Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Call Off the Sharks

So I have MSN Messenger, right? And when you sign in it gives you this little window of news, entertainment, e-mail, etc. with all the top stories and searched items of the moment. One of these was an article about Kristen Stewart's Bad Attitude. It's all about how Ms. Stewart is not behaving with due grace and gratitude in her newfound spotlight. One of the people quoted in the article was a young lady who apparently had nothing better to do with her time than start an "I Hate Kristen Stewart" group. She has all this animosity toward a virtual stranger because she doesn't feel that Ms. Stewart is exhibiting the proper amount of reverence for the story. Does anyone else out there find this to be ridiculous?! Yet despite the violence of her dislike for the girl who is going to be in essentially every scene, this young lady is still going to see "New Moon". She even says that she'll just sit there getting angrier and angrier during the film . My question then becomes WHY?! Why go pay good money to become ANGRY for two hours?! In what parallel universe does that make sense?

Now, I am not a fan of Ms. Stewart, by any means. I find her method of delivery to be consistently comparable to uncontrollablly fired verbal bullets. Words burst out her mouth as though they're deperate to escape and feel safer going in groups. But I feel sorry for her! I can hear you out there thinking, "Oh, yeah! I feel sorry for the poor kid. Rich and famous overnight. Oh, the humanity!" I know. But seriously, think about it for a second. People expect her to be as big a fan of the Twilight universe as they are. And she's not. She's never made any secret of it. She hadn't even read any of the books when she read for the role. By all indications, she never intended to be a big star. She was strictly indie. I imagine she thought this was just another indie film. And for someone who didn't know what Twilight was, the film had a lot of those earmarks. A low budget, an relatively unknown director, virtual unknowns for the leads, and a story that was different than the commonly accepted lexicon for the Fantastical. Her mistake was an innocent one.

Frankly, people have an entirely different set of expectations for Indie actors, and they were expectations that suited her and she could and did meet. With Indies, you expect them to read Sartre and quote obscure poets, listen to deep, dark music from bands no one else has ever heard of and wear clothes that are a little...odd. Their social skills are also not of the average variety. You expect them to be somewhat biting, sarcastic and derisive toward the mainstream. You don't think twice about it, 'cause that's just the deal with them. There's a reason the Paps don't follow them. And you gotta admit, Stewart fits in that world. The drawback to this Indie-ness is that in sticking to the shadowy corners of society, they are pretty much unaware of what goes on in the brightly lit center of society. This out of touch-ness led Ms. Stewart to commit the fatal faux pas of accepting a role in a pop culture phenomenon, which, I would imagine, goes against everything she believes in, and everything she had chosen for her life up to that point. But she's stuck now. And she is completely unprepared for the life she now leads. All of the skills, habits, and preferences that worked so smoothly on the Shadowy Edges, are causing her to be crucified in the brightly lit center. She is now in the unenviable position of having to, if not embrace, at least tolerate with good grace, the nightmare of learning an entirely new set of skills while under highly critical attention of a microscopic degree. Not fun. In fact, I'll bet she feels pretty dang betrayed right about now. Not to mention bereft. The life she planned for, worked for, is gone forever now. And in its place is this monstrosity that she never wanted to have anything to do with. That's a lot for an 18 year old to deal with. That's a lot for a 45 year old to deal with! Oh, did you forget that? How well would you have handled having all your comfort zones and all your goals publicly stripped away from you at the age of 18, leaving you all but naked in the spotlight, raw and exposed, while you tried desperately to scramble for some semblance of what you used to call normal?

All in all, I think it's time for the generous spirit of America to kick in and cut this kid a little slack while she's on this rather steep and brutal learning curve.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I am Woman! Hear me...whine?

So I was watching a little GMA clip today, and it was the segment with Kathy Lee Gifford and the lady whose odd name I can never remember, except that it's odd. The question they were asking was "Why don't men listen?" Or, specifically , why don't they listen TO WOMEN? Well, first of all, I don't think that's really what they're asking. I think the more accurate question would be "Why don't men listen WHEN and HOW we women want them to?" And the answer would be "Because they're not women."

But what really piqued my interest was when Kathy Lee cited a study saying that the U.S.A. had ranked 31st in the Global Gender Gap (2007) study. And I thought, "WHAT?! Thirty first?! Well, this needs context." So I went hunting.(Sweden came in first, if you're curious, but not curious enough to follow the link.)Who DOES these studies?! And more importantly, what's their agenda?

Okay, first of all, I'd like to point out that we are 31st out of 128 countries. Shouldn't that be mentioned?! But we came after Moldova, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Seriously?! Did they count the black women in South Africa? I mean, I know they've come a long way since Apartheid ended, but really?!

I didn't think this study had the right kind of criteria for a true gender equality study. They said it was based on four "pillars": economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival. And of course, there are a number of subcategories under each pillar. So the main pillars sound great, but then they had things like birth rates, and contraceptive use. What does that have to do with equality? It's not exactly something that can be compared. What, we're only equal when we give birth as often as men do? I could see contraceptive availablility being relevent, but not use. They counted how many women had trained medical professionals on hand while giving birth, but they didn't define professionals. And frankly, women have been giving birth for a long time now. Doctors aren't the only way to go. In fact, from a historical perspective, they're pretty new. I think it's great if these things are available, but I don't think it should count against anything if you don't use it.

Let me share an exerpt from the study:
Gaps vs. levels
The Index is designed to measure gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in individual countries rather than the actual levels of the available resources and opportunities in those countries. We do this in order to make the Global Gender Gap Index independent of the level of development. In other words, the Index is constructed to rank countries on their gender gaps, not on their development level. Rich countries have more education and health opportunities for all members of society and measures of levels thus mainly reflect this well-known fact, although it is quite independent of the gender-related issues faced by each country at their own level of income. The Gender Gap Index, however rewards countries for smaller gaps in access to these resources, regardless of the overall level of resources. For example, the Index penalizes or rewards countries based on the size of the gap between male and female enrollment rates, but not for the overall levels of education in the country.
(emphasis added)

Okay, as far as I'm concerned, this study just tanked their right to have their results taken seriously with that one paragraph. They divorced the results from the criteria of development in a country. You kind of can't do that and expect to get any really accurate kind of answer, because the gender gap isn't independent of the development of a country! So this all becomes a massive, paper-wasting game of "What If?". "What if everybody had the same amount of stuff. Would the girls get as much as the boys?" Oh, come on! That is not science! This study seems to completely disregard the element of personal choice. Just because people don't avail themselves of opportunities, doesn't mean the opportunities aren't available to them.

I don't think this study creates an accurate picture of accessibility to resources. But people will just hear that the U.S. was 31st in the gender gap ranking, leaving everyone with the highly erroneous impression that America is somehow lacking in equal rights between genders. This happens a lot! Some study that has totally whacked out criteria comes out and says that America sucks in a ranking, and everyone just runs with it without putting it into any context. We gotta stop doin' that!

I, for one, am tired of people trying to make us look like we're some mysogynistic, oppressive, patriarchal regime. Women in western civilization have it better than any other women in the history of the world. In some ways we have it better than the men. Stop whining already.