Sunday, August 10, 2014

Music Producer Linda Perry interview with Larry King about the industry, her new show and American Idol

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Megan Fox talks about sexism and discrimination in Hollywood

I think most feminists can agree that Cosmo sucks.  They're more for beauty tips and guilt trips than they are for anything else.  But sometimes they surprise me and manage to push beyond the surface issues that women are interested in and engage their interview subjects in something with more substance.

Megan Fox, who I am a huge fangirl of, appears in the upcoming August issue of Cosmo as part of her promotion for her soon-to-be released comedy action flick, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  She talks about motherhood, sex and the usual Cosmo-esque subject matter, but they also ask her about sexism and female representation in film.

The interviewer says, "It's exciting that you're a woman headlining an action film.  Do you think Hollywood is coming around?"  

She answers bluntly, "I don't. Hollywood is still run by middle-aged men who are intimidated by an assertive woman. I would argue to do something you'd see Shia [Labeouf] do in Transformers and the men involved in the movie would say it seemed 'bitchy.'  Or if my interactions with my [Ninja Turtles] co-star Will Arnett were a little too direct, I would hear "why is your character being so mean to him?"

recently spoke with a producer  from Michael Douglas' company who admitted that they see women directors as a "risk".  So what she is saying sounds pretty accurate.  Hollywood is run by men who not only see assertive women as intimidating, but who are uncomfortable with women having any authority or power at all.  This is not the first time she has discussed sexism on set, as she did in an interview with Peter Travers.

I'd like to point out that it is not always just men who have a hard time with this. I've dealt with women who uphold this kind of sexist attitude as well.  It's usually men though.

In the interview Megan also discusses how she handles unwanted sexual attention on set.  She says "when I'm working I refuse to flirt.  If someone tries, it becomes an endless roast. I'll say, 'nice beard buddy' or 'you look fancy.' I know he spent an hour doing that specific thing to his hair, and the minute I point it out his game is shattered.  I like to have men off their guard.  Then you are in charge.  You don't ever have to feel like someone has power over you."

Sounds like good advice to me!

Also, Megan recently sat in at a round table talk with a group of mom bloggers. They each wrote an article about her and to Mom.me she elaborated on the nature of being a woman in Hollywood:
"In Hollywood, you don't want to show weakness as a woman because it is such a misogynistic industry. To ever go to work and be like, 'I have debilitating cramps,' you can't do that. You can't be like, 'Can I have a hot water bottle for my stomach?' You have to act like you're a superhero in order to be taken seriously or put on an equal playing field as the men. As soon as you like have a woman's body and have women's issues, it's like, 'Oh, you're a hazard for us," basically. So you just have to pretend that you're a lot stronger than you are a lot of the time."
I agree with her and hope that other industry people see this kind of unevenness and take a stance against it when they work on sets.

Cosmo interview source
Mom blog interview source

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kim Kardashian calls for an end to the boycott against the tyrannical homophobic owner of the Beverly Hills Hotel so she can have a convenient place for lunch

For those of you who don't know, the popular Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles is currently being boycotted by LA locals because the new billionaire owner, who is the Sultan of Brunei, supports sharia law.  Sharia law is a religious law that limits the freedom of women and criminalizes gay people, among other issues.  The harsh laws that the Sultan is creating for the country of Brunei currently includes jail time for those who do not go to weekly religious ceremonies or any woman who gets pregnant outside of marriage.  The laws will eventually include severing limbs for anyone who commits property crime and stoning people to death for adultery, gay sex and anyone who insults the Koran.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has spoken out against the "draconian" law. According to the LA Times, a spokes person for the U.N. group stated that "the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law."  Even the Beverly Hills mayor and council have pushed for the owner to sell the property.  Many other groups have canceled events at the hotel as well.



However, some celebrities who live in LA and enjoy the hotel, including actor Russell Crowe and reality TV star Kim Kardashian, have criticized the boycott saying that it hurts the workers more than the billionaire sultan.  While they may have a point that this gives them jobs, has anyone actually been laid off due to this?  As the global press secretary for the HRC pointed out the company is "shamefully using their own employees as human shields to deflect criticism of the Sultan...Profits front he Sultan's hotels belong to a regime that could start stoning women and LGBT people as soon as next year, and those profits need to stop."

Should human rights advocates look the other way when a man whose values radically contradict the values of the community becomes an influential presence?  Matthew Fleischer wrote in his LA Times article, "America has made tremendous progress on LGBT rights in the last several decades, but those gains will be hollow if the rest of the world descends into a homophobic pit on our watch. It's time for those who believe in equality to make their impact felt not just at home but around the world because....anti-LGBT religious forces in America and around the world are doing all they can to export their homophobic views...".

He could not be more right.  Throwing your hands up and saying "oh well what can we do" will only further propagate hurtful homophobic, human rights violating ideas, ideas that turn into laws that will cause the death of innocent people.  According to reports the boycott has caused a 2 million dollar loss for the hotel after a month of protests.  It might not mean much for a billionaire, but it shows that boycotts are effective. (Also, a comment left on KK's essay claims that the owner is compensating the workers with extra money during the protests, so maybe it's not even affecting them at all.  Can anyone corroborate this?)

Kim Kardashian's defense of the hotel makes the same claim that Russell Crowe made: we should end the boycott for the sake of the workers. However, the issue for Kim Kardashian seems to be a more self-centered one: it's one of the few places she can go without being harassed by paps.  Her essay is filled with stories about how great the hotel is for her life.  She says it's one of the few places where she can go "because they respect not having any paparazzi drive onto their property" and "when I was a little girl, I would ride my bike to the Beverly Hills Hotel on the weekends to eat downstairs in the coffee shop with my dad," and "the hotel is a piece of LA's history as well as many of our own personal memories."

Yeah...forget the gay people and the women who will be MURDERED to due this tyrants power trip.  Kim Kardashian needs a peaceful place to have lunch!

Kim says she did switch the location of her bridal shower "due to the actions of the Sultan of Brunei," but was it because she cared or was it because of the social pressure that was created around this issue and the likely backlash she would have received if she had a big event there?  My guess is if there had been no protest this woman would have had her bridal shower there without a second thought.

Boycotts work.  They might not cause a billionaire to lose a fortune, but they put a social pressure on people to take a stand against what's right instead of just giving in because you don't think you can win.  In the last paragraph of her essay Kim says "there must be another solution".  Here's a solution for you Kim: if you want a pleasant place to have lunch away from the paps and you care about the workers as you claim, then why don't you and your rich friends and family go open your own hotel and offer jobs to every single person who works at the Beverly Hills Hotel?  That would be truly powerful.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Michael Douglas' film company admits to discriminating against female directors

In my film production class in my final semester of college just recently, my professor often had guest speakers come in, typically experience people from the film industry who shell out insight and advice.  One day we had a producer named Robert Mitas come in...I don't remember what the gist of his speech was other than to discuss the ins and outs of the industry, but he worked directly with Michael Douglas at his production company.

Half way through his lecture I raised my hand.  He called on me and I said, "I've heard that producers consider hiring female directors a risk.  Is this true?"  He hesitated for a moment, "uh...well...talk to me after class."  Seriously?  The fact that he didn't want to answer me in front of everyone told me the answer right there. I shot back, "No! I'm asking for all the women in the class."

So then he began fumbling and muttering awkwardly attempting to explain how directors are selected, going through an elaborate charting on the white board about who gets and hired and why.  He never directly just said, "No we do not feel that women are a risk."  It was obvious the answer was "yes we do feel they are a risk!"

It became this hilarious 30 minute "explanation" that really didn't explain anything.  He tried to suggest that a director is hired based on how successful their previous films have been.  But if that were true then why did Michael Bay pick Jonathan Liebsesman to direct the upcoming comedy action flick Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  No offense to Liebsesman, but I do not see a list of successful films on his roster.  Others in my class chimed in in defense of what I was saying and it became a bit of a discussion about discrimination and opportunity.

When the lecture was over at the end of class, Mitas eyed me and I approached him.  I'm pretty shy but I thought I should talk to him more.  He acted as if he'd never ever been presented with this concept of discrimination at all.  He seemed confused and said something like "I've never thought about this before."  Really?  Okay.  When he tried to further defend Michael Douglas' company for discriminating he said something like "when you have a film with a certain image you have to pick a director who matches" and alluded to needing a man to represent an action film.  I shot back that production companies seem to have no problem hiring male directors for rom coms.

He seemed stunned by this obvious revelation.  When I tried to get his name again and double check that I had the right info -- that he worked at the Michael Douglas company, he got offended and walked away from me.

What is it with these dudes and their egos?  Sorry I didn't memorize your name at the beginning of class bro -- you just admitted to discriminating against me for being female.  I'm not impressed.


On a side note, Mitas also told a story about a young woman who worked for Douglas's company with them. He said she suggested they do a parody of one of his films.  Apparently that was horrifically offensive to all of them and Mitas said "get this girl out of here."  So did a woman lose her job because she bruised Michael Douglas' ego?  I certainly hope not, but it wouldn't surprise me.  Hollywood is run by sensitive male egos.  

There are a few good guys out there though.  You just gotta sift through the dirt to get to the gold.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kathleen Hanna on Totally Biased discusses riot grrrl, racism and media misrepresentation


Kathleen Hanna has been on a bit of a promotional tour for the release of The Punk Singer documentary that Sini Anderson directed.  She's been on Buzzfeed, Pitchfork, the Huffington Post  and various other major websites (conspicuously missing from the "feminist" pop culture site Jezebel).  I did an interview with Sini a couple of years ago when they were still in the filming phase, which you can read here.

After a few screenings and making the film festival run, The Punk Singer won a couple of awards, snagged a distribution deal and is set to open in 36 theaters in the US starting this Friday.  So this your chance to see an inside look at the life and work of a very influential artist, singer and feminist.  Even if those subjects don't interest you, it's just a well-made and entertaining film.

One of her promotional stops was on the now-canceled Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell on Fox.  They discuss the film, her illness, riot grrrl and her husband Adrock from the Beastie Boys.  Kamau asks Kathleen about the lack of racial diversity that is associated with riot grrrl, which provokes a brief, but insightful conversation about what was happening during the inception of the movement.

Kamau asks her what she would have done differently with regard to race and riot grrrl to which she says:
"The very first meeting we should have invited more women of color. Because if you start something and then you try to like add people in, it just ends up being totally false and token-y...The other thing is there really were women of color who were involved in shaping riot grrrl, and I also don't want them to be erased, their contributions. The problem was when race got brought up in meetings...as a topic, of course a lot of white girls said 'oh reverse racism, blah blah blah. It's all about me.' But then there was this really weird kind of thing of like white girls writing these confessional zines about how racist they were...and it put kind of the onus of responsibility on women of color to like absolve them of their sins. Of course, all of these things put together are gonna alienate a lot of women of color, and [cause them to] be like 'that just isn't for me.'" 
Kamau commends her for speaking out about it saying "good for you for confronting it," but she shrugs off his praise saying"it's the truth!" The Heavens to Betsy song "white girl" kind of reminds me of the racist confessional thing she is describing. Heavens to Betsy was fronted by Corin Tucker who later went on to form the popular guitar trio Sleater-Kinney.

Emily's Sassy Lime was an asian riot grrrl group who were on the same label as Bikini Kill in the 90s.  I loved them and consider them an influence and wish they were acknowledged and referenced more often when people talk about riot grrrl and racial diversity.  I met one of them once when my riot grrrl band in high school opened for The PeeChees in 97.  One of the Emily's Sassy Lime girls was the roadie for the PeeChees, so after the show my friends and I interviewed her and the drummer Molly Neuman (originally of Bratmobile).  We put it in our zine Kazoo, and there's a video of it somewhere...

For anyone who's interested, I also came across this  Fuck Yeah Riot Grrrls of Color tumblr page.

On to the video:




Now check out the trailer for The Punk Singer ---->





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