Sexism Alive & Well in TV Land

September 13, 2011

So apparently, a game developer got in trouble for being misogynist assholes. They apologised and fired the scapegoat, so we’re all good.

But surprisingly, the software programming world is not the only entertainment production industry where sexism is condoned and cherished. According to a study by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, only 15 percent of the writers of broadcast network, prime-time programs were women in the 2010-2011 season, a number that has dropped by more than half since the 2006-2007 television season. The wage gap isn’t any better.  The Writers Guild of America reports a rise in the difference in earnings between men and women television writers from $4,735 to $17,343 between 2000 and 2009.

A great article by Maureen Ryan at AOL TV tries to get to the reasons why (though the reasons are, sadly, the same old same old). One thing that she brings up is the influence of the advertisers:

“We’re not making art out here, we’re making programming that allows networks to sell ad dollars,” says Jill Soloway (‘Six Feet Under,’ ‘United States of Tara,’ ‘How to Make It in America’). “The only ad dollars that appeal solely to women only are diapers and cleaning products. The expensive ad dollars, like cars and air travel, must appeal to both genders.

So the sexism in the corporate world is reinforcing the sexism in advertising*, which in turn reinforces sexism at the production level, which reinforces sexism at the product level (i.e. the shows themselves), which reinforces sexism in society at large, and so it goes.

One thing mentioned as an adjunct to this advertising issue, is that the TV audience (at least the one that counts to advertisers) is males 18-49. My mother pointed out the other day that television, along with movies and other forms of entertainment, are made for men because women are too busy to watch. I guess its all the diapers and cleaning they’re doing.

*Srsly? Women are only interested in buying diapers and cleaning stuff? While men wouldn’t be caught dead shopping for dish soap?

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I have a few things to post about tonight and I’ll begin with my response to this open letter to atheists written by Paul Wallace. First, a disclaimer: I honestly didn’t get through the whole thing, it was taking the guy so long to get to his point. No worries though, I’m pretty sure that I got the gist. You see, it’s all about sophistimacated theology.

God is in the metaphor/story/whateverthefuck. Humans are good at making things sacred (or taboo–two sides of the same coin): places, objects, activities, people. And of course, stories. We say this isn’t just a good story that reveals something about the human condition, oh no. It is more than that.  It’s [fanfare style=”trumps and chorus of angels”]divinely inspired[/fanfare].

When I practised religion, this is exactly the type of religion I practised–I never said “believed” because I didn’t have faith in any myth as factual, I just looked at myth as Real, if you follow me. Unlike Wallace though, I always had a distaste for the Abrahamic mythos, it being as sexist, cruel, immoral, racist, and anti-animal/anti-environment as it was.

Moby Dick? Far superior a story. The myths of Greece and Rome? Far superior. Arthurian romances? Far superior. Shakespeare? Far superior. The Mahabharata? Far superior. Jane Austen? Far superior. Hell, Star Trek or Doctor Who or Star Wars? Far superior.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to pray to Ahab, sing hymns to Othello, or worship Captain Kirk. Why? Because in honesty, there’s no value added by the sacralisation. It obfuscates the meaning, and allows for little discrimination. I can’t toss out a bad episode (yes, George Lucas I’m looking at you) or decide that  I’d get more from an entirely new genre.

A person doesn’t need to sanctify myth (or “story”) to make it worthwhile. If Wallace wants to play pretend, to make believe that Jesus or Santa or a boy named Sue is real so he can feel fulfilled, that’s fine. But he oughtn’t to be insulting those who don’t bother.

So I’m reviving this aborted attempt at a bloggy blog. I hope it will go better than the last two times I tried. It really is tough to spend an amount of time in a regular fashion writing oneself rather than reading other people’s stuff. Wish me luck.

Time management will triumph at last. Watch this space for regular posts.

First up: The CPC and their anti-science move to scrap the long census.

There’s been a lot of talk among the grassroots at CAPP and among the opposition parties on how to prevent the kind of abuse to democracy that Stephen Harper calls “routine”. A lot of talk. Mostly pushing for new legislation, or even constitutional reform. The problem is that both of those approaches are like amputations to cure an infected paper cut–yes, the infection is dangerous and could kill you if left to fester, but drastic measures may not be necessary.

Now, keep in mind that I’m not an expert in parliamentary procedures and how they become official (other than by precedent), so maybe this won’t be do-able, but it seems to me that we can answer to the abuse and contempt of parliament by implementing a rule that a PM cannot ask the GG to prorogue the House

  1. Until he or she has passed a confidence motion in the House of Commons
  2. If there is a standing order to produce documents to a Parliamentary body (committee of either chamber, the Senate, the House of Commons), or to an oversight body (e.g. the Auditor General, the Parliamentary Budget Officer)

A rule of this type would not impinge on the traditional privileges of the PM to actually be the one to ask for prorogation, but should prevent the most egregious abuses.

A new blog and lots to say results in saying virtually nothing!

Ah well, there’s plenty of time to get into the habit and there’s always plenty to talk about. Just today I could have written entire blog posts on:

  • Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy being stripped of administration of a tourism funding programme for (wait for it…) funding tourism while Lisa Raitt continues to hold onto the sexy Chalk River file when she has handled it with nearly unmitigated disaster, risking the health and lives of not only Canadians but people around the world. The distinction? Not helping cancer patients is no big deal, but helping homosexuals is anathema.
  • On a related note, can right wing Yahoos refrain from using “pro-life” to mean anti-abortion-rights and “pro-family” to mean anti-gay-rights?
  • My thoughts relating to an ongoing debate about science journalism. The upshot? Science journalists have a great responsibility in reporting without sensationalism and with discretion. As things stand, it seems like every day a new study is reported saying that X might be beneficial or X might be detrimental. Without discrimination applied, much of science journalism fosters the impression that science is unreliable. It’s no wonder that many people find it difficult to distinguish scientific facts from religious faith.
  • On the post-Canada Day requiem for knowledge of Canada, Canadian history and Canadian institutions: perhaps Heritage Canada should revive those Heritage Minute ads—but with a difference: how about reviewing some basic facts about how our political system works (no, the PM is not the head of state and if we weren’t so ignorant or complacent about it, we would realise that his taking a military salute should be considered an extreme overstepping of his office, only one practical step away from usurpation; no we don’t elect a PM, we collectively elect a government & that government selects someone to recommend as PM; no, a coalition of elected MPs is not a perversion of democracy but a fulfillment of it), our geography (yes, there are 3 territories), and our history.
  • A couple of points raised by commenters on this post by Phil Plait on the Texas Board of Education: First, one that I commented on myself:

    @Rob Lee Says:@Petrolonfire #19 — “BTW. Is that a Godwin’s law record – nazis /Holocaust coming in at the fourth posts already!? :-O

    Haha — Ok, you got me there. In all seriousness, though, the point does stand. I feel that on an academic level, it is a very valid comparison. I try to stray away from the Nazi references, but in this case there really is not a better or more effective comparison.
    [The comparison being discussed is between scientists who deny evolution and historians who deny the Holocaust. Allegedly, more historians fall into the second group than scientists who fall into the first. – Ibis]

    I’ve seen this “statistic” used as a comparison several times, but as an historian I have to question whether its factual. Where did it come from? I don’t know of any legitimate, trained historian that seriously questions the reality of the Holocaust. Professional historians, like professional scientists, rely on evidence to draw their conclusions and the evidence in both cases are so overwhelming no rational person would doubt either. I suspect that this statistical comparison was pulled out of someone’s…um… hat.

    Second, is this annoying assertion by atheists that agnosticism is (a) a cop-out position (b) doesn’t actually exist (c) a position on a spectrum with gnosticism, while atheism is on an entirely separate spectrum with theism (this last one has some merit, but not in the manner it is usually deployed). Maybe some day when I have a bit of time, I’ll set the record straight.

And all of that is just off the top of my head (and ignores the number of other posts I have sitting here as drafts). Well, I guess this blog writing is a habit just waiting to be formed.

Hey folks, thanks for checking out my new blog. I have a few drafts on the go, but haven’t had a chance to complete any of them. Stay tuned for at least three posts tomorrow later today (the 18th) {update: it’s now looking like tomorrow the 19th for posts-just way too busy today!!}: One on the criticism of CNN for failure to cover adequately the rising unrest in Iran over the weekend, one on voter apathy and political (in the worst sense of the word) games, and one on my reaction to the “deal” between Ignatieff and Harper to avoid a summer election.
We’ll see…I might even have a couple of other things to talk about.

Oh, on a side note: That Iranian friend that I mentioned the other day? Got word from him. He is in Iran and he’s okay.

I spent a few years loving one of them quite intimately in fact. I’m thinking of him today as I see the reports, videos, pictures of protests. I doubt very much that he’s taking part in any of that mind you; he fought in the Iran-Iraq war, but since then tried to focus on his studies and his business aspirations and avoided politics as much as possible. However, I recall his voice distinctly as he commented on Ahmadinejad during the last presidential campaign. “That guy is crazy. Crazy.” Anyway, I feel very connected to Iran and hope that whatever happens in the coming days, they are somehow able to engender a new wave of reform.

I just finished reading an article in the Toronto Star about the trauma experienced by some soldiers coming back from Afghanistan: a litany of assaults (often against women and children), alcohol abuse, and suicide attempts. A long way from the happy hardship related by Christie Blatchford in Fifteen Days.

Canadians love their boys and girls in uniform, and even those people who oppose specific actions, such as the war in Afghanistan, are rarely, if ever, accused of  a lack of patriotic support. So how does it happen that veterans are left to fend for themselves, left to negotiate the hazards of civilian life? The judge in Keddy’s case (Keddy, a veteran, assaulted his girlfriend) is bewildered at the state of affairs, and the Crown prosecutor responds:

“They are aware he’s got psychological issues. There were programs set up for him that he has not been attending. And their position is … they’re not in the business of 24-hour-a-day babysitting, because they perceive that he is a soldier and has responsibilities himself.”

In other words, the military has programmes to help these soldiers, but they are responsible for availing themselves of the programmes. To me this seems a bit backward.

The vetrans’ ombudsman in Ottawa, retired colonel Pat Strogan says:

“the military must better prepare soldiers for the stress of war, including subjecting them to virtual-reality representations of warlike conditions before they go on tour.

‘I don’t think the military is doing enough. It’s not all about learning how to pull the trigger and strip and assemble your weapon. It’s also about seeing the blood and gore and really being able to relate to somebody who’s badly mutilated and you have to put tourniquets on. We tried to set up a program of stress inoculation. I brought it to the powers that be.’

At the risk of contradicting an expert, that also seems backwards to me. Divorce them even further from the reality of civilian life before they go? Wouldn’t that make it even harder to acclimatize to civilian life later on? Sure, they mightn’t be as traumatized by the experiences in the war, but they’d hardly find it easier to live without it or to connect with loved ones and refrain from violence once back home.

It seems to me that soldiers should have training on the de-escalation side, the same way as the military provides training to ramp up to field duty. A gradual demob programme for veterans (ideally together in a group) to get used to not needing to be hypervigilant, a system for dealing with violent and aggressive compulsion, mandatory mental health care for those who suffer from suicidal thoughts, depression, or guilt. A support system for the families of returning soldiers so that they can report signs of drug use, physical aggression, or trauma. I see this type of programme as one that every veteran would participate in—just like every soldier needs training to go to war, every soldier needs training to integrate back into a non-war state after the fact.

Mulling It Over

June 13, 2009

Like everyone else, I’m thinking about a summer election: Yes or no? A tweet from Denis Coderre about 40 minutes ago asks:

En passant qui veut des elections maintenant?

Well, let’s see.

Con

  1. The opposition parties, especially the Liberals, are tapped out financially and wouldn’t be able to put on as aggressive a campaign as the Conservatives.
  2. Summer elections can be annoying which may cause a lower turnout among moderates.
  3. Voter fatigue and frustration at the prospect of yet another election in such a short span of time may cause backlash against opposition parties, especially the Liberals.

Pro

  1. The Conservatives are currently in a very weak position, showing their true colours with the Raitt/isotope issue, economic mismanagement, dismissive and antagonistic attitude to Quebec & central Ontario.
  2. Polls show the momentum is with the Liberals, especially in central Canada.
  3. One of the major criticisms of Ignatieff (at least as far as the media is concerned) is that we don’t know what alternative he’s offering. Of course, an election platform is the venue to show the alternative, and frankly, practically any alternative is better than what we have now:
    • a government that fights the courts to avoid protecting Canadian citizens abroad
    • a government that is more concerned with staying in power than respecting the constitution
    • a government that ignores, overrules, and ousts impartial arms-length agencies
    • a government that brings out the worst in people, encouraging regionalism, divisiveness, and small-mindedness
    • a government that ignores international obligations and treaties
    • a government that protects the oil industry at the expense of protecting the environment
    • a government that has judged that women no longer need to seek equality
    • a government that wants to squeeze every drop of life out of the CBC, until privatization or even dismantling it entirely seem rational options
    • a government that thinks the arts and culture (despite the high degree of income generation) are a waste of taxpayer money
    • a government that wants to privatize our nuclear industry
    • a government that still wants to fight a (1980s American) “War on Drugs” instead of sane approaches such as decriminalization or legalization of marijuana and preventive mental health care and treatment for addiction to harder drugs
    • a government that cuts (already low) funding to science and research
    • a government that pays lip service by apologizing for the residential schools but turns its back on the Kelowna accord and ignores aboriginal poverty
    • a government that says they’re “tough on crime” but supports illegal gun ownership
  4. There is a whole election campaign to drum up support and tear down the Conservatives’ shaky hold on seats outside of their Reform base
  5. Those people who are most firmly in the “we don’t want an election” camp are not going to go to the polls just so they can vote for someone other than the Libs. They’ll just stay home, as they have for the past 5 or 6 elections.
  6. The NDP will look a bit tired with Jack again at the helm, so the non-Conservative vote might not be split as much as otherwise. Same goes for Duceppe and the Bloc.
  7. Voters who went to the Greens last time because they didn’t like the idea of Dion as PM, but still didn’t want to support Harper, might come back to vote Liberal with Ignatieff as leader.

All in all, I think that despite the cons, now is as good a time as any to go. So I say “moi, Denis”.