Lazy Sunday Binge Watch: Feminism Documentaries

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On Friday, my husband and I were both feeling under the weather, and spent most of the day in the living room watching documentaries and cuddling with our two adorable cats. It’s probably kind of weird that we watch so many documentaries, but it’s definitely evidence that we’re meant for each other!

Two that we watched on Friday were related, and were both amazing! I’m going to talk about both of them today, because I loved them both so much! They were both very informative, inspiring, and a little sad.

The first one we watched was called She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. It’s about second-wave feminism in the United States. They talk to many of the women who were leaders in the movement, which was incredible! It was so awesome to be able to hear about the women’s liberation movement from the voices of women who were actually a part of it.

One of the coolest things about the movie was seeing footage from the time, not just of some of the protests and speeches, but also footage of the press and how they talked about the movement. It made me mad, because there were news stories where the reporters were really rude. It made me thankful that I wasn’t alive back then. It was also interesting learning about the women’s liberation movement and the role the civil rights movement and anti-war movement played. Those movements worked together because they tended to have quite a bit in common.

The most heartbreaking part was when they were discussing Roe v Wade, and the way things worked beforehand. One woman talked about how she had a friend from high school who only made it a few months into college and died because she had an unsafe abortion. The role that access to birth control and healthcare for women is so important. This movie made it clear that it’s not something to take for granted. It’s part of the reason that women now are able to have careers and plan their lives. It was a good reminder that access to healthcare, family planning, and birth control is still something that we’re fighting for here, and its importance shouldn’t be forgotten.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry can currently be streamed on Netflix.

The second film we watched was Miss Representation. This film was a good complement to She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, but it took more of a modern focus on media portrayals of women and how it affects not just adults, but also children. This film was made by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who is the wife of Gavin Newsom, the current Lieutenant Governor of California. She is an actress, who has become a filmmaker and activist, drawing attention to how the media affects both males and females.

Miss Representation talked to politicians, actresses, youth, activists, journalists, and others about the role that media plays in the lives of women and young girls. They discuss many topics, including how women journalists wear revealing clothes, like they are on screen as decoration, rather than as professionals informing the public.

They also discuss the film industry, and how there are not many women protagonists or directors. This is especially unfortunate since women make up 51% of the American population. They bring up an interesting point: women will watch movies and shows about men, but, in general, men will not watch movies or shows about women. This is really strange to me, and I’m not quite sure why it’s the case. That would explain why there are not as many female protagonists, however: it seems that the industry doesn’t think there is much of a market for it. That is starting to change, slowly.

One of the coolest things about this movie was that there were a couple different generations talking about the same issue. It’s cool to see the different perspectives and experiences, since they are so similar and yet also very different. Gloria Steinem, who has been working on this cause for a long time has been through different life experiences than a high school student, but both perspectives are important. It was also cool because the movie discusses how this issue affects men, which is important and interesting. A lot of time is spent discussing how the media’s portrayal of women affects females. And rightfully so. But, it’s important to note that this issue also affects boys and men. It not only impacts how they view the women around them, but also distorts their view of the way the world operates. I find this to be extremely interesting.

Miss Representation is also available for streaming on Netflix.

I think that both of these movies are a good pick for anyone wanting to learn more about the women’s liberation movement or feminism. They are also good movies for people who are knowledgeable about feminism and media’s portrayal of women because they both give great examples and food for thought.

Let’s chat! What’s the best movie you’ve seen lately?

Deep Thoughts Thursday: A Feminist Marriage

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This week, I wrote an email to the hosts of one of my favorite podcasts, Stuff Mom Never Told You (or SMNTY for short). I have never written to the host of a podcast before, so this was new for me! I usually only share my opinions with people I know or here on the blog. This time, however, I really felt the need to voice my opinion. For the last week, I’ve been drafting an email that I actually sent.

I have been listening to SMNTY for the last 2-3 years. It covers all kinds of topics of interest for women. They discuss these topics from a feminist viewpoint, and I definitely don’t have a problem with this. They have talked about topics like current issues (abortion, health care), history (hysterical pregnancy, fashion, makeup), and awesome lady role models (Margaret Mead, Judy Blume, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg). There were two related episodes that caused me to write to the hosts. The episodes, “A Practical Wedding” and “A Feminist Marriage”, featured a guest, Meg Keene. She started the site A Practical Wedding, which features posts about wedding ideas that are a little more down to earth.

During the two episodes, they discussed all kind of topics related to weddings and marriage. This included ways to have budget wedding that is still classy, avoiding patriarchal wedding traditions, pre-marital counseling and splitting household chores. I thought that they were really interesting episodes! There was, however, a point that I did not agree with. In fact, I didn’t agree with it to the point that I needed to write a letter about it. At one point during the episode about having a feminist marriage, Meg Keene made a point that when feminists get married, they should keep their own last name, and not take their husband’s. They also said that kids should take their mom’s last name, not their dad’s. While I agree that women should have the option to keep their name when they get married, and there should not be so much pressure for women to change their names, I also think that women can be feminists and change their name when they get married. The same goes for whether or not kids take their dad’s last name or their mom’s. It’s really up to the parents to make that decision, and I don’t think either decision is inherently wrong.

Instead of trying to recreate what I said in the email, I am just going to repost it here:

Hey Cristen and Caroline!

I have been a dedicated SMNTY podcast listener for a few years, but this is my first time writing in! Hurray!

I recently listened to your “A Practical Wedding” and “A Feminist Marriage” episodes with Meg Keene. For the most part, they were awesome! I have been married for a little over three years, and had a rather “practical” wedding myself. I really enjoy being married (it doesn’t hurt that my husband also likes SMNTY), and I would consider our marriage a feminist one.

The one issue I had with thise episodes was when you were discussing the woman taking her husband’s name. It felt like the message was, “No feminist should ever take her husband’s last name, and their kids need to have the woman’s last name. If this isn’t the case, you do NOT have a feminist marriage”.

I wholeheartedly disagree! I have a unique perspective on last names because I am on my third one (my step-dad adopted me when I was in high school). My husband and I discussed the name issue at length. He would have been happy no matter what I chose to do. I am a feminist, and I chose to take my husband’s last name. Not because I felt pressure to do so, but because I like his name. I also like that we have a common family identity. I never feel like his property, or like I am any less of a person. I also don’t feel like I gave up any of my identity by changing my name. I have no regrets about my decision.

In some ways, it felt like Meg Keene (and by extension SMNTY) was shaming women who had made the decision to change their last name. We are, of course, entitled to our own opinions, but as feminists we should be building each other up. All feminists, but especially those in influential positions, should be careful not to shame and police the actions of other feminists, just like we expect others to not shame and police us. Aren’t we all supposed to be working together toward a common goal? Shouldn’t we be empowering each other, rather than alienating those we may not agree with? If we spend our time belittling each other for decisions that are, frankly, personal, that is taking time and energy away from fighting against more pervasive patriarchal aspects of society. If being a feminist means demeaning, judging and shaming others, I am ashamed and offended. I am also then, not a feminist.

I really hope this was not the point you were trying to make. Asking people to think about traditions, biases and decisions is one thing, shaming them is another.

Thank you for continuing to make such an important, influential, funny and rad podcast! Even when I don’t agree with something on the podcast, I have nothing but love for you!

I think I get the point that Meg Keene (and the podcast in general) is trying to make: it’s important for people to be aware of ways to bring women up, in order to be on more of an equal footing with their male counterparts. I think that it’s important to look at traditions that may be perpetuating patriarchal attitudes, and try to find ways to stop those attitudes. As I said in the email, however, I don’t think that shaming others is a way to achieve this goal. Alienating others doesn’t really seem like it would be beneficial to feminists. As a feminist, I considered not changing my last name after I got married. I liked my pre-married name. I also like my married last name. We ultimately decided it would be less complicated and confusing if we had the same last name. We liked the idea of having a common family identity, not just for the two of us, but also for any kids we have in the future. I don’t feel like I lost my pre-married identity by changing my last name. I don’t think that identities are attached to names like that. I think that people should be able to make decisions that are right for them, especially when those decisions don’t really affect other people.

I’m glad that I wrote to them, even if they never respond or read the letter in a future episode. It was something that I was dwelling on, and over the course of a few days, I decided that the best thing that I could do would be to give my perspective on it. I’m glad I was able to get that off my chest and show that a feminist marriage cannot fit into a little box – just like all marriages, every one is a little different.

Week in Podcasts: Anonymous, and email, and Serial, Oh My!

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This week, I am going to debut a new feature here on All Things Autumn! I have been trying to listen to more podcasts recently, and I figured, why not share what I listen to with you all? So, every Friday, I will give you a run-down of what I’ve been listening to during the last week! I hope you all enjoy!

I like listening to podcasts when work is quiet. I like to learn new things and there are so many interesting podcasts out there! This week, I decided to listen to a couple of tried and true podcasts that I love along with a couple new ones that I have found! So, this is my week in podcasts:

I listened to a Stuff You Should Know podcast from November about hacktivist group Anonymous. It was really interesting learning how Anonymous got started, and some of the projects the group has worked on. I didn’t realize that one of the first big things that Anonymous did was attack Scientology. I think the Anonymous is really interesting, and I do appreciate that they are taking a stand for causes they believe in, and trying to fight injustices they see in the world. A point they make in the podcast is how impressive it is that there are a group of people who don’t have meetings or much of a hierarchy, and yet they work together for a common cause. I have listened to this podcast before, and they cover some really interesting topics! I would highly suggest it, if you like to learn about how things work, or to get an overview on a topic. They don’t go terribly in-depth, but it holds my attention, and can be really funny and entertaining.

I decided to try the first episode of the #Girlboss podcast, which I didn’t know much about until today. I have seen the book, but I didn’t know much about it. In this podcast, Sophia Amoruso, Founder and CEO of Nasty Gal (a fashion retailer), sits down to talk to awesome women who are the boss of their lives. In the first episode, she talks to Charlize Theron! I have lots of respect for Charlize, and it was so interesting hearing about her life and career. She also is a mom, so she talked about what it’s like to be a mom. I am a little unsure if I like the podcast, even though, as a woman and feminist, I think I should. So, I will have to listen to more episodes! There are upcoming episodes where Sophia talks to Grace Helbig and Courtney Love. So, I will definitely give those a try, and let you know what I think!

Like most people who listen to podcasts, I listened to the most recent episode of Serial. Serial is a podcast that covers a story over an entire season. This is the second season, and (in case you don’t know anything about it) it covers the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier, who was captured and held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was released 5 years later. Since, he has been in trouble because there has been some questions about his deserting his post which put him in the position to be captured. There are also some questions on whether he was brainwashed by the Taliban or is a sympathizer. I am not sure if we will have answers to these questions by the end of the season, but it is really interesting learning about what he went through, and how the US tried to get him back. I am having a hard time with this season, however, because it’s not as interesting to me as the first season. The first season was about a man named Adnan Syed, who was accused on killing his ex-girlfriend in high school, was found guilty, and is currently serving his sentence in prison. There are quite a few questions about whether or not he’s actually guilty. He has always maintained that he had nothing to do with her death. By the end of the season, we’re nowhere near having answers, but enough evidence was uncovered that he is going back on trial for it this year. I hope that this season of Serial ends up being as interesting as last season, so I will keep listening!

A new podcast I found this week is called Code Breaker, and it’s all about tech. This is something that I find really interesting, so I was happy to find a podcast on the topic. The nice thing about this podcast, though, is that it’s something that people will little tech experience would still enjoy. It’s not especially technical, and since we all are surrounded by technology, it is something we can all relate to. This podcast is currently going through a series where it asks if aspects of tech are evil. The first episode, which I listened to this week, talked about whether email is evil! It did this by telling little stories, some which made email seem pretty evil, and some that argued the opposite. I am really excited to listen to more of this podcast, because it’s a really fascinating topic to me. It kept my attention, and there were parts of it that I thought were really funny! It got me thinking, and I learned new things.

Finally, I listened to This American Life. I have been listening to this podcast for a long time, and I love it! This American Life is also a radio program (it mostly airs on National Public Radio here in the US), but it’s also a podcast, and they have a website, where you can find archives of past episodes. The reason I love this show is that every episode has a theme, and the podcast tells about three stories that relate to that theme. The stories look at the theme from different angles, and are usually really thought-provoking. The most recent episode is called, “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS”, and it’s essentially about internet comment sections and trolls. There is a really heartbreaking story about a female comedian who get harassed online all the time, so she’s used to it, until one of her harassers makes a fake Twitter account for her recently deceased father. This event leads to the troll who made the account to realize the damage he was causing, and the two sit down and talk for This American Life. It is really interesting to hear the story from the two perspectives. She gets to tell one of her harassers how his words made her feel, and he was able to try to explain why he targeted her. There are two other acts to the episode, one being about a comment section on a live video feed of a birds nest at a wildlife reserve (it doesn’t sound interesting, but trust me, it is!), and the other being about people writing to This American Life about the young women who report for the show and vocal fry (which is the low, growly, vibration sound that some people make when they talk, especially at the end of sentences). It apparently grates on some people’s nerves. They talked about the comments that people make, and how, for some reason, listeners have always had negative things to say about the young women reporters on the show, even before vocal fry. It was interesting to bring in the gender aspect. This episode was definitely worth listening to!

I hope that you all enjoy my new weekly feature, let me know in the comments! Also, I love hearing about other awesome podcasts, so if you have any suggestions for things I should listen to, let me know!

 

Deep Thoughts Thursday: Feminism and Paid Parental Leave

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I remember a time in my not-too-distant past when I said I wasn’t a feminist. When, to me, “feminism” meant being angry, overly opinionated, and alienating to those around her. Stereotypes, for sure, but a younger me bought into all the sitcom jokes. Besides that, though, was my false understanding of what “equal rights” means. I know I am not as physically strong as most men (though I have not become a mother yet, so maybe my perception of my own strength will change). Since men and women are not the same, I thought it was silly that women should be treated the same as men. I had some insane “separate but equal” idea of men and women regarding their legal rights, but we all know separate but equal isn’t actually equal.
I grew up.
I became aware of the inequality between the genders. I noticed how the genders are portrayed in TV, movies, music, books, ads, everywhere. I noticed the differences in social pressures, and how women are more closely scrutinized for physical features than their male counterparts. Every Equal Pay Day, the day every year where women have finally earned the same amount of money as men in the same jobs did the year before, stings. Women have to be told to “lean in”, while men have been doing so all along. Women have to be told it’s okay to negotiate for higher raises at work, and have to learn to be assertive.
This issue is a huge rabbit hole for me, with every story, article, and law bringing me deeper and deeper into a pit I don’t know how to get out of, or if I even can. As difficult as it is to talk about photoshop, rape culture, and the idea that the “work-life balance” seems to be something only women need to be concerned about, at least we’re finally talking about it.
One issue, which affects both men and women, that I am glad we’re finally talking about is paid maternity/paternity leave in the United States. Or, the lack thereof. According to this Fortune article, there are only three countries the UN labor agency named as not providing monetary benefits to women during maternity leave: Oman, the United States, and Papua New Guinea. In the U.S., the best most people get is 12 weeks unpaid leave provided in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). There are many issues with this law however, including that people only qualify if they work for a company with at least 50 people and has been there at least a year. A person must also be a full-time salaried employee. So, that disqualifies about 40% of the American workforce. Also, since it’s an unpaid leave, many people can’t afford to take the full 12 weeks provided to them. Employers can offer paid leave, but many don’t. About 48% of employees who take leave get full pay, and another 17% get partial pay. Some states are also passing their own laws providing paid leave to new parents, which is wonderful, but slow moving. These programs have actually been rather popular in states like California.
In 2013, the Pew Research Center found that the average amount of paid parental leave around the world is 5-6 months, with some offering more, like Estonia, which provides 2 years of paid leave. In addition to paid leave, many countries also offer an extended leave, where an employee would be unpaid, but protected against losing their job. Many countries, like France and Germany, offer 3+ years of protected leave.
On Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, he covered this issue a few weeks ago. Many of the women in the U.S. who have children must take their leave to recover and bond with their new baby unpaid, use vacation time and sick leave in order to be paid, or put everything on a credit card, which is just sad. The people who are against providing paid leave feel that mandates on businesses are scary, and that the laws are “anti-business”, though there has been some evidence that shows that providing leave actually makes workers happier, which in turn makes companies more profitable.
I am not a mom yet, but as I look to that option in my future, I can’t help but think about how my husband and I can afford to take time off of work. Saving money in advance will be helpful, but it’s an advantage not everyone has. At this point, paid parental leave is almost viewed as an extraordinary perk, and is something I seek when looking at companies I would like to work for. I feel that if family is really a value that Americans hold dear, providing time to care for the family, without worrying about finances, would be a logical policy to have. Like many “women’s issues”, paid parental leave does not just affect women, and is something everyone should see as a benefit.
I didn’t always think I was a feminist, but I do now. Hopefully the issues I find important will soon be seen as priorities to the majority of Americans in the near future.