Archive for February, 2016

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White Oscars: Not Okay

February 22, 2016

On February 28th, the Oscars arrive. But for the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated only white actors/films in the industry’s top categories; exposing a shocking lack of respect for our diverse culture. As a writer, not an actor, should I care about the Oscars and the recent movie scandal?

Yes. Everyone should.

The Academy’s predominately white, male board members may not have consciously or purposely shut out diverse movies, but that’s no excuse. Honoring all people, matters.

Why?

  • Everyone deserves to be heard, and everyone has a story. Enough said.
  • Our country has changed. The white majority is in decline, and yet, they still command the wealth, privilege, and power in our society. Until all individuals are recognized for their accomplishments, a distorted and unfair balance hangs like ugly air. Not only is it important to learn from a film’s content, but also, it’s crucial to have a diverse balance of leaders running the show.
  • Education is key to our country’s health and well-being. Diversity (including, but not limited to; race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, age, sexual preference, and gender) should be recognized and reflected in all realms of our society. By watching stories on the screen, we can learn about historical and societal events, highlighting a variety of subjects. In Straight Out of Compton (unfortunately, NOT nominated for best picture) the audience learns one reason artists rap about police brutality, exposing an important and timely issue. While watching the movie, I felt extreme empathy for African Americans who continue to be unjustly targeted in police brutality. Empathy (via education) is a key ingredient to change.
  • People need positive role models. If there aren’t any in film, literature, business, or in our leadership, how can there be growth? In the book/film, The Danish Girl (unfortunately, NOT nominated for best picture), the main character’s confusion about his gender identity almost leads him to suicide. However, once he finds the courage and support he needs to come forward as a woman; he discovers himself, paving a way for others struggling with gender identity and acting as a progressive role model.
  • Diversity can act as an avenue to discover common ground. People suffer. People triumph. People cry, and people laugh. It’s simple; human emotion does not discriminate.

A diverse culture creates a strong economy. I come from a long line of farmers, and my female ancestors contributed to the economy by raising children, preparing meals, cleaning clothes, and running the household. They created the foundation for stay-at home-moms. However, as our country expanded beyond an agricultural workforce, and thanks to people like Gloria Steinem, women expanded their talents and skills. Girls can now become whomever they chose to be: a pilot, a plumber, a CEO, or a carpenter, thus creating a more sophisticated and healthy economy.

Shame on the Academy for not recognizing and respecting our culture’s rich diversity. For our country to move forward in a healthy, successful manner, we need all walks of life to be honored in film, books, businesses, and in our government—diversity should be respected and represented in all realms.

 

 

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Warrior Girls

February 6, 2016

I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, but childhood nostalgia pulled me to the new Star Wars film during the holiday break. Chewy and the gang did not disappoint. However, the movie, which had the potential to stand as an intense feminist film, fell short of an achievement in gender equality.

The movie was diminished by the new and powerful female lead, Rey; not because of her performance, which was stellar, but because she was referred to as ‘the girl’ throughout the film. Rey was not four or eight or twelve-years-old. She was not a girl. Rather, she was a tough and buff young woman. Very few young male warriors are referred to as ‘boys’. Why was she?

Not only did the film fall short as a feminist model because of biased language; the never-ending scrutiny over Princess Leia’s aging face demonstrates that our culture lacks support for older, striking woman. The standard for a beautiful woman remains a size-2 teenager. Realistic? Not in my world. The prejudice about how Carrie Fisher weathered time as opposed to Harrison Ford is staggering. And yet, I shouldn’t be surprised. As modern and free as our society has become, women still fall short on the equality factor.

Here are a few brief facts. According to the National Committee on Pay Equality, in 2014, women still made 78.6 percent of what men earned. Forbes reported that only 26% of college presidents are women, and according to the Catalyst, a mere 4.2% (a total of 21 women) hold CEO positions for the S&P 500 (a list of 500 companies). I could go on—there are gender differences in almost every field.

So what happened to the women’s movement? Somewhere along the line, since the 1970’s, feminism became a dirty word. The lobby became associated with armpit hair-growing, men-hating activists who thumb their noses at stay-at-home mothers. This characterization was and is fueled by people who want to maintain a patriarchal power structure. Those who want women to keep quiet behind men encourage stereotypical branding.

How do we grow strong daughters when their future is capped by a society that doesn’t fully embrace gender equality?

For one, we embrace the word, ‘feminist,’ and redefine it to stand for strong and powerful girls who become strong and powerful women, unafraid to defend their integrity, their grace, and their belief in themselves. A feminist should be able to work from home as a mom, an organizer of their family. A feminist should be able to work as a CEO with or without having children. A feminist should be able to make her own choices without prejudice or backlash.

Language is a subtle but powerful method of creating hierarchical structures within a culture. Words like ‘girl’ might seem innocent or even sweet, but words can be dangerous. If we begin to understand when language is used in negative ways, we can begin to unwind destructive behavior.

Above all, we can teach our daughters and our sons that although men and women are inherently different, both genders should be given the same opportunities, the same respect, and the same privileges without inherent bias. And when movies do cast a strong female lead, and the directors do something belittling; like referring to her as a girl and diminishing her power, let’s talk about it. Let’s point out the inequality and not let it slide by. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rey is a female warrior, not a little girl. Not only is she physically strong; she’s smart and savvy, and funny. All such young warrior women should be championed.

 

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Winter Writing Quotes

February 1, 2016

Need some midwinter inspiration? I hope these help.

Write you story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter. –Neil Gaiman

Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing. –Melinda Haynes

When you go in search of honey, you must expect to be stung by bees. -Kenneth Kaunda

If we have listening ears, God speaks to us in our own language, whatever that language is.-Mahatma Gandhi