Monthly Archives: November 2012

Bechdel Movie Test

We talk a lot in class about how minorities are portrayed in films but there’s still a long way to go when it comes to women in movies. Think back to the last film you saw and conjure an image of 2 men talking about anything. Not hard, right? How about 2 women talking? That’s a little harder.

There’s a test available to try framing different films called the Bechdel Test. Named for the creator Alison Bechdel after a comic strip she wrote, the rule states that a movie must fall under 3 categories.

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
The Bechdel Test
Challenge accepted! How hard could it be? There’s a list online of a lot of movies describing how they fall under the Bechdel Rule. If you don’t see your favorite movie on there, submit a rating!
My first question was, “Why don’t filmmakers see this and actually try to make films that will pass the test?”
Filmmaker Jennifer Keller wrote an article answering that question. She was told by executives that her scripts would not be accepted and she challenged them with surprising results.

My scripts had multiple women with names. Talking to each other. About something other than men. That, they explained nervously, was not okay. I asked why. Well, it would be more accurate to say I politely demanded a thorough, logical explanation that made sense for a change (I’d found the “audience won’t watch women!” argument pretty questionable, with its ever-shifting reasons and parameters).

At first I got several tentative murmurings about how it distracted from the flow or point of the story. I went through this with more than one professor, more than one industry professional. Finally, I got one blessedly telling explanation from an industry pro: “The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”

Yes, people still think like this. And I checked. Even children’s films fall under scrutiny and fail.

How do your favorite films measure up?


Sexism at sea!

Ahoy there!

During the election, there was a lot of talk about “sending us back to the 1950’s.” They spoke in terms of women’s rights, but little did they know that the law we were fighting went back to the 1850’s!

I speak of the unofficial regulation of Women and Children First. When a captain orders a ship to be evacuated, an ancient practice of chivalry mandates that women and children be allowed to board the lifeboats before the men. It was popularized during the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic where a majority of the lives saved during the tragedy were women and children and any men who survived were branded as cowards because, as we have discussed in class, society has deemed that it’s not okay to be a girl.

While this is not even official maritime law and was more of an exception than a rule, that didn’t make the idea any less popular. Dr. Lucy Delap of Cambridge University debunked the famous myth and discovered that the whole idea was made up as a way to keep women from voting.

In the early 20th century, feminist and suffragist women were well aware that the myth of male chivalry during shipwrecks was used to exclude them from positions of power in politics and society. They responded to the Titanic disaster with the memorable slogan, ‘Votes for Women, Boats for Men’, stressing that women voters would put human lives above corporate profit in regulating the ocean liner companies.  They emphasized the irony of putting women first in shipwrecks, only to exploit or exclude them systematically in other realms.  And some suggested that the vulnerable – the weak, the elderly, the very young – should precede the strong, whatever their sex.

The romantic idea that we’ve all accepted as truth was used to keep women under, while purporting to keep them afloat.

Ain’t Irony grand?

It’s your special day!

Ah, weddings. The joining together of a couple. Sappy goodness. I have been a DJ for a few weddings and something that I like to do is talk with the bride and groom about what music they want. Sometimes, that’s not what they want to do.

I met with a happy couple a few weeks ago. “Millie” showed me a long list of songs that she “always knew she wanted to play at her wedding.” On the other hand, “Jim” sat and barely contributed at all except to say, “Sure. That’s fine. Whatever.”

I asked Jim if he had any input. and he said that he really didn’t have anything to add because It’s her special day.

Pardon me, but when did marriage turn into a circus where the main act is a woman getting married… and the man has nothing to do with it.

This isn’t just an isolated incident. Television tells young girls that they must be the ones to plan these extravagant events. Shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Bridezillas, and Say Yes to the Dress focus on brides planning their dream weddings and, for the most part, grooms are only shown at the end of the episode at the altar.

If this is truly the most important day in their lives, I believe it should be a joint effort.

Last year, a show called Don’t Tell the Bride aired on British television. It gave grooms a chance to plan their wedding. Everything from the cakes to the wedding dress was their decision. The show even features homosexual and lesbian couples planning their weddings.

This is good TV. Because it’s not just her day. It’s just one of many days that belongs to the both of them. I hope this show sticks around because this is an idea that needs to be heard.

GoldiBlox: Raising Female Engineers

Engineering is without a doubt a male dominated workplace. One woman saw the statistics and no longer wanted to be in only 11% of women engineers. As a way to expand the field, she believed that engineers needed to start young. No, not high school young… preschool young.

She came up with the idea for GoldieBlox, an engineering toy for young girls. She says that girls like reading and girls like pink. Boys like building and thinking out of the box. According to what we learned, these are tactics that have been used by toy manufacturers to push dolls vs. toy guns on kids.

However, it can be used for good. Because of social framing, boys are more attracted to dark colored toys at the store and young girls gravitate toward the pastel section. Why not use those frames for good? The developer even stated that toys like Lincoln Logs and Legos have simply put pastel colors on their toys to make them appeal to girls. However, engineer Debbie Lewis is not only changing the color, she’s making engineering appealing to young girls.

And now gender profiling doesn’t look too bad.


You can purchase GoldiBlox online for $29.99.

Spike Lee Directs My Life

On the same day that the class watched Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”, one letter to the editor was printed in the UAF weekly, the Sun Star. This letter was longer than the ones usually accepted and it was anonymous regarding an incident that took place in MacLean House. As a residence life staff member, I am not permitted to share any confidential information but I will only stick to the facts that have been made public due to this forum.

I will say this, “Do the Right Thing” has become real life!

All the story elements are there. One community that has lived in relative peace for about 15 years + One day where everyone is hanging out together + One person who is from outside the community makes a faux pas = One big problem.

Luckily, there was no fire or moody young man who threw a garbage can though a window (yet). However, this ending is the same. Some things are in ruins while some things are going to get better. It all takes time.

P.S. Ignore the last comment on the Sun Star page. Some people don’t know how to use letters to the editor.

Tinkering with a winning system

A story that has been circulating the internet has been the tale of Chief Two Eagles. According to what I believe to be somewhat of a hoax, the following conversation took place between the Chief and a U.S. Government official.

Indian Chief “Two Eagles” was asked by a white U.S. government official, “You have observed the white man for 90 years. You’ve seen his wars and his technological advances. You’ve seen his progress, and the damage he has done.”

The Chief nodded in agreement.

The official continued, “Considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white man go wrong?”

The Chief stared at the government official, then replied.

“When white man find land, Indians running it, no taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, clean water. Women did all the work. Medicine man free. Indian man spend all day hunting and fishing: all night having sex.”

Then the Chief leaned back and smiled….

“Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that.”

While this is a very insightful, it is often accompanied by a picture of “the chief”. However, none of the pictures of this fictional chief are the same. Below, I display a sampling of some of these pictures.

Chief #1

Chief #2

Chief #3

These pictures are of three clearly different men.

I understand that the author of this tale meant to hearken back to a simpler time and possibly increase the popularity of the Noble Indian. However, by simply going to the internet to find a picture of any Native American to go along with the story, I believe that it denigrates the actual person whose picture is used by utilizing the mentality that all members of a certain minority look alike.

It is also disrespectful to Chief Two Eagles, should the man actually exist.

In an age where plagiarism is as easy as a copy/paste and respect for elders declines, it is important to pass a message to the next generation that the lessons of wise men are more than anecdotes… and to find real stories that inspire.

Get down, Mr. President!

A few months ago, I had a conversation with some friends about games that we used to play when we were kids. A popular one that many of us had in common, even though we came from different areas of the country is the game Get Down, Mr. President.

The rules are simple. When you are in a group of friends, one person puts their hand up to their ear as if they were a Secret Service Agent. When other people in the group see that subtle move, they wordlessly copy it. The last person to notice what everyone is doing becomes the President. Everyone else, as agents suddenly screams, “Get Down, Mr. President!” and tackles that person to the ground. Loads of fun.

One of my friends said that he used to play a similar game, it just had a different name. We were curious, what was it? He got embarrassed and said, “Well, we know now that doing stuff like that isn’t right but… we called it Queer Bashing. The last person with his hand on his ear got tackled all right, but everyone would shout, ‘Get the queer!'”

We were shocked. Then someone said, “Geeze, whatever happened to the good old days of Cowboys and Indians?” The good old days, huh? The days of acting out a near genocide over and over on the playground?

If we realize now that a game called Queer Bashing isn’t acceptable, why do we continue to condone Cowboys and Indians?

A recent game that has become quite popular will hopefully replace Cowboys and Indians for good. It’s called Pirates vs. Ninjas. It doesn’t denigrate any race of people, and still deals with historical figures and action heroes. Personally, I’m on Team Ninja, What team are you on?