Monthly Archives: December 2008

Why I’m over Tina Fey

No, it’s not the now-infamous Vanity Fair article that attributes her success to her weight loss. Give the article anything more than cursory attention and it becomes clear that it owes a lot more to Maureen Dowd’s narcissism and anti-feminism than it does to any desire on Fey’s part to steer the article toward her looks. It’s pretty clear that Fey simply answered the questions that Dowd, being Dowd, thought were the most important to ask. And is it really surprising that the small-minded and self-involved Dowd, when faced with a woman more attractive, more famous and more intelligent (and younger!) than she is, decided to focus the whole article on how this woman used to be fat and unattractive?

So I don’t blame Fey for the Vanity Fair article, or for losing weight when she was about to become a network TV star. I blame her for 30 Rock. I missed the first two seasons when they were on but caught up in a massive 30-rock onslaught over the holidays, and I was shocked. Yes, it’s well written, and yes, there are clever and critical plots about the war in Iraq and the environment and the politics of product placement. But the gender politics are positively retrograde. Liz Lemon, Tina Fey’s character, is so worried about her biological clock that she steals a baby. She so wants to get married that she buys a wedding dress even though she’s not dating anyone. When she stands up for herself and tells her (male) writers that she can’t always be nice to them, the brief moment of empowerment ends with her bursting in to tears and being swept into the arms of a man and carried, like a bride over the threshold, from the room. Sex and the City never stooped this low.

Even the things about Tina/Liz that are supposed to register as enlightened and post-patriarchal–she’s a bit of a dork and doesn’t have many feminine wiles, despite wearing a lot of Ally-McBeal-length skirts–are played in a typical chick-lit fashion: they invite female solidarity through our failure to meet gender norms, but they place the emphasis on failure. We’re supposed to rue our collective inability to be the proper girly girl we see in the magazines, but we aren’t supposed to actually challenge the standards or celebrate what we are good at. We can come together as women, but only through the vehicle of self-loathing and defeat. It’s a sneaky strategy, because it acknowledges our anger at gender standards, thereby seeming feminist and progressive, when it in fact turns most of that anger at ourselves. In short, this is the same mindset that inspired a thousand Cathy cartoons.

This is today's actual cartoon.

And then there’s the whole Jack thing. Sure, he’s played for humor too, but there’s no doubt that, for the great majority of the time, he is the one offering tutelage and transformation to Liz, rather than the other way around. In fact, a lot of the time the show reads to me like a thinly veiled allegory: How Neoliberalism Turned Postfeminism into a Capitalist Tool. And, frankly, that’s a story I have lived through for most of my adult life; I didn’t really need to see it encapsulated in a network TV show. As Zoe said sarcastically to Mal in an episode of Firefly, ‘Thanks for the re-enactment, sir.’

Finally, I resent the hell out of the fact that I’m supposed to love and cheer for any woman whose sole reason for fame isn’t her looks–all the while being asked to marvel at the fact that she can be smart and pretty at the same time! That last one, of course, isn’t Fey’s fault–which is why I was prepared to like her until the 30 Rock marathon re-educated me. She may not have signed on to her popularization through cleavage, but as far as the rest of post-feminism goes, she’s right on message.



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Justice for Christmas

Dr Humayra Abedin was successful in her bid not be removed from the UK under the Forced Marriage Act. Abedin was, for all intents and purposes, abducted, injected with anti-psychotic drugs, and forced into marriage by her family in Bangladesh. The Forced Marriage Act recognizes coercing women into marriage, not as a “cultural practice” as some misogynists would like to maintain, but as a breach of human rights.


Dr Abedin was great in the face of numerous ignorant and leading journo questions upon hearing the verdict. I commend her for keeping up what had to be an arduous struggle. Best to her and other human rights warriors in the new year!

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Obama’s Rick Warren Mistake

Lefties are ignorant about religion, resulting in political mistakes of no small magnitude.

Like the lefties on the Huffington Post suggesting that we embrace what we have in common with Warren as a way of reaching out to religious conservatives. They cite Warren’s anti-poverty work, and his reverse tithing, as examples of what he has in common with us.

While I am in favor of coalition building– and really, who isn’t on the left?– there is a line, and Warren, a vocal prop 8 supporter? That crosses it.

Progressives have religious leaders too, and though I am an atheist, I have met many of them in my work in the Bay Area. People who sleep on the street for a week once a year to know what it feels like to be one of the homeless they serve every day, for example, lit with a fervor that puts my bleeding heart to shame. And who still support LGBT rights– full civil rights, not some piecemeal second-class bullshit– while they believe in god.

Why not put one of these faithful people forward in the inauguration? Upend the idea that piety falls neatly in line with hate, as it does for Warren? Only 30 percent of Americans are religious conservatives, we tend to forget. Lumping religious together with conservative, and mistaking religious for conservative, is a grave error.

Homophobia is intolerable. It is intolerable in and of itself, and in that it upholds a patriarchal system of gendered inequality that has been used to oppress women since the dawn of time. If progressive aren’t going to take a firm stand on this, then who will?

Invite Warren to an anti-poverty summit, along with the numerous other religious leaders who struggle against injustice every day, sans mega church resources. But to invite a proponent of hate to speak at an event that is supposed to represent a summit of a civil rights movement– that is unfathomable.



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Fed Cuts Rates to Almost 0%– Hell and Damnation Eminent

Today’s newly set rate at the Fed is the lowest since records began in 1954.  As someone who lives in California, and has seen the bottom fall out of the housing market as the middle class finally entered it in droves, and unemployment run higher than the national rate for the past year (currently at 8.2 percent), and seen jobs not related to tech disappear, and then tech jobs slow down, may I ask what the delay was about?  Did interest rates really need to rise to 7 percent or more in the first place, when it was clear the housing market was teetering on disaster?

If you check out that chart in the BBC article I linked to above, you will see that as housing markets collapsed across the country, the Fed continued to raise rates.  Of course, if you were one of the unlucky Californians trying to sell a house at ANY price over the past two– going on three– years, you would not need a chart to explain this to you.  And you will be probably pretty cheesed that you met predictions that the crisis will end, softly, in 2007, and not spill into other sectors, with high levels of disbeliefs, but that the people running the fed and other significant financial institutions, blinded by ideology, greed and hubris, did not.

And if you remember the whole homeownership bruhaha that attended Bush’s speeches throughout the early part of this decade, you will get really pissed off in the face of government’s delays in helping homeowners keep their homes.

I am myself operating at a high level of anger these days, and it spikes with the headlines.  Thank goodness for the venting power of blogs.


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Olive Morris, Brixton community activist

If you’re in the London area and have a love of women’s history, check out the Remembering Olive Morris Collective. First of all, we go by the acronym R.O.C., which just sounds badass. And, as it should: Olive Morris was amazing and her legacy lives on in Black London history.

Olive Morris speaking at a rally against police brutality outside Brixton Library (ca. 1972)

Olive Morris speaking at a rally against police brutality outside Brixton Library (ca. 1972)

Olive and another activists, Liz Obi, were active in the black women’s, Black Panther, and squatters movements in the early 1970s. I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of their work, but the ROC blog has some amazing photos of Olive, as well as shots of historical documents for nerds like myself to geek out over.

In addition to collecting oral histories about black women’s activism, the collective is also launching a campaign in south London to make sure that the building named after Olive retains her name, as well as a plaque that lets people know about this fighter for community justice. Stay tuned for how you can help.

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