Songs for the Struggling Artist


Should I Try to Work with Egotistical Douchebags?
April 8, 2022, 10:50 pm
Filed under: art, feminism, Shakespeare, theatre, writing | Tags: , , , , ,

* Note – I’m going to use the word douchebag a lot in this post. Get ready. But also – for context – I used to be really wary about the word douchebag. I thought the word might be connected to some thinly veiled misogyny that I didn’t want to be leaning into. Then I read this blog post and now I am a convert. If you have any hesitation at all about this word, I highly recommend the journey this guy will take you on. Go. Read it. Then come back here and enjoy me talking about d-bags a lot.

And now – the actual post:

The minute I met the artistic director of that Shakespeare company, I thought “Oh he’s an egotistical douchebag.” Then I saw his show. I did not want to like it but it wasn’t terrible. I mean, the thing with doing Shakespeare is, the text is always interesting so as long as you don’t get in the way too much, it’s possible to put on a decent show, even if you’re an egotistical douchebag.

And the theatre business is oversaturated with egotistical douchebags, especially in positions of power. When I was really trying to make acting work as a career, I discovered that the vast majority of employers in this arena were, in fact, egotistical douchebags. I think it was realizing that kissing up to this type was going to be the bulk of this job that made me start my own company. It seemed the only way to ensure that I wouldn’t have to suck up to an egotistical douchebag on the regular.

Anyway, at first meeting, this Artistic Director struck me as someone I would not even like to talk to at a party but the Shakespeare world is smaller than you’d think so I told myself he was nervous – talking to all those Shakespeare teachers and maybe not the egotistical douchebag he seemed to be. Maybe he’s fine. I didn’t think so but I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. I was still pretty sure, though. I have a highly tuned douche-meter.

When an opportunity to submit plays to his theatre came up, I thought, “Why not? I may not be crazy about that guy but their work isn’t bad and I just can’t produce my own work the way I used to. It’s time to expand my circle. Sometimes it takes an egotistical douchebag to bring plays to the world.” I submitted. The play was rejected. No big deal. And when I mentioned it, a much respected colleague let me know, in passing, that I probably would not have enjoyed my time there had I been accepted. My colleague had some experience with this guy and reported him to be… an egotistical douchebag. They recounted many nail biting stories of douchebaggery in the trenches with this fellow in days of yore.

It’s very nice to have my first impressions confirmed. That’s the good news here. I know an egotistical douchebag when I see one! But it has made me think; Isn’t practically every dude who runs a theatre company an egotistical douchebag? If I want to see my work get made (by someone besides me) do I have to learn how to suck up to egotistical douchebags? I don’t want to work with douchebags, period. But there are so many of them and they work all over the place and there are only the smallest cracks getting made in the walls that keep them there in the seats of power. Twenty plus years ago, I just thought, “No problem, I’ll just do it myself!” But I didn’t factor in all the ways the system is designed to support egotistical douchebags, young and old, and leave the others in the dark. The light shines on the egotistical douchebags and the more light shines on them, the brighter they get and the rest of us can never really make it out of the shadows. Sometimes the only way to catch a little light is to stand next to an egotistical douchebag.

This particular company run by this particular egotistical douchebag was founded ONE year before mine. Technically, this guy is my peer, along with numerous other guys who started their companies at the same time as I did and somehow found the light to thrive. I don’t know another woman who started a company around then that is still going. I guess the egotistical douchebag lane is the only one available? I mean, I hope not.

Running a theatre company is not an easy job. There’s very little money in it. It’s a whole lot of work for very little reward. It’s possible an inflated ego is the only thing that will keep you afloat in this world. Maybe you need to be a little douchey to get things done. I genuinely don’t know. I would very much like to see my work produced by someone that isn’t me. Would I like it to be produced by a douchebag? No. Do I have a choice about that? I’m not sure. That’s what I’m trying to work out.

You know who that light is shining on? You guessed it.

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Context Is Everything: A Gen X Look at The Lost Daughter

There’s a little bit of a conversation happening in feminist circles around the movie The Lost Daughter, written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. I felt it was my duty, as a feminist on the internet, to watch it. I didn’t really think I’d have anything to SAY about it necessarily but I like to be informed and it turns out I do have something to say. Funnily enough my thoughts are probably more Gen X related than feminist related, though. I suppose at its heart it’s Gen X feminism that’s gotten under my skin.

The movie takes place in the more or less contemporary moment (though not precisely, as it is a covid-less world) and Olivia Coleman plays a 48 year old woman. When the movie flashes back to her twenty something self, it is to about twenty years ago, though it has a vague sense of being in the 90s. The character wears foam earphones, like back in the day. The song she tells us she loves is the Gen X anthem of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The context of the film says, “This is a Gen X woman.” But very little of this makes sense. Like, I guess a Gen X English woman could go crazy for “Livin’ on a Prayer” but it’s odd. It would mean something in real life. I don’t know what it would mean exactly but whatever it means doesn’t add up to the person in the movie.

Look, I, like the character, am also 48 so I may be overly tuned in to the specifics of this woman who is meant to be my age – but I would be awfully surprised to meet a woman my age who grew up in Leeds, became a passionate and respected academic translator of English poetry into Italian AND her favorite song was “Livin’ on a Prayer.” I’d need a whole movie to explain how that could be. Honestly.

Also – one of the central events of the movie  is just so weird and out of generational character that it would need another movie’s worth of explanation to make it make sense. In the movie we learn that Coleman’s character has two daughters in their mid to late 20s – which means she had them in her early 20s. This would be extremely unusual for a highly educated ambitious Gen X woman. Certainly there are Gen X women who had their kids young, no doubt. But it is incredibly rare in a character like this one. Most Gen X academic nerds would wait years to have their kids. And to have TWO kids so young? Again, as an ambitious academic? One, I can buy. That’s a mistake, probably. Two, seems crazy. Like, I need an explanation for it, or I’m going to spend the whole movie confused. Which I did.

Anyway – (and this is a spoiler so skip ahead to the * towards the end if you want to be surprised)

SPOILER FOLLOWS:

 

– when her kids are five and seven she leaves them, whole cloth, never to be seen again until three years later. The movie tries to make this understandable but it’s just – weird.

As my Gen X friend, with whom I discussed this, said, “There WAS child care in the 90s.”

Like – leaving their kids is just not something I’ve ever heard of anyone doing.  Tempted? Sure. Kids’ll make you crazy, I’m given to understand – But to just leave? When divorce, joint custody, childcare and blended families are all options that are on the table? She leaves her family for a rewarding sexy professional life. Seems like a nice life she’s leaving them for but the choice is super weird. Gen X moms know how to work it out. We grew up with working moms. The work/life question really isn’t this giant a conflict for Gen X moms. It still sucks. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s not so extreme that leaving for years at a time makes any sense. Our conflicts in this arena are much more subtle, more nuanced. We didn’t have to flee the people we love to have a life of the mind.

The thing that seems important to recognize is that this film is based on a book by Elena Ferrante – who writes about the specifics of Neapolitan women in earlier eras with razor sharp analysis. I haven’t read The Lost Daughter – but I’ve read her Neapolitan quadrilogy, with which it would seem to have a lot in common. I’d imagine they are set in similar time periods. I assume, from the structure of this film, that the book takes places decades ago. I know from the articles about it that it is concerned with both the mom character’s Neapolitan background and the bits of that she shares with her fellow tourists in the group. I assume that the main character, Leda, is of an entirely different generation. I can probably even guess which one. Based on the choices she makes and the desperation she feels and how limited her scope is – I’d say she’s a contemporary of Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton. These are women so backed into corners they feel they have no other choice but to stick their heads in the oven or permanently walk out the door.

These choices are perfectly readable in a time of extreme oppression. And I’m delighted to realize that the 90s were not a time of extreme oppression. Gen X women did actually have choices in the 90s. If we wanted to study Italian poetry, we did it. It’s not that extreme, actually. So this character just seems like she has a need for some medication and a good therapist, at the very least. This story, as told in the film, makes no sense. But – if I just sort of overlay the events on to say, the 1950s or early 1960s– with a bunch of Neapolitan roughs – it all falls into place. Context is everything.

Let’s do some math. Let’s assume this film is set in this current moment. So – this character is my age, right? Which means she probably graduated from college in 1995. Her eldest child is 25 – so she had her two years after she finished undergrad so that’s 1997. The character is a serious academic so she must have gone on to get a masters, probably a PhD. Did she get pregnant while she was in grad school? Probably. Unless she’s supposed to be in grad school at the point when we first meet her? And that old guy is her advisor? I don’t think so – because a well regarded scholar wouldn’t be citing the work of a grad student. She’s published somewhere. She had her two kids somewhere in the middle of getting a PhD and getting published. I’m not saying that’s not possible – but it is pretty unlikely in the late 90s. At the point when we meet this character, her kids are 5 and 7 which means it’s around 2002.

This Gen X mom abandoned her kids in 2002. It’s not 1957. It’s 2002. There WAS childcare in 2002. Again, not great childcare- but childcare. Also, there were cell phones. I got one in 2002 and I was very late to the party. AND – as my friend pointed out there was feminism. There was serious feminism. I’m sorry but you couldn’t be a serious scholar in this era without some encounter with feminism. It’s a whole field of scholarship and no Comparative Literature scholar could get through academia without a serious grounding in it. I’m not saying every academic in this era was a feminist but to not have any relationship to those issues at all in this era? Sorry. No way. You’re either in the game or you’re Camille Paglia and no one’s going around just translating a bunch of male poets in 2002 with no awareness of what feminist scholarship would have to say about it.

But set in the right context – in, say, an era that had problems “that had no name,” like what Betty Friedan was talking about, and when second wave feminism was really just strapping on its boots, sure – it all would make total sense. We would, in fact, root for a character to get out in that context. This character would be a singular person up against the tide of her culture and her time and we would have her back.

I mean – the thing is, both feminism and childcare had been around for decades by the time this character leaves her kids. A lot of Gen X kids were raised on both of those things. Many of our mothers were feminists. Many of them were working mothers who sent us to daycare. Our parents got divorces when things didn’t work out. And it was fine. Not a big deal. But this film somehow lives in a world where there are neither Gen X feminists nor Baby Boomer feminists or Millennial or Zoomer feminists for that matter. This is probably because it’s based on a book that takes place so long before.

Do Gen X moms fantasize about leaving their families and disappearing for awhile? I’m sure they do but fantasizing is very different than doing – and the choice to chuck it all, just generationally, doesn’t make sense. I feel like a lot of Gen X moms waited to have kids so we wouldn’t feel the need to abandon them.

 

*SPOILERS COMPLETE

Is the film well done? It is actually. The performances are excellent; Coleman is always amazing and Gyllenhaal has done extraordinary work. I loved how the eroticism of the character’s work was palpable and exciting. There’s an artful quality to it all – but it’s just weird. And not in a good way.

As Nylah Burton said, in Bitch Magazine,

“We need more messy female characters, but “messy female character” does not have to mean illegible female characters. Sometimes the two are mixed up. Confusing the audience about who a character is at their core doesn’t endear us to them or make them feminist heroes;”

Making Coleman’s character specifically Gen X makes things that would have been legible, absolutely opaque. The good news is that this movie makes me see some incredible progress that has been made over the years – that Gen X women are actually more together than I’d have thought.  

I feel like you could MAKE it make sense – with another few hours of story and context and explanation. Just the way I’d need another movie to figure out how a working class Gen X academic woman from Leeds ended up a big fan of Bon Jovi, I need another movie to make this movie make sense. It might be an interesting story but it would take a long time to explain.

I mean, this is a pretty Gen X look. I can’t argue on that point.

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The Women’s Lane

Rebecca Solnit recently posted this essay that Mary Beard wrote back in 2014. It’s about women speaking in public and the ways classical culture was built around telling women to shut up. Also about how that trend has continued.

It’s brilliant for all the reasons Mary Beard is often brilliant but the thing that feels like new information for me is the bit about women generally only being allowed to have a voice on matters that pertain to women. The one exception to the impulse to silence women is when they speak of things that are in their lane. Women are (sometimes) permitted to talk about women’s rights but not about the war.

This makes me think about Phyllis Schlafly. Or at least the Schlafly that was depicted in the (somewhat problematic) TV series, Mrs. America. Schlafly was very interested in foreign policy. One might even call her an expert in it. While I certainly wouldn’t have agreed with her about it, she did seem to know an awful lot about these things. She ran for Congress twice. And lost. But then she gained fame by campaigning against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). That is, when she started focusing on women’s issues, then folks took notice. (Much to the detriment of American women.)

I’m trying to figure out how this concept of a women’s lane applies to my own writing practice. I haven’t seen a lot of success on any subject, really – but I have seen a relative spike in recognition on subjects related to women, usually some wrong that’s been done to me or to women in general. In other words, I get listened to the most when I’ve been the victim to someone or something. I’ve always assumed that I’m just at my best when I’m fired up about feminist issues but now I’m not so sure. Is my furious writing on women noticeably better than my fired-up writing about artist’s issues or, say, PDFs? I’m not sure it is, frankly.

As a woman who struggles to be heard, to be noticed, to be recognized, I am always alert to what factors might be supporting my visibility and what factors obscure me further. I have often felt that my tendency to write plays about women, with a bald-faced feminist slant, is what has kept me shut out of the pipeline. My sense has been that theatres don’t tend to want to produce overtly feminist work. But this doesn’t square with what I’m learning about this women’s lane. Or does it? I guess, in the theatre, it’s the women’s plays that are explicit about their woman-ness that cross over into the mainstream: The Vagina Monologues, ‘Night Mother, Crimes of the Heart, Uncommon Women.

Now that I think about it, this does help me to understand something that has often felt mysterious to me. How did a play like The Vagina Monologues break through when so much of American Theatre is so hostile to women and women’s work? How was it that theatres put on seasons of almost exclusively men, and also The Vagina Monologues? It’s very logical, I realize now. You cannot get more in the women’s lane than The Vagina Monologues. It’s a kind of apotropaic magic, a spell against feminist criticism. You put on The Vagina Monologues – which is cheap to produce and markets itself and no one can excuse you of sexism for at least a few years. It is the perfect balance for your Mamet season. Most theater companies would rather produce The Vagina Monologues many times over than to produce a woman’s play about something not particularly womany.

Maybe I just need to write a play called The Woman Woman. I mean, The Women is a fabulous (and very successful) play from the 30s. Maybe it’s really just a matter of laying out the category in the title? It’s something to consider. Look forward to my upcoming trilogy: The Woman Woman, Girls and Women and Girls and Ladies in Ladyland. It can’t be so simple, can it? Honestly if this worked, I’d change so many titles in a flash.

My play about Medusa could be called Girls Getting Stoned or I could just rename any old play Women’s Bodies. Or Boobs. My next play is now called Boobs.  

This is an illustration from Oscar Wilde’s Salome. If he was a woman, he’d just have to call it Boobs.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Inclusive Gatekeeping

The application form asked my age, so I answered the question and submitted my application. But after I did, I started to worry. Should I have skipped that question? Should I have submitted it to Honor Roll, the group of women playwrights over 40 that works to combat ageism and sexism in American theatre? Had I just set myself up for being rejected by revealing that I am 48? The form asked. I answered. I’m not yet used to being vigilant on this topic. I tried to be attentive to ageism before it was relevant to me but I wasn’t prepared for it to come for me so soon – or at least before I had anything impressive under my belt.

It was one of the first things I’ve submitted to in a long while and the whole exercise sent me into a bit of a funk. In the year and a half that theatre was been shut down, I’ve aged into ageism and now all the doors that have been closed to me are extra closed. I read a book on creativity that suggested that the science says we are most creative in our first few years with our art and after that it’s just a steady downward trajectory.

What is that ageist science nonsense? It’s possible I was more creative in my youth. I’d say my songs were full of some naïve innovations – but I am a much better writer now than I was in my 20s. And also, the American theatre is not very keen on innovation – so it may be an asset if I have, indeed, lost creativity over the years.

Anyway – this whole spiral was brought to you by the series of questions on the application that tend to happen around demographics and attempts to be more inclusive. I suspect this questionnaire asked my age, not so they could be ageist at me, but so they could make sure to include some young playwrights. However – one does privilege the other. You want to get more young writers, you’re discriminating against the old. You want to combat ageism and pull in the older writers, you’re discriminating against the young.

When we apply for things, we have no idea whether we are helping the organization discriminate against us, or give us an extra boost. Somehow arts organizations think that they can solve their racist, sexist, ableist biases with tools like this.

As my friend put it, “Right now across the nation, arts administrators are sitting around tables trying to figure out how to do more inclusive gatekeeping.” I have not been able to stop thinking about this phrase since he said it.

Because that’s the thing. American Arts institutions are built on gatekeeping. They are spaces designed to keep people out. The velvet rope was invented in NYC by someone in the hospitality business but Arts institutions are the ones who’ve really taken the idea and run with it. Sometimes with literal velvet ropes and sometimes internal ones. Having people in or out is the whole deal. The people who have salaries in the arts are not the artists but the gatekeepers.

As a culture, we clearly value keeping people out more than the actual art. But the gatekeepers have been challenged to shift the demographics of who they let get past the door of their clubs. Most of the clubs have been chock full of white guys with a handful of white women and some token people of color. But ultimately, after all these years of hanging out in those clubs, those clubs are really white guy clubs. And mostly they’re clubs full of white guys who went to Yale and occasionally some other people who also went to Yale. They’ve congregated there for so long and they want to keep hanging out there and they want to keep doing things the way they’ve always done them; They just don’t want to be accused of racism or sexism. So they ask the bouncer to let in enough “others” to not get in trouble about it anymore. So the bouncer tries this new inclusive gatekeeping. He’s trying to keep the club the same as it always was but include enough of the RIGHT new faces to keep this club out of the news.

Actually, they think they just need to approach this problem at the ground floor and make sure to send more diverse people to Yale, so they can make their gatekeeping more inclusive because you get in the club immediately that way. So – they rename Yale Drama School after David Geffen so he’ll give a bunch of money to Yale so they can make it tuition free in the hopes of making it more inclusive and voila! Problem solved, right? Must be!

I can’t wait for all these super inclusive shows that will tell us all about what it’s like to have studied at Yale. Oh, the fresh perspective we’re going to get! Oh, the extraordinary inclusivity that awaits us from all the different people who might have gotten in to Yale.

The thing is we’re sort of in this mess because the gatekeepers get their power from choosing, from who they select – which is, significantly also about their power to say no, to refuse people entry to the club. To have an actual equitable club, there would be no bouncer and our gatekeepers would have no power. We might get to stop guessing whether our demographics will hinder us or help us and just, say, hope for a good lottery number. Honestly, could we do worse?

I mean, I don’t want to be cranky about it, but I haven’t seen a really innovative piece of work in maybe a decade. Choosing the same sort of people all the time, whether it’s their race or gender or grad program, does not innovative art make. Maybe we could give up trying to do inclusive gatekeeping and try to just do away with gatekeeping altogether. What if we tried that?

We might have locked you out but we LOVE you! Look at that! It’s a heart on the lock we locked you out with! Isn’t that so sweet and inclusive?

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help include me?

Become my patron on Patreon.

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“Trying to Help Women is Exhausting”
July 15, 2021, 12:24 am
Filed under: feminism, TV | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Look – I know I’m the kind of person that the guys who make Mythic Quest like to piss off. They’re out here making things, hoping they’ll do something to make me angry. I don’t know if they’ve ever said this out loud but it feels like their ethos is, “If I’m not making feminists mad, I’m not doing my job.” I know the type. I can tell when I’m being baited. So good job, dudes. You did it. Bait taken.

I started watching Mythic Quest after I read several heartfelt reviews of it and I realized that my complimentary subscription to Apple TV was about to expire. I figured I’d see what all the fuss was about, having been assured that one needn’t be a hard core gamer to enjoy it. Season One was a delight. The quarantine episode was touching. The stand alone episode about an entirely different game than the one the series about was innovative and like a short story in the middle of a wacky TV novel. They got me to like these people in Season 1 and then they started throwing punches.

There were some little digs at first and then the big punch was when the lead woman was asked to give a speech at a Women in Gaming conference. She did not want to do it but the men she worked for insisted and so she shows up in fancy hair and make-up (dictated by her male boss) and gives a mess of a speech about how she’s such a mess and not a good boss and always fucks up and the audience gives her a standing ovation. Then the joke of the episode is revealed – this speech that appears to have been her impromptu experience of falling apart on stage (“Oh, I can’t see the teleprompter. Ooops I farted.” Etc) was entirely scripted by her boss. He’s written her whole experience. Her success is really his. It’s pitched as her success because she manipulated him into writing it – but really – it’s clear, the writer is so good, he knew her so well and knows what women want so much, he would be an even better woman than a woman is. When I watched this episode, Season One had given me such good will, I decided that these guys made this choice because of the joke. It makes for a big pay-off comedy-wise to reveal that the boss is the author of the speech. It is funny. So, while what it implies is that women are not even capable of speaking for themselves on the subject of women, you can sort of forget the message, because of the joke. I mean, I couldn’t. I was pissed. But I think the average person could.

But then there was the episode where another woman – the “shrill” feminist character – drives the boss somewhere. She’s going on and on about her relationship with her partner and the boss explains to her that she’s missing her chance to get him to help her with her career. He tells her this is her moment to give her elevator pitch. He asks her what she wants.

She cannot answer. She doesn’t know what she wants. She doesn’t even know what an elevator pitch is! The boss is frustrated! He says something like, “Trying to help women is so exhausting!” This scene infuriated me. It’s still infuriating me. Because it seems to simply that all us ladies out here complaining, nay, whining, about wanting a seat at the table wouldn’t know what to do with it if we were given one! We don’t even know what an elevator pitch is! How is a white guy boss supposed to help these people who don’t even know what they WANT?!

I realize I’m meant to be the butt of the joke here – as one of those women advocating for social change but I don’t think that’s why I don’t find it funny. I can love a good joke at my own expense. I enjoy the women’s studies major in the Legally Blonde movie petitioning for an ovester, for example. But this joke on Mythic Quest just feels mean spirited – especially on TV (a place where 80% of shows have more male characters than female ones) representing an industry (gaming) that not only has trouble with their small numbers of women (women who, once they are there, are confronted with an incredibly toxic culture) but also an industry that has been the center of some of the most heinous harassment there is. (I’m talking about GamerGate and the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian here.)

Some say that GamerGate was the beginning of the irredeemably toxic direction of social media that may have led to the intense polarization of our populace and political mess we’ve had to deal with ever since. When Anita Sarkeesian started working on a video about Women in Videogames, she became the target of an unholy amount of horrific death threats and much much worse.

So – in THAT environment, to minimize one of the few women characters like this is just cruel. This character HAS a job in videogames, has already endured sexism, only some of which we’ve seen – and now when she’s given an opportunity, she balks because girls don’t even know what they want?

I’m not saying this couldn’t happen. I’m sure it does. Probably many a woman has choked when confronted with an opportunity a man feels he’s so generously doling out. But in this moment, when women’s work across ALL fields has been struck such a blow that it may take decades to recover, does THIS seem like a good time to laugh about a woman not knowing how to seize an opportunity or not knowing what she wants? When many women have lost the jobs they worked so hard to secure or had to give up their life’s work because there was no other option for childcare, does THIS seem like a good time to laugh at a woman who advocates for other women? Read the room, guys.

If women not knowing what they want was really a thing that happens, I have a suspicion about why. If this character in this episode was ambitious, she’d be less likely to be hired. Ambition is not (sociologically speaking) a desirable trait in women. Men who are like the boss in this show don’t tend to hire ambitious women. They hire women who will help them forward their own genius. The only reason this boss is hanging around with this “shrill” woman is because he wants someone to fight with, for his creative juices.

A woman who is overtly ambitious for herself would never make it past the front door.

But sure. Yes. Trying to help women is so exhausting.

And yet I DID notice that this episode was written by a woman (apparently the creator’s/lead’s sister) and that she also wrote the best episode last season – so..I don’t know what’s going on there, except that even smart talented ladies can throw out some anti-feminist garbage on occasion.

I ALSO noticed that this second season is missing comic genius Aparna Nancherla, both in the writer’s room and the cast, and I have to wonder if this downward slide into misogyny is partly due to her absence. I’m not trying to start a conspiracy theory here but this show does not get a mention on her Wikipedia page and I have to wonder if maybe fighting for women in such a world might have gotten a little bit too much to bear at a certain point. I know I wouldn’t want to do it.

The show does better at inclusivity than might be expected. There are five women in significant roles and four of them are BIPOC. So, that’s something. It’s just…such a drag to watch them pushed into such bummers of stories.

When I started writing this, the season wasn’t over yet and I had a small hope that this show would find a way to redeem itself but I gotta say, it didn’t quite. Sure, some of the women got some big wins but almost every one of them was more or less gifted to them, by a man. And while that’s not a terrible idea for men in power to start to take on (you know, being more generous to women in doling out opportunities is a good idea) it’s just kind of a drag for ambitious women to watch. (“Ok, so if I just find a nice powerful man to give me something, THAT will help me achieve my goals.”) If I were a woman in gaming, I might just try to use my own ambition to start something rather than try to get anything done with these bozos.

And if this show results in a glut of women-created games in response, then it will have been a good thing but I don’t know, man, I don’t know. Then are plenty of things in the world that make me mad, I’m not sure I need a silly show about a video game to be one of them.

This woman character just doesn’t know what she wants, ok? She’s just not clear! She just doesn’t know!

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Tricksy Feminists

In college, we made a show called Roar! The Women’s Thing! Live Girls On Stage! which I started thinking about after reading Fleishman Is in Trouble.

I was just going to write a quick little review of Fleishman Is in Trouble for Goodreads but then I started thinking of that show and what we were trying to do with it, which was going to need some explaining, and then I started thinking more about the novel, which began to make me mad and voila! – blog post.

I’ll start with this show. I made it during a guest semester I took at a state university. I’d spent three semesters at Sarah Lawrence College and while my education was aces, I was longing for a social life, so I decided to take a break from my progressive elite education and go to some parties (as well as classes, sure) in Virginia for a semester. That transition was a kind of a feminist wake up call. I’d gotten used to a place where feminism was a default position and I was absolutely shocked by the retrograde patriarchy still in place at this state college. I joined a rebel feminist group and we decided to make the show, to give the place a real consciousness raising because whooo boy, did it need one! We put “Live Girls On Stage” in the title because we were worried about preaching to the choir and we hoped we’d bring in a few frat bros by suggesting we were a burlesque show rather than a feminist collective. We thought we were pretty clever. We put paper dolls of Barbie dolls on our posters. We thought that we’d change the world with or little feminist variety show. I’m both very proud and very embarrassed by this venture now. I’m bringing it up because of this little Live Girls trick. Did it work? Of course not. Though we did sell out, which was better than most of my subsequent feminist work. But I’m thinking about it because I feel like there’s something similar at work in Fleishman Is in Trouble.

I read this book because it was advertised to me on the Guilty Feminist podcast. It was billed as an hilarious feminist novel. That’s catnip for me. Of course I was going to read an hilarious feminist novel.

You may, at this point, not be surprised to learn that I found this book to be neither hilarious nor particularly feminist. They Live Girls Onstaged me and I fell for it. I don’t blame the Guilty Feminist podcast. They need advertising dollars as much as anyone and I can imagine how this happened. Someone on the marketing team thought this book was kinda feminist and googled all the places they might be able to place some feminist ads and the job was done. But, oh, oh, did I feel like a frat boy who thought he’d come for burlesque and got a bunch of show tunes and sketches instead. I’m going to give you some spoilers now – or really a spoiler. One might call it the twist of the book. If you want to skip these next seven paragraphs to avoid this reveal, please feel free. I think knowing what’s coming might actually improve the experience of reading it but…it’s up to you.

The book begins with the story of a man who is in the process of divorcing, dating and doctoring. It is a bit how I imagine a Philip Roth or John Updike novel. (I’ve never read either as I am not at all interested.) It’s the story of a wealthy man on the Upper East Side of Manhattan who often feels he is not wealthy enough. He describes himself as a hero of a dad and his ex-wife as a useless soul-less social climber, who disappears on him. It’s all narrated by his female friend, who used to work at a men’s magazine so she’s practiced at getting into the heads of men.

Then, about three quarters of the way through, the narrator of the book runs into the ex-wife and we get a sense of the time-line we just experienced from her perspective. Surprise! She’s not the monster her husband made her out to be! The book finishes with a kind of alliance between the women and a little rant about how bad marriage and middle age can be for women and then the narrator takes a taxi back to her husband, from NYC to the suburbs of NJ.

I THINK this is being marketed as a feminist novel because it tricks us into thinking it’s a man’s story at the top and then TRICKSY! It turns out to be a woman’s. And the guy who seemed like a sort of good guy is kind of a dirtbag. SURPRISE! You’re NOT seeing Live Girls Onstage like you thought! It’s a consciousness raising instead! It’s Tricksy Feminism, trying to convert the unconvertable. If those frat boys only knew what it was really like to be a woman, they might not be such sexist pigs!

If we get men to read a story about a man, they’ll keep reading to learn about a woman’s perspective of the same stuff!  We’ll sneak some women’s issues into that Phillip Roth novel! We’ll raise their consciousness without them even knowing! Tricksy!

But the thing is – none of those issues that the woman face are dealt with in a particularly feminist way. None of them ever rallies together with other women to make a change. They deal with sexual harassment and discrimination. They deal with sexist and dehumanizing medical treatment and generally struggle with some old school Simone de Beauvoir Second Sex shit. But no one seems to know that feminism exists. It’s a weird world without any real social movements. It’s a world where someone experiences overt sexism and no one will name it. Feminism isn’t just women having lady problems. It’s a social movement in which people work together to make our world more equitable. This book had nothing to do with that as far as I could see.

For me, the book was mostly largely about rich people on the Upper East Side of Manhattan having a lot of privileged problems. Was it compelling? Sure! It’s very well written so you couldn’t ask for better fiction about the ennui of a particular kind of privileged life. If you want to know about the inner lives of women who choose their pilates classes based on maintaining social ties, look no further. You’ve found your book. Even the women in this book, in the middle of realizing all the betrayals of sexism and such, never get beyond themselves to even consider attempting to make a change. They don’t have a feminist awakening. They don’t decide to organize. They don’t start to examine their own privilege – not their racial privilege, their economic privilege, not their abled privilege, none of it. If there’s any feminism in the book at all (and I’m not convinced there is) it is not intersectional.

I keep thinking of the end of the book when the narrator takes a taxi back to her house in New Jersey from NYC. I think it’s supposed to be a romantic gesture? But all I can think of is how expensive that taxi ride would be and yet it’s not even a whisper of a thought for this character.

Roar! The Women’s Thing! Live Girls On Stage was a sophomoric feminist show. I was literally a college sophomore when I made it. I’m fairly certain we didn’t change anyone’s mind and only expressed a bunch of things that were hard for us (mostly white) ladies. It was a little tricksy but mostly harmless and possibly a fun night out. I feel like Fleishman Is in Trouble is similar. A little tricksy, mostly harmless and a fun read. The trouble is in the marketing. There were live girls on stage but they really weren’t what I had in mind.

I’m about the same age as the characters in this book so I have a sense of the world they grew up in. I know there was feminism in that world, for example and it’s clear to me that characters that don’t have their feminist awakening until their 40s are characters who ignored or rejected feminism in their youth. If you’re not discovering sexism until your 40s, you’re late. You’ve very late. I mean, get to the party when you get to the party but you are very late.

But one thing I know about the party from our collective college years is that in some places, the party was already in full swing, had already evolved and was searching for ways to grow and the party at the other college was just getting into gear. It was in its sophomore stages and needing a jump start. When my friend and I would walk into our Sociology of Women class at that state college, our teacher would say, “Here come the radicals!” And let me just say, as much as I enjoyed that greeting, I was VERY FAR from being a radical then. (“Couldn’t we do it in a nice way? But I don’t want to upset anyone! I don’t want to take anything away from anyone! I just want a teeny tiny itsy bitsy bit of equality, please. If it’s not too much trouble.”) Anyway – what I’m saying is that it’s all relative. At Sarah Lawrence, I was a pretty run of the mill every day sort of feminist, at the state college, I was a radical. Maybe for the characters in Fleishman Is in Trouble, this sort of naming of women’s issues IS radical. It’s first stage feminism. It’s late to the party feminism but fine, I guess.

Yes. This is the poster. Yes I still have it.

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South Park World, or, Learning to Like the Boy Stuff

In 1997, I was touring the country with a Shakespeare company. There were 8 men and 4 women in our troupe and because of that gender imbalance, it felt a little like living in a fraternity. For a life-long feminist like myself, it was a pretty big challenge. I mostly stayed quiet and kept my feminist killjoy thoughts to myself.

I’m thinking about this today after reading Lindy West’s essay about the South Park guys. She’s a bit younger than I am so South Park was a thing she grew up with and a show that had a particular kind of impact on her generation. I was introduced to South Park while I was on tour with the fellas in 1997. It was a video cassette of a short cartoon that somebody had gotten from somebody and we watched it on the company VCR. It was this underground, almost contraband, video.

I didn’t love it. It felt sort of mean spirited and homophobic and it was a world of boys. But I was living in a world of boys and they watched this video cassette so often, it became an oft quoted part of the culture. By the end of the year, I had a real affection for those potty mouth boys – the ones on South Park and the ones I was working with.

Then that little underground cassette got picked up by a network and become a TV show. I watched it sometimes, in part, because it reminded me of being on tour and it made me feel like an insider and also because I’d sort of come to like it. And I want to talk about my liking it because the liking isn’t uncomplicated. It wasn’t neutral. I think it says something about culture in general.

I was thinking about how a lot of things I like, I like because to like them made me part of the group. In this case, in this company, it was a bunch of fellas and a few women who knew how to hang with a bunch of fellas. They knew how to be cool with the dudes. That is not a skill I had picked up anywhere – being the feminist killjoy that I was – so it was something I had to learn on that tour. Laughing at the same jokes is a big part of it, I discovered. You learn to find things like South Park funny as a way to survive. But what I can’t stop wondering about is what it would have been like if that tour group’s gender numbers were reversed. What if there were 8 women and 4 men? Would the men have learned to laugh at the Kathy and Mo show? Would they have giggled at their dramatization of Gloria Steinem’s “If Men Got their Periods”? Would they have adapted to our jokes the way we adapted to theirs? I don’t know. And the reason I don’t know is that I was never IN the reverse position. I was never in an acting company that was mostly women. I directed a lot of shows that were like that but I’d have to ask my actors how that was. I don’t know.

I did go to a college with a 1:3 ratio in favor of women. I bemoaned it at the time but thinking about the South Park effect, actually makes me very grateful for that imbalance. It makes me curious about the experience of some of the men I know who went there with me. Are there things they like because they adapted to the environment that they wouldn’t have responded to in other circumstance? Like – did they all become big Ani DiFranco fans when their friends at others schools turned up their noses?

The thing of it is – most of culture in the 90s was men’s culture. Most things were for the fellas with a couple of rare exceptions. You could either get on board or be seen as the feminist killjoy. South Park was no exception to that. (Are there any girls on South Park? All I can think of are some moms and a pretty offensive take on Winona Ryder.) I was struck by the way Lindy West described South Park’s aesthetic; It sounded quintessentially Gen X. I hadn’t thought of South Park that way before – but the irreverence and nihilism is classic “whatever” energy. It’s also classic Gen X misogyny and in retrospect, I’m sorry I ever laughed at it. But I learned to laugh at it. Which in a weird way gives me a kind of hope in this world where people still debate if women are funny. It gives me hope because it’s clear people can adapt to the group. The group can change. We can laugh at more expansive things and things that AREN’T cruel. We can learn to laugh with an entirely new group.

I learned from West’s essay that South Park has been on for Twenty Years. TWENTY YEARS of Kenny getting killed. (I assume. I haven’t watched in maybe 18 years so I don’t know how things have changed.) When this show went on the air, we were having a pretty big cultural conversation about how we talked to each other. We were learning that there were kind and unkind ways to talk about one another’s identities. A lot of people hated this conversation and there was a lot of railing against political correctness. South Park showed up in the middle of that conversation and farted.

And now we’re in the middle of the same conversation twenty years later, though we use different words and South Park is still farting the place up.

Like, maybe it was funny in 1997 when we were all very serious about hyphenating our identities or whatever – but once you’ve farted in a serious room once, the joke is of over, guys, Now you’re just stinking up the place while the grown-ups are trying to solve things like violent insurrections at the capital. And speaking of violent insurrections supported by Republicans, it turns out the South Park guys are Republicans. Right now. Or at least as of Lindy’s publication date in 2019. Honestly, I was surprised – not because they said or did anything to suggest otherwise – it’s just that Republicans don’t tend to be funny.

But I guess the thing is – those guys haven’t really been that funny since I saw them on a VCR in 1997 surrounded by a bunch of fellas. So I guess it makes sense. I guess it makes sense.

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And Now I’m Mad About Curious George

I guess this is a series now.

As you may remember, a short while ago, I was real mad about Kiss Me, Kate when I found out it had been written by a woman but not credited to her as a sole author, even though she was the sole author. Then I learned about the authorship of Curious George. Curious freakin’ George, the kid’s book about the curious monkey. You know you read it as a child. It is one of the most popular children’s books in history. Classic! (Also, problematic and possibly racist – sorry!) And now tell me who wrote it. Your answers will vary according to when you read it. If you read it before or when I did then, like me, you will say, H.A. Rey. Were there photos of him on the back flap to suggest he was like the man in the yellow hat from the book? If there weren’t, I made some some up – because I definitely knew that the author of Curious George was a man.

Surprise! It was a couple. You might know this already if you read it after I did, but married couple Hans Augusto Rey, and Margret Rey fled the Nazis, smuggled out their cute book about George and changed the world of children’s publishing. And here is why they left Margret’s name off the book: because they had “too many women” writing children’s books around then. Gah! It’s infuriating. Hey – they just used H.A’s initials. They couldn’t have ALSO made hers initials? H.A. Rey and M. Rey? Come on. It’s so easy. All they had to do was obscure both their names and genders if they were so worried about it. And listen, I know this was a long time ago – like my experience of Kiss Me, Kate, this decision got made decades ago, in a different time and all that – but holy macaroni, Batman. I just found out that one of the iconic stories of my childhood was co-written by a woman. I found out from a silly Facebook post. Shouldn’t they have put out a bulletin at some point? Like maybe when she finally got her name back on the books? That would have been a good time to talk about the entire erasure of an artist/writer. But, by the way, I cannot find evidence of this moment anywhere. In every mention of her getting her name on the books added, it gets framed as if it was some magical thing that just happened “at some point.” Here’s how she described it, “As Margret told it, “When we first came to America, our publisher suggested we use my husband’s name because the children’s book field was so dominated by women. They thought it would sell better. After a time, I thought, ’Why the devil did I do that?’ so since then my name has appeared also.”” (“Since then” – when is then?!?!)

And, also – it’s not over. Just because they added her name whenever it happened to be, that change was not reflected everywhere. It still isn’t. I did a Google image search of Curious George and only a handful of the book covers I saw had the full “new” credit.

It’s not surprising really because Curious George is likely handed from one generation to the next. We remember the one that was read to us and the stories about it from our youth. There’s a nostalgia there – even for the arrangement of the typeface on the cover. I can picture the font and the placement of H.A. Rey’s name on the bottom of the page.

I’m glad they finally fixed this one but for me it’s too late. Margret Rey got erased and bringing her back takes effort. And I guess I need to be mad about it so I can use it as fuel for my fire to remember the accomplishments of our foremothers. Partly what burns me up about it is the way these erasures lead further generations to think women “didn’t do anything” in history. It makes it seem like we’re always starting from the bottom when it turns out women broke that glass ceiling generations ago – that Margret Rey was a best-selling children’s book author, that Bella Spewack was the author of a wildly successful Broadway show. Dawn Powell was a best selling author whose books went out of print and was forgotten for decades, despite being an absolutely glorious writer and even more successful than her peers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway in her lifetime. (She’s not one of these authors who were hidden by a husband like the other two; I just included her because I love her like crazy and she was a bit lost to time, probably BECAUSE she was the sole credit.)

This story has a happier ending than Bella Spewack’s as far as I’m concerned because Margret did, in the end, fight for credit and did manage to assure that her name was on the covers of future generations copies of Curious George. This hopefully means that kids encountering this classic story now grow up knowing that it was written by a woman and illustrated by a man. There is progress. And fight for your credit, ladies. Always fight for your credit. We need you to.

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Sexy Jobs

What jobs are the sexiest? Like, if you want a character to be appealing and captivating and sexy, what job do you give them? Let’s say you want them to be at the center of a story – what job do they have? If you want to signal to an audience, “This character is sexy,” what do they do?

Apparently, in Spain, if your main character is a woman, the answer is “modista” – a modista is a seamstress, but not just a seamstress or dress maker, she’s also a designer. I am on my second Spanish period drama which features a modista at the center and it made me start to wonder what the sexy jobs are in our culture. Like – some of them are the same. The actor who plays the modista’s love interest in both shows plays a pilot in one and a war journalist in the other. Those are sexy jobs for men. They are just as popular here as I imagine they are in Spain.

But we don’t put seamstresses in our TV shows. I can’t think of a single American TV show that stars a seamstress. But in thinking about it, I realize that we also don’t make a lot of period dramas that place women at the center. I’m having trouble even thinking of one. If women have jobs at the center of a show in American TV, they’re mostly contemporary. They are nurses or lawyers or writers or doctors.

Certainly I don’t know all the shows there are. There are more and more all the time – but I am thinking of every workplace drama set in the past that I can remember and not one of them is American. (For the record, when thinking of women at work shows, I came up with Bletchley Circle, The Mill and Call the Midwife but these are all BBC shows.)

Anyway – I think I may have worked out a factor of why I am so obsessed with Spanish TV. Almost every show I’ve watched features women at work in the early 20th century. Some of those jobs are sexy (see modista, switchboard operator, chambermaid, novelist, hotel matriarch, amateur detective, secretary) and some are less so (housekeeper, innkeeper, the sexy modista’s stern modista mom). I don’t know that it’s the sexiness of the occupations of these women that interest me or just the fact that I get to watch groups of women at work together.

Because women have largely been left out of history books, I long for stories of women in the past. I found this Ms. magazine article about women’s history chilling. An English teacher tells a group of students, “Wouldn’t it be great if history books had as much information about women as men?” and hears her students say, “But women didn’t do anything.” I mean. They said that THIS Century! Something like twenty years IN to this century! This century – when they absolutely should have been exposed to more inclusive history or read things that haven’t actively excluded women’s contributions. So I find TV that highlights women at work in the past almost irresistible, particularly since the stories we’ve all absorbed from the culture have tried to convince us that women working is a new invention.

Watching women at work in the past scratches an itch for me I didn’t know I had. And yes, I know that period drama is not history but it does tend to expand one’s historical perspective. I know a whole heck of a lot more about Franco’s Spain and its relations with Europe and Morocco than I did before my dipping my toes, via Spanish TV, in those worlds. Outlander may feature time travel through fairy stones but I do know a bunch more about the Jacobite Rebellion and the Battle of Culloden in Scotland than I did before I watched it.

Anyway – if sexy jobs are what get us to tune in to stories about women and particularly about women in the past, I am really all for it. I don’t know what American early 20th Century jobs will be sexy enough for our people but I would like to watch one please. A Rosie the Riveter drama maybe? I mean, it’s a gimmee, right? Women in a factory working together? Does this exist and I just don’t know about it? (I know there’s a Canadian show about this. I would like to watch that, too. I’m gonna need a better International streaming platform, please.)

Meanwhile, I am still very curious about what the sexy jobs are. Male romantic leads tend to be architects and female romantic leads do things like run cupcake or pie shops. But are those sexy? I don’t know. Chime in. What are the sexy jobs? And can we have a TV show about them?

Sexy Dummy

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I Guess I Have to Talk About Cuomo

The governor of New York, where I live, is all over the news again and as much as I’d really rather not think too much about Governor Andrew Cuomo, I’m seeing so many bonehead responses to this story that I think I’m going to have to say something.

I will say, just right off the bat, I am not a fan of him. I have not been a fan. I have voted against him every chance I’ve gotten. I found him tolerable for the first time when he became a voice of reason in the early pandemic times – but even his reassuring statements about what day of the week it was were not enough to turn me into a “CuomoSexual.” I understand why people got crushes on him but his history of throwing women’s reproductive rights under the bus, for example, kept me from any particularly warm feelings. I just didn’t hate him as hard while he was telling me it was Tuesday back in April.

I’ve seen him in person (when the new subway line opened a few years ago) and I will tell you, he was like a bag of oil in a human suit. I’ve never seen anyone oilier. And I was once the person a drunk Kevin Spacey needed help from.

I think Cuomo’s been a lousy governor. It’s not just the absolute disregard for accountability or compassion for the folks living and working in nursing homes during the pandemic, though I find that stomach turningly reprehensible. I am not a fan of his alignment with real estate interests (always – but in the last year especially when he killed all chances for the Cancel Rent movement to give a bit of relief to suffering unemployed and underemployed people). His association with the IDC was another real blot on his leadership. If you need more reasons, I highly suggest this article from Rebecca Traister about the climate in his office and how it prevented actual governing getting done, this article from Teen Vogue last spring about why he shouldn’t be your pandemic crush or this one from The Guardian about why he’s a mini-Trump.

So I’ll acknowledge that I’ve been ready for this bag of oil to go for some time. Then the first story about his sexual harassment of his employee came out. Again. It came out months ago on Twitter but I guess no one cared then. This time, his former employee wrote a piece about it herself and it hit.

It’s the kind of story that is so common that it allows a lot of people to dismiss it. It’s the kind of story that if it happens to you is, it’s a total misery and when you tell people, they’ll either tell you it was no big deal or want you to report it. It’s been so recently normal for dirt bag men to behave that way that scores of people line up to dismiss it. “Who hasn’t been harassed like that?” they say. “What’s the big deal?” And then they say the one that’s been driving me craziest. “If we aren’t going to prosecute Trump for his pussy grabbing, we shouldn’t worry about Cuomo’s harmless flirtations.”

And this, my friends, is why Trump getting away with the 22 rapes and multitudes of sexual assaults should have been prosecuted years ago. The bar is now so low that no one could possibly suffer consequences for any reprehensible behavior.

Is Cuomo as bad as Trump? No. But Trump is REALLY TERRIBLE. You’d have to be really really bad to be as bad as him. (Though I did just listen to a podcast about a guy who was even worse than Trump in this department. I mean. It seems there’s always someone who is worse and got away with something for longer.)

To me it sounds like: “How can we hold this guy accountable for stabbing his buddy when that other serial murderer down in Florida got away with killing so many people? It’s just a little bad behavior.” It’s classic whataboutism, really.

Is this one story about Cuomo being a really terrible horn dog boss enough to take him down?

Unfortunately, no. But the behavior that was described by Lindsey Boylan is such that it was obvious that there would be more. Long before anyone else came forward, we knew there would be more women with similar stories. Because this sort of behavior is a pattern and it reflects a general disregard for women. Also, one brave woman tends to lead to more brave women willing to come forward. So I certainly expected more to appear. And more certainly did. When I wrote this, there were two more. As I type this, there are 5 more. Who knows how many more will emerge by the time I push publish?

But for people who love Cuomo, it doesn’t seem too bad. They’d LIKE for him to flirt with them! They WISH Cuomo would put his hand on THEIR lower back and then grab their faces and ask if he could kiss them. That sounds nice to them! They’d definitely say YES to that request! It’s like if George Clooney slid up to them at a party and offered to take them home. It’s sexy! For them.

But for women who reported these incidents, it was NOT sexy. It was entirely unwanted. And, in at least two cases, it was further complicated by his ability to fire them or ruin their job prospects. For these women, it’s not like their boss is George Clooney and they feel lucky to be the focus of his attentions. It’s like their boss is George Costanza. (Also, I would, for sure, rather be hit on by George Costanza than Andrew Cuomo. I know how to push off the Costanzas of the world. Cuomo would be a lot harder to escape.)

The problem is not that Cuomo just got a little too flirty at some parties or his job. The problem is that he has demonstrated a lack of respect for women, for women’s bodies, for women’s boundaries and their agency. He has demonstrated, by his behavior with the women who have reported, that he has little respect for half the population of the state he governs. This isn’t some leftist plot to treat liberal politicians with more stringent guidelines. And it turns out he’s actually terrible to everyone, not just women. He’s just terrible to women in particularly sexist ways.

This kind of behavior is a clear indication of his lack of ability to govern with discernment and care. That lack of care has been clear to me (and so many others) for some time, but for some, this is the first time they’re getting the picture. In regards to his failures around the nursing homes last year, he said, “But who cares? 33, 28. Died in the hospital. Died in the nursing home. They died.”

Honestly, he should resign off the back of that wretched statement alone but if it’s the sexual harassment that gets him, that’s good, too.

There are reasons to put a check on this behavior, even on politicians we like. If it turns out that Elizabeth Warren, who I admire greatly, was out there abusing her power with her staffers, I’d be very surprised, of course, as it would be very far outside her character – but I’d expect her to resign as well. This isn’t about who we like and don’t like. The thing is, if there are no consequences, then the behavior just continues. And it usually gets worse, since the harasser feels a sense of impunity. If you want to hear a chilling example of this, I recommend listening to the series Women in the Room which explored sexual harassment in New York politics in years previous. The story of Vito Lopez’s office was particularly horrifying. He was once my representative, too, back when I lived in Brooklyn. When he first faced accusations, he was (metaphorically) given a pat on the back and told not to do it anymore. This emboldened him to make even more overt demands of the new women in his employ.  In his wake, a slew of women who had wanted a career in politics but had it harassed out of them by a guy who just enjoyed a little flirtation, who just needed a little “support,” as he put it. A little massage. Some company in his lonely hotel room. No need to worry that saying no will lose you your job and any future in politics you might be looking for! It will definitely do that! And then some!

Cuomo needs to see some consequences to his actions because all of those who are harassing below him need to see those consequences. We need to ensure that Cuomo experiences consequences because he will be the reason someone else won’t be accountable for THEIR terrible behavior. In the same way that Trump not experiencing any consequences from the rapes of 22 women and girls is allowing many a bozo to justify not holding Cuomo accountable for sexual harassment.

A woman is the Lieutenant Governor and would finish out Cuomo’s term. New York has never had a woman governor. If we’d like to show New York’s women some respect, Cuomo should resign. If he won’t resign (which it looks like he won’t) then we need to impeach him. I, for one, would be very relieved not to have a sentient bag of oil for our governor anymore.

Pour some oil in a skin suit and you’ve got yourself a governor!
(Photo by Leandro Callegari via Unsplash)

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