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Disney x Barney’s: Minnie Dreams of Heroin Chic?

16 Nov

My friend @TheJoezer completely nailed it this morning: The Disney x Barneys video released this week is “Minnie dreams of heroin chic.”


Skinny Minnie creeps me out a bit, but I don’t think she’s the real issue. From this week’s Jentasmic! at StudiosCentral:

I’m not convinced that Minnie’s temporary transformation into an emaciated 5’11” dress size zero fashion model is in and of itself particularly threatening to the well-being of young girls. What troubles me more is a related point raised by the “Leave Minnie Alone” petition: The problem is “with a dress that only looks good on a woman who is 5’11 and a size zero.” And we’re really not talking about just one dress here, people; we’re talking about an industry.

RIP: A Sister Who Really Cooked

30 Apr

Lady Godiva was a freedom rider
She didnt’ care if the whole world looked.
Joan of Arc with the Lord to guide her
She was a sister who really cooked.

Bea Arthur was an amazing actress, comedienne, and feminist. Growing up in the 1970s, Maude was one of my favorite sitcoms. Of course, I couldn’t have understood at the time exactly how groundbreaking it was.

The Feministing blog has collected several favorite Bea Arthur moments, including a scene from the groundbreaking and tear-jerking two-part episode where Maude discovers she is pregnant at 47, and faces a difficult decision.

Rest in peace, Bea Arthur. Right on, Maude.

Zac Efron Round-up

23 Apr

No, I didn’t ever think I’d type those words: Zac Efron Round-up. But it has become necessary.

First, I learn that the New York Times warns parents to be cautious of bringing girls to see 17 Again (scroll down to the bottom of the review). In response, the Feministing blog is spot on (spoiler alert):

After a quick plot synopsis (a dude’s life was ruined because he turned down a basketball scholarship after his girlfriend got pregnant), reviewer Manohla Dargis notes “the story’s obnoxious implications” are that “sex, meaning girls, can ruin your life.” She makes clear that the movie’s female characters are (surprise!) little more than simple stereotypes. So presumably this is what the “special girl warning” is referring to.

But if that is the case, doesn’t sexist content merit a warning for boys AND girls? The assumption that a negative portrayal of women will only affect girls is simply crazy. Young people of both genders are deeply affected by repeated sexist portrayals of women in movies, music, and culture more generally. Yes, it can have very different effects on boys and girls. But how is it worse for a girl to think of herself as having to choose between harpy or sex object than it is for a boy to view all women as harpies or sex objects?

Then, I see that apparently Efron’s got a bit of a bobblehead disorder, from Photoshop Disasters:

And finally, I stumble upon a thought-provoking video, “Who is Zac Efron and Why Isn’t He Black?” But unfortunately, I’m distracted by the fact that the Google ad in the crawl skips quickly from “Black Women White Men” to “Fly Hawaiian Airlines”, looking like a complete sentence informing me of the demographics of this airline’s customers, and then as much as I agree with many of Zennie Abraham’s comments, I’m lost to all critical discourse.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

24 Mar

How could I not sign up for Ada Lovelace Blog Day? This celebration of women in technology honors a woman who was, by some accounts, the first computer programmer:

She is mainly known for having written a description of Charles Babbage‘s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. She is today appreciated as the “first programmer” since she was writing programs—that is, manipulating symbols according to rules—for a machine that Babbage had not yet built. She also foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on these capabilities.[1]

I’ve also seen her called the founder of scientific computing…so hey, that means I can thank her for the very existence of my day job!

So I set about looking for women in the Disney company who had made significant technical contributions. Just for a little background here, I was looking for engineers, computer programmers, technicians, and others whose work is primarily technical, or has arrived at their managerial position through a technical track. I did some research on the web, thought back through the books I’ve read, and asked my readers for nominations. I contacted a fellow blogger with deep knowledge of Disney history.

Well, let’s just say that my research would indicate that there is still plenty of room for growth! While women have certainly played prominent roles in Disney arts and design (Mary Blair, for example), and in management (Meg Crofton and Cynthia Harriss both come to mind), it’s hard to find women among the technology leaders.

But there’s also progress. It is with great pleasure that I read about Darla Anderson, who Variety calls the “only woman in Pixar’s so-called ‘brain trust.”

The producer of “Monsters, Inc.” and “Cars” first got interested in CG animation in the ’80s while working on commercial production in Southern California. She was, she admits, the “only girl” at then-tiny computer animation festival Siggraph in the early ’90s when she first saw some of the short-form work of Pixar co-founder John Lasseter. Soon after, she decamped to Emeryville to take over Pixar’s commercial division.

While working on spots for Listerine and Coca-Cola, Anderson and her staff got roped into helping with the risky project that was taking up most of the rest of the staff’s time in the small office: “Toy Story.”

Now, this is a geek girl I can identify with. And she’s not alone….the dre poetic blog has a summary of a panel discussion featuring several women behind-the-scenes at Pixar, which is great reading for anybody interested in the company.

I’m sure there are other fabulous technical women working behind the scenes at Disney… I throw the challenge open again to my readers. Whether it’s a high-level executive that I’ve missed somehow, or a top-notch new engineer at Imagineering, what women do you know who have made significant technical contributions to the Disney company?

The Gender Politics of WALL-E

23 Feb

Yes indeed, my son and I whooped with joy and relief last night when WALL-E was awarded the Academy Award for Best Animated Film (beating the Annie winner, Kung Fu Panda), and sighed a bit when it didn’t take home any others. I do believe the merits of this film will hold up over time, and are of interest not only to students of animation, but also to those who study sexual orientation and gender. The Oh! Industry blog has a great queer studies analysis I’ve linked to before, and now I’ve added my own two cents in last week’s Jentasmic! column at Studios Central. Here’s just one of the many reasons why this old crusty feminist loves WALL-E:

Shared parenting supports women’s full participation in society, and WALL-E is a great dad. Think back to the moment that EVE takes the plant into her body, and then shuts herself off from the world, focusing only on protection of the life within her. Sound familiar to any of you who’ve been pregnant, or whose partners have been? While WALL-E is heartbroken by her withdrawal, he protects her carefully, lovingly, with great dedication. Lightning strikes his umbrella? No problem, he’s got another. (And yes, it’s also borderline creepy when he takes her for the romantic canoe ride…but comedy returns when he tries to hold her hand watching the sunset.)

The current episode of the Those Darn Cats Podcast also has some discussion of WALL-E, and the Oscars in general….including some super-fun red-carpet commentary from Lisa. And for those of you who aren’t already subscribed to the podcast, we’ve got a handy-dandy past shows archive page, from which you can download shows on topics ranging from remembering Eartha Kitt (podcast), to feminist analysis of Minnie’s Country Home (podcast), to Disney Cruise Line (podcasts part one and two). You can also check us out on iTunes.

Target Women: Disney Princesses

18 Oct

The Target:Women vidcast has a new segment about Disney Princesses, which I recommend to even the most slightly-irreverent Disney fan.

Hat tip: Feministing.

Minnie’s Country Home, and Feminism 101

10 Sep

Meeting Minnie, en route to her Left Coast Country Home

Just yesterday, I stumbled across a fabulous new blog: Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog, which features a feminism FAQ. Why is this so fabulous? Well, before this site, I wasn’t aware of any resource where I could send people for those Frequently Asked Questions about feminism, and any tech support folks out there (or computer geeks who end up doing tech support for their loved ones and random cocktail party strangers) know how useful it is to be able to point people to some basic information and assumptions, so that conversations and debate don’t have to be derailed by going back to review first principles. And also, how tiring it is to re-tread the same basic ground over and over again.

Or, to quote from their “Why was I sent to this blog?” page:

AKA: I asked some feminists a question, and instead of answering they sent me here. Why?

Your question probably covered ground they have gone over many times before, and they didn’t want to derail the interesting discussion they were already having. [1]

  • People find questions that do not further the current discussion frustrating. Questioners find being ignored at least as frustrating, and such mutual dissatisfaction can totally disrupt a discussion. By sending you here the feminists hope to avoid such disruption, yet are also not completely ignoring your question(s). [2]
  • Maybe you didn’t ask a question at all, but asserted/argued a point that denied the factuality/importance of the topic being discussed. Nobody cheers at the thought of trying to run another through reams of introductory material before that person gains the grounding to argue a topic knowledgeably.

Either way, educating you on the basics would derail the discussion about the actual topic the feminists are interested in, just for you. That’s an awful lot to ask of people on the net who don’t even know you, isn’t it?

This blog exists to give you a few pointers to places you can find more information to answer your question (although we’re only in early days yet, FAQs will continue to be added until the basics are covered). Once you are better informed you will be able to contribute to lively feminist discussions productively, armed with facts and theory, even if/when you don’t end up agreeing with feminist opinions.

A casual breakfast with my girlfriend Minnie, at the Watercress Café Character Breakfast

A casual breakfast with my girlfriend Minnie, at the Watercress Café Character Breakfast

So, why am I peppering this post with pictures of our dearly loved rodent girl? Well y’know, I just happened across the Feminism 101 blog at just the right time! Because this week’s Those Darn Cats podcast (MP3, show notes) once again delves into political analysis of a well-loved Disney Parks tradition, Minnie’s Country House. And while I know that many of our listeners are already quite well-versed in answers to questions like “I’ve got nothing against equal rights for women, but we’ve got that, so isn’t feminism nowadays just going too far” and “But men and women are born different! Isn’t that obvious?” and “Does feminism matter?“, I figure an additional resource for these answers is never a bad thing, and might even be useful for those folks who are new to the conversation, including those who are not feminists but would like to better understand the basic philosophy and ideology.

And hey, if any of y’all reading this have podcasts of your own, or interweb radio shows or any other such project (perhaps Disneyphile, perhaps not)? My BFF and partner-in-crime Lisa cooked up a short MP3 promo for us, grooving on a Laverne and Shirley vibe. You can hear it at the end of TDC#17 (MP3, show notes), and I’m happy to email you the promo as a separate MP3 file.

Those Darn Feminist Cats

30 Jul

Have you ever heard discussion of The Second Shift on a Disney podcast? No? Well then, Lisa and I may have been the first podcasters in Disney Fan History to reference that book on the air. This week, we discuss our favorite (and least favorite) male Disney characters, from a feminist perspective. We also are a tiny bit demanding about getting some listener feedback this time…and my buddy Ken in Atlanta has started off the conversation with some thought-provoking comments on our blog.

Last week’s show was kinda fun too…Geoff Carter of Your Souvenir Guide was kind enough to join us for a discussion of Disney’s California Adventure. That man is a hoot.

And hey, this is as good a time as ever to remind everybody that Those Darn Cats is not necessarily a family-friendly podcast. Sure, sometimes it is…but sometimes it’s not. Consider it rated PG-13, just like Broke Hoedown.

Let’s Hear from the Disney Fangirls!

25 May

How very kind of Mr. Matt “Outstanding” Hochberg to provide me with a little soap box over at StudiosCentral! I must say I like to step up on it from time to time, and have done so this week with a little ditty about the need for more women’s voices in the Disney Digerati. A brief snippet:

I’m not sure what exactly would be different if we were hearing more from the babes. After all, women aren’t exactly a monolithic group . . . we’re quite heterogeneous in fact, and hail from all sorts of different backgrounds, and points of view. Gender is just one of many factors that influence the way every person sees the world, and any individual person’s perspective includes a mash-up of influences. As each of us view the world, the way we see it will be influenced by all these factors, and each of us is able to see certain bits and pieces hidden to others. I do believe there are things that we as a community can’t see as clearly if some influences aren’t heard as clearly as others.

In response, I got a nice email from a reader who encouraged me to think about the notion that women tend to have more diverse sets of interests (and therefore may not tunnel down specifically into just one area of expertise), which in turn made me think about the buzz over women’s non-linear career paths. I do believe the research bears out on this one (though right now I’m too lazy to do the literature review) . . . women do tend to make more lateral career moves than men do, and oftentimes also have a long absence from the workforce due to child-rearing responsibilities, which has tons of repercussions when they return.

And what does all this have to do with the Disney fan world? Well, echoing my Jentasmic column above, none of us live in a vacuum. It’s not like we leave the rest of the world behind when we talk about Disney, or when we walk under that railroad station on our way to Main Street USA (as much as it may feel like we do!). The world (including our Disney fan world) is a richer place because we are not all the same person.

Most and Least Favorite Disney Heroines, From a Feminist Perspective

10 Mar

I cannot remember a time that I didn’t identify as a feminist. Now, mind you, I grew up in the 1970s in Marin County, California, an epicenter of cultural revolution. I was raised on Free to Be You and Me, didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t join the co-ed youth soccer league (which was inexplicably almost exclusively male), and fought back hard when, after moving to New England at 14, my guidance counselor told me that I shouldn’t take electric shop class (a choice which seemed to transcend both gender and class barriers).

The word “feminist” hadn’t yet been so strongly stigmatized, or at least not in the corners where I ran. We believed in equal pay for equal work. That girls could play baseball, that boys could learn to bake. Nobody told me I couldn’t play with Hot Wheels. All these things feel rather ordinary . . . but in retrospect, it was revolutionary.

So of course it’s only natural that when I look at the world, Disney and otherwise, I experience it all through feminist-colored glasses. And as it turns out, Disney heroines (including but not limited to princesses) are a rather fertile ground for discussion. In a couple recent MouseGuest weekly podcasts, my BFF Lisa, my 11-year-old son the Wachamacallit, and I discuss our most and least favorite Disney heroines, from a feminist perspective. We don’t always agree, by any means! But I think some of our comments might be surprising, and hopefully thought-provoking.

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