TV: Catching Up on Women-Friendly Media.

emily nussbaum kristen wiig jenji kohan lena dunham mindy kaling sundance panel

Summer is usually a time when I catch up on TV shows I’ve neglected throughout the year.

In Australia, (when I owned a TV) all the shows would be on hiatus and in its place tennis and cricket as far as the eye can see. Likewise, American TV comes to a halt usually from about Thanksgiving which gives me ample time to keep up with the Kardashians or, in a more high brow vein, Breaking Bad, which I finally watched in its entirety this time last year.

Recently I lamented to a friend that this summer I’ve been watching more movies and, like, reading instead of catching up on shows like I should be. There’s so many on my list: The Good Wife, Orphan Black, Parks & Rec, House of Cards. I didn’t even watch American Horror Story: Freak Show when it started a few months ago and, low and behold, it just aired its season finale.

So what better time to catch up on it than this past (long) weekend? (And yes, I am well aware that AHS cannot be construed as women-friendly, but stay with me.)

I also have ample days off from my day job in the next week so, in addition to more freelance work and my side gig at OCW, I should be able to finish the 13 episode season by the next weeks’ end.

I intend to work just as hard throughout the year, but I also need to make sure I engage in self-care to keep the momentum up. So when I’ve emptied out my brain onto the page and filled it again with the words of others, what better way to unwind with some TV that functions as a hug?

I’ve been very vocal about my love for Grey’s Anatomy: when I was sick a few weeks ago, I knew I should have started one of the abovementioned shows but I just needed comforting in a way that no one but Meredith Grey and co. could do, so I rewatched the first half of this season. It, along with its Shondaland cohorts Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, return this week and I’ve got a hot date with the Middleton Law School kids and President Grant on the weekend.

From there, I intend to either dip into The Good Wife or House of Cards as research for a piece I’ve been ruminating over for months. While the beauty of many Netflix-based shows is their short seasons allowing quick consumption, there’s a good six seasons of The Good Wife, so who knows when I’ll emerge from Alicia Florrick’s law offices?

In contrast to the abovementioned shows, it was only a few years ago that many of the books, movies and TV shows that I was drawn to were about men. My favourite authors were men, the movies I was interested in seeing at the cinema were about men, and many of the TV shows I watched were all about men. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favourite authors are still men (Dominick Dunne and Mick Foley), and I’m hanging out to see Foxcatcher at the movies. But on the whole, I’m so fucking sick of only learning about men’s lives—either real or fictional.

That’s why, this year, I’m making a conscious effort to consume media about women and other minorities. What started out as something I was completely unaware of has blossomed into a newfound appreciation for the voices of women I may not have seeked out before. I’ve slowly started to realise that all the shows I watch are about women—OITNB, Total Divas, Girls, Revenge, 2 Broke Girls, The Mindy Project—as are the shows I intend to. I’ve only recently started watching movies again, and I started with Nora Ephron’s cannon over Christmas and New Years. Wild is the next movie I intend to see at the cinema. And my reading list from the past month has consisted of Roxane Gay, Janet Mock, Donna Tartt, Lena Dunham, Brigid Delaney and Amy Poehler, amongst many others.

Which shows—and other media—are you looking forward to consuming this year?

Related: Hustle, Loyalty & Respect: Where I’m Taking My Career in 2015.

The Golden Age of Television.

Physical & Mental Health on Orange is the New Black.

Girls: A Season Two Retrospective.

Revenge is a Dish Best Served by a Woman.

2 Broke & Tampon-less Girls.

Elsewhere: [Bitch Flicks] The Choice to be a Total Diva.

Image via InStyle.

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]