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March 31, 2010

Women's History Month - YA Writers

Women's History Month is about to end, but before it does here's another great blog from a great woman (who is sure to make her own history), Cleofaye...

In honor of Women's History Month, I wanted to write about famous women who inspired or affected me growing up. I wish I could say that my heroes were all activists or pioneers that changed history, but honestly, when I was a teen, I was too angsty to care about much other than my own high school experience. I spent my formative years depressed and miserable, trapped in a town that was too white, too conservative, and too culturally devoid for my tastes. No one understood me. I didn't fit in, and didn't have the energy to try. I spent my days isolated and alone, with the few friends I had never really getting me.

A Wrinkle in TimeI came home everyday and read. I devoured books, going through four or five in a week. I look back now and I can't imagine the money my parent's paid to keep me in supply, since our library was pathetically stocked. Books got me through my childhood. For a while I could forget who I was, forget who I wasn't, and live in another world.

So here are the women authors who wrote kick ass novels, with bad ass (or at the very least, not waiting-for-prince-charming) female characters. In the time of Twilight and Gossip Girl, we forget that Young Adult books can be good, they can be intelligent, and they can be feminist. These authors helped me survive some really shitty times, and this is my tribute to how amazing I think they are.
  • Madeleine L'Engle - Madeleine was born in 1918 and published A Wrinkle in Time in the '60s. I read everything I could get my hands on written by her. She had female characters that were not only smart, they were specifically good at math (!) and science (!?!). They always got the boy, but usually because they didn't actually care that much if they did. They were calm and centered in times of crisis and danger. They were, in a word, badass, and I've always wanted to be a member of the Murray clan.
  • Ready or NotMeg Cabot - Meg Cabot is best known for the Princess Diaries series, and don't let the Disney-fied versions of the movie fool you, Mia is smart, funny, and determined to find self actualization. She lives in the Village and has the street smarts that come with it. Later in the books she uses her royal authority to further environmental causes and eventually (HUGE SPOILER ALERT) convert the country of Genova to a democracy. However, my love for Mia aside, Meg Cabot will always have a special place in my heart for the book Ready or Not in which the lead character, Sam, a teen girl, explores masturbation, looks at the possibility of sex responsibly, buys contraceptives, asks her boyfriend to have sex with her, and doesn't get pregnant, doesn't get an STD, and doesn't regret it. Good job Meg.
    This Place Has No Atmosphere
  • Paula Danzinger - Paula Danziger wrote such classics as This Place Has No Atmosphere and The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit follows Marcy, a chubby, smart, high school teenager (who when I read it, was the most relatible character I had ever come across in YA fiction) as she finds her identity, with the help of a radical English teacher who gets put on trial by the school board for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance. There is also a sub-plot of the heroine's mother becoming independent from her controlling and domineering father.
  • Ursula Le Guin - Ursula Le Guin, I'll admit isn't really a YA author so much as a sci-fi/fantasy writer who didn't mention sex too much, so I was allowed to read her books. In her Wizard of Earthsea Cycle, one of the main characters is Tenar, a young priestess who is more powerful than she realizes and given the sacred duty of protecting her convent's tombs. I loved fantasy as a kid and wanted to be her more then I can express. (Also, Le Guin gets major props for her more "adult" fiction such as The Dispossesed in which men and women are completely equal in a society that split from an earth-like planet after following the teachings of Odo, a woman!) She's also just completely badass for being an out, loud and proud feminist and taking on some authors of books that perpetuate the misogynistic stereotypes that are abundant in sci fi and fantasy novels.
    Both Sides of Time (Scholastic Classics)
  • Caroline B Cooney - Caroline Cooney wrote both The Face on The Milk Carton series as well as the Both Sides of Time series. Both had ordinary girls in extraordinary situations. The Both Sides of Time series dealt with the fate of girls that were deemed "unattractive" in society's eyes, as well as what happened when men divorced their wives in the 1890s. It showed how much more power and authority men had over women, and exactly what a girl from today would have to say about such ridiculousness.

The following authors/books I didn't read in grade or high school but found later (I worked in the Barnes & Noble kids and teens section through college). I wanted to include them because they are feminist or LGBT positive or just awesome.
  • Carol Plum-Ucci - Most of Plum-Ucci's novels have male leads, but they're all good and tend to have strong, if slightly damaged female characters. She gets a shout out for two reasons. 1. She's a Jersey girl like me, and most of her novels are set in Jersey (more than one take place in the ghost towns that are Jersey Shore towns in the winter). 2. What Happened to Lani Garver is a book that explores the possiblity of angels walking the earth, and if they did, what would they look like (since they are supposed to be genderless) and more importantly, how would we treat them? It is a fantastic book that shows what can happen to a kid who is too different in a small town.
    Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You
  • Dorian Cirrone - Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You is probably the best feminist YA book I've ever read. Kayla, the main character, is a ballerina, and a damn good one at that, but she also has a pair of D-size boobs, which prevents her from getting lead roles at the performing arts school she attends. The book deals with body issues, has gay characters (that aren't treated like being gay is their only personality trait) and even the title is taken from a poem that expresses the idea that girls who make too much noise get themselves in trouble. The feminist messages in it don't bash you over the head like in some books, but they make their point with characters you like and care about.

So those are my picks. I decided to only cover authors I have/had actually read, so I invite all the other members of the clique and all you sluts-in-training to feel free to add anyone I've forgotten. Tell us the authors you couldn't live without in your angsty YA days!

Click here for more blogs by Cleofaye or visit her blog Sex etc... where she discusses all forms of sex.

March 30, 2010

We WAM!ed it ourselves...

Okay, we promised we were going to write about this over the weekend, but hell, we're a bunch of busy ladies... On Saturday we attended the Women, Action and the Media New York mini-conference.

We attended the WAM! conference in Boston last year, but this year WAM! (which started in 2004 as a project of the Center for New Words) postponed the 2010 event as they work towards transforming into an independent national non-profit organization. Instead, there were smaller "WAM! It Yourself" mini conferences in Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Antonio, and of course, New York.

It was a lot of fun, very informative and definitely worth way more than $12 registration fee. There were a lot of awesome women presenting and moderating workshops and discussions including topics such as social media, investigative journalism and getting published.

We even won something in the raffle, which is amazing, because we never win anything. We won a copy of the book King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes. Expect a review soon! (Okay probably not soon, since we're so busy, but at some point we promise we will review it.)

We would definitely recommend you get involved with WAM! and check out what local events are happening near you!

March 27, 2010


Today we went to the WAM! it yourself mini-conference... No, it wasn't an amateur porn workshop. It was the New York mini-conference for Women, Action and the Media.

We'll post a full recap tomorrow, but in the meantime, you can Wham! it yourself...

March 26, 2010

Combat Barbie Saves the Day!

You may have already heard about "Combat Barbie" who is supposedly changing the world of beauty pageants as we know it! Apparently Lance Cpl. Katrina Hodge, a soldier in the British army and last year's Miss England, asked the organizers of the Miss England pageant to remove the swimsuit portion of the competition. The swimsuit competition will be replaced with a sports challenge.

Now on the surface, we think this is a great idea. However, we're not exactly cheering over this news story...

First of all, it's still a beauty pageant. They can take away the swimsuit competition but what's left is still a sexist, antiquated contest. While it's true that "beauty pageants" aren't just about beauty (the Miss England pageant features talent, charity, and "eco" segments in addition to the new sports challenges) women are primarily judged on their looks and ability to fit some society construct of "femininity".

Second, her reasoning is off. Hodge was quoted in England's Daily Telegraph that the swimsuit portion was unfair because "it's nerve-racking enough to girls to get up on a stage and speak, let alone in a swimsuit." Yes, that's true. But that's not why they should do away with it. It's unfair because not only is it irrelevent (winners are rarely asked to appear in swimwear for public events) and objectifying, but because it's wrong to judge women based on how closely they match a sexist, unfair expectation of "beauty" and body type.

It's also a little condescending on Hodge's part if you think about it... As a part time model for the lingerie firm La Senza, Hodge spends a good deal of time in the public eye in various forms of undress but doesn't seem to have a problem with "nerves". But she's trying to protect all the contestants who aren't as strong as she supposedly is. No woman should have to be judged based on how she wears a bathing suit, but I think these types of pageants should be more about the ability to "get up on stage and speak". If that's so nerve-wracking, then maybe this isn't the competition for you. (I'm not trying to discredit anyone who does find it nerve-wracking. I certainly would - swimsuit or not - but that's why I don't enter pageants. I hide behind a computer screen.)

The news coverage about Hodge has especially irked me, particularly her nickname "Combat Barbie". I don't know if she actually likes and accepts this title or if the media has just taken it and run with, but either way it's annoying. A beautiful woman in the army? OMGZ NO WAY! What is this Private Benjamin? In 2010 is it really such of an anomaly for a member of the military to be feminine and attractive (whatever that means)?

This isn't the first time Hodge has made the news. She first became well known in 2005 after she wrestled rifles away from a suspected rebel fighter with her bare hands in Iraq. This is definitely something commendable, but we have to wonder if the press would have cared at all if she was male... or, you know, "ugly".

Hodges is currently on leave from the Army, so she can be the front person for the military dating site Uniform Dating. I wonder if the military gives everyone leave for that sort of thing or if just the pretty pageant winners get this kind of special treatment. I know that women in the U.S. military aren't always given this kind of leniency, but maybe this is a U.K. thing and not just a beauty queen thing?

Now we're not trying to be party poopers here. It's clear that Hodge is an excellent soldier and well-rounded, intelligent - and yes, beautiful - young woman. We think it's great that Hodge wants to help military personnel find love and wants to improve the Miss England pageant.

Out of curiosity, we looked into the history of the Miss World Organization and oddly enough Miss World started in the 1950s as the Festival Bikini Contest. In the 1980s, tests of intelligence and personality were added, along with the new slogan "Beauty With a Purpose". Over the years, the organization has raised millions for charities around the globe. Clearly it keeps evolving, so the removal of the swimsuit segment is hopefully just one step on the way towards a pageant that doesn't judge women based on their looks at all.

Our dream pageant - you know, the Ms. Evil Slutopia Pageant - would be open to all genders, all races, and all sizes. There would be no swimsuit competition or evening wear. We can just imagine the talent competition! Do that Corona-lime-thumb trick without spilling a drop and then reenact one of the dance scenes from The American Mall. Or the Q&A portion: "What's the dumbest thing a guy has ever said to you?" and "Would you agree that Rush Limbaugh can suck it?"

What else would you like to see in your dream pageant?

March 25, 2010

The Ethical Slut

We recently got a copy of the new revised and updated edition of The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy to review, because...well, we're us. Although we were familiar with the book, none of us had ever actually read the first edition, which obviously was a huge oversight being that we're Evil Sluts and all.

So, a big thank you to the awesome people at Eden Fantasys for hooking us up so that we could remedy the situation.

Let's start with the obvious. Of course we're all on board with the idea of reclaiming the word slut and refueling it with new, positive intentions, so there was plenty for us to like right away in the book.
In most of the world, “slut” is a highly offensive term, used to describe a woman whose sexuality is voracious, indiscriminate, and shameful. It’s interesting to note that the analogous word “stud,” used to describe a highly sexual man, is often a term of approval and envy. If you ask about a man’s morals, you will probably hear about his honesty, loyalty, integrity, and high principles. When you ask about a woman’s morals, you are more likely to hear about whom she shares sex with, and under what conditions. We have a problem with this.

So we are proud to reclaim the word “slut” as a term of approval, even endearment. To us, a slut is a person of any gender who celebrates sexuality according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you. Sluts may choose to have solo sex or to get cozy with the Fifth Fleet. They may be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual, radical activists or peaceful suburbanites.
Our approach to a sex-positive language is to reclaim the original English words and, by using them as positive descriptors, wash them clean. Hence our adoption of the word “slut.”
The authors also break down a lot of the common myths and judgments about sluts - they're sinful and "indiscriminate", they have no respect for themselves or their partners, they have some psychological issue that needs to be resolved, and so on. They also challenge some of the conventional wisdom out there about relationships, like the idea that "long-term monogamous relationships are the only real relationships". On the flip side, they make it clear that being an ethical slut is not necessarily about being someone who has sex with lots of people - it's a state of mind: "...sluthood lives in the brain, not between the legs, and can fit comfortably and joyously into whatever consensual sexual and relationship pattern you choose."

There are a bunch of exercises throughout the book that are geared towards helping you rethink and clarify your own beliefs about sluts, sex, love, and relationships. This one might be our favorite:
Exercise: Sluts We Know And Love

Make a list of all the people you can think of who are not monogamous, including characters from TV, movies, books, and so on. How do you feel about each of them? What can you learn (positive or negative) from him or her?
You already know that we enjoy dissecting a good slut-shaming pop culture moment, so this is right up our alley. (The list that we made just might pop up as a separate post soon, so stay tuned.)

The authors really emphasize that they want the book to be used as a tool that helps people to come to their own conclusions about what works best for them:
This chapter contains some of our beliefs. You get to have beliefs of your own. What matters to us is not that you agree with us, but that you question the prevailing paradigm and decide for yourself what you believe. Exercise your judgment—isn’t exercise supposed to make you stronger? Thousands and thousands of ethical sluts are proving every day that the old “everybody knows” myths don’t have to be true.
We like the fact that they're not trying to replace one set of one-size-must-fit-all Relationship Rules with another. They're giving you guidelines that can help you write your own rules. (Although they rarely use the term "rules" because it implies a rigidity, opting instead for "agreements".)

The biggest issue that we had with the book was more about what the authors didn't address. The chapter on "Battling Sex Negativity" is only five pages long, and the bulk of it is spent describing examples of negativity rather than giving advice on how to actually battle it. The advice itself is mostly stuff like 'don't tell your boss about your ethical sluthood because it might cause problems in the workplace' and that sort of thing. While they're right to point out that there aren't too many "equal rights for sluts" laws out there, so these issues are important, we felt like this was more "avoiding/hiding from sex negativity" than battling it. We felt this chapter should have been longer and covered a wider variety of issues related to sex negativity. We live in a society where slut-shaming is common and accepted and practically a hobby for some people. Where young women commit suicide because of endless harassment over things like "sexting". So it would have been nice to see a more in-depth exploration of the different ways that sex negativity can manifest itself, with more pro-active advice on how to respond.

We also had concerns about one small part of the section on childrearing. The authors claim that children of ethical sluts will benefit from having extra adults in their lives, but at the same time they also believe that short-term relationships are just as important/special/meaningful as long-term ones. While we agree with both of these points separately, we have to wonder if it's a good idea for young children to develop strong attachments to people who may only be in their lives temporarily. Obviously, every child is different and every family dynamic is different, but it would have been nice if this issue was also addressed.

Overall, we would recommend The Ethical Slut. You can get something out of this book even if you have no interest at all in polyamory - the advice about issues like jealousy, communication, and how to understand and take responsibility for your own feelings can be applied to many different kinds of relationships. Ultimately, the book raises a lot of questions and challenges a lot of assumptions about relationships, sex, and love.

Has anyone else read this book? What did you think? Even if you haven't read it, feel free to share your thoughts on the concept of ethical sluthood in general, because you know we're always up for a good slut debate!

March 24, 2010

Back Up Your Birth Control!

Today is the 9th annual Back Up Your Birth Control Day of Action! It's a day to raise awareness about emergency contraception and take action to make sure that everyone has access to EC when they need it.

EC has been in the news a bunch of times since the last day of action, and of course each time the story has been followed by a flood of conservative spin and misinformation. Last spring the FDA announced that 17 year olds would be allowed to buy EC over the counter. The spin was that this would just encourage teenagers to "act carelessly with an easy way out". Some stories came out recently about a new type of EC called ellaOne that's now available in Europe. The spin, of course, was that "more casual sex and more unintended pregnancy will inevitably be the result". The Department of Defense recently announced that they're going to make Plan B available in their hospitals and clinics, which means that women serving in our military will finally have access to EC. The spin: "Women serving in the military deserve to know the truth about their medications. Because this can be the difference between preventing and destroying life, a requirement to carry this drug could violate the conscience rights of military personnel who have moral objections."

The opposition to EC usually boils down to two arguments: EC causes abortions, and EC encourages promiscuity. It doesn't and it doesn't. So campaigns like Back Up Your BC are still important to get the facts out there. Here, have some:

  • EC, sometimes also known as the "morning after pill,", is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy AFTER unprotected sex or the failure of other birth control methods.

  • EC is a higher dosage of the same hormones found in many types of regular birth control pills.

  • When used within 5 days (120 hours) of unprotected sex or birth control failure, EC can significantly reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy. EC is most effective when taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex or the failure of other birth control methods. So don't wait!
  • EC is NOT the "abortion pill," MifeprexTM(mifepristone) or RU-486. EC will not terminate an existing pregnancy. EC will not work if a woman is already pregnant and EC will not cause birth defects if a woman takes it when she is already pregnant. EC will not affect a woman's chance of becoming pregnant in the future.

  • For women and men who are 17 or older and have identification, EC is available over-the-counter at pharmacies under the brand names Plan B® One-Step and Next ChoiceTM. Young women under 17 still need a prescription from a doctor or other health care provider in order to buy EC at the pharmacy, except in a few states which have special pharmacy access legislation. Women who live in AK, CA, HI, MA, ME, NH, NM, VT and WA, can get EC directly from a local pharmacy regardless of their age.

Getting involved is easy - you can follow the campaign on twitter (hashtags are #ec and #backitup) and facebook (put it in your status!), write your own blog or op-ed, order some free EC educational material, and sign the petition asking the FDA to remove age restrictions on EC access. Most importantly, don't be afraid or ashamed to go out and get EC if you need it, and to keep speaking out and taking action until everyone has access to the reproductive health care that they need. Back it up!

March 23, 2010

Hanging around the house theatrically with Adam Lambert

We're loving the Key of Awesome parody of Adam Lambert's Whataya Want From Me video.

Here's the real video:

And here's the parody:

This parody cracks us up, and it also makes a good point about the ridiculous double standard going on here. They use the examples of the Britney/Christina/Madonna on stage kiss (and the girl-on-girl thing in general) and Lady Gaga's general state of pantslessness. You could also point to female pop stars who get naked for their videos, or any one of the eight billion videos and performances that feature dozens of half-naked dancers grinding up on the star of the moment. But Adam Lambert has to spend his whole video in a room by himself singing to no one. He can't even have his love interest in the song represented in the video, because it would be a dude doing the representing, because Adam Lambert is a gay man and OMG can't we please think of the children?!

We're annoyed by this nonsense, so we're going to go read and give people dirty looks for awhile. Don't film us!

March 18, 2010

Cosmo Gives Us the Guy Truth

As usual, Cosmo is here to solve all of our relationship problems. Check out this piece of advice from the April 2010 issue - it's from a piece called Guy Truth, apparently written by a guy, on a page titled The Guy Report in a section called Man Manual. So there's no way that this advice could possibly go wrong.

Q: I had a great date, but the guy said he doesn't want kids. Should I tell him that's unacceptable?

A: Um, no - just move on. But do you really want to ignore potential due to an offhand comment?

In only two short sentences, Cosmo manages to give two contradictory pieces of advice, both of them bad. It's almost impressive.

I will say that I laughed at the way the question was worded. It's not 'should I tell him that I do want kids?' or 'is it too early to talk to him about the fact that we don't agree on something this important?' or something like that. No, it's 'should I tell him that I will not accept the fact that he doesn't want kids?' But let's overlook that minor issue with the question so we can move on to the real fun in the answer.

Our advice in sentence one of the answer is to "just move on" without telling him that the reason is his "unacceptable" comment about having kids. Why bother with any of that pesky honesty or communication stuff, right? Just leave him hanging! Let him wonder what went wrong. It's the fun and fearless thing to do.

The totally different advice in sentence two is to think about not moving on because after all, this guy might have "potential", which shouldn't be ignored because of an "offhand comment". First of all, does 'I don't want kids' really qualify as an offhand comment? I mean, 'I don't like guacamole' is an offhand comment. 'I'm not a big hockey fan' is an offhand comment. 'I think Avatar kinda sucked' is an offhand comment. 'I don't want to have children' is a different story.

Oh, but wait. I left out the best part. The inset photo with this piece is of a male lion with a cub, and the caption says, "He's not wild about kids...yet." So that brings us full-on into 'hang in there girl, you can totally change his mind!' territory, and we all know that always works out for the best. Sure, it's possible that this particular guy might change his mind - we're not told his age or anything else about him that might help us determine how likely that is - but it's not that smart to advise Ms. Unacceptable to bank on Mr. Potential having a change of heart in the future.

So, let's review this advice. You shouldn't tell this guy that you won't accept the fact that he doesn't want kids. You should just move on. But you shouldn't just move on because he has potential, and potential apparently means the vague hope that someday he'll change his mind and decide that he's "wild" about the idea of having kids. At no time should you ever consider having an actual conversation with him about any of this. And all of this after only one date. Cosmo is truly amazing. I can't wait to read the follow-up article with the photos from the Unacceptable/Potential wedding.

As a bonus, here are the other two questions and answers from this article.

Q: Why does he invite me over and then just play video games?

A: You keep tolerating it, so he keeps doing it.

This is an easy one. Obviously the true answer to this question can be found through careful study of I Read While He Plays Video Games.

Q: I told my man I had dinner with my ex, and he got mad. He knows we're friends, so why the big deal?

A: One, dinner sounds like a date. Two, you told him after the fact.

For this one, I'm just going to share our actual conversation.

Jezebel: I have to laugh at 'dinner sounds like a date'. Like, you should have met your ex for brunch, that's less threatening.

Lilith: Uh oh. Dinner is a date? I have a lot of explaining to do to you. And Eve. And Mary. And my parents.

Jezebel: Seriously. Who knew?

Lilith: OMG I'm such a dinner slut!

Jezebel: If only we had learned to speak Cosmo sooner.

Based on this Cosmo dinner-is-just-like-a-date formula, Lilith and I are practically common law spouses at this point. We're thinking of registering at Target and Pottery Barn.

March 16, 2010

Who is iamamiwhoami?

I've been following this iamamiwhoami viral campaign for awhile now thanks to Oh No They Didn't, so I thought I'd share the creeptastic goodness with all of you. If you're not familiar with it, basically a mystery artist calling herself iamamiwhoami has been uploading these videos to YouTube and sending them to some music blogs for the last couple of months, and there's been a big guessing game about who she might be. The videos are...well, no summary that I do is going to be better than just watching them. Here are the first six videos in the order that they were released (if you're the type of person who's really easily creeped out, don't watch these alone/in the dark/before bed/whatever):

There's a great summary and analysis of the mandragora imagery in the videos at Necessary Voodoo, so it's a good place to start if you find this whole thing interesting:

These videos are based on the myth of mandragora as an anthropomorphic figure: For more information, read about the myth in it's entirety here. The gist of these video clips are the life of a mandragora: It's conception, it's womb-state, it's birth, it's life after birth, it's coming of age. The animals in each video are allegories for the video it's self...in video one, you have footage of a goat in the throes of labor. In video one, you also have our little mandragora, in the throes of labor, albeit from the baby's point of view. In video four, you have a carpenter bee, an animal who creats it's nest by drilling holes into trees. In video four, you also have our mandragora 'nesting' by drilling and fucking up some trees. Video five, a llama spits at it's aggressors. Video five, again, mandragora spits at it's aggressors (dogs)--which of course, goes along with the mandragora mythos and their interconnection with black dogs.

The 'serious' guesses about who iamamiwhoami might be ranged from Christina Aguilera (some of her fans really really wanted it to be her) to The Knife to Goldfrapp to Lykke Li. The totally unserious guesses were hilarious: Paris Hilton, Heidi Montag, Ke$ha, Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, and so on. But the recently released seventh video has produced the best theory so far about the identity of iamamiwhoami:

After this video was released, several ONTD members did some detective work and concluded that iamamiwhoami is Swedish singer Jonna Lee. The investigation really gets going in this post and then continues into this one. (You have to be an ONTD member to see the second one but you can get the idea from the first, or you can just take my word for it.) It's pretty convincing, so some music blogs quickly ran with it and even MTV got involved, which is only shocking in the sense that it's MTV bothering to care about a music-related story.

Here's Jonna:

She's performing at SXSW this week, so if she is iamamiwhoami that may be when some kind of reveal happens. Personally, I like the music and I appreciate someone trying to do something kinda weird and creative and different, so I'll keep following to see what's next. What do you all think? Is it Jonna, or someone else? Do you care? Do you like the music? Are viral campaigns like this cool, or a waste of time? Are you hungry for one of those strawberry cake things now?

We haven't been slacking...

Well okay, we have been. We are always slacking. But the reason for our brief 'hiatus' has actually been Mother Nature herself. For those of you not in the area, this (and this) happened in New York this weekend.

In addition to the general annoying stuff (trees falling, fences breaking, aluminum siding flying off of houses) there was also the stuff that keeps us from Evil Slutopia (power lines falls, loss of electricity, and gasp loss of Internet service!)

These pics aren't of our actual neighborhoods, but it's a close enough approximation. You get the idea.

So please excuse our brief, temporary SUCKING while we wait for our Internet service to be repaired, etc. (We're sneaking Internet at work right now. Shhh!)

March 10, 2010

Is it too early to start obsessing over our summer conferences?

Linda Lowen jokingly called March "Women's Conference Month" earlier this week because there are so many events going on this month. In fact, the WAM! conference would typically be in March as well... but they're taking a year off to transform Women, Action and the Media into an independent national organization.

However, for the ESC... it's all about the summer! This July and August, we actually have two conferences scheduled back-to-back: The International Women's Writing Guild and BlogHer.

This year, the IWWG's annual "Remember the Magic" summer conference moves to Brown University in Providence, R.I. from July 30-August 6, 2010. Then we have to hop on the train back for BlogHer '10 in New York City August 6 and 7, 2010 at the Hilton. It's going to be an exhausting-but-awesome week to say the least! 

BlogHer '10 is already sold-out so if you were planning on going, here's hoping you already registered. (Even if you can't make it to the conference, any NYC-bloggers should still keep your eyes open for off-site BlogHer parties that weekend - more info to come later.) 

It's NOT too late to secure your spot at Brown with the IWWG... (You can register for a weekend, 5-day week, or full 7-day week. For those of you in the Providence area, there is also a commuter rate.) A little extra bonus...If you register and pay by April 15, you will be automatically entered into a special drawing: The winner will be reimbursed for the full cost of her conference attendance. Also EVERYONE who pays in full for their weekend, 5-day, or 7-day stay at Brown by April 15 will receive a membership for a full year in the IWWG (a $55 value). Mention this offer at registration. More info here.

In case you're wondering why you would want to go to BlogHer or the IWWG... here are some reasons:

IWWG "Remember the Magic":
You know you want to be a part of this year's write-ups... don't ya? And just so we can bring this blog post full-circle and end on the same note on which we began: Last summer at BlogHer '09 we got to meet... Linda Lowen! Oh yes. Here's hoping Summer 2010 is just as good as (or even better than) Summer 2009. See you there!

March 8, 2010

Kathryn Bigelow: Queen of the World

SHE DID IT!!!!!!!

Kathryn Bigelow made history last night when she won Best Director - the first woman ever to receive the honor.

Her film, The Hurt Locker, also took home Oscars for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing (winning a total of six of its nine nominations).

Congrats to Bigelow! The media has been going wild over the fact that she won, which is great because she deserves the attention, but also sad... that it has taken so long. In fact, in the past 82 years there have only been three other women nominated for this award (Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties in 1975, Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993, and Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation in 2003) so yeah, it's about damn time.

"I hope I'm the first of many, and of course, I'd love to just think of myself as a filmmaker. And I long for the day when that modifier can be a moot point. But I'm very grateful if I can inspire some young, intrepid, tenacious male or female filmmaker and have them feel that the impossible is possible, and never give up on your dream." -- Kathryn Bigelow [Washington Examiner]

Of course, as with any groundbreaking or glass-ceiling shattering incident involving women... some of the stories tend to lean toward the sexist. (We all remember how the media obsessed over Diablo Cody being a "former stripper" after her win for Best Screenplay for Juno.) So what has the media decided to obsess over when it comes to Bigelow? Her ex and her looks. Of course. Who cares about the movies... when it comes to women, all anyone really cares about is her physical appearance and who she is or isn't fucking.

For those of you who don't know (although how could you not, the way the media has been shoving it down our throats for so long) Kathryn Bigelow and Avatar's James Cameron used to be married. And they both happened to have movies in the running for Best Picture. OMG! It's a battle of the sexes and a battle of the exes! Only... not so much. If you only read gossip blogs and entertainment websites, you'd think that The Hurt Locker and Avatar were the only films nominated for any awards all year and the Oscars would be the culmination of the biggest showdown in movie history!!!!!! (Even "bigger" than the uneventful Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie/Jennifer Aniston Oscar Ex-Plosion! from last year.)

Check out some actual story titles and quotes from this year's pre-Oscar award season coverage...

Kathryn Bigelow Looks Younger, Wins More Awards Than Ex, James Cameron

Bigelow beats her ex in a second category, her oddly youthful appearance. Believe it or not, Bigelow is 58. Cameron is 55. [Huffington Post]

Best-picture Oscar race is pure drama

James Cameron's Avatar was named best drama at Sunday's Golden Globe Awards. But Kathryn Bigelow, his ex-wife, picked up the best-film prize for Hurt Locker from the Broadcast Film Critics Association on Friday. The directors and their films are likely to square off at the Oscars. [USA Today]

James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow: Exes go from divorce contention to Oscar contention

This year's Oscars are being billed as the "battle of the exes," with flamboyant tech wizard James Cameron on one side, and Kathryn Bigelow, his thoughtful, shrinking violet of a former wife, on the other. [...]

But is this mutual "play nice" policy only to be expected in a town built on posture and artifice? Some within the industry suspect Bigelow would relish the opportunity to wipe the floor with her ex. [NY Daily News]

It's James Cameron vs. Kathryn Bigelow!

Forget saving the Navis. James Cameron's biggest mission these days should be to beat his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, for a slew of awards! [...]

Even if there's not much animosity between these two anymore, it must be galling to compete with your ex spouse for a Golden Globe (and then there'll be the DGA and the Oscar and God knows what else).No matter how much affection might linger, it has to be the most awful thing on earth to risk losing an important trophy to the life partner you dumped! It's like having someone run you over, then take your limb 20 years later!

I mean, if an old boyfriend of mine beat me for the Oscar, I'd beat him WITH the Oscar. [Village Voice]

The Bigelow/Cameron Oscar Face-Off Is a Battle of Good vs. Evil

Kathryn Bigelow, Cameron's ex-wife and the director of The Hurt Locker, has a good shot at beating him for both the best director and best picture Oscars this year gives me a sense of anticipatory schadenfreude like you would not believe. For all I know, James and Kathryn speak on the phone every day and wish each other's movies nothing but good fortune, but anyone who's ever watched as a smug ex goes on to enormous success has to place him- or herself squarely in Bigelow's camp. It's almost a good-vs.-evil thing. [Slate]

Avatar Owes Hurt Locker Alimony

What really added the sting to Cameron’s second victory was Kathryn Bigelow in the audience, who directed the Iraq war drama TheHurt Locker. Seven critics' groups named Bigelow the year’s best director, while five called her film best picture. No critical circle gave Cameron a best director nod for Avatar. [The XX Factor]

Well, Kathryn Bigelow is hotter than James Cameron

While The Hurt Locker isn't exactly my favorite film of last year, it's the perfect "I'm okay with _____ winning so long as ______ and _______ doesn't." [Fin de Cinema]

James Cameron And Kathryn Bigelow Oscar Rivalry Is Just One Of Many Feuds Between Famous Former Flames

While vengeful grudges are more often seen in Hollywood's fictional output, there is the occasional awkward scrap between the industry's creative minds — and it only gets more awkward when former flames are involved.

At this year's Academy Awards, filmmakers James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow will go head-to-head in the Best Director category. It's a tight showdown between two deserving nominees to be sure, but it's made all the more interesting by the fact that Cameron and Bigelow were once married to one another. [MTV]

James Cameron and ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow vie for awards glory

Now, as the nominations for the Bafta awards appear to confirm, he faces one final adversary in the run-up to an apparently inevitable haul of Oscars: his former wife. [Times Online]

Kathryn Bigelow Vs. James Cameron: An Oscar-Themed Battle Of The Exes

Kathryn Bigelow, nominated for The Hurt Locker, is leading the pack of Vegas odds makers with her closest rival none other than her ex-husband, James Cameron. Don't you hate it when an ex spoils the party?

[...] This time, it's head to head. This time, it's personal. Why wouldn't Bigelow want to best her ex, especially when he reportedly left her for his lead actress in The Terminator? [Forbes]

Divorced Couple James Cameron & Kathryn Bigelow Make Oscar History -- Will Compete Against Each Other

Bigelow was Cameron’s third of five wives and she never re-married. Ironically it took him 15 years to release his sci-fi spectacular Avatar, yet it came-out in the same year as his former wife’s movie. [Radar Online]

And our personal "favorite" from The XX Factor:
James Cameron Is More "Feminine" Than Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker has earned as many Oscar nominations as her ex-husband James Cameron's Avatar, meaning that the media narrative of this Oscar season will surely constellate around the "Battle of the Sexes"—or "Battle of the Exes." A tiresome narrative, perhaps, but there is a way that their films do represent polar extremes.
No, really.  Of course, then when you click on the 'Read More' link, it brings you to the full article that has a different title...
James Cameron is More Sentimental Than Kathryn Bigelow

Cameron has a lavish feel for the tenderness (and violence) that springs up between men and aliens, whether the "aliens" be robotic machines or acid-blooded creatures who want to lay eggs in your throat. The dialogue in a Cameron movie is usually, as Hanna put it to me the other day, aggressively bad; Cameron is interested in dialogue only insofar as it positions the characters in his films for disaster. His characters are archetypes, always rushing onto the next archetypal moment, whether DiCaprio's Jack screaming "I'm on top of the world" from a boat, or Sigourney Weaver's Ripley growling "Get away from her, bitch!" as the queen alien menaces poor orphaned Newt.
Bigelow, by contrast, has a great directorial feel for the way dialogue creates texture and drama, and an eerie feel for the kinds of male relationships Cameron seems to care less about; you can see the evidence in The Hurt Locker and in Point Break. While Bigelow didn't write The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal did) or Point Break, she knows how to establish charged masculine space, and the dialogue between men in her films is at once natural and poignant. Perhaps that could seem like another version of men-are-action, women-are-talk, but it's not that simple, somehow. Cameron is, I think, the more sentimental filmmaker of the two; Bigelow may understand words, but it's the nonverbal energy between men she most memorably evokes.
Yep, because Sentimental = Feminine. And apparently Shitty Dialogue = Feminine.

The post-Oscar coverage hasn't been any less annoying...
And the Oscar for sweetest revenge on the ex? James Cameron won the divorce... but Kathryn Bigelow got the top prize

It was the night when the ex-wife finally had her revenge - and more than 80 years of Oscar history was overturned. [...]

Meanwhile, 58-year-old Bigelow - director of the Iraq war thriller The Hurt Locker - had slightly different motives for wanting the Oscar. Even if she is too polite to say it, what could be better than beating a former husband at his own game (particularly when the consensus is that he won hands- down in the divorce courts)? [Daily Mail]

Happiness Is The Best Revenge
James Cameron mimes choking his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow after she beat him out for Best Director and Best Picture last night at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. [Guanabee]

How about Yahoo Movie's Oscar Red Carpet Fashion Report Card? We confess, we do love to look at the red carpet fashion.... but it's annoying that the women of the Oscars are still "judged" by what they wear - and "how well" they wear it, while the men get high scores for all wearing practically the exact same thing.
Kathryn Bigelow - Grade: D

Although she looked a tad uncomfortable in her taupe gown, the night belonged to “The Hurt Locker’s” Bigelow, who became the first woman ever to win an Oscar for Best Director. Can you believe James Cameron’s Amazonian ex is 58?!
And of course, leave it to Perez Hilton to always get right to the heart of the issue:
Kathryn Bigelow Got Better Seat At he Oscars Than Ex James Cameron!

But we don't want to dwell on the negative. Oh who are we kidding, we live to dwell on the negative! But we're not going to anymore. No matter how stupid the press coverage might be, this is still a momentous occasion. After 82 years of Academy Awards, we finally have the first female Best Director.

And it makes it all the more special that the award for Best Picture was announced at just about midnight last night/this morning... on International Women's Day. That timing also reminds us that there are lots of talented women around the world making films and being artistic and creative, and we've got to pay attention and be supportive of them so that we'll have more Kathryn Bigelow moments to look forward to in the future.

Related: Can Oscar ever really be gender neutral?

Fantasy website creation

So we were slacking off on our blogging for a couple of weeks there. We blame the current political climate for burning us out and the Olympics for distracting us. We're coming out of it now though. But we have noticed something about ourselves - when we start to feel motivated again after a down period, we always get motivated about the 'wrong' things and usually end up going off and starting up a million new projects in the process.

This time, we've been playing around with some different blog templates and also some of the different 'create your own free website in five minutes!' services that are out there. We've messed around with Wix a little bit and we like it so far. Obviously we always like the word free, but we also like sites that make it pretty easy for anyone to build a site, especially when it comes to our consulting work. Some of the clients that we work with are really great writers, artists, etc., but they aren't always super web savvy, so we're always happy when we're able to involve them in the basic process of designing a site and show them that it doesn't have to be some big crazy intimidating project. And the more tools we have to do that, the better.

Has anyone else tried Wix, or a similar site? What did you think? Did you find it easy to use, and were the results good? Let's hear it.

*Website fantasies brought to you by Wix.com.

March 7, 2010

Deep Thoughts on the Academy Awards

We're not really watching the Oscars - obviously - but we're still checking in on a few of the happenings thanks to a few brave people live-blogging, posting pics and videos. Even if we don't want to support ABC right now, we do need to know if Kathryn Bigelow wins Best Director or not! But we just had to comment on a few even more pressing concerns...

Why is Zac Efron at the Oscars?

I mean, why not I guess, but that's random. Was 17 Again nominated for Oh wait... Nicole Richie is there too. My apologies to Zac Efron. He's like an honored guest compared to her. At least he's been in a movie.

Why is Miley Cyrus at the Oscars?

Good God. Not only is Miley Cyrus there, she's fucking presenting an award with Amanda Seyfried. And of course Miley fucks up reading the teleprompter and goes "Oh, we're both nervous". And Amanda Seyfried looks at her like Bitch, don't bring me into your fuckup, I read my part. Do they think they're going to pull in the tween audience to the Oscars by having her present? Get a real musical artist. I mean, was Taylor Swift busy? Ke$ha? Anyone?

Who thought it would be a good idea to let Ben Stiller wear that?

Ben Stiller is dressed like one of the blue Avatar people. Good God. Seriously, what the fuck? Words fail me on this one.

Can Oscar ever really be gender neutral?

Even though we're not going to be watching the Academy Awards this year - and we don't think you should either - we have been giving them a lot of thought. Kim Elsesser wrote a recent opinion piece for the New York Times that has everybody talking about whether a gender-neutral Oscars is really possible.

She proposed that having separate categories for best actor and best actress is the equivalent of segregating actors by race and while we can't help but agree with her... we're still torn on this issue. Mainly because we fear that if there was one Best Acting category for men and women together, men would likely dominate it - the same as they do almost every other category of the Oscars. Elsesser did address this concern:

While it is certainly acceptable for sports competitions like the Olympics to have separate events for male and female athletes, the biological differences do not affect acting performances. The divided Oscar categories merely insult women, because they suggest that women would not be victorious if the categories were combined. In addition, this segregation helps perpetuate the stereotype that the differences between men and women are so great that the two sexes cannot be evaluated as equals in their professions.
I do worry that women would not be victorious against men, but not because I think that female actors are less capable than male actors... but because I think that the Academy does not give women the respect and accolades they deserve. Although there are more and more good roles for women every year, there are still more good roles for men. Hollywood is still a man's world.

Just look at the nominees for the already "gender-neutral" Best Director: Only one woman - Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker - is nominated. If she wins, she will be the first woman to ever win Best Director. Clearly gender neutrality isn't working out for women too well so far. Also, it's worth noting that a lot of people have praised The Hurt Locker for not seeming like it was made by a woman:

"No one without advance knowledge would look at The Hurt Locker and say, 'Oh, a woman made that film.'"

"... made a great film that is more a 'guy movie' than a 'chick-flick'"

"Much has been made (way too much if you ask me) of Bigelow’s handling of manly action-oriented The Hurt Locker"

"...she has directed a film that seems to not be a typical 'woman directed' film"

"The Hurt Locker is so rigorously masculine, with action and tension to spare"
Let's look at the nominees for Best Picture too... Only a handful of the ten films have a center on strong female characters (The Blind Side, Precious, An Education). And don't even get me started on the fact that the sexist, racist and ableist - and with the exception of the visual effects, ultimately worthless - Avatar was nominated in so many categories.

We'd love to live in a world where a gender-neutral Oscars not only existed but worked but sadly, we don't live in that world yet. The movie industry is still biased towards men, the Academy Awards still snub women for the most part, and the awards coverage typically focuses more heavily on what women are wearing than what they're directing or how they're acting. Even the statuette itself is a man. The Guerrilla Girls put it best via their Oscar billboard:

Turn off ABC!!!!

Anyone outside of New York (or maybe New Jersey or Connecticut) might not know what's going on between Cablevision and ABC. And if you do know, you might not care because it doesn't affect you. But since most of the Evil Slut Clique resides in a Cablevision area, we do care about what's going on... and we think you should too.

For those of you who don't know the situation, basically ABC Broadcasting and parent company, Walt Disney Co., wanted Cablevision to pay an addition $40 million a year.  (Now maybe that doesn't seem like a lot, but they already pay Disney over $200 million a year.) Cablevision thought that was way too much money... so Disney-ABC threatened to pull WABC.

Now I don't know if a $40 million increase is fair or not. I don't know who the greedy bastards are in this situation, but I'd guess it was both Disney-ABC and Cablevision. But according to Cablevision, they're still willing to negotiate to come to a fair agreement but Disney-ABC isn't having it. As of last night, WABC went dark, basically making sure that Cablevision's 3.1 million customers won't be watching the Oscars tonight.

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, asked both sides to negotiate a deal without the need to pull the channel off the air and even asked FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to help resolve the issue. In a recent press release Kerry said:
When pulling a signal becomes the nuclear option in negotiation, it inflicts collateral damage on consumers who pay their bills and have done nothing wrong. Someone needs to be speaking up for them in this dispute and those like them, and make no mistake, this is the latest example of consumers getting caught in the middle because the high stakes incentives created in these negotiations are not working for the average customer who just expects their programming to be there when they want it. [WSJ]
A lot of customers are now going to be switching to other cable companies, like Verizon Fios, but that only punishes Cablevision for not paying the new fees instead of Disney-ABC for demanding them. I won't claim that Cablevision is totally an innocent victim in this one, but I definitely don't think it's fair that Disney-ABC is basically holding them - or that is, us (the viewers) - hostage. And in the end the only company that will suffer is Cablevision. It's not the Cablevision big-wigs we're worried about... but all the little employees who will possibly lose their jobs if Cablevision loses a ton of money from this dispute. Cablevision is a local comany; I can't even count how many people I know who directly or indirectly make their living through Cablevision and believe me, they have no say in whether WABC stays on the TV or not. (Plus you know that the same customers who are switching from Cablevision over this would be complaining even more if Cablevision did give into ABC's demands and then their cable bills went up as a result.)

By the way, Cablevision is offering all of their pay-per-view On Demand movies tonight for free, so even though you can't watch the Oscars, you can watch some Oscar-nominated movies instead. And you can always catch most of ABC's show online for free anyway.

So I propose that we give the Disney-ABC Cable Networks Group a piece of our minds. Boycott all of The Walt Disney Company's channels and assets - all of them, not just ABC - whether you have Cablevision or not. That includes (among others): A&E, ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, Disney XD, all the ESPNs, all the Lifetime channels, SOAPnet, etc.

Call 1-877-NO-TV-TAX and tell Disney-ABC that you want them to come up with a fair agreement with Cablevision. You can find more information on how to contact ABC via email at Cablevision.com.

Ode to Johnny Weir

Okay, so I promise to cool it with the Johnny Weir blogging eventually, but I had to share this video because it's literally an ode to Johnny and it's hilarious. Take it away, Nervous but Excited:

[via ontd_skating]

And one bonus quote - Jennifer Beals on Johnny Weir:

Jess: Living in Vancouver, I’m sure you were following the Winter Olympics. Do you have any thoughts on the Johnny Weir controversy? [The 2010 Olympic figure skater widely believed to have been underscored because he’s flamboyant. Broadcast commentators were also called out for their thinly veiled homophobic comments.]

J. Beals: I think it’s absolutely appalling. You know, I saw him skate for the first time this year, I didn’t know of him before that, and I watched him skate and he was so fantastic and so accomplished and I really don’t think his scores were commensurate with his ability. And I feel in some ways he’s penalized for his presentation, and I feel he continues to present himself as authentically as possible, and frankly I believe he’s unbelievably fabulous and I would love to meet him one day! The way he was treated was appalling and almost from another era. They should really be ashamed of themselves.

Jess: The best was when he skated to Poker Face.

J. Beals: I love it. He’s amazing… I have a little crush on him.