March 22, 2010

Kathryn Bigelow: Best Director. Period.

Guest post by Rachel O:

The Hurt Locker is a movie that while, not hitting big at the box office, hit big with critics, and racked up the awards at the Oscars – Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Picture.  Portraying the story of a bomb technician in Iraq without being Anti-War or Pro-Bush, Kathryn Bigelow is having a good year in Hollywood.  While this certainly isn’t the first time Bigelow has directed a “manly”/”masculine” action movie, it’s the first time she’s garnered this much attention.   She directed a successful, and, in my opinion and the opinion of many others, brilliant movie, but also became the first for women in many places – first to win a Director’s Guild Award, first to take home the Oscar for Best Director.

Both pre- and post-Oscars, much has been written, some praising, some criticizing Bigelow and The Hurt Locker.  In the midst of award season, Martha Nochimson wrote an article at Salon that resorted to personal attacks on the director.  Nochimson took issue with the fact that while Bigelow was racking up awards and nominations, Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers, two other female directors who direct “life-affirming situations of romantic comedy” were cast by the wayside.  However, it didn’t seem to be a case of gender divided media, (i.e. all books that feature stories about women are considered “chick lit”).  Sometimes shit is just shit, no matter of the gender of the writer, director, producer, or characters.  I saw Julie and Julia, and personally, I didn’t think it could even compare to The Hurt Locker in terms of worthiness of awards, and truly amazing filmmaking.  My criticisms did not come from the fact that the person behind the lens has ovaries, but rather because the movies are simply not as good.  These romantic comedies which Nochimson wrote so highly of, are sometimes just as (if not more) damaging than a typical “guys” movie.  I don’t feel put down while watching Zombieland, but get depressed about the state of women in Hollywood while watching the trailer for All About Steve.  Jeremy Renner, in a recent interview, was told by the interviewer, that everyone she knew was shocked that such a “macho” film had been directed by a woman.  Renner simply responded, “What does having a set of ovaries have to do with directing a film? It’s through her eyes that she sees, not through her mammaries or anything else that defines her as a woman, right?”

Nochisom (or possibly an editor at Salon) felt an appropriate title for the piece was “Kathryn Bigelow: Feminist Pioneer or Tough Guy In Drag.”  I feel that calling Bigelow’s gender into question in the headline was just downright disgusting .  Nochimson put forth the idea that Kathryn Bigelow acts all tough, being such a badass in directing a war movie, to impress all the cool dudes – she couldn’t possibly be interested in making a war movie because she wants to, right?  On top of her hypercritical anger at Bigelow, Nochimson took homophobic shots at the successful director, writing that while Quentin Tarantino referred to her as the “Queen of Directors” (after her DGA win), a more accurate description would have been “Transvestite of Directors.”

The writer directed her anger at the fact that the whole movie is about this guy who diffuses bombs, and they focus on him the entire time!  Nochimson failed at both the movie and social/pop culture critical levels.  In criticizing the fact that Kathryn Bigelow failed to give the female characters (the daughter and wife of the main character, Will) a voice in the film, she simply came off as someone who participates in faux feminism.  That she wrote such a scathing piece about Bigelow because she’s successful, and did it while not having female characters (no matter their role) in her film, pointed out a much bigger failure on Nochimson’s part than Bigelow’s.

Following Bigelow’s historic win at the Oscars, one would think the anger and grievances for her and her film would slow, or even stop.  Instead a new set of issues sprung forth, people complaining about her male centric career up to this point, questioning her win based on the subject matter of The Hurt Locker and taking issue with Bigelow’s apparent lack of recognition of what a milestone moment it was for women.

Susan G. Cole wrote a critical piece, titled “Kathryn Bigelow: The Absentee Feminist.”  Cole makes assumptions based on Bigelow’s 120 second long acceptance speech – she must not celebrate International Women’s Day, appreciate the historic moment it was when she won, or care about her gender.  Seeing the almost immediate criticisms that appeared online after her win, my boyfriend said “She directed the best film of the year – period.”  To say I agree with that sentiment is an understatement.

Apparently praising her fellow nominees, dedicating her award to the troops, and thanking the critics who supported the film, along with the cast and crew who helped her make The Hurt Locker wasn’t good enough.  Cole compares Bigelow’s speech to Halle Berry’s 2002 Best Actress win at the same awards show, stating, “Berry wholly acknowledged that she’d made history, emotionally responded to the Oscar’s significance, reeled off the names of those actors who paved the way before her – from Hattie McDaniel onwards – and grasped that she didn’t do it on her own.  Not Bigelow.”  While it was Berry’s prerogative to mention the achievement in her award speech, I don’t think it’s right to position that against Bigelow for not doing the same.  The media talked about Bigelow’s gender constantly, and it’s pretty obvious she must’ve known what a big deal it was.

Cole’s piece feels unfocused – she writes about how feminist bashers love Kathryn Bigelow’s supposed stance on her gender, but then goes on to write about the attack on Women’s Studies courses and programs throughout the country.  The last line of the article is particularly bothersome – Cole blames Bigelow for ruining the week (Oscars on Sunday, International Women’s Day on Monday), writing “All in all, what could have been a great week for women turned out to be a bit of a washout.”  To blame Bigelow for ruining the week for 50% of the population is a little offensive to say the least.  It’s unfair to put all that on her shoulders.  While I think it’s important to examine gender and the role it has played historically in movies, Hollywood, and the award shows that praise them – I don’t think it’s worthwhile to attack this moment, to dissect every minute detail of Bigelow’s films, speeches, interviews, looking for flaws to criticize her on.  I’ll simply repeat the sentiment I felt after watching Bigelow take the stage twice in a row on Oscar night – The Hurt Locker was awesome, Bigelow is brilliant, and that’s that.

Kathryn Bigelow: Feminist Pioneer or Tough Guy In Drag? (Salon)

“It’s Through Her Eyes That She Sees”: Kathryn Bigelow On 60 Minutes (Jezebel)

Kathryn Bigelow: The Absentee Feminist (NOW Magazine)

March 8, 2010

International Women's Day as a personal milestone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Melanie @ 10:47 am

I took Sociology of Women in 1994 and it changed my life.

This class was the first time I labeled myself as a feminist because it was the first place feminism was defined clearly and correctly. This class was the first time I learned about feminist history and could place myself within a larger context, connecting myself to women across the generations. This was the first place I felt capable, beautiful and connected to something larger than myself. I felt fierce, wild and huge.

This is also the place I first heard about International Women’s Day. I left class each day surprised, angry and inspired. The day I learned about the global celebration of women’s accomplishments and women’s rights was no different.  I was astounded to learn that March 8 is a national holiday in many parts of the world and I had never even heard of it. I was fired up. I wanted to do something.

I was planning a huge event for International Women’s Day ’95 within a few months. I coordinated speakers, musicians and authors, I put together a film festival, a tabling event and an evening performance. As a young and budding activist to say I was overwhelmed is putting it mildly. But every mistake, near melt-down and step in the planning process empowered me. I could take action (and I was)!

I have continued to celebrate and honor all women for the last 15 years. March 8 holds deep meaning for me because in addition to celebrating other women’s accomplishments and contributions, I celebrate my own. It is this day that gave birth to the woman I am today and all the successful (and not so successful) endeavors I have committed myself to. International Women’s Day was the day I realized I could make change happen. International Women’s Day marked my place within the feminist lineage and my contribution to women’s rights and women’s voices. For all these reasons, March 8 is a significant milestone in my life.

For more posts on International Women’s Day go to:




Cecil Richards at the Huffington Post

Marcia Reynolds at the Huffington Post

Ms. Magazine

New York Times

Voice of America


March 7, 2010

How far have we come since the first International Women's day?

Filed under: Event — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 2:37 pm

Check out this great piece by Gloria Feldt. She takes inspiration from the wise words of Sojourner Truth and chronicles how far we’ve come and what we still need 99 years after the first International Women’s Day.

“If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” —Sojourner Truth, former slave, abolitionist, Methodist minister, and early U.S. women’s rights leader

International Women’s Day began 99 years ago. With so much progress accomplished since 1911, yet so much more remaining to be done, it seems to me that it’s time for women to change our approach to something closer Sojourner Truth’s.

Her advice to women as she stated it in the above quote to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the influential anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, when they met in 1853, comes from a position of knowing her own power. Despite being been born into slavery and experiencing oppression, poverty, and discrimination far greater than most women reading this blog in 2010, Truth was way ahead of many of us in her perspective about how to advance equal rights.

Without question, in many places around the globe, women remain as oppressed as Sojourner Truth–born Isabella Baumfree in Ulster County, New York, and once sold for $100 and a herd of sheep–was before she “walked off” from her master.

Finish reading this article.

February 24, 2010

Half the Sky Event

Filed under: Event,Gender,Politics — Tags: , , — Melanie @ 8:53 pm

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Half the Sky: A One Night Event, inspired by the stories from the book with the same title, will take place Thursday, March 4.

March 8, 2009

Thank God for the washing machine this International Women's Day

Apparently, the washing machine has done more to liberate women than abortion and reproductive rights.  So, on this important day, forget all the contributions that all of the women’s movements globally have made on women’s lives.  The washing machine has transformed our realities more than anything else.  Go clean the nappies.