Msnowe's Blog

Fem-egesis of the Text

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on May 10, 2011

M.Snowe doesn’t know where to go! Typical lady, can’t follow directions.

Lately, M.Snowe has grown tired and felt particularly uninspired when just writing down or ranting about injustices, especially with regard to women and minorities. It’s nice to think that it might clarify and foment the writer’s own ideology, but does it really do anything else? The femiladies of the past all hooted and hollered and it got them places–mostly because those places were so obviously within what they were entitled to as members of the human race. (“Oh, you want to vote? Oh, you want to play sports?! Yeah, I guess it would be unconstitutional to bar you from that.”) But today, the issues *appear* more nuanced. Of course, M.Snowe would argue that some of the very same issues are at play (unfair wages, old boys clubs, fetishization of the female form, ageism, etc., and so on). What some view as nuanced (should we fund abortion or Planned Parenthood?) M.Snowe views as a pretty straight-forward attack on the freedom of women, freedom that is being challenged in the home, in the workplace, and in the doctor’s office. Only beginning in 2014 will it be illegal for all women to be defined as having a “pre-existing condition” under medical insurance. If we’re still living in the past, 2014 is certainly far away.

But, as M.Snowe suggests, the opposition to women’s rights has added artificial nuances to what should be incredibly straightforward debates. It’s the political equivalent of the G spot debate: “OMG, does a woman have one? Where is it? Should I be able to make her come somehow? Maybe she should get on top? Should we introduce toys? Wait, I might have to do that? Oh forget it, she can just find it herself later, if it even exists.” If a man can be funded to have the ability to spill his old funky seed all over the place (Hello HMO funding/taxes going towards Viagra!), a woman should be able to have the funding to reject that nasty spunk and the mistake it would be to carry its fertilizing result to term. This is just the abortion/health care debate, but you could expand it to practically anything else having to do with women–women writers, women in sports, etc.

But see, how much of that did you agree with? Because of the anti-women’s rights folks, some people will come up with weird, intricate arguments to counteract my claims. Reverse discrimination! Studies that show something neurological that hasn’t actually been proven! Okay. So we need to volley back.

People like Tina Fey are leading the parry to that thrust. Exhibit one. Essentially, what Fey (and the writers at SNL) are doing is: Taking it back to a primitive level,  calling out basic and classically sexist ideas, and making everyone incapable of arguing with the blatant sexism while simultaneously indulging in it.

In a sense, Fey is breaking down the nuances by reverting back to the initial issues that no one can possibly be allowed to argue or excuse anymore (“Oh, don’t mind Norman, he just gets off on objectifying women, haha!”). No one can discount a woman’s writing because of her appearance–any reviewer or fellow writer who did that in all seriousness would be out of a job and a reputation. But, a more nuanced discrimination is afoot. Any quick glance at the book review sections in the NYRB or the NYTimes or the New Yorker (or other cities’ literary pursuits, mired as they may be) will tell you something is creating a disparity between men and women. While most people doubt that it is how “pretty” a female writer is, there is something fundamental and prejudiced about the lack of female voices.

But here’s the big question: When we point to primitive unfairness and injustice, and they are funny and ridiculous and universally laughed at, does it lead to enlightenment? Or are we just laughing at our condition?

M.Snowe has some friends, almost entirely male, who take shots at her ardent feminist bent (and M.Snowe sometimes participates, because it’s funny). The jokes range from “get back into the kitchen,” to “your brain is a third the size of mine, it’s science.” These are funny because neither the teller nor the receiver believes in any of the jokes. They are funny because they are inconceivable and wildly in error. But they are also, to some extent, part of the prevailing mood–at least in the abstract.

M.Snowe enjoys these jokes–and being a Funny Woman is important, if nothing more than proving Mr. Hitchens wrong. But M.Snowe can’t seem to escape the notion that as much as these jokes reinforce the stereotypes to the point of counteracting them–do they really convince anyone to change? M.Snowe enjoys  jokes of this ilk because she understands the struggles still to be had, and looks to them for relief and inspiration. But, at the same time, will people who somehow still encourage these stereotypes just enjoy the jokes on the surface, and look no further? If this kind of joke, or style of irony doesn’t work to change people’s views, what will?

“I Lean Men”

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on April 7, 2011

“The reality is, I’m a dude and I understand the dude thing, so I lean men the way Spike Lee leans African-American,” says Apatow.

The lovely snippet above was taken from this week’s New Yorker piece by Tad Friend on Anna Faris (but mostly the piece was on the state of female comedic actors in Hollywood, etc.).

M.snow red-penned a ton of the things in this article, but sadly, it wasn’t much of a revelation to read supporting material on how and why only 17% of the writers, producers, and directors in Hollywood are women, and their shortchanged presence in the biz is so palpable. M.Snowe has lately come to the realization that the only way to become a powerful voice for lady’s rights, one heard by both sexes and many races, is to use your talents and translate your voice through whatever those talents may be. Someone like Tina Fey isn’t a “feminist,” like Gloria Steinem is a feminist, but dammit she gets the job done by channeling her message through the very funny comedy writing she’s able to spit out like it’s nothing. So, it’s distressing to hear the overwhelming doom and gloom about Hollywood and see the barriers that exist, limiting the outreach that talented women in the industry could have and thereby change Hollywood from the inside and extend that change out into the greater culture.

So, back to the Apatow quote above. It is wrong, and ignorant. The comparison does not hold. Spike Lee grew up in a an area of Brooklyn populated predominately by African-Americans, and also knows what is feels like to be discriminated against because of his membership to that community. A friend of mine who lived in Bed Sty for a time, around where Lee grew up, recounts that there could be weeks that go by where she would not see a white person. There is a sense of isolation from the white community (either by choice, necessity, or urban gentrification/ghettoization), and also an atmosphere of being discriminated against by those in the white community. Can Apatow claim that his race (as a white, privileged male) was oppressed or discriminated against, or that he grew up in a place where he could go weeks without coming into contact with a person who was female?

In literature, great heroines who feel real and layered have existed for centuries. Some of them were written by male novelists. Great male characters have been written by women. It’s a two-way street. On that street, everyone rides around. And no, you don’t have to watch out for those crazy female drivers.

A prominent producer (unnamed) in the article has this to say about female roles in certain movies: “Both men and women can relate to Kevin James in ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop,’ who’s the little guy being shat upon…If that character is played by Tina Fey, it wouldn’t work, for the same reason that men can’t relate to Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones.’ Men just don’t understand the nuances of female dynamics.”

Why would it be that men couldn’t relate to Tina Fey getting shat upon? She does a pretty decent job of being shat upon in her role on 30 Rock, and people seem to understand that. It’s not that men “can’t relate,” it’s that a certain kind of man, and clearly the ones that make these Hollywood decisions included, won’t or refuse to relate. Because “being shat upon” is a problem that men identify as something they deal with frequently, it is not only a male problem–it is now universal, because white men are the gender and race equivalent of the O blood type–they are the universal donor–they expect you to have all the same problems as them, and expect you to understand their problems and triumphs, because these problems and triumphs are most universally known and explored and to some extent belong to everyone anyway. But, like the O blood type, men’s tiny antibodies absolutely reject or refuse to process any other combination of problems, even if they are so similar the leap of faith to understand them is more like a grade school hopscotch skip. It’s not the content of the “problems women face” or the “nuances,” it’s that they are traced back to the female bloodline, and thereby dubbed “the other,” “incompatible.” This isn’t actually how most men function, M.Snowe hopes–but it’s how our society, and especially Hollywood, treats them. So of course, the “nuanced” problems of a woman in a movie are too confusing for the men. Perhaps, it should be suggested that the nuances aren’t the barrier–the barrier is the fear that those nuances are actually commonalities.

Tina Fey is the Vodka I Drink

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on February 8, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, m.snowe knows it has come to such a mainstream point that perhaps it is cliché, but she effing respects Tina Fey–she appreciates her comedy writing (with a few very minor caveats) and admires her as a trailblazer–one of the first female comedy writers to edge her way into corporate upper echelons, and to be heard/respected there.

Okay, enough gushing. But in what m.snowe calls a coup of the New Yorker, Fey has written a short “personal history” piece for them–although it could easily fit under the “shorts and murmurs,” or a “profiles” piece. Woody Allen can just sneeze somewhere in Central Park and the New Yorker shows up, willing to wipe his sodden nose with a filigreed handkerchief and publish the snot (they do the same for Malcolm Gladwell). It’s refreshing that they let Fey have her say, and she says what she needs to in a pithy, cool, and honest four pages.

She basically outlines her struggle with “juggling it all,” being a high-powered writer and comedic performer, being a producer and parent. She does it in a way that m.snowe strives for herself–she stays away from shrillness, but does not blush at the thought of talking in harsh terms about the gendered politics involved in her business. And of course, she’s hilarious.

M.snowe’s favorite line:

“I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all ‘crazy.’ I have a suspicion–and hear me out, because this is a rough one–that the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.

The only person I can think of who has escaped the ‘crazy’ moniker is Betty White, which, obviously, is because people still want to have sex with her.”

And after the personal wrestling match, Tina comes to this very worthy, m.snowe-approved conclusion (further acknowledging that she will forever respect Fey):

“This is the infuriating thing that dawns on you one day: even if you would never sleep with or even flirt with anyone to get ahead, you are being sexually adjudicated.”

Word, sister!

And here is the strongest statement of the bunch–the rally call and the manifesto:

“It seems to me the fastest remedy for this ‘women are crazy’ situation is for more women to become producers and hire diverse women of various ages. That is why I feel obliged to stay in the business and try hard to get to a place where I can create opportunities for others…”

Just try and tell me that you do not want to drink that Kool Aid.

Thank you, Tina–keep writing!