latina Moms Makes My Blood Boil.

Image via BuddyTV.