Monday, April 28, 2008

The Bachelor: Creepiness Calling

Tonight’s Bachelor made me even more uncomfortable than usual. For some reason, Amanda was really worried that Matt wouldn’t invite her to forgo her individual room to join him in the fantasy suite. Not sure why… I know Bachelors have to say they’re looking for love or the one or whatever, but obviously they’re in it more for the ride than the destination… starting with the getting to know you hot tub parties and ending with the fantasy suite dates. Brad kept it real by not even choosing a winner in the finale. Thank you, Brad, for not insulting us with the proposal charade.

Anyway, back to Amanda: I don’t know if she thought Matt might be afraid her meeps would keep him up all night or what, but she kept agonizing over whether or not she’d get an invite to shack up, and I started to wonder what she was really referring to in her cutaways:

  • “I feel like it’s make it or break it time, and I really want to make it.”
  • “I was really afraid that he wasn’t going to give it to me.”
  • “I was so glad that he pulled it out and offered it.”

Meep! Make it stop!

P.S. WTF was with the seductive slow-mo of Chelsea wiggling into a black negligee and TAKING OFF HER UNDERWEAR?? Ew! I expected more from you, ABC! You are not a cable channel, and Matt is not an ungracefully aging rockstar!

Oh… Amanda just got eliminated… now I’m feeling bad. Well I think it’s for the best anyway. Amanda seems like a sweet girl, and Matt’s way too smooth—calls all of his dates “honey”—the old pet name trick couldn’t be a more obvious sign that he’s all too schooled in dating more than one woman at a time.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It has a name, but no one wants to say it

In 1963, Betty Friedan called it "The Problem that Has No Name." Today, many call it solved. But sexism is clearly alive and well: It's just a problem no one feels like talking about anymore.

In her cover story on sexism in the workplace for the April issue of Portfolio, Harriet Rubin writes:
"This has been the hardest assignment I have ever had. For more than a decade, I've covered gender and power in the business world. I've analyzed heroes and villains, sinners and saints, and the rest of us in between. I've never had so much trouble getting people to talk to me. Nobody really wanted to get into it. Not even the people who would seem to have the most to say. In fact, those people especially would rather not mention it at all."

She goes on to illustrate how "From salary to board seats, key indicators suggest that women's advancement in corporate America has been stagnating--or even slipping--over the past few years."

Some statistics:
  • Pay Gap: "The gap between men's and women's earnings narrowed steadily in the 1980s, but since then gains seem to have been followed by a drop every couple of years. Progress slipped in 2006, the latest year for which numbers are available."
  • Leadership Pipeline: "Positions responsible for profit and loss often feed into top leadership spots. Of female corporate officers, 27.2 percent held those posts in 2007, down from 29 percent in 2006."
  • In the Boardroom: "The number of women holding Fortune 500 board seats increased steadily between 1995 and 2005 but has been essentially flat for the past three years. Women still hold only 14.8 percent of all Fortune 500 board seats."
  • At the Top: "The number of female corporate officers at Fortune 500 companies has dropped in each of the past three years. Last year, the number of firms with more than three female officers fell by 31, while the number of companies with zero female officers increased by 10."
Rubin writes:
"Mark Walsh, a venture capitalist and co-founder of Air America Radio, was surprised by these statistics. 'I'm on two public boards and a ton of private boards, and the mantra is diversity. But as I think about it, when we interview females in the mix, the offer of a board seat usually goes to the nonwhite men--Latinos and African Americans. We think, Great, we've done diversity.' He concludes, 'Women have taken a backseat. They're not being allowed to drive in terms of corporate governance.'"

Parallels in the race for the Democratic nomination can obviously be drawn, but let's not go there. What a shame that "isms" have to fight each other for the spotlight. Are we that easy to divide and conquer? History would say yes: First-wave feminism shifted from abolitionist roots based on abstract principles of equality when more tangible, i.e. popular arguments, which required the exclusion of nonwhite sisters, proved more effective in gaining votes for women's suffrage; and Margaret Sanger found more support for birth control rights when she shifted the argument from a woman's right to control her own body to the government's right to control the fertility of female immigrants. And today I hear that some hard-core Obama and Clinton supporters are saying they will vote for McCain if their favorite loses the nomination. What a shame.

My point, though, is that the feminist backlash has painted sexism a non-issue and feminism so very uncool. And the progress of generations is suffering. Let's not keep stalling the fight to fight over who has more to overcome, and let's focus on overcoming--because there is still work to be done, however unhip it may be these days.

After reading Rubin's article, I read a blurb in Marie Claire about a new book called Save the Males, in which columnist Kathleen Parker "argues that it's time to give back some of the power." She tells the magazine:

"Boys hear how awful they are day in and day out. We seem to understand that girls need high self esteem to perform in school and society, but we pretend that boys don't. Teachers need to dial back their girl-coddling, and society needs to better balance boys' needs with girls."

Just because Parker's argument seems like a breath of fresh air after years of stifling feminist rhetoric, that doesn't make it correct--or revolution-worthy (although I have to admit I haven't read her book). I don't know about boys' self esteem problems in elementary schools today, but I do know the person doing all the talking in my 200-student Women's Studies 101 lecture was the one and only male--extremely confident in his many opinions about women's issues. A complementary statistic to the blurb is that "60 percent of bachelor's degrees awarded in this country in 2012 will go to women." But as Rubin's article indicated, women may be graduating from college, getting jobs, even achieving promotions--but the top earners and decision-makers continue to be predominantly male--and that pesky glass ceiling seems to actually be lowering rather than shattering, contrary to what everyone expected.

I had the luxury of reading Rubin's article in glossy print, but it's also available online--along with 50-plus (when I posted this blog) heated comments, many of which illustrate how much many people wish us "angry feminists" would just shut the hell up (reader quote: "God, will the feminist whining ever stop?"), and some of which insightfully point out how the article should have also blamed women's backslide on corporate America's failure to provide and promote a work-life balance that is attractive to women (and men!) who don't want to put their careers ahead of their families.

Nevertheless, it's a good read, although I enjoyed it more without the bitter and sexist comments attached to the online version, which almost dissuaded me from writing this blog. I have to keep reminding myself that just because an issue or opinion is "uncool," just because people don't want to hear it or attack you for naming it, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist or shouldn't be discussed: In fact its unpopularity is precisely why we must refuse to shut the hell up.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

And now, a word from our writers

Ah, remember when product placement attempted to be sneaky? I guess because consumers were somewhat uncomfortable with it—but those days are apparently over. I think it’s a result of both our celebrity/money-obsessed culture being increasingly okay with “selling out” and the proliferation of reality television, which provides limitless promotional opportunities.

It appears an entire MTV show was created to promote a new Doritos flavor—Spicy Sweet Chili. The channel and brand asked “spicy and sweet” girls and guys to create online profiles to compete for a chance to appear on When Spicy Meets Sweet, a new mini dating show, and star in their very own Doritos commercial. The series premieres April 18. Will these opposites attract to produce the same lip-smacking “sweet heat” found in every bite of our new favorite snack? I’m at the end of my bag—and the edge of my seat.

Speaking of true love, two weeks ago on The Bachelor, the English gentleman went on a one-on-one date with Holly to a “red carpet” premiere of Made of Honor, the new Patrick Dempsey movie. Of course they both gushed about what a great movie it was to watch on a romantic date…but I guess it wasn’t romantic enough because she got booted last night. Ouch.

It was deja vu tonight on Beauty and the Geek. Brittany Snow book-ended commercial breaks with prom tips for viewers, complemented by clips from her new movie Prom Night, of course. The challenge posed to the beauty and geek teams was to script and act out a prom-themed scene on the set of The Young and the Restless (a two-for-one promotional challenge!), before which they watched a clip of Prom Night, of course commenting on how they all can’t wait to see it. And surprise! The winners of the challenge will get to go to the movie premiere.

Now, I don’t think I really have a problem with the product placement—I mean it’s not like reality television has any artistic merit that’s being compromised—but this just seems like lazy marketing. Could it be any more obtuse?

Compare the marketing of Made of Honor and Prom Night to that of Getting Over Sarah Marshall, for example. I heart those outdoor advertisements—“You DO look fat in those jeans Sarah Marshall,” “My mom ALWAYS hated you Sarah Marshall,” “I’m SO over you Sarah Marshall.” Hilarious. I kept seeing them on billboards and cabs, and I almost thought they were real. And you better believe I googled “I hate Sarah Marshall” and found the heartbroken character’s blog, complete with numerous text and video entries, which I also almost believed. Is the dude from How I Met Your Mother really psychotically obsessed with his ex? (Okay, I admit I had to ask my boss about it the next day to find out it was just a movie promotion. I’m extremely gullible.)

But what creative marketing! I’m definitely more apt to go see Forgetting Sarah Marshall than Made of Honor—guessing the products will befit their promotional vehicles, with Forgetting Sarah Marshall more likely to be a hilarious, somewhat inappropriate comedy (like the blog) and Made of Honor more likely to be a cheesy romantic comedy (possibly inducing the same gag reflex experienced while watching Bachelor dates). Actually, who am I kidding—I’m sure I’ll see both—but I’ll probably spring for the $11 ticket to the former and Netflix the latter. (Oh McDreamy, even if Loverboy had been a two-hour Pizza Hut commercial, I still would have ordered extra anchovies.) Prom Night, however, I’ll probably skip.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Walking in circles

I’m not sure why, but there are an extraordinary number of revolving doors in the Loop. Getting to work in the morning, I go through no fewer than five revolving doors. If I go to Starbucks for coffee and Subway for lunch (yes, I’m aware of the amount of money I waste on things I should make at home), I revolve through 14 doors in one day. Despite all of this practice, however, I still find the revolving door rather tricky. Now, it’s quite possible I’m alone in being challenged in this area, but in case anyone else gets the same double dutch-evoking nerves before jumping into a spinning section, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned walking in circles.

Lesson number one: When choosing between an empty revolving door and one already spinning a few people, choose the populated door. Because it’s already spinning, you won’t have to exert as much energy pushing through. This was counterintuitive for me because I like to stay as far away from strangers as possible—but I’ve decided it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make, especially in the morning when I’m carrying coffee and feeling especially lazy.

Lesson number two: Stay alert when timing your door entry. It’s ideal to squeeze into the door immediately after someone else—so you can catch a free ride on his or her push. You have to be careful not to jump in too early though, as this could not only slow everyone down, but also cause extreme discomfort. One day after work I was jolted back from lala land when I realized I had followed an unsuspecting woman right into her personal revolving door compartment. I sheepishly apologized while we shuffled forward for what seemed like an eternity. Horrifying.

Lesson number three: Reverse the laws of chivalry. Although men customarily open doors for women, when dealing with a revolving door, I think it’s more polite for the man to go first. This goes back to my laziness theme. If the man goes first, he can do all the pushing. Now, as a 21st century gal, I’m totally down with pushing my own door…or strategically timing my own door entry…but I often encounter men who seem to be trying to be gentlemanly by letting me go first, and I find that odd because then I’m doing all the work for them. Maybe I’m getting it all wrong though—I shared this theory with a lunch date once…and I never heard from him again…

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