Tag Archives: Alison Bechdel

Thanksgiving 2014

Debbie says:

It’s a hard day to write a Thanksgiving post. Our hearts and our thoughts are with the Brown family, the people of Ferguson, and dark-skinned people throughout the United States. Thomas Jefferson said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”  I’m not a religious person, but that quotation always resonates with me, and rarely more strongly than now.

And, at the same time, there are things to be thankful for, in the world, in the United States, and in each of our lives. Here are a few that caught our eyes in the course of the year.

Alison Bechdel, who made her splash with the brilliant long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, and went on to write graphic memoirs about her father (Fun Home) and her mother (Are You My Mother?) won a Macarthur “genius” grant.

In October, Germany made college tuition free for everyone–including people from other countries.

In the U.S., gay marriage is legal in 35 states, pending in nine more, legal-with-court-challenges-pending in six more, and recognized from other states in Missouri. Sixty-four percent of Americans live in states where they can marry a person of the gender they prefer. More than 25 states which accept gay marriage now did not allow it in 2013.

Even in such a bad election year for progressives, the minimum wage made huge strides, being raised in four states and many municipalities, including my own city of Oakland.

Polio is very much on the decline, with only parts of three countries throughout the world being at significant risk, another strain seems to have been eradicated. Wild poliovirus type 2 was officially declared gone in 1999 and no cases of wild poliovirus type 3 have been reported since November 2012 from Nigeria. What’s more, the evidence is mounting that the global polio eradication effort is making it easier to tackle other infectious diseases, including Ebola.

We are finally getting some traction in getting antibiotics out of the American food chain, particularly with this news from the country’s largest chicken producer.

He didn’t start it this year, but 2014 is the year that people began really noticing and celebrating Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man who figured out how to bring affordable sanitary pads to the women of India, starting with his wife, and has consistently maintained his commitment to having women produce the pads themselves and keep the profits at home, rather than selling out to big corporations.

And where but the Netherlands would people start using ocean thermal to heat their town, and especially the town’s poorest residents?

As always, we’ll take Thanksgiving weekend off to eat good food and relax with our families (blood and chosen). We hope you are doing the same.

Counting Women In

Lynne Murray says:

The most useful course I ever took in college was Behavior Modification, and the professor’s motto was:”When you care, care enough to count.” He was satirizing the famous Hallmark Cards slogan, “When you care enough to send the very best.” What he meant was extremely important: If you want to change a behavior start by counting the number of times that behavior happens. That will give you a yardstick to measure change.

The first time I ran into this in the real world was when I encountered Sisters in Crime’s Review Monitoring Project, as described on their website:

[Sisters in Crime’s mission is]: giving women authors equity in the business of writing. Our loyal and thorough monitors check newspapers, magazines, and on-line review sites to take note of how the numbers are adding up. Are the reviewers talking about books written by women? Some of them are, but some of them definitely aren’t. It’s our job to make sure they realize what they’re doing and make them accountable.

We monitor over 60 publications, from dailies to quarterly review magazines. At the end of each quarter our monitors enter their numbers on an easy-to-use web site, and once the numbers are tallied we see how each publication is doing on the continuum of male reviews versus female reviews. Some media do very well. Some need work. But that’s why we’re here: to make sure women are reviewed as often as men.

Measuring tools can be very empowering. Lately I’ve found a few other media monitoring tools that appeal to me.

Despite the dispiriting numbers it reveals, the funnest one I know is one I just discovered–five years after it was originally suggested by Alison Bechdel in a 2005 Dykes to Watch Out For. It’s the Bechdel Test for movies, a nifty way to rate female presence in any movie:

To pass the Bechdel Test, a movie (or book or play or whatever) has to:

1. have at least two women in it
2. who talk to each other
3. about something besides a man.

This cute video clip demonstrates the test in action:

And here’s a site devoted to applying the test to current movies:

Much less fun, but very illuminating is the recent

“Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media” examining more than 500 companies in nearly 60 countries shows that men occupy the vast majority of the management jobs and news-gathering positions in most nations included in this study.

The International Women’s Media Foundation commissioned the study [the full 400-page report is available here] to closely examine gender equity in the news media around the world.

… researchers found that 73 percent of the top management jobs are occupied by men compared to 27 percent by women. Among the ranks of reporters, men hold nearly two-thirds of the jobs, compared to 36 percent held by women. However, among senior professionals, women are nearing parity with 41 percent of the news-gathering, editing and writing jobs. The new global study shows women in 26 percent of the governing and 27 percent of the top management jobs.

Amy King in “The Count 2010” at VIDA illustrated these journalistic inequities with pie charts showing percentages of articles by gender for top-ranking magazines in 2010. The VIDA count was enough of an eye-opener to inspire Ann Friedman, a contributing editor and columnist at The American Prospect, to create Lady Journos, which she describes as “…a one-stop shop for lazy editors who claim there aren’t many women journalists,” …

Lady Journos highlights the work of lesser-known women from publications including the New York Review of Books, Mother Jones, Wired, The Awl, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Foreign Policy. Friedman’s goal is clear: “Share these links, hire these writers, and help close the byline gender gap.” The site, well worth visiting, includes brilliant articles and some perspectives that don’t make it into mainstream media.

These principles don’t only apply to the gender gap; you can use the tools to look at race, age, ability, and just about any other way that marginalized groups are under-represented in the media, or the people who make the media.