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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

the Super Bowl for women will be hosted by men…

…what’s so mysterious about women, and more.

Yup, it’s The Week in Women, my regular column over at The Alliance of Women Film Journalists. Enjoy.



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  • Accounting Ninja

    The “Woman as mysterious Other” is probably in my top 5 feminist pet peeves. I hate hate HATE when men insist that I am (or other women are) mysterious.

    When something is intrinsically unknowable, you don’t have to expend energy to understand it, because understanding is impossible. Also, “mysterious” is often a sugar-coated way of saying “irrational”. Grrr.

  • Paul

    I usually only find women mysterious when they are either so smart and creative that I never know what’s going to come out of their mouths or what they’re going to do next, or they are intentionally trying to be mysterious by withholding information or providing contradictory information. I befriend the first and blow off the latter.

    But I think men’s tendency to think of women as mysterious is an extension of their own inability to understand the contradictions within themselves. Men see contradiction within themselves as a weakness, so we either fight our contradictions, find a Hegelian resolution to them, sacrifice a part of ourselves for the sake of the other part, or turn a blind eye to them. Of course, we often fail in any of these.

    When women, on the other hand, seem to embrace contradiction, or express them, or tolerate them, which are opposite reactions, so when we see you we see the Other possibility, which confuses us because it’s not how we were raised to be.

  • amanohyo

    Allah works in mysterious ways, ninja of the accounting department. Why did He make the minds of women so mysterious, and why use a rib? What does He have against shellfish and shaving, and why is my wife so angry at me? I could listen to what she’s saying, but would it not be arrogance to attempt to contain the awesome mystery of Allah’s design in my tiny, mortal mind? Men want large-breasted women and fatty foods and televised sporting events, but what do women want? Only Mel Gibson knows for sure.

  • Bluejay

    The section in MaryAnn’s article about Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin hosting the Oscars reminds me of the “white male default” debate in a previous QOTD:

    http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2009/02/020309question_of_the_day_should_whi.html

    I like Baldwin and Martin and think they’d do a good job too, but I do recognize that tapping a woman or otherwise-non-white-male person would address a historical imbalance.

    I do wonder sometimes if, in our well-meaning and certainly justified attempts to correct historical injustices based on certain markers of identity, we run the risk of losing sight of people as people? Maybe this bleeds into the second section of the article, about the “Mysterious Woman” label blocking our perception of women as “just, you know, people.” Could an argument be made that we should just see Martin and Baldwin as people (who would be good at the job) instead of members of an overrepresented identity? Do we risk making the conscious quest for diversity an artificial imposition?

    Not sure if I’m making sense, or even how I feel about this. In the previous QOTD I did argue, as an Asian, that Asians should be represented more onscreen, instead of defaulting to white actors who might do a good job too. But I also know that I personally feel uncomfortable in situations where I suspect I’m picked for something because I’m Asian (even if I’m also otherwise qualified for the job).

    If Tina Fey (or Queen Latifah or anyone else) were tapped to host the Oscars, would she wonder if she were picked just because she was awesome, or because (or partly because) she was a woman, and a woman “should” be picked? And how would she feel about that?

    I’m kind of conflicted about this. I do believe underrepresented groups should be better represented, but I also see how consciously planning for diversity might feel too artificial and…I don’t know, cheapen one’s value somehow, to be seen as “representing” rather than being recognized for yourself? Is this a catch-22?

  • Bluejay

    Maybe this’ll help crystallize what I’m getting at:

    A few years ago I was a member of a band that just happened to have a good mix of people, in terms of race and gender. Completely by chance. We never made a big deal of it, and just focused on our music. But I think we were all privately proud of the fact that we were so diverse. At some point, we made a video that was seen by a bunch of people–and one of them commented online, cynically, that we were probably focus-grouped to appeal to all the demographics. I was offended. I was proud of our diversity, but as soon as someone suggested it was intentional, it suddenly felt somehow uncomfortable: we were being judged not for our talent but for whom we were perceived to represent.

    I guess I’m asking for too much, huh? In my ideal world, the Oscar hosts would just happen to be diverse (or not, from year to year) because everyone’s enlightened and doesn’t give identity politics a thought. But justice requires conscious effort in the real world, of course.

  • chuck

    Oh, dear god..I find myself agreeing with Bluejay on this one. Not sure if that’s a good thing.

    People are people, let the best ones do the job.

    I’ve noticed that more times than not when I turn on a news channel that it’s often only women giving the news, a female anchor and female reporters. Sure there is still Anderson Cooper and Wolf. But without actually counting minutes it feels like there are more women reporting the news than men. Fine by me as long as the “people” reporting are accurate.

    I also did a quick search for “The Alliance of Men Film Journalists” to see if they were universally praising the Martin Baldwin pair up. Sadly there did not seem to be any such organization.

  • bree

    Why would the (overwhelmingly dominant) majority need an alliance? To fight for even an even bigger majority? To opine on the social and cultural paradigms that provide for their majority? To complain about that pesky minority trying to infringe on their majority? Perhaps just to gloat about their majority?!

  • JoshB

    I also did a quick search for “The Alliance of Men Film Journalists” to see if they were universally praising the Martin Baldwin pair up. Sadly there did not seem to be any such organization.

    See, this is what I’m talking about chuck. Here we have a clear effort to tear down AWFJ, its members, and the people who support them. Are you gonna tell me that this is anything other than sarcasm and insolence? But you’re going for an honest, civilized debate right?

    Why do you think that you can type shit like that and then claim moral superiority when I suggest that you might be less than intelligent, hmmm?

  • chuck

    Of course there is an association of “the majority” who plot to hold “the minority” down.

    I think there is the monthly “gloating” meeting scheduled on Tuesday at 7:30 down at the Denny’s.

    Just don’t tell our wives.

  • chuck

    This my attempt at pointing out that I believe that organizations that promote one group over another, even if it is a minority group, often create exactly the opposite effect. The last paragraph was designed to generate thought, but I suppose a few knee jerk reactions are inevitable.

    In many cases these groups just come off as angry and bitter, and they actually may be, and for good reason. But other than stirring up the anger and bitterness amongst the troops I’m not sure they perform any real useful function.

    My point about the news buisness seemingly being more than adequately represented by women should have made that clear. In this example women have made some real progress. I remember when it was a BIG deal that someone named Barbara Walters was going to be on a prime time news cast. We have come a long way from there, but not through rabble rousing and whining, but through the hard work and professionalism of the women in that buisness.

    The last paragraph may sound a bit sarcastic but I felt it was a better way to say it. I think a lot of the readers here had figured that out.

    Nice to see that your name calling has improved to poly-syllabic phrases, keep working on it.

  • chuck

    This my attempt at pointing out that I believe that organizations that promote one group over another, even if it is a minority group, often create exactly the opposite effect.

    In many cases the groups just come off as angry and bitter, and they actually may be, and for good reason. But other than stirring up the anger and bitterness amongst the troops I’m not sure they perform any real useful function.

    My point about the news buisness seemingly being more than adequately represented by women should have made that clear. In this example women have made some real progress. I remember when it was a BIG deal that someone named Barbara Walters was going to be on a prime time news cast. We have come a long way, but through the hard work and professionalism of the women in that buisness.

    The last paragraph may sound a bit sarcastic but I felt it was a better way to say it. I think a lot of the reader here probably had figured that out

  • chuck

    This my attempt at pointing out that I believe that organizations that promote one group over another, even if it is a minority group, often create exactly the opposite effect.

    In many cases the groups just come off as angry and bitter, and they actually may be, and for good reason. But other than stirring up the anger and bitterness amongst the troops I’m not sure they perform any real useful function.

    My point about the news buisness seemingly being more than adequately represented by women should have made that clear. In this example women have made some real progress. I remember when it was a BIG deal that someone named Barbara Walters was going to be on a prime time news cast. We have come a long way, but through the hard work and professionalism of the women in that buisness.

    The last paragraph may sound a bit sarcastic but I felt it was a better way to say it. I think a lot of the reader here probably had figured that out

  • chuck

    This my attempt at pointing out that I believe that organizations that promote one group over another, even if it is a minority group, often create exactly the opposite effect.

    In many cases the groups just come off as angry and bitter, and they actually may be, and for good reason. But other than stirring up the anger and bitterness amongst the troops I’m not sure they perform any real useful function.

    My point about the news buisness seemingly being more than adequately represented by women should have made that clear. In this example women have made some real progress. I remember when it was a BIG deal that someone named Barbara Walters was going to be on a prime time news cast. We have come a long way, but through the hard work and professionalism of the women in that buisness.

    The last paragraph may sound a bit sarcastic but I felt it was a better way to say it. I think a lot of the reader here probably had figured that out

  • chuck

    This my attempt at pointing out that I believe that organizations that promote one group over another, even if it is a minority group, often create exactly the opposite effect.

    In many cases the groups just come off as angry and bitter, and they actually may be, and for good reason. But other than stirring up the anger and bitterness amongst the troops I’m not sure they perform any real useful function.

    My point about the news buisness seemingly being more than adequately represented by women should have made that clear. In this example women have made some real progress. I remember when it was a BIG deal that someone named Barbara Walters was going to be on a prime time news cast. We have come a long way, but through the hard work and professionalism of the women in that buisness.

    The last paragraph may sound a bit sarcastic but I felt it was a better way to say it. I think a lot of the reader here probably had figured that out

  • Jurgan

    Quintuple post, Chuck? Please say that was an accident.

    “Remember, also, I made Bringing Down the House, which was also a slam on racism. There’s been a constant theme in my work to be against racism.”

    Yeah, I’m not racist! Why, some of my best friends…

  • Bluejay

    *sigh* I was hoping for a more subtle debate than this. Is there no escape from the sledgehammers??

    Here’s what’s hurting my brain: I understand and support the need to fight for diversity, but I’m also uncomfortable when diversity is the point.

    Or put it another way: I want a difference-blind society, but to get there, we have to be difference-conscious in order to address inequities.

    Or yet another way: I was talking to my daughter about Obama (cover your eyes, chuck) and said I was so proud of him as our first African-American president. My daughter was more blase about it: “He’s a good president, Dad, it doesn’t matter what his color is.”

    That made me strangely sad (that she wasn’t as blown away by the historical significance of his election as I was) and, at the same time, hopeful about her future. Maybe she’ll live to see presidents who are female, Jewish, Latino, Asian, Muslim, gay, atheist, and to her it just won’t matter. Isn’t that the ideal?

    Maybe we, the generation that is difference-conscious, have to pave the way for our difference-blind descendants. But maybe we won’t get there ourselves.

  • chuck

    Sorry, it was an accident. Is there a way to delete posts??

  • chuck

    Bluejay I do see you tip toeing through your posts, a skill I have not quite mastered yet, but I’ll try to do better.

    Surprising, I’m proud of America for voting in our first black president, and I hope that he continues to live up to your daughters expectations. Kid’s sometimes see things without all of the baggage that older people bring.

    I just wish he was a somewhat more moderate. I see the congress and Obama swinging the “sledgehammer”, as you put, it on issues that perhaps simpler more incremental changes might be safer. It just all seems to be too big of a rush.

  • JoshB

    Nice to see that your name calling has improved to poly-syllabic phrases, keep working on it.

    Is that a challenge?

    Passive-aggressive Slackjawed Yokelasaurus Rex.

    Thirteen. Beat that jerkface!

    I want a difference-blind society, but to get there, we have to be difference-conscious in order to address inequities.

    At what point does difference-consciousness become counterproductive? We see “reverse-discrimination” dicrimination all the time: Wise latina, playing the race card, man hating feminazi. How many white people are ironically terrified of interacting with black people only for fear of being called racist?

  • Accounting Ninja

    I used to think like you, chuck. Why can’t it be purely merit based? These people are just being victims! I’m color blind! you know, that stuff.

    The difference between then and now is that back then, I did not believe there was widespread, systemic racism and sexism in America. Merit means nothing in lots of places, because the old prejudices still hold strong. Just because I don’t happen to occupy that place doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I never saw racism, *I* wasn’t racist, therefore the world is colorblind except those few old-fashioned yokels who still hate dark-skinned people! Right?? Not so much.

    As a white person, it was easy for me to not see, or discount, racism.

    The sexism is a little different. Since I am a woman, sexism has always been part of my life. But since I had internalized a lot of misogyny, I really believe that “chauvanist pigs” came in this stereotype (like how my mother in law, though a raging alcoholic, doesn’t think she is, because “alcoholics are all paper-bag carrying winos”). Sexism was all in my head. I was taking it wrong. yadda yadda.

    But it isn’t, and I wasn’t. Acknowledging it doesn’t mean wallowing in victim mentality. Individually, I am rather priveleged: I am white, and I have never been the recipient of vicious sexism, nor have I ever been raped. It was easy for me to pretend it didn’t exist. I am relatively unscathed, but I recognize and believe people who have different stories. In fact, reading some feminist sites and women’s stories, and statistics on rape and abuse, I find it remarkable I am as unscathed as I am. But I will NO LONGER hide in my privelege and deny people their voices.

    Cheap tokenism doesn’t sit right with me. Behind tokenism, there is always the belief that women/minorites really AREN’T worthy of such roles, but we’ll throw ’em a bone. It’s why true “token” characters tend to suck and ring false. They aren’t written as people, but as Voice of Woman, Voice of Black Person, etc.

    Tokenism is NOT the change anyone hopes to initiate.

    Paving the way for realistic characters of various gender/race/sexuality is NOT tokenism by default, nor is pioneering for women writers to have their screenplays taken seriously.

  • I used to think like you, chuck. Why can’t it be purely merit based? These people are just being victims! I’m color blind! you know, that stuff.

    I think a lot of people–not all of them necessarily white–think like Chuck. And in some ways, I don’t consider that a bad thing. After all, I used to think like Chuck too.

    After all, my Mexican-born father did not bring me up to depend on affirmative action but to believe in meritocracy.

    Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe in meritocracy when one sees so much evidence against it in the modern workplace. In theory, it’s easier for a nonwhite to get ahead today that it was in my father’s time. But, unfortunately, you also have to be of the right class and have the right kind of parents and have the right type of friends…

    And, even if you do manage to make it due to sheer hard work and determination, there’s no guarantee that a higher place won’t automatically given to some guy who is good friends with the boss or who dated the boss’s daughter or who hangs out with the same head honchos that the boss hangs out with…

    And of course, if by some miracle, you make it to the top of your profession anyway, you can always count on some wise guy to pretend you just got there because you were lucky. ;-)

    Having grown up around people who used to be poor, I’ve gotten so tired of people who use the word “lucky” to describe the success of people they don’t know that I tend to be a bit obsessed with the word. Chances are most “lucky” people you know haven’t been as lucky growing up as they appear to be at this moment. They may have had to contend with dead parents, broken homes, dysfunctional family members, alcoholic spouses, etc. And the chances are that they worked damn hard to earn any such “luck” that they have today.

    There used to be a time when most intellectual people acknowledged that but nowadays it seems more fashionable to pit one group of working people against the other instead of getting such people to work together for the common good. Perhaps because we no longer have any firm idea what the common good is.

    In any event, I’d like to think we all would like to see more meritocracy in the workplace. We just disagree on how to make that happen.

  • Dr Rocketscience

    So, it was never really a serious consideration to get Fey onboard, then?

    I don’t think that’s what Shankman is saying at all, and I think that’s unfair to him, to the producers of the Oscars, and to Tina Fey. Fey has put and continues to put a lot of work into making 30 Rock a success. She’s a remarkably busy person. Plus, she’s made her career on being a creative powerhouse. I would expect her own self-respect would demand that if she was going to agree to host the Oscars, she would want to write the material. It makes sense that she would look at the schedule and time commitments of the Oscars, compare them to her responsibilities to 30 Rock, and say, “Y’know, there’s no way I can do both of these things and produce a quality product in both cases.” She would have cme to that conclusion rather quickly I would expect. And the producers of the Oscars, being not-monumentally stupid, would have figured as much going into any discussions.

  • Accounting Ninja

    Trust me, I’m all for meritocracy. That would be great! Unfortunately, as you said, reality often interferes. But I too am an independent-minded person who is loath to say I got “lucky” too. Sometimes it’s luck, sure. But most of the time it’s trying my best not to make foolish decisions and working my sweet ass off.

    I just don’t like it when people use the myth of pure meritocracy to hide in their own blindness and discount real experiences.

  • Bluejay

    Dr. Rocketscience: After reading the full interview, I take the Shankman quote to mean that Fey was discussed but never actually approached. I think MaryAnn’s take is that if she were seriously considered she would have at least been asked.

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