Tag Archives: economy

Feminist Friday: “Modern Office with Christina Hendricks”

You know what really pisses me off? Stupid “rules” of etiquette that we are socialized to believe are natural laws of propriety. For example, I loathe the fact that it is “impolite to discuss money.” There is no intrinsic nastiness linked to talks about economy, taxes, disposable income and salary. A bunch of assholes a long time ago just decided to compare economic dialogue to bad manners and, voila, asking questions about your earnings was suddenly off-limits.

Here’s the truth: The U.S. is one of the most technologically advanced, rich and innovative countries on the planet. It is also probably the most backwards of all the industrialized nations. That is why there is such a huge disparity between the privileged and the poor, the haves and the have-nots,  the Koch brothers and the voters. From an early age, we are programmed to believe that anyone in our country has the ability to transform from Dick Whitman to Don Draper. But we also learn–in a more implicit manner–that money is something that classy people never talk about.

Look, I’m not saying that you should ask every passer-by in the grocery store what he or she makes in a fiscal year. That’s weird. But I am indicting the idiotic norms that prohibit us from learning about economic inequality and what constitutes an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work. Being ignorant about how your paycheck stacks up against your counterparts’ is exactly how women still only make about 75% of what men earn. Like Joan Harris and Peggy Olson are our co-workers. We’re so afraid of offending somebody that we unwillingly let ourselves be exploited. If we don’t know the nature of the injustice, there is nothing we can do to rectify it.

In honor of my philosophy, check out this Funny Or Die clip from August 6, 2014:


Because, really, which is worse? Pointedly asking what your co-workers earn or living like it is still the ’60s? Honestly, if our employers cannot provide us with basic workers’ rights then we should be able to drink on the clock. Sounds like a trade-off to me.

(Image #1 courtesy of funnyordie.com; #2 courtesy of blog.emilyslist.org; #3 courtesy of dailymail.co.uk)

A case of blue

“Oh you’re in my blood like holy wine/You taste so bitter and so sweet/Oh I could drink a case of you darling/Still I’d be on my feet/Oh I would still be on my feet”

“A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell

Yes, we are talking about that movie. But before delving into what makes Adele of Blue is the Warmest Color an Outside Girl, let me preface this post with this disclaimer: The film is one minute shy of three hours and–at most–devotes only 15 minutes to scenes of explicit coupling. This movie features sex, but is also about a lot more than that. Okay, the lecture is over now.

Believe it or not, I’m more interested in how this incredible film depicts everyone’s favorite subject: love. For those of you unaware of Blue, here is the rundown: It is very loosely based on Julie Maroh‘s awesome graphic novel, Blue Angel. In addition, it explores the years-long relationship between two women (one is older, cultured and experienced; the other is younger, working class and green) from when their paths first cross to when their paths permanently diverge. It is fantastic. Especially because director Abdellatif Kechiche decides to acknowledge that romance is just as likely to destroy a person as it is to build her up. You see, as high school aged Adele becomes more and more wrapped up in college student Emma, the more she cuts herself off from everything else in her own world.

It is no revelation when I say that individuals can lose their own sense of self when they become part of a couple. A colleague of mine (thinking himself very wise) once said when you are in a relationship, your status shifts from “me-dom to we-dom.” Violations of the English language aside, the core of his sentiment does have some bearing on reality. We have all had friends who become so dedicated to their romance that they have little time for anything else. Scholar Caroline E. Jones recently studied the way burgeoning female sexuality and first sexual experiences are presented on television. She argues that the female protagonist often “constructs a social or public identity that reveals, complements, or masks her personal or private identity; the double-process of self-perception and self-construction helps her frame…her emerging sense of herself as sexually active.”

For the record, Jones only applies her claim to Buffy Summers, Veronica Mars and Rory Gilmore and analyzes how their initial sexual experiences shaped their characters. However, the stance Jones takes is extremely relevant to Adele and her head-over-heels fall for Emma. Adele is not ashamed of her sexuality, exactly. But she is very private about her feelings and her relationship. For example, both women meets the other’s parents. Emma’s parents know who Adele really is, but Adele’s parents are under the impression that Emma tutors Adele in philosophy. As the commitment between these two women intensifies, the less Adele has to do with her own individual life. When the two first meet, Adele has a large circle of friends, a boyfriend and spends time with her parents every day. By the time the two move in together, Adele only socializes with Emma’s colleagues and friends. It is almost as if Adele has no sense of herself without Emma. It’s like her previous life never even existed.

To be clear, Jones does not argue that Buffy, Veronica and Rory all lose their individuality once they embark on a sexual relationship. But there is a perceivable shift in the way they see themselves and their lovers. Adele goes through this transformation too, even if it is more extreme than Jones documents in her study. Many critics have argued that economic status is what eventually drives these two women apart.  A.O. Scott notes that the “subtle, unmistakable class difference” is punctuated by the aforementioned dinner scenes. Emma’s parents serve oysters; Adele’s family serves spaghetti. It’s true that the differing class status puts strains on their romance, but I would argue that their respective sense of self is the ultimate catalyst for their breakup. As Scott describes, “Emma is proudly out. Adele is, somewhat defiantly, closeted.”

Revealing one’s sexuality is an inherently personal decision. Just as I believe that no one should be attacked or discriminated against based on his or her sexual orientation, I don’t automatically think anyone should be pressured to divulge something that he or she is not ready to share. In my opinion, Adele has every right to keep her sexuality private, but I can also understand how it fractures her relationship with Emma. Adele’s isolation is her own unconscious construction. She is so in love and is so hesitant to publicly discuss it that her lover eventually becomes her entire world.

That puts a lot of pressure on Emma and would be too much for many people to handle. During their devastating breakup scene, Adele confesses to cheating on Emma and tells her, “I felt so alone.” She is alone, even when she is deliriously happy in her relationship. For all of their intense chemistry and genuine affection for each other, these two women come from completely different worlds. Shy Adele, who aspires to be a teacher, will never really fit with Emma, an artist whose emotions are just as visible as her electric-blue hair. Adele does not understand this until it is too late. From the moment she sees Emma, she barrels forward and sacrifices everything so she can be with her. The cruel irony of this beautiful film is that Adele’s willingness to give up everything for love is exactly why she loses it.

(Image #1 courtesy of aceshowbiz.com; #2 courtesy of teatopour.blogspot.com; #3 courtesy of athenacinema.com; #4 courtesy of galleryhip.com)

She keeps dancing on her own

“Ash told Ethan that she wanted to become a feminist director. In 1984 you could describe your dream job in this way and not be made fun of.”

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

I knew I wanted to study literature in college ever since the eighth grade. This was the year that I had the nice, smart English teacher who encouraged my writing ability. It was also the year I was introduced to my mortal enemy: science labs. Generally, the theory side of science is sensible and interesting. It’s the application that throws me through a loop. And ever since eighth grade, when family, friends and acquaintances ask me what I study (and I decide to answer honestly), I am met with responses like:

  • Oh. Really?
  • Good luck with that.
  • Wait. Don’t you plan on working?
  • Is there money in that?
  • Power to you, sweetie.
  • Well, I guess it ‘s your life.
  • What the hell are you going to do with that? At least do something that matters. What’s wrong with math and science?
  • I hate reading.
  • Great! So you want to be a teacher like your dad?
  • What’s the point of paying college tuition when you could just read the same books on your own?

After a while, it sort of beats you down.

I don’t have the privilege of traveling through time, but I can’t help but  wonder if the constant smirking that my education and career plans provoke is just the way rude people act or if the recession has just trained us to see anything besides math and science as a one-way ticket to homelessness. I have a sneaking suspicion that people have always been faintly condescending towards those with artistic dreams, but it has morphed into full-on intolerance since 2008. If I didn’t get so annoyed by it, I would understand. The economy is scary and unforgiving.

If there was ever an Outside Girl who could relate to my own experience of the career/college major hierarchy, it would be Frances Halladay. Frances is an apprentice at a dance company and her main goal is to be full-fledged dancer in her own right. Besides that, her only real goals are to hang out with her friend Sophie, make rent and generally enjoy herself. To me, that is such a basic, attainable plan. If you have the talent and the grace to dance (both of which I totally lack), then dance! Not only is Frances met with the raised-eyebrow response I mentioned above from the other characters in the movie, film critics also are quick to point out that her talent and dream career are akin to unemployment and laziness. People inhabiting Frances’ s universe and our own are cynical and automatically want her to readjust her expectations. By the end of the movie, Frances does not achieve her dream job, and she does compromise on a career, but it is still clear that she is following her own advice and is not merely succumbing to anyone else’s standards. The movie’s final frame is all the proof you need to know Frances is going to make it by exploring her own passions. It also explains the movie’s rather odd title, so that’s helpful.

Frances’s determination to keep dancing and following her bliss, despite everyone else’s opinions, would surely flummox people who are sure that a career in the humanities is an oxymoron. But I would just like to take a moment to say that some of the best characters and texts out there would not exist without the humanities. Noah Baumbach, the director of Frances Ha, not only makes films (which are, *shudder*, art), he works in independent cinema. Michael Z. Newman, writer of Indie: An American Film Culture, argues that independent films are often “anti-Hollywood,” or outside the mainstream film-making process (which is pretty separated from other industries, if you think about it). Newman notes that “it is only when seeing indie cinema through a frame of oppositionality, through an interpretive lens which casts certain textual features as marks of distinction, that the function of independent cinema as an alternative comes into focus.”

So there are quite a few layers of otherness to sort through in this particular text. Frances’s unabashed enthusiasm for dance (despite her apprenticeship at age 27) goes against the technical, practical education that my generation sees as the antidote to financial woes. Then there is the fact that Frances herself exists because of the artistic skills and careers of Greta Gerwig and Baumbach (who co-wrote the film together). And, finally, the fact that the film is independent and uses alternative methods of storytelling (i.e. black and white cinematography in 2013, no formal explanation for the movie’s title, no real plot besides Frances’s vignette-like adventures) marks it as a unique text in an industry dedicated to churning out art (even if it is mass-produced and saturated with cash). It seems that this movie is chock-full of people who ignore the judgement of others and go for their dream jobs. Frances as a concept and character is a product of active resistance to others’ expectations.

With that knowledge, it makes sense that Frances will keep dancing no matter what. I only hope that other like-minded individuals do the same. I know I want to.

(Image #1 courtesy of scenecreek.com; #2 courtesy of mbird.com; #3 courtesy of wordandfilm.com)