Tag Archives: New York Times

Feminist Friday: “The Eggs and Us”

Hello, my fellow patriots! Welcome to Feminist Friday: Independence Day Edition.

This is the time of year we celebrate our country’s revolt and ultimate freedom from England by stuffing our faces with hot dogs and allowing small children to handle flaming sticks. I kid! I kid because I love. As surprising as it might seem to some pundits and various other douchebags, progressives and liberals (like myself) are not automatically anti-America or unpatriotic. On the contrary, I love my country. I’m not pointing out its flaws to be bitchy; that’s just a perk. No, I’m doing it because I want to make my country better, a place that reflects my own values. A place that is safe for women.

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More than anything else, I respect America’s goal to give every citizen freedom. I say “goal” because this principle only works in theory. In practice, women, racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, the working class, students, non-Christians and many others do not have the automatic freedom that our leaders keep harping on about. Usually, I feel somewhat optimistic about all of this. I think Hey, it’s 2014! Sooner or later we will all wake up and demand justice and equality for everyone. Unfortunately, two recent Supreme Court decisions have dampened my faith in America and its dedication to women’s rights and freedom. It’s hard to be all USA! USA! USA! when future employers are completely within their rights to deny coverage for my contraception, and it is possible that going to a Planned Parenthood clinic (for a variety of reasons) would result in verbal and/or physical abuse.

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But just when I am tempted to sit in my room and cry because two major decisions that affect me and every American woman have been disproportionately influenced by five old, saggy white guys, I remember Gail Collins. She is an op-ed columnist for the New York Times and one of the few journalists who balances wit with biting political analysis. She and Nate Silver got me through the last election, but that is neither here nor there. Her June 27, 2014 column is entitled “The Eggs and Us: The Abortion Wars Rage On” and discusses the now-defunct buffer zones and the then-upcoming Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.

Read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/28/opinion/gail-collins-the-eggs-and-us.html?emc=eta1&_r=0 

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Here are some of the best tidbits if you are too lazy (shame on you) to read the whole thing:

  • “…this [buffer zone] decision came from people who work in a building where the protesters aren’t allowed within 250 feet of the front door.”
  • “…the Greens [of Hobby Lobby] draw the line at anything that they believe might endanger a fertilized egg, like Plan B, or IUDs. Many scientists would disagree with the Greens’ theory about how contraceptives work, but it doesn’t matter. Religion trumps.”
  • “Once again, we are reminded that men do not get pregnant.”

If you are also ready to start picketing the Supreme Court due to their increasingly shitty choices (from 250 feet away, of course), then I highly recommend reading this and all of Collins’ future op-ed writings. She covers current events and contemporary politics in a sensible, funny, never-bitter style. You should also pick up a copy of When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. It will piss you off, inspire you, and inform you about our women’s amazing strides and devastating failures throughout the past 54 years. It totally changed my life.

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That’s all, folks. I hope you have a wonderful Fourth of July! Appreciate all of the opportunities that the United States has given you. And never stop reaching for the equality and freedom that you were promised and deserve. I’m gonna Google Obvious Child for the twentieth time.

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(Image #1, #2 and #5 courtesy of plannedparenthoodaction.org; #3 courtesy of harvardmagazine.com; #4 courtesy of yorkblog.com)

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Making an ass of herself with agency

“She thought it would be fun to try photography/She thought it would be fun to try pornography/She thought it would be fun to try most anything/She was tired of sleeping”

“Beautiful” by Belle & Sebastian

No matter your particular age, economic status, gender or race, you probably currently have an opinion about Lena Dunham and her masterpiece of awkward social relations, Girls:

  • It is a brilliant portrait of what it means to be female, educated and young in New York City!
  • No, it is a dull, self-indulgent piece of crap about four lazy white chicks that pretends it is cinéma vérité!
  • No, it is an obscene series because it depicts weird sex, starring a nude woman with an imperfect body and more than  2% body fat!
  • It’s Sex and the Citybut depressing!
  • It demonstrates the bad behavior we all wish we could indulge in, a la Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm or Arrested Development!
  • Lena Dunham sucks!
  • No, you suck!

You can peruse Twitter at your leisure for more words of wisdom.

As you can probably tell, I am firmly in the pro-Girls camp. I think that the series is a warts-and-all story about four very different, very realistic young women. That being said, I do understand some of the criticism that has been hurled at the series. It depicts a very specific niche and some people–well, most people–are not like Hannah Horvath, Marnie Michaels, Jessa Johansson or Shoshanna Shapiro. But one piece of criticism that I will never understand goes something like this: these Girls are revolutionary characters, but their identities are contingent on the men in their lives.

Pardon my French, but I call bullshit.

There are guys in Girls, but they do not define Hannah and Co. And guess what? Hannah and Co. do not define the guys. These are all self-possessed, independent characters whose paths happen to cross because it is a television show and we need to observe conflict to feel entertained. We’re all free to be you and me! Yay.

But there are viewers who wholeheartedly disagree with me.  Serena Daalmans‘s analysis of the series argues that Hannah’s relationship with Adam (who is interesting to say the least) is completely passive. She opines, “Hannah’s need for something to happen in her life, rather than actually taking charge of her life, is disconcerting, as is her willingness to engage in non-fulfilling, awkward, degrading, and unprotected sex with Adam.”

Sorry, but I don’t buy that. Yes, I find Hannah and Adam’s coupling problematic. His initial behavior in the program is definitely not what I look for in a partner. And according to Dunham’s Fresh Air interview, that is the show’s intention. Yet I’m not going to say that her completely unromantic sexual encounters are examples of Hannah waiting for her life to happen. She does these things out of real affection for that weirdo and, as Jessa would put it, “for the story.” I would not personally make that choice, but I’m also not Hannah.

Hannah puts up with a lot throughout the series, and puts her foot in her mouth on a regular basis. But she is aware about her own flaws, admits to them and makes conscious choices as to how she wants to live her life. She yells at her ex-boyfriend for coming out; she wears some truly horrendous outfits; she hits on and then tries to blackmail her boss; she has sex with a stranger eighteen years her senior; she tries cocaine; she burns bridges left and right; she tells Adam she never wants to see him again, but then accepts his grand romantic gesture.

Even if you don’t agree with this type of behavior, it is hard to see it as lacking any agency. You might think Hannah is a sociopath instead of a human being with flaws and contradictions, but  you still have to admit that she makes these seemingly terrible decisions under no one’s influence but her own. Hannah is a writer who believes she needs interesting experiences to write well. Not all authors would deliberately put themselves in awful situations in order to write, and that is their prerogative. However, Hannah does make that choice and takes herself out of her ordinary life and habits. Her actions are shocking, infuriating and worthy of empathy. You might not be willing to try anything once like she is, but don’t say she is passive about her own life because she has unsexy sex. Hannah is doing what she wants, and screw you if you don’t like it.

How Outside Girl is that?

Am I right or do you think I am way off-base? What is your opinion about Lena Dunham and her series? Please feel free to share your perspective in the comments!

(Image #1 courtesy of cosmopolitan.com; #2 courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com; #3 courtesy of crushable.com; #4 courtesy of nymag.com)